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identifying talent


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I know that this question will vary from dancer to dancer. However, as a ballet mom I"m curious. I have a 9-year old dancer who I believe is talented beyond the normal student who takes ballet for "fun". However, I am a mother. However, again, I did dance when I was in my teens.


Her current ballet school, which I have been happy with, I think....doesn't give too much information about students' progress. Yes, they get moved up to the next level etc. However, I am wondering if a child at her age can be identified as a dancer that would want to consider the Schools of the Arts or go out of state to summer intensives etc. I danced when I was already into my teens and as much as I loved it knew that I wasn't going to get to that level. I know that the windows of opportunity can pass by. The teachers seem hesitant to answer questions. I believe that it may be in fear of the parents that want their child to move up because someone else in the class did etc. I am not asking that she be put somewhere she is not ready for. However, how do I tell if she is getting all of the training that she should be. How do I tell if she will be a recreational dancer or one that I should start looking at further opportunities for? Furthermore, does a teacher approach you, as the parent if she is one of those students that they may recommend to seak opportunities. Or are ballet teachers so caught up in the competition of schools and programs around them that they just keep quiet? I ask this because my daughter did two Nutcrackers this year. She did the one put on annually by her dance school as well as the Moscow Ballet Nutcracker. When she approached her teacher with the news of making the Moscow Nutcracker as well. The teacher didn't have much to say. After the Nutcracker's were finished and my daughter approached the teacher to show her pictures she was asked if she liked the other one better. What a question. I don't see why you wouldn't support a child's accomplishments since they were the ones that trained her and taught her everything she knows. It should be a compliment to the teachers. Also, these students are not going to be at this ballet school forever-hopefully going on to Companies or more challenging schools. I don't see why teachers get so offended. Just need some insight. Thanks guys :yes:

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Hello Siegelife, welcome to the Ballet Moms and Dads forum here on Ballet Talk for Dancers! :yes:


It's very hard to know at that age, but there are students who show all of the physical potential very early on. At this point I think that I would just do everything possible to be sure that she is getting the very best available training. This is crucial now, if she does turn out to be a talented child in terms of ballet. The early training makes a very big difference, as she could spend years undoing bad training. Take her to a professional school, if possible, and have her evaluated and also discuss her training.


As far as SI programs, it's a bit early for that, outside of something at her own school.

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A most interesting and pertinent question. I can add very little to what Ms Leigh posted except to say that had fate not intervened when our daughter was around 8 or 9 years old, we would never have followed the path we did to insure we got her the best possible training. The key in those earliest days was very competent authority telling us that she had a gift.


We had not gone looking for that input but by pure chance she ended up in front of people who could and did volunteer the info. Furthermore, there were others from whom she took classes that never said a word to us regarding her ability and treated her as one of the many. On the one hand, she danced no differently from others at that age. Those who did speak to us about dd picked her out because of her body structure and proportions, her musicallity, and her ability to absorb what the teacher presented (that is what I am aware of that they evaluated...I am sure there are other things I am not aware of).


If you had suspicions about your dk, perhaps auditioning for some of the better year 'round programs would get you the feedback you needed. This certainly would not be practical for all situations but...



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I think many teachers do not say too much to parents of 8 or 9 year olds for fear of them getting too far ahead of themselves too soon. I had parents in my school early on who I let them know their kids really had potential, and I pushed hard for them and found that the parents got very carried away and really jumped the gun on many things that they did not know enough about yet. There are so many variables at this age and how the childs personality and interest develops is as important as how their body develops.

I can identify the children in a particular class who have classical potential and so can my other teachers and we do discuss it amongst ourselves, but I dont think most parents can and the child may not, at 9 be the best dancer in the class. But other then having the child come to class regularly and giving them the best possible training and providing a strong foundation on which they will build the need for a flair to sent up or a fanfare to be made is often detrimental to all involved. (Also with children the element of surprise of a talented child taking up soccer and a someone percieved as less talented becoming driven and making huge progress is always a factor)

I like it when parents ask me for a conference and ask me how their child is doing. That is an opportunity for me to talk to them a little more about their childs potential. (not in the hallway after class). I am happy when they ask about my dance background, my teachers dance background my training as a dancer and a teacher. I feel then I am dealing with a parent who is genuinely interested in the work I have put in to be the best teacher I can be. Other than asking "how much is it" or "do you have a class on Thursday at 6pm cause that is a good time for us" These questions also need to be asked but when they are the first ones asked I know they are usually looking for a recreational activiity.

As a parent I would look at the older students in the studio and inquire as to how they are doing. Are they going to summer programs? Are they apprenticing with companies? As well as going to college or going into dance related fields. I would look at the studio information as see what it says. Is there Summer program info up on the board or just competition info? (especially at this time of the year) Are the older kids taking photos or otherwise preparing for auditions? Is there some kind of youth performance opportunities of the classical nature for the students over say 13 years old. As the parent of a younger child have you gone to see what they do and were you impressed with the performance? Were the dancers well groomed and were the costumes well put together. Do the dancers look confident and are the performances organized. Do the kids look like they are dancing well on pointe or falling over? Does the school offer some kind of summer intensive or program and if not, do they recommend one for children aged 11 & up (even if it is short for the younger ones). Once you decide that the school is right for you and your child, the best thing to do is trust the teacher, get your child to class CONSISTENTLY provide strong support (hair done, on time, apparell fitting and correct) and leave it up to them.

