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Ballet Talk for Dancers
Sunny

Just waiting for heartbreak

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Sunny

First post here, so I hope some of you experienced parents can help!  My DD is at the point in her dance career (she's been doing ballet for 8 years as her main activity) where she has to audition for the professional high school programs. She's been at the same school the whole time and I don't think she has gotten good training. I'm not a dancer, and have no dance background so I didn't really start worrying about it until last year, which is when I started to become aware there might be an issue (of course this was after we had signed her up and paid for this year!).  My DD is obsessed with dance, but does NOT have a 'dancer's body'. She went through puberty this year (she's almost 13) and has a lovely body for anything but ballet:  i.e., bust way to large, hips, etc. She isn't overweight, but very muscular and frankly looks like a giant in her dance class!  She has never gotten support from her school.  For 4 years, I have asked her teachers every year: "DD is willing to do work outside of class at home, please assign her stretching/exercises if there are areas you feel she needs work in". Nothing. So she's been to see lots of people outside of the school to try to help with her (not natural) flexibility, etc., and has seen a dance PT (used by the professional companies) who said her joint mobility is fine and has given her lots of extra work (she does an hour a day outside of her 3 hour daily ballet), and never complains or has to be reminded.  Then, last year (the first year they had to audition), they called us in (just the parents) and said "we will let her do our advanced program and then she will be out".  Again after this year's audition, the same thing. They basically will allow her to continue, but they don't support or appreciate her in any way.  She's auditioned for SIs but has only gotten into the ones that basically everyone gets into. 

The kids in the class at her school are great, really nice group, but DD and about 3 other kids are the only really seriously focussed kids.  IMHO, DD does NOT have the ability to become a professional dancer (what she says she wants), but she is willing to work as hard as humanly possible.  What do I do? The school wants to put her in the recreational program, which she has already said she would rather leave the school than do. There's no guarantee that we can find another 'professional' style school willing to take her, though probably we could with a massively long commute.  I think the recreational dancing would be a better fit for her ability level, but not for her desire and motivation.  What should we do?  Try to find another school? Try to push her to go into the recreational level? Make the school tell her no themselves so they can break her heart?  I'm not sure there are any right answers. 

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ballet1310

Hi Sunny,  reading this, I can feel how emotional this is for you... Is there a way to have a conversation with your daughter about a future in ballet ?  If it is your opinion that she may not be suited to ballet as a profession ,maybe you can have that talk and have her continue it recreationally . I saw this happen to dancers at my dd's first studio when they started to realize ballet might not be a viable option, some of them quit but others choose to do modern, still others kept at it and enjoyed it through high school.   I would just have an honest talk... and if she wants to go to the SI's she got into, let her go and enjoy.  I wouldn't stay at an unsupportive school - even recreationally - it can really kill the joy of dancing for some.  So to sum up ... an honest talk about how far she wants to take ballet. Hope this helps.

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Sunny

Thank you ballet1310!  We have had that conversation, and of course she can see she is not the dancer body-type, and she knows she has to do all this extra work, and she knows that the school has said she wouldn't be able to continue in the professional program past about 9th or 10th grade. Most of our conversations with her have been about focussing on the journey, not the goal. That nobody ever knows what they will 'get' at the end, whatever task they undertake, and that professional dancer (or rock star!) is basically an almost impossible goal, i.e. a very low chance of 'making it' but that doesn't mean the journey can't be a success in and of itself. Also, that because there is no guarantee of the goal, that it HAS to be about the journey and the process, you have to LOVE what you are doing, and that is all you have control over, because you won't get a yes from most auditions, especially the higher you go.  I sort of feel that it's like every kid who says they want to be a professional soccer player or basketball player or whatever, that it IS a fantasy (and maybe on some level they know that), and that is okay at their age I think, and I have a feeling she will come to the conclusion on her own over the next few years (I can sort of glean from other posts that this is something others have experienced). At least, this is what I hope. I think the final sentence you say is the conclusion that I'm coming to: an unsupportive school is not a good idea, no matter what.

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DanceDaddy

An unsupportive school! Forget them. Move on.

