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How necessary is it to perform?


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My son is ten and in his second year of ballet at a studio associated with a professional (regional) company. He truly LOVES ballet, and really does like to perform, however because of the way casting is handled, he is considering not taking part in future performances through the school, aside from the end of the year recital/performance.


The problem is that the AD of the studio feels obligated to grant the requests of certain parents--these requests range from moving their DD to a better cast because of what they call scheduling preferences to completely changing the part of their DD because the parent throws a fit when DD doesn't get the part they think she deserves.


This year, my DS got the brunt of the parent request--he got moved down to the cast below his to accomodate a parent's request that her DD be placed in the same cast as her sister, to make it convenient for the parents. He was the only student moved, besides the girl who essentially got his spot, and it is obvious to everyone involved what happened. DS felt humiliated and hurt, but has continued on with the part.


After rehearsal today, he asked the AD why he was moved, and if he was doing something wrong. The AD dismissed him with a rather generic response and seemed annoyed that he was asking.


DS was visibly upset after this.


I told DS that I don't think it is necessary that he perform to become a great dancer, and that perhaps next year, he shouldn't participate in the Nutcracker and other shows that are cast by the AD, just stick to the end of the year performance with his class. He is considering that, and also considering switching to another studio.


I guess my question is two-fold:


A) Is performance necessary for a ten year old boy who aspires to a professional career?




B) Is this parent-AD drama normal with casting? Should I just get used to things unfolding in this manner? or is it as I suspect, unprofessional?


I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts and/or suggestions!

Edited by Tuesday
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Knock knock (dd is 13 now):

At the school my dd attends, the Nuts extravaganza is handled professionally. Parents who approach an AD about casting concerns are probably hampering their dk's chance of success in future performances. There are carpools and each dk is allowed to assign 1 (ONE) buddy to carpool with. Then the assignment to cast happens.


In a way, I can see the other parent's point. It would be a big hassle to have to run both dd to different performances. (In fact that is a putrid thought, much as I love Nuts*.) If they handled cast assignment the same way at your ds's studio, there might have been an error made and it was simply being corrected. Nothing meant to your son.


In any event, what's with the better cast concept? Each cast at dd's Nuts gets equal performances and mixes up weekends, school matinees, Christmas eve and opening night so every cast gets some of the 'funnest', for lack of a better word, performances. I once went in the dressing room and heard my dd and a friend lamenting that they were in Cast C. I told them both to be quiet or they might be in Cast Nevermore. It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing (Translation: If you don't get to perform, you don't get to shine.) So be happy to be in a performance and do your best and let the AD worry about casting.


*I should mention, my dd's school is attached to a company and they do 39 shows.

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I don't think it is essential to perform at 10 years old, however, with young male dancers it can be important to keeping their interest in ballet. It will be necessary to perform during the teen years. Right now the training should be the major priority, and the best training possible is what you are looking for. A few less performance opportunities are not the main criteria at this point in time.

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There are three casts, and they differ in terms of the number of performances and which performances are bigger draws, audience-wise. The company attached to my son's school is very small, and does only five performances here. I should have explained that better.


It sounds like your DD is at a school that casts in the way I expected my DS's school to cast. As a parent, I figured casting wasn't something I should be requesting or meddling with in the slightest way, so it was a bit strange to me when I realized what went on. I might have thought there was some mix up with casting had my son not been rehearsing with the other cast for the last two or three weeks, and had I not heard the mother request that her daughter be moved to the other cast.


I don't like the better cast concept, either, but that is how it is here, which is unfortunate.

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Ms. Leigh,


Thank you for your thoughts. I agree that it is important to keep his interest, and looking back on last year, undoubtedly his high point was performing with the company in a walk-on role as the changeling boy in A Midsummer Night's Dream. He felt so important and privileged to be part of that show... it was neat.


I am not sure if he is at the best school in town for him, as I feel confused as to whether it is more important for him to be with a male, ex-professional dancer (who danced with large, well known companies) or with the female teachers he studies with now (they have degrees in dance, and pro experience with regional ballet companies) at the school that is affiliated with the small, regional pro company. I will probably be asking questions about that situation soon, as it is hard for me to decide which is better for him.

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I have two daughters dancing in a professional company's Nutcracker, and I would be very disappointed if they were in different casts! I might even consider asking for a change to be made. :P I really don't think your son should feel humiliated: casting changes happen all the time for a variety of reasons. If your son wants to be a dancer, he needs to be comfortable with this. If he wants to dance, why would he turn down an opportunity to perform, even if it is in a "lesser cast"? I do understand your feelings about political casting; we have experienced this in the past with a school production, and it was terrible. My dd actually had good parts, but the performance was not as good as it could have been had all casting been based on talent. It also created an unpleasant environment for both parents and dancers. Now we have found a better place for them to shine!

