sgmca

Choices Young Dancers Face at Residency, College, Company

18 posts in this topic

Moderator's Note: Split from the Preparing for Residency Thread...

 

This is all such good advice. As I prepare to send my daughter off to college I find myself taking notes as I read this thread. My dd was at residency for one year then came home this past year to finish up high school and is now preparing to dance in college. My only advice that I didn't realize needed to be addressed to a 16 year old as she headed off to her residency program is talk to your child about the things they will be facing when they are living with teens and young adults away from home and away from parental supervision, and the possible ways of handling different situations.

 

My daughter went away to train with what she felt would be like-minded dancers. And they were... except during their non-dancing down time. She knew that many of the kids in her high school at home "partied" and drank but there were those that did not which included her friends and that was who she chose to hang out with. She never got invited to parties in high school but she was okay with that because she didn't like the drinking and it didn't matter anyways because she had her non-drinking friends. Then she moved away from home to dance. Most of the dancers at her residency program drank. They held parties that I'm sure were fun but there was drinking involved. This made my daughter uncomfortable. We should have discussed how she would handle this situation before she left. Would she bring her own soda with her or hold an empty cup, or explain to others that she is fine with what they do but that she choses not to drink, or would she just not go to the parties which unfortunately meant she was chosing to stay home on weekends by herself. She chose to not be a part of the parties. She was so happy when she was dancing and during the week at her "dorm", but on the weekends she was not invited to the parties and she was alone.

 

I still don't know how I could have helped her or what I would have said even if I had known what was going on. She didn't tell me that this was happening until she moved back home and it was over. We had had the talks about drugs and drinking as she was growing up and how they can hurt your body and make a mess of your life, but at that time the drug users and drinkers were "bad guys" in her mind that she wouldn't want to hang out with anyways. In reality they weren't bad guys. They were other dancers. People she enjoyed talking with and spending time with during the week but come weekends they did something that she wasn't interested in doing and wasn't prepared to handle. We'd talked about drinking and drugs but we hadn't talked about what to do when you are faced with your friends drinking and you don't want to. So talk to your kids. Face the fact that drinking is out there. Maybe not in all the programs but it is there in most. And if you or your child figures out what they can do or say when they are faced with this and they have decided not to conform please let me know. It can have a profound effect on your child's emotional well being which in turn affects every part of their lives, including their dancing.

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Great advice sgmca! In dance world there isn't always the clear distinction between ages either. In dd's class the age ranged from 15 to 17 in a country where the legal age to drink is 18. In the classes above her the kids are 18. Her room mates will turn 18 this year. It was important that a strategy for parties was in place. Sometimes the strategy was just to hold the offered drink, others it was to sip on a sprite or club soda (looks like a drink) and sometimes it was to say no. Different strategies for different situations. One other thing we've talked about with these strategies.....photos on Facebook. Even if you aren't drinking the alcoholic beverage in your hand, if a photo is snapped and put on Facebook, you are assumed to have been drinking. A picture is worth a thousand words. Future employers, colleges and a lot of other interested parties will see those photos and they can and will be used against you so be very careful. It's almost like the friends of these kids are the paparazzi and unwittingly post some photos that can be very embarrassing at some point in life.

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sgmca, that is an important issue to discuss with our kids. It is sooooo much easier to 'just say no' when it isn't your friends asking! Luckily for us, that concept was brought up early to us in parent continuing education discussion one of our kids' grade schools sponsored. I remember at the time (and they were very, very young at that time) that it struck me as so very important and certainly one of those light-bulb moments: "Oh! I hadn't thought of it--peer pressure-- that way! :D ) We typically think of peer pressure as being bad as coming from those kids around ours, but not our kids' close friends. Our kids friends, we tend to think, are pretty much into the same things as ours, so less threatening.

 

But, once we realize that the hardest thing for our kids to handle is being put in a bad or uncomfortable position by their best buddies, we can help them plan or strategize ways to cope and extricate themselves. We tend to think of ways to help them do that as they go off to college, but actually we need to work with them from early on to find their coping means and strength to say 'no' to best buds and not be susceptible to the 'but I'll be left out if I don't'.

 

One of the cornerstones that we used was to tell our kids that whether they did the deed or not, they would be painted with the same brush if they were in the group that gets in trouble. Therefore, they were always responsible for their own choices and behaviors, so they needed to be protective and assertive of their beliefs. We also taught them that it was often much harder to do what was right than to just go along and that we did expect them to do what was right. When they were young kids, they did have to stand up to friends and say no---to things like being ugly to other classmates (clique mentality), to ignoring teachers' rules, to cheating on homework or tests, etc. Learning to do that in those smaller stakes things helped them when it came time to say no to crashing parties, drinking, etc.

 

I don't imagine my kids are angels by any means, but I do know that they did develop the strength to say no to their friends and to follow their own beliefs and moral compass. I have had enough confirmation from third parties over the years to know the kids are true to themselves in that regard.

