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Sports and Ballet: commitments to both?


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In another thread, Redstorm mentioned that her daughters bunion started while she was a skater, and her podiatrist said that skating and dance were the two worst activities a girl could choose. Well, these are my 6 year olds obsesssions! I was wondering if anyone else has an opinion of the possible impact of skating on dance training. I have heard it mentioned that skating teaches a different posture and different way of balancing which often carries over into ballet class. I have also heard that skaters don't spot their turns. I know skaters often take ballet to improve their performance, but I was wondering if skating would be negative for ballet. My daughter will be dancing 2x/week and skating 3x.

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My daughter skated competively until last year when she was 12. Her skating coach told her that it would not be wise to go on pointe if she still wanted to skate, because at that level, ballet and skating begin to work against each other. When my daughter decided to give up skating and devote her time to ballet, her ballet instructor told her she was glad to hear that because she was ready to put her on pointe, but hesitated since the skating would work against it! Because of several years spent in stiff skating boots, my daughter had to work hard to improve the flexibility of her feet. She has been on pointe now for one year, and has really taken to it. Most skaters take ballet to improve their musicality, carriage, and grace, but don't move into the more advanced level. At age 6 I'd say your daughter can enjoy both ballet and skating, but if she progresses in both, she will most likely have to make a decision as to which one to pursue more seriously. :unsure:

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Dancindaughters, to pick up where Amy's Mom left off:

At age 6 I'd say your daughter can enjoy both ballet and skating, but if she progresses in both, she will most likely have to make a decision as to which one to pursue more seriously. 


And that's OK. This brings up the larger issue of making choices when serious ballet study is among the list of pursuits. Age 12 (the average pointe readiness age) is exactly the age when your child, if she continues at more than one activity in-depth, will need to make the decision to specialize in one main pursuit.


It happens all the time. Ballet dancers who are also serious musicians at pre-pro schools nearly always have to decide at about age 12 which art they'll concentrate on. In the case of something like music, of course, they don't have to quit playing the instrument but the hours given to their pursuit of it will be minor as compared to ballet. Something "has to give" because there simply isn't enough time in the day to maintain everything at the top level. Sometimes ballet dancers find a way to pursue another art at a lesser degree. They might find one that doesn't require so much time but is complementary to the ballet world. This is also the age when kids who don't want to concentrate on ballet through high school, and perhaps beyond, choose to leave ballet in favor of something else or simply, and wonderfully , in favor of diversity :mondieu:


My daughter was a championship Irish dancer as well as a ballet student and a pianist who'd won Conservatory awards through the age of 13. She had to choose one of these 3 great loves of her life. It was too hard to juggle all 3 at a level that felt good to her. She hated the feeling of cutting corners and not giving her piano practice the daily 2 hours her teacher wanted from her at that stage and she simply couldn't physically dance Irish dance at the daily 2 hours IT would require in order to continue competing at the Open level. It didn't feel good to begin a lesson having not been well-prepared due to time constraints.


So she chose ballet, her first love. After a bit of a lull where she seemed to avoid the piano (maybe it hurt to give up the discipline of it?), she began playing for pleasure. During the "off season" from ballet, she likes to learn some new piano pieces and plays the old ones for enjoyment.


She does something similar with Irish dance. She still performs with the group (it's my husband's and my school), she assists classes when she's available, and she works for the business when ballet is on hiatus. But she doesn't compete at the top levels anymore because it requires an equal dedication as does ballet.


But I feel good that, by pursuing her 3 passions up to the age of about 13, she's got a solid base to return to in the future. She'll return in a different capacity due to her absence but she can still return with pleasure.


My daughter isn't exceptional in this regard. You will hear similar refrains from other parents and students because the group of kids who have such strong interests and the self-discipline to pursue them invariably are happily juggling more than one at a time throughout childhood. Some kids simply NEED to immerse themselves in more than one discipline. They're really capable and talented at lots of activities and take great joy at improving in all of them. The only problem they have is making the decision to give any of them up when they reach an age where specialization becomes a necessity. Ah, if only every person could have such a problem :unsure:

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:unsure: Here is just one more nod of agreement. I hope I am not being too bold to imagine that you might be interested in a ballet teacher's opinion. :mondieu:


At the age of six, of course, this should all be fun. Eventually, though, skating does affect one's ability to work at an advanced level in ballet. I've noticed in skating students - lack of flexibility, control, and strength in the feet. Skaters also simply are taught different alignment and focus in the entire body. They use muscles differently.


That said, I don't see why a six year old should give anything up. I agree that 12 or 13 is the age when sacrafices must be made if want wants to pursue ballet on a professional track. As long as she has been receiving competent ballet training until that time, she should be fine!

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I have extensive experience with skaters and there are several areas I can clarify:


First, the majority of bunions have a genetic base (i.e. there is a genetic predisposition). There are skaters and ballet dancers who are 'bunion-less' and there are 'normal' people with horrific bunions that must be dealt with surgically.


I do believe that there is a time that a young person must choose between skating and ballet (though serious skaters continue to take ballet, but not on the 'pro track'), but that time is usually right before the teen years and time has a way of making that decision for them (not enough jumps to be competitive in skating, or the 'pull' of ballet is so great....).


As with many things, so much depends on the quality of training; good skating technique with proper fitting of boots will not 'destroy' a young person's body for ballet before the time I mentioned and serious ballet training will not impede a skating career.


It is important to have any 'declaration' by a teacher or coach clarified; there is so much misinformation floating around. A skating coach who's only experience is with an 'old school' ballet teacher may harbor bad memories and a ballet teacher who feels 'threatened' that a potential star pupil may be lost may say things to 'tip the scales' in their favor...