My daughter saw this poster at a swim clinic this weekend and said we need to use it (it's not about swimming)..."Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn't work hard". From everything you've said, your daughter does the work. It's clearly not appreciated.

And here's the thing... so few really "make it". But, might she take all she learned from ballet and be able to perform? Musical Theater, Back ground dancer, Modern/Contemporary, etc.

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DoubtfulGuest

I completely agree with DanceDaddy. If a kid is motivated, it is the school's duty to support her, or be straight with you that they can't offer what she would need/is looking for. We had really different details when DD10 left her childhood studio last year, but that's what it boiled down to.

At 12 -- I think you can't know what her body is really going to be. Our new studio's (Vaganova) training lengthens everyone out. The longer they stay, the longer their muscles. Regardless of her future (oh, for the crystal ball!) I think the real job is to find her a place where she feels challenged and supported -- and that applies whether she's on a professional track or not. I'm only a parent, but doing Recreational at a school that doesn't believe in even trying to help her be everything she can be... sounds like a bad fit? 

By the way, your daughter's drive and work ethic sound amazing -- all the best to you both!

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ballet1310

Hi Sunny , That's great that you talk about it all ! Yes, the journey is the best part and you have no idea when you will end up  (even if it seems impossible,nothing is impossible)   So have her find a school that she loves to dance at and go from there !!  Or... if she wants to stay in the professional program, and they start to be supportive, she can stay and prove them wrong .

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DanceDaddy

on a side note... I'm glad someone mentioned "dancer's body" which kinda seems taboo on the board. My daughter is tall and solid (not overweight). But, she's young! So let's see what happens after puberty. For now, we concentrate on learning healthy eating habits, exercising, and loving dance!

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dancemaven
Quote

If a kid is motivated, it is the school's duty to support her, or be straight with you that they can't offer what she would need/is looking for. 

But isn’t this what the school IS doing? That is, telling you that they can’t offer her what she is looking for. 

We parents often say we want the straight scoop, but then don’t really want to hear it if it isn’t what we want to hear. 

I totally agree the your DD derserves to get the best training you can find for her and that includes an environment that can be supportive of her, her abilities, and her potential—whatever that may be.  This school is telling you they are not it.  I would find another school.  They do exist. But I wouldn’t fault this school as being unsupportive.  It just has a different mission than what your DD needs at this point in her training. 

Best wishes!

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Jennsnoopy

Hi Sunny,

i am not versed in ballet, I just have a 13 year old DD who dances and loves ballet. Last year I came on this forum with a dance crisis. My DD was not learning much at her studio and her former studio owner told her she lacked dance talent and to stay recreational and to not push for more. This almost made my daughter quit dance. The knowledgeable folks on here told me if she wants to dance that badly to find the best pre pro program around. The place she was at was NOT very good but I did not know that at the time I enrolled her in that studio. I worried based on the “lack of talent” comment she would flounder in a more rigorous environment but I decided to follow the advice here and I researched, found a great pre pro program, spoke to that director and enrolled her in a  few “trial” classes. My daughter LOVED it. She now takes classes there. She is thriving and I cannot believe her progress. Its amazing. The other school did not know how to teach. 

My suggestion is to look for a really good school that knows how to truly teach dance. Even if in the end your DD doesn’t go pro, she will feel she got to follow her artistic dream. 

Best of luck. 

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Lady Elle

X - sorry, I don't have a dancer under 13! 

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Tonia22

Agree with DanceDaddy on this one. I would move on! My dd went through early puberty too but I am still very supportive of her love of classical ballet. Who knows what her body will do in a couple of years. Keep on dancing :) And as far as the SIs that everyone gets into... let her go to one maybe? Who knows, it might be a good thing!

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Sunny

thank you DanceDaddy for that...as a new person I don't know what's 'allowed' or not!  And I appreciate all your comments. Especially the quote, which I think is so applicable to basically every arena in life.  Thank you parents all so much for your stories and your supportive feedback, it really helps to hear that other kids have been through the same thing, especially that their bodies will still change as they continue to hone their skill and keep working.  She will definitely do one of the intensives as she really wants to and I'm sure it'll be fun (summer camp!).  I think she just needs to be in an environment where they WANT her as a student, wherever that may be, so I'll have to find that for her.  It really does help to hear all the different info from you all (since I really know next to nothing about ballet), so I truly thank you all for taking the time to share your stories and give feedback! 