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I think it is because he was the only person moved, and he was moved down. I think too, it has to do with him being more experienced and a better dancer than the girl who replaced him. He hasn't turned down any performing opportunities at this point--he will still be in the show. He is thinking that next year he may opt out of the performances beyond the school show that takes place each June.


As for this mother's request, I think she could have either been told no by the director, or her younger daughter, who had a part that wasn't auditioned for but was given out on a classwide basis could have been switched. I think it was manipulative for the mother to ask the director to move up the older daughter knowing that someone in the cast above her would have to be moved down so that she could move up. Our director is notoriously bad at saying "no" to parents, and I think most of the school has caught on to this and uses it to their advantage. Like you said, this creates an unpleasant environment for the kids and their parents. Perhaps we need to switch schools.

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I need to chime in here because I am aware first hand of the situation with Tuesday's DS.


We, as parents are constantly being told that casting is based on several factors including technique, stage presence, size etc. Tuesday and I have both explained this to our children, and while they might not always be happy with casting they have learned to accept it, sometimes with tears attached. The Nutcracker is not a school performance, but with a professional company, and we have been led to believe that casting is fair and equitable with the quality and overall success of the performance always first priority.


So here's what happened: Little "Susie" and her sister are both in lower levels at the school and both have guaranteed small walk-on roles, but Susie wants to audition for a better role. Tuesday's DS is in a higher level and everyone at his level is required to audition if he/she wants a role. Susie and Tuesday's DS both get the same part, but different casts. There are three total casts. Their parts would be equivalent to Bon Bons in most Nutcrackers (I think). Susie, and other less experienced, not-so-strong dancers are all in cast three. Tuesday's DS is in cast two.


Susie's sister could have been very easily moved so that SHE was in Susie's cast, not the other way around. Susie and her sister are very young by the way. The dancers in Susie's sister's class are between 5 and 6 years-old, so she probably wouldn't have even realized if she was put in a different cast. Furthermore, the parents of the little ones are given the option to choose which performance works best for them!


The mother very clearly realized that if her request was approved, someone else's child woud be hurt. The mother's conversation was overheard. I don't believe that Tuesday's DS was singled out. He just happened to be the unfortunate one who got bumped. It could have just as easily been any one of the girls. When everyone arrived at the studio this week and saw the memo stating the change had been made, their jaws dropped....including the one on my own DD! Unfortunately, she knows exactly how he feels.


This is not the first time something like this has happened. Something very similar happened to DD a few months ago. In fact, I vented A LOT with someone from the board because I was fuming! The AD was discussing my child's progress with another parent because the parent thought a gross mistake had been made in my DD's class placement. According to the mom, my DD definitely works hard, but she does it because she has to. Her DD doesn't have to work hard because she's naturally gifted and the teachers just don't see it yet. This is not, let me repeat, NOT hearsay. The parents had the audacity to tell me these things to my face. I don't want to go into how it ended....but AD caved, and it wasn't pretty. We're still dealing with the damage. Now these parents feel empowered to make all sorts of decisions and the AD has set a precedence.


So the big picture? Boundaries are being crossed, or now that I think about it, they've never been set. I have to add that I like the teachers at the school and I respect them. The problem lies with the AD who happens to be the owner. She allows parents to walk all over her and make decisions for her. When the dancers ask to talk to her, she either doesn't have the time or she doesn't tell them the truth. Sometimes girls are told they didn't get a part because they're too tall, when the girl who DID get the part is 2 inches taller than she is. :speechless:


Why can't these dancers, who are often teenagers, simply be told the truth? A child can't do anything about her height, but if she's not strong enough, or hasn't acquired enough technique she might be motivated to work harder and try to correct those problems. Children can handle the truth as long as it's delivered properly. How do you motivate a child with a lie?


But really, what was the AD going to say to Tuesday's DS? "Sorry, that mom can't come to the Saturday evening show because she has other plans, so it doesn't matter that you are better suited for that cast." Basically, parents are making the casting decisions. These children know that what the AD is telling them isn't true, which leads them to believe they must have done something wrong. I guarantee if the AD had said, "I'm sorry I can't make that change." the mom would have found a way to deal with it.


There are a lot of other parents in the same situation, and they've managed to make it work. Mom helps backstage while child A performs and dad and child B watch....and then dad helps backstage with child B while mom and child A watch. Even I'm in that situation. I have a little girl living with me right now who is in Nutcracker...my own DD is in cast one and the other little girl is in cast three. We will quite simply, deal with it.


I have made a solemn vow never to interfere with my DD's placement or any casting decisions. I won't campaign for DD. She will grow up in the ballet world always knowing and never doubting that when she does get a coveted part it's because she earned it not because her mom complained about it.


I think my response is bordering on both the crazy mom thread and the parent/child/teacher relationship thread. In our studio parents are not only NOT afraid to question the AD, they think they have the right to do so, and there are no repercussion.


