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Ballet Talk for Dancers

What's the rush?


swanchat

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mydarlindancer

Mom1 and blueskies...great point made and wonderful commentary. Many of our school's kids are also going through their various lives without much confidence and character these days. It is perhaps generational, and definitely a social problem. A lot of it appears to me to be just plain lazy parenting, in some cases. Your example of having to instruct your DD through the obvious struggles of those around her is a timely one. We are doing that here, all the time.

 

Jim....you don't sound corny...just wise!! Plain and simple. Thanks for adding your thoughts.

 

Swanchat...really good topic.

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What a lovely, philosophical discourse. I firmly believe that all children need to have a sense of their intrinsic worth that does not depend on their achievements. I will try to remember that all their accomplishments are a bonus whether it is learning to walk at the age of 5 (in the case of my disabled son), painting a splodgy picture of Dad, or doing well in dance. I love Swanchat's gardening analogy and am reminded to take particular and patient care of my 'tender shoots' - giving them enough room to grow in their chosen direction. :yes:

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Swanchat, I guarantee you: most ballet dancers today do not turn professional by age 16! :yes: That whole "baby ballerina" phenomenon is mostly the stuff of the past. Yes, there is an occasional dancer who gets into a company by age 16, usually at NYCB. But SAB's upper ranks have more prodigies (though not all their dancers fit that category) than any other school. So it makes sense that more of their dancers will be invited into the company. But still, even there, most do not get into NYCB at 16.

 

I think you're absolutely doing the right thing. It's OK for you to worry about it :grinning: ; that's our job as moms, right? It's what you do with the worry that counts. Some moms pressure their kids, the studio, etc., while others do what you're doing - stay out of the studio so as not to get swept up in it, and help their dancing kids lead as normal a life as possible. Sometimes it involves waking up in the middle of the night with a horrible knot in your stomach :D. But a mature person will handle that well and you certainly sound very mature. :lol:

 

As long as you continue to model patience and persistance yourself, you'll see your child begin to reflect those qualities too. My daughter is two years out of high school. As a young teen, she never had concerns about her future professional career; she lived very much in the moment. As Balletbooster said, it changes when the dancer is an older teen. But that's the time when older teens everywhere are trying to figure out what they're going to do with their lives. "What colleges should I apply to?" "Will I be able to get into any colleges that I like?" etc. It's a natural stage.

 

I think that the slow and steady variety of early teen dancer will see in just a couple years that there's more than one path to becoming a professional dancer. Not all prodigies make it; many dancers who progressed more incrementally do. The kids start to see that. And believe me, some prodigies are shocked by that point to see that dancers they'd taken for granted have suddenly caught up with them. :clapping: It's a good lesson for everyone, parents included. B)

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supportivemom

Mariliz – I love your comment about a child having “intrinsic worth”. Conveying that worth to my DD has defused many a “hairy” situation lately. I think we forget that they put plenty of pressure on themselves, in general. A teenager can be reluctant to let a parent know just how insecure they feel sometimes, especially if they sense that a parent’s love is tied to achievement. Of course, I want my children to discover the joy in hard work and the success that sometimes follows; so my husband and I support and encourage and yes, we sometimes push a little. But ultimately, the definition of “success” has to be their own, and I’ll love my kids regardless of what that definition is.

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Vagansmom,

 

Thank you for the affirmation that ballet dancers aren't all 16. Sometimes I wonder if any of these parents even go to the ballet. The last time DD and I went, you can bet I pointed out the grown WOMEN on the stage. The subject matter of ballet can be emotionally charged and adult in theme. I really don't think a corps of 16 year olds would be as convincing to the paying public. I think letting our DKs grow up and have diverse experiences, not just living in the ballet studio but reading great literature, exploring the world and sometimes just smellling the roses :clapping: will help them to convincingly express the subject matter when they find themselves on stage as professionals.

 

I DO worry, mostly because the ballet world is so new but I am learning that if you ignore a lot of the noise and follow the rules of common sense that it is not so different from any other career or profession. Most of us mere mortals have had to learn that slow and steady wins in the long run. Now if I could just remember to breath....just like they have to remind my DD to do sometimes in class! :yes:

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Great thread. I have been watching the YAGP website after the Huntington Beach Competition and though (thank goodness) most of it has dropped off the bottom there was much posturing and discussion about the Pre Competitive category obviously written by the parents of these young children. The rush and the hype was pretty sad as they did not even seem to notice that there was categories. Over the years of participating in this event I have watched these little prodigy's (sp) at 10 be running with the rest of the crowd by the time they are juniors and seniors. Some dissappear, some continue to do well, and most fall in with the rest of the pack of very good dancers. In looking at this, is it necessary for them to be so focused on ballet (especially competition) at such a very young age? Some of them arrive at master classes and they do not even look like 10-11 year olds. They look like old people in childrens bodies.

 

I also hear the comment that the juniors are better than the seniors and think this is easy to say if you do not have an older kid who is dealing with body changes, puberty and having an emotional life that is vastly different than a 13 year old. But the reality is this is where it gets tough and this is when and where it counts.

