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Ballet Talk for Dancers
Mel Johnson

Emotional Support

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werlkj

Treefrog,

 

I agree with almost all the good points you made and you're right, the teacher should be able to solve problems themselves. Ultimately, as you said, they are responsible. But sometimes, despite their best efforts, they can't.

 

I believe, just as in the academic arena, parents need to have a good understanding of their children's challenges in their learning environment. I don't think a parent should abandon the child to the classroom and expect the teacher do it all. For example, I am aware of couple instances where this particular teacher was unable to effect a positive change with a child and had to speak to the parents. Unfortunately, some of these exchanges didn't prove to be pleasant and in a couple cases, the teacher herself was criticized and judged badly. Maybe the parent also addressed their child about the problem, but it certainly wasn't evident in class. In at least one or two instances, the parents removed the child from the school, though I won't speculate as to the ultimate reasons. The teacher always describes it as good riddance, but I know it hurts her that she wasn't able to resolve things successfully and I've heard her say that she feels it to be personal failure.

 

I should stress that attending my youngest son's class (Level IIIB, mostly 10-11 year-olds) was often a last resort. When I find out from my child that he doesn't want to attend class, just before we get in the car, it's a little late to have a discussion with the teacher. So, the couple times I've had to go in and "glare" to stop the behavior and prevent other children from emulating it, I feel it's been the right choice. It may not have been the best choice, but it worked. I didn't need to go back after doing it once or twice, and I haven't heard another word about any of those kinds of problems.

 

I should also add that it is only at the beginning of the year, when there are a few new girls, that I've seen any diffiiculties. It doesn't seem to arise at all at the upper levels where respect can be easily earned with good technique. It also doesn't hurt that my oldest son is perceived by a lot of girls to be "so cute". My 10-year-old is actually very comfortable now in his class and has been for a number of months. There are four or five girls that like to chat with him and nobody balks when they are his partner.

 

Your reply reminds me that I should stress that my experiences are unique to me and my actions should not be applied indiscriminately. I shared my experiences with my boys because I think parents of boys need to stay aware and in some instances be immediately proactive in resolving issues. These instances, I agree, could, and even should, be resolved by the teacher. I should have added (though I didn't think it was pertinent) that in my case, it is particularly tough to talk to the particular teacher I referred to in my above post. Her personality is such that she is just very prickly, and generally (nearly always, actually!) overinterprets the slightest comments. The parents of children at her school accept it because itis our strong belief that she provides absolutely the best ballet training in this area, and is particularly noteworthy for the excellent training she gives beginning students. Most of us who have any knowledge of ballet at all have enormous respect for her, so we accept her as she is.

 

In my sons' cases, I stand by what I did. I wouldn't have a youngest boy taking ballet and doing agagio (of all things!) around the house if I hadn't, nor an older boy who is apparently very intent on pursuing ballet as far as he is able.

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Guest BalletAuthor

Brava to PAmom, what a wonderful, well thought out, insightful answer!

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Clara 76

PAMom, you rock!

My 14 yr-old son is a tap dancer who takes ballet for all the right reasons. I will confess that he decided not to tell any of his friends that he was taking any kind of dance, until he decided to audition for Nutcracker. Then, it sort of came out. However, we were pleasantly surprised by the responses of his friends. They were curious, and basically positive. We were lucky.

At this time, however, we have opted to homeschool him (it is actually an online school) so that he can have flexibility with his dance schedule.

I am so thankful that his friends have been accepting and I don't know what I would have done if they weren't. Good luck to everyone facing this situation. It will build strong character.

Clara

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MMH

I realize this is off-topic, but since I can't PM you..... what on-line school does your son do? Right before I popped in here tonight, I was doing a search of different online highschools. I homeschool all three of my kids-15 and 13 year old sons and an 11 year old daughter, the ballerina in the family. I have always put together their school work, but I am now interested in my highschool son taking a couple online courses.

 

I don't want this to become a discussion about homeschooling, but if you don't mind letting me know what online school and if you would recommend it, I will look into it further. Thanks, MMH

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Clara 76

Hi MMH!

Nice to meet you!

I will be glad to share- we use VCS (Virtual Community School) http://www.vcslearn.org/

We have been happy so far but there are several more here in Ohio as well.

They have been great in working with us on everything and the best part is that I can log his dance hours in and they count as PE credit!! Also, when he attends performances or dances in them, I can count those towards Arts Ed or PE. Couldn't be happier :)

Wish you luck in your search and please let me know if there is anything I can do for you!!

Clara

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Guest prism
This is a terrific recommendation. I think I'll ask my youngest boys' teachers if we could potentially send a letter or flyer home saying something to the effect that every parent with a girl needs to be thinking about recruiting boys for ballet.

