By Ally O'Connor
I’ve been training in various styles of dance for about sixteen years now, and began working as a dance teacher two years ago. Although many of my most gratifying moments as an instructor involved helping a student improve their leaps or turns, some of my favorite moments were simply found in the questions and comments I directly received or overheard from some of my youngest dancers, a few of which are listed below.
1. During a lunch break at a summer dance camp, I accidentally mentioned that my parents ran into, and had a conversation with, Hillary Clinton on a trip to New York. The moment the words left my mouth, I knew that I had made a mistake, as one six-year old exclaimed, “My mommy says Donald Trump is an asshole.” Fortunately, I was able to divert the conversation before more political banter erupted.
2. One of my students was especially imaginative and would become fully immersed in his solo pretend games, sometimes even inviting others to join him (while still in character). At the end of an hour long jazz class, students line up to receive a cute stamp on their hand, and this particular boy was the last in line. As I firmly pressed the stamp into the ink pad, he looked at me frustrated and said, “I have to go pick up the damn kids.” I figured that it was one of his imaginative games and tried not to laugh, instead replying that I didn’t know he had children, to which he countered, “There’s no way the wife is going to go get them… You know women!” He then, still in character, took his stamp, growled, and ran outside of the studio and into his mom’s arms with a sweet call of “Mommy!”
3. Many of my students like to ask why I, at the ripe old age of nineteen, lack a husband. (Because kids predominantly interact with their thirty-five or forty-year old parents, they expect all adults to be at the same place in life.) They don’t understand why I, as an adult, still attend school and live with my parents, one little girl even going so far as to advise me that I “better get married soon” or else I’d become a “sinister.” She meant to say spinster.
4. During a tap class, I taught a young boy who was often distracted, sometimes abruptly stopping dancing to peruse the objects and posters around the room. At one point, we were rehearsing a dance for a performance, and I requested that all the kids stand in their opening positions. The majority of the group posed with their hands on their hips and one foot flexed as instructed, yet he didn’t join in. When I called to him, “Hey buddy, can I see your pose?” he replied with the biggest grin and put his thumbs up, still continuing to do his own thing. He makes me smile, but doesn't listen to a thing I say.
5. After class one day, two little girls questioned my age. I asked them to guess first. One answered thirteen and the other replied seventy-three. I’m nineteen.
6. During a summer dance camp, I brought a group of five little girls to the bathroom. Usually, children always race into the stalls and continue to talk each other, while I pull out paper towels to assist each girl after they have washed their hands. On one particular trip, one young girl shouted from her stall “I’m going number one!” and soon the other girls chimed in, “me too!” “me three!” This was a completely typical children’s bathroom conversation until one girl exclaimed, “I’m going number five!”
7. This was the first card I ever received from a student. A five-year old little girl dropped it off at the studio about a week after she finished her dance camp, and it’s been on my wall ever since. Kids are weird and strange, but they have the most genuinely kind hearts. I am so fortunate that I get to work with them and smile at every silly and wonderfully sweet thing they do.