Children Will Listen

I have written many articles which include bits of my personal history in dance; my very late start at 25 years of age and a family structure that did not encourage or support a career in the arts. I have previously recounted an incident that occurred during an argument with my mother, when she said: “But you never asked for dance lessons”. And she was right. I never did. And at the time that I wrote that article, I said that the reason why I never asked for dance lessons was because I felt that hearing “No” would have been too painful. And that is true.

But there was another reason.

Our memories and our minds work in mysterious ways, and recently a memory came flooding  back with a vengeance.

My sister, who is four years my junior WAS, as a small child, given dance classes. On a few occasions I was brought along and, through a glass window, I watched her classes. I studied her teacher, Mrs. Wright. She seemed to hold the key to a world that I so desperately wanted to be part of. I watched her teach class, and I hung on her every word. I was nine years old. I was the type of child that never wanted to make waves. I was the type of child that wanted to be “good”. I was the type of child who desperately wanted to fit in; although I never really did.

At the end of the class, the children came streaming out of the studio and Mrs. Wright stopped to chat with some parents. Again, I was hanging on her every word. And in one of these casual conversations I heard her say, with a roll of her eyes:

“Thank God I have no BOYS in this class this year”. As if boys in her dance class were a problem. As if boys didn’t belong or fit in.

Those words had power. Those words affected me.

I HEARD that remark. And I listened. And consequently, I never asked.

Perhaps if I hadn’t been brought a long that day I wouldn’t have heard that remark. Perhaps I might have asked for lessons. Perhaps I might have had a different life. But our lives take the path that they take, and I will never know what might have been if I had started training as a child. I have taken responsibility for my decisions and made my peace with them. However, I still wonder…
But I do know that we must be mindful of what we say and do around a child. Our words have power and their futures are so uncertain.

Children will listen.

6 thoughts on “Children Will Listen

  1. Thank you for this post. So well and so powerfully said.

    It seems like a lot of adults forget how deep an impression words—even words overheard—and actions can leave on children, and how those impressions can shape lives. This post is something I’m going to try to carry with me into my practice as a teacher of both kids and adults, my life as a dancer, and my work as a choreographer—it reminds me to be conscious of the impressions i might be leaving even indirectly.

    Like

    • Wow, thank you so much for your kind words. As I write these posts I’m just trying to share memories and thoughts in an honest way. A few of them have landed in a way that I never expected. Thanks so much.

      Like

  2. Reblogged this on danseur ignoble and commented:
    I don’t repost very often (mostly because it doesn’t usually occur to me that my puny little voice might amplify anyone else’s), but every now and then I read a post that resonates very powerfully and directly, and I remember that “repost” button is there.

    Bill Waldinger is a remarkable artist and a remarkable teacher—but his path to that life was rockier than it could have been. In his post, “Children Will Listen,” he reminds us that even things we overhear can leave deep and lasting impressions.

    We can’t be perfect, but we can work to be kinder and more compassionate. What impressions are we leaving? What impressions do we hope to leave?

    Like

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