online meetings

Dancing with himself: Beauty and tragedy at a kindergarten Zoom dance party

This post originally appeared on the Team.Video blog.

My five year old had a dance party with some other kindergarteners from his class at his school, and in some ways it was just brilliant.

He’s been a real trooper during the lockdown. Every morning he watches the video lessons his teachers have uploaded the night before. He prints out the day’s worksheets, and always dutifully gets through them. He says he actually doesn’t even mind staying inside so much, as he has declared himself to be an “indoor person.”

But it has been rough for him not to be able to just hang out and be silly with his friends every now and again, like kids need to do. When we learned his whole crew was feeling lonely, the idea to have a zoom dance party was floated, and immediately well-received by all.

For a few days leading up to the affair, we all actually counted down the days, and Sam even floated the idea that we should make an advent calendar like we had for Christmas, but instead of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ at the end, this time it would be the dance party. My wife and I didn’t have the follow-through to make that actually happen, but it was amazing to see his enthusiasm.

The day came, and dancing happened. It was pretty cute, I must say. Some kids were busting out; some were just making funny faces and shouting; some were trying to hide from the chaos. It was the right kind of chaos, and the right amount.

My son was one of the kids who was taking the dancing seriously. Hips shaking, face elated, fingers pointing every which way. Sometimes he pulled off spectacular moves that took him all the way down to the floor. There was jumping, and high-kicks. It was good stuff.

At the end, when the host put out a last call for requests, I heard my son shouting, “the bear hunt song!, the bear hunt song!”. I suspected he might be talking into a mute void and tried to help him unmute, but of course, he had already mastered the mute button and was way ahead of me.

What I heard next, though, just killed me: “Oh, hey, I heard Sam!” “Sam? Are you here?” “Where’s Sam, I don’t see Sam…” “Sam?”

At that moment, one of the kids’ parents figured out what I had figured out too — “Oh, Sam is on the next page”. There was one more kid on the call than could fit on a single page’s worth of zoom grid. My son’s elation, and this amazing shared experience with his long lost friends all coming to fruition — it was all a miss.

They hadn’t seen any of his beautiful dancing. I didn’t have the heart to tell him, and who knows, he might not have actually been bothered. They say you should dance like no one is watching, and he did have the moves. But it made me sad to realize no one else had seen him, and I’m sure his friends were sad too.