Good luck Tuesday, and DD and I are both sorry about what happened!

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There are insane dance parents no matter what school one attends. It always amazes me that they have so much influence. They manage to infiltrate to very high places. Not one thing can be done about this.


In the case of a dancer, who happens to be male, generally I have seen them included in many performances, often performing a multiple of roles. If your current AD does not follow this type of casting for boys...believe me, there are many out there who would love to have your son perform if that is what he enjoys doing.


He is young, it's probably time to leave for clearer waters.

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Even if it's in Polichinelles, if a boy gets bounced from a boy's part to be replaced by a girl, the director needs her head examined.

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DancesInHerSleep and Tuesday, I do empathize with you. We have all been in these frustrating situations when we feel our kids have been treated unfairly. I have found that the best thing for my own sanity is not to get sucked into the politics, gossip, and general negativity. I just don't listen to those who heard so-and-so say such-and-such to the AD, etc! Tuesday, I'm sure your son will be a wonderful Bon Bon and dance just as well in cast 3 as he would have in cast 2. If this is a professional production, all casts must be pretty good! If you are generally unhappy about how the school is run, you may be right to move on. Good Luck. :speechless:

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DancesInHerSleep-- Thanks, I know your DD has similar issues with the AD. I think DS feels like he might not do Nutcracker next year because of the drama, and as I thought about that, I realized there are several kids that I know of who don't participate in Nutcracker, though I don't know if it is to avoid the inevitable conflict or for some other unrelated reason. Like I said in the other thread, I think next year DS is going to focus on his technique, and will have classes with the other studio, though I am not sure yet if we will stay at both schools. It will depend a lot upon who teaches his level next year, I think. He really likes his teacher now, says she gives lots of corrections, more than the teacher at the other studio, but likes the other studio because there are BOYS, and because the teacher is a male, and fun.


Asleep at the Wheel--I guess its comforting to know this isn't the only school with nutty parents. My son is one of three boys (over the age of 5) at his school. He is the most advanced, and is the only boy in his level. So many parents have been supportive and encouraging of him, and I think his teacher has been great, too. I don't think we expected the AD to behave in this manner, and we hoped that since he was a boy (and for most of last year, the only boy), she would make extra efforts to be supportive towards him, which is why this casting thing and her response to him was really something we didn't expect, and hoped we would be immune to because of him being a boy. I appreciate your support and advice. I agree that it is probably time to move on.


Mr. Johnson-- Thanks for the support. My son's father has always felt like this studio in particular is what he calls "a princess club", with the AD as the queen. My son is one of three boys, and I think there are close to 200 students at the school. They don't actively recruit boys, there aren't pictures of male dancers anywhere to be seen, the walls are painted pink, etc. I am starting to think dad is right, and that maybe the AD doesn't want boys hanging around the princess club...

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Dancindaughters--Good advice, thank you. I wouldn't have known anything about why my son was moved if I hadn't been standing right there when the mother asked the AD to move her daughter. :) So unfortunately, this time hearing which mother said what to the AD was unavoidable. I've told him he'll dance beautifully regardless of which cast he is in, and he agrees. It doesn't take away the sting behind the casting move and the fact that the AD lied through her teeth to him, though.


In this production, the bon bons are actually ladybugs who come out from under the same mammoth hoop skirt, though here Mother Ginger is called Mother Sunflower, I think. Not sure why the switch, because I remember this company used to call them bon bons back when I was a kid...Its definitely a cute dance, either way.

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Guest pink tights

Manipulating for the better casting is never OK. I started the thread "bragging moms" because I had to deal with the mother who lied about her dd's age to get better casting (Professional company), then bragged to me about her darlings amazing stage presence! Now, the AD should have had one of those calendars like they have in bars--if you were born before this date, you are underage! But he didn't. In his defense, he had over 200 kids auditioning and I'm certain he was worn out, having just come off a fall series run, then going right into Nut auditions. As for those AD's who grant special "favours", that to me shows a lack of professionalism not to mention a lack of a backbone! Move your son to a company where male dancers supported and nurtured! Who will have the last laugh when your son is in the Grand Pas and the old school is struggling to find a "guest" artist to fullfill that role! And I have no respect for those parents who willfully and knowingly manipulate situations for their own advantage! My sweet mother-in-law always tells me that the "sins" of the mother always come back twice on the child....A lesson for all us! Sad for the child, who in most cases is just an innocent victim.

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Thanks pink tights! I have always planned to move him anyway, because as he gets older, this studio will become less and less suitable for him. He's one of three boys, and they don't have males teaching ballet. The school also has a poor track record in terms of turning out professional dancers, so it certainly wouldn't be the right place for him if he continues to want a professional career.


I plan to move to a larger city sometime in the next few years where we will have more options and DS can study with other boys who are dancing.


I think I'll have another look at your thread...

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