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Company life: Parental support


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Even when they get that contract and you as the parent are still paying and helping it is hard not to just say give this up and go to college so you can make a decent living and I can retire before I'm 90. I'm pushing for more self financed decisions from my ds and the thought that the days of living off OPM (other peoples money) is coming to an end quickly but it is hard to pull that plug when it means so much to them to be able to dance.


So I don't think that even the contract is the end all. It is more how can they be self sufficient and pay their own bills by dancing. Is that even possible? At what point to you stop underwriting ballet companies through funding your dancer's living expenses?

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I never aspired to be a pro dancer (except in the 4th grade when I wanted to be a "ballerina") - I didn't auditioned for anything, I have a regular office job, and I myself am trying to decide when I will be ready to walk away from ballet (I'm still part of a regional company, where most of the dancers are high school, or just out of high school, training for a pro career).


So I can't imagine what it's like to work so long for something like a pro career, be so close to possibly getting a contract and just not making it. It must be frustrating. A fellow dancer has been training for a pro career since graduating from high school a couple of years ago, working at the local coffee shop to make some money. She's hoping to get a contract or asked to stay and train (as a trainee, that sort of thing), but she hasn't yet. Does she continue training, despite being injured frequently? Does she continue training but start taking college courses just in case it doesn't work out? Does she give up her dream completely?

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Even when they get that contract and you as the parent are still paying and helping it is hard not to just say give this up and go to college so you can make a decent living and I can retire before I'm 90. I'm pushing for more self financed decisions from my ds and the thought that the days of living off OPM (other peoples money) is coming to an end quickly but it is hard to pull that plug when it means so much to them to be able to dance.


So I don't think that even the contract is the end all. It is more how can they be self sufficient and pay their own bills by dancing. Is that even possible? At what point to you stop underwriting ballet companies through funding your dancer's living expenses?



Hi cmtaka,


You are so 'on the money' when you say that the contract is not the end all. And I cannot tell you how many times we did say...'go to college'...so, a few observations if, I may, that I haven't seen in these posts, or the previous thread. There is a subjective quality to working within companies. Once you get the contract, your dancer needs to learn his /her role within the company...there are subjective, ever-shifting slots, based on height, body build...the type of dancer you look like...athletic...lithe...wispy...powerful... then within that framework...there are (for lack of wording) paths; traditional ballet, contemporary ballet,

jazz pieces, strictly contemporary...so depending on the dancers strength and weakness, a patttern/ path will emerge for them. This is not definitive, or the be all-end all....and it will more than likely change from season to season depending on the rep performed. There is a great deal of subjectivity involved. Does the company need more contemporary dancers, taller ones...the subjectivity varies from company to company.

And once they are there.... Everyone wants to get out of the corps. But if there is no movement at the top...you wait...or move on...and try another job at another company. And you are right it means so much to them...


That is why I think that it is so important that we raise our DK's to be honest about their abilities. There comes a point where they have to be. One cannot be all things to all companies. We always encouraged our DD to be honest...these are my strengths...these are my weaknesses...this is where I can improve... and, truthfully, she always knew...where she performed in penchee, and adiago and the rest. It helps to break it down by exercises rather than just saying ...how are you in ballet? For us, a large portion of it was are you continuing to grow as a dancer and are you being recognized for it? Is the growth pattern upward? Are you getting good feedback at your attempts to improve? When you have leveled off, why has this happened? Is it under your control? Did you ask for feedback/a review?


This has been our steadfast guideline while our DD has proceeded to the company level. She is but a newbie there, so I am more in a learning the new chapter mode of this new phase. As far as finances, well, you are on the right track...we first made DD accountable to us for how she spent our money...now that she is making her 'own money'..she has a better handle on how to budget herself. We essentially were her safety net, and of course early on she made mistakes, but nothing too severe...Now, the joke is she a hoarder...because its her money! We supplement and pay her rent...she attempts to pay for everything else...and twice a year we do a 'stock-up' for her grocery/supply wise. We are still awaiting the day for complete self-sufficiency. Overall, she does a really good job. My suggestion is to give monetary accountability in doses proportionate to their age/growth; so, when they do they get their own checks they are ready in a concrete way. It also helps to focus on the possibility that you would be offering financial support if they went to college or trade school or whatever. There are no guarantees for successful employment in those areas either.


