by Keke Bethune
This year has been weird. Weird, weird, weird. I don’t like to gloss over things as a matter of practice, and anyone who knows me knows this is true.
My name is Keke. I’ve worked part-time with Live Oak for the past four years or so, doing social media marketing, making graphics, and working on organizing and managing some of the artistic aspects of the performances. I’ve also known Jarina for ages, us having been next-door neighbors and going through the experience of becoming moms for the first time, within months of each other.
I have two boys; the older one is measured and thoughtful, the younger is an absolute explosion of creativity. The younger one’s name is Lewis, we call him Iggy or Igloo, and we put him into the program in 2019 after he expressed a desire to dance, and we called Jarina ourselves right away to tell her as much.
Lewis in the studio doing his juggler dance
It wasn’t a surprise in the slightest. Lewis’ aunt – my sister – looked and behaved like a twin when she was around his age; “Lewis in a wig”. She, too, had an excess of physical energy and was a bit resistant in following direction when she was small. A different breed altogether than me or my other sister. The answer was ballet: repeated and consistent direction, structure, challenge, and discipline.
Lewis’ Aunt Emily
Emily grew up to be an incredible dancer, but that wasn’t the only thing that ballet gave her. I watched her drive to succeed take center stage in her life, saw that she had learned to funnel her passion and energy in a laser-focused way, and I wanted to give that same gift to Lewis.
When Lewis started with Live Oak, I got to see a whole other aspect of the business than the one I’d known in years past. Lewis was always excited to go to the studio. I would sneak glances in the window and see him – omg – following directions!! He was learning a “juggler dance” complete with scarves. Sassy stuff. Very cute. He loved meeting new friends that were creative and expressive like him. He was slowly getting better at following direction at home and at school. I was thrilled that he would be performing at Marigny Opera House and moreover, that I’d be working on his costume! How cool is that?
When the pandemic hit, it was right after we had ordered costumes and were about to distribute them. Letting go of that was a little hit, not only because I love doing the performances with Jarina, but also because this was my kid’s first one! UGH.
And goodness, was it a learning curve. All the emails we had to send out, learning about zoom, the emotional transition of the whole thing was…a lot. And, I admit freely, at first Lewis didn’t participate in the zoom meetings for a month or so. It was just too much at the time.
Week by week, day by day, our family worked its way into settling into some sense of normalcy. It took a while for us. In late May, Lewis started up with ballet all over again. We started with the laptop in the bedroom, and through Jarina’s guidance, got an HDMI cable (duh, momma!), so that we could hook the laptop up to the TV, which greatly improved the experience for him.
Once I started the classes with him, I was a little mad at myself for not having started it sooner. It was weirdly easy once we got the hang of it. And I was watching as I could tell it was becoming easier for Jarina, too. As she began to integrate professional performance videos, expressive/modern dance, even yoga poses, the kids became more and more immersed; more and more engaged.
When we began in May, I’d fuss at Lewis pretty frequently for not listening. I took notice that was a little bit harder for him at first to follow direction when he wasn’t in a physical space with Jarina.
I spoke with her about it, and she reassured me that he was actually doing fine, that it’s been a learning curve with all the kids, and she suggested that I just “hang out” nearby without providing too much input. That seemed to help. Gradually, week by week, his discipline began to improve, as did his engagement in the class. More and more, I’d look over and see him performing some move or another with great flourish and enthusiasm, and honestly, that was enough for me to know that it was the right thing to be doing for him.
Keeping that fire of expression all lit up for him during this time is priceless.
It’s not the same. I’ll be the first to admit that. But letting go of the program for us was just not the right thing to do for Lewis, and I knew this for sure once I saw him recovering some of what he gained later last year in-studio. Additionally, the kid’s ballet camp has honestly risen up to mitigate many of challenges that we’ve been presented with in this Summer of Pandemic as parents: exercise, socialization, discipline, creative engagement. It’s really helped our kiddo, and as such, it’s really helped our family, too.
If you want to join up in the program, or have any questions about it, go head over to the contact page and message Jarina. I’m sure she’d love to hear from you. Hope to see all of your faces when all of this lifts, but until then, keep the dance alive! Xoxo, Keke