 

That is a great start! I know there are many ways for studios to recruit more boys but many just don't seem to bother. Perhaps they think it's too much time and effort for the potential gain of a select few that might stick around a few years. :hyper:

 

I'm sorry, we only take ballet, though my oldest would take modern if there was a teacher available. We're hardly ever in Couer D'Alene, a pretty little town, because it's 10-12 hours from us -- you probably know how hard it is to drive through Idaho.  Have fun while you're there.

 

IDC has a ballet division. Actually I have no clue how hard it is to drive through Idaho but if it's anything like driving through Montana, then I know exactly what you are talking about. I grew up on the east coast and have been in MT for close to 15 years. I have never been to ID. This will be our first trip. Not sure, but I think we are about 12 hours away from Couer D'Alene too. heck, on the east coast, 12 hours can put you through about 8 states! :D Anyways, we'll be thinking about you while we're there!

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Guest prism
I have read many posts from parents of younger boys who are confident that their boys are unscathed in the teasing department.  I think it is terrific if that is the case, and I know each child deals with those situations in their own way.  Just a bit of caution from one who's been there....Bullying is, unfortunately, alive and well in the USA.  It comes from all genders, all ages, and in various and often insidious forms.  Be watchful.  The discomfort that such acts can create in a child may make it difficult/impossible for them to talk to you about it....so the clues may be silent ones.  I wish you and your sons the best as you follow them on this journey.

This is so true. And when you say "silent" clues, that can be quite literally. My son is a non-stop talker. So if we get into the car after class and he is totally silent for more than 3 minutes, I know something is wrong. Just having a bad dance day will not silence him - he will want to talk and talk about that. So it is usually something more personal. It may or may not be directly related to dance but if some other form of teasing or bullying has occurred, then it certainly is going to indirectly affect how they feel about dance, especially if there are no other boys to confide in.

 

I had a situation like this happen last year. This was not in his ballet class but in a little performing troupe of 5-8 year olds. An 8yo girl made a cruel, hurtful comment that had nothing to do with his participation in dance. This would have been one thing to deal with but to complicate matters, the teacher had paired him up with this girl in a routine to the song "You Got A Friend In Me" where they had to shake hands, hug, and leap frog and yes.... she got to jump over him (adding insult to injury, I'm sure). The teacher was totally oblivious to the larger underlying problem but could see some friction and resistance going on. I'm sure she was just passing it off as a typical "girls are icky" stage he was going through. But I was seeing the silent clues that something much bigger was wrong. We would get in the car after class and he'd be totally silent for at least 15 minutes - not like him at all. About the 3rd week after this noticable change in class and after, we got in the car and I gave him a little quiet time to himself and then asked "Is there something you would like to talk about?" Well, the floodgates opened. He broke down into tears and through all the sobbing I managed to put the little bits and pieces together to learn what this girl had said to him, that he hated her (but also felt guilty about hating someone since it's not his usual nature), that he was very frustrated thinking that he should have to like her in order to dance with her but couldn't like her, and that he had to accept her snooty, mean behavior (because he didn't have the experience on how to deal with this all by himself he figured he had to take the abuse) because miserable or not, he was not going to give up dancing because of her. whew! that sure was a lot of baggage for a little 6yo to be carrying around!!

 

So I let him get it all out of his system and then the first thing I said was "It's okay to hate her - you don't have to like her - you can hate her as much as you want!" He was kind of stunned by what I said at first but then we had a great discussion about how dancing often lets us express ourselves and how that can make us a great dancer. But also performing in dance can often involve "acting" and what makes a good dancer in that type of dance is being a good actor and being able to make your character convincing to the audience. That's part of being a professional dancer. He thinks it's so cool that he will get to lift the girls in ballet some day so we also took the opportunity to discuss the partnering relationships. I asked if he thought they always liked each other and he said "well, on stage they always look like they're probably in love". So we discussed that sometimes they really are in love, sometimes they might just be good friends, and sometimes they probably hate each other but do we know which is which? no, because while sometimes we are seeing their true expression on stage, there are other times we are seeing awesome professional dancers that are also good actors/actresses.

so then he said "so that's why i don't have to like her, i only have to pretend i like her during the dance, right?" I also let him know that if she said any more mean things that it was okay to tell her that he didn't like what she said but he wasn't going to let it bother him and ruin the dance. apparently, he did tell her this a couple of times which is another whole story.

 

Months after things appeared to be settled down and going much better, I figured all was now forgotten. They went to a competition and placed second. after sharing in all the excitement and congrats, he made me bend down to whisper in my ear, "Mom, it really does work!". Course I'm totally puzzled! "What works?", I asked. He said "The judges really did think we were all friends! But I do still hate her". oh my gosh, i couldn't believe my ears.

 

Sorry so long but I guess there are several important points here. I feel very lucky to have been able to see those silent clues. There were some very strong and long lasting emotions festering. Where would this have lead if I had not recognized it? I don't even want to think about it and pray that I never have to find out.

