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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Oprah's show on sports parents

Guest fille'smom

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Happy in Md: Listen to you child. Whether they have the potential to become the next Gelsey Kirkland, if they don't want to do it, then it isn't thier dream anymore and it becomes yours.
I'm afraid that Gelsey Kirkland, whom we know way too much about, is not exactly the role model I would pick! :unsure:


Your advice is very sound and I agree with it wholeheartedly. I used to ask my daughter (who is now a professional dancer) once or twice a year if she was sure that she still wanted to become a dancer (her own dream since about age 7). Her response was always emphatically affirmative, followed by "please don't ever ask me that again", as if the very question offended her. Of course, I did ask again the next year, knowing full-well what the answer would be.


My daughter and I are pretty much joined at the hip -- we know each other really well! We have never had an argument. Now that she is overseas we talk every few days about all kinds of things: the Gilmore Girls (a major topic, as we're taping every episode for her to watch, marathon-style, when she comes home; how her sisters and brothers are doing and what neat things her younger brother/best friend says (she writes them down); the social doings back home; news about her dance friends from her studio (she misses them very much); what she cooks for herself (she loves the food in the country where she lives!); what she and I are reading; how church was last Sunday; the many visits she makes to friends and family over there, including sushi-making sessions with another transplanted Canadian; oh, and how her daily classes, rehearsals, and performances are going, too! :D


She has had more than a few rough spots in her dance career, and recently even thought, during a period of angst, that she wanted to chuck it all. I asked her the dreaded question again, and told her I would support any decision she made (she already knows that, but it's good to verbalize your support often) and she told me that she knew the feeling would pass and she would get joy from dancing again. She was mature enough, she said, to know that she wouldn't always feel so down on herself, and her love of dancing would again rise to the surface.


It is painful for me to hear her going through difficult times, especially with her being an ocean away, but I know that she knows that we are behind her all the way all the time -- and that's the key point. We are behind her, not in front of her, pulling. She is doing the driving. It has always been her choice, even when she came to realize what a tough career she had chosen.


I have to admit, I do "live" through her, having been a dancer myself who gave it up to have children. Having danced, I really enjoy watching her every balletic step from the inside-out (as well as from the outside-in!) knowing how it feels to do those movements. But I consider it a gift God gave me -- a daughter (the only one of my 3 daughters) who shares my passion for ballet. I do not live through my oldest daughter, the scientist (and she would hate it if I did!), or my middle daughter, the artist, or my 3 sons, not even the youngest who danced (past tense) alongside his sister for years. I support them and love what they do, and am very proud of them, but cannot identify with their passions because they are different than my own.


It would be impossible not to live through what my dancing daughter does, since she is, in the best possible way, an extension of me, and not only because of her interest in ballet. She and I are the most alike in temperament, likes and dislikes, even values, of all my children. That's a fact, and not a bad thing, at least not in the way it plays out in our family. Each of the children have a sibling (or two) with whom they are more "soulmated" than the others. My relationship with each is unique and wonderful, too. My husband and I are lucky to have such great kids.


As a balletmama who's been immersed in the world of ballet since childhood, I have been able to help my daughter with: 1) choosing the right studio for her ballet training, 2) conversationally passing on ballet history during years of car drives to the studio along with personal experiences from my own dancing days in the 1960s, 3) taking good ballet photos for those SI applications, 4) making an audition DVD by videotaping her in the studio and in performance, 5) separating the wheat from the chaff in various situations which require a well-honed ballet perspective, and 6) being a good ballet-literate chum who understands and welcomes her explanations of combinations and variations, pointe shoe/ballet slipper/leotard/tights/warmups annoyances and other such germane-to-ballet minutiae!


I have seen, over the 9 years my daughter trained, just a little bit of the behaviour that is the subject of this thread. One was a real hockey-mom -- she and her husband owned the junior team their son (who also acted in commercials) played on. They blew into town for a two-year stint from the U.S. and placed their daughter in our school. I had never witnessed before or since what I saw this mother do. The worst was when she nearly incited a riot in her daughter's jazz class by accusing the teacher of favouring the advanced ballet students who took the class over her daughter and others who were "better" in jazz (not true, btw). She stormed in while class was in session one day and started having it out with the teacher.


