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Back to School/Back to Ballet

Victoria Leigh

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For all of our new parents, this is an article I wrote several years ago that I thought you might like to read. Even better, have your dancing sons and daughters read it! :P (And, if you haven't yet found The Studio section of Ballet Alert Online, check it out! There are other articles there. Also check out the Homepage for other places of interest!)



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Good article, Miss Leigh. My daughter has returned to ballet class very enthusiastically this year, in large part due to her excellent SI experience.


Your article makes me think of a question we've been dealing with and that will continue for the next 3 years. My daughter's regular school (she's in 6th grade and her school continues until 8th grade) always takes at least one 3-4 day field trip per year. It's usually at the end of the year, but this year it's at the end of September.


My daughter would rather *not* go - she'd rather skip it and attend ballet class in the afternoons, but of course she'd be missing 3 days of regular school as well. As it is, her teacher has an attitude about her ballet commitments, so I feel that she should go on the field trip. But it means that she's missing 3 days of ballet - that's SIX ballet classes (two pointe, 3 technique and one music). On the up side, she'll be hiking and crawling through muddy caverns, a nice Suzanne Farrell-type childhood activity. :(


How do you other parents handle this? Another ballet parent at our school has decided that her son will skip the field trips in future (he's in 5th grade). I'm sure this was really antagonize his teacher, and she doesn't care, but it's not so cut and dried for me.



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Knock knock... Me and my big mouth -- I can't resist chiming in here.


First of all, kudos to Ms Leigh for a wonderful, eloquent article which is not just

for returning children/teens/parents, but for all of us! I love her points about

how a positive attitude makes such a huge difference, in health and growth

as a dancer and also in life. Bravo!


Next, well, (1) I am not a parent, and (2) I am not a child! (well, not usually),

so, suffice it to say that I am speaking with my usual level of expertise (ie: none).

But you know, I think one thing I love about ballet is how much of what I have

learned so far in class returns to the idea of balance -- being centered and grounded

and solid and firm first, so that you can be graceful and airborne and expressive.

It's a powerful metaphor, I think. And so, on the topic of DKs' field trips, I

can see how such a decision would be a difficult one to make. How to balance

the child's wishes against your own, and perhaps those of the teacher too?

That's what I sense in your question when you say that "it's not so cut and dried"

for you.


When I read your post I found myself thinking "But field trips are a great way for

kids to constructively, educationally, and socially get themselves AWAY from the familiar."

I think there's a lot of value there -- both in terms of learning about nature and

geology and map reading and all the tangibles as well as all the social skills and

bonding that develop when you take on a shared challenge, like crawling through

muddy caverns with your classmates. There might be bruises to deal with, or you

might be put in the same group as the class bully, or end up having to help (or be

helped) by others. Those are all ways to grow, and my point is that I think THAT

kind of balance makes you not only a better person, but also a better dancer.


That's what I get from reading Victoria's article too, by the way -- we dance

and live as whole people, and so seemingly "simple" things like attitude and

self care, and relationships to others are vital to life itself, and not just optional

accessories that we "fit in" around our dancing.


Best wishes for making this decision with your daughter!

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I don't envy you on this decision. We had to deal with this last year when my dd was in 6th grade. Every year the sixth grade classes go away to Science Camp for a week. My dd lived with her brother going the previous year and coming back telling her ALL about what she had to look forward to "next year". She had already decided to take the time off from dance, feeling it was important to do this with her class. All was well until school started and it was determined that the Science Camp would fall during Tech Week of Cinderella. She was initially devastated, as she had looked so forward to the camp. As time went on, she realized she would have to miss camp, doing independent study for that week. I talked to her teacher (who by the way was supportive of dd ballet activities - she claimed dd had a part time job) and it was determined that I would drive the hour each way for 2 of the 4 days at camp. They allowed my dd to choose the 4 most important activities, so she was able to experience that. She also was able to eat with the kids one day in the cafeteria ( that was an experience all in itself!). Really, all she didn't do was sleep over night and I am sure she got a whole lot more sleep at home. She had to make a sacrifice, but she found that she had the best of both worlds. She was able to dance AND experience camp. When they all got back to school, she didn't feel left out as all the kids talked about camp. I realize that scenario wouldn't work for all, but fortunately we were able to make it work in our case. Good luck in your decision - it is a tough one!

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Actually, I think that at the 5th and 6th grade age it's not a tough decision at all, UNLESS it's something like the tech week for performances. If it's just classes, 3 days are not crucial! Let them be children and do regular things as much as possible, as that will have to change at some point as they get older and more advanced. I don't even mind the teens doing something like this ONCE a year, as long as it doesn't interfere with important rehearsals or performances. (Of course with the upper level they are almost always involved in important rehearsals! :( )

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Looking back on that time in my DD's life, I wish I had made MY OWN decision to send her on as many of the fun kids activities that she missed. It IS just a few classes, and there's a time not too far down the road that those decisions are much more difficult to make.


