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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Shift in level, shift in parents


SAMI4166

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Hello all,

As I have said my DD started en pointe this year and the class is progressing quickly. :D She was invited to go to another class above her level. What I am noticing is that the other parents seem to be bugged by this. :huh: I have always watched my DD at class...I really enjoy watching her. I am amazed by her improvement, grace and love of dance. But what I am noticing this year is a competitive thing wth the parents, comments that are a bit rude...but masked in "sweetness" if that makes sense. :thumbsup: My DD has also gotten some "mean girl" vibes and comments. :) Is this a relatively normal thing as the kids advance? She will be eligible for company next year and I am just wondering how much worse this gets? :unsure: How have you handled it? I definately don't want her to participate in that behavior! Any input is greatly appreciated!! :thumbsup:

 

Sorry for the long post...I guess I am venting a bit too. :blushing:

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SAMI4166,

 

I don't have any real answers, per se, but a sort of "me, too!" as I was reading your post. My dd has also moved up a level this year, and it's interesting to hear the (not too subtle) comments parents were muttering during observation week (as in right in the studio :thumbsup: in front of the kids and teacher!). Guess they thought no one could hear.

 

Dd is one of the youngest in her level (a 13 in with several 15-16s) and I think some of the older kids/parents are "panicked" that their child is not at the top level (two to go at our school) by this point in their training. To my thinking, that's where some of the frustration comes in. Dd deliberately chooses to turn a deaf ear to any unkind words aimed at anyone. This was a conscious choice, and I think she is much happier for it. (She debriefs in the car, however, and that's how she gets it off her chest. I've worked hard to not try to "fix" anything, just listen, unless she asks specifically for help in a particular situation.) Me? I tend to "drop and go" or, if traffic is horrendous (and just WHO decided that all ballet classes must start in the midst of rush hour?!?!) and I end up staying at the studio, I either park myself off to the side (fortunately, we have a large space in the building) stick my nose in my book or laptop, or plug my headphones into my CD player.

 

It's not just ballet though -- I remember being in elementary school band, and getting moved to the 5th-6th group a year early by our band director. Then he put me at first chair...not too welcome w/the middle school crowd. We practiced on a stage in the "cafetorium". My seat was near the edge of the stage.... More than once, I found myself and said chair tumbling off the stage, a mysterious "oops?!" from a clarinet player near me. Fortunately, I never broke my instrument...or my head! Guess kids (and now parents) have always had similar frustrations.

 

I've come to believe that we can't really control the behavior of others or their attitudes, but we can control how we react (or not) to it. I've discovered that changing the subject, or removing myself from a conversation that turns negative can give the other person the idea that a better topic with me is cooking, say, than how X has "gotten fat" since summer, or whatever the negativity is. Is this easy, and do we both do it 100% of the time, marching along in our "happy cloud"? Heck, no!!! But for our mutual mental health (what there is of it...) it's certainly the ideal we strive for.

 

Help your dd to realize that she's dancing for herself, and the people that matter in the room and her and her teacher. Maybe invest in a Walkman for yourself, plug those earphones in...!

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Can I knock knock?

I had the same problem when I done my last exam. I had just come back from a break in ballet, but done my exam ahead of time. However, one of the girls who was doing her exam with me was heard saying that since I had only being doing ballet for a while it was unfair that I was doing my exam early, even though my teacher thought I was ready. Just ignore the comments. Obviously the teacher thinks that your DD is ready & all it means that she is good enough to go up early. She should be happy about it! It doen't matter about other people's opinions; even though they can be hurtful. If the teacher thinks she's ready...she's ready.

 

ElphieBean :thumbsup:

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SAMI

Although I don't have many years of experience, from the few I have this is what I have noticed. As the levels at DD's school really started to shift around on when and who moved up at different times paret nasties (and kids) seemed to be a year to year thing. Sometimes it seemed to be just the cluster of individuals, a few who set a tone, the next year they are gone and the tone changes. I spend very little time with other parents since DD dances at school, but the vibes have changed from relatively negative last year to much more positive this year.

