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Anatomy and ambitions collide, more questions...


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I was reading the thread on the 'parents of boys 'board regarding ambition and anatomy. Some of the replies were about boys and girls, many about boys. This seemed to be a worthwhile and possibly contraversial topic to explore on this board and I have a few comments. If need be though, I would understand if this were moved or deleted.


Having watched girls, and my own dd, evolve and change over the past few years, it interests me how the various body types are dealt with (or rather not dealt with). In residency, there does seem to be a standard for young women that is adhered to pretty strongly, though not in all cases. However, in dance studios or pre-pro type schools, there is a huge variety of body types, height, weight, length of limbs etc. I am wondering if these girls (and their parents and the owners of these schools) who are planning to become professional ballet dancers have a realistic concept of what body types companies are looking for. Having seen many productions of regional ballet companies, it seems that they choose to have more variety of body type than the larger companies. Therefore, there does seem to be some leeway, but in the harsh world of dance, who should be preparing the kids whose bodies dont quite match their ambitions?


I will reserve any further comment until I find out if this thread is a good one for this board.

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This should work pretty well here; after all, the original on this theme was primarily aimed at boys.

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Here are a couple of discussions from the past on this issue. They deal more with the decisions of individual parents who understand earlier than their kids that body type (or something else) may stand in the way of a ballet career.


Ballerina dreams


Being realistic? or quashing drive?


I think I also remember at least one thread about, essentially, the ethics of enrolling a wide spectrum of kids when few of them have a chance of "making it", but I cannot put my finger on it. Perhaps our historian and searchmeister (BW) can locate it.


The general consensus over the years has been that most kids begin to recognize for themselves in the mid to late teens that they aren't likely to land that professional contract. Then, they can decide if they want to keep dancing for the love of it or not.


Of course, this process is hastened, and most successful, for kids who have more exposure to the grown-up dance world. I don't know what happens to the ones who aren't auditioning for SIs and regularly attending professional performances.


Our own studio is one that accepts -- encourages, even -- a very wide variety of body types. However, it is not a pre-pro studio. It's mission is to encourage people to dance. All in all, I think I prefer this type of positive environment over one that ruthlessly weeds out those deemed unsuitable. And I like to think I'd run away from one that deliberately pulls the wool over its dancers' eyes!


As in all things, I guess I'd say that the rule "caveat emptor" applies. Parents -- and then dancers, as they age -- need to keep themselves informed about reality, and decide how much to let it influence their dreams and hard work!

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I do agree that the mission of most studios is to bring the experience of dancing to a wide range of people...however, that is not the way that many pre-pro schools advertise themselves. It is therefore surprising then to visit these schools and view performances of kids that are clearly beyond any imagination of the body type of a classical ballet dancer. Then, there is the issue of girls, who are overweight, even by current standards, and on pointe and barely holding their own. I am sure that it would be difficult for the owner of the pre-pro school to turn away business. In this case it's a clear conflict of business and art.

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I think, in an ideal world, everybody -- student, parent, teacher -- is communicating enough so that nobody develops any unrealistic expectations. And even when expectations of a professional career are realistic, the adults should be the voices of reason that keep a kid healthy and happy and able to deal with change (both positive and negative).


But in the real world, it sure does seem like you've got a lot of studio directors who are more than happy to stoke unrealistic dreams (and rake in the cash), and a lot of parents who lose the objectivity to see when their kids' bodies just aren't suited to a professional career, and then a lot of kids whose self-esteem gets shattered when they have to realize, on their own, that they'll never dance for the NYCB. And that's not how it should be. Participating in the arts, at any level, should be enriching and enjoyable. There's got to be a better way to make this happen, instead of the hit-or-miss system that seems to exist in this country!

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Oh, Treefrog, I did try to find some other threads but there are so many! If one uses "realistic" or "unrealistic" as a search word, the results are overwhelming! :mondieu:


Perhaps it is just as well that I couldn't find the "exact" one that we were thinking of?


The upshot I recall was that many feel that in the less than "big name" professional programs that it comes down to funding the programs - can't afford to have only the truly talented and physically blessed be the only students. Although it is often true that "reality" hits the students who are not destined to even have a shot at becoming the "2% " who might make it, it does come as a rude awakening to many...and one does have to wonder if it's the wisest choice for a 15 year old and older who is plainly not going to be in that "2%" to be spending 6 days a week, in 2 1/2 hours or more of ballet classes a week to the exculsion of everything else...and then attending a summer program as well... If the parents are unaware it doesn't help...but sometimes it's just got to play itself out, though one would hope that there could be some kind of "conversation" at the ballet school. :ermm: Sometimes there is and sometimes there is not.

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One must be careful when trying to judge for their own child. My own dd has a very optimistic and positive personality who's motto seems to be "you'll never know until you try". Because of this, I always tried to be the "realistic" one. Not too long ago, dd asked me to back off with my "realism". She didn't appreciate our talks about probability, how tough it was out there, and how many, many beautiful dancers are out there, etc. She told me that her auditions for SI's and schools and later auditions for companies will be all the reality she needs for they will tell her what her chances are. For now, she needed me to be her mom, and to her that meant to be her staunchest supporter and best cheerleader.