We have taken seperate vacations, planned during ballet slow times, missed family gatherings, and hired sitters to stay with her while the REST of the family went out of town to make sure she got to classes and rehearsals. A lot of which, in retrospect, was not as critical to her dance as we had felt at the time.


Point is, only in the last year or so, was it completely necessary to make these hard decisions. I wish, for all it's worth, tha she HAD attended the youth group outings, camping trips, my best friend's (her best friend's mother's) funeral, and all sorts of other things that may have only kept her out of a class or two. Those are things you can never get back, and as they grow up, they become few and far between anyway, not to mention adding the ballet gist to it.


I agree with the above post. Let them be kids absolutely as long as they possibly can. Sometimes, we have to be the parents and make the hard decisions FOR them. It might not be pretty, but it's our job, and in the long run, is critical to thier life as a happy, social dancer!

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Another voice here for balance! Victoria and the others have said it all so eloquently already that I don't have much to add. Younger DD did skip school camp in 5th grade, as it fell during Tech Week for Nutcracker (with Joffrey). I would not let her miss it for anything else, for all the reasons DreadPirateRoberts mentions. After attending camp in 6th grade, DD expressed lots of regret that she was not able to go the year before.

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I agree with those who advocate balance. DreadPirateRoberts said it very well. There will be times when a DC must make a choice between activities, such as optional band trips, routine overnights with friends, school athletics--and dance will usually win. There are other times when dance classes must give way, such as family member funerals, significant occassions for best friends, and school field trips.


Especially in lower and middle school, a few missed ballet classes are not going to derail professional aspirations. My DD's lower and middle school took overnight field trips annually, starting in fourth grade. Several of these trips were absolutely fabulous (Florida Sea Camp at Big Pine Key, Smoky Mountain hiking, ropes-course/team building). Sometimes she lamented that she would miss dance classes, but afterwards, she NEVER regretted going on the trips. Each of those trips provided her with more knowledge about herself, her peers, and her interests and abilities. I would not encourage anyone to allow their DK to miss such an opportunity.


Our school's field trips are part and parcel of the integrated curriculum. The field trips focus and "materialize" much of what the kids have been learning in their various subjects. The field trips get them out of the pages of books and into the real world so that they can see that the material they are studying is "real" life stuff. Why would you want your DK to miss out on that experience and learning reinforcement? And I would venture to say that they would be missing out on planned school curriculum. Would you take them out of the school classroom for that amount of time?


Dedicated DKs give up so much of their life--happily, granted. But it still is alot of the world that they miss out on. Why encourage them to narrow their experiences any earlier than they absolutely must?


Absent a rigid tech week schedule, I would not even consider having my kids miss an opportunity such as an overnight field trip. Even with a rigid tech week schedule, I would weigh the pros and cons very carefully before skipping the academic program--especially in the lower and middle school grades.


I once insisted my DD play her scheduled soccer game because she was part of an elite team and her team counted on every one of their players--even though it caused her to miss a Nutcracker audition. Her friend went to the audition and was cast for the first time. If DD had been cast, which was likely, she would have misssed many more soccer practices and games for rehearsals. My daughter was furious with me for the entire year. But I do think she learned that when she makes a commitment, she must honor it. I do not believe that her professional aspirations were harmed in any way because she did not dance in that year's Nutcracker. In fact, I think she learned that as part of a team (or cast), she is responsible to everyone else to do her part. My point is, even a missed performance opportunity in lower or middle school is not going to be the death of a dream (and certainly not routine classes for a few days). Pertinent lessons can be learned in many places--even outside of the dance studio.

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Thanks everyone! It's so glad to hear such balanced (and eloquently stated) thoughts from serious ballet folk. This echoes my thinking. We'll stick with the plan that she's crawling through the cave mud. :wink:



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  • 11 months later...
Guest airlie

Thanks for the bump, ballet booster. I've printed the article for my dd to read later, and I loved the discussion about finding balance! I have just recently come to the decision that we don't skip or re-schedule family activities just to accommodate a dance class. I had slipped into the thinking that we shouldn't even go on weekend trips because dd would miss a Saturday dance class, which is pretty silly for a 12yo who's not sure yet how far she wants to go in dance!

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What a great article! And so timely. I'm going to read it with my dancing dd, but I'm also going to share it with my son. He just told me this morning that the only reason he quit Aikido (a Japanese martial art) last year was because he was having trouble with a skill, and lost confidence - not interest. And I thought we were good communicators in our family! :angry::wink: I love the part about focusing on oneself, and one's own skills rather than wasting time on comparing. And the idea that if others in the class are more skilled it is a benefit to all is one to keep in mind as well. Ds is seriously thinking about starting Aikido again after our talk, and this essay has given me even more ideas for helping him through the inevitable tough times.

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