I also think there is some "adjustment" for parents too as kids move up. But yes, it does get more competitive. DD is in her school's company and last year she was the most junior she was seen as no real threat. This year she is able to compete (skill wise) with a much larger group of students in the company and this does cause tensions.

Hopefully for you and your DD it will be a temporary negative and then things will settle down

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I do agree that the best thing to do about an existing situation like this one is just to stay away from it. There is no reason that parents should be watching all the classes, and certainly not watching and talking. I hope they are not IN the studio doing that! :o

 

That said, I have learned over the years, (way too many years :blushing:), that the tone of the school is set by the school and the director and the faculty. It is not a given that these jealousies will exist. It is entirely possible for the the students to be very supportive of each other, to encourage the younger ones and appreciate their talent, and to actually root for each other. I know, that sounds like major pollyannaism, but we had that at WSB and we most definitely have it where I am now. Working as a team instead of competing with each other IS possible, but that is established from the top down.

 

If the school allows the parents to watch classes all the time, that is their prerogative, however, it is probably not the best idea in the world. The parents can tend to become way more competitive than the dancers, you know! :wink:

 

The situation evidently already exists there, so, that is why I said I agree with the suggestion to stay away from it. It would probably be best for everyone if the school kept the parents from watching except at certain invited times.

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Knock, Knock (dd is 12)

The sad thing is the competitive parents set the tone for their kids. If my DD's progress matters enough to another parent who doesn't even know her, you can be sure that parent's dancer will feel the stress. DD and I feel sorry for dancers who's parents are forcing them to become jealous by comparing them to other dancers.

And, I agree with Miss Leigh. In our studio - the most senior dancers are so gracious and supportive of one another. Everyone is expected to support one another and set examples of grace for the younger students, even when they feel envious or disappointed.

Bottomline - if serious students are not prepared for other dancers to have better roles or different progression, they are pursuing the wrong field.

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Knock, knock (sudent)

 

It really depends on the maturity of the older dancers. I am the youngest in my class be 2 years. I barley got moved up to the advanced vlass this summer. Our class has about 8 girls and only 2 seem sour abut the whole thing. Turns out the are the ones closest to my age. The oldest ones are the nicest to me. It is all about insecurity.

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As the parent of a DD in her last year of high school (yahoo! I'm almost done with MY part of this deal!) I think it's not so much about competitiveness as about power. Parents and students are always jockeying for position. The old question of "who is the favorite", "who is in the know", etc. My advice is to not form any friend choices among the parents, be low key and non-commital, and encourage your daughter to stand by/ask questions of the oldest in the group. This will protect you from unwittingly becoming allied with the snarky mom, before you figure out who she is, and will give your daughter protection from girls most likely to be challenged by her ability. Dance is such a competitive activity that it is a constant challenge for the students (and parents!) to remain both gracious and competitive. As the mom of one of the advanced dancers in a studio that permits or even encourages parents to watch class and be in the studio, I strongly feel that it is my DUTY to say something positive about every kid in the level, and to encourage my DD and her friends to notice and compliment such skills in each other. The less lovely comments, we save for the ride home, if they must be said at all! We feel that the younger dancers, and their parents, model their attitude and comments on ours, and try at all times to model appropriate behavior. If you act that way, those who want to be nasty will soon learn that you're not the person to talk to, and your problems will be over, or at least decrease.

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Thank you all for your comments! I do try to stay clear of those that I know are "nasty" parents. It is just suprising that it seems to have increased. I have warned my daughter of the "mean" girl stuff. She is very aware that not everyone is your friend...very few real ones in life! :crying: I was just shocked at the shift. I think alot has to do with the parents as someone said. I encourage my DD to help the others in class when they have trouble...it doesn't take away from her ability at all if someone else "gets" the step. But some of the DKs seem to think that it is strange to help each other out. :shrug:

 

It is just sad, and I do agree that it is insecurity in many of these girls/parents. None of them "have it all" as a dancer. They all have so many things to work on, but that is what dance is all about. :D My DD director told her it is always about perfecting what you have trouble with, not what you can do well...a constant growing and learning.

