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Ballet Talk for Dancers

What's the rush?


swanchat

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Wow, my head is spinning. I listen to the wonderful directors of our pre-pro school, I read the clear advice of the moderators and teachers on this site and read as much as I can about this world of ballet because it is new territory for me. All the experts agree that learning the art and technique of ballet takes many years, lots of hard work and immense sweat equity and in DD's case, tears as well. Patience and persistence is the phrase we hear over and over and repeat on a frequent basis. I see the slow progression through the levels. DD has just moved to the pre-pro division and although more intense and more attention paid to turnout and strength, the foundation is being slowly developed and nurtured.

 

So what is this overwhelming need of our children to be at the highest level possible at the earliest age possible? Read the "who's going topics" and the posts are numerous...."was I placed at the right level for my age?" "should I be placed higher?" I continually tell DD that the learning process is not a race to the highest level. After the highest level, you are supposed to be ready to work as a ballet dancer. At our school, mothers of 10 year olds panic if their DD's aren't moved into the pre-pro level. One mother of a 10 year old talks continuously of her 10 year old at level 4 (professional division) as if it affirms her future. Another mother (a retired ballerina)of a 12 year old DD states frequently that if our DD's aren't in a company by the time they are 16, they will not make it. DD believes her after all, she was a ballerina. I have little credibility in matters of ballet.( I try to stay away from this mother now) DD believes the patience and persistence part and has heard the story of my friend who had a wonderful ballet career with 2 major companies after college but I know she sees and hears the same things I hear and the pressure builds and she is just now 13. I know that these next few years will be critical in her development and appreciate all the other benefits of the discipline and hard work that our young teens reap from this training but I really didn't think the pressure to be professionally ready while still a teenager was as great in ballet as say, figure skating or gymnastics. Was I wrong?

 

I stay out of the lobby unless there is a need for me to be there (concern for illness, need to touch base with teacher etc.) so I don't think my head is spinning from too much time hearing lobby talk-maybe it was the last SI audition :shrug: Does anyone else feel like a lone voice in the dark? Is this just one more symptom of the "hurried child syndrome?" Is it a reflection of unfettered competition in our society? :offtopic:

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is my first attempt to start a topic so please move or delete if I do something wrong!

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If it makes you feel any better, swanchat, we ruled out further consideration of an SI this season because we felt they placed DD too high. We're absolute fanatics about the "slow boil" and I'm sure there are many others who are the same way.

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pointeprovider

swanchat, I am also relatively new to this board, and I don't have the answers, but I would like to add that my DD's main teacher always tells her that she is doing fine for her age and that persistence and hard work will eventually get her the career she wants. This sounds great, but I must say that at the YAGP regional that DD attended she was blown away by the amazing dancing of girls her age and younger. I'm sure they work very hard, too, but it was obvious that their natural gifts were many. Now she feels that maybe only those born with exceptional talent will "make it?" I hope not, because she works hard. Yet, seeing those girls made her wonder, and I do hope that some pros and teachers out there will respond to this topic and give us clear perspective. Thanks!

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balletgirlsmadre
Does anyone else feel like a lone voice in the dark? Is this just one more symptom of the "hurried child syndrome?" Is it a reflection of unfettered competition in our society?

 

YES!, YES!, YES! in my not so humble opinion. My other child plays competitive soccer (as much as you can call it that with a bunch of 9 and 10 year olds :shrug: ) and I see the same patterns of parent behavior in that activity as well as in other sports my children play.

 

I think a lot of these kids will burn out. I am reminded of the old "Tortoise and the Hare" fable and want my children to be the tortoise - that is as long as they continue to ENJOY what they are doing.

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pointeprovider,

 

DD also participated in the regional YAGP "for the experience." She and I were both impressed with the talent but were really struck by the vast difference in the abilities between the junior and senior level (especially those older seniors). I guess that is visible proof of hard work over years! It's more the constant pressure from young dancers and their parents to "move up" or the fear of lower than desire DI placements that makes me wonder...what is the hurry?

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Guest costumier

Hi swanchat, I couldn't agree more! :thumbsup: Quality over precocious development any day, and if they can have something approaching a bit of normal childhood along the way, so much the better. The only thing that has to come early is flexibility, after puberty the body is too set. And what they ARE doing, they should be doing properly. Free the children! :D

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balletbooster

pointeprovider makes an excellent point! There are indeed amazing kids and teens out there, who are achieving things at ages much younger than the norm. Regardless of how good your dancer feels about their training and the slow and steady course they have been on, send them to a major pre-pro school, serious ballet competition or a competitive residency and they will quickly meet a number of dancers who are their same age and yet years ahead in ballet development. It is hard not to feel insecure, uncertain and a sudden urge to do whatever you can, as quick as you can to catch up!

