Mama, Dance for Me! by Carisa Miller – Do You Read Me?
“Mama, dance for me!” My four-year-old daughter bounces into the kitchen and makes an audience of herself. Like so many little girls, she has ballerina dreams. Not like many little girls, she has a ballerina mother.
My ballet lessons began at age three, but I’m not sure you’d call what I did, dancing. I had two great moves: picking my nose and digging my leotard out of my butt.
Over the next thirteen years, I got better. I spent my entire childhood and adolescence in the dance school: by the hour, by the day, class upon class, performance after performance. In my early adulthood, I wandered away to chase boys and discover the world. I returned in the spaces between college and travel, marriage and babies.
The ballet studio is a place where I am known and welcome, no matter how long I’ve been away. It is a place where I can let go of everything else in my life and just be me and DANCE.
More years have passed now outside the studio than in. But I’ve never stopped dancing. A dancer will dance wherever she is, studio or not. Any neighbors who can see through the windows into our house, can attest to that.
Through dance, I can express everything inside me. My passions are released through movement and become art.
Ballet built rhythm, balance and grace of movement into my very core. The study of choreography taught me to conceptualize patterns and offered me the elements of composition and design. I developed a love for classical music, as it filled the air around me, urging my movement.
Ballet formed me. Actually formed me. Even though it is out-of-practice and stages a protest when I demand it whip up a tour jeté, I still have the body of a dancer.
My dance training has been of service to me both academically and athletically. It has been integral to my physical and mental health.
I developed an identity as a ballerina at a very young age. I was surrounded by a loving group of peers and teachers I referred to as my ‘Ballet Family’. Along with my improving dance ability, a strongly defined identity and support system, instilled a confidence and sense of self in me that will be with me always. I hope with my whole heart, my daughters will possess such self-confidence.
I have gained tremendously important things from ballet, and that is to say nothing of my pure love of dance and the immeasurable joy it brings me.
Since having children, ballet has given me a surprise something else: celebrity status in my own home!
Last year, generations of dancers from my studio gathered for a memorial performance, dedicated to my beloved, lifelong teacher. I hadn’t been on a stage in fifteen years. When I began to dance, my preschooler rushed to the foot of the stage and stood looking up at me, mesmerized and smiling, with wide, sparkling eyes. To her, I was a star.
After that, she and I made a few trips back to my hometown studio, to the children’s beginning ballet class. I got to assist her teacher.
Watching my daughter dance by my side in the studio mirror was surreal. I could see me. I could see her. I could see the child I used to be, in her, and the woman she will become, in me.
She’s hankering for more ballet classes now, and I’m looking into studios near our home. Soon, she’ll be off on her own ballet journey.
It is touching to consider that either of my daughters might choose to have dance in their lives the way I did. I would love to share a passion for this beautiful art form with them. But rock-climbing or underwater basket weaving would be cool with me, too. I’d drive my daughters to the moon and back for something they loved – for anything that could give them even half as much as ballet has given me.
ABOUT CARISA: Carisa Miller is a sarcasm wielding, cherub lugging, cheese devouring, nut-job writer. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her astonishingly patient husband, two fireball daughters, and an ill-tempered cat.
Writing what she describes as Human Interest Humor, she aims to promote laughter while conveying something relatable to her readers. Her essays are meaningfully filled with one-liners and, on occasion, intentionally filled with meaning.
She has been featured on such marvelous sites as Scary Mommy, In The Powder Room, Mamapedia, Honest Mom and Blogher, is a contributing author to The Herstories Project anthology and director of the Listen To Your Show: Portland.
Finding it more difficult to name her blog than her children, she was finally hit in the head with, Carisa Miller-Do you read me?, and has not yet stopped congratulating herself on being brained by a simple phrase, that both invites people to have a gander at her gibberish, and asks, “Does this mean anything to you?”
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