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Ballet Talk for Dancers

When anatomy and ambitions collide

Guest justthedriver

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Guest justthedriver

Forgive me for starting another topic so soon, but if you all weren't so helpful, informative and swift to respond...well, you've noone to blame but yourselves.



My question is this. At what age or point of development does it become evident that a child has NOT got the makings of a dancer, in the anatomical sense? It's my understanding that there are certain built-in limitations that come with our bodies; hip flexors (whatever THEY are...) limited turnout or what have you. Is there a point at which this becomes obvious as an insurmountable problem, to a teacher? Do they tell you (student or parent?) A woman with whom I'm acquainted was as a child a student at one of the major company schools. She said she knew she'd never be asked to join the company when they stopped paying her tuition (although she was invited to continue studying), and says it was because of physical limitations as outlined above. I'm fairly sure our local school wouldn't be so ruthlessly honest. These issues, I'm assuming, may be different for boys than for girls. Right/wrong?

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Complicated question :) Right and wrong, in terms of different for boys than girls. Right in that boys must have some strengths that are less important for girls, and that they can make it without some of the things that girls must have. In other words, they can get by with somewhat less rotation and flexibility, if they are strong, well proportioned, and can jump and turn. Wrong only in the sense that there are limits for everyone, and if the proportions, or the rotation, or the feet or the flexibility are just not going to be enough, then there is nothing you can do. Things can always improve, however each person has only so much room for improvement and there will be a limit somewhere. So, it depends a lot on where one starts from, physically, and then how much can be done through training and a great deal of work!


When does it become evident? Usually somewhere in the mid teens, although with males it can be later.


Do the teachers tell you? Some do, some don't. They should. However, it usually becomes evident to the student somewhere around 16 or so, IF they are in a training program where they are educated and have a solid basis of knowledge about what the demands and requirements are to be successful in this field. If the students are in a professional school, this will happen. If they are in a small town, without a lot of exposure to professional companies and more advanced dancers, it might not. That's where the teachers really need to be honest, and one would hope that would happen more often than it does.

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What a great question and what a great answer! :wacko:


Times have changed in the US over the past twenty or so years. For some reason, (perhaps financial or being politically correct) there can be restricitions on teachers and schools regarding what they say to students and how they say it. Sometimes these restrictions may be self-inflicted and other times they may actually be policy. The bottomline is that not all students and parents want to hear the truth from teachers and schools. Many schools let the students/parents weed themselves out. It may become obvious that a certain level of achievement is not being accomplished when students are not promoted to the next level of study or they are not given "dancing" parts in ballets or not being accepted to SIs that others of the age group are successfully attending.


Teachers/schools are only one opinion (and often times within a school there are varying opinions on students). As has been stated in other threads, one never knows what can happen with a very determined student. There are always such pleasant surprises and some rather disappointing moments. At some point in the training process, generally mid-teens, students do start to see themselves, rather than just their dream. Often students will re-focus there goals in a different dance direction. Many just want ballet and some just want to dance, as long as they are on the stage!


My teacher always asked us, " Do you love ballet in yourself or yourself in ballet?" To this day those words run through my veins. The answer... :)


Parents can help their children by directing them to schools and teachers they trust but always look around, ask questions, read, go to the ballet. It also can help when assessing a program. Do not take opinions as facts. One must look to results and accomplishment. This is a better assessment of the professionalism of any program. One can better judge the honesty of a school when the school is actually producing dancers versus giving students an outlet for activity after academic school.

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In my limited experience it does seem to be different for girls and boys. As Ms. Leigh stated, most of the time as long as a boy is strong, and can jump and spin, that will many times offset difficiencies in other areas. Some may argue that as long as boys have a pulse and are willing slip on a pair of tights, they will be admitted to some programs because they are such a commodity! :wacko: But in all seriousness, I have not seen as much scrutiny for boys as I have for girls.


In our last studio, there was a girl who was about 17. She had been dancing all her life and was in the highest level of classes they offered. Basically one day, the director pulled her aside and told her that she was never going to go any further in dance, but that she may still continue to take classes if she wanted. I'm sure she was crushed, but to her credit, she remained there although the directors basically ignored her presence. (No corrections, etc.) But she stayed because she loved dancing and it was all she knew. I don't know if he did her a service or not, but I guess there is a time for dancers to start to pursue other options if it seems as though being a professional dancer is just not in the cards. :)

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justthedriver, as boys get older many programs get much pickier about them just breathing and wearing tights. I have noticed at the younger ages all the boys are very much encouraged, but by the mid teens the professional programs are selective about the boys in the same way they are with the girls.

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:blushing: Oh tsavoie - you are so right. DS's current school starts out with many, many young boys in the recreational program (with most likely subsidized tuition), then they take in fewer boys in Gr. 6 into the pre-pro program for Level 1, less boys in Level 2, etc. This year there is only ONE boy in Level 7, graduating level. Many boys drop out on their own, but others boys are not accepted into the pre-pro level and yet others due to limitations described above are not asked to return. (This is a yearly re-acceptance program). By 15 or 16, they must possess certain physical attributes to progress to graduation. Simply being a "good technical" jumper or turner, will only compensate so far for problems with turnout, lack of flexibility etc. The boys are expected to have full splits all three sides, high extensions, plus be able to jump, turn, lift, etc. The boys who succeed usually have the "complete package" for the most part and/or know how to work very well with any limitations they may have. :D
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Guest justthedriver

Thanks to all for your thoughtful and informative posts; VRSFAN , who knew the Dalai Lama taught ballet?! Honestly, I'm glad to hear that at some mid-teen point it all gets a lot clearer, to teacher AND student, who's going ahead and who isn't, and that the "breathing/tights/you're in" formula loses steam. Nobody wants to see a potential artist smacked down, but one would like to see them redirected, if you will, in time to take the law boards. Ahem. One thing I've noticed is that with an emotionally well balanced kid, these disappointments when they occur are only temporarily devastating. They bounce back from the bottom a lot faster than their folks often do. Part of the process of growing up is that constant self-redefinition, right? The problem is, that as the dance hours pile on and your child moves up the ranks, so much of his/her l life and time is defined by that one all consuming activity. It's a struggle to keep your balance - no pun intended, but probably unavoidable. But there I go, borrowing trouble; from what you're saying Ms. Leigh, we've got a while to go before any of this becomes really clear. Thanks, all.

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The key timing for determining whether a boy has what it takes physically is after he's gone through puberty. It's the same for girls. The body sometimes changes in unexpected ways during puberty and no responsible teacher should make any yeah or nay decisions until the student is on the other side of it.

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....Nobody wants to see a potential artist smacked down, but one would like to see them redirected, if you will, in time to take the law boards.


I reply:


I know a retired pro who is working and going to law school part time.



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  • 3 weeks later...

i am hoping there might be a bit more consideration of this question, which is why i am bumping it up, as i have been absent for a few weeks and am trying to catch up with all that i've missed....

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