I grew up loving the two most quintessentially girly things a girl could love: horses and ballet. It was an eight-year affair I had with ballet, until I hit puberty and my knees decided they no longer loved what they were being put through when I danced. Although I didn't grow up to be the prima ballerina I dreamed about when I was six, I believe there are plenty of benefits of taking ballet classes.
I was lucky enough to have grandparents who considered my education in the arts to be an essential part of my upbringing, and so I had season tickets to the city ballet. I saw Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Giselle, Coppelia, and many more, and I loved the music and the dancers, and the dances themselves. The beauty, grace, and power that these men and women had left me breathless (in fact, they continue to, to this day).
During my time taking ballet, I learned so many important lessons that translated into the rest of my life. Lessons about respect, discipline, grace and strength that will forever stay with me. And while there may be a history of elitism connected to the art form, times are changing, and we are truly starting to see that ballet is for everyone. Furthermore, being into ballet when you're growing up is formative in more ways than you might expect. Since becoming a mom as an adult, I frequently look up and realize that my past with ballet still very much informs who I am as a parent. Here's how:
Appreciation For The Power Of Our Bodies
I mean, come on.
Appreciation For Classical Music
Even if you don't listen to classical music again for the rest of your life, I really think everyone can benefit from exposure to classical music and ballet is not a terrible avenue by which to experience it.
How Hard It Can Be To Make Something Look Easy
You can't just put on a tutu and expect it all to come together.
The Importance Of Posture
I don't want to be ~that mom~ who corrects her kids' posture every five minutes, but like, I'm not sorry if that's who I turn into. Every time I see an older woman with a Dowager's hump, I cry a little.
Learning How Much Strength Is Required To Achieve Grace
Strength is part of grace, and grace can (and should) be part of strength. It's a good life lesson, if you ask me. Usually, the most effortless something looks, the more work went into doing it.
Trying To Fit A Form That Isn't Natural Will Always Have Consequences On Your Body
It's easy to look at a ballerina's incredible form when she's onstage and forget the pain that can come with all that hard work. Ask any ballet dancer who's moved in pointe shoes to show you their bare feet. It ain't a pretty sight, and it's a good lesson that sometimes trying to achieve an ideal beauty standard, set by someone else, can come with other costs.
Our Bodies Are Made To Move To Music
This feels so elemental to instill in kids.
Wondering how many sautés you can do? Far more than you think, is the right answer. You are always capable of more than you think, and it takes a special quality to be able to push yourself to get to where you want to go. (This, incidentally, is a lesson learned in ballet that is why it's also necessary to truly known all the preceding lessons about hard work and the reality of trying to force your body do to things.)
Hold your arms soft, but firm. Toes pointed. Tummy tucked. Chest lifted. Oh, and then you have to listen to the music for cues to the dance you memorized. Now, if you're telling me that you can't answer my question about the whereabouts of my car keys while also putting your shoes on, I'm not hearing it.
Exposure To Foreign Languages
Anyone who's studied ballet comes away knowing the meaning of French words like jeté, battement, and devant as well as Italian terms like Adagio and coda. I'm not sure how much use you'll get out of them outside of dance or classical music, but you'll at least understand that all languages have their limitations, English included, and that learning new languages opens you up to understanding so many new concepts and thoughts and feelings that you might not otherwise fully grasp for lack of their having a proper English articulation. If you can pass this onto your kids, they'll be better off for it.
Respecting Your Roots
I think there's something really powerful about this. You need to know where you come from and honor it, before you can move forward and become your own person (or dancer). The exact same is true when you're parenting a child: Your job is to help them attain a foundation of skills and a basic sense of self and the context of their lives, and then once they have all of those things, they get to truly make all of it their own. There's nothing more rewarding than that.