Saturday, December 19, 2009

Why I want my son to take ballet classes

I just entered a giveaway for a ballet-themed children's DVD, and I was inspired to write up a little post for my review site explaining why I was so hep to win a DVD from (yes, this is the name) Prima Princessa for my two-year-old son.

Now, if you're not interested in the giveaway yourself, that's cool. But I wanted to share what I wrote about ballet, parenting, and passing on the gift of an active body. (Original post here.)

Today's Give Away is giving away a Blush Topless Undershirt from Blush and Prima Princessa Presents The Nutcracker, a 40-minute DVD from Prima Princessa!

I'll refer you to this post for a preview of the Blush topless undershirt/belly band, good for maternity, breastfeeding, or just covering your tummy in general!

I want to highlight the Prima Princessa DVD and explain why I want such a very pink DVD for my son.

I enjoyed but was not good at ballet growing up. We moved around a lot, so I took classes here and there, but it was not a high priority for my mom, who was not a girly-girl herself and who couldn't understand how she'd given birth to one. When I moved to Seattle, I found out about a Very Beginning Ballet class for adults only. It still took me a couple years to work up the courage — but eventually I enrolled. And I've been dancing since! I did take some time off during my pregnancies and postpartum recovery, but that's fine. I'm doing it for fun, not with any grand goal in mind. I am not a physically adept person, as every one of my despairing gym teachers would attest. Ballet has allowed me to connect with what my body can do. It has helped with some of my balance problems. The repetition and concentration required make me feel centered and aware of myself as a whole person, body and all.

I want that for my son. I don't know if it will be ballet specifically that inspires him, and I know I can't force such a revelation. But I hope he can grow up enjoying moving his body. If he has his father's and my predilection toward suckiness in sports, I don't want (failing at) competition to get in the way of enjoying physical movement and working toward improving himself.

Mikko's 2 and a half. He can begin toddler ballet classes at 3. I'm going to enroll him and see what happens. If he doesn't like it, he's free to leave. If he stays till the age of partnering, I guarantee he'll be the darling of all the girly-girls who mostly fill the classes!

I had a helper take him to one of my classes so he could see where I go every week, and he loved watching me and the other ladies dance. (My class currently is all women, though I have been in adult classes with men as well.) He also got to see some of the little kids dance before my class began.

The next logical step is to have him see a real ballet, on stage. But I think (know!) he's too young to sit through a performance, so it would be a waste of the ticket price.

And so we come around to this DVD. It seems to have it all: It shows a real performance by a professional ballet company. It shows little children dancing. It shows older, accomplished children (including boys!) demonstrating specific steps. I love it! I think Mikko will, too.

Enter fast for the Blush Topless Undershirt or Prima Princessa Presents The Nutcracker at Today's Give Away by Dec. 20.

Now, as an aspiring unschooler, I do have a few qualms about a ballet class, but I'll observe it when he starts to make sure it fits my expectations. I don't find that my own class is restrictive or triggers my learned behaviors of trying to please the teacher, but then, I am taking it as an adult. I appreciate that the other women and girls taking along with me are not competitive and are kind to everyone in the class, and there's a wide range of body shapes and sizes, as well as ages, which I love. I don't think that classes are inherently bad for unschoolers, as long as the child retains a sense of autonomy and is taking the class for himself, not to please the teacher — or his mother! Yes, I am aware of this risk and will take pains not to project my own desires onto my son. I do think it's perfectly natural, however, to lead children into activities that you personally enjoy, as a starting point for them to discover their own preferences.

And, of course, there's the feminist in me who, maybe in reaction to my own girly obsession with ballet, says, "Boys can, too, take ballet! I'll show them. I'll show ALL of them!" But, again, I don't want that to be an expectation Mikko has to live up to.

I also love the idea of doing ballet with him, that we could practice together at home, go to performances together, talk about what we're doing in our separate classes. In the same vein of co-participation, Sam has been thinking of enrolling with Mikko in a parent-toddler martial arts class.

