October 5th, 2020
De Luca Dance was eerily quiet when dancing lessons were in session, each studio well sound-proofed so that none of them interfered with the other. With no other parents yet arrived to collect their enthusiastic bundles of energy, it was almost peaceful. It was certainly joyful, in a very soft way, to look through the glass of the window and watch as Maria shone while dancing with her own group, Liv couldn't keep herself from beaming proudly at the sight of their silent little sweetheart well and truly out of her shell thanks to ballet.
"She's a little angel, isn't she?" Johnny said, beaming proudly right beside Liv as they watched their silent little girl shine. It had taken a little while for them to find something Maria not only enjoyed but excelled at, and Johnny was overjoyed to see Maria in her element and thoroughly enjoying herself.
"She's so graceful," Liv agreed softly. "You wouldn't believe it, with all the falling in mud holes she does at home." Maria certainly didn't lack for enthusiasm in anything she did, but it was obvious now that dancing was clearly something that touched her little heart.
"Running around in the backyard isn't the same as dancing, Liv," Johnny pointed out. Dancing required poise and grace, not to mention patience and determination, all of which he thought Maria had in spades.
"It builds her stamina," Liv said in amusement, glancing over her shoulder at the sound of quiet footsteps in the stillness.
Anya De Luca, the tiny ballet mistress who somehow oversaw classes here, the dancers' syllabus for the dancers at the Rosita De Luca Drama School, and taught the ballet class for under fives, smiled as she approached the Storms.
"Good afternoon," she greeted them. "Thank you for coming in a little early."
Johnny turned to greet the tiny ballerina with a friendly smile, fatherly pride written all over his face. "Thanks for inviting us," he replied. "How's she doing? It's all she talks about lately," he told her, assuming Anya had invited them there to give them an update on Maria's progress.
"She is doing rather fantastically, actually," Anya told them, inviting them to come and sit down with her in the comfortable chairs by the wide window. "I have two things I would like to run by you, with regards to Maria."
Liv tore her gaze away from the little dancers, tilting her head curiously as she followed to the seats.
Johnny's smile faded, replaced by a worried look, despite Anya's reassurance that their little girl was doing well. "Is she getting along okay with the other children?" he asked, that thought the first worry to cross his mind. He knew it wasn't always easy for Maria to make friends, given the fact that she needed to use sign language in order to communicate, but she had a sweet disposition that made her easily likable.
"Oh, there are no concerns on that score," Anya was quick to reassure him. "It was a little bumpy in the first weeks, but since you gave us that information about the sign language classes, I can confidently state that they are somewhat overbooked from us." She laughed faintly. "Maria is very patient with everyone who talks with her and tries to use sign, which is wonderful to see."
"Oh, good," Johnny said, exhaling a sigh of relief. He just wanted their little girl to be happy and lead as normal a childhood as was possible, despite her difficulty in communicating. "She really is an angel," he said, with obvious pride and affection.
"An extremely talented angel with an incredible capacity to learn at speed," Anya said, gently sliding into her first point. "To the point where I would like to raise her into intermediate classes. I know she has only been taking the beginner classes for a few months, but she has perfected almost everything she needs to perfect to advance. However, I do understand that her age might make her wary of moving up to share classes with girls who are significantly older than she is, and if she would prefer, I would like to arrange for her to have private lessons with Merethyl to keep her progress moving forward, rather than stagnating where she is."
Johnny blinked, clearly stunned by what Anya was telling them. "You want move her up?" he asked, as if to confirm what he thought he was hearing. He knew Maria enjoyed her lessons and Anya had assured them she was doing well, but this had not expected.
"I would," she confirmed, smiling at his surprise. "I believe you may have something of a prodigy on your hands there, Mr. Storm. Her talent and ability to learn far outclass the girls her own age, and those above her."
"You're serious," he said, almost expecting her to say she was kidding at any minute, but why would she? He exchanged glances with Liv, as if silently asking his wife for her opinion.
Liv was looking a little conflicted. "I wouldn't want her progress to suffer," she said carefully, "but Maria gets more out of these classes than just training. She's developing friends with similar interests, and I would hate to take that away from her."
"What if we left her in class with children her own age and she had private lessons in addition to that?" Johnny suggested, in agreement with Liv, but also not wanting to stifle Maria's progress if she truly was as talented as Anya seemed to think.
"That is a very good solution," Anya agreed, "and one I would not charge you additionally for. Merry has been teaching Zahan one on one for a few years now, so if you would like a testimonial before making the decision, I would suggest you talk with her and her parents. My other note is ... well, it is more of a request."
"Oh, no ... I don’t think that will be necessary, will it?" Johnny said, once again looking to Liv for her input. He trusted Anya's judgment and they knew Zahan and her parents well enough to have already heard praise for her teacher.
"I think maybe Maria should talk to Zahan about it?" Liv suggested to her husband. "She's never had any one-on-one tutoring except with Alyona, and that is a little different than it would be with a non-telepath."
Johnny nodded agreeably. "That sounds reasonable," he said, knowing Liv always knew best, especially where the children were concerned. "Anyway, it should be up to Maria, too," he added.
"Oh, no, of course," Anya said warmly. "This is why I am approaching you first, since you should be the ones to approach Maria about it. She will be more inclined to give you her honest opinion. I think my students are sometimes more worried about disappointing me than listening to themselves."