 

It is impossible to isolate our kids from these obvious comparisons with their peers. We can talk and talk about the journey and how everyone develops at different ages and stages. But, when faced with the reality of dancers who are far ahead of them, it is almost impossible to not feel inferior and want to do something about it.

 

I don't think there are easy answers to this dilemna. The flip side of this phenomenon is that while many dancers do push themselves more in this situation, they often also aim higher and reach heights they did not think possible. It is indeed a very competitive world in ballet. As dancers reach their late teens and decide if they are ready for pro auditions, they are faced with the pool of talent around them that is very deep. If they are not ready to jump in and swim, then they must have other plans in place to get ready or to take another path. While there should be no rush to get to this point, once dancers get to this decision junction they often feel a great deal of angst about what their future holds. If younger dancers are around those who are at this point in their training and hear all the uncertainty and stress that surrounds finding a job, I think it is easy to internalize this and feel like they must start doing something NOW to make sure that they do not find themselves in a similar dilemna in a few years.

 

So, I think the best we can do is talk about it all with them. Make sure they know that they do not need to rush. If they get further down the road and they are not at a level that makes a career possible, they need to have a back up plan that is one that both the parents and kids can be excited about. We need to be sure that we aren't sending the message that ballet training is a 'do or die' proposition; that failing to get a contract is not a failure. Aside from that, I think that some amount of urgency and a desire to excel is part and parcel of the ballet experience. :thumbsup:

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Balletbooster,

 

I understand your point for older teens but if the same holds true for a 13 year old, then aren't there mixed messages.....Slow and steady, now hurry up ! :thumbsup: Where does the patience and persistence fit in?

 

DD is at a pre-pro school and yes, she sees the older teens auditoning for company positions and very seriously auditioning for SI's. That makes sense but 10 year olds worried about being in the professional division, 12 year olds worried if the school doesn't choose them for YAGP then they will not be dancers, mothers worried that if her 12 yo DD isn't in a company by 16 then there will be no ballet career? This all gives me serious concern. Where is the patience and persistence? DD naturally pushes herself and it is serving her well. She is progressing well. The milestones of young accomplishment seem to be there for her; I just don't want her to think she has to rush at the ripe old age of 13!

 

That being said, if "urgency" is a part of the ballet experience, then when does DD forgo the patience and persistence and rush...15, 16?

 

Balletgirlsmadre,

 

I also use the Tortoise and the Hare as advice. I vote for the Tortoise! :D

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balletbooster

swanchat,

My point is that 13/14 year olds see girls their age who are working above their age level AND they listen to older girls worrying about their pro prospects and the two together can cause those in the 13/14 range to feel a real sense of urgency.

 

Since this is on the 13+ forum, I thought this was the age group we are talking about? If you are talking about younger dancers, my comments don't apply. For that younger group, I think they inherit much of that angst from the adults they encounter. At 10, there are few who really grasp such serious implications about their training, unless an adult has pointed this out in one way or another.

 

As to when the REAL urgency kicks in, I think it does start when they see that they are about a year away from having to find a job. Then, they feel that their time is short to make up any gaps before they must do pro auditions.

 

I'm all for the slow cooker approach to training. My comments were in relation to the reasons why much in the ballet world works against this approach, particularly the closer dancers get to their senior year.

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Oh, Thank you! :D I completely understand urgency when they are close to looking for a job. I also think the younger set inherit angst from the parents around them. That's why I am looking for assurance that patience and persistence is the way to go for the younger teens. My DD is a new 13 and just moved to the pre-pro level. After watching SI auditions and the recent hooplah after a level move at our school, I just found myself repeating, "What's the hurry?"

 

I have a non-dancing older son. We've seen a dad banned from youth league ice hockey and the kid was amazing...absolutely born to skate. We've seen bad uncles at little league. We've seen dads yell at their son at football.For some reason it just feels different than this constant angst and worry in ballet and from time to time, I become puzzled and a confused. :thumbsup:

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I think some of the rush comes from having to make up for poor training. Another part comes from not having confidence in the school. I've found that I'm more relaxed about dd's progress in her training now that she's at a school I feel confident with. I can pull back and let them do their job. I have less desire to compare dd's abilities with other dks because I know she's on track and I'm comfortable with that track. I know that if she works hard her school will provide her the training she needs to meet her potential, whatever that may be.

