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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Social isolation for student w/non dancing peers


Guest fille'smom

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Guest fille'smom

My 13 year old daughter has focused her heart, mind and body on ballet for several years. Homeschooling allowed her to spend more time than most on her passion. This year she decided to try school. I think that she was hoping to make some new friends as we were new to the area. Yesterday a girl at school told her that she "talks too much about ballet". Dear daughter says that she wishes she had more in common with them but "all that they talk about is boys". She would never give up a ballet class to go to a football game or dance! We face another relocation soon. My inclination is to encourage her to homeschool again. Why spend that much time at school every day when you have so little in common with the other girls. Homework at night and getting up early makes for a tired girl which often leads to a crying dancer. Any advice? I can take it. :(

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Your daughter is a lucky girl to have such a supportive mom!

 

At this age, as you know, social issues become quite pronounced. In my experience, actually, they start a bit earlier and never quite go away....

 

I think school is a good place for young people to learn the ups and downs of social relationships. These are often uncomfortable lessons, but important nonetheless. I don't believe you can replicate them in a typical homeschooling situation or in the ballet studio.

 

The situation you mentioned is not atypical. A number of dancers your daughters age would have similar experiences. I don't know that this is a reason to keep her out of the local school, however...one of these days she'll need to navigate these things (at college, or away at a Summer Intensive, etc.).

 

Most of us here encourage our children to dance or pursue other activities because we understand how this enriches their lives. Not all kids are this lucky. It's quite possible, for example, that your daughter's school chum would like to be able to dance, but family won't allow, can't afford, or so forth. On the other hand, perhaps in fact this girl doesn't like dance and doesn't understand your daughter's passion. That's fine too... The interest in boys will not go away in this age group, and I can assure you that it does in fact affect dancers as well as non-dancers.

 

Kids vary so much in their approach to friendships; the best thing that we can do as parents is to love them, let them experience things and not try to save them too much (ok so the last part I've learned the hard way).

 

All the best!

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I have mixed feelings about this topic. I think that many 13-year olds, in general, can be dismissive of others' accomplishments and generally unaware of the results of their words. There's a lot of tunnel vision that occurs in such kids and in fact, what you describe of your daughter's situation would indicate a bit of a tunnel vision on the part of both kids.

 

That changes, though, as they get a little bit older. So I wouldn't want to give up on a high school social life so readily because there's so much good that can come out of it too.

 

Through middle school, my daughter had a couple classmates that also danced and her middle school was one that really celebrates the arts so she had lots of opportunity to freely acknowledge and be supported in her own interest in dance. But she also had good friends who weren't dancers and in fact one of them is, to this day at age 17, still her best friend although on the surface they have very little in common. What they share is passionate interest - her friend in sports, my daughter in dance - and they support each other's ventures wholeheartedly. It's been the very best kind of friendship.

 

When my daughter reached high school, she no longer had dancing classmates and yet she's a member of a really solid loyal social group. Although she leaves school the moment classes are over each day, she's still managed to have a normal high school experience. She found a group of kids who are all passionate about something - and who all recognize that same passion in their friends. Sometimes one or another will tease her about her ballet life, she'll tease them back about their interests. But each one of them will do everything possible to attend events that matter to anyone in the group, even while they themselves aren't interested.

 

I think it's a sign of maturity to support the loves of a friend even while not sharing in the very same passion. It's a process I'd want to allow to flower and so I'd be willing to allow some of those bumps along the road towards it, at least for a little while.

 

As a teacher, I've had quite a number of homeschooled kids begin attending our school and I've seen how one year is a very short time in acclimatizing them to school life, especially during the middle school years. Because those years are so difficult, I might actually prefer to wait them out and continue homeschooling, but send my child to the high school. At that point, kids are more ready to celebrate each other's achievements.

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Guest samba38

Whether you home school or enroll her in public school, make every effort to keep her mind open to other people, other interests. Ballet may indeed be the focus of her life for decades to come -- in school and on stage. Or not. There are all kinds of pitfalls and teens who have some non-dancing friends and non-dancing interests as well may find there are webs of support -- even enjoyment -- outside a studio. So keep up the music lessons or family camping trips or poster collection of ice-skaters or whatever. Tunnel vision worked for me in my life and career choices -- I'm doing at 53 what I planned to do since I was 9 -- but I don't recommend such a narrow life. It's risky and sometimes lonely. And I can tell you my daughter became a happier dancer when dance was no longer the center of her social life.

