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Books: Attitude!

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I just finished reading Attitude! Eight Young Dancers Come of Age at the Ailey School, by Katharine Davis Fishman.


Fishman is a psychologist and reporter. Interested in the topic of talented youth, she followed eight Ailey School students for a year. (These students were in high school at LaGuardia or elsewhere.) She writes as someone who is neither a dancer nor the parent of a dancer.


The book is full of interesting observations as well as references to studies of dancers and other talented youth. I learned, for example, that La Guardia High School auditions 1500 eighth graders for 66 places, and that they “sometimes admit children who have never dances and reject children who have studied for 7 – 10 years.” She muses that “talent and motivation are inseparable,” that dancers are motivated because they like to do what they do well.


In thinking about what traits are necessary to succeed as a dancer, she learns that it is “easier to pick out raw talent in untrained dancers…than it is to predict which [advanced students] will end up in the First Company.” She refers to studies that show that talented teens are more likely than their peers to be “self starters,” and that it is also important for those with talent to be able to “apprentice” themselves to an inspirational teacher.


One especially interesting study she discusses followed SAB students over a four year period in which the dancers either found work as dancers or stopped dancing completely. The study showed that “the dropouts had more deviant eating habits and more injuries, and unlike their more successful late-maturing peers, they tended to reach puberty at an age considered normal, thus losing the preferred ballet shape.” This study also showed that those with one or more “minute” anatomical variations were also more likely to exit the dance world.


This group of high school dancers considered Julliard, Boston Conservatory, SUNY Purchase, NCSA and the Philadelphia College of Arts the “hot” schools for college.


She profiles the families of the students as well, showing the broad range of support parents give their dancers.


Lots of food for thought in this book.

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Thank you fendrock - hmm, perhaps a nice holiday present to oneself. :green::angry:



And here is a handy link to this interesting book that I found on Amazon, through the banner entrance above :DAttitude! Eight Dancers...

...The students, both boys and girls, are from the East Coast and West, gay and straight, naturally talented and hard workers—all united by their love of movement. Fascinated by what exactly it takes to succeed professionally in the arts, Fishman writes about the dancers' families, the Ailey School faculty and the psychology of the dancers themselves—how do they handle victories, failures, weight issues and injuries? Fishman unknots the question: how much does success depend on talent and how much on motivation? While she cites research on the development of gifted teenagers from authorities such as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Howard Gardner, Fishman doesn't offer definitive answers. But the questions are fascinating. And she portrays the students, whose lives she follows, with sensitivity and respect....
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Thank you so much for bringing this book to our attention. From the sounds of it, it's just what I've been looking for. After using this site's banner link, I now have the book in my hand. :)


When I read the following list, I knew someone made an error, and now I see that, for some reason, the author was given an out-dated name.


This group of high school dancers considered Julliard, Boston Conservatory, SUNY Purchase, NCSA and the Philadelphia College of Arts the “hot” schools for college.


In 1985, Philadelphia College of Art and Philadelphia College of Performing Arts merged to become Philadelphia College of the Arts. Then in 1987, the school was granted university status and became The University of the Arts. The history and timeline of the school can be found here.


My daughter is a freshman dance major at UArts, so it was nice to get some confirmation that it's considered a "hot" school. :green:

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Now you are all making me want to go out and get a hold of a copy of this book! :D


Pierrette, in case you didn't notice there's a new forum up for parents, students, teachers dealing with Career and Education - I'm sure there are a number of people who'd be interested in hearing more about your daughter's experiences at the University of the Arts. :thumbsup: I am familiar with it and believe I recall your mentioning it quite a while ago in a post - it looks like a very interesting program, that's for sure. :blushing:

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am mid way through this book and it is a great read. I recommend parents and teachers ask for it for Xmas. Looks at us all from the outside in. :D

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  • 1 month later...

I believe that it has been discussed quite recently somewhere on this board. You might want to do a research :-)

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I recently finished Attitude and found it an enjoyable read. Guess it reinforced my understanding of all the different paths our dk's will take to become the dancers they are meant to be. Even though ballet is only part of Ailey I found the similar discipline and training to be right in line with dd's experience. Of course I do enjoy when they do the follow-up on the eight kids. I guess I read it to provide some reassurance that we are not crazy in letting our dd steer her ship and decide what and how much dance she needs.


I would recommend it as a good book that explains a bit about the struggles and successes of pre-prof dancers.

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How long do they do the follow-up? Is it over a couple of months, years?

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