Other crazed moms were much tamer by comparison. A few of them over the years would stand in the adjacent-to-the-studio dressing room watching their kid from just inside the changeroom doorway (when there was plenty of room for them in front of the upstairs windows overlooking the studio from which vantage point the other parents observed classes), sometimes mouthing admonitions to their kids, thereby diverting their attention from the studio and the teacher. One was a competition parent, a teacher herself, whose daughter went to a competition studio but came to our school for ballet. One day, her child came to class already in the makeup she would wear for the competition they left early for, and a more tarted-up 13 year old I have never seen up close! This mother seemed to otherwise be a nice, normal woman, but she sure knew the ins and outs of the competition racket and told many stories that would make your hair curl!


I think it's as much a societal thing as growing up in the Connecticut or Westchester social heirarchy, or the plasticized Hollywood entertainment world, or the monied southern debutante circles, or the midwestern realm of children's beauty pageants, or the haut monde aristocracy-wannabe communities of major European centres.


Living in America, most of us do attempt to surround ourselves with status symbols, anyway -- the "right labels" in everything from clothing to kitchen appliances -- in order to impress -- whom?......why, those who rate us, or whom we perceive as rating us -- starting with our friends, family, and neighbours and continuing on to acquaintances and those with more influence in our lives. With forethought or perhaps instinctively, we try to put distance between ourselves and those we consider below us.


However, career social climbers are avid materialists with a short-term focus. Celebrity and visibility are so attractive and achingly beckoning, that chasing after -- indeed, manufacturing -- them seems to take away all reason. That's where I think these parents are at. Their children have become a commodity to be traded for favour, even if that favour only consists of a good opinion or name-recognition of their offspring (and may even only exist in the mind of the parent). The poor kid is just another material possession which, if it doesn't work right, gets kicked or screamed (and sometimes cursed) at, as if s/he were a faulty automobile or VCR.


Okay, that's far more than my 2 cents. Written over the course of many hours, this post has gone from personal to philosophical, and I am sorry for its length! :blushing: My mission is to decide whether to post it at all. For awhile I thought I wouldn't. Then I changed my mind!


P.S. My DD phoned while I was in the middle of this essay and we talked for over an hour, mainly about her performance yesterday, where she had two solos. She told with me that whatever little things happen in the course of an ordinary day, she always says to herself "I've got to share this with mamma!". Yesterday, as she was having her makeup applied by the theatre's makeup artist, she made such a mental note after a conversation they had, and following that, when the hairdresser styled her hair, she had a sweet story to tell about that, too. She keeps my picture on her dressing room mirror as inspiration and fashioned a heart shape with a length of ribbon I had sent her, which is tucked into the corner of her dressing table. Talk about warming a mother's heart! These things also indicate that this is a path she chooses for her life -- for now -- and that she lovingly takes her mom along for the ride, whether I'm able to be there physically or not.

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Thank you so much for your post Marga. I hung on to and felt every word. What an incredibly beautiful relationship you have with your daughter. Thank you for sharing!!!

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Yes, thank you very much, Marga, for a richly textured and honestly expressed post. :D

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What's a mom to do?


Communicate--by really listening, hearing and believing in what your DK expresses.

Compartmentalize--help them with the pros and cons they feel about their decisions to dance or not.

Allow--talent and passion to be seperate beings if necessary.

Support--no matter what the activity they feel they would like to pursue. Even if you hate tiddlewinks! Learn to love it.

Cheer--along the sidelines just like you did for this activity, passion or pursuit.

Believe--that your child knows what they want/like and allow them the chance to live for it.

Grieve--the loss of your money, but don't hold it over your child's head. And grieve the loss of this "place" that you've come to know as your 2nd home.

Swallow--the urge to say "I told you so" if they want to go back to dancing after a short time.

Remove--yourself from the situation of it being your own child. What would you tell your neighbor to do with their talented child if they wanted to do something else?