 

Someone mentioned that it was the responsibility of the teacher to resolve these types of issues. I agree and disagree. I agree that the teacher needs to address the problem and put a stop to children being hurt and the dynamics of the class being disrupted. She needs to have a respectful classroom otherwise she can not do what she is really there for which is teach dance. However, I do not feel it is ultimately the teacher's job to teach our kids values and respect in the classroom. Unfortunately too many parents drop their kids off at dance for the wrong reasons and then expect the teachers to parent them as well as teach them how to dance.

That mentality has also become prominent in the academic schools through the years and as we get conditioned to it, it's easy to accidently fall into the same trap for those who are dropping their kids off at dance for the right reasons. When it comes to teaching our kids such valuable life lessons, it's up to us as parents to be the teachers and their speciality teachers to uphold certain expectations while the kids are in their presence.

 

Most of all, teachers or parents can't be there every moment to witness or fix these types of situations as they happen. So when we do become aware, I don't think we can just provide the emotional support that they need to get through that particular incident. "I know she hurt your feelings, but just ignore her", just isn't enough. Our boys are so outnumbered and many spend lots of hours at the studio. They don't often have the luxury of a larger support system to confide in, even if they have acquired a few good female friends that they can talk to about "some" things. We need to provide the benefit of our wisdom, years of experience, and knowledge to help put it all in perspective so that they will be able to better deal with any similiar future situations on their own. So maybe the next time, instead of Mom having to pick up the pieces of a traumantically broken heart. our little guys will come to us about what happened boasting their solution because they were armed with the knowledge to be able to react with their head first, heart second. We should only let our feelings get hurt AFTER we understand the source that is attempting to inflict the hurt. Chances are, we might very well avoid the hurt entirely and discover it was really the source that is already hurting in their own way, or ignorant of what they speak, or jealous, or afraid.

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Guest PAmom
My son danced for 8 years and just stopped at nearly 15.

eridink,

I am so glad you took time to share a bit of your son's experiences here. Some of the parents reading this are newer to having a son in ballet but some have been involved for years. If you have the time, I am hoping you could share a little more on how you supported your son as he made the transition out of dance and how the process effected you too.

 

Just this morning I spoke to a mom I know whose son danced for 7 years and encouraged her to share her point of view for others on this forum. She immediately choked up and said that she honestly couldn't even read the topics because it was too painful for her. She loved watching her son dance in class and performances and had a huge network of friends at the ballet studio. He was and is a good ballet dancer, last dancing at School of American Ballet summer 2003 (WHOLE other topic as to why a guy might quit after that). Their lives were immersed in ballet and the transition out has been hard to put it mildly.

 

I know in my heart of hearts that other families who are (or will be) dealing with the same issues of emotionally supporting their son through the decision of quitting dance will read this. My hope is that from our large pool of experiences that we have, we can share how to cope for those who need it.

 

I currently have no direct experience with anything other than my son's occasional slump and supporting him through that. Quitting ballet, even during his most serious injuries, has never been an option with him, "Mom, even if I couldn't walk, I will ALWAYS find a way to dance."

 

t :D

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eridink

PAmom --

 

For us, it was not too difficult to see our son stop dancing-- as I said in my previous post though, my son is not a gifted dancer. This point was clear from pretty early on, and although he enjoyed dancing, he never excelled. It became evident for us that when the reason he chose dancing over other activities (the opportunity to perform) was no longer a draw to him (he quit that a couple of years ago) that soon dance would not be a choice of a lesuire time activity either. We would have preferred for him to continue for the exercise and the exposure to the great folks in our dance community. We encouraged him to continue and he looked surprised when he realized we weren't going to insist that he do so. :D

 

We do have a very gifted daughter who is very dedicated. We supported our son through his choice to dance and I know exactly how I would feel if my son had felt the passion for the art that my daughter feels. It would be a very difficult choice to watch him make if he had felt that level of dedication because I am sure that it would have been a very painful choice to make. All I can say is that my kids have to learn to make their decisions and that I can only help them see all of the angles.

 

I hope for my son that he finds something else that he has half the passion for that my daughter feels for dancing.

 

The agony of making a decision to stop something that is a passion is a great thing to have given the alternative of never having had a passion at all.

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Babsaroo

I'm not the parent of a boy dancer but I am the mom of my dancing DD and her non-dancing twin brother.

 

Since my children were young, we have impressed the importance and value of male dancers in ballet. We want our children to recognize the gifts, skill and talent of boys/men and how the art of ballet would suffer without them.

 

Our conversations and lessons of life have seemed to work. My children have genuine respect for the art and for the dancer whether male or female.

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Guest prism
Our conversations and lessons of life have seemed to work. My children have genuine respect for the art and for the dancer whether male or female.

