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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Another Newbie to Group


DaveS

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Hello everyone. My name is David, I live in Sydney, Australia, and I am not so much the parent of a young dancer rather being the mentor of a young dancer.

 

My protégé is what you would call a 'born performer'. His parents are very good friends of mine, and his upbringing has been one of great freedoms (he has spent much of his life on a rural property for instance - one to broaden the mind and spirit if anywhere), and so with that free spirit he has evolved and developed in ways not necessarily considered mainstream. This would not ordinarily tend to be much of an issue, but moving from that rural setting to a large town has suddenly thrown him and his sister and brother into a bit of turmoil, not just with adjusting to life in an urban setting, but with adjusting attitudes in general.

 

The thing that I noticed though is that while free spirited and physically active, he has never developed much in the way of a sense of self discipline. This is not to say he is slovenly, boorish or ill-mannered, just that where issues of self discipline come to play, he falters a bit. Sharp, intelligent and clever, his mind (and body) needed something, so I offered to fund a 'performing arts' mentorship for however long he wanted (his sister and brother didn't miss out either, though his sister wants to be an artist and his brother wants to be a singer). Given his parents have never had much cash to hand, especially for such things as arts, this was welcomed from all quarters.

 

Having years ago experienced ballet vicariously (the 'philosophy', that is) via a six month relationship with a ballerina (to say nothing of enjoying going to it from time to time), I understood and respected what dance had to offer, especially to a young fellow of nine years of age, and with its coverage of not just discipline but physical co-ordination, deportment, music appreciation and self confidence, it seemed to be an excellent way to lead him down a path where he could only stand to benefit. Most importantly, he was made aware of what it was and given a choice, which he appreciated and accepted wholeheartedly.

 

He started at a dance school that seemed more than adequate - it had a good balance of staff and students; the display cabinet full to overflowing with all sorts of medals, trophies and awards; the students very welcoming, supportive and friendly, and there was a considerably large number of fellow male students who he could make friends with and identify with.

 

He started in February of this year (after the family relocation in December last year), and has reportedly made astoundng progress. His physical fitness has improved remarkably (not that he was a slouch before mind you, but his development has been reflected in his becoming vice-captain of the swimming team at the school he now attends); his bearing and self confidence are at levels where you couldn't ask more; and despite a couple of hiccups along the way, he has settled in to a place where he feels comfortable despite the constant challenges.

 

The school teaches RAD technique, and they have a concert coming up in a few weeks, which I am hoping to attend, just to see how he has come along (living as I do in another city, I don't get to see my friends much as it is, and none of his dancing in the classroom, though I am told he is genuinely very good, as the brief deomstrations in the living room during my visits testify).

 

For a little while, he was getting a little discouraged after one of the teachers added a 'technique' class so he could catch up with the rest of the students (starting at age nine it was decided to have him start at Grade 3, which in retrospect may have been a mistake). This class exhausted him, coming as it did during the afternoon of the same day as sports day at school. He grumbled a bit about that, so I started looking around the internet for something supportive for him. At that time a couple of TV documentaries aired, which showed male dancers (including when they were young), and that inspired him a little. He perked up seeing the dancers when they were his age and then seeing them grown up and dancing as brilliantly as they did (and receiving thunderous applause too - that sparked a bit of envy, methinks). After that, I found the website of a Sydney dance school which had a book for sale, full of inspirational text for young dancers. I bought the book and was indeed very impressed. Not as impressed as my young protégé though, who thought the book "brilliant", not for the text, but for the photos of young dancers doing all sorts of extraordinary moves and poses that he said were "cool" and/or "awesome".

 

I've seen little else about - bookstores in general have childrens books about stories from the ballet (he's *learning* that), going to a class (he already *does* that) or 'be a ballerina for a day' sort of titles, but nothing motivational or inspirational for young dancers (male or female). My local library has a couple of tattered copies of books published well over twenty years ago with grainy black and white photos of dancers and maybe one or two postage-stamp size photos of kids in dance, but that's it. I've had a look at dance magazines, but they're geared for adults, except for a pocket-size one ostensibly for younger dancers, but has little to offer males, I'm afraid. I haven't had much luck finding anything on the internet (the site where I got that book is for a dance school rather than an across-the-board 'let's inspire young dancers' sort of site), which is a pity when you consider he responds more to pictures or video than text. I've found a couple of videos, including a performance of "Peter and the Wolf" which has a young male lead which may inspire, but what I think he needs is to see other young fellows talking about dancing and how much they enjoy it, and then see them a bit older and how well they've done. I thought "Billy Elliot" might have been okay, but I sat down and watched it for myself and felt that with the hardship, violence, foul language, dubious sexual undertones and cringingly stereotypical characterisations this is not a film for a nine year old male dancer.

 

I'll keep looking and see what else I can find, just to keep the encouragement going. Not being physically there isn't helping (and work committments preclude me from being there regularly), and while his parents are enthusiastic supporters, what kid pays attention to what parents have to say?

 

Well, sorry for the ramble, but that's where I'm up to. Thanks for this list - I stumbled across it in another search for inspirational things for my protégé, and instead found somewhere I can read others' stories while asking questions of my own. While I'm no expert, my own experience in mentoring has been quite educational, so I'll try to pitch in constructively where I can.

 

 

Cheers,

 

 

David

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Hi, David, and welcome! We live in the U.S., but were able to spend your fall last year living in Canberra where my daughter continued her dance studies. My son was too young at that point to be interested in dance classes, but he has since started.

 

One of the "inspiring" tools that came to mind as I read your post is if you could take your protege to see any ballet performances and then meet the dancers afterward at the stage door. We saw the Australian Ballet both in Sydney and in Canberra. After the show in Canberra, my daughter and I went to the stage door at her teacher's encouragement, and I have to say I was just blown away at how friendly and accessible the dancers were, particularly the men. They actually chatted with us for a good 15, 20 minutes -- and this included such gods of the ballet stage as Steven Heathcote and Damian Welch! I'd have to imagine that having such an encounter after seeing a performance would make a very good impression on a young male dancer.

 

Cheers!

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Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers, David. Wonderful parents like chauffeur have so much to share, I am sure you will be offered many ideas to inspire a young male dancer.

 

Do take time to browse the exisiting messages and these links which include many movie and book suggestions for the young male dancer. Also, make sure to introduce yourself on the Welcome forum. Ballet can use as many supportive adults as possible.

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Hi, David, and welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers. :pinch:

 

You may find your menting (I know it's not a word, but humor me) is easier than you think. At age nine, they don't need a lot of menting; they've got plenty of ment on their own! :D

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