The other week my wife told me something about our five- year-old daughter that sent a shiver down my spine. ”She wants to start going to ballet again,” she said.
I just thought: ‘’Damn, damn and triple damn.’’
Now call me a killjoy but here, in brief, is my opinion of the whole ballet phenomenon: it’s market driven, in 95% of cases, by mums who want to see their little girls in pretty frilly dresses dancing around to the Nutcracker Suite. Mums think: ‘’I have a little girl therefore I will send her to ballet. It’s what little girls do and won’t they look lovely.’’
In other words, it’s a cliché. In prissy shoes that, might I just add, cost around £20 a time and only last a term max. There are a whole load of other opportunities for little girls out there – singing, acting, other forms of dance and drama, sports, games, clubs. Loads and loads of them if you know where to look.
Trouble is a great deal of mums take one look at the phone book and stop at B for ballet. B for bloody ballet.
Now I can’t deny all the little girls look adorable in their ballet outfits and a fair few enjoy it and even excel at what they’re doing. But I imagine for others, my daughter Carys included, it must be like an extension of the stresses and strains of the weekly PE class. In fancy dresses (which incidentally also cost around £20 a go and don’t last that much longer than the shoes). I can’t help but think that the only reason she goes is because some of her friends go and the only reason they go is that one of the mothers has fallen into the ballet cliché trap and enlisted other mums along the way.
Carys seemed to enjoy the class on Saturday and came out beaming but it is difficult to assess these days because the classes generally take place without the parents looking on. I guess my real bug bear (aside from the scandalous expense) is that the classes local to us take place on a Saturday. In the morning. When Carys originally started going, they were at 9am which was always hellish – often my wife and I approached grounds for divorce as we bickered and bellowed our way, EastEnders style, in the struggle to make it out of the house on time.
I know what you’re thinking. Why don’t you just stay home and watch Saturday Kitchen, you miseryguts. Well, first of all, Saturday Kitchen is rubbish. It’s a programme put together by TV producers too lazy to bother to come up with a new Swap Shop, SM:TV or Dick and Dom in the mistaken belief that kids just won’t care any more – but don’t get me started on that. Second of all, it’s not just me. The main reason that the wife and I ended up having these Ricky and Bianca-esque slanging matches was because the person who was always the most reluctant of all to get out the house so early on a Saturday morning was Carys. It became a battle to get her dressed – she just wanted to stay in and watch TV after a week of going to school. It’s the reason why we stopped going in the first place and why I always saw the whole ballet thing as a cliché driven more by my wife’s desire to have her own little Angelina Ballerina in the family and not because Carys actually wanted to keep on going. In fact, the little money I have left over from the dress and shoes is on Carys being just as reluctant to go in a few weeks time. By then, of course, we would have paid for the whole term.
But who can blame Carys? After a week of the sometimes seemingly endless school routine, all I want to do on a Saturday morning is relax a bit and not feel compelled into, or stressed about, going anywhere. Saturdays should be sacred. A family day where we spend time together doing things we all want to do and going to places where we all want to go. And if that means going no further than the sofa in our front room, then so be it. Why are people so determined to fill this precious time with so many activities. If there must be ballet, let it be held after school where only the ultra dedicated will attend and where it will have to compete with the numerous other classes and pursuits available to little kids.