When does it end? I'm not sure~there are breathing points....when she got a scholarship, when they gave her shoes, when she got per diem money as a student, so there has been some relief of pressure points in the financial arena along the way...they help with the longevity factor of staying in the profession. Also, my DD will be looking at guesting and other supplemental means to her living on her own: but this hasn't happened yet, as it is her first year within the company, and those things occur during layoffs, or if your not cast, or you have enough experience in the company to represent the company to guest etc...so that is the gray area that she is currently exploring to become more self-sufficient. Hopefully, she will be successful. So, we are asking the same questions:when do you stop/when does it end?...and our conclusion (not answer, as this is only for our situation) is that when personal growth stops, when you want to stop, when you need to stop (severe injury) or when the climate is such that the companies are not interested/not hiring you and you have given 110 % and left it all on the floor. These are just our guidelines and they are ambiguous to be sure.


On a lighter note, I think the happiest day in DD's Dad's life, was the day there was no longer a standing charge of $250.00 a month, on the mastercard for pointe shoes :wink: That went a long way, to easing some pressure :devil:


Hang in There! NSMH

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To answer the question: 'when do you stop subsidizing your dk?'

The answer in short: 'when the parent is ready to stop subsidizing the dk.'


The longer a parent allows for dependency, the longer it will last; even throughout adulthood. Telling an adult child to either make it work on his/her own or get out of the business will force them to either take on a second job or a different company with better pay or in a less expensive city, or lessen his living expenses.


But generally parents, especially those who raised their chldren in a privileged environment (and aren't most dks born from higher income earning families?) will subsidize because they don't want dk to be inconvenienced and end up living in less desirable housing or neighborhoods, or taking less than desirable second jobs to subsidize their own existence.


Parents are partly to blame for this dependency. It's simply too hard for them to say "no" and to watch their kids struggle. What a concept. But then, these are the same parents who sent their kids away to expensive summer intensives instead of telling dk to get a job during the summer to help pay for training during the year. The same parents who do their kids' share of the house work or -gasp- homework (at times) because dk is too busy studying dance. It becomes the parent's dream, too, to see the child become the dancer, so much so that the parents work not only their own jobs, spend hours of their lives in cars toting around their kids to dance studios on a daily basis, doing their child's share of house work, but also take on volunteer work at the ballet studios to help fund the performances.


If parents do not raise their children to become independent adults, if parents do not teach their children how to get jobs and how to make money, or if the accustomed living standards are so high that it is impossible for the young adult child to live comfortably, then how can the parent expect the dks to become independent in ANY future career?

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The answer may be short but it certainly isn't that simple. Raising an independant child and a child dancing on money that is way below the poverty level in this country at two different things. Raising a child who gets a job is one thing, getting a job making money is another. The "rules" don't apply to this dance thing. They just don't. And you can't try and make them. If they did, dancers would be making a decent salary based on years of training alone. I don't find the dancers or the parents I deal with fall into the category if homework doers or luxury apartment rent payers and most dancers still dancing I know are honor students, not slugs notdoing their work.


As Clara76 has stated, there is no crystal ball. And no firm rules. This dance thing is a chance you take. But I'm with Nsmh, it is the little things that can drop away bit by bit that will begin the pulling of the strings. The shoe bill, the phone bill, an end to the amount you help with and a start to the amount they must work for, etc. My parents, were of little means, and even they did not drop me off and say bye once I got my first teaching job. It was a slow and gradual process and they wanted it that way!


But I think Swanilda's original question was more about the dancers themselves. How do they know, what do they do? There are so many ways to dance and use your dancing. I think the key in the early stages is to broaden the dancers horizons to what is considered "dancing". And what is considered success. But when the end result is walking away, it generally is a slow process and one day it's done. In body if not in spirit anyway. If the spirit of dance lives on, the dancer will find a way to use it.