 

I believe in the crock pot approach and I have stuck by this with my children and students over the years. This is the hardest route to take because the pressure to go faster from the parents and society is very strong. However I will say that as they say it gets harder and harder to get into the summer intensive programs as the kids get older I am finding that to be the opposite for my students. They seem to be having better results as they get older than when they were younger. I am glad to see this as I feel that my approach is working because now is the time they really need those strong acceptances.

 

I disagree with the comment that dancers who are not in a company by 16 are washed up. This seems to be happening less as less as companies want young adults who can manage company life emotionally as well and physically.

 

As a teacher when I look at my students I know for a fact that the kid who can do the solo today may not necessarily be the most talented one in the room. It is just that they are in a certain place at a certain time. I look at dancers who are in the corps and I watch them grow with such interest and I know that with some slow cookin' and patience they could be really wonderful in a few years.

 

I think taking your time and having patience in this society filled with e mail, instant messaging and microwave ovens is one of the biggest challenges. :yes:

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Memo,

 

Over here on the east coast, I really thought the dancers in the Senior division at YAGP looked so beautiful. DD participated as a junior and of course, I thought she looked beautiful but there was no comparison in the artistry and skill of the seniors. All I could think of was...so this is where she is headed and it was so exciting to think of the future possibilities.

 

I also glad to know that the training does pay off when it comes to SI's as the kids get older. It does make sense that the better and longer trained dk's would find success even as the competition gets distilled into the serious, almost ready for prime time dancer. My DD has been afraid that she will miss going to the big name SI's because she has heard it's harder to get in when you are older and we are following the advice of our directors and she is still doing SI at her home school. We have confidence in their ability to train and strengthen her and she is still a young girl!

 

It's comforting to read your post. I think I'll stick to my principles and enjoy the ride! :)

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dancindaughters
In looking at this, is it necessary for them to be so focused on ballet (especially competition) at such a very young age? Some of them arrive at master classes and they do not even look like 10-11 year olds. They look like old people in childrens bodies.

Is it not possible that some of these kids just have an inborn natural ability and pick-up stuff easily? The talent they exhibit at a young age may be uncommon, but it may not be unnatural (for them). I haven't seen YAGP, so cannot comment on that, but I have seen some young dancers in our area who seem to dance with a lot of maturity (both technically and artistically). They don't always take a huge number of private lessons or anything like that, and they aren't always under a lot of pressure from their teachers or parents.

They may have been born with both the physique and the understanding of how to perform. Some kids pick-up a lot from watching older dancers or videos; it is mimicry rather than true artistry. Still, I think these kids deserve encouragement and support. Perhapstheir talent will not last, but why not enjoy it now (as long as the training is safe, and the child is living a full, happy and balaced life) ?

 

I do agree that ballet training, (and life in general!), is a journey and not a race. :)

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Is it not possible that some of these kids just have an inborn natural ability and pick-up stuff easily? The talent they exhibit at a young age may be uncommon, but it may not be unnatural (for them). I haven't seen YAGP, so cannot comment on that, but I have seen some young dancers in our area who seem to dance with a lot of maturity (both technically and artistically).

I do agree that ballet training, (and life in general!), is a journey and not a race. :wacko:

 

You are right I am sure. There are lots of kids with Natural ability out there who do VERY well with a normal life and an uncanny ability to dance so well at a young age. We as parents and adults must figure out how to nuture that talent and not exploit it. The temptation to exploit the talent by adults can be very strong. Teachers love to display their outstandingly talented kids to the world and say "look what an amazing teacher I am" and can sometimes be credited with getting the parent in a situation before they know what has happened. When the other kids then catch up and the talented little one is going through puberty, loosing stamina, struggling a bit the effect of not being the "chosen one" can be devistating.

 

In my experience as a teacher every "child prodigy" I have ever seen or had interaction with, dances very intensely, misses out on a regular life, has VERY pushy parents who are doing alot of things before they should in addition to their immense talent. Not to say that the kids dont want it but injury and burn out are a serious risk. The excellent dancers on the other hand (not the prodigies) seem to have the qualities you mentioned in your post. So please be clear that now I am talking about child prodigies and therefore in my experience it is only a small handful of children that I am talking about and what I have seen.

A prodigy can vary vastly in definition from person to person.

 

Please note: I am saying in my experience only. I would say in my career I have seen maybe 4 at the most. (I have not necessarily taught them, just had interaction with them in some way or another and observed as an outsider). :sweating:

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as long as the training is safe, and the child is living a full, happy and balaced life) ?

 

It is the full and balanced life that I see going down the drain when parents are in such a rush to see young teens engaged in enough ballet to ensure that moving up levels quickly happens. I know one DK who has not had a real vacation in years. Her vacation time is used for SI, Winter break intensive, extra classes. She schedules "privates" on Sundays and more. No rest for the weary, she and her mom who swears this is all the DK's idea do all this so she can fullfill her dream of dancing professional and she is 13 years old! As parents, it is our obligation to support dreams but not to the exclusion of showing our kids the world and all its infinite possibilities.

 

edited to fix formatting

Edited by swanchat
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Wizardofizzard

As a parent, I feel alot of the same angst that you all feel. It is easy to "see" a little of both sides of the coin. I am a firm believer of staying out of the studio -- that whole weed in the garden can take root and overtake the good vegetation. Anyone have any weed killer on them??? We, too, have seen the parents that by living vicariously through their children lay a heavy burden on the little buggers. But, we live in a truly competitive society; always have. If the child feels a little bit of competition, then why can't that be okay? I've always had the impression that that is one of the little things that makes group classes over private ones so important. Having said that, I am a believer in the slow and steady methodology, unless you have a gifted dancer that can move at a full boil and needs the challenge provided by it. We tell dk that everyone is working toward the same prize, just be patient. That bit of wisdom is never ever used specifically for a future in classical ballet, because truth be told, very few will accomplish that. I just feel strongly that "the prize" is what we aspire in life; we all want to live well with ourselves.

If we were born with a crystal ball, and could see how things would work out relative to the choices we make, we'd all have no regrets; how truly boring. Childhood is the living that our children do, not always the childhood we envision for them. (I've always wished my kiddo was a voracious reader like me, but she's not.) If dk is fulfilled right now with the amount of time she spends at the studio, and we can sprinkle a bit of life's other spices on it, I'm okay with that.

Edited by Wizardofizzard
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This is not a new situation in society. Remember Mama Rose? Edgar Degas' pictures of the ballet mothers in his painting. It is as old as time.

 

as long as the training is safe, and the child is living a full, happy and balaced life) ?

 

It is the full and balanced life that I see going down the drain when parents are in such a rush to see young teens engaged in enough ballet to ensure that moving up levels quickly happens. I know one DK who has not had a real vacation in years. Her vacation time is used for SI, Winter break intensive, extra classes. She schedules "privates" on Sundays and more. No rest for the weary, she and her mom who swears this is all the DK's idea do all this so she can fullfill her dream of dancing professional and she is 13 years old! As parents, it is our obligation to support dreams but not to the exclusion of showing our kids the world and all its infinite possibilities.

 

 

Yes but when does the "parenting" then come in? When do we as parents so "no thanks dk is not going to do that yet." "thanks but we will be taking that time off" "dont go to that sunday class you look tired and your body needs a rest today". Dont we have responsibility to know when to push and know when to back off and to step in when necessary.

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Ahhhhh, yes! :D But saying no is the hard part and IMHO that magic word is not used enough by this generation of parents and not just those in the ballet world but that is a whole other off topic thread! The other issue as you pointed out is those parents who exploit the talent and willingness to please of their little prodigies for their own self validation. Having read through this thread and reflecting, I also think there are those who desperately want their dk to be a prodigy and allow, if not encourage the intense training to the exclusion of childhood in order to have "braggin' rights" :D .

 

In the end all of the above boil down to poor parenting skills and personally I am learning a lot about what type of parent I never want to be. :D

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*knock knock*

Saying no IS the hard part, but very important for these kids as far as their long-term chances of being well-adjusted and happy adults living without regrets. I spoke to a teenage dancer a few years ago at my son's old school. She was nearing the end of high school and at the crossroads of trying to get hired by a company or go to college. I asked her if she had any advice. She told me to make sure that my son did not miss out on all the fun things that childhood had to offer. If trick-or-treating or a friends party is scheduled at the same time as ballet class---choose the fun activity instead! Especially while they're young, but also in the later teens. The world is not going to end if you miss a few ballet classes.

 

I think that nothing would be worse than looking back on your childhood only to realize that you never had one. (Think Michael Jackson---okay, a little extreme, but you get my drift.) Yes, thse kids love to dance, and many of them want to "make it" as professionals, but for the 98% that don't, (and even the 2% that do) I'm sure they'd hate to think that all the sacrifice was for nothing.

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When dd was skating, she was pretty advanced for her age. She started at 6 and was approached by a coach within 6 months of stepping on the ice. By 8 she had 2 coaches and spent 5 days a week at the rink. At 8 1/2 she landed her first axel (1 1/2 forward rotation jump) The next day she landed a double salchow and double toe loop. WOW. Everyone was impressed and expecting big things from her. (including me :blink: ) By 11 1/2 she quit skating altogether. :D

Child prodigies, no matter what the area of expertise (and I use that term extremely loosely :D ) are few and far between and many can't or won't meet the expectations placed on them. Some lose interest, bodies change and most just can't keep up with the pressure and push to keep succeeding and improving at an unnatural pace.

So many of dd's friends who were on that fast track have quit skating too. The skaters whose parents had the foresight and intelligence to keep their childs lives on an even keel and did not allow their children or themselves to get caught up in the rush, are still skating. Those skaters, some of which were older than dd yet technically behind her, are now enjoying college (some with scholorships) and are continueing their skating careers as collegiate competitors. Some of the younger ones are having very successful skating seasons and are still plodding their way up the ladder.

I have learned to slow it down and let dd decide the pace in which she wants to pursue her dancing. It is so much easier, less stressful and makes for much happier car rides! :D:thumbsup:

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