When we moved to Florida a year ago May 2013, neither girl was sure what activities they would be interested in trying. Both hesitant since they did not know anyone to do anything with. Both girls had been doing competitive cheer for the past few years. Both girls tried out the teams here briefly and both girls quickly changed their mind. Claire already had her mind set on something else though. Dance. She loved to watch ballet videos and shows. Not really sure where the interest sparked from, but either way, it was something she was passionate about. With school starting and the official “dance season” doing so also, we decided this was her chance to get involved and become one of those dancers she watched videos of over and over.
The time came to sign her up in September 2013. The question was, which class? Beginning or Intermediate? The instructor suggested trying both as the beginning is often younger girls but Claire had never danced before (well not counting the one year when she was 4). So she tried both classes and it was obvious. Intermediate it would be. She caught on quickly and fit in better age wise with that class. So our Wednesday night from 6-7 routine was now set. Intermediate Ballet would be how she would spend that night from September until May.
Next we had to get her a leotard, tights and ballet shoes. She was quickly looking the part but it would take a few months to play the part. Her hair in a ballerina bun, black leotard, pink tights and pink ballet shoes was her Wednesday night uniform.
She loved going to dance every week. She loved her teach Ms. Griffin. She actually idolized her as she was a senior in high school but had studied at professional ballet schools and had been dancing since she was three which included dancing in point shoes (Claire’s goal). Not to mention the sweetest teacher you could imagine. She was so good and patient with them.
January arrived and costumes were measured for and ordered. Recital routine was started. Parts were learned. From January to May they would continue to learn proper ballet techniques and the recital dance. May arrived and it was time to take pictures and see the costume. Claire was so excited to finally see it and try it on. They would be dancing to “Wind Up Dolls” so they were to look like dolls. The costume was perfect.
Before we knew it, recital weekend was here and the big performance on stage was about to take place. Dress rehearsal was the Friday night before. Claire was scheduled to practice at the end of the night. 7:15 to be exact. We left with plenty of time to spare so we could watch some of the other acts. What we didn’t know is it was Gallery Night in downtown Pensacola. Guess where the theater was. Yep, downtown Pensacola. On the same street Gallery Night was being held. That might not sound like a big deal, but when you do not have cash for parking (because you didn’t know you’d need it) it becomes a big deal. So Claire and I drove around for some time looking for free parking. I was beginning to think we’d be walking from the next city. Good thing we had left early because we needed it. We finally found a parking space but had a few blocks to walk. Claire was stressed we would be late. I knew we had plenty of time. Maybe I should listen to her more often.
We finally made it to the theater back entrance where we were instructed to go. Found our way inside. It was 6:55. 20 minutes until scheduled rehearsal. As we walk into the theater guess who they were calling to the stage. “Wind Up Dolls”. What? Claire didn’t even have her shoes on since we just walked in. They mentioned they were a little early. Try 20 minutes early. I did mention that to them as I didn’t want to look like we weren’t on time. Unfortunately another girl in her group was not there yet so they ended up having to hold them back and run a few other numbers why they waited for her. At least it wasn’t us. Claire quickly got her shoes on and she was set.
Her time finally came and her class ran through their number like pros. I think it took longer to find a parking spot than to get her on stage and perform. After she was done she decided to stay and watch the few numbers after her. Remember we were one of the last numbers of the night so it wasn’t many. The time came and it was time to go. Now we had to walk back to the car at night. During Gallery Night Palafox street is blocked off and there are bands, music and tables outside restaurants selling alcohol. I could of easily sat down and drank a few glasses of wine at this point. But, of course, since it was just her and I, we headed back to the car knowing we would be there again the next day.
Recital Day arrived. Saturday, May 17. The recital started at 2pm. Claire had to arrive at 1. Knowing we would be driving back downtown we made the decision to go early and eat lunch so we could get a parking spot easier. We invited the grandparents and the aunt and uncle. Grandparents agreed lunch sounded good. Unfortunately Aunt Suzanne wasn’t feeling to well so she stayed home knowing it would be a long day. But we were lucky enough to have Uncle Ray join too. One of Craig and I’s favorite places to get a burger is called Tin Cow. It is right next door to Saenger Theater which is where the recital would be held. Since the rest of the family had never eaten there, we decided to all meet there for lunch.
