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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Grrrrrr!!! Negative comments ...


danceintheblood

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When I was sixteen. all the girls in my year at school had to attend "careers" interviews with the headmistress. One girl in my class said she wanted to work in the theatre as a stage manager, and then patiently sat through ten minutes of arguements that it's such a hard field to get into, and narrow are of opportunity, etc. Eventually the headmistress asked her why she thought she'd like to do it. "Because I've been ASMing for the National Youth Theatre for the last three years" was her reply.

 

Ballet may be a hard career to get into, but someone's got to succed and with talent, hard work, support from you and good teaching, it could just be your daughter. One thing's for sure though - she won't succeed if she gives up.

 

Jane

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happyfeet24

This is true.

 

Essentially, I think people mean well when they say what they do about our daughters and sons pursuing a career in dance.

 

It is "a hard life."

 

But really, life is tough anyway.

 

Dance is a dream, an aspiration and a serious goal for my daughter.

My husband and I are there for her 100%.

Now and possibly for more years than "normal" for many children.

 

The joy that she receives, the joy that she gives other, the healing that comes from the art of dance makes it all worth it.

 

I just say to people that I know it is going to be a tough life, but she loves it. We are going to support her in continuing with her education as well. This will provide her with the ability for a second career if she so chooses.

 

As long as she has a roof over her head, food to eat, clothes to wear, a studio to train in, and a stage to perform on ---- what else will she need.

 

I am ready and going into this with my "eyes open" thanks to all of those naysayers that have so graciously made me look at this rude reality hundreds of time.

 

I hear the mother of a 26 year old dancer looking for her third job in a company. A mother who oftentimes needs to buy food for her daughter's refrigerator. I understand that an apprentice gets paid between $200 and $400 per week, if that. I realize that a dancer gets a contract for one year with limited benefits. I understand that the competition never stops and that you can get yanked from your part at any given moment. I know that a dancer's body takes a beating.

 

Okay. Okay. I know these things.

 

But it doesn't change my mind to continue to support my daughter in her dream. I wouldn't think for a moment to dissuage her. She loves to dance. We love watching her dance. Onward and Upward we go!!!!!!

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I am in complete agreement with all of you - my daughter has heard some fairly obnoxious comments regarding her passion for dance. As I have rarely posted, I will also again state that my daughter is moving away from the professional track at 14.

 

Having said these things and at the risk of igniting war, while people's comments are often poorly phrased (even if well intentioned) there is a germ of truth in what your daughter's teachers said. She should maximize all options. We have known children who were completely convinced that classical ballet was their world at 12, and at 14 decided to take other directions. If for example, major exams constantly take back seat to an extra class or rehersal, this can sometimes be made much harder - not undoable, but much harder. While I don't countenance their lack of attempt to understand lives in any way different than their own, the hard truth is children change their minds for a complex set of reasons. For example, my daughter after puberty has a body that while it will not preclude professional classical ballet it would likely hamper the career. Even at the prepro level, seeing less talented dancers get better parts because of the AD's view of how a scene should look can go a long way to changing a young dancer's outlook.

 

This may well never happen to your daughter. Even if it did, she may prefer to dance in a small regional company than not at all. I think my daughter is leaning toward serious dance through college, but being the most graceful attorney around. She has made choices all the way through that preclude no path.

 

Best to all,

 

Steve

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For one more perspective...

 

I number of weeks ago I ran into a woman who taught my DD's Sunday School class when DD was 14. This neighbor has had a long awaited baby who has an inoperable brain tumor and she was filling me in on 40+ days in the hospital but the happiness that she has that her daughter was still alive at 2 years when she should have died in her infancy.

 

She asked for an update on my DD and I sheepishly told her about the driving and classes and worries about company auditions....I apologized for complaining about a life that is so much easier than a life with a terminal child.

 

She stopped me and tearfully explained that the greatest joy that she has and her only "escape" is art. She told me to never let our daughter stop because her dance can touch the soul and allow the audience to escape our cruel world...for a time.

 

I have thought about her a lot and I am glad that my DD's passion is what can comfort her. It is great to have one supporter in the crowd of negativism.

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On this note, while we have always supposted our son's passion for dance, we have always insisted on a plan b,c, etc. He will probably have the dance career he wants, but bodies break and get old. He has maintained academics and limited outside interests, because a well rounded person is a happy person,IMHO. Just because a person's passion is dance, they still can and should maintain interest in the rest of the world around them. ** i was referring to sarsdale's post**

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In the first decade of 20th century, Maria Montessori introduced her "Fundamental Needs of Humans" program. She divided them into two categories: the material needs and the spiritual needs. They are inseparable, she said. Included in the spiritual needs are art, religion (not necessarily organized religion though) and communication. Montessori believed that we can't satisfy the material needs 100% without including the spiritual needs.

