Wednesday, May 1, 2019

My Stepdaughter Made Me Cry While I Was Surrounded By Moms

My 14-year-old stepdaughter, Hannah, is a ballet dancer. She has been taking classes for 10 years and every time I watch her practice, I am in awe of her grace, strength, flexibility and enthusiasm. Earlier this week I was watching her at dance class (being the only man there surrounded by other girls' Moms) and... my eyes welled up with tears. I haven't shared that with Hannah, but I was emotionally moved as I watched her. After driving home she got out of the car and I told her how impressed I am with her abilities. It was then that she said that she's not like some kids at her school -- an "athlete" -- but that she enjoys dance. Her words got me thinking.

I spent over 30 years of my adult life as a long-distance runner. My legs carried me to many finish lines and across states and countries as I pursued extreme ultra-endurance challenges. Being an "athlete" is something I'm very familiar with and I know what it takes to be one. Hannah is truly an athlete in every sense of the word.

What attributes define "athlete?" An athlete is a person trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength (a participant in a sport, exercise, or game requiring physical skill). The physical ability and disciplines expected of a dancer can be easily related to those of an athlete and dance critics are increasingly describing dancers as being athletic.

I recently read this about ballet dancers...
A ballet dancer must certainly achieve physical agility, stamina and strength in their profession and physical skill must be mastered. Daily training involves repetition of exercises to achieve the physical attributes necessary to execute movements required of a dancer, however the focus is not on sport or games. Whilst many dancers will compete in contests and will audition against other dancers for a place in a company, the real emphasis in dance is on the performance itself. There is an element of competition across the dance profession but the reward is a particular role in a company or a promotion from chorus to soloist rather than a gold medal.
Hannah attends dance classes many hours each week throughout the school year and has certainly achieved physical ability, stamina and strength to be one of the best 14-year-old dancers I've ever seen -- and I don't say that out of a bias of being her step-dad. I see an ability in Hannah that could truly take her to some wonderful stages and experiences. Her aim is to be a professional ballerina and I believe she will achieve her goal.

In many respects dancers are athletes, but they are also artists and it is this combination that makes for a stunning emotional and physical performance. Yes, Hannah is indeed an athlete -- a beautiful athlete with strength, flexibility, grace, stamina, rhythm and dedication. It's truly a blessing to see her excel at what she loves and no matter where her abilities take her, her mother and I will be cheering her on... likely with a tear in my eye.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso