Gray Matters — Just dance
Belfast — Last week was another milestone in my son Shane's journey through childhood, in that I was able to take him to his first school dance.
Last Tuesday, the Nickerson Elementary School in Swanville hosted a family contra dance, an event that all the students had been practicing for under the very able tutelage of local contra dance caller Chrissy Fowler. For about a month leading up to the big night, Ms. Fowler had been teaching the kids all kinds of different versions of the traditional social dances, some of which have deep New England roots.
The school has some kind of community dance each year, but as a parent, I am a little ashamed to say this is the first year I was able to attend.
The dances, in past years, have always fallen on nights on which there is some kind of school or municipal meeting being held, something I would typically need to attend for work purposes, or some other obligation that deals with other adult-like responsibilities. The case was the same this year, but after considering the fact that Shane went from kindergarten to halfway through his third grade year in what seems like the blink of an eye, I decided now is the time to choose my son over work and all other grown-up stuff a bit more than I may have done in the past.
And what's more, Shane was particularly excited to attend the dance, as he wanted to show me all of his new-found fancy footwork skills. How can I say no to that?
So the weekend before the event, I took Shane out and scored him a nice dark-red dress shirt with a matching tie and a pair of new shoes to complete his very formal look.
Then the big night came, and I am so glad we went!
The whole event spanned just a little more than an hour, but I sure did work up a sweat — anyone looking for a good, fun cardio workout should totally give this social dancing thing a whirl. If you're anything like me, as in, less-than-coordinated, you will still have lots of fun because most of the people dancing alongside you are also learning. Such was true with most of the parents who attended with their children.
And the kids were amazing, too. They really seemed to pick up a lot of good skills, and knew just what to do when Ms. Fowler called out a particular move. When it was time to bring us adults into the mix, all the students pitched in to help us learn what to do with our feet.
Before we knew it, we were promenading, sashaying and do-si-do-ing all around the gymnasium. Throughout the night, the children were encouraged to dance with different partners, and Ms. Fowler reminded the kids about the proper way to ask someone to dance, as well as the proper way to respond, according to contra dance tradition.
And after a while, I got to witness my eight-year-old son walk up to a girl in his class and very politely ask her to dance.
"Yes, thank you," was her response.
While I know this is the first of many occasions when my little guy will do things to demonstrate how fast he's growing up, I was really amazed to see what a little gentleman he is becoming, and how happy he was gliding around the floor with his dance partner. He even thanked the young lady when the song came to an end.
Later on, Ms. Fowler asked Shane on stage to assist her with teaching the group a particular type of dance, a request the boy was more than happy to oblige. There's just something about a parent seeing their child shining at something while also having a great time sharing that joy with others.
Yep, chalk me up as a pretty proud mom.
The other thing that was so cool about this event was there were so many members of the community who came to help make the dance really special for the families. The music was provided by the very talented members of the Belfast Bay Fiddlers, and their presence gave the event a real authentic feel (plus I find dancing is a lot more fun when there is live music involved).
Going forward, I have promised myself and my son that I would make a bigger effort to be a part of his life and his school community.
Largely, that's because I know it won't be long before I look back wistfully on events like this as my teenage son finds new and inventive ways to inform me that I am either boring, unfair or embarrassing.
Until that time comes, I'll do my best to be there for my son while he is still willing to let me.