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Ballet Talk for Dancers

should a mom push?


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O.K. here's my delema:

Should a mom push?: My dd is 15, just, and has been dancing at the same studio for about 6 years. Her ballet teacher is extreamly reputable , and the corrections are not as intense as they were years back. But, none the less, she feels its "home", has lots of friends, although she has her downs as well, which is to be expected anywhere. Now, she did try a competative studio, where the teacher told us that she had incredible potential, and at this age she would advise moving her so she can get the training she needs. My dd really loved the class, with all its structure and hard work, (she did see a big difference), but is not sure she wants to leave "home". she is not SURE what she wants to do in her life, although the other school told her at her age she needs to start NOW. I do feel she is old enough to make her own decision. She does want to get better, although she is scared. Any suggestions would be appreciated and considerd. Thank you.

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Knock knock....


Many dance teachers, when they see someone with a lot of talent for dance, feel that it would be a waste or crime against the art form if that person does not become a professional dancer.


However, professional dance life is very hard and talented people have tons of great options to choose from for their careers --- more than ever before. Most of those career options pay more and sustain for a lot longer than dance, and there's less over-supply of labor as well. The perceived glamour of your daughter as a professional dancer will wear off after about three months in a company --- and then you will start to be alarmed at the state of salaries and benefits (or lack thereof). A desire to own my own home, like 2/3 of Americans, was one reason I left full-time dance company life.


Because of the extreme difficulties involved, I believe strongly that no one should ever be pushed into a dance career, no matter how talented that student is. If your daughter is really talented at dance but doesn't know what she wants to do with her life --- she's probably really talented at something else as well. But that something else is something she might not discover for another few years. To find it, she'll need time to explore.


I would discuss the reality of the situation with your daughter. She is talented. If she wants to pursue a professional dance career she'll be best off switching schools. She has other options in life and can pursue other things too if whe wishes; she probably has lots of talent to go around in many fields. Then let her make her own decisions. She needs to make her decisions based on her own needs, not the perceived needs of the art.

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To twinkltoze -


Does your dd have to leave her home to attend this new school? Or is it a matter of switching studios and she could still live at home? If it's the second option, that's an easier transition at your daughter's age.


As citibob explained so well, it is her decision. If she begs for better training and it's financially and emotionally possible, help it happen for her. My daughter didn't get the intensive training she needed until she was out of high school. She's playing catch-up, and if we could have made it happen sooner, we would have. Your daughter will show you what direction she wants to take.



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Thank you, too, for replying, 2marzipans. No she would not have to leave home. I know she does want to get better in her ballet in the worst way. Yet, like citibob guessed it, she is very much into her academics. AND, maybe its a question of loyalty as well. She has been with this teacher for a long time. She molded her to what she is now.

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twinkletoze, I think that the handwriting is on the wall. If she was seriously driven and had the passion needed to be a professional dancer, the best training would be the top priority. Loyalty is lovely, and home school is comfortable, but once you become aware that it is not going to get you where you want to go, then you immediately do something about it....or not. If the choice is not, then the answer is obvious. By 16 and 17 she will be too far behind, and she will not make good SI programs, nor have a realistic chance for a career as a classical dancer. This is fine, as long as that is her decision. Let her stay and enjoy her home school and also pursue other avenues, but with the awareness that she is not choosing the road to a career in ballet.

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Wise words from everyone, as usual. Is it an option to try, say, one class a week at the new studio? If your DD just needs to get over some nerves and/or discover that she really does crave better training, this might help her to get a more realistic picture of what the new studio is like. And if she ultimately decides to stay at the current studio, it will help YOU to feel that you did all you could to show her the options.


At the end of the day, that is all that you as parent can do. I am very familiar with your dilemma. Our studio has many wonderful points about it, but the training is neither rigorous nor precise. I periodically question(ed) my DD's (now 15 and 19) as to whether they wanted to dance at the more rigorous schools in town. Both have opted to stay in the comfortable local environment. Their training has been very good, but not technically excellent. However, they have thrived in this environment that does not insist that ballet comes above everything else (most of our kids are high academic achievers as well, in intense academic programs), that encourages kids to experiment with choreography, and that just generally is a little lower-pressure than your typical pre-pro school. They do get excellent training in modern dance.


As a mom, I've certainly gone through periods where I wonder if I've spent my money wisely, or if I should be pushing them to achieve more. Both have gone through the dramatic "dancing is my LIFE!" stage, and that is when I have been most tempted to send them across town. But as others have said, the kids really know what suits them best.

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The number of students I've trained, who were built for ballet and were really talented, but would not work more intensively however hard I pushed, are too many to count. And then of course there are those who advanced more than I would ever have believed possible, because they had the fire inside. As parents we can push our children, but if they don't want it, the battle is lost before it's begun. If she wants to stay another year at her "home" school let her. Sixteen or seventeen is a fine age to start working more seriously - and in my opinion it's not too late. Give her a chance - let her know that she can move whenever she wants to and that you'll support her decision. Maybe she's just not ready yet.

