Cheesy Jazz Hands.

Several of my students are putting on a whole-school, cast-of-thousands musical.

The younger ones are excited, but the older ones are slightly chagrined.

“It’s…a little babyish,” reports K, hunching his shoulders in a gesture that says ‘I’m in Grade Six and I’m humiliated.’

“They have us dancing in a stupid way,” concurs Moonsung, who’s in Grade Seven.

“Like what?” I ask. Mostly I’m curious. How bad could it be?

They look at each other and grimace. Hmm, must be pretty bad.

Later on, Moonsung shows me. Now, this is pretty amazing on a number of levels. Last September, she was a girl who communicated mostly in shrugs and yesses and noes. Now she’s willing to perform embarassing dance moves? Nice work, girl!
She taps me on the shoulder to get my attention. “We do this.” She does Jazz Hands. “And this.” Shuffles right and then left, sideways, like a crab.

I nod. “Looks like dance moves for even the little kids.”

She nods enthusiastically, pageboy haircut flying. “But we’re not little. It’s just…cheesy!”

I gasp. “Did you just use ‘cheesy’?”

‘Cheesy’ is one of the hardest slang adjectives to teach people from a culture that hasn’t developed its own cheese. Cheese, the milk byproduct, ‘fermented milk solids’ just doesn’t equal ‘tacky and slightly embarassing’. It’s not a natural linguistic leap.
She nods. “Was it right?”

“It was so right. Gimme five.” I reach out my hand and she slaps.

Cheesy or not, she’s come far.

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