9 is young but great foundations can be laid down between the ages of 9 & 11. Also socially the kids start to get really tight and if you decide to make a change later it can be alot harder.



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All people develop physically and emotionally at different rates. The physical attributes of a young dancer studying in the US are evident at a young age, however there is much more to it than the physicality. On the average, at about age 10, the body of a young dance student is developed enough to study seriously, the beginning levels of ballet well, however perhaps not emotionally. No teacher nor school is able to read into the future and make promises. Professional level schools are able to advise families on the physical abilities that are evident. The beginning years of ballet are the foundation for the student's future, like the ABCs are important for reading and writing. Undoing bad training is more difficult than teaching it correctly in the first place! :lol:


As Ms Leigh has stated, try to take your daughter to a professional program for accessment. Did the teachers from Moscow take an interest in your child? This does not always indicate anything but it could! You do need an objective opinion from an outside source. You daughter is still young, but if she does not receive the very best training available to her when she is young, time, money, energy and emotional investment may be spent without the most positive results.

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I don't think that you can count on teachers in a studio to comment on your dd's talents, and then point you in the right direction. Our experience was...that we were heading rapidly down the wrong track when an interested family friend rerouted us, gently. This friend is not a dancer but felt the studio we were involved with was not in the best interest of dd. By trying out another program (a short summer program for children) slowly our path changed. Still there was not a lot of out and out direction or mentoring, tho i would love it if there were. When I look back at pictures and videos of dd at 8 and 9, I can see something there, but at the time, I had no clue and she was just one of the pack. Mostly I have struggled with making difficult decisions for dd on my own, tho I have made her an integral part of the decision making from day one. She is the one who finally chose ballet to the exclusion of all else. She is now a day student at a residential program. It's a fairly good fit for her. It's been a long journey but well worth it.


And to add to your comments on teachers reactions to your daughters happiness with the Moscow Nut experience...similar to situations mine experienced, it was sort of sad when teachers cannot be happy for their students. This has toughened mine up quite a bit. ahhh, the classroom of life............

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Thanks to all of you for your thoughts. My dd is going to try another school tomorrow. They are obviously competitors in this area. When I initially called the "other" school they said they didn't have anything available and to try back in summer. I called back a few days later and mentioned where we were coming from, what level she was and that a mom of a dancer that used to go to the school told me about them. This other student came to our school because of Nut-requirement was that you have to take at least one class a week if accepted for the Nut. Anyways, the teacher then talked to me being sure to tell me why her school was the best and how she danced with ABT on scholarship. Her father directed Baryishnikov, Makorova etc. with ABT. (Sorry if names not spelled right). I think she sounded as if she has great credentials. Her father taught my dd's current teacher way back when. She also told me that the two schools teach very differently. I just hope I can tell something by her taking this trial class tomorrow.


I am not looking to become an overbaring dance mom. I know to keep my distance and let the staff breathe. I am just wondering if I should be lining things up for my dd if that's what she ends up deciding to do. You can't go back and I don't want her to say to me later...Mom if you only would have.... And if she decides not to dance later, fine. But if she does.....that's the question.


Thanks again for all of your insight.

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I think that the fact that the director gave you information about her background and the program is a good sign.

Good luck. BTW my requirements are 2 ballet classes per week minimum level 1 (not pre ballet) and up. Even one class per week to be in a nutty does not seem to be enough.

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My dd takes 2 classes a week now at her level. One is 1 1/2 hrs and the other is 2 hrs which includes 1/2 hr of pre-pointe. She is interested in taking another day a week which would be with another teacher who gives lots of corrections, praise and really talks to the girls. Her other two teachers are good too, just not quite as observent I guess is the word. When my daughter was at her previous level this other teacher taught that class. I though my dd would be intimidated by her but she loves her. Well, we'll check out this other school tonight-wish her luck in our hoping to find our way in our decision.

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Quite simply, find the best instruction you can find for your dollars in your area. If you visit a school, don't just look at the one's in your age group but look at older dancers as well. They will show where the program takes the kids. And then ask questions regarding recent SI and professional placements.


Plan for this move to be the only one, so aim for the best you can find now!


Good luck,


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My personal experience supports many of the other comments made here. My dd started ballet at the age of five, in a small coastal town, when a ballet teacher moved to the area. The following a year, a new teacher took over the fledgling school, where lessons were held in the local community hall. At the end of this year, the teacher (who is quite well known) took us aside and told us that our dd had true potential in ballet, as she had the physical attributes, grace and musicality, and suggested that if she retained an interest it would be worthwhile taking her to a quality school.


As it happened, we moved back to a larger city the following year. My dd was only seven, but I enrolled her in what I considered was the best quality ballet school and at the end of her first year with this school she was placed in a selective program. It was extremely important to me that the foundations were going to be solid and that I could have complete trust in her teachers, whether or not she became serious about ballet or not, after all, we're talking about bodies they must carry with them forever.


It was definitely the right decision. The school has been fantastic, dd is turning 12 this year and loves her ballet more every year and I know that she is being taught very well and with great care.


Find a good school (following the wonderful advice others have given here) and then trust the teachers to take her through the program at the pace which is right for her years and ability.


Good luck!! :)

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I wish I had changed schools when my dd was 8or9. She seemed happy where she was, even though she seemed to be way ahead of everyone. We finally moved schools and she was so frustrated at first. It has taken lots of hours the last two years but she has more than caught up the girls her age and is doing great. I definately understand not wanting to push, be a "stage mom". But don't wait too long before making the decision.

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