03 July 2011

In which the Melancholy Swan wrangles cygnets

Thursday last your Melancholy Swan waded into dangerous waters. I entered a studio populated with four and five year old little girls in tutu dresses there for the Intro to Ballet class. While doting parents and grandparents watched through the window, they jumped, spun and wiggled. While the little savages lifted their skirts and bounced from one side of the studio to the other, the tiny shy ones would hold my hand and babble on about something I couldn't understand. My task was to keep them all together in an orderly line and encourage them to follow Doris (my teacher.) They were adorable. They were spirited. They reminded me why I never wanted children. I watched with great relief as the baby swans returned to their families.

They next class was Ballet 3/4 which was made up of older girls ranging from eight to twelve. The older dancers got most of the attention. Unfortunately Doris does not have a lot of patience for smaller children and less adept students. One smaller girl couldn't follow along very well and when a new student arrived, I was asked to coach them. The first girl positively blossomed under individual attention (and some encouragement.) By the end my girls were happy and doing well. It was a nice feeling.

While the Melancholy Swan is fully aware that she really has no business teaching anyone anything about ballet, I think I at least gave the stragglers some needed encouragement. I was once the little girl struggling to keep up in class, unable to remember the steps. Now I'm an adult in the same position.*

Well behaved ballerinas (Not my class)
photo by Katy Batdorff

*I learned that I have a minor non-verbal learning disability, which is apparently why I was so clumsy as a child and have trouble learning ballet combinations now. I'm working to learn all the names for the steps so I can match the words to the movement and remember them that way.


  1. oh my goodness, I wonder if I have the same minor disability -- I am not even kidding -- I can NEVER hold even the most simple ballet combination in my mind and I always, I mean ALWAYS, follow the girl in front of me, and if I am in front, a girl in the mirror -- not even just for choreography but also at the barre. And once in a private lesson I was so humiliated because the teacher had to stand in front of me and do everything, every little step! she seemed a bit annoyed...and this is what causes me the most anxiety about ballet class (even more than squeezing into a leotard!). And I have also wondered if I had a name for all the movements, even the slightest ones most people barely think of, like a tom-bay (sp?), then maybe I could more easily remember combinations? Because I am a very verbal person and can memorize strings of words but strings not of movement...anyways! glad you got to help out with the little ones! sounds like a rewarding experience.

  2. Hi Juliet,
    Me too! I'm very word-oriented so when the instructor says triples I think "down, up, up" and I'm fine. But when they say "okay do pas de bourree, entre chat, then pas de bourree" and demonstrate it as "1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4" it vanishes from my head the instant they finish. I'm trying to learn the terms with the steps. For pas de bourree I literally link the phonetics to each step "pas (back) de bourr (side) ay (front)." That's the only one I've got so far. I downloaded a great ballet index app for my phone that really helps. I knew it was for me when people complained that there weren't enough pictures!

    Were you clumsy as a child? Do you bump into people or door frames from misjudging the space? That's how my doctor figured out my problem when I was complaining about my problems with ballet.