A Little Perspective
Out My Window

Museum of Me: January 2022

A new month . . . means a new Museum of Me exhibit!

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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 . . . 
Follow me.
(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.

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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.

Kym 1964 first ballet recital

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.)

Kym 1968 Winchester Cathedral

Kym 1968 recital tumbling of some sort

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. 

Kym 1968 Snow White solo

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. 

 

 

Comments

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Bonny

Oh, I'm so envious! My sister was the one who had dance classes, eventually settling on ballet like you. She was tall and willowy; I was not. I begged to take ballet, but my mother said maybe I wasn't cut out to be a ballerina. (Not without dance classes I wasn't!) My sister took some sort of ballet tests and went to NYC, but her "career" as a ballerina gradually ended when she was a teenager. (Mine never got started!)

When my niece was taking ballet, my SiL said that she thought it was important for every kid to develop some sort of positive identity, something that they could hold onto to help get them through those teenage years. It sounds like dance did that for you, along with many other things. Bravo!

Vera

Oh this was fun - LOVE all the pictures you shared Kym. I definitely was not a dancer (still am not), but I could stand on my head for hours!! I also think it's cool that you "rediscovered" ballet in college!

Carole

This is a wonderful story of your childhood love for dance, thank you for writing it so wonderfully. I took dance and ice skating lessons. I did not excel at either. No surprise there, right? I was much better at reading and playing the piano!

kat

What a wonder is Dancing Kym! (and oh my gosh... so adorable and so bendy!!)

I can fully admit to having 2 left feet when it comes to dancing. Zero talent. And so I never ever even contemplated dance lessons for my kids (wow, bad mom moment x 3) However, Heidi broke that mold and had Vivi in dance lessons for a number of years. There is nothing on earth like a dance recital of little kids to boost your mood!

Thank you so much for taking us to this hidden way treasure! XO

Patty

So fun Kym! And clearly what started you on your life long love of movement!

Juliann

Oh my Kym - another connection! I started taking ballet at age 4 and my last lesson as a college freshman. I did think I was going to be a ballerina for life but nature decided that age 18 was a good time to bloom and I no longer could maintain that teeny ballerina frame. I held on to my last pair of toe shoes for a very long time. What a fun exhibit today.

Bridget

I love this! No kinds of "extra" classes were in the cards for me as a child, because my parents didn't have the money. But I really really really would have liked to take piano lessons.

I was a good speller too - and have to admit that it still bugs me when people don't seem to care about spelling. What's an obsessive to do???

Vicki

Is it weird that I'm still so EXTREMELY proud of all the gold stars I earned for spelling... in 1st grade (and beyond)?! :)

What a wonderful exhibit, Kym! The twins & I took ballet, tap & tumbling from about the time I was in 2nd-3rd grade. My family moved at least once a year until that time, and my mom was super busy with all that moving (and two more babies along the way). Beverly Lemke's School of Dance. Oh, how I loved it. It was a late start for dance (never even got toe shoes), but I was limber and coordinated, and loved tumbling (and eventually gymnastics). I used to do walkovers & flips across the front lawn... especially when Jim Davis was on his newspaper delivery route. I remember only one recital, a huge production of The Wizard of Oz in which I played a tumbling mouse, a ballerina fairy, and the twins were little dancing bumble bees! We dressed up in those costumes a lot, and would help each other "dance" in Aunt LaFae's toe shoes!

Dee

I am green with envy over here ..................I always wanted a pair of pointe shoes, but sadly, ballet was NOT among my talents. It wasn't for lack of trying. LOL

Carolyn

I nodded my head through so much of this, Kym. I tend to trust the universe, and I think you are spot on that it worked out Just Right. That it was a highpoint--without any of the yucks that {potentially} come with it down the road, for so many. That you were able to fully embrace and shine and be, quite literally, lifted--beautiful. (And WOW! Pointe in 3rd grade. That means not only talented, but strong! I have a 10-yr-old dancer here who would be teeming, if she knew :) )
And I'm glad you pointed out the difference between being recommended for private lessons THEN vs. NOW... Because it's a significant one, for sure!

kim in oregon

I'm a little teary reading this for lots of reasons. I applaud your awesome back bend. That broom is HUGE.

Debbie

Oh my, those pictures are so sweet!
I never took dance lessons and am only a fair dancer.
I was a good piano player and took lessons from my aunt who had a piano studio in her home. Once I won a prize in a Girl Scout talent show and a few times I accompanied our Junior High Orchestra. I still play, but only for my own enjoyment.

sustainablemum

Lovely post and a lovely idea for a monthly blog post. i too started ballet lessons at 4 but my teacher retired when I was 6 and told my mother not to bother with lessons anymore as I was never going to be any good! I went to gymnastics then which i did until I was 18, I loved it but was never going to be good enough to compete but that is not what it is all about is it?

Allison

This looks like fun--I would love to join in.

I took dance classes as a young girl but never felt graceful enough to continue.

Sarah

I laughed a bit reading this -- when I was a little kid (and I mean little), I fancied myself a ballerina, but I wouldn't actually take ballet classes. I seem to remember taking one class and then coming home to tell my parents that I didn't need to take any more because I was talented enough already. My parents will tell you that my childhood involved a lot of "twirling."

Love seeing the photos of all the costumes! Even if you didn't end up in the glamorous life of a prima ballerina, it's nice to hear that you got that ego boost of being told you had talent.

Jane

What sweet photos of you. Excelling at something is important for kids. I am glad you had ballet and dance. My sister was the dancer in our family and I was the vocalist - kind of.

Margene

I remember the costumes that my mother made (Black and white sequins on one) and I loved the recitals. I had NO talent but I had fun. My sisters took a couple of classes, too, but no costumes for them. Then, we moved! The costumes went into the costume box (for play time) and my sisters had a load of fun wearing them through the years (and several more siblings). I can see you as a dancer. You move with grace and ease just like a dancer. Thanks for a walk down memory lane, Kym.

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