My third daughter is a dancer.
Beautiful. Graceful. Expressive.
Somehow she understands the music and the choreography and can interpret them into movement. When she dances she wears her heart on the stage, and everyone can see.
She has longed to be a ballerina since she was five years old. She would dance on the wooden floor in our living room for hours. We decided she needed a dress and ballet shoes. She wore the dress often, but she lived in the shoes. Then the year she was nine we gave her a signed pair of pointe shoes from a dancer in the Louisville Ballet, her first pair of technique shoes, and four private ballet lessons—one half hour a week. To this day she says that that was the best Christmas ever.
Now she has ballet four nights a week—six hours of lessons. On those four nights she will come home sweaty, and her muscles fatigued, legs cramping, toenails splitting, and blistered heels. And she is elated. (Her first blister from dancing on pointe was a trophy).
I am not the typical ballet mom. I never watch rehearsals. I try to avoid them. I want to see the performance fresh—unmarred by my own expectations. The spring recital this year was a surprise—an utter delight to me. Her company danced the second act of a ballet called Napoli. This ballet tells the story of a Greek wedding and its celebration. All the choreography is quite complicated and involved and high energy.
She wore a Greek peasant costume and had her hair in two great knots on the back of her head. And I couldn't take my eyes off of her. I watched the others, but I followed my daughter. She was animated, sassy, and saucy. Her smile spread across her whole face, and even from my seat in the audience I could tell the smile reached her eyes.
She had entered into the dance. She wasn't just doing the choreography—she was living it. There is an abandon in my daughter when she dances. She becomes everything she wants to be when she steps onto the stage.
On stage my daughter is happy, but I realized there was something more. I was watching joy dance. Joy was shaking her tambourine out in the open. She would thrust it forward and raise it high. She tapped and smacked her tambourine with attitude. There was an abandon of the moment...a giving over to the dance.
At the second performance I wished for a brief moment I could be her—that I could dance on stage, play the tambourine, and be able to step outside myself. All that day I wanted my own tambourine. I stood and looked at them for a long time. All the girls' tambourines were piled in a chair. I wanted to reach out and take one of those wooden hoops and shake it. Sadly I resisted.
I want to be filled with joy. I want to know the joy that permeates. I almost said I want to be happy, but happiness is a fleeting, transient place—constantly changed and rearranged according to the circumstances of the present moment.
I want to smile, and I want the smile to reach the outermost corners of my eyes. I want to laugh deeply without hesitation. And I want to play my tambourine.
I know I have one. But I hold mine close to my belly. Often I have quieted my tambourine with my own hand. I have tried to still the flat bells and their music, and I have been inhibited by my own corset. I tied the strings too tight.
From my daughter I am learning that this is part of joy: an abandon of the moment...a giving over to the dance. Joy is elated over the sore muscles, the bruised toes, and the tender blisters, because joy can and will thrive in the midst of these deterrents.
I don't want to just do the choreography. I want to enter the dance. I want to shake my tambourine with attitude.
Thank you, my daughter, for a lesson well taught.