Lunch was ordered. Ray brought a pot of hyacinths for her to congratulate her on her performance. They smell amazing. Grandma gave her a ballet photo album to put pictures in to remember her dance years. Thank you both on behalf of Claire. Lunch came and as usual it was delicious. Once we ate we had about 30 minutes left until Claire was to arrive and check-in. Not to get any food on her costume, she ate in regular clothes. But after eating she needed to change. So she gathered her costume and off the the restroom in the burger joint she went. Isn’t that where all professional ballerinas get ready? We had already did her hair and makeup. All that was left was the outfit. Out she appeared in a long red dress ready for her part of a toy master to a wind up doll. You could see in her eyes she felt pretty and special.
I took her outside and took some pictures just to waste time. About 10 minutes til 1:00 we decided to walk to the check-in door. I was not prepared for the line that I saw. It was around the corner. Parents were not allowed in with their child but did have to sign them in. So there we stood in line waiting for them to open the doors and start checking dancers in. The rest of the family decided they had taken up the table at the restaurant long enough and decided to move on to another hangout place. They were not letting anyone with tickets into the theater until 1:30. So really it was a good 40 minutes before anyone could get inside the theater. Luck have it, at the corner of the theater entrance is a place called World of Beer. Of course that is where my family found themselves with an outside table to waste time. Craig called it the dance recital pub crawl as they started with beers at Tin Cow and now just ordered another round at World of Beer.
We finally made it up to the door. I signed her in and joined the clan sitting outside. We knew it would be a long day as Claire’s teacher said it would be about a 3 hour recital. Drink up. The time came and we could officially enter and find our seats. Tickets were sold ahead of time and they were assigned seats so we knew there was no hurry to get the best seats. Once in we found our row. So it seems this year there would be no program as there had been previous years. That was ok except we really wanted to know where Claire fell in the line up. We had to be there the whole time but the rest of the family wanted to know how long they would be there as they had other plans. Luckily a lady behind us told us the lineup was emailed out. Of course I did not check my email. I was too busy getting everyone up, ready, dressed and out the door. So I open my email and see Claire’s dance. 6th from the bottom. As in number 47. As in almost last. Looks like the family will be sticking around for awhile.
The first Act consisted of all the 3-5 year old. Honestly, this was the best part of the whole recital. Just don’t tell Claire. They were hilarious. It definitely helped break the time as it was going to be a long 3 hours. The theme was Disney. So as each act performed we were trying to guess what the song was from. Some we had no clue and some weren’t even Disney. But it was something to do to pass the time.
So we sat. Clapping after each performance. Counting down to Claire’s. Two up from Claire’s was Steamboat Willie so I knew at that point I needed to get my camera out. It was a slow go but we suddenly realized we made it to Steamboat Willie. She was two away. The time came and there stood five girls in long red dresses playing the parts of dolls and toy masters. I had seen this routine a few times (at the studio and in rehearsal) but the rest of the family had not. It was a small class which I liked as it was easier to see her. The music started and our she came. My little ballerina was up on stage, dancing as gracefully as the ones in the videos she had watched a year before. Now she was one of them. It took 2 hours and 45 minutes of production to watch a 2 minute and 30 second dance but it was worth it to see my baby on stage.
The grandparents and uncle quickly left between dances. Even though we were close to the end we didn’t realize how far away from getting our ballerina and leaving we were. Once all the numbers had preformed they all came out in rows for a final bow. This itself took longer than I expected but I presume it is tradition. As they finished their group bows I thought “We’re almost there and able to leave”. Wrong! Next thing they tell us is they will be releasing the students by classes off the stage for parents to pick up starting with the youngest. What? So we sat some more while they slowly called each class releasing them one at a time. Of course Claire was with the older kids. Her time finally came. 4 hours and 20 minutes after I dropped her off I was able to congratulate my ballerina. She really did a good job and I would do anything for my kids, which includes sitting through a recital for as long as I needed to.
Claire’s current favorite color is blue so Craig had purchased flowers earlier in the day that were white and blue. Who knew they would have such a thing. She was presented with a bouquet of flowers from us in congratulations of a performance well done. Her first year of ballet was now under her belt. She is wanting to take summer classes but that is up for discussion still. I assume come September she will once again grace the dance studio in ballet shoes and the whole process will start all over. It’s a good thing it’s a whole year before the next recital. I might need it to recover and forget how long the day was.
(Video was from dance rehearsal night. Claire is on the right from the 3 girls who dance in)
Congratulations Claire on your first ballet recital!