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I Hope You Dance

Dancing, singing & giggling is my daughter’s natural state. Sometimes I worry that formal dance training may rob her of that natural, untrained, fearless grace. Should I?

Photo of a Young Girl Dancing - I Hope You DanceLast night I watched a video my wife had taken of our little girl dancing. The point of the video was not to capture her dancing; it’s just her natural state: dancing… running… singing… giggling.

At any moment of the day she may break into dance… sometimes graceful ballet-like twirls, sometimes vaudevillian soft shoe, and other times earthy 60’s hippie, flower-child movements.

Watching her last night, I had the same thought I’ve had many times before, “I hope she never loses that natural, untrained, fearless grace.”  And I worry that giving her formal lessons may squash it?

The thought of some well-meaning dance instructor telling her she is “doing it wrong” makes me cringe. Instead, I’d simply want them to communicate, “here’s another fun way you can learn to dance.”

Am I worrying about nothing? I don’t care if she’s ever a great dancer… or even a good dancer. It would break my heart if anything ever robbed her of the sheer joy she clearly feels when dancing.

What’s your advice?

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24 comments

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  1. Sili

    How sweet of you to be concerned!

    I was a dancer since before I could walk. I did end up taking lessons and I was molded and shaped. At age 37, I still do kitchen dances and potty dances and leaping around dances!

    All of that to say, I think that what matters is that you are open to it at home. I was always allowed to be silly and my mom was a big jokester and prankster. Even though other people look at me weird if they should be around when I break out into spontaneous dance, it just makes me smile and giggle. Sometimes it makes me sad though. That they think just because they’re “adults” they are not allowed to feel that joy in their hearts ;-).

    1. Michael Schmid

      What a lovely comment, Sili. That made me smile and gave me hope. Thank you.

      At age 37, I still do kitchen dances and potty dances and leaping around dances!

  2. Giselle

    When I am on the same situation, I am sure I will let my kid be engaged with dancing and enroll her or him to dance lessons they like..

    1. Michael Schmid

      Good for you, Giselle. Life’s too short not to encourage them to pursue and enjoy their passions. They need not make money at it, but seeing her happy is reward enough?

  3. Marcelina

    This is a sweet post. I don’t think you are worrying over nothing. When my husband was a child, he had trouble with reading and writing. A teacher once told him he would never amount to anything. Can you imagine? That comment has stuck with him to this day even though he is a successful and creative marketer, father, husband and part-time business owner. Maybe it’s worth reinforcing with your daughter that she should never let anyone ever make her feel inadequate.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Oh, Marcelina… the careless things adults say can really stick with a child. I understand how, even with tremendous success on the surface, how those things can stick with you. I try every day to inoculate her against anything negative someone might say. Thank you so much for your comment.

  4. Tim

    What’s that ____ Cinderella song? That kills me. Being a daughter dad is tough.

    1. Michael Schmid

      I know exactly the song you mean…

      So I will dance with Cinderella
      While she is here in my arms
      ‘Cause I know something the prince never knew
      Oh, I will dance with Cinderella
      I don’t want to miss even one song
      ‘Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
      And she’ll be gone

      It is tough, Tim, but it’s worth it.

      1. Stephanie with RKS

        OK that song just made me cry!

        1. Michael Schmid

          It never fails to make me tear up, too. [sniff] I included the video of that song in this post:

  5. AnOrdinaryDad

    How old is your daughter? Mine is 4 and we enrolled her in ballet this past year. She is also a free spirited dancer at home, and if anything else, the classes have taught her a few new moves to add to her repetoire. I go to her classes sometimes, and the teacher is really not that strict with this age group. In fact, the moves look different pretty much from student to student, but what do you expect for a class of 3 and 4 year olds! I think when the kids get older, it will be more strict. In the meantime, I suggest going to watch a class or two before enrolling, to see the teacher’s personality. Then make sure you go and watch after your daughter is taking classes to keep an eye on how it is presented. Good luck!

    1. Michael Schmid

      I suggest going to watch a class or two before enrolling, to see the teacher’s personality. Then make sure you go and watch after your daughter is taking classes to keep an eye on how it is presented.

      That sounds like super advice. I’m glad yours (only a bit older than my) daughter found such a great teacher. Hopefully most are like that. We’ll definitely check the focus of the school in advance, and watch the classes to ensure the message doesn’t rob our little girl of any of that natural, wonderful joy.

  6. cmichaelsny

    “Your such a great dancer.” Then make sure you go and watch after your daughter is taking classes to keep an eye on how it is presented.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thanks, Michael. You’re right. Give her support and encouragement, and watch that no one else feeds her the wrong messages, as best I can.

  7. Rayna Miller

    Its so nice, that you love watching your daughter dancing her natural self like a free bird. Otherwise sometimes parents and instructors put a lot of pressure on their kids to achieve perfection without acknowledging that it puts negative impact on their mind.

    1. Michael Schmid

      I do love watching the joyful, unselfconscious abandon with which she sings, dances, etc. :)

  8. OneLoveMama

    I can totally relate. I think it means a lot that you are giving it so much thought, so cheers to that! I have always been a natural dancer, and I have taken lots of dance classes, too. Dance is something I feel I would be lost without and I feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t feel the same liberty to just move to life’s music without self-consciousness.
    My one tip: stay away from ballet. Ballet is very rigid and dancing on point can be harmful to a young girls developing body. There are many other fabulous dance forms and I have only found that taking classes adds to my ability and my natural love of dance. I have done: jazz, modern, tap, brazilian, congolese, bellydance, hip-hop, zuumba, salsa, and loved it all. I also highly recommend improv (acting) classes to improve stage presence and self-confidence (for older children 10 and up, most younger children are superb at improvisation – its us older kids/grownups who need help remembering those skills) .
    And I completely agree with everyone who suggested observing the class first to see if you appreciate the instructors attitude. A great teacher makes a world of difference. Your intuition is right, dancing is no fun if there are too many rules. A good dance class will teach your daughter how to learn new steps and routines and add to her natural repertoire. Plus, its great exercise!

    1. Michael Schmid

      Your intuition is right, dancing is no fun if there are too many rules. A good dance class will teach your daughter how to learn new steps and routines and add to her natural repertoire. Plus, its great exercise!

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful response and encouragement. Interesting tip about ballet, as well as improv classes when she’s older. Thanks again!

      On an unrelated note, I tried to leave a comment on your blog, but it said I had to sign up with the hosting site first. Have you considered using WordPress.com or blogger.com as a host?

      Have a super week!

  9. JDaniel4's Mom

    I would follow her lead. If she wants lessons, try them and see how she feels about them.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thank you, Deidre.

  10. Grete

    It is sad but true that well all loose this unconditional, natural grace which is born with us. During the socialization process, our natural born intuitions and feelings are changing into learnt moments and conditions, and we don’t act like a child anymore.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Looking at ourselves as examples, it’s easy to see how that might seem true, Grete. Still I wonder how much more permanent and influential the impact things said to a child are than things said to an adult. My gut tells me if a child is told you’re ugly or can’t sing (or dance or whatever) that is much more likely to stick (especially if coming from an authority figure) than if it were said to us as adults? So, while my little girl is in her “sponge” mode, absorbing information at a startling rate, that the messages she gets about herself are as positive as possible.

  11. Ken Rodgers

    Your daughter is such a lively person, and she will grow into a very strong woman. All I can encourage you is that make sure that you nurture her dancing skills, even when taking formal education let her know that dancing is her passion and she should never stop doing it. You never know, in future it might end up being her career.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Great advice, Ken. No matter what she does with it, I hope she never loses that joy. :)

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