Realize--that long after the dancing is done, you'll want a happy, healthy child who is now an adult raising happy, healthy offspring.

Count--to 10 and back many, many times!


(And I'm learning to do all of this as one of my 3, is cutting back on her dance training, talent withstanding to do some other things. She doesn't want her sister's footsteps, she wants her own and is learning to make them!)

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Ballet parents can and are as scarey as sport parents.  I try to steer my dancer and myself as far away from these people as possible!



I agree, I try to stay away from the overly obsessive parents. I had to laugh this year at one audition for a summer program there was about six inches from the floor that the glass door wasn't covered, and parents were actually lying on the floor to see into the audition.

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Mel Johnson

If you ever find yourself doing that, that's when you know you have fallen too far to be involved safely anymore. Time to step back. WAY back.

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I missed both shows, although my daughter saw Sports Moms & Dads and filled me in on several parents. Coincidentally, a couple of nights ago we watched a rerun of the Jay Leno show when one of his guests was the number one draft pick in the recent NFL draft. My daughter and I were both impressed with this very intelligent (he was recruited by top-tier ivy-league schools and had the credits to graduate from Utah within two years) and physically gifted young man who was drafted as a quarterback by San Francisco. He said his parents did not allow him to play football until high school. I figured it was because he was a late bloomer size-wise, but he told Jay Leno that his parents did not want him to get burned-out. Based on the very delightful "happy-to-be-here" attitude he exhibited during this interview, he has two very smart parents. :innocent:

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Knock knock.... Y'all rock. :innocent: And Marga, I'm tearing up... :innocent: Must run home and phone my mum right away....

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Dreams are not static, they change in depth and direction as the child grows into a teen and then young adult. Lets not cheat our kids from exploring life through this natural process.


Beautifully written asleepatthewheel.

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Guest Vicarmac

My daughter found the football Dad the most frightening. HE not only admitted it was HIS dream he started out by saying he believed kids chose their parents and that was why he got his son so he could fulfill his dream. My kid kept saying "He's only 8 years old" I commented about the kids chose their parents comment with "yeah the local guy who beat and buried his 2 year old daughter was chosen by her too, right :thumbsup:

As scary as he was the cheerleader mom was pretty creepy to me.

We have watched all these mom and dad bravo shows. Some of the showdog parents were pretty nutso too, but more entertaining in an eccentric way for the most part. The showbiz and sports parents are something else. The pagent mom in the showbiz ones was alot like cheerleader mom. She couldn't believe she came off so negatively. I'm sure the editing does add to that, but she really did say the things she did.

And to comment about the NFL draftee and other football stuff, when I listened to the Dad I flashed on an old Sports Illustrated article about how many thought one kid that was very touted as the next great thing and went to USC (I think) never ended up as anything much and many think his Dad was the reason why. He had been like the TV dad and worse.

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Marga, I'm so glad that you did post this as I really connected with your story. (there must have been several of us posting at the same time).I have four children who I love intensely, but I have a very special connection with my youngest, who is my dancing daughter. While she is much younger than your own dancer, at only 12, we have never fought and have a deep understanding of one another.


While my own dancing years ended early in my teenage years, I totally understand what she means when she says that music "flows through" her. To this day, I am first on the dance floor at any social function - I can't help myself. And late at night, in the heart of the suburbs, with curtains closed and the family in bed, I can sometimes be found dancing alone in my loungeroom, feeling the music move me with eyes closed. My dd loves the fact that I understand her desire to dance and that I believe in her. Although she is young, she is also quite insulted when people question her certainty that she will be a dancer. Of-course, this desire may indeed dissipate in the future, as she is still young.


I worry sometimes that I may be living through her, as she has all the ability that I didn't have, but with the same passion that I did have. I have said to her in the past, and will do so again, that if at any stage, I am no longer supportive, but am rather becoming a pushy mother, tell me to stop! I also check in regularly with the "are you still loving this" question, again, as I am alert to the fact that this was, at one stage in my life, my dream. I am enjoying living the dream with her at the moment, but would be devastated if I found that she was living her dreams, whatever they be, for me and not for herself.