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Is the school she might be moving to large enough to have a decently reputable summer program? Or a shorter summer program that might work along with the attendance at a true SI? If so, a good bridge into a new studio is their summer program sometimes. You get to have a taste of the instruction and also get to know a few of the students prior to making "the big move". They learn that the new place can quickly become home also. She could go and make a final decision afterwards.


I don't think a parent needs to push. But what you can do is let her know that you are willing to do what it takes to make her successful if she wants a career and that includes driving to a new studio. The choice is hers and all she needs to do is ask you and you'll comply.


She is at the age, that a decision will need to be made or it might be made for her. But you as parent, will have allowed her to make her own way. And that will give you peace.

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Yes I agree with Hamorah. No matter how talented, if the student is not totally committed with the "fire" inside, it won't happen. If your daughter is not sure whether she wants to dance, then I doubt if she really has enough motivation. This is not critising her, there are a lot of good things beckoning someone of her age and it can be difficult to choose the right path. However, a commited dancer simply would not take "no" for an answer.

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Thank you ALL. The suggestions and comments are right on the money. This is a dilemma for me because I feel her dilemma, for this is a child who has a beautiful body, and has STRUGGLED with feet, extensions, turnout, and successfully conquered them to a point with this individual teacher. Enough to get her into top SI's.

I will take all comments into consideration, and time will tell.

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I know that a lot of people have replied, etc, but I felt that I needed to add my two cents. My DD, 13 yo, has danceed at the same studio since she was 3 1/2 years old. But at the beginning of the semester, the studio changed hands. This was a studio that had ballet, pointe, lyrical, jazz, tap, hip hop, etc. And my DD was in the ensemble, which was the performance group that you had to audition for, and maintain a certain level of classes, etc. She has been on pointe 3 years and has really grown to love ballet. When the studio changed hands, she was placed in the next to the top level with students that were all below her level (not just me, several teachers and former director agreed) and was feeling severly unchallenged. I advised that she should stick out at least 6 weeks and see what happened, I met with the new director and told her of the situation, and lo and behold, the new director failed to agree that my daughter could rise up to meet the challenge of the higher level, even though several of the current teachers, as well as the former director and DD's private teachers's recommendation that she be moved up to be challenged.


So, we tried classes at other studios in our area. It just so happens that we tried out at an all ballet studio in our area ( a pretty reputable one at that) and she was placed in the highest level. She has been dancing there since October and loves it!!! It is always challenging and the Director loves her, always encouraging her to push and try and always wants more. Nutcracker is this weekend and because we started after they had cast all of the roles, DD was cast as a big mouse, but also as understudy for Flowers and Snow. She dances 7 1/2 hours ballet and 2 1/2 hours pointe a week and loves it!!! Unfortunately, one of the Snowflake dancers sprained her ankle this past weekend in rehearsal and my DD was selected to dance the part and she couldn't be more thrilled.


I was not sure how this new studio would work, because at the old studio, she was always cast in the solos, and the best parts, and I was not sure that she would handle not being at the top of her class, but she has really enjoyed the challenge and wants to continue at the new studio. She is making friends and feeling her way and is very happy. Sometimes, change is the best for a growing, budding dancer, especially one that is serious and wants to do this for a living.


Best of luck !!!

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I think you can push a little. Have an open conversation about the options available to her and the possible consequences of the choices that are made. I am sure you have already had this conversation. Emotionally, it is extremely difficult to change studios and teachers. I have even known parents who have had a harder time with this than their kids. If you push a little and you are met with huge resistance, then there is no point of going any further. Your daughter must decide what her future will be. If she is on the fence about what her goals are right now, she will not make the choice to leave her present studio. I pushed my daughter not once, but twice! Each time my suggestions for a change, were met with some resistance. I think this is perfectly normal. I didn't have to push very hard though. Once we had the frank and open discussion, she was able to make the choice herself because her level of commitment to pursue dance as a profession has always been 100%. There have been absolutely no regrets and no looking back. She realizes that she would not be where she is today had she stayed at the original studio.

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I agree with you, ddm3. Sometimes a mother has to give some advice that is based in the wisdom of having walked the earth a little longer than your DK. I knew that my daughter would have to change studios if she wanted to become "company ready" by the time she should be auditioning. If I had not brought up the prospect of getting more appropriate training to accomplish her objectives, she may not have considered ever making a move. She was very attached to her studio, as it was the only place she had ever studied and all her friends were there. Their was some pressure on the kids to stay at their school, they were not encouraged to go to summer programs that had residence programs, and loyalty was stressed. It is very much like having a teen voluntarily change high schools, but once she reached the age where she was sure that she wanted to give professional dancing a shot, she knew she had to move on. The realization happened over a period of 18 months or so, as she matured and saw more of the dance world through exposure to summer programs, and got a good picture of the level of dancers she would be competing with for jobs.

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Thank you all again. Auditions are just a few weeks away. I know rehearing is like classes, but not really either. Well, the performance will be beautiful. Also, she may see things differently after a motivated summer intensive.

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