I'm curious. What are your views or hopes as far as encouraging activeness in your children? Do plan to sign them up for any sports teams or classes? How does your own experience with athletics as a child fit in with your plans? How will you participate with your child? You don't have to answer all of those questions, just whatever sparks a thought!

I want to give a shout-out to the two Seattle ballet studios at which I've taken classes: Thank you, The Ballet Studio & Seattle Civic Dance Theatre! I recommend either one if you're local and looking for a good adult class, and SCDT also (mostly) has children's classes.
Photo of
The Nutcracker rehearsal courtesy cproppe on flickr (cc)


Anonymous said...

My 3-year-old daughter took ballet at her request, and I really didn't enjoy it. Mostly for the same reason that I don't enjoy most of my kid's classes, and that is that many other parents are putting a lot of pressure on their kids. My child isn't bothered by it, but when she doesn't listen well and another kid follows her lead and gets in trouble, I am bothered. And then it triggers all of my 'good student' issues.

Now that my kid is 4 and I don't have to be in the room during most classes things are better. I drop her off and go on a walk with my toddler. I come back in an hour, and she says that she's had a great time. None of the other parents are there, either, and it just reduces a lot of the angst for me. I have heard from teachers, too, that kids often do better when their parents aren't there and yelling from the sidelines.

I don't sweat too much about the classroom management tactics that are employed in these classes. I don't think that one hour a week is enough to have a serious impact. And kids learn pretty quickly that certain people just relate to them differently, like grandparents. But, I will also point out, we do school as well.

Anonymous said...

Our kids have our same athletic body-type and we all love activities like hiking or biking. What I love about hiking is it's a great way to become aware of the world and nature, using observation and other sense perceptions.

But I loved ballet. I asked to start when I was 9 or so. I kept with it until high school then soccer and track took over. But ballet is fabulous for balance (like you said) and posture. I think that is so great your son is taking part!

I had my 5 yo son go to sports day camp for 2 weeks this summer and he didn't like it. Mostly because he was scared of the pool. I'd like him to tell me what kind of organized activity he'd like to do, which I don't expect him to know for a few more years.

I really would like my daughter to do sports when older since I think it has enormously powerful and positive effects on girls for self-esteem and confidence etc... She's a bigger risk-taker than my son (she's almost 3) so I'm kind of afraid she'll want to do crazy stuff like skydiving ;)

Anonymous said...

My husband & I were shopping at TRU yesterday and noticed that a lot of toddler toys are basically kid versions of home exercise equipment. There was a stair machine that counted steps! I want my child to be active, but this seemed a bit ridiculous.

Cave Mother said...

Yep - horse riding classes, for both of us, as soon as she's big enough. I can't wait.

Cave Mother said...

Yep - horse riding classes, for both of us, as soon as she's big enough. I can't wait.

Michelle said...

I don't think taking classes is in conflict with unschooling (being an unschooled child myself). I enjoy yoga and may enroll my little one in kid classes when he's 3 or 4. I've also thought of gymnastics, which I loved as as child. I don't know. We'll see. He enjoys directed play so I think we will do something when he's a little older. He's only 2.5 right now. I'll just ask him and see what he thinks.

Daddy Forever said...

Our oldest girl took ballet class when she a pre-schooler and we'll probably enroll our other girl too. But I don't think I can get my son to take ballet class.

Lisa C said...

I really want my son to learn Irish step dance. Or I should say, I want HIM to want to learn Irish step dance! Every time I there are Irish dancers on TV, I say, "Look, Michael! Look at the Irish dancers!" Maybe if he sees it enough, he'll want to do it? hee hee.

My husband and I both love to hike, too, so hopefully that will be something we can do as a family. But in the end, it doesn't really matter what he chooses, as long as he is active in some way that he enjoys.

I loved dance as a child, but my family was sports-oriented. I tried the sports thing, but I just wasn't good at it and didn't really get excited about it.

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