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Ballet Talk for Dancers

The Challenge of the Adolescent Dancer Part 2


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I've posted before about my efforts to help my tall, very thin DD gain weight and strength. In January I started adding 500 to 1000 calories to her daily intake with the goal of gaining a pound a week. When we started she was about 96 pounds. I was thrilled when she hit 100, and for the past week or so she has been hovering between 102 and 103. Still, I haven't notice a big difference in her appearance. On Tuesday, I went to observe her in class (it's observation week) and by the end of class I could see that she was near tears. When we were able to speak privately, she had a complete meltdown. She felt as though she was the worst dancer in her class, she can't find her balance, she is struggling with her turns, she can't get on her leg, she was embarassed that I saw her like that etc. I was able console her enough for her to get through her next class (tap) and by the time she got home that night she was better, but still depressed. I could understand her frustration. She has been trying so hard for the past six months, really working hard in class and doing stretching and strengthening exercises at night. I thought about all that I had read about this age, and then something clicked. I called her into the kitchen and put her up against the doorframe and measured her. There it was; her current height was an inch higher than my last measurement on 3/11/04--she had grown a full inch in two months. All those smoothies and milkshakes and pancake breakfasts had gone into additional height! (Grrrr!) The expression on her face was priceless--she was so RELIEVED. The next day in class her attitude was completely different. She was still having trouble finding her center, but at least she knew why and instead of growing discouraged, she just became more determined. It was also an important lesson for me. She'll be fifteen in a few months, but it is clear to me that I can't assume that she's stopped growing "up." And, just because we've been struggling with this for the past year, doesn't mean it's over yet--although heaven knows it feels like it should be! So, I share this as a reminder that these growth spurts can be very sneaky!

Edited by joyellen
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They can be VERY sneaky, especially when you see the kids every day you do not notice. I remember one student at a 6 week summer program we attended, and when his parents came at the end, they were all "You made him grow so TALL!" I didn't think he was any taller than when he got there, but when they got out the measuring tape at home, yep, an inch and a half in 6 weeks!


They mess you up so badly too. Like I have been telling my school outreah kids all week, ballet trains your body to do what you brain tells it to (and your brain to tell your body what to do), and then all of a sudden you need to send the messages 2 or more inches futher along? No wonder they can't find their center.


I am so happy that your daughter is making more healthy eating choices, and has such a loving, supportive parent in her corner. I believe that she can persevere, continnue to work hard, and despite the current setbacks, she will see it bear lots of fruit.




Not doing what you love to do is neither good sense nor common sense.

-Daniel Nagrin

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It's unbelievable how teens can grow. My son is growing before my eyes. He has always been puny but suddenly he started outgrowing shoes every couple of months. Now at age 14 it seems he's sprouting heighth, gaining inches by the week. My 18 year old daughter is even taller than we expected but she was a slower grower. Some people say that girls even grow after high school and I believe that I did but haven't noticed it much in others. Any one else grow after high school?

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One of my classmates who, admittedly, was only 16 when we graduated from high school, shot up from 5'5" (we used to swap clothes) to 5'10" while in college. At our 10-year reunion none of us could believe he was the same guy.


I am always amazed as a high school teacher at how much a kid can grow in a semester or two since I've seen him or her every day in class -- and in my summer job, at how much a returning dancer can grow in 10-1/2 months from one summer to the next. Maybe I'm just jealous, since I pretty much stopped growing at 14 or 15. :)

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My dd would love to grow taller, and I'm sure she will, but right now the only thing that seems to be growing are her feet! Had to change sizes in pointe shoes again. She'd be taller if she didn't have so much turned under!

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Interesting that I saw this topic today. We are in the heart of our Spring production. I always worry about my daughter getting enough to eat with a week and a half of tech week going right into morning and evening performances/rehearsals for 5 days. She typically loses 3-5 pounds during Nutcracker and I suspected she had done the same now, as she was looking smaller than normal. She is 12 yrs old and usually weighs between 76- 78#. Today, for some reason, she decided to weigh herself and was so pleased that she was at 79#. She wound up in a conversation with her brother about this (he is 13 and has grown about 8" in the last 6 - 8 months ) and asked me to measure her height. Sure enough her weight gain must have gone to her height gain, 1 inch to be exact in less than a month. She was thrilled that she finally is 5' 1/2".