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I like to think of our DD's dance training (summer intensives and all) AS a job. She spends many more hours on that than her friends and cousins do on their summer jobs at fast food places, parks, etc. It may not bring in money, but it teaches her many valuable skills - such as time management, stress management, assertiveness, people skills, independence - that she would learn at the typical teen summer job. Most importantly, she has learned that she is responsible for her own destiny, and that life is not fair, lessons many adults I know still haven't learned. Even if she stopped dancing tomorrow, I think she would be well equipped for any job she sought. Dance training is not a waste, and we are not raising a generation of future slugs. These kids are bright, well-rounded and ambitious - all characteristics future employers, in whatever field, are going to be looking for. I try to explain to my more "traditional" friends and relatives that we look on the teen years as "college" for the dancers, because they have to be ready to work at their career full time upon graduation (16 in the case of my DD), in comparison to their peers who will not be ready for their careers until they are 21 (or 25 if they go to graduate school). We expect very adult behavior and self-control from these young dancers at very early ages and must make some financial sacrifices ourselves in order to facilitate that. In addition I must note that in the advanced level at DD's dance school, all the students are in challenging academic programs and all take AP classes, score exceptionally well on standardized testing, etc. For these dancers, academic achievement is clearly a priority. Parents are obviously not doing all the homework here!

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My DS is not from a "privileged upper income" family. He has helped pay for dancing from age 9 onward with a series of 4-H projects, guesting as he got older, and scholarships earned through his hard work. Astonishingly to me, now that he has a contract, we are scrambling to figure out how to subsidize his dancing for the first time in years. I think that affording him the opportunity to follow this dream is as important as finding the money to keep my oldest in school. Hopefully, he will be careful of the money he has and figure out a way to become solvent over the next few years. However, I don't think he will want to take $$ from the family forever and I trust him to budget carefully. Maybe if the kids are a part of the financial decisions, they don't take the finances for granted.

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I think if you re-read my post, you'll see that for the most part, I tried to generalize Why grown-up kids are dependent upon their parents. And it is not just the dance kids that I was referring to. Even Donald Trump had his college paid for by his parents and received $300,000 early in his adult life - to get started in business - from his father. Many a parent have helped their adult children financially by paying for college/grad school, home down-payments, furniture, weddings, cars, trips, etc. And some parents even give their kids their jobs.


I find nothing wrong with parents helping out the son or daughter if that parent choses to do so.

I find it ironic that parents then complain of a too-dependent adult child when the parent did not take more steps to raise the child to become independent. Also, Everyone has heard the phrase, 'struggling artist.' But, for some reason, parents never want to believe that if they raise an artist, their child will become a struggling one.


Are the Russian or South American or Cuban dancers in the US subsidized by their parents from overseas? How are they making ends meet? Are they teaching on the side? modeling? doing extra performance gigs?

I'm curious to know if the US companies that hire the many dancers from abroad do so, partly, because these dancers acclimate to the dancer's lifestyle more readily. just a thought.

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I have no problem with my son struggling and do not think that kids should be raised to expect everything on a silver platter. My problem is more with the fact that there is not a living wage being paid and part time jobs and parental help aside the kids are paying to dance. I don't question if this is fair or not. It is a question I think ties into when to walk away. Clearly, having parents or other people who are willing to financially support the dancers prolong the time before they have to make the walk away decision. I don't think we raise our children to be artists, I think it is something that they have to really want to do or they stop after the first set of auditions, the first missed school event, the loss of all free time ...


I went back to school at 29 after many years of living paycheck to paycheck and now am in the corporate world making a lot more money. Is it what I would choose to do if I had a choice of working in my dream field (costume design), um not really but I'm good at it and it works. My parents never gave me a dime after 17 and I found my way and made my decisions. Many parents on this board have their own walk aways and may be more inclined to support their kids and their dreams.


I was clear with my ds that the decision to dance was one that would pay little money and limit his ability to earn, in the short team, a living wage. He understood that and was ready to deal with it. If you're asking me if I want my kid having 6 roommates living in a slum with no phone and his electric turned off half the time you would be right the answer is no. That is a personal decision on my part and may be considered a whine when I'm complaining. I've lived in those conditions and it's not fun.


