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Ballet Talk for Dancers

What's the rush?


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Thank you all for a thought-provoking thread on ballet, and life in general! This certainly confirms for me that there are alot of level-headed and very wise parents, teachers and other types of contributors on this board!

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  • swanchat


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Even for the ones who have the best shot at "making it", life should not be only about ballet. Worry changes for every parent but they don't really ever go away. In ballet, there's all these early worries. Most of this is in the past for us now, but we still worry: about injuries and a very, very short career. For the first several years, I insisted that my child's life include music and art (I'm a contemporary fiber artist) and theater and reading and museums, and, well, everything. I insisted that classical ballet wasn't enough. This was hard for the child to swallow. Afterall, I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT BALLET! I told him he'd be a great contemporary dancer. If looks could kill....well, I wouldn't be writing. Now, years later, my son thinks all these extra non-ballet activities were his idea. All the "wasted" time not dancing only improved his artistry! Quess what, he's a fabulous contemporary dancer! We've watched lots of competitions. The contemporary pieces are often so boring when they're suppose to be so emotional and personal. How can a dancer bring a range of experiences and personality to a new dance if the only thing he or she knows is ballet, a ballet studio, and a life of ballet? The slow approach allows the opportunity to learn the LIFE dance is meant reveal. The most beautiful ballets I've ever seen are the ones that touch me. I don't know any of the steps. I don't know the choreography (even for some of the variations I've seen countless times at competition? I just don't get it!) I just don't think the average person, like me and most of the rest of the world, can be truly touched with the technique of ballet. We are truly touched by the artistry. The whole person delivers that!


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It's refreshing to hear parents who can appreciate the time that it takes to "grow a dancer". Unforutnately, some studios want their older dancers (usually early teens) to perform like professional adults to make their shows look good as well as themselves. These talented dancers, instead of developing the artistry are pushed in technique, pitted against each other for roles and if like my daughters develop some self doubt if they will ever please their teacher in this way. The rudest thing she has ever said to them was that they should dance like another girl in their class! I think every dancer has an individual style and makes a contribution to this wonderful art form in their own way. The nicest thing ever said to them, NOT by their year round teacher was that they were growing as "artists". I wish more studio teachers could appreciate these striving young girls for their talents and train them well so they can go on and develop as adults in the professional world and contribute their passions.

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I think I really needed to read this thread right now--i usually am pretty level headed, but the SI frenzy got to me and I lost my perspective. I have seen many amazing young dancers lose interest (or injured) and potential by 16. I have also seen the slow and steady dancer bloom.

It really is important for parents to strive to create a little "normalcy" in a dancers life and to cherish and embrace all the rich experiences outside of a studio. There really is life after ballet. Somehow I have been forgetting this lately and I know I have been too focused on a potential career. It sounds pretty silly. My daughter has been very stressed over deciding SI choices, and I feel guilty to realize that I am sure that I have been adding to her stress levels.

Thanks for the wake-up call.

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tippytoes....I second that emotion. I read this thread and have seen so many things I let get out of control over the past year. The SI experience didn't help. I got worried that I wasn't doing enough to help her reach her goals and so like a good mom I tried to help. No one ever told me about growing a dancer. It has always felt like a race to be the best first. It is clear to me now that my daughter doesn't need the stress of "the future" right now. She used to just love to dance so now I will help her get that back and let the future be just that. We all walk a fine line between encouragement and pushing.

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Sometimes, I have to remind myself that it's my daughter's life to live, not mine. It is also hard to deal with friends and family members who don't understand that a possible career in dance takes years of preparation, and that the involvement can extend beyond high school with no guarantees. I guess as long as your child is happy where they are and balancing that huge dance committment with other activities and interests, that's all you can hope for. Mine is definitely one of the ones who is on a slow and steady climb.

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It's easy to get swept up in the rush. I've done it all the while thinking I was being level-headed and informed. It seems each year of ballet brings a new frame of reference and experience. The decisions I made 3 years ago, I don't think I would make now. Things that were-to-die-for important 3 years ago...aren't as important now. I think it's part of the learning curve as we travel through balletdom. The wishful possibilities of the young dancer become more grounded in the reality of the ballet world..which is wonderful in so many aspects...and equally bizarre at the same time.


This year's ballet life lessons include:


1. Refresher course - How does ballet fit into my family's life? What is our family mission? Does it fit in or does it take control? We all know the answer to this one I'm afraid.


2. Sense of community/social self. I want to be careful that while fostering and enabling ballet for my dd, I don't squeeze out a sense of social-community awareness or responsibility. Spending so many hours in a ballet class focusing on one's "faults" in the mirror lends to consuming self inspection and self focus. I want my dd to not only be aware of herself but to be aware and understand others in her community outside of ballet. DD had a successful SI audition season but she is staying at her home school's SI. It offers a great SI and allows her time to volunteer at a local school for the blind. There is a big ole world outside the studio. And isn't it interesting that the security of the ballet studio can be offset by all the insecurities in the ballet studio?


3. As my dd gets older, I want to foster an appreciation of what ballet instruction and performance opportunities provide for her in the present sense. ..what is happening now. A panic or anxiety of a ballet future does nothing positive and doesn't help anything. The dks and their moms who have bitterness of unrequited ballet dreams have lost the sweetness of ballet. I don't want to be one of those...and if I don't stay grounded...that bitterness isn't far away I fear.


So cheers to all who understand slow and steady. :offtopic:

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I really don't think you can rush this sort of development, especially at my dd's age. It seems with all the physical growth they're experiencing when they take one step forward, say in the strength (or flexibility or balance) area they take one step back, say, in the balance (or flexibility or strength) etc. area. How can you rush that sort of development anyway?