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balletshuttle

Fille'smom,

 

As a homeschool mom myself I know the emotional struggle you are going through. We only want the very best for our kids and it's so hard to know what that is sometimes. My oldest daughter is graduating (from homeschool) this year and she has never felt that she was lacking any social skills as a result of not being in the school system. She is a well adjusted, well liked, very friendly and independent person, ready to leave home and fulfill her dreams.

That said, my other two children will be entering schools for the first time in the fall. My son 14, wants to continue playing sports and that is only available through the schools for high school age kids. My youngest daughter, 12 is a dancer. We have all the concerns you mentioned about time, and homework, but I must agree with Samba38 that she must have other interests. Whether it is a great book she read or a music group, she must learn to engage others in things that interest them as well as her own interests. This comes with maturity and practice, not necessarily in school.

In a nutshell, I would say, make your decision based on what is best for her accademicly (sp?) and whether she is in school or at home, make sure she is exposed to lots of ideas and all kinds of people.

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My 12 year old daughter attends PS. The majority of her school friends do not support or understand her dedication to ballet. She has just learned not to talk about it at school. Her true friends are her ballet friends. I have often wondered if this was because they are the same type of kids- confident, motivated and dedicated. It seems to me that ballet attracts a certain type of person. What has helped her at school is that she is in advanced classes. This has decreased some of the pressure to conform into the popular group.

 

What was really interesting to me is that when a teacher announced that she had been accepted into a great summer intensive (in our state) that many of the students in her classes clapped and cheered. She said that people kept coming up to her in the hall and congratulating her. We would have never thought that would have happened. There are supportive people after all!

It sounds like your daughter just ran into a negative person like someone else commented on.

 

 

She still goes to activities with her school friends- but never has understood their desire to stay up all night at slumber parties, and talking about boys etc., We try to get her to parties (usually she attends for part of the time because she has rehearsal the next day)

 

In some ways I am sad that she does not have the desire to do the normal teenage things (this may change in the future) But then on the other hand I am glad that she knows who she is as a person and what is important to her. I wish that I had been as confident of myself at her age.

 

I can see how you would want to HS her again instead of putting her back into a school setting. But you never know she might have a wonderful experience at school. Then you would always have the opportunity to take her out and HS if it didn't work.

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Fille'smom, you've written that you "face another relocation soon" - that in itself can cause stress and strain. Have you done some research into the different kinds of schools available in your new location? Is there a public, or private, school there or within an hour or so?

 

I have no experience with homeschooling - don't have the personality for it or the knowledge! ;)

 

Perhaps there is a school in area you're moving to that might offer a more arts oriented atmosphere, or a more progressive curriculum? If you're moving to Cincinnati, I can't help but wonder if the conservatory there might not have some suggestions? Just a thought.

 

Meanwhile, no matter where you daughter goes to school or work, sadly, there will always be unpleasant narrow minded people...even in the ballet world!:eek: Ballet is a small and wonderful world - but the innate competition as one gets older can leave someone rudderless if that's all there is - and it doesn't work out to become their dream profession. All of this is so easy to write - and often much harder to figure out. :)

 

Please keep us posted.

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Fille'smom, I have no answers for you, but another question ;) : When your daughter is hanging out with her dancing friends what do they talk about? Are a number of subjects covered (some light and trivial...) or is it all 'feet, pirouettes, classroom gossip'? If the subject nevers strays from ballet, then I would be more concerned (though this may change in a new studio environment. No one wants to raise fragile, hothouse flowers...

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Fille's mom - my son, a dancer, attends a middle school with a great music program where he plays the flute in the Gr. 8 Concert Band. This has provided another interest and disciplined activity outside of dance. Most of his male classmates have nothing in common with him, but they do congratulate him on his successes, and their acheivements are likewise celebrated. Many of his classmates are very passionate and very involved in sports, music, etc. This passion is shared between them and talked about by his friends. Not all of his conversation revolves around dance, he likes music, films, fashion, design.

 

Being a member of the band has given him an appreciation of working as a group, and developed in him a love of music. The band is taking a week long trip in June to Newfoundland, Canada's most eastern province, where he will be billeted with a local family and playing in various communities, etc. So attending school does have benefits, it is a wonderful melting pot of interests and personalities and only reflects what will greet them when they finish high school.

 

I do think however, that dancers, especially those who have been away at SI, develop a certain degree of maturity at an early age and then find middle school difficult. I know my son can't wait for high school and right now attends as many dances there as he can. I try to keep his life as normal as possible, since he has missed out on so much teenage stuff by dancing every day at the studio.

