Dad’s World with Jonathan deBurca Butler

THOSE of you who are regular readers of this column might be aware that Fionn has been attending dance classes.

Every Saturday, since his enrolment back in February, he has waltzed his way into ballet classes on more or less the dot of 11.15am and stayed there til noon.

Most of the time he goes into the classroom-slash-studio without batting an eyelid. 

Early on in his dance career, he stipulated that he wanted to be the last in.

He never offered a reason for this but part of me suspects that the divo in him (or is it the alpha male?) liked making an entrance. 

Normally, I wouldn’t countenance such caveats or diktats, call them what you will, but when I considered the fact he was the only boy in a class of pink tutu-wearing girls, the only one wearing tracksuit bottoms, socks and a t-shirt with Jaws printed across it, I felt it was right to bow to divo’s request.

Over the weeks and months, I would occasionally pop my head in the window to see what was being rehearsed on a given day. 

I never really understood what they were doing or what they were trying to put together, but it always looked like he was having fun. 

Then a few weeks ago an email landed in my inbox inviting me to a performance that was to be given by his class.

For a moment, well a little longer, I hesitated. The liberal, to-hell-with-gender-stereotyping me was being challenged by the practical real world me.

 ‘Are you really OK with your son dancing in public with a group of girls in pink tutus,’ asked the latter.

I mulled it over for a while and decided that the latter me was an idiot and an utter hypocrite. 

We would go and support our son. And I’m so glad we did. 

Because, you know what? He was brilliant. 

OK, so he needs to work on his first position a little and the knee bends ended up looking more like Japanese bows but, let me tell you, there was nobody better on their tippy toes, nobody smiling more, nobody more engaged than he, and he offered endless moments of entertainment, not just to us but to everyone.

At one point in the performance, when the little ones were queuing to bust a move, Fionn found himself behind a girl with a long pony tail.

When she moved, the appendage would find its way into his face. Being the practical guy that he is, he deftly took the offending clutch of hair in his hand and placed it gently over the little girl’s shoulder. 

She wasn’t happy and with a dismissive flick of her head she freed the offending mane from her shoulder and thus right back into Fionn’s face. It happened again….and again... and again, and as it went on so too did the audience’s giggles.

Luckily, the whole episode never got too tetchy, there was no falling out, no slippers were thrown, no wands were broken over heads.

Towards the end of the performance, Fionn was beginning to go his own way a little. 

If you were to put a positive slant on it you might say he was doing interpretive dance, a little like David Byrne from Talking Heads or an uncle at a wedding.

A sterner critic, looking at it with a cold eye, might have sensed he was just getting a little bored. 

Maybe he was running out of patience with the other performers, one or two left the stage without permission to get a hug from their mothers or a drink of water from their fathers. 

But not Fionn, and you could see that he felt let down by his co-stars when they wandered so whimsically off stage. 

Thankfully, there were no outbursts. 

He kept his council and when it all came to an end, he took a bow and his plaudits with aplomb. 

To say that I was proud is an understatement.


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