On my arrival at The Ballet Studio, I was greeted by eight little four years old dressed in their pink leotards and baby ballet shoes. Hairs neatly tucked with pink ribbons and fancy clips. The pink chiffon skirts looked so precious hanging on their rounded tummy. Everything looked so adorable. There was something in the pinkness that shouted out loud, “Look at me, I’m a princess”. A beautiful fairy tale for every young girl. The perfect dress, the perfect shoes.
Their face glowed as I stepped into the waiting room. All sweet and nice, cute little angels excitedly, eagerly anticipating for the class to begin. Meanwhile, my own excitement was slowly building up as I strap on my shoes. The magical moment cast upon when the shoe is worn, tiny droplets of fairy dust would appear. I would imagine myself on the center of the stage and the audience would applaud for me, just me.
As the bubbly four years old queued up to enter the studio, their cheeky face wrote lines of unspoken verse, a new page in my life. I knew that this moment, this very class would make a difference.
The class started with the usual morning singing accompanied by body stretching. The bend on my body reminded me of how much age has caught up with me. How I cherished the days when flexibility was not an issue for me. “Teacher’s too old, have weak bones. You young darlings can stretch more” I hear myself say, an excuse I started using when one fine day my toes felt numb and my fingers disconnected from my hands. I knew my toes no longer can withstand the throbbing pain and burning blisters on pointe shoes. My heart dances forever nevertheless.
The next exercise proceeded, the cat pose. Curling up in the imaginary basket, I instructed “Imagine you’re a lazy cat waking up in the early morning to do your stretch. You can be a Persian cat or Garfield” Out of the corner on the second row, a voice responded, “We have a black cat in class” and she pointed at the last girl, who apparently have different shades of skin color. The class illuminated with total silence. I was caught unguarded. My tongue swallowed and I gulped in response. It wasn’t a pretty sight, to be honest. Never before I taught a class to distinguish the color on our skin. I never had to, for it never mattered. The little girl sat curled up, feeling alienated that she was identified as the “black cat”. Her eyes peered right into mine, hoping for a defense and the words came to me from no where. “What color of cat would you like to be?” bouncing the attention to the one who spoke to me. “I want to be a pink cat ! ” ecstatically she replied. The rest of the students spoke their colors of choice. “Oh, my, I have a group of colorful cats in class today ! Let’s get them all on their paws and stretch! ” With that, the exercise continued. I wasn’t sure if the answer was right or if they learnt anything valuable that faithful Saturday.
Although teaching at times completely drained me of all my strength and I was worn to be in a frazzle, caught in occasions where I find no words within me, I found that in many instances such as this experience, the satisfaction and sheer joy that indeed my purpose in life made a difference. No matter how small, the colors on our skin does not matter. It will never will – We can be any color.