Our spring recital at the Dance Factory happened a couple weeks ago but sick babies and parents have kept me from truly reveling in the wonders from the weekend. The truth is, I go into mourning post-performance. My yearlong classes are over for the summer and I begin to miss the energy of those moving bodies and giddy minds the minute I start my car in the parking lot of the theater.
I often complain about the fleeting quality of performance and love to talk shop about the importance of practice v. performance, but in the actual moment of watching my beloved students from the wings, I can't help but feel parental in my love and adoration of their courage and ability to give into that single, often pressure-filled moment. There is something beautiful and compelling to watch someone, especially young people, give so much of themselves in a single moment. I watch while holding their history in the classroom close to my heart, reveling in their growth. The impact of their risks to move their bodies onstage in front of hundreds of people is also fierce for many who don't share that history or who do not necessarily consider themselves connoisseurs of dance.
My friend Ally (who has two boys in one of my modern classes and is one of my favorite people to dance with) told me recently that she wished every child could have that experience of working so hard onstage and then feeling love and appreciation from an audience. She said she could see its impact on the children's faces. This is real. Backstage the kids are high after they perform, both exuberant and sometimes fearful that it was not enough. It is such a joy to be there, teary and exploding in my belief of their awesomeness. I tell them often that performing can be a gift to the audience and what a blessing it is that we have a chance to give.
My own daughter had her first performing experience this year as a 2.5 year old. She was a little bumblebee in our informal recital for the youngest students. She pranced through dress rehearsal, excited and following her teacher Dana happy as can be, but come showtime (a 10 minute performance with no lights and the curtains closed halfway) she panicked. There were cameras everywhere and the world was busy. She clung to my body with her little body and I was surprised by how easy it was for me to follow her lead. I smiled and let her be where she was and asked her if she'd like me to go with her while the other little bumblebees walked backstage. Together we climbed the stairs and the moment she saw the familiar face of her icon, teacher Dana, she leapt down and joined the line of dancers with a little chasse onstage. I watched from the wings as she took in this new experience and laughed, a little overwhelmed that she found the safety to do this new thing. I was nervous about this moment as a parent, knowing how much my daughter loved class and dancing but unsure of how she'd feel in this sometimes stressful situation, but it resulted in a beautiful parenting moment that I will hold close to my heart forever. I was proud of her pride.
It is important to create positive performing environments for our students that capture their efforts, encourage them to give to a greater community, and allow them to be celebrated. May the celebration continue as the stage door closes.