The show went on and my son with it, thank God.
It was a wonderful evening, with probably over a hundred kids participating. The styles of dance went from tap to ballet to modern to break to salsa to jazz to swing to hip hop, to pretty much everything. And the best thing about it was the inclusiveness.
The classes aren't cheap, nor the costumes, which the parents have to buy. But it all seemed worth it to see all kinds of children included in short choreographed numbers (about thirty-six in all) including a little girl with Downs syndrome as one of a quartet of ballerinas. She actually performed very well, considering (I've read how music and especially dance therapy works wonders with Down syndrome children).
But what was especially noticeable, was the variety of body types. Which made me think how twenty years ago or more (and for centuries and millenniums before then) if you didn't have a dancer's body, you didn't dance on any stage outside a school (and it's still pretty much that way in ballet).
I remember how revolutionary it seemed to see heavyset dancers performing with renowned dance troupes (I can't remember which choreographer first did it, probably Merce Cunningham did it more than two decades ago, but I remember distinctly the commotion caused in dance circles and with dance critics back in the 1980s when someone introduced dancers who looked more like truck drivers or football fullbacks into the mix of a modern dance performance).
But last night, watching these kids, whose ages and body types and race and ethnicity and level of experience varied from one extreme to the other, it was instantly apparent that shape and size had little to do with inherent talent.
You'd be watching a troupe of kids, maybe one boy and seven girls, perform a very fast and hip-hoppy or jazzy number and notice a short squat girl performing the steps with such enthusiasm and agility and precision that it seemed like sheer movement perfection and it was even more exhilarating realizing that throughout most of history she wouldn't be on a stage like this (it was in the local professional performance space, where Steve Earle performed recently and where top musical and comic performers appear, including famous dance troupes) outshining other more obvious candidates for dance stardom.
Even if these kids don't make a career in dance, either as dancers themselves or as choreographers or teachers (most of the numbers were choreographed by the older teacher/students, meaning high school juniors or seniors), they will go through life, I suspect, with more inherent dignity and self-respect than many of their peers, having learned to develop talents and physical abilities beyond the usual elementary and high school levels.
And to see my boy, whose highly physically active behavior often gets him noticed by teachers in a not always positive way, moving his feet to the beat as the lead dancer in his first dance performance on a stage with a group of beginners, couldn't have made me happier, especially considering this past week.
After the finale, the head of the dance school, a youngish (I have trouble determining people's ages, always have, I'd guess she's somewhere between late twenties and forty, but who knows) attractive woman of what seemed to me to be mixed racial and ethnic origins (adding to her beauty) singled out some performers who were graduating and going away to college, and then, just when I was thinking maybe she'd mention my son for being such a trouper and showing up for the performance after being in the hospital most of the week, instead she walked over to one of the little kids who was so tiny she could have been preschool age, and told the audience how this child had spent two months in the hospital and was told she wouldn't walk again, yet here she was.
I almost lost it on that. And my son told us all later how from his vantage point, a few rows behind her, he could see the tears in the little girl's eyes as the head of the school, Dancette, as she's known, said that and then hugged her. My son pointing out that she must have been moved by the realization of what she had endured and what she had accomplished. Amen to that.