On Ballet and bullying

black swan ballerina

Some years ago, my sister-in-law, a great ballerina, asked me if I intended to enroll my daughter in ballet classes. I answered I only would do it if it was the meaning of her life, if it was something that she wanted more than everything on the Earth, because my experience wasn’t good. I said that, differently from of my sister-in-law, I didn’t have talent, and faced very humiliating situations.

I started Ballet classes when I was 8. The first teacher was sweet. For the next four years, however, I got a new teacher, more rigid, who was obsessed with forming a corps de ballet.

I never had the pretension of being a soloist dancer. As I said, I was never a skilled ballerina. I was diligent, obedient and timid. And was excited with the end-of-year festivals.

Once, we performed “Sleeping Beauty”. My class was the “peasants”. It was when I began to feel the pressure. I rehearsed from Sunday to Sunday, but it wasn’t enough. A few days before the spectacle, the teacher took me off of two choreographs. During them, I would sit still in the back of the stage. In the only choreograph which I took part, I, who had more than 5 degrees of myopia, was forced to dance without my glasses, because “peasants didn’t wear glasses”.

In the next year, I was cut off from another choreograph. The allegation was I was very short. A colleague, who was less tall than me (but danced brilliantly), stood up and said: “If it were true, I wouldn’t be in the choreograph.” The teacher only flushed and didn’t say anything. But I understood everything.

In the last of the four years, my class finally was promoted to “corps de ballet”. Except me, who had to go back to the former degree.

In spite of being thin like a stick, I’ve always had a large torso, as well as a little “belly”. So, I always heard: “Contract your belly! Ballerinas do not have bellies! A dry sausage like you must not have a belly!”

I was 13. I wrote a letter to the teacher and left Ballet classes. Nowadays, that kind of approach would be considered as bullying. Curiously, the rivalry didn’t exist among the colleagues (as shown above, with my sweet defender). The bullying I suffered came from an adult, a teacher, an authority.

Frequently, my brothers and sisters and I meet and remember those situations laughing a lot. My mom gets crazy with those stories. “Why didn’t you tell me?” The answer is unanimous: “We didn’t want to bore you with those child’s things”.

We are used to saying that these reunions are a kind of collective catharsis, and we laugh (and cry) because, after all, these situations weren’t individual privileges for none of us: all of us dealt with them. Yet, my husband is not the least patient with what he considers “autocommiseration”. He does not agree with us and says that, since he was a boy, he has always tried to find the fields he was skilled in, and not the opposite.

It happened to my oldest son. He LOVES soccer. He decided to enter a soccer school. I thought it could be a way for him to improve. The teacher was respectful, but in the third championship my son said to me: “I want to leave. I spent most of the time sitting on the bench. I don’t think it is wrong, because I don’t want to trouble the team. So, I will find something that I am good at.” Eight years old.

Now, he does Karate. We did a rigorous investigation to find the adequate karate school, because we were afraid of my son entered the “Cobra Kai DoJo” (Karate Kid, do you remember?). You cannot be careful enough. We could find whom I consider as the “Brazilian Miyagi”. And I let myself be the owl of the owls: less than 1 year passed, he had been approved in four belt exams (white, blue, yellow and red). He is an orange belt. It seems he was born to do it. I get fluffy out of pride.

Jonh Kreese, Miyagi and Daniel

Karate Kid

Back to Ballet. Behold my daughter entered Ballet classes. It was part of recreation; in fact it was not a Ballet Academy. I thought that, like that, the atmosphere would be lighter. I didn’t want to contaminate the situation with my prejudices. I bought the uniform and the ballet shoes happily. A few months later, she asked me to leave: “It’s boring.”

ballet class

Her teacher told me that she “didn’t have the discipline required to do Ballet.” That, during the class, there was a kind of “tour” with foam objects to mark the stations, and she had just turned away, my daughter misplaced all of them. Secretly. With the most angelical face of all.

I thought:

People!!! My daughter is not like me AT ALL!

HOW WONDERFUL!!!

Four years old.

Moral lesson #1:

There are academies and academies. As parents, we must be aware. Children don’t always say us what happens during the classes.

Moral lesson #2: In one of our family “autocommiseration sessions”, my sister-in-law felt comfortable to tell us the nonsensical things she heard from her Ballet teacher. Notice: she was a soloist. Nowadays, she is in the adult classes and lives, for the first time, “Ballet with love” (when she was a child, she lived “Ballet with pain”.

Moral lesson #3: Let’s avoid to project, in our kids, our frustration. Or our dreams.

Moral lesson #4: We must keep in mind they are only children. Now, my daughter does karate too. And is having a lot of fun with the Brazilian Miyagi.

little girl practicing karate

Who had said that she didn’t have discipline, again?

children practicing karate

__________________

You can also see:

My son needs glasses

Letter to my children

Where’s the big belly? It’s disappeared

Where’s the big belly? Marusia speaks

This post in Portuguese: Sobre ballet e bullying

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4 thoughts on “On Ballet and bullying

  1. Brava to your daughter! And to you, for supporting her, and your son, in their desire to try a sport, and then in their desire to leave it. My son sadly had “exhausted” many sports by the time he was 8–he seems to have my very uncoordinated genes. My daughter is in the same boat physically, but at least loves soccer and luckily we have rec league teams that aren’t too competitive. I am facing this VERY same dance dilemma this week, as my daughter has asked to enroll in dance (her 2 closest friends take it). I shudder because they are very talented and and been doing it for years… I’ve told her I don’t think it’s a good idea, she needs to feel the passion for it before I cough up all that money (what goes unsaid is that she has to want it more than anything before I subject her to humiliation).

    • Leslie,
      It’s a big dilemma… If we stop to think, however, our uncoordinated genes 😉 afford us, as parents, to see from an experienced point of view, so we can help our kids quickly and precisely… well… unless they surprise us and defend themselves before!

  2. It’s so hard to find a balance between what we think is good for our children, what they think is good for them, and what the teachers think. This line was so telling, “The teacher only flushed and didn’t say anything. But I understood everything.” You are smart to try out more than one endeavor, and I wish your wonderful children all the best as they discover their passions.

    • Dear Melissa,
      I fall in love with my kids every day, day after day… I want to protect them, and fortunately I discover they have wisdom to protect themselves!
      Thank you for such lovely words! 😀

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