 

I am thankful that there are others that have weathered this time! It gives me hope and courage! :D

 

Thank you all again. It is so nice to have a support system out there!! :D

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My advice would be to make sure your dd watches her belongings. Dd 'lost' 2 pairs of technique shoes by the first week of October.

 

I second the idea of making sure your daughter behaves graciously toward the other dancers and that you make sincere positive comments about the other dancers when you notice something they do especially well. This will help encourage the sense of comraderie among the dancers and parents. After watching these students grow up, I am thrilled when I see one of them accomplish a soaring grande jete or a double fouette. Ballet is tough and I appreciate their efforts even if they aren't my daughters.

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Working as a team instead of competing with each other IS possible, but that is established from the top down.
:D:D

 

Very true, in ballet, in business and in life. :D

 

I always tell my DDs to "be the bigger person". Sometimes easier said than done.

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I can only offer support and empathy. I agree with the advice above.

This has happened to us and our DD.

When she was younger, parents would complain if her teacher used her as an example for the class on how to do a step that she got but the others didn't.

Now that she is older, some of her classmates and moms have ostracized us, probably due to the roles she got last year.

I can handle being treated this way by the parents(it does bother me, though). However, it has been especially painful for my daughter because she thought she had made some nice friends, only to have them turn on her.

The advice we have received is that if you are going to succeed, you need to get a thicker skin, as this sort of behavior will only get worse as you do better. Easier said than done, I know, but I think this is the only way to deal with it.

This year, our DD is taking classes at 2 different schools, in order to get enough class time. The new school she has joined to take supplemental classes does seem to have a different atmosphere that is less competitive and more focused on learning to dance well. She's new there, of course, and is only settling in so we will see how it goes. But this does support what is said above about the tone being set at the top.

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I completely agree with Ms. Leigh that the standard is set from the top. After many years at several different schools, my daughter is now in a preprofessional school where the teachers are very supportive and nurturing, (as well as very demanding), and set a very high standard of behavior for the students. They also give all the students a lot of attention. I have never seen a happier group of students. Mind you, they are all older teenagers in her level, and can act like teenagers from time to time, but as a group, the students have learned to deal with the competitiveness in a very positive way. Their teachers help them do this on a daily basis. They are happy to see each other every day. They applaud each other's successes, and comfort each other through their tears. Same situation for the parents at the school, who work together for the benefit of the school, and support each other and each other's children.

 

Are we just lucky? I don't think so. This is the example set, and this is what everyone follows.

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I agree totally with Ms Leigh. My dd and I have quite honestly never experienced negative comments from parents. In fact, quite the opposite. The students that dance with dd show remarkable support and encouragement for one another, bar a few incidents - from the students, but never from the parents. I am indeed a Pollyanna myself, but am not embarrassed about being so. I am constantly grateful that my dd's studio has teachers who are nurturing and supportive, and this is a direct result of the head of the studio, who has enormous integrity and professionalism.

 

My Dad, who is 76 and was never the most emotionally demonstrative of men, recently, for the first time, picked up my dd from a ballet rehearsal. and commented on how sweet and affectionate the girls were together. Hugs all round on leaving rehearsal - just very sweet and caring - and this is what is seen as the norm in the studio.

 

I love this sweetneess and encouragment that is exhibited on a daily basis. I love being able to commend another students progress to their parent (in my purely subjective way - because - Hello! - I'm not a teacher) and love it when other parents ccommend my dd for her particular skills or progress.

 

Ignore the detractors - it is simply not worth the efffort.

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