 

A good example is defense. Yes, we need to defend ourselves against potential invaders but the danger would be lessened if we used our spiritual side to find and express the commonality we all share. Art, as just such an expression, is then not just an extra but an imperative.

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Kind of off subject. :blushing: My daughter told me last night that she couldn't get through her struggle with school without having dance as a release. She is trying to find a balance and has found working gets in the way of her studies but she still needs those few hours at dance to clear her head. :lol: I am trying to convince my husband to support this but if he won't I'm off to the job market and he can cook and do his own laundy :D .

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Balletmom

I also occasionally get strange looks (and more) from people, including DH (who bless his heart tries, but just can't get "it"), regarding my unwavering support for my daughter as she works towards a career in art. However, I've seen and experienced first hand the unhappiness that can come from suppressing the desire to be an artist, whatever the art form. Mel's and vagansmom's posts explain it a lot better than I could, but in some people it is a need that while non-vital to survival is vital to living a satisfying life. I don't come from a wealthy family, but the need to create and an underlying value for the arts runs deep.

 

My grandfather was a photographer before he married and settled into farming as a way of supporting his family. Since he died before I was born, I don't know if suppressing his artistic side caused him any anguish, but I do know he ended his own life by means of a gunshot while in his middle years. My own father has expressed that he always wanted to be a visual artist, but instead worked many years in an office job that he hated, and now battles depression in his later years. I can't say if there is any connection with the choices he made (or the chances he was given--he never received any art training) in his early years, but he was always supportive of both me and my sister in our artistic endeavors and would often brag to others about our achievements in this area. He is now my daughter's biggest supporter and says his dream is to see her dance in NYC before he dies. (I can't bring myself to tell him how slim her chances are.)

 

I've said it before, but I majored in art in college but decided to pursue a "real" job when I got out since I wasn't cut out to be either a teacher or a commercial artist--which is how many artists support themselves. I ended up with "just a job", and my husband often pressured me into pursuing a definite career path with measurable earning potential. He couldn't understand when I replied to his questions about what I wanted to do with my life with my telling him I just always wanted to be an artist, so nothing else really appealed to me. Not learning very well from my family, I eventually did get caught up in all the pressure to conform to what society expected from me and any art-making was pushed aside, but I was never truly happy. Within the last year, I've begun making jewelry as an outlet and I'm happier now than I've been in quite a while.

 

Now when someone questions me about my daughter following her heart, I just shrug and smile and tell them it's what she's always wanted to do--but I know that following this dream as far as she can is a very vital "non-vital" need.

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I think no one here questions absolute support for our children's aspirations in the arts. I think no one here suggests that such children should be steered to "real" jobs. The only point that I make is that the way a parent deals with this should first be age dependent; and second be tempered with an adults understanding of the realities of the world.

 

If a 12 year old says they will not study very hard for a specific final because there is a performance coming up and they will not miss a single rehersal, I think that is to be strongly discouraged. If this this is a 16 year old who has a lead role and a real shot at the real deal, my approach could well be very different. We don't for a moment tell the younger child how many positions can open at major companies in the last 5 years and compare that to the aspiring girls at their studio alone. We do however make sure they have options.

 

If my 14 year old daughter tells me that puberty left her with a body that will almost assuredly significantly dim the possibility of a position at one of the major US companies (we all know what I mean - lets not pretend that the slenderest girl with a womanly body shape and very strong talent will not have a very hard time landing a contract at one of the major companies unless she is truly remarkable) and she would rather dance recreationally, I say bravo for a mature decision. My daughter will be a baby swan in ballet of obvious name in 2 weeks with her schools company. She knows her chance of doing that with NYCBallet is zero. If she expressed the same career redirection because she could only do 25 fouette's and will never dance the coda from swan lake, I tell her to get back in the studio and work harder.

 

No one supports the arts or the hard work our amazing children do more than I. I simply feel we need to temper absolute support with a dose of reality - perhaps not even to be shared with the dancer. Simply held in our minds as we help them negotiate the shoals of a world in which the preteen feels he or she are making career decisions.

Edited by sarsdad
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balletmom, that's quite a strong familial link to the arts, which I think is probably not that uncommon if we all had the ability to really know the depths of our relatives' passions. I am, however, very sorry that your grandfather felt such anguish that he chose to end his life. I know you've made it clear that there is no direct correlation to his choosing this and his detour away from his artistic talents, never the less it's a tragic story.