:D This is so wonderful! Someday he might have a friend who is a dancer and he will respect their passion for the art. Or he might be a Daddy with a girl or boy dancer and will understand it's not just a frivolous whim.

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Guest LightingDesigner

I'm new here, but, as I am the parent of a ballet boy I thought I'd add my 2 cents. My son is nine and has been dancing since he was three. His mother founded and ran, until last month, the school he attended, so it was "all in the family" as it were. He loves to dance and is very musical. We have told him from the beginning that he doesn't have to take ballet just because his mom teaches, but, he has always wanted to continue. We always tell him that he can be whatever he wants to be and go as far as his interest and abilities will take him, wherever that may be. I think this is the key to any child pursuing something outside of the regular, traditional activities, unqualified support and encouragement.

 

With both his mother and I making our living in the performing arts, he was probably in more theatres before he was two than most people are during a lifetime. He has appreciated from day one, just how much work and determination goes into that seemingly effortless performance up on the stage. He has encouraged all of his friends and teachers to come to see him perform in The Nutcracker and other ballets, and for many of them, it was the first ballet they had ever seen. I believe that it went a long way to dissipate the dancer stereotype, when they could actually see how much effort he put into his performance. He knows, and tells his friends, that ballet is just as difficult as soccer (which he plays twice a week), if not more so. He is fearless both on stage and on the soccer field. Once, after a bully had tried to make fun of his dancing, he came home and told my wife about it. She told him that he could tell his friends that she was making him go to class if he wanted that as an "out". He looked her straight in the eye and said "No, Mom, I told him that I took ballet because I liked it!" The bully never bothered him again. I guess the real test was, when my wife retired from teaching, we asked him if he wanted to continue his ballet with the new teacher and he said yes!

 

Will he become a professional dancer? No. He is not developing the body for it. Will his self confidence be strengthened for the rest of his life by his ballet training? Absolutely Yes! He truly believes that he can be whatever he wants to be, regardless of what is "popular" or what "everyone else" thinks. This is one of the most important gifts that his mother and I have been able to give him and ballet has been a vehicle for that. We are very proud of him and believe that the sky is the limit, wherever he goes. If he ever becomes a "ballet dad", I'm sure he will carry on that tradition.

Edited by LightingDesigner

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Guest BalletAuthor

I currently have no direct experience with anything other than my son's occasional slump and supporting him through that. Quitting ballet, even during his most serious injuries, has never been an option with him, "Mom, even if I couldn't walk, I will ALWAYS find a way to dance."

 

Kids (both sons and daughters) quit ballet every day and although it is reasonable (and probably necessary given the extreme scarcity of professional jobs) it is a very difficult and painful thing...(I often find two things at work here: 1) that every one knows that the child has "mentally" quit before they actually physically walk out the door-EXCEPT the parents and 2) the parents are often far sadder about having a child quit ballet than the child is about having quit him/herself.

 

Ballet, almost more than any other "kid" activity takes an enormous amount of parental investment (how often is some child who wants to dance living accidentally within walking distance of SAB whereas most kids can play on a soccer team [by way of example only] at their academic school or community rec center?) For us parents of ds's it is worse, I think, since for as long as they dance we are having to lend so much extra support (given the societal stereotypes, name calling, etc.) as well as our time (driving, sewing shoes, doing ballet-related volunteering, etc.) which, of course, parents of ds's also invest.

 

If you have spent 7 years driving, supporting, helping a child to dance and they decide to stop it can be devastating for a parent, given the level of investment (not necessarily financial) and sacrifice ($, time, attention) he/she has had to make.

 

I know, I had one quit when he was 13 and in my family it still raises issues between my ds and his brother. Truthfully, it still raises issues for me, but even at the time I knew that that child had made the right decision for himself as regards ballet ("inappropriate" body, lack of musicality, etc. Unfortunately, he has made other decisions I am not as pleased about...so what's new? :rolleyes: )

 

To this day, he swears that the very BEST thing I have ever done for him is allowing him not to attend high school. I think this is sad and I sometimes wonder what it will be like when he has no class reunion to attend, etc. But since he attended a large pre-professional academy, there were lots of guys and he remains "best" friends with the same four men he was friends with when they were boys in the school. (Something must have gone right, they are all professional ballet dancers and I am as proud of each of them as I am of my own ds :angry: ! So I suppose when they reminisce they'll just talk about class and their teachers and the girls since none of them went to high school.. although by now at least most have gotten their diplomas!

 

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Guest prism

Welcome LightingDesigner! Thanks for sharing your experience and inspiring story about your son. I look forward to reading more! Has your son started with his new teacher?

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Guest LightingDesigner

Hi Prism. Thanks for the welcome. My son hasen't started with the new teacher yet as we are all still going through the transition with the change over at the school. I expect it will all shake out in he near future.

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