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How to know if dd has what it takes to be pro?

Guest airlie

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My dd has talked more & more recently about being a professional dancer. I know she's very talented (in ballet, jazz, Irish & basically all dance forms she's tried). How can we find out if she has what it takes to dance professionally as a ballerina? I hate to come right out & ask her teacher - it seems so pushy! - but is that the right approach? I'm only worried about it at this point because I want to know if we should be adding more ballet classes versus the other classes.

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Airlie, sometimes teachers can have a very good idea about the potential with under 13's, and sometimes not. It's not pushy to ask. If she is in a good school, you should have some idea in terms of her progression. How about evaluations, either written or oral? Does the school do this? Is it a professional school? Does she seem on track in terms of progression to upper levels? Has she auditioned for any SI programs yet? These can be a good indication of potential.


If she is in a small of local school, you might want to have her evaluated by someone at a professional school, or at an SI program at a professional school. If she already attends one of these kinds of schools, then the faculty should be very qualified to offer you an assessment at this point. But keep in mind that all they can do is evaluate potential right now.

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Along these lines...


What is the critical time/age? My 14-year-old DD (serious, non-dinkle training for 9 years) is making the "I don't want to go to college" noise. Do we encourage this? Her AD at the local studio (pre-pro, best in our smallish city) says yes, she should be encouraged. She has been accepted to good SI programs but not THE biggest. Is it still early or are we at the time when there is that fork in the road...the talented ones go for it and the others and gently encouraged to have a solid back up plan? I feel completely clueless about all of this because I don't know much about dance and have to trust a lot of people. I do know that my daughter has an enormous amount of passion for ballet and can't imagine doing anything else.


I guess my question is, is there a time/certain age when one should know whether or not they're "good enough" to be career-bound? I'm feeling like we're putting a lot of eggs in a ballet basket.

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Thank you for the reply, Ms. Leigh.


Dd didn't audition for any SIs this year because I knew I'd want to wait another year for her to try to attend one.


We haven't gotten any formal evals from her teachers although they have always expressed positive things about her. She's not in a professional school but it's the closest thing we've got to one that's within driving distance for class. How would I go about getting an evaluation at a professional school? I saw in another post that somebody had their child evaluated this way. Do I just call a school and ask specifically for an evaluation?


Thanks again,


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airlie, some schools will do this, but there is no way to know without asking. I would wait until audition season is over, however. Otherwise, just give it another year, and see where she comes out in SI auditions.


101driver, it's different with every child, and there is no set age where this can be determined. Talk to the teachers at her school and at SI program and get as much feedback as you can. I don't think you are at a fork in the road yet. :D

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101, if your daughter wants to go for it, let her. going to big SIs doesn't necessarily weigh on anything...not everyone is cut out to dance for ABT. there are plenty of great medium and small companies to dance for. at her age, i knew i liked to dance, and actually didn't decide to dance professionally until i was 16. my parents didn't know what to do with me, consulted my studio director and he told them that at best i should "consider doing modern...alvin ailey is taking asians now." as of now, i am the only one from my school that has even been dancing professionally....all of the others touted as the ones who would dance aren't even dancing anymore. of course a backup plan is always good...i auditioned for colleges and companies at 18...i actually had a school lined up and received an apprentice offer, so i took it and have not looked back since. encouragement is good...just be realistic.

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Guest appjuli

Here's another thought for you.

Our daughter, 13, is heading down the professional road, but we have no idea if it's a realistic goal or not. What we do know is that the rigors of training for something - anything - with great intensity gives one skills that will carry over into whatever s/he decides to do in the future. We feel that, as parents, it's our job to encourage (and fund ;) ) her passion... not to plan or, gracious no, bank on a her future career as a dancer.

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I remember all these questions too. There was good feedback from the home studio but of course you wonder. So, there was a studio... not a big one... but with a director who had been in major company. My dd started taking some occasional classes there and we got more independent feedback. I did specifically ask the question : does she have what it takes? I think that's a good question! However, Victoria is right that at those early ages, no one can really tell for sure, but it helps to know what direction to be pointed in.