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Boy, is this a topic that hits close to home!



My 14 YO non-dancing son is currently 1" shorter than his 12YO dancing sister. Since he was off the CDC growth charts (and by the way, they've updated them recently) our doctor sent him to a pediatric endocrinologist (for son's peace of mind). After a battery of tests, it was determined that everything was fine (which we knew as my husband and myself are not tall 5'8" and 5'2") but it sure made him feel better. It was determined that his metabolism was extremly high (not to mention 2 soccer leagues and baseball) so we were told to supplement his meals all we could and that he would probably grow to be about 5'8" - 5'10". It certainly doesn't help that girls (on average) grow faster than boys but in his case, it is so frustrating!


Meanwhile, 12 YO dd is fit and toned and right on target as far as weight/height go she has a prominant little tummy that bothers her. While I don't remember this when I was her age (but I know everyone's different) we were told that often happens up to a year before menstruation. Has anyone else heard this?


Ah... the challenges of growing up!

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joyellen, I certainly know what you are going through. At age 14 my daughter went from 5' tall to 5'5" within a few months, remaining skinny and struggling with dance. Besides her loss of balance, she suffered knee, hip and back problems from the muscles not growing as fast as the bones. She received pt, and hung in there with dance, although very frustrated. Now she is about to turn 17 and is 5'7". It has taken all this time for her to catch up with her height. She's still skinny but she is on no particular eating plan and she seems to gain some weight during non-rehearsal periods. My advice is, be concerned but not overly so, because at some point she will level off and things will get better.

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My daughter is skinny as a rail but also has that bit of tummy flab. She's 18 and it appeared sometime long after after menstruation. She filled out in the hips at first but then her waist thickened so her hips didn't seem so prominant. Much to her dismay she does have hips and a big deal was made out of it at her old studio. Her stomach almost has a natural six pack except for that bit of tummy flab. She didn't gain the freshman 15# this year probably because she lives at home and dances all of the time. The tummy flab appears when she is sitting down but when she is standing her stomach is flat. It's only a big deal to her and I know I shouldn't , but I make fun of it because she is so otherwise skinny. I guess that it's just a female thing to have this extra padding. She can eat and eat and not gain weight but I'm afraid if she quits dancing this won't be true. She believes that she has her dad's genes and will never be fat like me. I am so thankful that she hasn't had to deal with the weight issue as I did as a teen and adult.

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When my skinny DD does gain weight, it is always around the middle too. We tease her and say things like "when are you due?" Most girls seem to put on weight in the thighs, hips and butt, but hers always remain tiny. It must be genetics that causes some girls to put it on around the waist. Her father has skinny legs and narrow hips.

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Ballet Taxi, Yes, it's often true that a premenstrual girl will get some padding in the tummy area prior to her first period. It doesn't always stay.


At school, I'm constantly amazed at the variety of body types among the students just prior to their big growth spurt. Some put on quite a bit of weight before they shoot up into string beans, others never seem to have any part of them out of proportion, still others are skinny but add more and more padding as their bodies mature. Sometimes kids follow their parents' pattern of growth but often they don't. There's no end to the variety seen.

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Back to the question about growing taller after highschool, I was one who did - about 1-1/2" in college. I was not a 'late bloomer' otherwise, but I didn't reach my full adult height until around 20-21, surpassing all the other females in my immediate and extended family by a whopping inch or two (we're not a tall bunch).


At 5'5", I would be VERY happy to grow another 1-1/2" in my late 40's/early 50's, but I suspect that this is highly unlikely... :)

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Also re: growing after high school, I didn't but my sister-in-law did. In fact, she kept growing until her mid-20s. Her dr. later found out she had a pituitary adenoma when testing for fertility problems. It hasn't caused her any problems though.


I think late bloomers would be the ones more likely to keep growing after high school. I was an early bloomer (the tallest kid in 6th grade!) & hit full height at about 14-15. My sis was a late bloomer (the last girl in her grade to develop breasts & start her period) & hit full height her senior year.

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My mom grew an inch at age 21. Kait was still growing at age 17; she's 19 now, and I don't know how tall she is, but she's coming home next week for a few days, and I will try to remember to measure her then. She says she's put on some weight this year, but I saw her dance in a unitard in March, and I sure couldn't see it. I think she may have grown taller still, recently (and put on some muscle, for sure).

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