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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Physical Preparation of Boys


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WOW! Did you make that poster for your boys so they know what to do?? That must have taken some time.

Hey, if it works for your family, go for it! :angry:

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  • citibob


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It didn't take very long. Including online search about two hours. They already knew how to do most of the stuff but just needed help organizing a plan and setting reasonable goals.


I already had the photos of dd stretching. This summer I did a stretching flier for my boys so they'd hopefully get in the habit of warming up before their classes. Now that they've been in rehersals with the older dancers they think they're being cool like the older guys by warming up. That seems to be a better motivator.


The President's fitness award website has the chart, pictures, descriptions.


Graphic organizers are vital with our family. Already they haven't been super consistent with it but they have the reminder and routine ready to jump into when they want it. Occassionally I'll probably be a meany and tell they no "tech time" until they've worked on at least some of their PT.

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The boys who stretched regularly and really worked at it from a younger age, now have better extensions, full splits, arched feet, etc, than those who didn't seem to care.


I'm not sure what to believe about that. I developed my basic flexibility in college, and my feet in my late 20's --- and I have better extensions, splits and feet that all but a few guys. I think at some point it's a matter of how much you care and how consistently you work at it.


Tell me what you think.


I think that ballet training is one of the best thought-out, longest-tested, most complete and most balanced exercise programs ever invented. Most of us don't grasp its genius most of the time, since plie and tendu become so day-to-day for us. But it really is incredible when you look at it from an exercise/fitness point of view.


So... I question the purpose or need for asking children to do significant PT exercises on top of the discipline of ballet, without some specific request or identified need from a doctor. Ballet is certainly the only consistent exercise program I do, as well as the only one I did while dancing full-time. I'm considered very healthy and fit, and my ballet training prepared me for what I needed to do in the studio and on stage. I know a lot of guys do a lot more, and it might help a bit here and there. But I think it's mostly a response to our own sense of anxiety over what we might be asked to do for a show.


Also, I'm not sure that putting your daughter on a poster as an example for your sons is a good idea. It reinforces the idea that boys aren't as flexible or well-suited for ballet as girls --- something they already have to fight through. The picture will just make them feel hopelessly inferior, in a subtle sort of way. Why don't you look for a picture of a flexible boy or young man, who could serve as their role model?

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citibob - my thoughts: I know that you started late and were successful as a dancer, however, in this day and age, that is an exception not the norm anymore. It is becoming very competitive for young men to find jobs especially here in Canada with limited ballet companies and the ones who do succeed have been training since a young age and usually end up at a residential ballet school. I know of very few successful Canadian male dancers who started training in their late teens. My DS has not trained with any - they have all been training since 11/12. I'm sure they are out there somewhere, it just has not been his experience. However, I do feel that his most intensive training which started at 16 has provided the most benefits to his technical development, due to several factors, one being required strength, plus the maturity to deal with the rigourous schedule/artistry/musicality and the several years of previous solid training which provided an excellent foundation.


However, I do agree that ballet training is a physical end in itself, and it is not necessary to add extra hours of PT outside of school physical education classes. IMO, there is no need to add weight training to the young boys' schedules, in fact, at all of my DS schools, this was not allowed. There was/is physical conditionning, but it does not involve weights. And like you, ballet is the only consistent exercise program my DS does - he hasn't done PT in high school for 2 years now, but with a full dance schedule he doesn't need it. This does not really apply to younger dancers who are not dancing as many hours, so the PT in schools is still a needed requirement.

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I'm just trying to bring some perspective to this situation. Dance is a very competetive profession, but that does not mean we always need to get caught up in the hyper-competition, especially when our children are little. Either they will end up professionals through a combination of talent and drive --- or they will not. I doubt that pushing from parents who vicariously wish they had a career will do much beneficial for the children or the profession.


