As I wrote earlier, these recitals gave me a chance to see much more than their progress in music and dance. Pollito loves to dance and does it all the time at home. He opted out of his piano recital because he was "too afraid to be on stage" by himself but he seemed fine to do the dance recital again this year. In classes he is technically fine but it takes him a very long time to master a dance. His processing issues combined with his oppositional nature usually manifest in ways that don't help him learn a dance. Unless the teacher is standing right in front of him and offers many repetitions he will just "fake it." This year was his 3rd year taking dance and we still saw this pattern but as recital drew near a very interesting thing happened. He asked me to help him practice his dances. For about a week and a half prior to recital he would ask to stay up late and practice (learn) his dance. With Corazon's help we retaught him much of the ballet and he started to feel pretty confident in his abilities. The night of the dress rehearsal he was nervous about being on stage but his performance was excellent. I could tell he was genuinely proud of himself and he smiled from ear to ear. I don't see that as often as I wish from him. Even when we compliment him he doesn't "feel" like it is true. This time he took my compliments and seemed to believe them. When he went out on stage for the actual performance he ended up in the wrong position for his dance but no one could tell because he just oozed self assurance and poise. It was almost incredible and brought tears to my eyes. After his ballet performance I was backstage and noticed he looked heartbroken because he realized he'd "messed up." I assured him that his performance was wonderful and even his teacher could not convince him that he had done an excellent job. I couldn't tell if this was his lack of self confidence, lack of trust in others or just plain need to be oppositional that made this so hard for him to accept. Once he got through his hip hop he seemed to get over his bad feelings and was able to enjoy the kudos he got from many people including strangers. It is a new phenomena for him to show any sign of "caring" about how he does in anything. It is an even newer thing to see him actually recognize good and bad performances. At the end of the recitals he said to me "I don't remember my other recitals. Did I do good or bad in those?" I assured him he did well and he responded by saying "I thought I did bad." He wouldn't elaborate. He is on this very interesting cusp of self-awareness and it is rare moments like this when we get a little bit of insight into how he sees himself and what he cares about.
Milagro is becoming such a big girl. She was so excited to perform. She had no qualms about knowing her dances and she was so trusting that her teachers would be on hand to help if she "forgot." She had two recitals back to back so was tied up from about 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and she was a total trooper. Her stamina and commitment once she makes her mind up is amazing. She had fun backstage and she had fun on stage. She even managed to ham it up a bit and wave to me and blow kisses (at almost appropriate times) during her dances! Of the three of them she has the least amount of dance "skill" but you could not have convinced her of that. Sometimes we watch her in dance class and chuckle at how inflexible her body is as they stretch or how awkward she looks as she tries to follow the teacher's directions. It is unlikely she is destined to be a dancer for long but she is having so much fun! As I watched her during her recitals I wondered how long it would be before the self confidence gets shaken. At what point will she internalize messages that will tear away at her self concept. How do I protect and prepare her for that? I was so proud of that little girl. She danced her heart out and had the time of her life.
We have struggled with this all year in dance company because she struggled with taking responsibility for how her actions (not being ready, missing practice, etc) might affect the rest of the girls. In fact, we did not let her try out again for dance company because she started banking on MY sense of responsibility toward the company and counted on that to keep participating even when she was acting in ways that should have kept her out. I had made a commitment this year that I would not take dance company rehearsals away from her no matter how awful she was. That was so hard, especially on day when she was a total jerk, got nothing done and treated everyone with disdain and meanness. For the most part I kept my commitment but it was SO HARD. I found myself regretting our decision to not let her try out again but only for a moment. She is in a critical developmental place and needs to take more responsibility for the things she cares about. Our compromise is that she will take classes there again in the fall and we will also look for another option because she is starting to face some other issues particularly around race and gender. Much of it is grounded in her poise and skill which I think throws off the other girls who are steeped in their own insecurities based on the social messages they get around here about what it means to be a girl. She doesn't usually get bothered by the things they expect her to be bothered by and their comments get more and more obnoxious. They are also making some racist comments to her and another girl of color and while she has let them slide by they are starting to bother her and confuse her. But, she is processing them which is way more that she was able to do a year ago. Now she "gets it" and wants to know why they say or do the things they do. A year ago, she could have cared less. In a strange way, her dance work this year that culminated in these recitals has opened up this level of awareness and growth and I was able to see it so vividly this past weekend. She is doing some really hard work and I forget that sometimes.