The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pulp fiction, part two.

Today, Tiarnan had his school "concert". I use inverted commas because no-one sings at this "concert", nor do they play musical instruments, so, in fact, I puzzle why the word is used, at all. However, in Malaysia, this particular kind of ceremony is called a "concert".

Basically, it is a periodic celebration of the school. Each class performs a dance, set to various pieces of modern music, some quirky, some trendy. Also each member of the graduating classes, dresses in "academic attire" (like little University students, even though they are in Kindergarten), and receives a "scroll". It is quite quaint, in its own way.

Anyway, today, Tiarnan danced. I found myself grinning, helplessly, when he began to dance - out of pride, not amusement, you understand. He was dressed in a rather Spanish fashion, with orange sequinned trousers and a black jacket. The dance was very energetic, with a lot of hip shaking, and big motions of the arms. There were even some characteristic sweeps of parted fingers, across the eyes, that was straight out of Pulp Fiction, by Quentin Tarantino. In fact, as I watched Tiarnan perform so energetically, I was reminded of John Travolta. There is something so intrinsically HEIGHTENED about Tiarnan, on stage, that he calls to mind similarly magnetic personalities.

It is clear that Tiarnan enjoys dancing and that he has a certain flair for it. He seems to make the movements live: they are not just motions, they are expressions of some deep inner life.

Yet, I noticed something. Today's dance did not have the precision of motion, that his dance of a couple of years ago had, in Singapore. This can only mean one thing: he wasn't given the direction and feedback, he received, last time, this time. I feel that his class is rather too big to handle and so he is not receiving the individual attention he used to receive in his, much smaller school in Singapore. It is funny to see, but the difference in class size is most evident in the way not only Tiarnan danced, but all the children danced. The moves were there...but they were not precisely deployed - minor deviations which upset the perfection of the whole, had not been corrected by careful feedback - and so the performances were not as "perfect" as they might otherwise have been.

I remember well how Tiarnan, four, had danced a couple of years ago. That day I found myself shocked at the certainty of his movements, at their fluidity, grace and apt choice. He seemed, not like a child, at all, but like a shrunken adult dancer, with all the control and poise one expects of such. Yet, he was but two years old, or so. On seeing him, I saw his mother on the stage, for she is a natural dancer of much talent. He had, it seemed, inherited her precision of motion, her expressiveness and bodily control. It was odd, though, seeing such qualities in one so small. The other children looked clumsy and graceless by comparison: they all seemed so ill-coordinated when stood alongside Tiarnan's slick perfection. If it is possible to seem grown up, by the way one moves, Tiarnan seemed to be an adult, that day, even though he was - and is - quite a diminutive figure. Something in him, however, is quite mature: that which commands the movement of his body, knows just how to do so, with just the right motion, at just the right speed, to seem beautiful in action.

Today, he danced well. However, I saw that he missed the input he had previously received. He lacked the gentle critic, of an interested observer, that can make a good performance, great.

This observation does inspire in me a little worry. If he lacks input on this task, might he not be receiving it on all others, too? Are the teachers so overwhelmed by numbers that they end up herding students, rather than teaching them?

Overall, the concert was cute, but a little strange at times. Malaysia is a conservative, Muslim country - but the boys and girls had colourful costumes, that were all styled after adult, dancer costumes. Thus, for some of the dances, I did feel that the girls were not appropriately dressed, especially considering that they were between three and six years old. In one dance, for instance, with an Indian theme, the girls wore red tops that were cut short, to expose their midriffs. It just seemed odd, that five year old girls should be dancing with such adult costumes on. Another dance, had six year old girls wearing gold knitted tops with large holes, in a Middle Eastern style, doing belly dance like motions. Again, culturally speaking, it did seem a bit peculiar.

That being said, I think the kids enjoyed the chance to express themselves, on stage and to get to learn a dance. I would, however, like to see more focussed choreography, with a view to bringing out the best performance, from the students. Some classes were much better in this regard than others. In my view, that points to a better teacher, who is making more of an effort. I shall keep a careful eye, on future concerts, for what it tells me about Tiarnan's teachers.

Well done, Tiarnan, on such a lively dance. I think Mr. John Travolta has got some little competition on the way.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 6 and Tiarnan, 4, this month, please go to:

I also write of gifted education, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, megasavant, HELP University College, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, Malaysia, IQ, intelligence and creativity.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:14 PM 


Blogger tearsunderstars said...

How I missed those days, when one is young, everything just comes naturally. Like, just dance/sing/act/play without any care for what the world thinks. As one gets older, one becomes more self-conscious, more sensitive to the world has to say.

It's nice to hear that Tiarnan danced so energetically, I wish I could watch.

I wish I was a child again, then I'll regain that kind of youthful energy. I remembered that I didn't want to become an adult, because somehow the adults are so restrained, formal and unnatural.


10:09 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, children have a freedom few adults do. It is as if society slowly puts a vise about its members, until, in full adulthood, they are frozen stiff in its embrace. Only children truly know how to be, therefore. Oh...and the non-conformists, of course.

I hope my children maintain their inner freedom of action, thought, impulse and feeling as they grow older. I have never much appreciated the formalities of the adult world, myself...I see them as masking inner realities and the true substance of people.

Oh well. I cannot change everyone else...I can only persist in being myself: you too.

Best wishes.

12:32 PM  

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