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Fraildove

Hi Sunny,

Im so glad that you have found this board! There is such a wealth of information and wonderful teachers, parents, young dancers etc here to let you know you aren’t alone on this crazy journey. It sounds like your daughter truly loves ballet and has a real passion for it. No matter what her future holds, find her somewhere that will nurture that passion as soon as you can. Most dancers will never become a professional dancer, but the lessons they learn in the studio and on stage will aid them in nearly anything the end up doing, not to mention that they can continue to love watching other companies and hopefully supporting the arts. Then again, you really never know what might happen. I’m a perfect example of that.

I am now a teacher who was lucky enough to have had a professional ballet career (where I met my husband at ncedentaly, and we are now raising a son who is totally obsessed with ballet. That can be rare having two parents in the profession). But my journey almost never started, and even after it did the cards were so stacked against me it makes me even now to believe that miracles happen. I was diagnosed with a severe autoimmune disease at age 6. I spent a year in a wheelchair, which most of the specialists all over the country thought that I would never get out of. I did. My parents took me to see a performance of The Sleeping Beauty when I had just turned 9 and I made up my mind right then that I was going to grow up and dance Aurora. I convinced them and my doctor to let me start ballet classes. They were thinking it would be good physical therapy to help with the limp and what was thought to be a permanently impaired hip, and I just saw it as the first step. I was very determined, and very, very stubborn. I never accepted others telling me what my physical limits were because I felt that it was up to me to set and push those same limits. Slowest, and if I’m honest painfully as well, I worked. Hard. I was incredibly lucky my parents, who have no background in any form of dance, sought out the best teacher they could find, and she was willing to work with me. Fast forward 13 years later and it was The Sleeping Beauty that brought my husband and me together, dancing the role of Aurora and Desire. I know this sounds like a fairy tale, and there were a lot of ogres along the way that tried very hard to say that what I wanted was impossible. And it really should have been. But I was very blessed. It was eventually the disease that forced me to retire at 29 having had the career that I’d dreamed of and lasting much longer than even I anticipated. Passion has a strange way of helping sometimes.

 

As a teacher now there have been been so many times that I’ve seen the dancer that no one really thinks will make it keep their head down and outlast all those young phenoms that fall by the wayside. If your child loves what she is doing, it may or may not turn out like that for her, but I can guarantee it won’t if she isn’t getting the best training possible and if she doesn’t try for as long as she needs to. By her late teens, she will know and accept if it’s in the stars for her as well, often times before that. But until she does, just support her and help her as much as you can. I have no idea of your daughter has the talent or not to make it professionally, but in the end, whatever the outcome, she will have fulfilled what she needed to do. 

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Eligus

Fraildove,

That was a lovely post, and it gave me a sense of peace this morning.  Thank you for sharing your journey.  I'm not sure why it is so difficult to keep that perspective of things turning out the way they are meant to be, but I struggle with that faith on a regular basis.  So, again, thank you for the reminder that there is joy and benefit in the struggle of the journey, not just in the destination.

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Sunny

Fraildove, I thought I had already thanked you for that beautiful post, but I must've somehow deleted my reply!!  Your story is so inspiring, not just on a ballet level, but on a level as a story of effort and belief in yourself.  I too have seen (in other fields) the young phenoms drop away while the person who was overlooked, who toiled out of pure love and dedication have their gifts come to the fore. What you said here seems to be the absolute crux of the matter:

On 2018-01-30 at 10:20 PM, Fraildove said:

If your child loves what she is doing, it may or may not turn out like that for her, but I can guarantee it won’t if she isn’t getting the best training possible and if she doesn’t try for as long as she needs to.

She loves what she is doing and we need to support her to try as long as SHE needs to. Not as long as WE want her to, or any teacher or school wants her too or thinks she needs to.  And we need to find a school who will support her in this journey, who will want to help her see how good she can be, who will believe in the effort she's willing to bring and help her as much as they can, not a school where her potential is already defined. That was an absolutely beautiful post, thank you so much for sharing the wisdom you've acquired from your journey. 

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