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Ballet Talk for Dancers

New to ballet

Guest jen72

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Guest jen72

Hi all,


My daughter is just beginning ballet, she is almost 9 and always has tons of questions for me. Now I am not the one to ask, I am certainly no expert! I am wondering if either any parents out there have children in ballet that are around my daughters age, or can remember when there child first started ballet. Any tips, advice, horror stories, anything that might be helpful to me or my daughter.


I know in life we need to make mistakes to learn, I just thought it might be nice to share what you all have experienced, and we can also learn from you more experienced parents.


Thank-you so much.


Jen :D

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Welcome, Jen72. You will find parents here with daughters the same age as yours.


As far as tips, the best one ever given to me came from the artistic director of my daughter's school when she was around your daughter's age and I'd had my first real conference with her. She said to not sweat the small stuff because this was going to be a long association, that there would be rocky times but we'd get through them.


Boy, was she ever right :sweating:


As far as helpful little tips, early on in my daughter's lessons (she started taking pre-ballet at age 4), I silently wondered for many months why, despite my best efforts, my daughter was the only little girl whose underwear showed through the leotard and tights. Duh! :D


One day I finally asked another mother what brand she used. :wink: And gosh, that was the beginning of my education as mom to a ballet dancer.

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I am a non-ballet mom (but trying to learn) of a 10yo. She has been in ballet for 5 years. The biggest thing to remember is that your daughter is doing this for fun. Encourage her. Beginning ballet appears quite boring and repetitious. Sometimes kids will drop out because of this. Staying with it will be great rewards and in my daughter's case , she has met alot of really nice friends in ballet.

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Dear Jen,


I'm pretty new on the site, too, but I have a 10 yr old who's been at it for just about two years. I would be happy to share any knowlege I have that you can use...do you have specific questions? Fire away! There's lots of people out here to help you, they've already helped me a lot!


mcrm55 :D

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Hi, I have 2 dds, ages 7 and almost 10. I would be happy to answer any specific questions as well. The best advice I can give you is to focus on the process, not the outcome. In other words, try to enjoy what your daughter is doing today, and make sure she enjoys today also, instead of always looking to the future. But do help her to keep her options open by educating yourself ( just finding your way here is a very good start ), and seeking out quality training. In addition, don't waste time comparing her to others, as everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, and there will always be someone with better feet or whatever. My daughter's teacher says it is often not the most gifted dancer who succeeds, but the most determined! :D The ballet world can be anxiety provoking and stressful , and from what I've read here, that never really goes away. Keep in mind that ballet is a beautiful, expressive art-form, not a competitive sport. Ballet isn't for everyone, but for some it becomes a true source of joy.

Now I just have to take my own advice! :wink:

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The best piece of advice I've received came during the first audition season when my daughter had acceptances from major programs, several with scholarship offers and I was overwhelmed. :sweating: I was asking everyone for advice and trying to sort it all out. The company AD, with which our school is affiliated, sat down with my daughter and I one evening and talked about the pros and cons of the various programs we were considering. When he finished and was walking out the door, he turned and said, "This has got to be your daughter's decision. We can discuss the pros and cons of all these programs, but she should be the one to decide. Ultimately, this is her journey and the choices have to be hers."


That has been one of the most wise and the most difficult pieces of advice I've received thus far in our journey! (I do better at taking it some times than I do at others.) But, I know he was so very right. :thumbsup: The older my daughter gets, the more I realize that the choices she is faced with are sometimes life-changing. As much as I want to orchestrate them for her, ease the way, guide her on the path that makes most sense to me, etc. I have to let her chart her course and decide when she wants to push, when she feels the need to hold back, when she is ready to spread her wings and when she should take a risk. Hard to do, but really important! :D


Oh yes, and as others have said, enjoy the journey. The moments along the way make it all worthwhile, regardless of the outcome. :wink:

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Dear Jen72,


Lacking specific questions from you, the only thing I can add not already said by our wise cohorts above is just to be sure to find the best school in the area. Perhaps you have already done this, in which case, skip everything below! I would imagine Chicago has many schools to choose from, and many members here know all about them. There is a good chapter on what to look for in "The Parents Book of Ballet", by Amanda Whitehill and William Noble, mentioned elsewhere on the site, which you can order on amazon or B&N if it's not available near you, and a good book to read in any case. If you don't know how interested she will remain, and a really good school is very far away, maybe you could put off making the effort to getting her there 'til you know whether it will stick, but frankly I think the sooner you get her to the best teachers you can find, the better. Finding the best school for her may take a bit of homework, visiting different schools, asking about their syllabi, getting a feel for each one's atmosphere, seriousness of students and teachers, maybe even rapport between students and teachers, etc. (read book). Most schools will let your dd come in for a placement class, and you can get the flavor them pretty well that way. I waited a bit to do this for my dd, and I wish I'd just done it at the beginning. Good luck, and welcome! :wub:

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Hi. My dancing daughter is 10, started the whole "creative movement" thing when she was 3 (her idea, not mine), has been studying seriously for the past 2 years at an excellent school. Thoughts...if she talks seriously of dancing, make sure to find the best training that's available. My dd's years at the neighborhood school of ballet were fun...for a while. When at 8, she was the "teacher's helper" for her class, and frustrated with the lack of discipline she saw in her classmates, I knew she was asking for some more "real" training. Consider buying stock in the tight and hairpin companies. (You will become on a first name basis with all the staff at the dance store!) There are also some great online or catalog resources for affordable dance stuff, but if she's growing quickly, as many do at that age, I wouldn't try to do order a leotard online. Lean, learn, learn about dance. Hit the library to find books written by dancers, "Holding on to the Air", "A Winter Tale" (did I remember that one right, gang?), and references "The Parent's Book of Ballet" (excellent), "Ballet 101", for your daughter, "First Lessons in Ballet", any books with the stories of the ballets (Swan Lake, Nutcracker...). My daughter's knowledge of ballet outpaced mine years ago. I have found that by learning more about her passion, I understand it a little better. It helps in decision-making. And it is fascinating. Also, go to performances, watch ballet videos. But don't overwhelm her...or yourself. It's easy to put your ballet blinders on, and get caught up in this world. Best advice...has already been given here on this thread. It's her world. As driver, confidante and checkwriter (for lessons, shoes always grown out of right before a performance, clothes, fees...) you are invited in to a special place... Enjoy. And listen to your kiddo. Have fun! msd

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Guest jen72



Your responces have been so helpfull. My daughter has wanted to do ballet for so many years, and now that we are here I just want to make sure I do right by her.