 

And, yes, it is all that much harder for them when they go away from home---be it residency or college.

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There may be an applicable example from history to assist here. Charles Dana Gibson, the artist-creator of the Gibson Girl, was first and foremost a journalist. In that business, it's best to keep a clear head in case a hot lead drops into the conversation. Now, Edwardian newspapering was a hard-drinking business, and Gibson found himself at lots of parties where the gin flowed freely, and lips loosened to a considerable extent. As he listened here, and eavesdropped there, a subject of conversation came up abouty the sheer number of martinis the reporter/artist could consume. After many of these parties, Gibson had scooped other reporters because they had tippled a bit too hard, and spilled all their exclusives. It was not revealed until Charlie had a desk job that his code to the waiters and bartenders was the pickled onion garnish he used in his "martini". When they saw that, they knew to refill the glass with cold clear water, so that while Gibson had had ONE drink and smelled the part, he was actually keeping lucid, and beating everybody else in town!

 

It sometimes helps in situations like this to keep a supply of tiny paper umbrellas in your pocket, order a cola, stick one into the drink, and tell the curious that it's "Coca-cola Japonaise"!

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sgmca....very good points, and thank you for bringing this up. While I am not a pollyanna by any means, it didn't occur to me to bring this issue up.

 

You are correct, as are swanchat and dancemaven, that the 'beast' is definitely out there. Going somewhere that is not on her approved list has presented itself in my DD's situation. She was prepared for occasions like this, and DD had no trouble making the right choice. One thing that she clearly found out was that once she declined such invitations just a couple of times, she discovered that the invitations stopped for her. She might, occasionally, receive just an offhand, 'we're going so and so if you have time.' She quickly bonded with like-minded kids and was happy.

 

I think there definitely was a process of certain groups culling out the ones who don't want to participate in particular adventures. After a few weeks, the kids figure out who will be interested (in whatever form the beast rises) and those who aren't going to bite. At least, this was DD's experience. There wasn't a constant source of peer pressure that she couldn't handle. But a weak and impressionable kid....there's the risk. So, it is much better to prepare them in every scenario, regardless of how well you think you may have taught your DK. There is always that new plan, the intriguing invitation, and once they are on their own, easier still for some to think they are mature enough enough to handle new experiences. Someone recently posted to make sure to tell your kids to 'pack your family values when you go'...how very wise to give them that word picture. Yet clearly, many DKs who aren't driven by any moral compass are sent along to residencies. And sgmca is so right....they are all definitely not on the same page. I think that the first few weeks in residency, or college, will present opportunities/choices that serve to clearly define what each DK represents to others, so it is a most important time for a smart kid to set his/her individual tone.

 

Thanks for yet another of your great stories, Mel. I am waiting for your publication of parables for life to come out!

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Something many of us fail to tell our children, with regard to friends and bad behavior - remind them that if an authority figure of any kind, from an RA to the police, end up in the position of questioning them, the ONLY thing they should say (and keep repeating until they get results), is "I want to talk to my parent or guardian." You really don't want your kid out there giving information or suppositions until you are on the line/speakerphone/etc. While most of the issues they find themselves involved in are simple, like who toilet papered the RA desk, some veer into criminal or questionable acts, and parental oversight helps protect your child. While this advice holds true in any situation (like visiting the principal at day school), it is much more important when the parent is miles or hours away.

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Dance1soccer1--I had never considered this. Thanks. It is a very wise approach. :blink::pinch::D

 

Afternote: I discussed this with my dd and she was really receptive to the arguement. I think she felt protected by the fact that she could call Mom in a situation like this!

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And to throw another twist into the pretzel, there is also the issue of young dancers who are hired into a pro company at the age of 17-20 who find themselves suddenly thrust into company life where most of the dancers are over 21. There is lots of 'partying' in all of its forms that may present itself and it is a very difficult position for young dancers (some still in high school) who want desperately to fit in and not to be seen as just the little trainee or apprentice. Being left out of the company's socializing is no fun and leads to lots of isolation in and out of the studio, which further complicates the issue for young dancers who are far from home, perhaps living alone and trying to find their place in a company where they want to succeed.

 

So, once they move out of residency and into company life, the problems do not go away, they just become more complex... Many dancers graduate at 17 and others take company positions their senior year, putting many at age 17 when they must face very adult situations. In a company there will not be as many dancers in their age group as there are in a residency, where they might find other kindred souls. Company life presents vastly different challenges for underage dancers than they will experience in college too, where the place is full of young people who are their same age. (My daughter experienced all three: residency, company and college between the ages of 15-20.) So, it is wise to talk about these eventualities before they occur and help them sort through how they will handle these situations. They WILL present themselves! :thumbsup:

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There is a lot of good advice here. I think it's important to have your child think through how they will respond to issues that present themselves and helping them prepare responses is important - " I want to talk to my mom/dad/guardian" being a great one. I would also like to suggest "I can't because drinking/smoking weed/whatever interferes with medication I'm taking.", "I don't react well to alcohol/weed/whatever so I've given it up", and "my mom is pretty insane about stuff like this and she does random drug tests". I don't care what my dd's friends think of me so am glad to offer myself up as the reason she can't participate. Of course, one of the benefits of a residential program is that the consequences can be so serious that it's a bit easier for kids to say 'no'. None of them want to be sent home.

