Star starts Ballet

Last week did not begin well.

I was called into class after school, to say that Star had been more tricky than at any point so far this academic year.

The teacher and I chatted for a while and I am sure that Star is triggered. I believe she recognises the changing day length and as we are approaching a difficult anniversary for her, she is worried that she is going to be removed again.

The result is a child who oscillates between defiance and (usually in the evening) a child who is clearly very, very scared.

Someone described it to me as believing she is going to be removed so pushing us as hard as she can, so that we will reject her -to just get the pain over with.

Like taking a deep breath and holding it, before jumping into cold water.

It is very, very hard.

A month ago we decided Star could start ballet and Hannah volunteered and had been accepted as a helper in Star’s class.

The ballet teacher has been so welcoming, she knows that Star has Down syndrome and she invited her to start ballet almost as soon as Star joined our family through adoption. The girls have been so excited that it felt wrong to stop this plan despite the difficulties of the last few weeks.

Last week Star went in to her first ever ballet class and the teacher said she spent a lot of time looking at herself in the mirror !!! The teacher thought she was getting used to being in the room.

This week, after 10 minutes or so, I was called in, and my heart sank.

The kind ballet teacher was concerned that Star wasn’t joining in and invited me to sit in and watch. (Hannah told me later that Star had been asking for me.)

And yes she was right, there were times Star was not joining in – I quickly realised that it was often when she knew she could not do what the rest of the class were doing.

However, once I was in the room, there were lots of times she did.

And I find myself amazed at how children develop. At how one instruction might require 5 or 6 skills in order to complete it and how most children just manage this.

And I can see just how many hurdles Star has to overcome.

For example the instruction: “Girls, walk in Demi- point.”

This assumes that:
the girls can hear this instruction
that they understand the need to continue walking in a circle,
that they continue to hold our their skirts,
that they understand that “Demi-point” means “tip toes”
and that they are able to do this without falling over.

Before this morning did I know what Demi-point was? – Nope.
Did Star know? – No.

Did she do it?
Yes.
Brilliantly.

She copied the rest of the class and walked around the studio beaming!

Did she manage every instruction in the class? – no.
Did she attempt most? yes.

As I watched her sat with the class trying to listen and clap out a rhythm or join in with a series of steps, (which at the moment is too hard for her), I could feel sad.

But I don’t.

She was there, included and happy.

At one point the girls were practicing jumping from first position, pointing their toes and landing in first position again. The older girls were helping the younger ones.

Around the room there were twenty little girls springing in the air, trying to land nicely, sometimes succeeding, sometimes wobbling, faces concentrating hard on what they were attempting.

In the centre were two sisters, completely focused on each other. One, aged nearly 9 demonstrating the move with skill and patience, the younger watching and attempting to copy.

I can honestly tell you that in that moment I was so proud of my two girls.

As I watch I realise that Hannah is translating the instructions perfectly to Star’s ability to understand, she is praising Star’s every attempt to try. She gives her one simple instruction to try to improve next time.

And Star, looking intently up at Hannah with a rapturous admiration for her big sister. Trying so hard to copy her movements.

First position, jump, point toes, land.
And again.
First position, jump, point toes, land.

Then they joined hands, facing each other, feet in first position and jumped together, smiling.

I realised, that my girls had just snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

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