There were lawns to be mowed, but when you sign your youngster up for dance class you also sign yourself up for the culminating recital, and so it was we found ourselves in a darkened auditorium on a sunny Sunday for a three-hour dance marathon.
The curtain rose on a row of giant flower pots, each planted with a tiny dancer in a tiny tutu. They were to bloom from the pots, and so they did, though not necessarily in the order or fashion intended, and the three dance coaches onstage were fully occupied in a combination of encouraging and herding. Of course the whole thing was darling and we, the audience, applauded accordingly as the flower pots and the last wandering dancer were cleared to make way for the next group.
The day’s dancers ranged from preschool to high school seniors. Sometimes half the troupe was staring off into space. Sometimes there were six dancers and six dances. And then there were the more accomplished performers, the ones who pirouetted beautifully or flipped and flew above the stage as if gravity were optional, who hit their marks with crispness and grace.
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I’ll say this: The dance company kept things moving. One after the other, the ensembles ran to their places, struck their poses and waited for the lights and music. What happened next varied widely depending on age and skill level, but rarely did we wait.
And they just kept coming. When intermission finally arrived, I texted a fellow father whose child was enrolled in lessons with another dance company. “Halfway through a three-hour dance recital,” I typed. “Pray for me.”
I regretted the joke immediately. Because truth was, I didn’t really mean it. I wasn’t the least bit bored. Even though our daughter danced with the third group out, we remained engaged throughout. It was easy, really, what with all the life and innocent beauty on display. Children dancing—some without regard for choreography or rhythm, a few transfixed into immobility by the lights, now and then one scooting to the front of the stage to wave and look for Grandma — are the personification of hope. To watch them run eagerly to the stage, to be utterly absorbed by the music and the moment, was to see them exploring the possibility that magic can be found in movement. That even if the dance is not graceful, there is grace in the attempt.
And the upshot for us grownups is we can’t help but remember what it was to move simply through joy without concern for what others might think (although it helps if you’re decked in sequins). And it is difficult to obsess over the electric bill or how you oughta be home mowing the lawn when a teenage ballet dancer knocks out six perfect spins, or a child decorated like a daisy finally emerges from her flower pot and leaps about the stage in random happiness, never mind the beat.
Yes, the lawn went unmowed. But as reward for those three hours gone, we emerged to a world where it seemed the sun shone all the brighter.
An original “Roughneck Grace” column exclusive to the Wisconsin State Journal. Audio versions may air on “Tent Show Radio”(tentshowradio.com). Read more from Michael Perry at www.sneezingcow.com.