I did have a student this year who came to the 'choosing' moment. It appears that while she continues to dance rather extensively, she has committed to skating. She is at a point where certain technical issues needed to be addressed in ballet, but she has chosen to commit more time to her skating. There is no assurance that she will be able to maintain profficiency into her teen years.

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Well, I'm both a former skater and dancer. I pursued both things equally until the third grade, where I had a tryout at the POB school (I'm french. Girls can enter there from 8 to 11 ). Since I was rejected I choose to concentrate on skating, and I did pretty well.


One of the major problems with skating is that you fall a lot, and that is not good for your ballet training. Then there are the problems of the feets, and also for skating you don't need the en dehors as in ballet.


And also, some off ice physical training required for skating isn't good for ballet, I think.


I hope that help, and don't forget that the only important thing is that your daughter enjoys what she's doing !

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Thanks for the replies! It sounds like my daughter has a few years before she needs to choose, so that is great! She's too young now to make the decision to give up one passion for another. Certainly, she has enough timein the week to do both at this stage. Pointe is many years in the future, but I worry about those lovely little arched feet being somehow damaged by the skates. She will be skating in excellent quality, professionally fitted skates, so I hope that helps!

I wasn't too worried about her doing both activities until one of the dance teachers said that another student who is about 10 will have to make some choices as skating is causing problems with her pirouettes and her arabesque line. This particular girl is especially talented in ballet, though, and its quite possible that the teacher just doesn't want to lose her to skating! It is so true that students who excell in dance often also have talent for sports or music.

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One of the biggest problems my daughter had to overcome when finally leaving skating was the rolling of the feet. Skaters have to roll to control the edges on their skates. My dd ballet teacher would have fits when my daughter would roll at the barre. It has taken a lot of hard work and no skates to fix that problem.

I really wouldn't worry at this age about decision making. My daughter was young when she had to choose. She was on the very fast track in skating....working on double axels at 10, not to mention having all her doubles at that age too. It is a tough and very competitive sport. If a competitive career is your childs goal, then plan on a lot of time at the rink, A LOT of money and tons of tears! But if you are just enjoying the sport and not in it for the competitions, then relax and do both.

As far as the boots and bunions....not all bunions are heriditary. The way that skating boots fit at the higher levels, are snug. There shouldn't be any extra room in there for the foot to move around. The toes are pointed too. Not dramatically, but they do go in. The constant pressure can cause bunions and other foot problems. The type of boot is definetely important, but does not guarantee foot free problems. My daughters last pair of skates were custom made for her foot and cost $800 not including the phantom blades that run about $200. The boots generally last about a year, if you are lucky.

I believe that ballet enhances the skater....but skating does not enhance the dancer. Quite the contrary...skating is not recommended for the serious dancer.

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Well, I certainly don't want to take this all the way into the 'skating world', but the new 'heat moldable' boot technology looks to positively impact some of the foot problems. These boots are much lighter and the skater gets a 'custom' fit in a 'stock' boot. The issue of rolling (pronating) is valid and unfortunately exacerbated by the lack of school figures and the expectation of the jumps. But I have worked with many skaters who have beautifullly arched feet inside those boots; feet any ballerina would envy. Again, I would just say to remain vigiliant and keep a keen ear to what your daughter is saying, in words and actions and you will know the path that is correct for her.

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Guest Legal Legs

How I wish we could get the beautiful Katherine Healey to read these posts and respond! Is there anyone in history who has better mastered both ballet and skating? And yes, while she did, eventually choose, for a time, to switch entirely to ballet, she was able, years later, to return to and perform on the ice in such a way as to make even Dick Button gasp. I don't know why her appearances are so rare, however. The last time I saw her skate was in a winter special put together by Ekaterina Gordeeva, two or three years ago. What an incredible talent -- and she managed to earn an Ivy League degree and star in a wonderful dance-theme movie, to boot.



Fellow skaters out there, can any of you shed any further light on what Ms. Healey is currently doing?

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Ms. Healy is coaching on the east coast. She married an ice skating coach. We spent many years together in David Howard's class and I agree she was one of the few to do both successfully (though her lack of high level jumps eventually 'cost' her in competititve skating...).

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Oh? I thought it was her weak school figures, which were still compulsory when she was competing. Still, she would have a unique take on balancing the two.

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The jumps may not have been high, but they looked like they came out of nowhere -- as if someone just plucked her up, gently spun her around, and just as gently set her down.


Lucinda Ruh's jumps are much the same to me. But who would care if she never jumped again, with those superhuman spins and incredible shapes, and the beautiful line from a skater who is actually the size of a real woman.

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  • 4 weeks later...
Guest MissInga

I may be over-reacting, but my daughter has decided "she's always wanted to play soccer..." She's in her second year of pointe and still "loves ballet." What's the deal with soccer? I've never played a team sport, so I really am clueless. At the first practice the coach was talking about "at this age (12) they really start getting aggressive" and "It's common at (all-star) games we carry players off the field on stretchers......" Now, I know he's trying to "scare" off those who aren't serious, (and I for one definitely am one of them), but my daughter......I understand the importance of learning to play on a team and ballet doesn't teach some of these skills, but are we heading straight into a huge possibility of an injury?.....I've asked her to make a choice, and she chose ballet, but should I pull her out of soccer after 2 weeks? Anybody out there juggling these two seemingly unrelated sports?

Thanks for your help!!!!

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First ballet isn't a sport, it's an art. Second, lose the soccer, or any game which involves kicking an object (or an opposing player) and lots of running.

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