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Rejection and the effects on a young dancer


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My daughter loves all forms of dance. In addition to ballet, she is a member of a hip hop/break dancing group ages 10 - 17. Recently some the younger ones were invited to audition for a professional job. There were about 100 dancers. They eliminated dancers in about three rounds until there were about twenty left. They told the remaining twenty that they would notify them by phone. My daughter and one of her friends were among the twenty. My daughter's friend got a part, my daughter didn't. She was devastated and questioned her ability as a dancer. I told her that it was an invitation only audition and she did extremely well and she should be proud. (She wasn't so interested in my opinion).

She seems to have bounced back, but I wonder. My concern is that this was too much pressure to put on an 11 year old and maybe I shouldn't have allowed her to be in that position. Do parents and teachers have any opinions on what children can and can't handle or what they should or shouldn't handle at this age? (or is each child different)? I know that if she decides to pursue ballet seriously things won't be any easier. She is in an audition program with no guarantee from one year to the next.

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I'm going to preface this reply by admitting that I am not a parent, but I work with lots of kids.


I think we don't give kids as much credit as they deserve in this area. They tend to bounce back from these disappointments faster than most adults realize. The experience is painful but a necessary part of the performing arts. No matter how old you get you still audition for any part you want. Disappointment and rejection are major parts of the dance world that really should be experienced at an early age when parents are around to ameliorate the pain and explain that they are not rejecting you as a person or a dancer, you simply were not right for the part this time and next time could be different. Every audition a kid does will make the next audition better and easier. Auditioning is a learned skill. If a kid finds out that the pain of rejection is too much to deal with, they may need to be counseled to find something else to do. I hated auditions and I was terrible at them. That is why I'm an administrator now. In some ways, I wish my mother had taken me to more auditions as a kid, so I would have learned how better to deal with failure and rejection. Not that I have any regrets; the path my life has taken is winding and good.

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Auditons are life, in order to succeed a person has to take a risk. I think this is any performers biggest worry, and when they learn to accept and go on, strength. I am an actor (not professional) but I do 3-6 plays a year. Sometimes I get the big parts, sometimes I get nothing. i fail A LOT! My son, who dances, learned this early. I think he is a beter person for it

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I worry about the whole concept of professional jobs for 11-year-old children --- because I am not convinced that these shows have the childrens' future interests in mind. It is easy to sell children to the public because they are cute. But once they grow up and are no longer cute, they need real skills to succeed as a dancer. If your daughter wants a long-term future as a dancer, she needs to be spending her time now in serious training, not as a paid professional.

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Great point citibob, training is more important. I was really going from the non professional viewpoint of performance.....not everyone can be or will be a pro, this might be the only time they do perform


love your posts

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Good points citibob.

It is easy to sell children to the public because they are cute. But once they grow up and are no longer cute, they need real skills to succeed as a dancer.


Georgia, does your daughter's interest mainly focus on ballet, because if it does she'll probably be much better off because she didn't get this part. :) I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have helped her ballet technique. Perhaps this will help her, if ballet is her true love?

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Thanks for your replies everyone, they were very helpful. I think what made me so uneasy about the audition, like Citibob said, was that it was professional. They were doing eliminations as if they were adults, too much for a young child and I felt guilty when she was crushed. As for whether my daughter's love is ballet only - no. She loves dance, period. Some of her favorite dancers include Savion Glover, Mark Morris, Gregory Hines, Michail Barishnykov, Ethen Steifel, Wade Robson, etc (All guys, weird huh?). She also loves musical theatre.

She does love ballet, however, and began at Boston Ballet's intensive division this year. As a relative beginner (?advanced beginner maybe) in ballet her level is doing 3 1.5 hour technique classes per week. She is not on pointe. This leaves her plenty of time to continue her hip hop/break dancing group and take modern and tap classes. As she advances in ballet she will have to make a choice. If she could only do one form of dance, right now she would choose ballet, but you never know, that could change.

(LMCTech, thanks, your thoughtful reply made me feel so much better!)

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  • 8 years later...