However, my original question stands, at what point to you stop underwriting ballet companies through funding your dancer's living expenses? In a perfect world this would not be a question since companies would have enough money to provide health insurance, living wages and reasonable working hours. If you withdraw this help and leave your kid to struggle on their own there can be other very unsatisfactory outcomes like a blown out knee with no health insurance... Again, the dump and run policy may work well for your financial independence as a parent but it is not very conducive for sleeping well at night.

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Something else that must fit into this equation is the fact that dancers' salaries have not kept pace with the normal cost of living increases seen over the last 20+ years. By and large, corp weekly salaries have not risen at the same rate as salaries for other jobs in America. When you consider that these salaries were already below a normal working wage and you factor in the rising cost of living, without a comparable rise in salary, it becomes obvious that the difficulty of supporting oneself on a completely independent basis, as a dancer, is overwhelming.


My first corporate job paid me a rather meager wage and did so for about 3-4 years. I had no extra money, didn't live as I would like to and shared an apt. through much of this time. Now, this was 30 years ago. My salary then was comparable to the starting corp salary at a mid-sized, to large ballet company today. I know how I scraped to be 'independent' on that salary 30 years ago. Is it reasonable to expect that our children can do the same in 2006, with the present economy? Sure, we do want them to move toward financial independence. We do want them to find ways to stretch a dollar, earn extra income, etc. Most parents have no problem in allowing their children to struggle to make ends meet, just as most of us did when we were first out on our own. But, I think most parents are also realistic about the financial realities and physical/time constraints that a career in the arts presents and what is actually possible and reasonable. I also think that most young dancers desperately want to be independent, financially and otherwise, from their parents, as this is a normal part of the maturation process into adulthood.


I think it is harder today than ever before to make it in America as an artist. We do not value this career choice and we compensate it accordingly. With the emphasis in America on having more, making more and doing more, it is very hard to feel good about your artistic achievements, when you can't afford to attend your high school reunion!


When to stop is a difficult question and not one that will be answered the same for everyone. I think that many dancers find great fulfillment in dancing, but do eventually grow tired of the lifestyle that it requires. The truth is, that only a very few dancers 'make it' financially - by the standards that America sets for financial success. So, 'making it' does not really mean getting a job, it means becoming financially solvent, with the ability to live comfortably and save for the future. For all the rest of the dancers (and I'm talking here about those who are paid professional dancers, not just those looking for work), it is a life that is full of trade offs. When the trade offs don't make it worthwhile, dancers find new paths for their lives.

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For all the rest of the dancers (and I'm talking here about those who are paid professional dancers, not just those looking for work), it is a life that is full of trade offs. When the trade offs don't make it worthwhile, dancers find new paths for their lives.

I think this is one of life's greatest lessons as our children grow into adults (and as we adults continue to learn & grow in life). Life is a series of trade-offs -- actually I like to view it as "when one door closes, another one will open."


Sometimes dreams may not come true. What our children focus on and desire may not work out in the end (i.e., becoming a professional ballet dancer). But then, they will discover other interests & opportunities that they hadn't considered because they were too busy pursuing ballet, or other passions. And this may happen multiple times over their lifetime in that they may end up pursuing second, or even third, careers later in life. :rolleyes:

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The same can be true of musicians, singers, actors, models, professional cheerleader-style dancers, etc. Having seen the lifestyle of family and friends for over 20 years, it is clear to me that those who take on the part-time sales job, teaching jobs, corporate party/wedding gigs or even wait tables are the ones who make ends meet long enough to enjoy their life interest and passion. Additional part time work CAME with the job description. The idea that a parent had to support them until they could make a full living wage was not even on their brains, though some did have additional help with parents or non-artist spouses.

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I think you are missing the point of my post, if yours was in response to mine. I don't think anyone here is disagreeing with you about the need to supplement an artist's salary with additional work, if they want to make a living wage. But, in spite of the fact that you know many who have done it (so do I), it simply is not always possible, given the time constraints a given company might have, including but not limited to touring, weekend performing and classes, after hours rehearsals for non-union dancers, etc. etc. etc.