 

It's also important to remind our dd's not to get caught up trying to justify their decisions. A simple "why are you making such a big deal of this - I've told you I can't and I can't" or "let it go - this can't possibly matter to you on ANY level" or even "can we just move on with our little lives?" are all fairly simple and deflect the discussion from why your dd is making a decision to why anyone would waste time on it. It's also important to remind our kids that they will make mistakes and they will do stupid things, but it doesn't mean they have to keep doing them. Learn a lesson and move on.

 

Don't forget about the other discussions we all need to be having. I was giving my dd a big lecture on alcohol and drugs when she was first in residency at 14 and she said "the ballet kids don't really do drugs or alcohol, they're more into cigarettes and sex". I wish I were kidding. As you can imagine, we have had numerous conversations before and since, but sex is an issue and I would imagine it would become more so when you have young trainees and apprentices trying to fit in with older guys. Despite the myth, ballet boys are not all gay.

Fun never ends.

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This board is a wealth of knowledge! Even though consequences may be dismissal, stuff still happens, depending on the circumstances at the individual school, kids may not be held to the consequences. DD knows that if she doesn't live to our family's standards and values, she will be home and there is no negotiating. I do think every family is different in their expectations and values and your dk needs to understand the unique ideals of their families and discussions about how everyone is different but the family is constant and expectations do no change are helpful.

 

edited to omit a phrase that no longer fits due to the topic being moved.

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Another discussion that MUST be had, with ds and dd is the Adult teacher discussion. As in "No adult/person in authority over you" should ever offer you promises of roles/lessons/favored status in exchange for the ds/dd doing something inappropriate with them. My dd ballet teacher set her and another boy down before they left for every SI and every year at residency and reminded them of this. She said it happens much much more than you can EVER imagine and a dk who has a ready answer prepared, no matter how much the elder is an idol in their mind, is definitely protected from much grief. Even a casual confident smile and a "Oh no Mr/Miss/Mrs xxx I would never want to compromise your great status by doing anything that might even hint at a compromise of your position in this program"--this lets the authority figure know that the dk knows exactly what is being proposed and they wouldn't dream of going there. No matter what the response, a dk should have a short clear answer prepared! :cool2::lol::shrug:

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I always worry about dangerous situation. You know the ones you in teen movies.

I realize having an older adult in her life she could turn to in case of trouble. So I told her to call my niece age 30 or nephew older, if she ever found herself in a bad situation. Luckily no need.

When she live with me, I told her to call me if she ever in trouble, not to worry about doing something wrong,I rather her be safe, then her worry about her parents disappointment. It like expecting her not to make mistake, but understanding it can happen. I told her this before I drop her off at party. She did not feel comfortably there and call me right back to pick her up. She said thanks mom for saying that because I felt bad making you pick me up right away. So going over these things does better prepares them. Another example teens face at colleges and dorms, they may be face with is, someone over drinks,drugs, and begin to display medial problems. Do they call for medical help or fear getting the person in trouble. It better to have the person live to be mad at you, then dead. You hope none of this ever happens.

My other line to her was remember "there is guilt by association."

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I do think that it is alittle scarier to send your kid off younger. I know that my kids have faced alot of things in high school and we were able to immediately address these issues and support them. At college age, all kids will most likely face new situations and most have age and some experience on their side. No matter what the age, communication is the key.

 

I love the "don't forget to pack the family values" advice!

 

Here is some words of wisdom I saw and share with my kids regularly:

 

Watch your thoughts, they become your words.

Watch your words, they become your actions.

Watch your actions, they become your habits.

Watch your habits, they become your character.

Watch your character, it becomes your destiny!

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And lest all us dance parents think these are dance-specific situations, my son and his friends face the same situations at academic boarding schools and in college. He's a rising college senior at 16, and deals with the same type of issues due to older friends and a multi-national environment. The advice we have given DD for years is VERY applicable to his life situations and choices.

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I think it is also a good to remind our kids how small the dance world really is. Someone very close to me was kicked out of a summer intensive as a teenager their first time experimenting. Everyone knew within 48 hours, and this was before Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. I really think there is only two degrees of separation between people in the dance world. Most directors know eachother and don't think for a second they won't call up the director of where you were and ask about you. I think that's where the "guilt by association" can really bite you in the rear. You may not have gotten kicked out, and you may not have even participated, but if it looks like you did then that director might prefer to take a chance on hiring someone else.

 

I wish these were discussions I had prior to leaving home for my first traineeship. Luckily everything worked out just fine, but I certainly found myself in a number of situations that I wasn't prepared for. Kudos to all of you for having these discussions!

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