History repeats itself

Published 6:24 pm Friday, December 14, 2018


Coffee with Mimi

Though I am usually very careful in attributing appropriate credit where credit is due, in this instance I do not need to cite a significant source from my research. I have uncountable primary sources available in the public domain at my fingertips: In my address book, in Facebook postings, in texts, email messages and photos on my refrigerator. Just ask any parent who now is a grandparent, or great aunt or uncle. Anecdotal stories count too.

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This past week, my husband and I attended our granddaughter’s very first public dance program. Our little ballerina is 6 years old. Her favorite parts of the process center on the details of the costume, doing exactly what her teacher expects, her hair and bright red stage lipstick.

Questioning her on the dance elements and what exactly she will be doing when actually dancing, reveal fewer specifics. It is clear she will be a reindeer, albeit a formally bedecked one  in a classical Sugar Plum Fairy style tutu. The velvet reindeer antlers were to be donned at the very last minute. They added just the right touch of cuteness while maintaining the traditional look generally associated with formal holiday ballet ensembles.

The troupe of adorable little reindeer pranced onto the stage from the wings and arranged themselves in position, poised for their music cue. The house was packed with literally hundreds of anxious family and friends, as the full program included dancers from six different dance studios across the city. Thankfully, the stage was lit and the house lights were completely dimmed preventing those on stage from actually seeing what was in front of them. 

The music began and we were off. The classical ballet tune, “Up on the House Top,” filled the auditorium. The little darlings could have been dancing to any piece of music, but reindeer cavorted and twirled in time, and in pretty consistent step, with complete abandon and pure fun. 

Dance skills are taught in a hierarchy which begins with body awareness and developing coordination. In this, the very early stage, there is lots of what amounts to choreographed wiggling. These little reindeer had the moves down pat, and with gusto. By the time the reindeer had completed their paces around the roof and down the imaginary chimney, the entire audience was in tears with laughter and appreciation.

Every parent and grandparent had adopted this little troupe as their own and rewarded their efforts with resounding applause and cheers.

Our reindeer performance was number 3 in a program of 26 such holiday interpretive pieces presented by groups ranging in age from 3 to 80. We drove three and a half hours both ways to watch our loved one perform for five minutes of a two and a half hour program. A room full of like folks joined us. Applause for group 26 was no less enthusiastic than that for group three. Well, maybe a bit less. There is a lot to be said for the wiggle value of tiny reindeer in tutus.

Twenty-five years ago, we sat in a similar auditorium at Christmas time. Having wrangled three children into holiday-themed costumes, appropriately arranging hair and minimal makeup, we turned them over to the dance chaperones and settled in for the duration. Parental anxiety was high. New parents worry. Will our child remember what to do?  Will our child remember anything? Will it all be too much? Will there be a temper tantrum in the middle of the floor? A complete meltdown amongst the dancing snowflakes? What if people laugh?   

Well, there were several memory lapses, missed steps and a couple near misses in passing lines. There were no obvious temper tantrums.

There was loving laughter from the audience at charming little incidents and much appreciative applause for all. At the close of the performance, the lobby was full of clumps of family fans waiting for the stars to bounce in from backstage to congratulatory hugs.       

One of our dancers 25 years ago is now the father of one adorable little reindeer. Would his vast personal experience in the realm of child holiday dance performances translate into a cool, calm adult approach to this rite of parental passage?

Phone calls and schedules were coordinated to corral both sets of grandparents and an aunt to purchase tickets, manage transportation and parking and assure all would arrive at the venue to secure seating reasonably close to the front of the auditorium. His wife had not been a dancer in her career, thus had less experience with the process. In this instance, a degree of experience is irrelevant.

Confusion ensued. Orderly planning fell by the wayside when travellers decided to make unscheduled stops. Three cars, not two were necessary for transportation. There was a miscommunication about dancer reporting time, audience seating time and performance starting time. Upon arrival, it was noted that other families had bunches of flowers clearly for their little stars. A quick errand was necessary.     

On Sunday, a 102-year-old woman in the audience was recognized. Imagine the number of similar holiday experiences she has enjoyed through her family history.