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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Training: Supply & Demand


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SweetPetite1, pictures, and tsavoie, :shrug: Exactly! That's what I mean by being honest with our dancing children as they go through training. It's our parental responsibility to say that to our kids and to support them no matter what decision they make.


I'm short on time today, so haven't looked carefully over the posts after mine, but will save them for later. However, I think someone asked if I thought that we should let our kids make all the decisions even if we parents feel that we can't afford it, etc. No! I did not address or even hint at that at all. :o We're the parents. First and foremost, those are our decisions to make. But if we have the resources and the desire to let our kids continue, and they want to despite the odds, then it's our responsibility to be honest with them about the prospects and support their decision if we are comfortable enough with that decision.


Honestly, if my daughter were not 5 years younger than her only sibling, then I don't know that my husband and I would've been able to support her training all those years. Our son was a teen and spent most of his time at school working on projects or out with friends by the time her schedule became demanding. We didn't have to neglect him in any way to see her through her training. If my kids were closer in age and there were too many scheduling conflicts or too much time spent with just one of them, then we just might have made a different decision for our family. That's just how I feel; other parents may feel differently and felt able to make it work. For me, the anxiety and worry would have been too much; that's just the way I am. :shrug:


But no, I do not at all believe in children making their own decisions about everything. I believe in parental responsibility even though sometimes that means doing the hard thing and making an unpopular decision for our kids. I'm afraid too many parents don't do that.


Edited to add that while I was typing this post, meant to be directly under SweetPetite1, pictures, and tsavoie, a whole bunch of other posts appeared in between! Hopefully mine still makes sense after all of those (which I haven't yet read).

Edited by vagansmom
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As a parent who is/was more attuned to the sports world than the arts until recently- I would disagree that parents of sports kids don't think their kids will make the pros. Far too many do believe their kids will go on to the Olympic in their sports or professional careers. And there is a HUGE industry out there that perpetuates this belief for parents. Parents pour millions of dollars for all sorts of sport and for girls there is almost a non-extistent professional career in any sport. There is a greater likelihood for a girl to make a career in dance than in sports.


My child will not go on to be a professional ballet dancer, and the chances that she will go on to make it in musical theatre, her chosen goal, are very, very slim also. But she is a better person for her hopes and dreams and we will continue to feed the dream and support her for now. However, I hope at sometime as a family we will have the courage to sit down with DD and do a cost-benefit analysis. When she is at an age to make a run at the profession we can calculate what likely income will be in relationship to living costs, continued training costs and such, and finally the emotional joys and frustrations of an arts profession. She is a smart girl who can then determine how long she can afford to pursue performing arts. Some of the career advice kids need may be more about the practicalities of life, not just their artistic potential. There are many more talented people in all areas of the arts than there are jobs to support them and for me this is the knowledge DD needs to have.

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Yes, Ms. Leigh, it was an inappropriate statement to make. But hers is not the only story, so I believe iit truly happened. Perhaps personality issues came into play. Maybe these types of comments are made during periods of changes in the students' bodies. Maybe it's an attempt to drive a student to work harder. Not sure. The young lady in question, who left the school, made a great point to my son, though, and it convinced him to work harder and harder and to listen to his own inner voice while putting into perspective the comments of everyone else. Point is, the "ultimate correction" isn't always correct. It's one person's view or analysis of an individual's potential.


As for the NFL analogy - there are actually parents that do extensive physical analysis to help determine if their children will be able to have a shot at certain professional sports. And this is being done at increasingly young ages. We had a baseball pitching coach once that explained this in detail to us when DS was about 10. We were stunned to learn of different physical tests and criteria that can be used to screen out players. But there's a difference between sports and ballet - ballet is art. Ultimately the real "judges" are those in the audience who pay to see, hopefully over and over, any given dancer perform. Aren't there dancers that may have less than perfect technique, feet, bodies, etc. - that might have never made it through a rigorous pre-professional school yet are doing great because the audience doesn't see those slight imperfections - only the beauty they bring to the stage? Just a thought.

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Pre professional to me means a training ground that should help a dancer at least head toward a company if the basic gifts are there. If you make it to the top of the top level, that alone would mean you had potential and therefor the company world a possibility. How many companies attached to a pre pro school actually take their own schools dancers. At auditions over the year I'v listened to parents talk of one school or another only to determin that there are schools who don't like their own kids and therefor there are none in the company year after year. They say they will take kids from the school but it really doesn't happen. I think we must all live in lala land. To me this is nothing less than dishonesty. If the school isn't good enough to produce dancers for the company all it ends up being is a vehicle to make money and that is despicable and beyond cruel to the young dancers. In thinking of one school in particular I can only think of one student who has actually made it to the professional level in the last decade. Until starting to read this thread I hadn't even thought on these lines and I can't explain why this is what I honed in on, maybe currently dealing this dishonesty could have fueled my mindset. They call themsleves a pre professional school. It would be more honest to say a pre unemployable school. I think is many cases it's all a label. The school with the name! Lets face it I could call myself a mushroom but it wouldn't make me one!

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Clearly nobody can dispute the fact that there are far more aspiring professional ballet dancers than jobs. And I second what Ms. Leigh says about pre-professional schools that take on students for the bottom line on the ledger. But as mentioned and/or implied by many posts, even if a child will not have a professional career as a result of the pre-professional training, they still gain a great deal from the experience and develop skills that will help them in any career path.