First I was worried about what school to put her in, I think that was the hardest decision. After reading all the posts I think I put her in the right school, but then I second guess myself (I think thats the mother in me).

Her school is only focased in ballet, they do not put on recitals or compete. Also, many of the girls are accepted into Joffrey school of ballet in Chicago. So this all seems very positive. The only thing that is a little frustrating that she is in a tech 1 beginners class, and very serious about her study, but not all the girls are. There are two girls in the class that I think are only there because the mother forced them. They always act up, when the teacher is with another student they are jumping around and doing cartwheels and being distracting, so my daughter can not help but notice them instead of focasing on what her teacher is doing.

They director did say to me alot of girls drop out because they do not understand all the hard work involved and think they are just going to leap around the classroom (I am not sure if he was referring to the trouble makers or not). I really hate to discriminate but the girls are very overweight, unhealty overweight, and I am sure the mother has the best intensions on trying to get her girls in shape, but it is at my daughters & the other serious girls expence! :wub:

Should I mention my frustration to the director? I really do not want to sound like a jerk, but we are dedicating alot of time & energy into her studies. Also, we are new so I dont want to be "the complainer". But my daughter is serious about this.

Anyway, thank-you for letting me vent. This is my biggest frustration right now, and I know it is not really that big of deal. I am just wondering what you other parents might do in this situation? Let it ride until they move her into the next class? Or make my feelings know? I think he will move the more serious girls up, and the trouble makers will stay in tech 1. That is just what I think. I am so new to this, who knows!


Thanks everyone!!!!!!


Jen :shrug:

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jen72, I'm not sure how this has been explained to you, but to clarify, the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago does not maintain a school in Chicago. Their year-round school is still in NYC, with Summer Intensives in several locations. They do however use local children in several of their productions including The Nutcracker (which might be what they are referring to).

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okay, I know I'm an antedeluvian mom at 48, but uh oh. Cartwheels? As far as classroom etiquette goes, a little quiet giggling or talking in the corner, leaning on the barre, fiddling with leotards or steps when the teacher is talking, is to be expected, if, over time, discouraged...but CARTWHEELS?? Can you look at the next classes up (does your studio have two way mirrors or windows you can watch classes from?), presumably tech 2 and 3? If the sort of behavior you are describing is at all present there, I would really worry. I don't want to sound grim or over disciplinary, because you do want it to be fun and joyful, but ballet isn't gymnastics and this sort of goofing around should be well gone by age 8 or 9 in order for the teacher to communicate with the students who are eager to learn. There are many ways, gently, humorously, but firmly, for the teacher to make this clear to even very young children, unless the school is terribly worried about losing even one or two students. (It would not be tolerated at any level, even among the 6 yr olds, at ours.) Do other parents feel as you do? Can several of you approach the director together? That might make you seem less of a squeeky wheel. Alternatively, since you mentioned it, does Joffrey have a childrens' training program? If so, have you taken her there? Is it too far away? :wub:

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Guest jen72

Oops, excuse me! Again, I am new to this. The Joffrey ballet period, I dont know why I added Chicago in there. And other ballet companies. The thought was they are preparing the students to move on the greater things if they wish. The other school I was going to sign up with did not prepare the girls for anything else. That was my thought. Please excuse my mistake.

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Guest jen72

Thank-you Mcrm55,


They are firmly scolding them, but the girls attention span seems nill. I can see from a looking glass and mirrors. It seems like the director is trying to give them a chance to see if they come around since the class is new. But it does seem like his patience is wearing thin. It just seems strange because the classes are pricey and her two daughters dont really care, and she stays to watch them so she knows whats going on. I want to tell the mother maybe she should put her daughters in gymnastics, but it really isnt my place. I think I will wait and see what happens this week, and if things dont change privatly speak with the director. Does this seem fair enough?




Jen :wub:

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Jen, see re-edit above about getting together with other parents? How about posting a new topic ":Chicago mom needs advice re school" in the moms and dads section so the Chicagoan members can help you out?

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If the two cartwheelers are new students also, you have to allow them some time to absorb the discipline of the studio. BUT, you should be seeing attempts to bring them into line. (In the first class, it should have been explained that this was unacceptable. The teacher should be enforcing that consistently -- not just by scolding, but by asking the kids to sit out until they can rejoin the class respectfully. As a last resort, they may be asked to leave the class.) Another thing to ask is why the kids are so unruly -- does the class have lots of down time and standing around? I think it is entirely fair to talk to the director and ask what his policies are about unruly kids. You should also follow up with other parents to find out if he actually does what he says he does. As someone else mentioned, you can also watch some other classes and see if discipline is generally not maintained, or if these two kids are an aberration.


Mcrm55 said it very nicely -- this behavior is WAY outside the norm for ballet class.


I am a Chicago mom, though I know very little about the suburban schools. If it helps, you may email me at : lehSIX@midway.uchicago.edu (replace the word with the numeral).

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