To the Ballet with a Shark

Did I ever tell you about the time I took my Miss sweet K to the ballet?

I was the first to reply in a Facebook forum–“Who wants tickets to the ballet?”

Well, I do!!! My girl who who has been singing Waltz of the Flowers since she could first stand up,

legs springing out in grande battement since age two, she will be my date! Yes, I really need those tickets!

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It was as it I’d won the lottery, the golden ballet ticket.

It took nearly a full day to go purchase my win from the woman advertising dancers from Ukraine, what with carting Jude, nursing on the way, all the energy needed to rocket myself across and through Tokyo’s winding streets and different address system and then back through the ticket gates, back, back, back to pickup Kariin.

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Well, I’d seen enough of the St. Petersburg ballet, Kiev, Ballet Russe, and all the ballet documentaries on making it into the

fierce, cold, utterly austere ballet schools. As she spoke, taking me into the living room, I knew they’d be young–but coming from Ukraine, I supposed they’d be little phenoms. I remembered the time I’d seen The Kiev Ballet dancing Swan Lake. The impossibly long legs and pointy feet that seems like arrow tips pointing, stretching so long.

Yes, great, done. I tucked those tickets, with whatever bit of unsurety I had, next to my remaining bills and smiled big. Wait til I tell her! To the ballet we go!

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Every morning we planned the days leading up to this, her first real ballet.

What would the dancers wear? What would they dance to—

That sweet flute from Prokiev? Would it be Paquita? Scenes from Sleeping Beauty? Perhaps a nod to Cinderella?

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It would be great. The next morning, I set off to collect,  err, pay for my winnings. I jumped on multiple trains with my baby boy. We trollied down ramps, scampered down steps, me quickly shoving his stroller out trains before the doors shut.

We schlepped through Tokyo neighborhoods we’d not known before.

I was invited in.

“Here are the tickets!” (They looked photocopied on the lightest paper).

Oh, dear. Politey, in my head, I have a creeping slight suspission… I wonder if this is… a scam.

Granted, the tickets were only 3,000 yen a pop, the receipt made me wary. It could have easily been printed from a home printer, even in the early 2,000s. Just a bit of pink and a clip-art cartoon ballet girl.

(My total for the ballet would be 9,000 yen, about 90 bucks, plus my two days of train fare to procure and use the coveted passes I’d beaten a slew of Tokyo mums for).

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No ballet company, but they are a casual school she told me.

My daughter would be enchanted, she said. Surely, I’d been had, I surmised, feet back into shoes for our evening journey home. Watch. There is no ballet. Just a sham.

To her I said, “Thank you! This will be lovely.”

Roll out the carpet; we go back to that neighborhood the next day, but now for the show. Same exit, same exhaustion, but now a left turn for the theatre.

It is ballet girls’ day, my sis, K, & me. KT has on her best silk taffeta finery. She is pink, ready to be plucked, should an audience member be asked to fill Sugar Plumb Fairy’s point shoes in case something goes wrong. She is good natured, relaxed, though she wonders,

“Where? Mom, where

are all the tutus? These are just, just leotards“.

Curtains spread to show us young dancers at the bar. They are pantomiming class. Feels very much like a regular recital.

An expensive recital. An awkward recital. My daughter, ever the ballet enthusiast, witnessed some turns she liked. The eldest dancers whirled in pique turns. By one dancer’s fifth turn, followed by a rapid serious of chaînés tournes, Kariin began slapping. First softly, then with some steam and vigor–it was all involuntary. This is just who she is in dance. Well, it was awkward because she was the only one clapping, but she was right to clap then. It’s like how the whole bouncing and snapping jazz club erupts with claps and hollers at that precise moment when there is the collective, “Aaaaah, now THIS is JAZZ”. Still the only one. Her claps muffled, slowed, and altogether stopped. But. A few got the hint. The dancer spun on. Kariin began clapping again and then the whole place, finally awake to the feast of beauty, a brief beauty, streaming before their eyes, clapped. My girl started The Clap, like in an 80s movie! It was hilarious and I am still so proud.

Intermission. There is a snack table. There is never a communal snack table at Miami or New York City Ballet. Peter Martins never would allow patrons the joy or horror of noshing on greasy, lardy potato chips or neonic Cheese Doodles. Would he? Nope. There would be no little ballerinas wiping salty osembei paws on leotards. Help.

I realized, o how it sank in while watching the sweet little types-cast four-year old working so hard to turn, while holding the barre. Girls in mismatched leotards and convertible tights kept coming around to their parents, asking for money for the vending machines. I finally realized that we were paying patrons at her daughter’s dance recital. We were the only people, I believe, without a kid on stage. Let me say that a fledgling performance of any fine art is solely diminished without the emotional foundation of knowing a kid. I don’t know how crappy their turnout used to be; I only see slight pigeon. And yet…it was fun to be part of the cheering section of sleepy dads and overworked moms, just proud of their kid. We championed two tween male dancers, both predictably awkward in pirate sleeves. We twiddled about while the dj finally got the right song out for the lilac fairy. We sat through the school director’s two lectures, three intermissions, and numerous trips to that snack table.

And then, near the end of this sojourn into dance-mom purgatory, the funny, savvy mom in front of us, asked, “So. Which one is your kid?”

And I fought the urge to say, “NONE OF THEM. We were conned by that woman right there!”

I don’t remember how I answered, but we got out of there, cheese doodles, mini choco croissants wrapped in crappy diner napkins in my bag.

I still don’t know the name of the dance school or who we actually saw, but let me just say,

I will not charge you if you even come to see my child’s first time on stage. Or I’ll apologize profusely for the fee and throw in a free pair of tights for your own knobby-knee dancer. You can hold me to it.

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Ballet with My Darling

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So my girl has this new thing: when we are at the top of the stairs, she gives a long, deep, rolling bow & says, “After you, my highness. My darling.” And then I pass her and begin the descent downstairs, after giving some highly emphatic, Shakespeare praises & salutations of my own. This adds a good minute or so to the walk downstairs. More of this when we get to the bottom.

You can imagine how grandiose we become when preparing for our little mother-daughter ballet time. There is the hair–sweeping it up in a ballet bun. We are bun to toes, PINK. We “I feel like a ballet dancer”, she says. And she is.

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Today’s class was held in her room with a lush score provided by my Kindle.

We started as butterflies springing our folded in legs to butterflies sunning ourselves, arms unfolding and getting strong in the sun.

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We heard music that sounded like the windy storm from two nights ago. My girl became a baby bird swirling in between cold wet drops. We pointed and flexed and swept across her floor. There’s no one else I’d rather wear a leotard for.

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