I for one, and maybe I am a minority, am glad that many pre-professional schools do not give the "ultimate correction." I am a believer in Habits of Mind and one of those is perserverance. Many students may be aware that their chances are slim but the determination, drive and passion push them to perservere. What better lesson than that is there, that to achieve a dream one must keep trying and never give up. Too many of us know personally or know of students who received the "ultimate correction" yet went on to get a job with a good company. I would want any child of mine to listen attentively to someone who might tell them (s)he has no chance of a professional career and take to heart the reasons why the advice is given. Then I would hope that (s)he would consider what (s)he can control and what (s)he can't and work on what can be changed and improved.


To give up on a dream because someone else tells you to do so is worse than not trying. But at least the suggestion that (s)he does not have what it takes would remove the stars from the eyes.


As a parent, do I worry about the financial and emotional costs of a frustrated dream? Absolutely, but to deny the opportunity to go for it because of the odds is not something I could do. So I do not condemn those pre-professional schools who hold on to students whom they feel may not make it.

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Regarding the school/company issue, I think that often other factors are at play than quality of training.


A school might be turning out fine, well-trained dancers, but the company AD may not like the school's style! I know this seems odd, but I know of one company in particular where that is true. The school's style may have been a former AD's preference, but when that AD moves on and another one comes in, it may be an entirely different scenario. If a school is Vaganova or Russian, for example, but an AD prefers Balanchine, that AD just might not pay all that much attention to the school's graduates.


Or a school may turn out wonderful dancers who aren't the height, body type, etc. that the attached company AD prefers. I WANT schools to allow dancers of all sizes and body types to train to the highest level without being discriminated against at the school. But the company AD may see it differently. :shrug:


Many schools are "attached" to the company in name only. One would wish it might be different, but that's sadly just the way it often is. :o


So while I do think there's an occasional school here and there whose training doesn't measure up to an AD's standards, it's not true in every instance.

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In keeping with vagansmom's comments, I think the more 'telling' question to consider when looking at a company-affiliated school is where do the top level dancers go after training at the school? The question should not be so narrowly drawn as to be limited to whether the graduates (any and all) are absorbed into that company, but whether they are securing placement in reputable companies, be it the affiliated company or another elsewhere. If they are, then the training is of appropriate level and quality and the school is fulfilling its obligations to the dancer and parent, i.e., providing company-ready quality training.


If, however, the graduates are routinely cut from auditions and can't get their foot in the proverbial door, here, there, or anywhere, then 'Houston, we have a problem'.

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Calamitous, you are so correct about parents putting their kids and money into Olympic Development programs and that is okay in my book. Those kids will learn so many life lessons through their efforts even though most won't make it to the Olympics. It must be just as heartbreaking for those kids to be disqualified at the last second for a poor time (track) or low score (ice skating) for example, as our ballet kids being cut at an audition. A lot of those kids will continue to train for the next four years to try again! At least our dancers get a shot every year and there are so many types of dancing available that a ballet dancer can transition into.


I think most ballet schools do the job they say they will, they teach ballet and our kids are much more realistic about their futures than we give them credit for. Otherwise, why on earth would they have such challenging academic schedules? Do you really need AP calculus (is there such a thing?) to be a professional ballet dancer? I have to admit that I get rather dizzy when I read about the rigorous academic classes many dancing kids take. I think they are planning for their futures and they learned this through the discipline of years of ballet classes. They may be devastated for a while if they are not given a contract when the time seems right for one but something tells me they have a second plan in the back of their minds and they will grow into very productive adults.

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I have thouroughly enjoyed reading this thread. I feel torn at times when I see my daughter entering a world where she has to work so hard and yet chances of success are so slim. The school she is in does not focus on the slim chances for success but rather encourages them in their desires to be professional dancers - tells them that if this is not their goal that they should not be in the program. Psychologilcally encourages them to focus on a professional ballet career.


As for now I have come to two conclusions:


My daughter is happy, loving it, and gets to have a unique and special growing up experience. She also gets to perform in some pretty great settings. In otherwords - she is enjoying the journey - even though where the journey ends is uncertain.


I see her learning valuable life skills at a very young age (12 years old) as Ms. Leigh referred to earlier - discipline, good academic study habits (her grades need to stay at a certain level to stay in the program), etc.

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I'm going to hate my statements here (maybe flakey), and I hope they don't get read in manner I don't intend.


I'm a big believer in Joseph Campbell's Power of Myth series that aired on PBS with Bill Moyers. Closest thing to religious belief I've ever had (raised as Catholic)


I think if you follow your bliss in a reasonable, enformed (educated), manner, you will find happiness and fulillment. People with shared value systems will be attracted to you, and you can support one another. I believe a dancer needs a solid education in the sciences and arts, however this is obtained.


I also think there are means of obtaining goals, even if temporary setbacks are encounterd. I know of dancers with degrees from the very top universities who are doing what they are passionate about, maybe taking part-time jobs in a blue-collar field..work WAAYY too hard and annoying...but who cares? They live, and experience, and mature. This is very valuable confidence building stuff.


Yeah, sometimes you starve, sometimes life is luxurious. Arts careers are like this :blushing: :blushing:

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Lampwick, I love your post and agree with you wholeheartedly. :o Thank you. :flowers:

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Lampwick, excellent post, and Vagansmom, I always love to read your posts! I learn so much from everyone.


For us and our DD, it is the journey not the destination (a tiring cliche, I know). We learned early on that dance class was therapy for our daughter. No matter how bad the day was at school, she always emerged from dance class with a much better disposition. It is still true to this day. She always loved the stage when she was part of the youth company of her early dance studio. Now, as part of a larger school, she doesn't get to see the stage much but she makes up for it with auditions. She says that auditions are the next best rush to actually performing on stage. So you see, for us it doesn't matter what the outcome is. She is loving the journey and loving her life. She has seen cities that she would never have without ballet and she has stories to tell. Who knows what will happen from here, but there are many times when we think, who cares, now is good enough.

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