I’ve talked here a few times now about how my girls don’t do dance, but how we love going to the ballet and theatre – highlights this year have been ‘The Peasant Prince’ and several Qld Ballet performances and Qld Ballet/PRC Early Childhood workshops, which I was lucky enough to be involved in. Well that was then. This is now. It appears I have entered the world of dance…thanks (??) to Mrs Jeanes-Fraser, the PE teacher at school, who coerced me into PudStar joining her (very athletic) daughter at jazz. This is the same woman who also coerced me into signing Pud up for netball last year, because apparently teacher librarians need wise and wonderful PE teachers in their lives, to guide them and their children into the world of sweat and fast movements. .
So we’ve gone from viewers of dance to participants. And when I say ‘we’, I mean my children…and oh…the husband. After a small meltdown from me regarding driving children to activities I suggested he join the ‘dads dance’ which JSDance has been running since the 90s. The conversation went something like this:
Me: “It’s just 7 Monday nights, 1 dress rehearsal and 3 concerts at The Powerhouse…HOW HARD CAN IT BE?”
Him: ‘Would she like me to be involved?”
Me: ‘Of course!”
Him: ‘Well of course I’ll do it!”
Not quite able to believe how easy that was, I slunk away quietly, worried if I said anything else he may back out. The following Monday night he asked Pud if she was ready.
Me: “She’s not going! Her class is Tuesday!”
Him: “Well why am I going!!!”
Me: “To learn to dance?”
Him: “Without her?! I thought this was to spend time with Pud?!”
Me: “Weeeeeeell…she’ll be super proud of you…HURRY UP YOU HAVE TO PICK UP STEVE IN FIVE MINUTES”.
And then I ran away, leaving him to contemplate what he’d just signed up for. To his credit he saw it through, did a great job and secretly I think he rather enjoyed it.
The final concert is underway as I type this and I’m about to have a super tired child and dad team emerge from The Powerhouse. But honestly this weekend has totally changed my view of the whole dance thing. I’ve been really put off dance by some of the hip gyrating and skimpy costumes I’ve seen at kids concerts over the years as well my fear of putting makeup on the pristine skin of a child. The JSDance concerts were nothing like this and I got quite teary at times as I watched girls (and plenty of boys) of all ages, stages and abilities just shine on the stage. It was just beautiful and a total credit to Principal Jacquelyn Meaney, who clearly has a strong philosophy regarding children, technique, dance and performance.
To celebrate the end of dance concerts everywhere, I thought I’d share with you my fav dance books and some other dance bits and pieces.
Click on hyperlinks or images to purchase any gift items or books.
There was tears this weekend when I packed up her library bag with dance stuff for the concert but I was not investing in a dance bag if this was to be a fleeting pastime; I wanted commitment! But maybe this year…
Now that I’ve seen it all first-hand and we’ve all enjoyed it, I’m going to have to let Pud’s fairies know that she may need a ballet shoe charm delivered. Fairies deliver all charms (or charmed turned into necklaces) in this house – read more here. If you don’t have a charm bracelet, Oh My Giddy Aunt has a ‘Charmed by Ballet’ bracelet with five charms to get you started.
I always purchase these Tiger Tribe kits from Lime Tree Kids to take away on holidays – one each = no fighting, colouring, no lost felt pens and at least 20 minutes at a coffee shop uninterrupted. They are GOLD.
And now to my favourite part…the books!
‘Hope in a Ballet Shoe’ is suitable for YA and adult readers alike and is the astonishing autobiography of Michaela DePrince, it kept me awake into the wee hours of the night. I love a story filled with hope and struggle and overcoming adversity. Growing up in war-torn Sierra Leone, Michaela DePrince witnesses atrocities that no child ever should. Her father is killed by rebels and her mother dies of famine. Sent to an orphanage, Michaela is mistreated and she sees the brutal murder of her favourite teachers. But there is hope: the Harmattan wind blows a magazine through the orphanage gates. Michaela picks it up and sees a beautiful image of a young woman dancing.One day, she thinks, I want to be this happy. And then Michaela and her best friend are adopted by an American couple and Michaela can take the dance lessons she’s dreamed of since finding her picture. Today, Michaela is an international ballet star, dancing for The Dutch National Ballet at the age of 19. The writing is straightforward but incredible engaging and whilst there is graphic descriptions of some atrocities committed in Sierra Leone…this is very much an uplifting, inspiring and life affirming story.
