On Sunday, Harlow had her very first dance recital. A few days leading up to it, she started talking about the recital very negatively. Whenever I brought it up, her eyes would get wide and her mouth would turn down and she’d say, “I’m too tired for the recital.”
“But it’s a few days away!”
“I’m too tired.”
Harlow loves dance and I have heard numerous times from her teacher that she is a rockstar in the class. She’s the youngest by about six months but according to the the teacher, she’s able to follow the steps just as well as everybody else.
Unfortunately, whenever there is a parent participation day (which means we are allowed to sit in the classroom instead of dropping our kids off), Harlow is usually excited until the moment we all get in the room. Then she runs over to me and cowers in my lap, refusing to perform. I try to encourage her to go back out there, which she will, but after a few seconds, she’ll run back over again. We repeat this back and forth for the entire hour.
About a month ago, she brought her recital dress home from class. It’s gold and sparkly and ridiculous. In other words, exactly what you want to see on your budding ballerina. Harlow talked about it day after day, asking to put it on, but I told her we had to save it for her special day.
The week prior, when she started to act negatively whenever her recital came up, I tried to use the dress as encouragement.
“You get to wear your special dress!”
“I don’t want to.”
All that week, I talked about the recital as positively as possible. “You know how you love to perform shows in front of me? Now you get to perform a show in front of a big audience!” “You know how you pretend the step to the balcony is a stage? Now you’re going to get to be on a real stage!”
Harlow still looked at me with those big eyes and a pout.
“Aren’t you excited for your recital?”
On recital day, we drove home from the summer house in the morning to give us plenty of time for Harlow to have a nap in the car and adjust. When we arrived at home, she was cranky so I let her be for a bit. Then as the time ticked by, I gently broached the idea of putting on her costume.
I waited. Mazzy tried to be helpful getting Harlow excited too, by telling her what to expect since she had performed in two of her own recitals. “It’s awesome, Harlow! You get to wear a pretty dress, go up and dance in front of everybody and then take a great big bow! Everybody claps and then you get flowers!”
Harlow still looked shellshocked.
“Harlow— if we want to get to the recital on time, we have to put on your ballerina outfit now.”
She reluctantly let me lead her back into her room to change. Since we started dance class last year, I’ve been thinking that recital day was going to be Harlow’s favorite day ever, but now I knew that probably wasn’t going to be the case. Harlow is just not a huge fan of special events. She didn’t like her birthday party or Mazzy’s birthday party. She cried through the first half of Moms & Muffins at her preschool, despite talking about it excitedly for weeks. Maybe she’d cry through her recital too. I tried to prepare myself.
But as I pulled up Harlow’s costume, her attitude began to shift. “Oooooooh,” she sang as she touched the sparkly tutu. “Can I look in the mirror, Mommy?”
“Of course you can.”
Harlow twirled in front of the mirror and looked at herself from every direction she could. “You need to put on the headband, Mommy!”
I fastened the gold sequined headband to the top of her head, with the bow off just slightly to the side.
“I like it.”
Then Mazzy came up to Harlow and gave her a paper flower. Harlow took it with her when we left.
On the stroller ride over, Harlow sat proudly in her recital costume, paper flower clenched in one hand, singing songs happily as I pushed her down the street.
I reminded myself that Harlow had been excited seconds before each Parent Participation Day too, so as not to get my hopes up. When we got to the venue, we saw all the other tiny ballerinas gathering in the lobby, waiting to get inside.
Harlow didn’t want to get out of the stroller but agreed when I said I would carry her. When we found her group, Harlow did not want me to put her down. I waited there with Harlow in my arms until the teacher opened up the doors for the kids to gather in the performance room.
“It’s not a stage, Mommy.” Harlow said as she surveyed the room.
“Well, it’s stadium seating so the stage is low instead of high.”
We located Harlow’s teacher who was sitting on the floor waiting for her dancers to gather round. I put Harlow down and she clung to my leg. I whispered to the teacher that she was a little nervous. The teacher motioned to Harlow to sit in her lap, which she did.
“Okay, I’m going to leave you with your class and we’ll see you once the show starts, okay?”
“Can I touch your necklace, Mommy?”
Touching my necklace is something we haven’t done in quite some time, but it used to be part of our goodnight and goodbye ritual. I have a necklace that I wear everyday with gold circular charms that have Mazzy and Harlow’s initials on them. Harlow always liked to rub them between her fingers before letting me leave.
“Of course you can, sweetie.”
She took the necklace between her fingers and touched it gently. Then she gave me a kiss goodbye and turned her head towards her class. No tears. I left her in the room at 4:45pm and the show didn’t start until 6pm, so I had a lot of time to wonder what was going to happen. I wondered if Harlow would perform or end up sitting the recital out. I wondered if she would freeze on stage and just stand there while everybody else danced. I wondered if she would locate us in the audience and then run straight to us.
At showtime, another dance group went first and then Harlow’s group went second. The whole class walked out in a line, with their hands on the shoulders of the girl in front of them.
In that line up, Harlow was clearly the tiniest of the group.
I don’t have any good pictures or video because the school takes their own photos and video that they send to the parents. I didn’t get any pre-show pics either because I didn’t want to chance annoying Harlow with the camera. But Harlow dancing her little heart out will be ingrained in my brain forever.
She did awesome.
I don’t think I’ve ever been happier than to see my little girl twirl on cue. She followed the moves and really let her personality out during a part where they were supposed to shake their hips. Best of all, she seemed to be really enjoying herself. That’s really all I wanted.
Harlow spotted us mid-performance and waved. Then Mazzy stood in her seat and screamed “Hi Harlow!!!” from the audience. It was the absolute cutest.
At the end, the girls went to the middle of the stage in pairs and did a special move. Harlow twirled in a way that said she was really taking advantage of the spotlight.
“She did really good, Mom!!!!!” Mazzy was genuinely impressed and I think just as surprised as I was that Harlow didn’t choke under the pressure.
When we retrieved Harlow backstage, Mazzy told Harlow again how great she did. Then she handed her a real bouquet of flowers that we had bought in that hour between drop-off and showtime.
“You did so good, Harlow,” I repeated. “You knew all the moves!”
“Well, yeah, Mom. We only did it 100 times.”
Well, way to make me super nervous for nothing, Harlow!
No seriously, I am so proud of her. Not just for dancing, for being brave.