 

I would find a good middle school with a strong arts program in your new location. The teachers and administration will be supportive of your daughter's dancing, time off for exams, rehearsals, etc and the students will be supportive as well - (hopefully!).

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Guest fille'smom

Last night after reading someone's post about their child attending a performing arts school I discovered that there is one in Cincinnati too! Wouldn't it be great if that worked out for my daughter? Then the kids at school would have the same focus! She must audition to get in - next weekend! Also I am wondering if attending this sort of school will work well with attending a private studio after school hours or do kids who go to these schools not go after hours to continue training?

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That is good news Fille's mom! Best of luck to your dancer!

 

In terms of training, I know a few students up here in Canada who attend arts schools (high schools though). Most of them seem to augment their training elsewhere (dance, music, etc.)...although this is not always possible. I suppose the student and family would have to look at overall goals post-secondary, family finances and schedule, and plan accordingly.

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Guest Vicarmac

Generally kids that are serious about training go to ballet school outside of a performing arts school.

In fact I find it heartbreaking that the one we have here for years has discouraged kids from doing so and yet did not prepare students for anything past high school. Misleading is too gentle a term of what has gone on here.

They do now take them on a trip where they can audition for college and other SIs but usually only the ones augmenting their training get anywhere.

People are surprised that my daughter has no interest in going to ours. But it offers so little in real dance why bother. It seems to be better for music and drama, and visual arts.

I am in no way saying all arts or performing arts high schools are the same. And I blame the head of the one here, who has a very wierd attitude in general. A few years ago a group I worked with had Patricia McBride here for a master class workshop. We offered this gal to let some of her students come free or better yet send her to the school. She shrugged her shoulders and said she only had a couple of students "good" enough! Which wasn't even the point of offering it in the first place.

So do your homework and make sure the school in Cincy is open to outside training etc. And how much it might conflict when they have after school rehearsals and so on.

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Guest hmangian

As the mother of a dancer who attends public school, I can tell you that the days are very long and the homework load is tough. I can also say the the rich diversity of life in a public school has been very important. There have been special teachers who sparked interest in science and writing. She has a group of close friends from the studio, but also a very close group from school. Truthfully many of these friends have been made over the years. I think that moving about is very hard. It takes a bit of time to adjust to new situations - don't give up too early!

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driver of a dancer

A humbling statement by my gal yesterday. Had "free afternoon" so some errands needed to be done. DD needed a dress for many occasions up coming. As we walked thru the mall she pointed out that we had not been "shopping" since pre- Nutcracker. "Mom most of the girls in school go to this mall every weekend, and some also during the week." "What shallow lives they live....for clothes, that is their happiness."

While waiting for her to come out of the fitting room I hear another mom and gal, this gal "needed" this and that.

I do think with the cost of pointe shoes, tights, ballet classes etc. Dancing has taught my gal that the same dress will do for many occasions and yes even where some people will have seen her in it before. I over heard the other gal saying to the mom I can't wear that dress to both functions as they would have seen me in it at function A first.

On the home school issue. I have met many in this group and I can say that it really is really up to how the family approaches the subject. I know both sides. A lovely young man who was very "rounded" in all aspects of life and changed my husbands idea of a home school person as he has met mostly the other end....not knowing how to act in social situations, treat others etc. On that note my daughter has said of the home school gals she knows: "they will never know the pressure of having to have projects due, grades to keep up, deadlines, juggling multiple tasks and all during Nutcracker."

I do think it has prepared her how to navigate thru life. She does know that she can't sleep in as she hears some of these girls saying she has school to answer to.

I do think she is preparing for life.

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Guest E's mom

I wanted to mention a possible compromise between homeschooling and public school. We have just started our daughter in an independent study school that involves attending school two days a week (teaching is one-on-one with the student) with relatively heavy homework (called "assessments"). This leaves the rest of the week open for some dance classes during the day, as well as a fresher dancer for the daily evening ballet classes. The school also provides social activities, such field trips and dances, as well as small group classes for some subjects, like science and foreign language.

 

The target population is any student that has a significant time committment outside of school or who would benefit from the condensed schedule. There are a number of kids heavily involved in the arts (dancing, theater, music), but also Olympic level athletes, kids who travel with their parents, and lots of kids that just do better with the individualized attention.

 

This school is in Seattle but I would be surprised if similar types of arrangements don't exist in other cities. One drawback -- it is a private school so it is expensive, but to give her the best chance at a professional career, our family has decided it is worth it.

 

You might want to investigate private schools in the area and see if there is something like this where you are moving.

 

E's mom

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