My feeling has always been - do as much with ballet (as she wants and for as long as she wants it) so that no door closes... and enough for back up so that if the door does close it will not be total devastation. Even the very very best need a back up plan.

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As Ms. Leigh said, you are probably not in the fork-in-the road yet. As has been discussed numerous times on this board, it is simply important to keep one's options open. There are so many anecdotal stories of talented DK's that have everything it takes, but for whatever reason (lack of desire, burnout, other interests, etc.) just don't go on to dance after high school. I think even the most talented ones must also have a backup plan.


In our house, college is not necessarily a "have to." I went to college at age 18 without a clear life goal and did not do well. Now, at age 32,with 3 young children, I am back in school with a sense of purpose. I was never a dancer, but it is a testiment to the fact that not everyone is cut out for college right out of High School.


However, the rule is that my DS must do well enough in school (i.e. always put forth his best effort) to afford him the option of getting into college if his dreams of professional dancing don't pan out. That way, when and if he decides to go to college, he will have that option. That all we can do. There is no point in making long-term decisions when circumstances can always change in an instant. :D




I see that the very wise Tendumom and I posted at the same time! :shrug:

Edited by dancetaxi
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I don't know much about potential but as a parent of a 12yo, I can see my daughter's body undergoing alot of changes. I would think puberty will make the decision for some.

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Hi airlie, First question is: How old is your daughter? That would make a difference in the answer. If she's under 11 or 12, I wouldn't even be worrying about this issue right now.


Beyond that, all you can do is get her solid ballet training since it's the basis for all dance. My daughter now dances with a contemporary company, but a requisite is strong ballet background. She is also an Irish dancer at the championship level. When she is on hiatus, she assists Irish dance classes and privately coaches some of the advanced students.


Her strong ballet training has given her many more teaching tools for the advanced level Irish dancers because she understands kinesiology better than the Irish dance teachers do.

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In this forum & others we discuss this route for training & that, SI vs SI,etc but I have just come to realize that the choices my 13 year old is making and has made for the past 2 years are the correct ones for her. I'm just the supportive parent trying to give her opportunity in the direction she's wants to go in the ballet world. I know that doesn't sound very profound but her gut instinct has always been the best for her!

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Whenever the ballet vs college discussion comes up here, I notice that all the attention seems to be paid to the ballet side of things. It seems to be taken for granted that it is either choose between all the risks of pursuing a future in ballet or go for the sure thing: College and All That it Promises.


I have plenty of friends with older children who did everything right, whose children went to the right academic schools, etc., and yet those children are now dropping out of college or choosing not to go even with all their AP classes and good grades. Just reminding people that there are risks on both sides of the question here. They may not have what it takes for ballet and they may not have what it takes for college either.


Personally, I don't think it's the end of the world to go to a lesser college, to start at a community college, to defer college a few years, or (gasp) even to skip college all together.


It probably is riskier to choose ballet, and it is hard as a parent to evaluate potential. It's important to find out as much as you can and to go into this with your eyes wide open, just remember that there are no guarantees in life no matter which path you choose.

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:wub: I think I've always come at my DS training from a different perspective. Up to the age of 13, I've let him give me his thoughts and ideas of what he wanted to do, but it was always tempered with what I could afford at the time. And his first "gut instinct" to go away to an SI at age 12 was not a good idea in hindsight. I let him talk me into that one, but that has not happened since. :sweating: However, it was at an outside, reputable SI that he got his first indication that he had potential should he choose to train at a higher level. Up to that point, it was just solid, RAD training.


I believe that as parents of these young children, we should, if at all possible, support their dream and passion, but also temper it with the realities of becoming a professional dancer, and that is where the back-up Plan B is an absolute necessity.

Edited by dancemomCA
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