In September, I wrote about Kina’s pink tutu, a mid-pandemic acquisition that was originally meant to be worn for a dance recital last June. I didn’t have a lot of visibility into those dance classes; Kina’s nanny, Hannah, would take her to the sessions on afternoons after school. From time to time, Kina would demonstrate to us the ways in which she and her classmates were learning to position their feet and leap around, and we understood that the kids would eventually learn enough about dance to perform in a recital. I had all sorts of visions in my head of how that recital would play out—kids picking their noses, Kina making terrifying faces, children running into each other, parents all holding their phones high in the air to film this masterpiece of juvenile choreography. As it turned out, what we got was a tutu wrapped in plastic and a kid who desperately wants to go to dance class.
For most of the pandemic, I’ve wondered why Kina’s interpretive dance performances seem so often to involve a strange sort of jump-running. She didn’t do that until lockdown, and so I’ve assumed this was just her way of working out her excess energy, but it’s totally conceivable to me now that this is the last thing she learned in dance class, and that one of Kina’s final collective experiences in 2020 was leaping up and down as she and her classmates bounced around a dance studio to a jaunty little tune. Every dance she’s done in the last year has recalled that moment, and while she’s developed a whole spectrum of highly dramatic dance moves since then, that dance class will forever be etched in her memory, and in her performance practice.
She wore her tutu for two straight weeks in September, but it hadn’t really played much of a role in Kina’s varied costume life until last week, when I woke to find her bedazzled in pink sequins and demanding to hear “Let It Go”. I don’t know if her latent memories of that dance class prompted her to bust out the tutu, or if the tutu reminded her of her truncated ballet instruction, but the class is clearly on her mind. When she asked me yesterday, over dinner, whether she could go to dance class if she wore her mask, it kind of broke my heart. I have no idea how classes like that will work in the coming months; they won’t be testing vaccines on children Kina’s age before late fall, at least, and while I feel somewhat confident that she’ll be back in a classroom by September, I don’t know how we’ll reflect on an enclosed studio full of jumping children—or if the studio will even still be there for her to jump in.
I expect we’ll find ways for Kina to express herself physically with other kids this summer, as vaccines reduce the prevalence of COVID-19 and outdoor options resurface. Maybe she’ll pick up soccer. Maybe she’ll do a musical theater thing in the grass. Maybe there will be a dance class in the park—muddy but elegant. I’m trying to be patient on Kina’s behalf, and I reminded her last night that things are getting better, and she can always dance with us. It’s strange to me that she’s just now starting to miss the things she’s lacked all year, but at least I can help her see a way through now.
Here’s what I’m sure of, if nothing else: As long as that tutu fits, I’m going to wake up at six thirty every morning and find her leaping around in our living room, practicing for dance class.