Our lessons from this year's SI audition season: dd is still not willing to go away, no matter where she got in, no matter where her friends are going, anywhere but her home studio is not where she wants to go - and that's emotional development, yet another area of a child's development you cannot rush or rush only at your own risk.


Another great lesson was from a theme repeated in pattypirouette's posts to make sure your dk is getting the best technical training possible. This repeated theme made us look at dd's level now and talk about where she wants to be in a year and how she can get there. These are babysteps we're talking about, not moving across the country to do a residency (she won't be ready for that until 17 or 18? 30? :offtopic: if ever!)


But back to pattypirouette's wisdom, we looked very hard for a studio in our home area and thanks to this search and some wonderful people on this board who were willing to PM with advise regarding local studios, we found a great LOCAL studio for dd to study with during the summer where dd feels comfortable and the teacher is just what she needs right now. Dd knows what she wants to improve and feels happy to have found what she needs locally.


At the end of summer, we will post dd's summer adventures for one and all. I really appreciate the members of this board. Thanks!

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Balancing is a tough act. Ballet is a difficult world. The nicest thing my child's teacher has said to my child in front of me is, "That wasn't horrible" and "Not bad" and "he has potential...we'll see...." My child says these are among the most positive comments he's heard in six years. My child worships this man. The teacher is absolutely awesome, the training is first rate, and we thank our lucky stars to be part of his legacy. But seriously, as a parent, one is going to have to balance the stress and the pressures of ballet! None of it happens overnight and success isn't possible without years of hard work. Thus, why rush?! Slow and steady is the only way to survive. Balance is bringing the rest of the world to the dancer! It is the best help I could give my dancer. (Actually, compared to such instruction, what could I really do in the world of ballet? I've found the best "support" is just listening and providing non-ballet conversation!) While planning competition trips, I spend more time looking into museums, shopping locations, interesting sites, etc. than on the ballet paperwork. As a result, we've seen some really beautiful exhibits and some absolutely stunning scenery. Also, I'm never adding to the real pressures. I get to be the happy diversion! Balancing has its rewards too! (Drawback: After all these years, I don't know any ballet terms and can honestly say I KNOW NOTHING. Still, the child doesn't need me to know anything anyway!)

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So much wisdom here!!! :D


Mouse, I agree the balance is so important in all of life. A big theme in our household is that our individual lives are so much richer in the context of a much larger world. In little kid terms, "it's not all about me." Sometimes I take my kids under protest to art shows, opera, gospel concerts in the park. We point out architecture when we walk through the city. We go to football, hockey and baseball games. We collect antiques to maintain a connection to the past. We insist on volunteer work and model the same behavior. It's really hard to make a convincing argument that you got the short end of the deal from an audition or in casting when you've just left a school where kids go home to empty refrigerators and absentee parents or worse. Now, THAT's a difficult world! The things we do to balance the intense ballet life may really be the things will ultimately define our kids as persons and are reflected in their ability to convey the rich emotions in classical ballet.


I also look at travel related to my dd's performances and auditions as opportunities to explore. Already, her performing has taken me to some really great places and I have the pleasure of going along for the ride. I drop her off at rehearsal and get to explore, taste and learn a new culture. What fun! We grow together but I too know very little about ballet.


I am truly grateful to all of you who have posted with older dks or personal experiences. You have confirmed that there is no rush and that the intense training is necessary but not at the expense of growing a complete person. As I have reflected over your wonderful posts, I was struck by the thought that the long hours of training and education happen in other professions as well and the pitfalls are the same. There is nothing more boring than getting stuck at an occasion with anyone who knows and talks about only one thing...They may be good at that one thing but what a shallow life they are living. So this afternoon when I calmly and slowly walk my dd into the lobby amidst the whir of helicopter moms and see the usual ones panicking, posturing and pushing, I will smile confidently, tell my dd to have a good class knowing that she is doing what she loves and receiving the best training that I can find while we "keep all options open" including ballet! and then I will leave....her Dad's picking up! B)

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I think the best thing I can say to my dd when I drive by and drop her off for ballet class is "have a fun class!" or "have a good time!" Nothing more, nothing less.

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It is nice to read that so many parents are of the same frame of mind. Sure, we all have gotten caught up in the rush of worrying about how our dancer is progressing and advancing to that next level..But, for me, I think there came a time where I had to step back and let things go. Yes, there have been decisions made that I wish I could change, but there is no need to dwell on that. The only thing I can do is try to provide the best level of technical training. The rest has to be left up to my DD.

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If you have not seen the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer" it is a must see for parents who have children devoted to an activity they love. It was on TV last night, so I have just watched it for the second time. The theme of this movie is the very same as the topic of this thread... how to best meet the needs of the talented child... how much to push or not to push. It's such a great movie... worth owning even! And very family friendly.

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mouse and gogator,

Seems to me like "have a good class" and don't ask me, "I know nothing" may be the safest thing for all of us. The less I truly know, the less microanalyzing I have to do. :)


All kidding aside, this thread has prompted me to evaluate our dk's dance life relative to other aspects that certainly merit attention.

Edited by Wizardofizzard
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Wizard, I think you make a great point. I profess ignorance wherever possible - after all, this is my DD's ' thing', not mine ( I was the clumsiest, least coordinated teen in the world and grew up into - yeah you guessed it - the clumsiest, least coordinated adult in the world) :) . Our DKs can be the experts here: I think it really does them good to be the knowledgable ones in at least one area of their lives.

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