Most professional dancers started dancing at 10/11, but they did not get serious about it until their mid teen years, when they took it upon themselves as something they wanted to do. I started when I was 5, but did not make up my mind to get serious about it until much later. Either way, I strongly believe that 3 days/week for a 10-year-old, in conjunction with a variety of other activities he might wish to pursue in the future, is fine.

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I DO agree with you that the most beneficial training seems to appear when the boys are older and have definitely made up their minds that dance is a passion that they want to continue to explore and train for more intensively. And yes, until that point, I guess moderation and variety in activities for our young dancer would be what we should all strive for as parents. :blink:

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WARNING: Off topic but related


I went to an Ivy League school without trying too hard to get in --- there was never much doubt about my abilities as a child. I always found it a bit strange how much some other childrens' lives would be oriented around getting into an Ivy League school, often to the exclusion of all else.


Sometimes I wonder what's happening to the competetive environment in the current "young" generations. Every time I read about college admissions, I am horrified. The number of applications filled out by the typical high school senior has skyrocketed, while (obviously) the acceptance and matriculation rates at all schools have plummeted.


My school accepted about 1 in 4 in my days, now it's about 1 in 10. That means that when I conduct alumni interviews, I now must assume that the kid I'm interviewing is not going to be admitted, and I feel my job is to help the admission committee find a reason why. If the student is truly outstanding and I can't find any reason to deny admission, then I can say so. Clearly, many of the applications not accepted would do just fine, but the admissions process has gone crazy and the numbers are now overwhelming.


In the end, I believe that we gain recognition and acceptane in the world for what we accomplish. Elite institutions can help us accomplish great things, but I know of plenty of people who attended such places and never made much of their lives (and the converse). I believe there is broad opportunity outside of the elite institutions, as globalization and other forces are moving our society in a meritocratic direction.

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Those elite institutions are mainly good for the resume to get you in the door for the interview. Everyone recognizes the names. However, I think the education is just as good many other places and if the school is small, probably more individualized. That said, back to the PE. I think the boys should run around and play in the under 12 age. They do need physical activity, but it does not need to be a specific routine. Gymnastics is good for flexibility, but it seems to promote shorter, stockier frames than most dancers want. I think that rec classes in some other types of things will expose the kids to different stuff, so that it is their choice in the end if they want to dance. Makes for happier adults if they feel the choice was theirs, not mom or dad's.

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Gymnastics is good for flexibility, but it seems to promote shorter, stockier frames than most dancers want.


Nothing I've read on this board or in other places suggests that dancers benefit from gymnastics training. That's why I was wondering why SAB offers gymnastics training for their Level 1-4 boys (but I do not see it offered for the girls). I assume there must be a reason behind SAB making it part of their training. Is it because gymnastics helps with upper body strength? Because modern dance may require some tumbling? How does it benefit boys but not girls? Is there someone whose son goes to SAB that may know the answer? It's just something I've been wondering about.


On a personal note, my son (whom you may recall quit the gymnastics team a year ago to pursue dancing) has decided to quit his jazz class to take gymnastics again. It's just a once-a-week rec class-- not any serious team training like he was doing before. I think it was a good move. Jazz plus his twice-a-week ballet class put him dancing three days a week which I think is a bit much for him. He has lost a lot of strength and flexibility since trading gymnastics for ballet. He's hoping to get some of it back. Plus, he thinks it's a lot of fun.


On another personal note, my 10 year old daughter quit her gymnastics team. She was training nearly 20 hours a week and was plagued by constant pain and injuries (which culminated with a broken growth plate in her ankle plus stress fractures in her legs). The pediatric orthopedist asked her, "Look at you-- look at your body! You have the body of a ballet dancer! Why in the world are you torturing your long, slender legs with vaulting and dismounting?" But, despite the fact that everyone tells her she looks like a ballerina, has natural turn-out and freak-show flexibility in her back, and the fact that she has such beautiful and graceful floor routines, she only considers herself a gymnast and refuses to take a dance class (outside the gym, that is). She likes the high-flying excitement of gymnastics and thinks dance is dull (I don't think she will ever trade her flouresent/sparkly leos and swinging ponytail for a black tank and bun). It's just as well-- my son doesn't need competition from his big sister. I'm personally glad she is off the team. I think the training hours are ridiculous. She's just doing recreational, twice-a-week gymnastics now.

