Dancing With Tears in my Eyes

On the whole, I’m beginning to get settled into this parenting lark. For one thing, it allows you to play unlimited amounts of computer games, under the guise of “bonding” – even if you do have to pretend to be no good, and get your ass severely kicked, so as to promote their feelings of self-esteem. At least, that’s my excuse, Robert, and I’m sticking to it. But it’s not all Dead or Alive 2. Saturday was Emily’s dance recital; not in itself a bad thing, since she’s a good dancer (and I will stab a steak-knife into the eye of anyone who says differently – I believe this is also part of parental responsibilities), it was the sixty or so routines she wasn’t appearing in that were the problem.

We have had differences with the dance school before, since they seem to be largely a machine designed for separating us from all our wordly goods. Apart from the fees for the dance class itself, there are the shoes, the pom-poms and the costumes – which will be worn for the recital and then never again – all of these, specially made and horrifically expensive. We were seriously contemplating selling Emily’s used leotard on Ebay to defray the costs. And if that wasn’t enough, there were the tickets: eight dollars a pop, not only for us, but friends and family too.

Because she had to be there an hour before kick-off (or whatever the dance equivalent is: tap-off, perhaps), so did we, so we snagged an entire row of seats for us and the relations, fighting off the steadily more frenzied attempts of the other participants to evict us. The lights went down, and still they were nowhere in sight: finally, just as I was about to sneak out myself, the tidal-wave broke and they turned up. Unfortunately, by this point, they’d missed Emily’s first spot: all seventy-five seconds of it.

The theme was Hooray for Hollywood, and so I was looking forward to dance routines based around Basic Instinct perhaps, or Schindler’s List, but no such luck. About the closest we got was The Matrix, and that had a complete lack of PVC, bullets or running up of walls. The Charlie’s Angels one was pretty good, however, though Chris reckoned a lot of the dancers’ future careers were more likely to be gyrating on tables, rather than waiting on them. At the other end of the spectrum were the Very Small Children, bless their little hearts. Barely out of nappies, there always seemed to be one dancing to the beat of a different drum, though the result was merely to make the entire audience go “Ahhhh” and start lactating.

But there is a limit beyond which even waiting for someone to fall off the stage will pall – and after Emily’s other routine (nearer number 50 than 30 – another 75 seconds or so, though very impressive with it. See my earlier remarks about steak-knives), we gradually adopted a kind of artistic rigor mortis, interrupted sporadically by clapping. You enter a twilight zone where the dumbest thing would trigger us off into peals of hysterical laughter: those of us that were left, anyway.

For the realisation that there were fifteen Emily-free routines to go triggered a lemming-like response from our row. They’d seen her dance; what more did we want from them? “The kids are acting up,” they said. We wished fervently for more kids of our own to provide such an escape excuse, and credit must be given to Chris’s brother Leo, for being the only one to make it all the way to the end beside us. If it hadn’t been my daughter, I’d have gone to the bathroom during the interval, and kept on running [suddenly, it makes sense why they chose a high-school in the middle of the desert – to prevent escapees…]

The applause for the finale was enthusiastic and brief. We picked up our little darling, and headed off for dinner at her favourite restaurant. I never want to see a small child again; perhaps they could incorporate dance recitals into aversion therapy for paedophiles? When all is said and done, I think that next year, we’ll encourage Emily to take up a slightly cheaper pastime – something like polo, or racing powerboats.