 

I commend you for finding a new release yourself in the creative arts! Having been a fine arts student myself, who didn't end up in an arts related field during any of my many "careers", I admire you all the more! :thumbsup:

 

Today, I think we, as parents, are much more aware of the many paths that our children might take...it's not the way it used to be, thank goodness! Exposure to the many avenues that branch off from the performing arts and fine arts are key to helping one's children realize their potential...and, even then, some of them may surprise us with their eventual choices. Thank goodness for the flexibility that is more available today! :D

 

sarsdad, I completely understand your thoughtful post. You make a number of good points with qualifying examples of the kinds of support parents in general need to offer their children. As you wrote:

I simply feel we need to temper absolute support with a dose of reality - perhaps not even to be shared with the dancer. Simply held in our minds as we help them negotiate the shoals of a world in which the preteen feels he or she are making career decisions.

 

There will be those who say that teens eventually do come to "reality" on their own, but in my opinion you're wise to realize that it's important to keep your own eyes open, as well. My belief is that most parents are aware, though they may not always know it until they really need to.

Edited by BW
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Guest barrefly

My 11 yr. old was selected to perform in our school district's fund raiser black tie dinner. Her teacher submited her name, and she was accepted. She was one of only 3 grade schoolers selected for the entire school district. Her teacher and her principal sat at our table. Her music teacher also attended, (who happened to have another teacher friend that was sadler-wells trained(sp?). She even received a writeup in the local paper this morning. My dd did 2 routines, ...a gypsy character dance from don Q. (lots of piques and pirouettes) and a flamenco fan dance.

We chose these because of the quick change. Her school is very supportive of her talents. We are still coming off the high from a wonderful evening.

She recently got excepted to the Vaganova summer intensive. Mansur give her (being so young) a chance to audition because of her flamenco training. She also made finals in the regional YAGP comp. (did not go to N.Y. though because she is too young and did not have a classical rountine, only the gypsy, and a modern routine). My young dancer is a very accomplished ballet, jazz, tap, modern, flamenco and hiphop dancer. As her AD has stated, "she has the heart of a dancer". ....She also wents to be a pro dancer.

 

It is a complex world, ...and I do not believe that the key to happiness, and success is the science many would have you believe.

Edited by barrefly
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Mel Johnson

So you're a dancing dad, with a dancing daughter? That's an interesting family dynamic, and one which isn't seen too often! Many such combination packages I've known have worked out just fine, but sometimes there's competition between the two dancers, when one tries to set their dreams up for the other. And it can go both ways! It's a tricky line to walk, and I wish you good luck with it.

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dancemaven

My guess is that pretty much all parents of seriously focused DKs get this "criticism" or critical review of the DKs passion and the implied folly of the parental indulgence in childish dreams.

 

For everyone else, (including my mother) my response has always been a "whatever"-shrug of my shoulders along with the observation that "it will keep her off the streets when she's a teenager". Incidently, she is now a teenager and, boy, does it keep her off the streets!

 

For myself and my husband, we had to come to terms with the idea that this (as with many potential dancers) very,very bright and academically talented kid who has the potential to choose pretty much any profession and certainly, could choose one that would make her a very good living, is choosing a profession that most likely will keep her near-poverty level and with little hope of financial security.

 

We have come to terms with that by reviewing the priorities of life The point, I truly believe, is to be happy. Therefore, if dancing professionally is what makes her happy, then by all means, she should follow her heart. But, at the same time, she must be willing to live with the natural and logical consequences of that choice, i.e., she must learn to be happy living within her means in that profession---because if she can't, she won't truly be happy.

 

And, all dancers must at some point hang up their shoes and, therefore, she must be laying the groundwork for that second career. Specifically, I try to convince her that when that time comes, it will be much better for her to find herself somewhere a few rungs or more up that next ladder than at ground level, or below. Therefore, she is encouraged to maintain her high grades in the high academic classes and, to the extent reasonably possible, to take the AP classes, as well.

 

For us parents, the trick, I think, is for US to become comfortable with the idea that our child's chosen path in the less-financially rewarding arts arena is not only okay, but a pursuit equally as valid as one in law or medicine, for example. DH was hoping the second career might be in medicine, but DD is not interested and has mentioned teaching dance. Her father and I were able to realize that the value in that profession was incredible---after all, who could possibly say the teacher that touched the lives of so many, so intently and so individually had less intrinsic value to society (or the individual) than the financially-successful lawyer or doctor.

 

Bottom line, once the parents come to terms with the child's chosen path, no else's implied or direct criticism of that chosen path is of any importance. (But hopefully, neither the child nor the parents are operating in a delusional state).

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Victoria Leigh

Beautifully stated, dancemaven! :huepfen:

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