So when we returned to our city, I began to ask around to see if anyone knew about a place to study ballet. A friend found this place, and we came to visit one day during a downpour--what a memory! I would NEVER have found this place on my own. The teachers were willing to arrange for Clara Anne to start immediately. I asked numerous questions and thought that Clara Anne would be starting with others who also had no prior training, but either that was lost in translation or they conveniently overlooked my question, because on the first day of class it was evident that Clara Anne was in with some more experienced girls. But, the teacher was willing to work with Clara Anne, help her and explain things more thoroughly whereas the other girls knew which exercises to do by the music that was played. Remember this is all in a second language for Clara Anne, too!
All that to say, I am so proud of Clara Anne for hanging in there! We've had three weeks of class now (six classes, she goes on Weds and Fri), and though she was very stiff and un-flexible when she started, she is making improvements. Better still, she is working very hard. She stays focused during the class and does her very best. The other girls can do the exercises more easily and seem to catch on faster, but Clara Anne has not been deterred. On the second day after class, she said to me, "Mommy, ballet isn't as easy as I thought it was going to be!" But now she is seeming to relish the hard work. As the teacher asks her to make very slight adjustments to her position she is doing her best!
I shared with Clara Anne how learning to have a good attitude and work hard was the best thing I learned from all of my career in singing. I came a bit late to professional singing--by the time I began studying seriously, most of my peers were more experienced, knowledgeable, and had more years of study under their belts. I also didn't have as much natural talent as some; I had to work very hard. But my teachers kept reassuring me that natural talent could only take you so far, after that everyone has to simply be diligent and put in the time and effort. And for those who are unwilling to do so, well, they cannot continue to advance. As well, very late in my singing studies I learned the lesson of accepting criticism. In fact, I think that was a major lesson the Lord wanted me to learn through singing because I feel like it applies to all of life. And that is this: if I truly wanted to improve my singing, I should welcome any comments or criticisms that pointed out areas for improvement. There was no need for defensiveness or hurt feelings, I truly wanted to be better. So when I sang for a competition and the judges said, "I feel your English diction isn't crisp enough, your vowels are muddy" then I would go home and work on that. Once I was told I had a lot of tongue tension. I had never heard of such a thing but I certainly went back to my teacher and asked about it and worked on it!
The same principles apply spiritually. Am I humble and willing to accept correction, not only from the Lord, but from a friend who lovingly speaks to me for my good? Or even if the comment doesn't feel loving at the time? Can I admit that I have failings and seek to let Christ's power transform me? Or am I content to remain "where I am" in my spiritual life, not wanting to grow in Christlikeness or attack the sin which creeps in so easily? Too often I have reacted with anger or hurt feelings when corrected by the Lord or others. I make excuses for my lack of growth in godliness. But that's not where I want to stay! Not truly, though it may take serious time and work and a humble spirit to let the Lord transform me.
So, though ballet is simply ballet, it's an opportunity for Clara Anne to learn some of these principles. I wanted to communicate these things to Clara Anne. Ballet is a very disciplined activity; it requires a very specific kind of muscular strength and training. So, I told Clara Anne, do your best and show an eagerness to improve, and that is all you need do. There is no standard of perfection, simply doing your best is what will help you to grow in discipline and ultimately, to enjoy the activity more and more. An attitude of diligence is honoring to the Lord!
Ok, enough about that! Let's see some pictures! The one below was taken on Clara Anne's first day. The young woman in the front (black shorts and white shirt) and the man helping Clara Anne find the right position are the two teachers. Only five students to two teachers. . . not bad! Practicing some arm movements. . . I've been so impressed and thankful for all the individual attention the teachers are showing Clara Anne. They seem to be very concerned with proper form, which can be tedious but is crucial.
Yes, and work on that sitting posture, Clara Anne! Ballet is going to be so good for Clara Anne physically. The teachers said she has a body that is made for it--very long legs and quite lean (though she is certainly not skinny). I'm not sure if they were flattering her or if they really meant it, but anyway she does seem to have her daddy's height!
Now let's watch an informal ballet at home! Clara Anne, Chloe, and Christin decided to put on a show. Below: introductions and Christin waving to the "audience" (John and I were sitting on the couch).
Clara Anne continuing the story and calling Christin back . . .
I'm not sure if Christin was the prince and Clara was the princess, or vice versa!
Then the story got lost in the sheer joy of dancing around the room to some lively music. "Look Mama, I'm up on my tips!" (Clara's name for dancing en pointe.)
Not to be outdone, Chloe strikes her own pose.
And here we have an interesting tableaux. Notice Chloe's straight leg and pointed toe! Clara Anne was trying to help Christin achieve the same effect but Christin kept giggling!
Aha, the tables are turned as Christin does a little helping of Clara Anne's legs. Point those toes, Clara Anne!
And another moment where everyone is doing something (relatively) interesting. . . (there tends to be quite a lot of simply running around with flailing arms!) Quite nice!
And, taking a final bow. Thank you for the show, girls! John and I laughed and laughed and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.
I pray that ballet will be a means for Clara Anne to do something she loves and bring honor and glory to the Lord by her attitude, as well as learning important life lessons. As she grows in bodily grace, may she grow in a gracious spirit! May she grow into a beautiful young woman, inside and out, and have a lot of fun in the process! A final word from Clara Anne after class on Friday: "Mommy, may I practice with the music all morning tomorrow? I want to get really good at this exercise before class next week." Sure, Clara Anne! Let's dance!