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mylildancer it certainly sounds to me as though your daughter's optimistic outlook will see her through! And I think the idea of parents being their children's "staunchest supporters" is the way to go, too. :ermm: No one needs a negative unsupportive parent.

Edited by BW
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BW, things are definitely going much more smoothly. If I was sounding negative, I certainly didn't mean to. It probably did sound that way to her, though. I always felt the need to be cautious where dd always threw caution to the wind. You are certainly right, though. Thank goodness I get swept up in her adventerous optimism rather than my own negative trepidations!

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While professional classical ballet companies appear to look for specific body types (slim, short body, long limbs, small heads) there are many and varied companies in the world employing many and varied dancers. Sometimes perhaps, it is simply a matter of expanding the dream.


My own dd has The Dream and was overheard recently telling someone "I knew I was a dancer when I was three"! I thought the language was interesting, not I wanted to be a dancer, but I knew I was a dancer.


I totally support her dream of becoming a professional dancer - she is only 11 going on 12 and is entering a vocational program this year. When she asks me directly "do you think I will be a professional dancer" I respond, "yes". Who am I to limit her ability to dream? She has natural ability, dedication and a maturity beyond her years. Her dream may change, she may become injured, she may not be good enough, but for now she has The Dream and the process of achieving that is what gives her immense joy. She believes she was born to dance, that it is simply what she is, so I will give her my total love and support and if at some point reality pokes in its head and takes The Dream from her, I'll be there to help her build a new dream using all she has learnt from this wonderful ride.

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danceintheblood, that is exactly all you can do. Sometimes we may have to improvise the way we go about doing it because of financial constraints or our physical location, but when you have a dk that is doing all that they can to achieve their goal, what else can we do but help them. Ultimately, whether they achieve that dream or not, is out of our hands anyway. Good luck to you and your dk!

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Thanks for your kind thoughts mylildancer.


Fortunately my dd's teachers believe she has 'it' and the independent assessor who was brought into the school to evaluate students either entering into or currently studying at a vocational level agreed that she has 'it', something special that attracted the eye, so her having The Dream is not totally unrealistic.


I was however shocked, when I saw figures from 1998 which showed that there were 240 professional dancers in Australia in 1998 (that is, dancers with a contract for six months or longer)!! From a population of 20 million that's so infintessimal!! Many Australian dancers work overseas, so I'm not sure if they were included.


We shall see, but in the meantime, I am really happy that it is the process of learning to dance, setting personal goals, challenging and extending herself that is the real attraction for my darling girl, rather than the possible goal at the end (although, the constant striving for perfection means that there is never really an end, is there?).

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  Then, there is the issue of girls, who are overweight, even by current standards, and on pointe and barely holding their own.


I certainly understand the concern about an overweight (and especially, "under-strengthed") dancer in danger on pointe...but I'm curious, since this discussion centers around the "body" that becomes a professional dancer -- your comment "overweight...by current standards" -- do you feel that the definition of "overweight" has changed? (I think, in the general American population, it has...at least for the popular definition.) But what about dancers? Watching kids (not just dancers) today, they seem to be growing taller. Will that trickle into companies who now prefer the shorter dancer? Will the "ideal" dancer change, just as she has historically, from the "rounder" dancers of years ago to the "Balinchine body"?


Whew, it must be hard on these kids, adolescents whose bodies have minds of their own and change daily, to spend hours in a leo in front of a mirror, aiming for perfection in both movement and body. My respect continues to grow for dance and dancers. As for dd...like other posters here, she tells us she didn't choose to dance -- it chose her. Let's hope that, over these next few years of physical change, her body doesn't choose to eliminate her, if she continues her passion.

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msd, there've been some very good discussion about "height" and what is considered "too tall" as well as the ever present concern about body types on the board, as I'm sure you know, but for those who are new - check out this search on "height". You'll see some threads that are not at all about women dancers' heights but a number that are and some very, very good discussions, too - for example Balletmartyr's "Ballerina Height Range", novamom's called "Height and SI's", mylildancer's "Predicting height and proportion" and tendumom's "Dancers Height". :)

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Thanks for the links, etc. BW. :) Yes, I've been reading those over time. Guess my questions are more hypothetical -- as the population experiences physical change (historically, look at a "tall" person from the 1700s -- there weren't many NBA draft picks then!) will the "ideal" ballerina change as well? Looking back, Maria Taglioni's would probably not be considered an "ideal" dancer's body by current standards.


Fashion is another example that comes to mind -- anybody else remember "Twiggy"? She was that long-legged, SCRAWNY (in my opinion), supermodel before supermodels of the 60s. Now fast forward to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.


Now, I don't anticipate the dream dancer's body to ever be confused w/a swimsuit model's (some things just don't work there...), but I am just musing about change in general, and whether/if that will impact the dance world over time.


Just wondering...

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