 

Some dancers and parents come to a realization that what was professed to be a pre-pro school is really a dinkle in disquise and panic strikes. Maybe the first inkling is when they compare to other dks. I don't compare dd to other dancers because frankly I don't know enough about tecnique to really compare. Sure another dancer may be able to do 32 foutte turns but how do I know if they are any good or not? DD will do 32 fouttes when her teachers feel it's time to do them. I know I certainly can't compare dd to a student from another school. The training processes are different. I need to either go lock stock and barrel and trust them or go somewhere that I can trust.

 

The level thing comes back down to confidence and trust. A few parents and dancers have said they were surprised my dd didn't get advanced to the next level this term. It doesn't bother me because I have trust that her teachers know what their doing.

 

I knew that panic feeling, but peace comes from finding the training that parent and dk are confident with and teachers they trust.

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This parental angst over where the child stands in relation to his or her peers is everywhere from the ballet studios to the preschool classrooms. I'm sure there's a variety of reasons, but many times the parent is looking for validation for themselves by grooming an exceptional child. The measurements of how you're doing as a parent are few, when you're in the thick of it. Who wants to wait to see if the child is a happy, contributing member of society at age 30. If you're child is the earliest reader, two grade levels ahead in their school work, the youngest in their level in ballet or the first to be recruited for the travel team, you must be doing something right. Right?

 

I think you have the right idea to stay out of the lobby, swanchat. It's too easy to get sucked in and begin doubting yourself. It's also easy for our children to think we love and value them for their achievements rather than their character.

 

There's a thread idea. How about "developing dancers with character?"

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There's a thread idea. How about "developing dancers with character?"

 

I agree! This is one area I'm very concerned about with my daughter. We spend a lot of time and money on ballet but in my opinion it will not benefit her one bit if she walks away without good character. I've observed so much bad behavior this year at her studio. I can't count the talks I've had with her about how the behavior of some of her dancing peers is not accpectable to me.

 

But I must admit that I also worry about her dancing and how she is progressing. :shrug: I didn't until this year; but I've lost confidence in her school over that past few months. I do agree with vicarious that if I had trust and confidence in her teachers I could just sit back and let her progress at her own pace with no concerns.

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I dont know - I can help but respond - but what happened to childhood? What happened to preparing the "whole person" who will have a lifetime of many as yet unknown events ahead of them? Maybe they wont want to be a dancer at all, or maybe they will take a non-conventional route to a non-conventional dancing career. I must admit all the pressure I am reading about here leaves me mystified - worse then that, concerned. I also think its a cultural thing - a belief in your culture that if you try hard, you will achieve success, so (the logic goes) if you dont achieve success, you (or your parents) didnt try hard enough. But life has a way of throwing many unexpected events into your path - and, you know, they often take you in a better direction than the one you'd planned!

 

Sorry if this sounds corny, and not very helpful to the discusion posted on this board.

 

Jim.

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This board is so helpful! I am not feeling like a lone voice in the dark anymore. You have all helped me to realize that I am really lucky. I do have confidence in our school. I see the amazing older students and I watch them go on to dance professionally or if they choose, they go to very good colleges and continue to study dance there. My DD seems to be right where she needs to be; she is not the child prodigy but she is progressing nicely and by the time she makes it to the top level in the school, maybe people will actually want to pay money to watch! :thumbsup:

 

I become really concerned when I see or hear too much of the pressure to be professional by 16 or at the top division by 10; seems that the last visit to the lobby for an SI audition was just too much for me! I learned a couple of years ago that the "lobby dance" is just not my cup of tea. As for childhood, I am trying to remember the last time my DD did something as simple as catching fireflies in the summer evening......I'll pencil that in as an activity I want to do with her!

 

I spend my free time in the garden. I make sure my roses have plenty of sun, water, food and rest. I weed the chaff and protect against fungus. I add a lot of love and wait patiently. Then when everything is just right, I have absolutely beautiful flowers. Part of the fun for me is the process. I would hate it if they bloomed too early. I think I am raising my children the same way. It seems right. :thumbsup:

 

I would love to see a thread that helps us all to be aware of our decisions and attitudes for our DK' s in the context of raising dancers with character. Pearls to live by. :shrug:

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