A new month . . . means a new Museum of Me exhibit!
This month, we enter the deep, dark, cobwebby back hallway of my museum . . . to discover something that set me apart from my peers in my childhood.
C'mon . . .
(I have a flashlight.)
When I was a kid, I was good at lots of things. I was an excellent speller, for example. I was a good reader. I knew how to behave in school. I had really great ideas and could get people to follow along with them most of the time. I could jump double-dutch at recess with the best of 'em. I was creative. I had a big imagination.
But lots of kids I knew shared those skills; they weren't all that special.
I did have one thing, though, that I was really good at that most other kids I knew were not: I . . . was a dancer.
And a good one, too!
I started taking ballet when I was 4. My mom had danced as a girl, and she thought I might like it, too, so she started me early. We headed out each week to Miss Olsen's School of Dance for my lessons. Back then (and for almost all of my childhood dance years), we had a piano accompanist for our ballet classes. (That cracks me up now; so old school.) I loved dancing right from the start -- every thing about it.
Here I am, ready for my first dance recital. I was 5 by then, but just barely.
I also took tap and jazz classes, and some sort of "tumbling" that I can barely remember now, but it involved doing tumbling maneuvers through hula hoops (I can only imagine a really basic Cirque-du-Soleil-for-children kind of thing?). (I didn't stick with the tumbling.)
Dancing . . . was definitely my Best Thing as a child.
At the end of second grade, my ballet teacher - Miss Olsen - pulled my mom and I aside after a ballet class and asked my mom if she might consider allowing me to take private ballet classes . . . because she saw some "natural talent" in me. Now, I'll tell you . . . this was The Most Special Thing that had ever happened to me at that particular point in my life. (Back in the 60s, kids were definitely not coddled.) It was a Big Deal for my parents to add private ballet classes for me, but they did. My dad (who was absolutely ambivalent about the whole dance thing) installed a little "ballet barre" under the stairs in our basement for me to practice at home. And the whole family tolerated my arabesques, glissades, and pas de bourrées through the living room and down the hallway (for the most part).
In third grade, I landed my first ballet solo . . . as Snow White.
By the time I was in sixth grade, I was only taking ballet, having dropped the tapping and the jazzing (and the "tumbling"). I really did love ballet -- the dancing, the costumes, the performance. I even liked the discipline of practice. If you'd have asked me what I "wanted to be when I grew up" at that stage of my life, I probably would have told you "a ballerina" (or maybe an astronaut; it tended to be a toss-up).
Then, as I've revealed in previous exhibits here in the Museum of Me, my family moved across the country just as I was finishing up sixth grade. I was promised dance classes in our new location, but there were . . . ummm, let's just say . . . family complications following that move. And dance classes for me were simply not a priority. (And, to be fair, I had moved to a city with no actual ballet options anyway. . . ) I continued to dance . . . on the junior high dance team and (sort of dance) as a cheerleader in high school. In college I finally got back to ballet classes again when I discovered I could take them to fulfill my gym credit requirements.
But, basically . . . my dance career ended in sixth grade.
Of course, I never would have had a "dance career" in the first place. Being singled out at Miss Olsen's School of Dance was a great childhood ego boost, but it was no real sign of overwhelming talent, y'know? (It's not like the Chicago youth ballet was knocking down my door at the time or anything.) Still . . . having something that I could do well . . . that not just anyone could do well . . . made me feel special as kid -- back in a time when kids were, generally, not made to feel special at all.
Looking back on it all now, I'm really happy I had the opportunity to dance - and to take it relatively seriously - as a child. It made me feel special to have a "talent" that none of my friends shared. I was proud of being a "ballerina," and for other kids to think of me as a "ballerina" (who also happened to be a good speller). And I learned so much more than just dance steps and barre exercises, too. I developed habits and practices that have served me well throughout my life -- the value of discipline, the benefits of daily practice, the joy of moving my body, the confidence that comes with mastering something difficult -- and a lifelong appreciation for the arts.
My ballet "career" may have ended earlier than I'd have liked back when I was an 11-year-old, but I think things worked out Just Right in the end.
[Cue curtain call.]
Thanks for visiting The Museum of Me. Watch for new exhibits . . . on the 2nd Friday of each month.
And if you're a blogger and you'd like to create a Museum of Me along with me on your own blog, let me know. I'll send you my "exhibit schedule" (a list of my prompts) and we can talk about ourselves together.