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:lol: Holy Crow - slhogan - I can't believe the injuries your daughter has suffered at age 10! Talk about over-training. Hopefully she's enjoying her recreational gymnastic schedule - after all, this has got to be fun for them as well. Also glad to hear that your son has decided to go back to his gym class too - they do seem to know what's best for them (well, most of the time!).
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This is a wild speculative guess about SAB. But here goes... figuring out how to attract and retain boys is always a challenge. It is widely believed that boys like high-physicality activities more than girls --- a kind of "rough play." Gymnastics might be seen as a way to keep them coming back and interested.

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knock knock - I don't have a dancing son, but I do have a 12 year old son! :D


slhogan - You're doing the right thing by allowing your very young son to decide which activities are right for him. Whether or not an hour per week of gymnastics is "good" for ballet, or "bad" for ballet, it's good for your little guy, and that's what's most important - especially at this stage of his life! Let him try everything he wants to, and if later he decides he wants to devote his life to ballet, and avoid this or that activity, that's great, and he won't have regrets about what he may have missed out on. But that time is certainly not now! As you've found with your dd, their intense interests at young ages may or may not pan out in the long run. It's wonderful that you're helping him have fun exploring for himself. :sweating:


I was also initially astonished at the number of hours your daughter was participating in gymnastics per week at her age, and then I remembered a boy we've known since he was 5 years old who's now 11 and has been on a similar schedule for at least a year. He wins top honors at least at the state level - maybe more? I'm not sure how it works, so I guess that's normal in gymnastics. I can see why you were so surprised at the relatively low numbers of hours dance students take ballet per week at young ages! I hope your daughter heals quickly and well, and that she enjoys her new recreation gymnastics classes!

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:lol: Sorry-- this post is long and more of a personal rant than a comment on the physical preparation of boys. I guess I just needed to get it off my chest. Feel free to just skip it! Won't hurt my feelings at all.


I was also initially astonished at the number of hours your daughter was participating in gymnastics per week at her age, and then I remembered a boy we've known since he was 5 years old who's now 11 and has been on a similar schedule for at least a year. He wins top honors at least at the state level - maybe more? I'm not sure how it works, so I guess that's normal in gymnastics. I can see why you were so surprised at the relatively low numbers of hours dance students take ballet per week at young ages! I hope your daughter heals quickly and well, and that she enjoys her new recreation gymnastics classes!


Thank you! Actually, now that I am learning more and more about ballet training and getting used to the comparitively relaxed training schedule, I am becoming more and more disgusted with competitive gymnastics. The goal really is just to get as much out of your body as you possibly can before you're 18. And there's not even a career that you're training for! It's just a kid sport!


From what I see of the training hours at Houston Ballet vs. competitive gymnastics, the hours are pretty much the same (level 8s train about 20 hours a week in both places). The difference is that in gymnastics you are a lot younger at each level. In gymnastics, you are Level 4 at about the age of 6 or 7 (about 6-12 hours a week), level 8 by about 10 (20-24 hours a week), and then up to level 10 and Elite by 13 or 14 (training 30+ hours a week). Really good gymnasts who are olympic bound are elite by 10 years old. My son went level 4 in kindergarten and quit the team in 1st grade when he became interested in ballet. Plus, he was hating the conditioning. At 6 years old he didn't have the ability the understand that an hour of running, splits & stretching, push-ups, sit-ups, and chin-ups were helping him become a better gymnast. He just saw it that the coach was "mean". I didn't blame him a bit for wanting to quit the team. But, as you may recall from all my posts last year, it took me a while to adjust to the differences in ballet. I couldn't believe it when the ballet teachers told me he was talented in dance yet they only wanted him 1-2 hours a week.


