G and I both come from families of criers. When I say this, I do not mean that we all react badly in a crisis, or suffer overtly from anxiety – only that at moments of high emotion the tears roll. This is usually in the middle of a film, a particularly well written book, a play, a funny story, or even a song on the radio. G’s dad is a crier, my dad is a crier and both G and I are terrible criers. And it reaches a family peak when we watch any of the kids partake in something of which we are proud. Thus athletics meets, football tournaments, rugby matches, school plays and even good reports on parents evenings pass somewhat blurrily. And the gene has been passed on – I found Eldest Son a little red cheeked after watching a Save the Children advert. And Middle Son refuses to stay in the room when an RSPCA ad is on. So you can imagine what we are all like when we see Little Man on stage.
As you are probably now aware, he is a bit of an anathema to us. He has led us on a little journey into the land of stage and theatre that we have enjoyed, but not pretended to understand. We watch, teary eyed as he dances and sings in various productions, enormously proud of what he has achieved so far, but with no idea of how he is progressing. In amongst his personal friends, other than the girls that he has met in his dance school, he stands alone in pursuing the arts – the rest all bundle around like puppies, kicking footballs and charging around the playground shouting. But at no point have they dismissed his raison d’etre – and make a point of promoting it amongst the outer circles of friends. This all embracing approach is rather wonderful to see – and shows that there is a chance that the new and liberal future generation will encourage different ideas rather than shame others into conforming, as in the past.
But I suppose we probably didn’t realise the impact that being different was having on him, until this weekend. I have got used to seeing him, at 9 years old the only boy, towering above the girls in his dance class, and he appears to me to be gawky and clumsy as they trip daintily around the room in choreography. He is not as flexible as some and has difficulty with some of the moves. This is not because he is bad at dance, but simply because he has a different physique which does not allow him to move as gracefully as the females.
A chance came along to attend a two day Boys Only workshop run by the Royal Academy of Dance at the Point in Eastleigh, and it was with some trepidation that I asked him if he would like to go. He thought for a bit and then answered in the affirmative. It took 40 minutes to get down there and he walked in, knowing no one and registered himself as I hovered behind him, tears in my eyes as all the other boys ranging from ages 7-17 milled around, all avoiding eye contact with each other in the foyer. He looked nervous, but determined as he waved good bye to me. I sat in the car until my eyesight cleared and then drove home.
When I went to pick him up 7 hours later I was early. Other mums waited uneasily, faces carefully blank, but eyes darting around, belying the anxiety that I know only too well. It seemed that most of the young boys attending were in the minority in their dance schools, with a lot, like Little Man, being the only boy in their class. The boys all walked out together, dressed in an array of gear – joggers, leotards, t shirts, hoodies - chatting easily amongst themselves, and for the first time in a long time I saw Little Man looking confident and at home. It was less a Swan Lake moment and more an Ugly Duckling revelation. He was amongst his people.
|Courtesy of Royal Academy of Dance|
The next day the Point were holding a 10 year anniversary celebration of Headstart, a programme specifically designed for male dancers, and in partnership with various local all male dance groups as well as some professional troupes. The RAD Boys Only workshop were invited to perform, the mayor and his wife attended and it was a packed theatre. In an explosive evening of male dance ranging from contemporary, to street, to ballet, to modern, we saw boys, young, teenagers and some disabled, joining together in a fast moving programme. This was nothing like I had seen before – no pretty tutus, no fluttering across the stage, no cheesy smiles. A duet between two boys was more like a choreographed street fight. Within the groups there were gymnastics, a complicated and clever routine involving Twister with plastic bags and focusing on the repetitive nature of OCD, the list was endless. And the RAD boys did well with only two hours to learn two routines, they shone in the coordination, the pace and the glee in which they performed.
On the way back home Grandma leaned back in her seat and said loyally (as she does after everything the boys do, regardless of whether they have won or lost, performed well or badly) to Little Man, ‘You were really good darling.’
From the back of the car came a newly confident and very sleepy voice.
‘I know, I was, wasn’t I?’
And my vision went blurry.