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danceintheblood -- thank you for your post! Everything you said I identified with, including dancing by yourself in the living room! When my first batch of children were small (when there were only four of them), we danced together often, even in the quiet street in front of our house! My daughter who dances is only 19 and I remember well when she was 12. Your 12 yr. old sounds just like mine did. :)


happyfeet24 and vagansmom -- thank you, too, for your supportive posts thanking me for mine. It means a lot to get your feedback and, vagansmom, I always appreciate your thoughtful and wise contributions to this forum.


Momof3darlings -- I loved your list!


A couple of days ago I chanced upon a TV show about stage parents. One of the featured families I recognized from an episode of Dr. Phil. It was the Nutter family with 7 children where the father is the insanely-driven stage parent and his wife the reluctant one (not to mention the kids, who didn't seem to want to do it at all). The more this dad talks, the more he gives one to be concerned about. He cannot see at all what anyone looking in on him and his family has to criticize. He has very willingly and admittedly made his family visible by agreeing to appear on controversial shows about stage parents. Where he gets his energy to rally his disinterested family every day is beyond me. This is a dad who personifies his name!


In pursuit of their dreams our children will find themselves mixed in with the weird parents and their kids from time to time - at auditions, SI's, even professionally. If they are cushioned by our support and love, they will weather such encounters well.

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This is such an interesting topic. I did watch the show and agree with many of the observations already posted by other parents. The cheerleading mom stood out to be the worst because not only was she your typical crazy "stage mom" but she added to it by sexualizing her very young daughter. (I believe I heard her say "shake it baby" to her daughter while doing a number in a very skimpy cheerleading costume.) :)


Anyhoo~ I think that this is a fine line that we all walk. None of us would be on this website if we did not have something invested in our dancers. When does it go beyond supporting your child and pass over into an unhealthy obsession for the parents? We ALL think our kids are wonderful and talented. We're supposed to, we are their parents and we love them unconditionally. (Like the time my mom made such a big deal about my LAST PLACE ribbon at my first little 4-H junior horse show. She wanted to let me know she was proud even if I did come in last.)


I have learned a lot recently, partially due to this very site and partially because the more we become involved the the "ballet world," the more people and situations we are exposed to. I give kudos to the parents that are able to drop their kids off at the studio and go to the library or out for coffee, rather than getting sucked into the lobby culture and all the dysfunctionality that goes along with it. (i.e. "where's DD going for the summer?? What part did he/she get?? oh, so and so only got that part because their parents are ballet contributors. etc, etc, etc....) I think someone on this thread alluded to the fact that some of the most successful athletes, dancers, etc., were able to become so because their parents knew when to back off and let the child make it his/her own dream, not the parents. Yes, some ARE able to overcome the stage parents that we are all talking about here, but that percentage may be somewhat low. It ceases to become the childs true dream if their success is the only path to unconditional love from their parents. :blushing: I think we saw a good example of that in the figure skater boys mom when he failed to place in the top 3 in his competition. These kids are hard enough on themselves without having to shoulder the parent's disappointment as well.


I hope we can all take a lot from this thread and look at our own behavior and make sure that we are all acting in the best interest of our kids. I have learned a lot as well, especially this past year. I used to fret if my son wasn't dancing all around the house in his spare time like he did when he was little. I started to question whether dancing was what he wanted to do. But now I realize that having other interests than dance is the best thing that he can do for himself to ensure that his life stays balanced and he does not burn out. I LOVE pizza, but if I had it every day, I would probably get nauseous at the sight of it after a while. Weird analogy, but I think it rings true. You can still want to be a professional dancer AND have outside interests. I think we parents forget that when we try and take control of their lives and do what we decide is best for their "future careers."


Warm regards to all of you that are able to walk the "sane" part of the line. :wacko: I know it is tough, but our kids will thank us. :blushing::party:

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ami1436 -- I'm sorry I forgot to thank you earlier for your lovely response as well! :wub: backatcha!

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dancetaxi, thank you, too, for your very wise post. It is, indeed, a very fine line. Your son is fortunate to have you on his side. :thumbsup::wub::clover:

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