The Dance Recital

Annie knows that her dance class is called “Tiny Tots”, but she prefers it to be known as “Big Kid Tots”, as she finds “tiny” to be offensive.

The Big Kid Tots recently had a dance recital. Annie and her classmates had been practicing their routines for weeks now. The other classes – full of even bigger kids who were never referred to as tots – had been practicing their routines as well. Those bigger kids practiced their routines at home. Annie tried once or twice to practice at home, but it was hard to remember without a teacher there, and without the other Big Kid Tots around. Luckily it turned out most of her classmates were not practicing at home either.

Annie really enjoys dancing. It is fun. Sometimes Annie thinks about other things during dance class and doesn’t notice that the rest of the class is dancing; sometimes she might wander off in the wrong direction. But it is okay. It does not seem to upset Annie’s teacher. Her classmates are often doing the same thing.

She was a little nervous about the big performance, and a little excited. In the weeks leading up to the performance people kept asking Annie whether she was excited. Every time she was asked this, she would think about it for a few seconds. Then she would say, “my mommy is very excited!” and wander away before the person could ask any more questions. 

Every time this happened, Mommy would anxiously ask her lots of questions, when they were alone, about how she was feeling. The truth was, Annie wasn’t feeling a whole lot. There was no promise of candy or cupcakes. What was there to be excited about? Mommy kept asking Annie if Annie was nervous about dancing in front of lots of people. After she had been asked many times, Annie decided that yes, she was a little nervous about it. This seemed to be what her mommy was expecting, so Annie stuck with it. Yes, a little nervous. That was it. That was what she was feeling.

The day of the recital, the family had to be in the city of Christchurch at 10am. Annie had 2 outfits: a strawberry outfit, and her black T-shirt and skirt, which she was supposed to wear for the rehearsal and for the end of the show. The strawberry outfit was hidden away in a paper bag, but she had been wearing her black T-shirt on occasion.

“Where is your black shirt?” Mommy asked. Mommy sounded grouchy. Annie did not know why Mommy was grouchy. Mommy, after all, was the one who was supposed to be excited about this.

Annie was sitting on the floor of her room, stuffing a small tube of toothpaste into a sock, which already had some chapstick in it. She was singing quietly to herself. She stopped and looked up at her mommy. “I don’t know!” she said.

“Can you help look for it? We’re going to be late!” said Mommy.

Annie thought quickly. She reached into her bin of T-shirts and pulled out a navy blue tank top that had unicorns on the front. “It’s okay, I can just wear this one!” she said. She felt pleased with herself, and relieved that the problem had been solved so easily. The shirt was such a dark blue it was almost black. Surely it would be fine.

“You’re supposed to be wearing the same thing as the other kids! Come on, Annie, help me look for it!” Not moving, Annie watched her mommy go through her shirts, and her pants, and her underwear drawer, and her sweaters, and then leave the room, grouchier still. “Come on, Annie, this is your dance recital! Help me find it!”

Annie went back to singing quietly. She stuffed a pink bouncy ball into the sock with the toothpaste and chapstick.

The family left not long after, 10 minutes late. Annie was wearing the unicorn shirt, and was snuffling sadly to herself because Mommy was still grouchy. Annie really did not understand why Mommy was yelling all over the house about a shirt, when Annie had found a solution. Daddy buckled Annie into the car. Cora helped by screaming at the top of her lungs. She did not want to be in the car at all, at that particular moment.


There were many, many kids of all ages at the rehearsal. Luckily the Big Kid Tots got to rehearse first. The other kids were wearing black but there were many different versions of the uniform, so Annie was right; she looked just fine. She went out onto the big stage with her class and her teacher gave her and her friends very enthusiastic directions. Once Annie tripped and fell because she wasn’t used to her new ballet shoes. Another time, she got distracted and forgot to jump up in the beginning, and stayed squatting on the stage until halfway through the dance. But she just jumped up when she realized, and joined in the dance. It was no big deal.

The family snuck out for lunch after she rehearsed, and everyone felt better after lunch, especially grouchy Mommy. The restaurant had long, low couches lining the walls, with cushions on them. Annie happily gathered all the cushions into a pile and moved chairs around, while Cora walked the length of the restaurant holding onto the couches and low tables, feeling very proud of herself.

Mommy had cut up a pint of strawberries and a very large kiwi fruit for the girls to eat, so after they had finished wreaking havoc in the restaurant, the girls happily devoured all the fruit. The restaurant had good beer, so Daddy got very excited about it, and kept talking to the waiter about all the different beers. Daddy told Annie that one of the beers was a “chocolate beer”. Mommy offered to let her try it. Annie made a disgusted face. Mommy had gotten her to try beer once, a long time ago. Annie would never make that mistake again. They ate pizza and nachos and felt very good.

