As a homeschooling family, our lives tend to be very flexible, and our “unschooling” tendencies mean our schooling style is also very flexible. Many families in our community have started signing their kids up for classes now that they are older; some classes are drop-off, some classes parents stay for.
Many families I know with daughters (homeschooling and not) sign them up for a lot of “arts” classes: dance, gymnastics, voice, etc. I took ballet, tap, jazz, and gymnastics in my youth and I love encouraging artistic expression for young girls.
However, I also think it’s as important for boys to take those kinds of classes as it is for girls to take LEGO Engineering (as my older son does), and intensive nature hikes and science classes, and I decided that I would teach my sons to tap dance this year so that they get a well-rounded education in the arts. I already teach them piano, but dance is another level of music I want them to start understanding.
I learned tap dancing for “Beaches” and I think it’s a beautiful form of dance, with a lot of interesting history, too. A friend of mine with a son my older son’s age agreed and we have decided to have me teach them to tap dance in my living room.
In order to really seal the deal, I am incorporating watching videos of famous men dancing as part of the class. Why? Well, kids love technology and since I don’t show my boys TV or movies and we don’t even own an iPad at my house (their Dad has one which they of course love), I figured watching some videos might up the fun factor. And I want them to see famous male dancers.
I showed them Fred Astaire, both with and without Ginger Rogers (who did everything Fred Astaire did but backwards and in high heels, right?). I showed them Gregory Hines in “White Nights.” I showed them the Nicholas Brothers in what is arguably the most incredible dance routine ever. And then I showed them Michael Jackson.
And then their lives changed.
From the first bass drumbeat of “Billie Jean,” my sons were enthralled with Michael Jackson. Everything: the music, his moves, his singing. They fell in love. Big time.
Having been born in 1975, I love Michael Jackson in all of his permutations and I have memorized the entire “Thriller” album. I find him an incredibly gifted performer, dancer, and personality, and it broke my sons’ hearts when they found out he passed away. (There were tons of questions from my older son about why he died so young, which I delicately handled…)
Since they saw that video, I have downloaded “Michael Jackson’s Greatest Hits.” We listen to it a lot. My boys dance around the house imitating Michael’s moves, and I won’t lie and say I don’t join them. I point out the subtleties of his dancing, and the different styles of dance he does. They love all of it and I hope it will inspire them to dance their little hearts out, which it seems it’s not going to be hard to get them to do.
To see the two of them bopping around the living room in their fedoras (thank you, Sears, for selling fedoras for small people) and Shabbat suits is amazing. They shrug their shoulders and try and moonwalk and they just can’t get enough of MJ. And I love it.
I found a “Michael Jackson Vision” version of the “Smooth Criminal” video and it’s longer than the regular one and has more dancing which is great. What I didn’t know it had, however, was a scene where Michael shoots up the entire club the video takes place in with a Tommy gun. Had I known, I might have not shown them that video. Needless to say, this video basically contains the two things my sons love: Michael Jackson and guns. Sigh.
I take solace in knowing that their initial love of Michael Jackson was not because of his ability to shoot a Tommy gun. And when I teach them to dance, there will be no pantomiming of shooting permitted. But once class is over, I guess I can’t stop them from being whatever version of Michael Jackson they want to be. As “Bad” as they want to be.
And I suppose if I ask them to stop, they might reply with the following Michael Jackson lyric: Can’t Stop Till You Get Enough.