It happened again today. I had one of those conversations.
“I’m looking for dance classes for my six year old daughter. She says she really wants to do ballet but…well…”
Here it is. I know what’s coming.
“…she’s not very skinny so I don’t think she’d be good at ballet.”
I swear the sound of my heart breaking is audible. But it gets worse.
“We tried another school and they said not to come back because she’s not going to grow up to be a ballerina.”
When I first started Bayside Dance, I was shocked when I spoke to a mum who had reservations about her daughter starting dance classes because of their size or shape, and especially shocked if they’d been turned off dance by another school because of it. Conversations like this happen so regularly now that it no longer surprises me, though it saddens me every time. But happily, I know I can turn this situation around for this little girl, and for any others that come to dance with us.
“I have some good news,” I say to the mum. “Your daughter can do ballet no matter what size she is.”
In fact, it doesn’t matter if your six year old is tall, short, flat-footed, knock-kneed, hyper- or hypo-mobile. Because she’s six years old. If she wants to do ballet, she can do ballet. Because I believe every little girl (or boy!) that wants to do ballet should be able to.
I could talk about how body shape and size at the age of six isn’t necessarily an indicator of what her body will be like when she grows up. I could talk about how role models like Misty Copeland are challenging perceptions of the traditional “dancer’s body”. I could talk about a whole lot of things.
But I will only say this. I would rather teach a kid who is excited by dance, is a good listener, is polite and respectful, than a kid who has a “dancer’s body”.
Everybody, no matter what “body” they have, deserves to experience the joy of dance.
Kaitlin Hague is the Director of Bayside Dance, holds a Bachelor of Creative Industries (Dance) and a Master of Arts. She is a passionate dance educator, journalist, adjudicator and choreographer. When she’s not dancing she’s enjoying the beautiful bayside lifestyle and spending time with her two dogs, daughter and husband.