But all good things must come to an end, and the family knew they were supposed to be back in the dressing room by 1pm, so they rushed back. Daddy had said the show would start at 1:30.

Annie put on her strawberry outfit. She looked very cute. There were many other strawberries around. And sequins and rainbow tulle as far as the eye could see, because this was the changing room for all the girls.

Mommy attempted the mandatory sock bun. She failed miserably. All the other girls’ hair slicked back perfectly, but Annie had wisps that crept out and curled around her face and on top of her head. Mommy took it out. Annie stared around at the other girls and wished her mommy would leave her hair alone.

And then Daddy came over to them, looking very, very sad. “I just found out something,” he said. “The show doesn’t start until three!”

Mommy let Annie’s hair fall. “Three?” she whispered. “Oh no!”

“We have another hour and a half,” Daddy said in a hollow voice.

There was a moment of silence. Annie ignored them and watched a girl walk by who was dressed like a giraffe.

“We’ll never make it,” Mommy whispered. Cora grabbed Annie’s strawberry magic wand and tried to eat it. “NO, Cora!” Annie cried, and snatched it away. Cora started to cry.

In the end, Mommy was able to do a semi-successful sock bun after borrowing some hair gel. Annie agreed to wear lipstick, as the other girls were wearing it, but promptly bit it all off as soon as it was applied. She initially refused to wear her strawberry headband but after much coaxing agreed to wear it. And then Mommy and Daddy and Cora left the Big Kid Tot strawberries to go sit in the audience.

Cora really liked the auditorium a lot. She had not really had much experience with stairs before, so the stairs leading down to their seats were a new and exciting thing to climb up. She climbed all the way up, ignoring the people who were trying to walk down the stairs to their seats. She trusted them not to step on her. What kind of horrible person would step on a baby? – that was what Cora thought, and she got lucky. When she got to the top her mother picked her up and brought her back down to their seats, at which point she wriggled away and climbed back up the stairs again. She was not interested in sitting in anyone’s lap.

This was a problem, when the show started. Cora did not see why the show should prevent her climbing up the stairs again, but her mother thought differently. She writhed and wiggled and flailed. She was momentarily stunned, when the first dancers started dancing, by the lights and the movement and the costumes – but then she went back to writhing and – when that got her nowhere – whining.

Luckily Annie’s strawberry performance was the second performance. There was a very long period of darkness prior to the dance, during which black silhouettes could be seen picking up tinier silhouettes and moving them around the stage, while the tiny silhouettes wandered without clear purpose or direction. There was a fair amount of whispering, both on stage and in the audience. Mommy attempted to nurse Cora, to quiet her down. And then the lights came up, and Cora whipped around to look at the stage. The strawberries started leaping to their feet. Annie leapt to her feet, too. Cora, immediately losing interest, went back to nursing halfheartedly. Annie waved her arms above her head and wiggled her hips at approximately the same time as the other strawberries. The teacher, who was dancing with exuberance, ran over to some strawberries and hugged them. The other strawberries formed into two other groups and hugged each other. Annie wandered over a few seconds later and hugged a fellow strawberry’s back. Some of the strawberries seemed unenthusiastic about hugging. There was some more bouncing and wiggling of hips, which some strawberries seemed more capable of managing than others – some of them just couldn’t quite coordinate their knees to bounce and their hips to wiggle at the same time. Annie swayed side to side. Then the strawberries picked up their magic strawberry wands and waved them around in the air. Their teacher started skipping exuberantly around the stage, and the strawberries ran after her in a line, occasionally hopping or leaping or attempting a skip. Then they gathered in a little group, gave a final leap that must have been carefully choreographed as no strawberry leapt at the same time as any other strawberry, and then bounced down to their knees for the end of the song. The lights dimmed. The applause was riotous and prolonged. 

Annie watched the rest of the show with interest. Cora did not, and she made sure that no one around her enjoyed it either. Her mother had to take her outside the auditorium.

At intermission Daddy went and found Annie, and he gave her hugs, and then Mommy gave her hugs too. “I wasn’t scared!” Annie announced, proudly. “I thought I’d be so scared but I wasn’t at all!” Her parents lavished her with praise. And then the family decided to sneak out and skip the second half, even though Annie was supposed to be in the final whole-school dance routine. Annie didn’t much care, but just to be sure, her parents bribed her with the promise of ice cream for dessert.

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