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Ballet Talk for Dancers

A New Year, a Different Mind Set


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(I hope I'm putting this in the right forum).

Have you all ever read about, or seen shows about, the 90 year-old person on their death bed wishing they would have done this, that, and the other in their life time? Well, that's me now at age 27!

I've done ballet since the ripe old age of 17. For the past 3 years I've taken class 5-6 days a week. I would say I'm at an intermediate level. My school is connected with a professional company, but few to no students from the school actually get into the company (you know how that goes). Every day I am at the studio, each class 2 or 2 and 1/2 hours long. I do not feel like I am progressing as well as I should with my main teacher so I also take a lower level class twice a week totally on pointe.

Any way, I've got this feeling inside like I MUST dance... like atleast semi-professionally. Everyday it's this knawing feeling like the clock is ticking and I'm running out of time, but I also have the negative pull of thinking "I'm really not good enough to do anything!" Like many my age, I have a boat-load of debt from the college days and need to "work" a regular job to make ends meet. But being a nurse, my profession, limits me timewise to take more classes and be able to perform (I will soon start to work every other weekend and one studio in town offers performances for adults but rehearsals are on the weekends and I know I would not be able to make it to them on time on the weekends I work... but that is all besides the big point I'm trying to make).

I've been racking my brain as to what I should do. I even thought about going to school for dance, like at the North Carolina School of the Arts for their diploma program, but I think, "How will I pay for that?" and with the times of the classes I would have to atleast work nights part time. But even more important, "Will I make it through the audition?"

I look "young," I'm tall and thin, I have a dancer's body (but of course technique and pointe work could always be better) but I just don't know what to do.... you know, figuring out the logistics of things.

Someone on this board, and one of my close dance teachers also, told me that to be a dancer you must put other things aside and totally focus on dance. My teacher said that one must focus on dance morning to evening, which I totally would like to do... but how can I afford training? Who do I go to? Right now I'm stuck in Wisconsin with no options, but I have this nagging feeling everyday that I must do SOMETHING!

Nothing excites me like dance does, there's no other topic I would rather talk about other than dance, there's nothing on the television I would like to watch but ballets, there are no other books I'd rather read than biographies of dancers.

What should I do? :angry:

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Hey Gerlonda,


I don't have an answer for you, although I was at 25 offered a pro-am position with a cabaret company but it was doing shows at RSL clubs and didnt fit in with my work hours. (but if I could've done it I would have)

So I definately feel your pain. I would love to dance full time, but a girls gotta eat and pay rent and put fuel in the car...etc.


Maybe some of the career professionals on the board might have some inspiration for you. PM me if you want to lament the lack of career options for the adult ballet dancer.



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Guest DewDrop

I definitely can understand and sympathize with your situation, but I want to encourage you that you DO have options! They may not all be the options your heart wants so badly, but they are great options nonetheless. If things don't pan out and you don't at least get a semi-pro job, here a few things you can think about to still have a great, enjoyable dance life. And no, I am definitely not saying you must right now give up your dream...I just don't want you to think there's only one dance job that can make you happy. You can change your goals a little bit, and realize it's not a catastrophe.


1. You could decide to go the teacher route and guide others to reach their dreams before it's too late. There is a severe lack of passionate dance teachers...you have the passion inside you to make a difference in many lives!


2. You could study and research ways to be involved in the dance world in a different way, and still take your own dance classes. You're a nurse, so you could possibly get involved in the sports medicine field, for example. A friend of mine from college badly wanted to be a professional dancer, but it wasn't in her cards...so she moved on to that field. She worked with injured NYCB dancers for a while and she really loved it.


3. You could continue to train with all of your heart to become the best dancer you can be and just enjoy the dancing, no matter what size the stage is. The important thing is that you'll be dancing and doing what you love.


I wish you ALL the best for 2007! :party:

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Hi, Dewdrop! Welcome to the forum! I think you have brought up some interesting ideas that should be addressed here! I know there are many of us here who have a deep love of ballet, but cannot dance professionally. I myself simply set out to train very hard to become the best dancer I can, and have loved every minute of it! Now I also teach pre-and beginning ballet classes at my studio, and have found it very fulfilling! I'd be interested to know if anyone else has more ideas along these lines.