Working as a waiter until 1-2 am and then going home alone is not something that makes many mothers giddy with excitement when it comes to their 17-21 year old daughters (or sons for that matter), who live far away and often alone. Many will opt for assisting, if that is the alternative and often these are the only jobs that will work with a dancer's schedule. I think most parents also view the years that would have been spent in college, to be years that they fully expect to continue supporting their children, as they train for whatever career they have selected. So, it is not at all uncommon for the parents of dancers to provide support for 3-5 years after HS graduation. By that time, I think most dancers will either have figured out how to live independently or will choose another career path. For most of us here, our children fall into that age range. I don't think there are any on this thread who are suggesting that supporting/supplementing a 35 year old child as they pursue a ballet career is a good thing.


I do agree that artist's salaries in general have not kept pace with the economy. It doesn't change the validity of my point in regards to ballet dancers and their salaries, however.


I don't really think that the merits of parents providing support for their post HS students is really the point of this discussion however. I think the discussion is really about what the key factors are for the dancer, that makes them decide that they are ready to stop pursuing a pro dance career. I agree that being able to live independently is an important factor. But, I don't think it serves any useful purpose to put parents on the defensive, who have chosen to provide support for their dancing kids. That seems a topic for another discussion...

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I agree that being able to live independently in that dancer's (and spouse's) agreeable standard of living is not only an important factor, but I believe it is the Main Factor that non-injured dancers chose to move on to another career choice. It will be even more important in their late twenties and early thirties when many dancers begin to think about having children and supporting their own families.


Considering the high percentage of dancers who usually retire in their mid to late twenties, that doesn't give a lot of re-assurance to parents wanting their dks to become financially independent. I am not trying to upset parents as much as to remind them that their expections may be too high for this particular field in the USA given that many dks are from more comfortable backgrounds.


The sooner dancers and their parents face reality, the better they can plan for this inevitability. Watching and hoping and supporting someone until he gets his 'big break' wears one down after time. And eventually, even the most supportive of parents, too, lose hope and just say, 'son, get a REAL (paying) job.' I know it sounds harsh, but try living with and watching those you love struggle through this and you gain an insight.


Sorry to have gotten off subject. And sorry if this offended anyone. It wasn't meant to be offensive. And thankfully, many a great artist can support himself. To lose art is to lose beauty in life.

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I've been reading this thread with interest...especially the initial posts ... as we have gotten a bit off track. It's now a thread of parents chiming in with thoughts about how long to support dd's financially and mentally as they pursue their dream of becoming a professional dancer.


I have always been interested in that point that a dancer reaches when they decide enough is enough. For each dancer it seems to be a very personal choice and for some, it is reached sooner than others. (and here, I am speaking of dancers who have seen the reality of not succeeding and chosing another path.) I would like to hear from more dancers who struggle with the reality of the difficulties of this profession and how and why they decide to carry on or move on.


For my own dd - who is now a financially independent professional (thank goodness), she was very very fortunate to end up with a company who pays very well. I know that the reality is that most dancers must be supported additionally (either by their parents or other sources of income) to survive. It is the sad state of affairs in the US - we do not support the arts. For the dancers - it is their passion - and it is not so easily put aside for other pursuits, especially when they have spent years training for that dream. I can honestly say that, had my dd not received her job offer last year - her years of support from us would have probably ended as we had just run out of money. It would have broken my heart to think that because of our financial situation, she would no longer be able to be supported - however, there does seem to be that point that a decision must be made to move on. (which brings me full circle to why I have always been interested in how people reach that point). Certainly, my dd did not come from a "more comfortable background" and while she knows several dancers who have, the majority came from families who struggled and sacrificed many things for their dancer.


Unfortunately for many dancers - they continue to pursue their dreams to no avail. Sometimes this has to do with the fact that they just are not good enough, didn't receive good training, body issues, etc. However, many times it does come down to money - which, in my opinion, is the very saddest of reasons to have to stop.

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