Children in dance class believe firmly that the closer they are to me the better I will be able to see them. I try every now and then – very ineffectively – to explain that this is not the case. “If you stand a little far, I can see you completely,” I explain. “Otherwise, I can’t see whether your arms are right, legs are neat…”
For about thirty seconds, they keep their distance, and then, slowly, they sneak forward till I say to them, “You’re dancing on my head again.” And then they shriek with laughter, go back, and start the process all over again.
During theory class, when everyone is sitting on the floor, I insist on at least one arm’s distance. The children find that hilarious too because they associate the phrase with PT, not dance theory. They begin one arm’s distance away, but in ten minutes, they are close to me again. Somehow, they inch forward even while they are seated, a mystery I will never solve.
One day, a girl measured one arm’s distance and sat down.
“No,” I said, “not your arm, my arm.”
She gave me a contemptuous look. “It’s the same thing.”
I shook my head, smiling. “No, it’s not.”
I think she had learnt just that day that one metre is one metre, no matter who measures it. She applied the same logic to arm-length.
When I stretched out my arm, she gazed at me in round-eyed wonder. “Your arm is so much longer!” she exclaimed, stretching hers. She was seven years old. I nodded, as she slowly moved back, her arm still stretched.
That evening, she was very quiet, constantly looking at my arm and hers. The astonishment lasted long enough for her not to move forward at all during that class. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about all the classes that followed.