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Guest DewDrop

Thank you so much for the welcome, jddancingqueen! I am so happy to read that you feel so fulfilled with your dancer/teacher life. :party:


So much goes into making a company run, that I do like to remind people of the professional non-dance jobs out there so they can at least be involved in dance. Not only sports medicine/trainer-type careers, but there are PR, management, and all types of positions within dance companies that could work well for the adults passionate about ballet and interested in those fields. Dancers with the gift of choreography can also look into that venue. The dance teacher route can expand from teaching a couple of classes into having your own dance company. Dance photography is also quite a skill...we all love ballet pictures, and not just anyone can capture pictures within a ballet at the perfect moments. Anyway, these 2 posts are just ideas off the top of my head. There is so much out there, and pretty much all of them will still leave time to take dance classes! :)

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How about an adult performance company? Or, if you go for another degree/postgraduate degree, you could look into art administration, or dance history/theory/sociology (I am not sure what your first degree is, but maybe you can built on it). Good luck and don't give up

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Nothing much to add, gerlonda, but I wanted to send lots of positive wishes your way! If this is something you would really like to do, then my advice is to arm yourself with advice from your teachers, books, etc. and info about the program that you are going to audition for. Don't start thinking "what if I don't make it through the audition?" Plan to make it, give it your all, and if you don't make it, realize that it isn't the end of the world and A) prepare for the next year, :jawdrop: Try to take more adult classes than you currently do, c) look into other dance-related careers, such as ballet instruction, dance medicine, dance psychology, etc. Merde, and please let us know how things work out for you!


(Just an aside- I feel much like you do right now. I've been in uni for 5.5 years, am almost done my 2 majors and 2 minors (=major debt load + a supposedly fixed career path) and I am THISCLOSE to being completely and uniquely in love with ballet. Since I'm 23 and just discovered dance 1.5 years ago, however, dancing professionally is out of the question. Still, I was recently offered an assistant teaching job (RAD grade 5-6) with a teacher who I really respect. I'll most likely have to decline due to scheduling conflicts, but there ARE options out there. If you really have a passion for ballet, whatever happens, you can make it a stable part of your life).





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A slightly discouraging word—for 90% of people, after practicing a skill for about 10 years, further improvement in that skill becomes miniscule. Such is life.


Several good alternatives have been suggested. Another is to consider pursuing different dance styles. Oddly (to me anyway) dancers tend to define the dance world as that little area in which they train. People who contribute to Ballet Talk, for example, may equate the dance world to ballet. Ballet is a very small world with a relatively small number of available jobs and a large supply of aspiring performers. But overall, the dance world is quite large it seems to me. Other theatrical styles like contemporary and jazz come immediately to mind. Beyond those are styles like ballroom, folk, and various ethnic styles. At a non-professional level, there is a whole world of adult dance forms. You will often find dedicated, serious amateurs who pursue these forms.


You may never have a professional dance career in the sense that you derive all of your income from dance. But that certainly doesn’t keep you from having a full and enjoyable dance life. If you read about the pioneering modern dancers of the 30s and 40s, you find they held jobs and danced after work. Essentially, they worked to feed their dance habit. And they weren’t just taking classes. They were inventing a whole new dance form.


If the options around where you live are limited, you may have to consider relocating to some place that offers more options. In the world I know best, the individual sports world, that is the norm. You go to where the best are. My understanding is that the same is true in dance.


The good thing is that you are at a stage in life when you are really just figuring out what you want from life. Your 20s is the time for experimentation and discovery. Most people start seriously thinking career in their 30s, when they typically make big jumps in job proficiency.


Now, about that 90 year old. As an old guy I think I can say this. We all want what we don’t have, whether we are 9 or 90.

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Garyecht, you said that "A slightly discouraging word—for 90% of people, after practicing a skill for about 10 years, further improvement in that skill becomes miniscule." I would think that if one maintained the same level of discipline and practiced consistently for ten years with the same intensity and duration, improvement would be minimal. However, if one were to increase the duration, intensity, and level of discipline with which they approach the skill in question, I find it very difficult to believe that they would not see significant improvement. Unless, of course, physical/mental/emotional limitations were to prevent significant improvement from occurring. But that's just my thinking. B)

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A slightly discouraging word—for 90% of people, after practicing a skill for about 10 years, further improvement in that skill becomes miniscule.


Consider stretching. When you begin, you can see a lot of improvement. But once you've stretched yourself to your body's maximum, you won't see improvement after that. And why should you, you've maxed it out!


Stretching is simple, but all skills are like that. Ballet technique is certainly that way. Professional dancers don't usually improve markedly at ballet technique from one year to the next --- for the most part, it's already been maxed out (but it can continue to be improved, often in surprising ways). Dance is a lot more than technique, and if you keep moving on to new dance skills, you can go on developing them for a lot more than a decade.

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If I am training seriously (define that as you want) I can always increase duration, intensity and discipline and get meager results after about 10 or so years. Citibob’s stretching example is good. We all have limits, and with time and effort we get closer to those limits.


Also, after about 10 years or so of serious training, I think most performers feel something of a grind and wind up cutting back, something of a psychological strategy to keep interest and motivation up.


I carefully chose the word skill to distinguish it from dance ability, which includes both technique (skill) and expressiveness. I don’t know about research or expert opinion on the development of expressiveness, but my sense is that it correlates with age and life experience, well beyond that 10 year limit. But that is just my guess.

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