I got to watch my oldest daughter work on her solo at her dance studio today. Usually I sit in the car in the parking lot and she just comes out whenever she is done but for some reason today I decided to wait in the lobby. After a few minutes she must have heard I was there and invited me in to see what they were working on. She was gross and sweaty and proud. As I sat and watched I couldn’t help but see her sweat hitting the floor near her taped up toes. Her feet looked like they had just finished working a 24 hour shift at a construction site. Those pretty little toes were slamming into the floor and gracefully guiding her to her next 8 count.
Sure, she has the pretty face, and she can tell a story on stage with just the slightest movement of her eyebrow or a quick little smile. Her face has always been able to draw in the audience watching. Her hands and shoulders the same. They always look perfect, from this completely bias Dad’s opinion anyway. But, it’s what is tucked in those pointe or jazz shoes that makes the whole thing work. Her makeup and pretty costume make it all look eloquent and professional, but it’s her beat up little toes that put all that work in.
Her feet found a home at dancing. Her feet were what made her say a couple weeks ago “I’m so excited dance class is starting back up, I need it”. She’s had such a great summer, but her heart is still with dancing. When she finished showing me the start of her solo she couldn’t get the smile off her face. We talked the whole way home about how much more confident she is than the first time she had a solo last year. I love seeing her passionate, I love to see that fire in her.
All her first steps are the first for my family. She doesn’t have an older sister who made a path for her, there are no footsteps for her to peak at to see if that’s the path she wants to walk. All those firsts were not just firsts for her, they were and are first steps for her parents. Like, last week when she asked her Dad to take her driving. Who do you think was more nervous? As I walked from the drivers side to the passenger seat I wanted to puke and hit that damn pause button on life for a second. But, she did as she always does, took a deep breath and she was off. Right foot on the gas and her left foot just hovering over the brake. So, I let out a nice little laugh and I got to teach her about using just the right foot for both. It was a nice little reminder that she still needs me.
I think about her driving and I think about her first years dancing. If you looked hard enough you could actually see her mouthing the 8 counts as her feet moved across that stage. She put one foot in front of the other and kept working. When she learned the steps and knew the speed she moved her attention to making sure her hands, arms and face also told the story. Again, I know I am bias, but she is an incredible dancer. She always treats a dance like it’s the most important thing she will do. She stresses about it, she doubts herself, but her little feet keep moving. Her little feet push all those doubts out of her head.
I’ve seen her perform a million times by now, but nothing makes me happier than seeing her on that stage. Because, I know what those feet did to get there. I remember putting pink socks and tiny little shoes on those feet before she ever knew where those feet would take her. I remember those cute little toes before they were telling a story on a stage.
In dance she has a place she built all on her own. Those first steps walking into a studio probably feel like distance memories to her, but I remember them like yesterday. I remember thinking since her Mom was a dancer that this would be “their thing”. I would not have to sit in a waiting room for her to get out of class, I wouldn’t have to talk about pirouettes and Mary Poppins costumes or watch her tie her pointe shoes over and over and over again. I would get a little time away from all that cause Mom would handle it. But, somewhere at some random time, she fell in love with this dance thing. And I did too, only I know the moment for me. It was a father daughter dance I was strongly encouraged to do by my wife. Something about how that little girl would remember it forever. It was my first time on stage, but see there were already foot prints on that stage for me to follow. I got to follow her lead and she helped me concur a huge fear of mine. All because her little feet had done all those years of work already.
When she says she is going to dance I know she is going somewhere she loves with all her heart. She is going to come home tired and full of doubts about her next performance. Unsure if she can do whatever the next toughest thing is in front of her, but she puts one little tiny foot in front of the other. She knows what she needs to do, she knows the sweat she needs to put in, and she earns it all on her own.
So, next time you see me crying in an audience from a random number in a recital just remember I have seen those feet take every step. That 2 minute dance number took about a million hours to get right, lots of tears, plenty of “I’ll never get this”. But, for all those doubts there is always something inside her that pushes through. Those little feet took a little girl, completely unsure of who she is, to this beautiful young woman confidently and gracefully moving across a stage.
I can’t wait to see where those little feet go next.
Categories: Dad of girls