Many of you will have read and adored ‘Mao’s Last Dancer’ by Li Cunxin (let me just gloat slightly at this point and tell you that we have him here in Brisbane and I’ve met him on several occasions now). However many parents and teachers are unaware that there is a Younger Readers edition of the story (suitable from about 10 years +) here, and a picture book illustrated by the amazing Anne Spudvilas, ‘The Peasant Prince’ which is aimed at primary school aged students.
‘One Perfect Pirouette’ is one of my favourite titles on my Mother Daughter Book Club list. Attending the National Ballet School is every aspiring dancer’s dream. It’s been Brynna’s for as long as she can remember. When her parents move her family to Melbourne so Brynna can attend a top ballet school, it looks like her dream is about to become a reality. But why does she feel so awful about the move? Her brother Tam is angrier than she hasever seen him and her mother is working hard to keep the family afloat. Will every step towards success come at a price? For Brynna to realise her heart’s desire, something has to give. But will it be her family?
Pud has read the ‘Silver Shoes’ series, but now that she has actually danced I’m going to pull them out again! My jazz teacher friend reviewed them in full for me here.
Every ballet lover probably already knows and adores, ‘Ballet Shoes’ first published in 1936. I love this edition of this classic story of orphans Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil. There is also a television and movie adaptation – but the book is better.
‘The Dance Teacher’ is a beautifully illustrated, timeless story about ballet, effort and rewards, and a special relationship between a girl and her teacher. I got all teary reading this for the first time to a group of five year old girls – it’s a lovely story about the impact of a great teacher.
There is an insane amount of excitement in my school library whenever the new Clementine Rose comes out and one of the faves is ‘Clementine Rose and the Ballet Break-in’. Clementine has to be one of my most favourite series for newly independent readers and you can read more about it here.
The ‘Ella Bella Ballerina’ series by James Mayhew are never on the shelves in my school library (granted it is a girls school!). Ella Bella Ballerina loves her ballet classes with Madame Rosa at the old theatre. And theatres are magical places where anything can happen! After the lessons, Ella Bella always stays behind to listen to Madame’s Magic Music Box… and the music of Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev carries her away into the enchanted world of classical ballet. They are perfect for reading in preparation for preparing to attend one of the classic ballets like ‘The Nutcracker’ or ‘Swan Lake’. Mayhew’s illustrations take these books into the realms of collectable keepsakes with his gorgeous, detailed vintage style reminiscent of books from the 40s and 50s.
‘Flora and the Flamingo’ is a visually stunning, wordless picture book by former DreamWorks animator Molly Idle, captures a graceful flamingo and the charming Flora as they leap, dance and splash through pages which are all the shades of pink you could ever possibly imagine – and then some. You can read more in my review here.
For fun factor, ‘Dog’s Don’t Do Ballet’ is lovely and laugh out loud funny. Biff is not like ordinary dogs. He doesn’t do dog stuff like peeing on lampposts, scratching his fleas or drinking out of toilets. If you throw him a stick, he’ll just look at you like you’re crazy. No, Biff is no ordinary dog. Biff likes moonlight and music and walking on his tiptoes. You see, Biff doesn’t think he’s a dog, Biff thinks he’s a ballerina, which is all very well …But dogs don’t do ballet
I am no ballet expert, so I don’t know how this non-fiction ballet book stands up to the test. However of all the non fiction ballet books in my library this is by far the most popular.
The titles of each book takes you to the Australian based online bookstore Booktopia. You can also compare prices on Fishpond and Bookworld for Australian purchases.If you live in the US or would prefer to use Amazon click here. If you live in the UK or would prefer to use Book Depository click here. Purchases clicked through from the Children’s Books Daily site result in a small commission. Commission is used in part to maintain Children’s Books Daily and to support community groups which connect children with books.