I taught four ballet classes this year. I taught ages spanning from 3-9, and it was my first year teaching over the age of 6. This brings in a bit of depth in their training you don’t necessarily see with the younger ones. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but now that the year is officially over, reflecting back on it leaves my heart feeling full.
My Wednesday class of 5-6 year olds was my only dance I had on the Friday recital night. Fifteen excited dancers in one small dressing room found a way to jump start my tired heart with their giggles and hugs, excitement absolutely soaking in to my bloodstream just from laying eyes on their lit up faces. They were in the middle of the first half, and they did absolutely wonderfully. I was a bit nervous about the beginning since their piece started with the first faint start of the music, but they heard it and did so great. They wanted to go out and do it again, which was so precious.
Saturday I had my older girls, the 6-8 year old class, first. They were the second dance, and I was grateful. My brain can get full of movements and theirs seems to be the one I space on, even though I know I know it. Thankfully, this only happened in rehearsal and not during the performance. I took a bit of a risk with this class, giving them things that were just a bit out of their depth, but they all rose to it, and I couldn’t be more proud. Even my one dancer who couldn’t possible care less about Ballet and seemed to love to make sure we knew it got out there and did the dance, not getting in anyone’s way as she did it. I’m sad that many of the girls are aging out of the class range I teach, but I am so beyond proud of how much they have grown. Their hunger for more lights a fire in me I forgot to be there. This entire class holds a special place in my heart.
Next we’re my tiny little nuggets, my 3-4 year olds. This is the class that filled me with such joy as they just were unapologetically themselves. The tiniest one, I absolutely couldn’t watch her without having a smile break across my face. They are just so stinking cute and their love and light that spilled out of their tiny bodies filled the room, soaking into the pores of my skin, filling chambers of my heart I didn’t even know were suffocating. I hope I’m able to keep that memory alive in my heart forever. They also did really well, remembering their dance and doing it well while simultaneously just being so adorable I don’t know how the audience didn’t melt all over the place.
My last class was my Friday 5-6 year olds. Many of these girls were my students last year and had already captured my heart. Having them again was a peace and comfort I didn’t know id need this year. Familiar faces looking up at me with smiles now losing teeth as they excitedly told me about it before class. Kids new to me this year quickly joining their ranks of winning my heart over, their dreams and determination to be everything their heart hopes to be inspiring me every week. They got out there and nailed their dance, including the ones that we weren’t too sure how they’d do that day. They all rose and I’m so proud of their hard work.
I was given more flowers this recital than I think I ever received dancing in them, and seeing them has encouraged my heart more than I knew possible. Little reminders telling me that I matter, and that what I do is significant, even if there are days that tell me otherwise. One of the students I had last year gave me this candle, and the scent of it ended up becoming such a comfort to me after the hurricane changed so much of what I knew. I was sad as I watched the wax burn lower and lower, knowing soon I wouldn’t have it anymore. She caught wind and gave me another one this year, and there aren’t words to express my gratitude. It’s the little things, the sweet cards and the hugs around my legs cause they can’t reach any higher. It’s them hugging my neck so tightly when I reach down as they tell me how much their going to miss me or that I’m their favorite. It’s their faces lighting up when I say hello to them as they walk into the theatre, or hearing them whisper, “that’s my teacher!” As I walk by. It’s seeing their bond with my assistants who love them so dearly and genuinely care about their growth as dancers, perhaps seeing themselves in these pint sized ballerinas and recognizing the dreams in their hearts.
I saw some of my students from last year that weren’t in my class this year, which also melted me. Seeing them recognize me, hearing their mom’s excited tones, watching them side stage and seeing their improvement.
These kids are the light that shines through the darkness that can so quickly creep in. I cherish every day I’m able to teach them, and am so grateful to have the opportunity to do so.