We received our rejection letter today from Boston! My 12 year old was devastated. Later on tonight, an older lady at my daughter's studio said my daughter lacked musicality and grace. I may be posting in the wrong thread but does anyone have any suggestions short of asking her to stop dancing even if she will likely not be a professional, which she understands. Again apologies if I should be reverted to another thread.

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FSU bound. Sounds to me like that lady at your studio needs some sensitivity training. I am just a mom to a dd who is about your dd's age but from everything I have read on these boards - there are may different paths for dancers and many changes to take place during the next few years. Just because one SI didn't accept her (or even ten SIs) doesn't mean that you should discourage your dd from dancing if she loves it or even likes it. This probably does belong on a different thread - am sure the moderators can move to the right place. Hug your dd and tell her that she will find her way and to keep working toward what she wants! And tell that lady. . . .

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We received our rejection to Boston SI today. Daughter is 12. It has been rough and perhaps I accidentally posted in the wrong thread my concerns originally. Speaking to a former ballet student who once trained at ABT school, about 40 years old who claims very strong knowledge of ballet, she said my daughter lacked musicality, grace, and her body moved all over the place. She would be surprised if any school would take for the summer! In fact, last summer she was accepted to an SI and this lady said my daughter did not improve at all. Should she just quit! She knows and does not aim to be a professional but can she love the art form and enjoy it until she graduates from middle school. Her school is a neighborhood ballet school.

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This is a tough one. Seems that all kids have their own personalities and ways of handling these things. My DD is VERY sensitive and hard on herself. Since she was very little, I've done everything I can to encourage her and help her with self-esteem, but she still has concerns about failure....in lots of things, not just ballet auditions, but school tests, etc. The best I can do is congratulate her when she succeeds and hug her when she fails.


As for summer program auditions...my strategy has been to only take her to certain ones. She is only 11, so doesn't have a great concept of "big schools" vs. "local schools." So, I take her to the big auditions (ABT, Boston) and also to local places that are easier to get into. That way, if she gets rejected from one of the top schools, and accepted at a local school, I've been able to say "sorry you didn't make this one, but the other place loved you!" Maybe that's not the best advice, but it's worked for us so far.

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I could not read this and run.


FSUBound, I am sorry this woman was so negative! Was this someone you asked for an assessment of your dd's abilities? Or, was it that you mentioned that she was not accepted to a particular SI and this was her reply? Either way, a comment that she should just quit is simply rude! If your daughter is enjoying her classes and loves what she's doing, it makes no difference! Plus she is at an age when many seem to be a bit lacking in the maturity that comes after they've been through those growth spurts, etc. I cannot believe the difference in my dd at age 12 and now, at age 14. Like night and day. Even her teachers comment on it.


Anyway, we've dealt with a great deal of rejection over the years. Not from SI program acceptances as we are new to that game, but in not getting a coveted role or a little something extra to do in a scene or dance, or not being in a level she hoped to be in. She's learned to deal and move on to the next thing. Hoping that works the same for these SI results (still waiting here)

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As a mom of a professional dancer who was NEVER the "golden child" or the queen of acceptances, I can speak from experience when I say that it's hard on kids to be rejected at SI auditions, to lose at competitions and to lose roles in auditions, but it's as tough on the parents who grieve for them. That said, they learn to deal with it and move on, and the more they do it, the stronger an internal system they develop for coping with that rejection in a healthy manner. Lots of hugs, lots of parental "well I think you were great!" and dinner out somewhere, and they move on. My DD was in a competition school so she auditioned for 10 SI's each year, because it was "done" and she competed several times a year as well (think "Dance Moms" but with a great teacher/coach), so there was a LOT of losing in her life, beginning at age 8. And she was the tall, skinny and sometimes graceless one who got comments like FSU's dancer from "experts." And sometimes the comments were justified, at that age and stage in her life. But, she kept trying, learning, attending the SI's that would take her, and went on, over time, to attend all the big three letter SI's, on scholarship, to get a great job with a company she loves and to get fantastic roles with that company. If they want to dance, they will learn to cope with the inevitable rejections that go along with that. I'll share the best advice anyone ever gave me when she was little - make sure you have at least one "safety" SI on the audition list, so she gets an acceptance SOMEWHERE, because in the end, that single "we want you" cures all the rejections that have gone before!

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