Posted Oct 27, 2015 by Jacquie Robison
From the time she first discovered “Angelina Ballerina”, Sofia has loved to dance. As with any baby, her early dancing days looked a lot like bouncing around on the floor. As we learned her CP diagnosis, music and dance continued to play a huge role in her excitement to move. As she developed strength in her legs, she would furniture walk around the room — moving from a table to a chair and then to a wall for support — all the while grinning and announcing she was a ‘dance ballet girl’.
When she was almost three years old, she declared that she would like to take ballet lessons. It was a charged moment for me, and I remember it very clearly. As a parent, you watch your child grow and become interested in different things, and you want to encourage those interests. You want them to find the joy in trying the thing that sparks their imagination, creativity and movement. Even if it’s difficult…actually, ESPECIALLY if it’s difficult. Because, for each of us, learning to fail and to try again, is as important as being very successful at something. We often talk about the difference the little word ‘yet’ makes. Our language has been very deliberate, and we avoid words that imply a full stop…that there is no path forward. So, when she asked about taking ballet classes, we agreed that she wasn’t quite ready YET for ballet classes, but started by researching some online videos for children. We made a plan and we decided we would begin by practicing at home.
A small, collapsible ballet bar was the perfect starting point, and she spent lots of time making up routines and balancing at the bar. When she was four and a half, her strength and stability had improved to a point where it was definitely conceivable to have her participate in ballet classes. For us as parents, having Sofia in a group of her fully-able peers has always been important. To see the art of the possible in her friends was a terrific way for her to want to reflect that action and activity. We have worked to be aware of times when it might frustrate her and also have strived to ensure that her participation didn’t impact the level of activity for the other children. This isn’t about having other people slow everything down so Sofia can catch up. That’s just not how the world works.
And, we’ve found that as you put out that willingness to work together with others, it is returned back to you tenfold. We found an amazing ballet school that embraced Sofia enthusiastically. Their founder said “every little person loves to dance, and our school is about celebrating moving your body in whichever way works best for you.” The other parents were welcoming and understood that sometimes Sofia would need assistance with portions of the class. But, the beautiful thing was that she largely wanted to work things out for herself. The experience of having others believe in her as strongly as we do led to a deeper belief in herself for what she can do. We’ve seen our tiny dancer grow her confidence and be absolutely thrilled to participate at the end of year program on a formal stage at a beautiful venue in San Francisco. As a 6 year old, she continues with her ballet lessons and rejoices in new positions and new steps. I recently asked her what she has learned from ballet. Her reply? “That I can be elegant and strong.”