My daughter's injury was a blessing. With all the pain she had been having, we were really wanting her to back off and experience other sports and activities in her life, but she was addicted to the high energy workouts (and she's an obsessive perfectionist!). Every time we suggested to her that we back off, she would go hysterical and say something like, "Quit the team?!? Why don't you just ask me to quit BREATHING?!?" It took the doctor giving her an ultimatum back in to get her to stop the craziness.


Competitive gymnastics is an insane sport. I didn't mean to go down that road. I picked gymnastics solely because it was a sport that my 3, 5, and 7 year olds could all do at the exact same time (gyms are big and have about 10 classes going on simultaneouly) and it was indoors/airconditioned so I didn't have to get sweaty sitting on a sports field every Saturday. It started off just one day a week but the gyms quickly identify the talented kids, put them in special pre-team classes (even at 3 years old), and start conditioning them to compete when they're 6. It all just compounded into madness in the blink of an eye.


The parent-seating area of a competitive gym is surreal-- where else do you have parents discussing the various MRIs and CAT scans their children have had... and their kids are only 10! The last time I saw my daughter at the gym (a few hours before she heard a sickening "crack" in her ankle and collapsed in pain while simply practicing her dance routine), she had support braces on both her ankles and tape around both shins and knees to help control the pain. A little 5 year old pre-team girl looked her at her bandaged up legs and said, "Why do you big girls always put tape on your legs?" I think at that moment I had a premonition that it was all about to end in a matter of hours. I suddenly was just filled with dread, was on the verge of tears looking at my daughters legs, and knew we had to stop all this. A couple hours later I got a call from my daughter calmly telling me she had broken her ankle. She wasn't crying or anything-- the kids are so used to pain that they ignore it. I asked her if she had told her coaches and she said no, she didn't want them to get mad at her. She just told them her foot hurt and hopped off to ice it (there's a freezer filled with icepacks on the gym floor because every gymnast needs to ice something everyday).


Anyway, all three of my children (my 5 year old son was on his way to compete at 6) are now in a different gym just doing this recreationally. It was hard to switch to this gym as it has such an awful reputation (at the competitive gym anyway) for producing terrible gymnasts. But, terrible is a relative term. No, they won't be able to go Elite at this gym, but all three had huge smiles on their faces after their first class there a couple weeks ago.

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I think citibob is correct that part of the reason SAB has its young boys take gymnastics classes is that they are fun--it probably helps keep them from getting bored with the slow early training. I also think a secondary aspect is the upper body strength. Boys that age are too young for weight training, but it helps them get used to using their arms/torsos for something other than port de bras. Other prestigious schools accomplish this by having the students begin pas de deux at a younger age. No lifts, of course--it's more about learning coordination and support.

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Many years ago my DS did gymnastics for a few years. Only twice a week. The gym was low pressure but had still produced a decent competitive team - if the kids wanted to pursue that goal. DS did not and they never pressured him. He had a beautiful line (they loved his legs and feet!) but he hated the rings and high bar. So he was happy at twice a week tumbling around. Then we moved to Texas. First thing was to find a gym so he could continue. The place everyone recommended produces Olympic level athletes. We didn't know that - it was just convenient. DS lasted only a few sessions before he quit. The intensity was amazing and the things we saw even preschool children doing were just mind-boggling. It was far from being a "fun" experience. There were no other options in the area, though. I think DS always regretted leaving the sport - even though it was his decision - and later on wanted to return. But he wasn't willing to return to that gym so it never happened. In retrospect, he actually regrets ever having done anything but ballet and feels that, over the years, he has developed certain muscles in such a way that they impede his ability to be the best dancer. Something about how the muscles were developed to do other things and now he's having to retrain them to do what he needs them to do in ballet. Interesting perspective, but not sure if it's true!

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