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Career crisis at age 10?

Guest LizzyA

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Today was a long, emotionally fraught day for dd. This was the first day that her classmates were fitted for their first pointe shoes and brought them to class. Not only is she not participating in this ritual this year but nor does she know where she'll end up as a consequence (in terms of class placement and even which school). I imagine it must be common to feel that the day you finally go en pointe is a million years out of reach. But what surprised me as I soothed her to sleep just now was how this experience has forced her at such a tender age to contemplate, almost with terror, the huge uncertainty that accompanies any pursuit of the arts, and dance in particular. I was taken aback that she was already questioning her ability to deal with ballet down the road where she realizes she might not measure up or find herself dealing with an insurmountable injury or some other major disappointments etc that would stop her in her tracks. She is asking herself if she is strong enough to take this on. I wasn't prepared to have a discussion this early in her life about taking risks versus playing it safe. I don't remember having to confront this stuff at that age myself?


And her panic attack extended to her life goals generally. She shared with me how important music is to her generally: "it makes me feel something that I don't understand and I don't know what to do about it. " All she knows is that she loves it but doesn't know how to respond to that, now or in her future. I tried to reassure her that she'd understand more as she got older and for now she simply had to keep trying many things until she started to understand what she "needed" to do. But I was surprised at the level of anxiety about tomorrow's choices today's experience seemed to precipitate


I never had to face this level of confusion and self-doubt so early in life and was wondering if any of you or your children had similar experiences?

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Lizzy-sounds like your DD is very dedicated and serious about all of the things she holds near and dear to her heart. That is a quality that will take her very far later in life. So you don't want to squash it, but rather allow her to feel disappointed but also hopeful that the ball is in her court to continue to work on the things that are important before getting the nod from your teacher for pointe.


For us, DD was asked into the pointe class at an age that we were not ready for her to do so. So we held her back ourselves a year. She didn't suffer one bit because of our decision and if it is in the cards for your dancer to be a ballet dancer, she will get those pointe shoes. And by waiting a year, she may actually be stronger once she does get them than some who may not have in actuality been ready.

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Amen to that, Momof3! In my way too many years of teaching experience I am thoroughly convinced that later is better. I can't even bear the thought of looking at 10 year olds trying to get up on pointe, with their little knees bent and not enough strength or technical ability to maintain alignment and rotation. WHY??? I simply do not understand teachers doing this. When the child is ready, physically and technically, it is a joy to see how well they do so quickly.


In our system of training in the US it is very rare that a child of 10 will have nearly enough training to be ready for pointe shoes, even if she has the physical facility. The risk is not worth it, and the child will find that waiting, at LEAST until 11.5, has made her so much stronger and more ready that she will probably surpass her peers, who have been struggling for a year or more, in a matter of weeks! :D

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She is asking herself if she is strong enough to take this on. I wasn't prepared to have a discussion this early in her life about taking risks versus playing it safe.


I think this is one of the wonderful things about ballet, that emotional resilience is strengthened. It may help her to relate that strength development to her muscle development. That emotional muscle may be weaker than she'd like it to be now. Ballet is a safe situation that will give her the practice in resilience. Ballet will strengthen that muscle and will make her emotionally stronger, no matter what she later does in life. I am impressed with how mature so many ballet dancers are and how well they can keep their emotional footing in different situations.

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To build on Vicarious's reply a little, your DD is at an age where ballet becomes a more serious matter, and your daughter has the intelligence and to see what may lie ahead. She is still, however, a young child who has not yet developed the maturity and resolve to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Luckily, that is not necessary at the tender age of 10.


As she goes to class each day and does her best, the future will take care of itself. These next few years are tough ones on kids, and in the competitive world of ballet DKs develop a focused and serious approach to issues that is beyond their years. This will be a great advantage in her peer group as she gets older. In the meantime, encourage her to enjoy the process and the small victories that make ballet dancers special.

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My dd had very similar emotional experiences last year at the ripe old age of 10. The emotions really started coming out when she took on a much more serious schedule than she had been following in the past. Because she is in such a small school, and they didn't have classes right at her level, she had to challenge herself to go to classes where she was the youngest and smallest girl in the class. This past summer, she had to watch while girls she'd been dancing with, some who hadn't been dancing as long as she but were older and were ready (ages 11 1/2 - 13), got their pointe shoes, and she had to wait. And, she not only had to deal with the waiting for pointe issue, she was the recipient, a couple of times, of snide remarks from young teens in her classes, or was ignored by them, which also hurt.


Several times, when I picked her up from ballet, I could see her face from across the parking lot as she left the studio, and I knew that her stoic expression belied the tears underneath, and sure enough, as we were safely driving out of the parking lot, the tears would come. We had conversations about her goals, and her future. Once the emotions were out, and the tears subsided, we would talk about the emotional strength that is necessary to pursue a performing art at a high level. At every disappointment, I would listen, and empathize, and reassure her that I thought she had the strength, but that it was ultimately her decision to continue or not. I've learned through these experiences that she has a steely determination inside that surprises me at times, and she has so far decided to continue.


It was hard for me at first to deal with such big questions and such strong emotions with my young daughter. But as I've seen her rise to the occasion now time after time, I see it as Vicarious has described: This process is making her stonger, and giving her real confidence from deep inside, rather than superficial confidence based upon the opinions of others. This will serve her no matter what she decides to do in her life.


We have also seen now that "This too shall pass." The same girls who were criticizing her for being young, or ignoring her in class last year, are being friendly, sweet, and inclusive of her this year. As the school year progressed, several girls around her age joined her classes, and they became friends. Her teacher is considering her for pointe come January, so she can look forward to that, but knows that if everything is not yet in place, she'll have to wait longer, and she can accept that. And as for me, I've learned how to listen without trying to offer solutions or suggestions until the emotions have been fully expressed :P, and I've learned that even 10 year olds have strength and wisdom and really can make good decisions for themselves.

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Yes, all so true...



My dd had exactly the same experience as lauraGG. My dd is always the youngest as her birthday is very late November. She watched as all her friends, many of which had not danced as long go to their first pointe shoe fitting which is always done at our studio as a group. It was heartbreaking but she carried on and when it was her time to go "up" she never looked back. incidentally, some of that class are no longer dancing.


LizzyA, you are great and hang in there!






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LizzyA - I just wanted to offer my sympathies for your DD, and for you. We're not there yet, so I can't say I've been through it, but it sounds as though it's something many of our dancers will face at one point or another. Like you, I don't remember thinking about things like that when I was so young. I wonder about DD and pointe, and what it will be like when her close friends who are a year or two older are getting their shoes...I'll keep reading here for wise counsel.

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We, too, have had to deal with younger, smaller DD being moved up this year to a class where the older (11-13 year old) girls are moving into pointe or pre-pointe shoes while she is waiting. She rationally knows that she's too young, but has had a hard time dealing with the questions/comments of her classmates. I think that on the surface it may seem to be all about the shoes, but the real issues run much deeper.


I have been fascinated by my DD and her artistic soul. She has always known that she needs some sort of artistic outlet and is now starting to try and understand this need. Since the time she could talk, she has said that she will be an artist. Balance that with the reality of the ballet world (or the reality of any career in any art form), and there is some deep thinking going on for both of us here. I wholeheartedly agree with vicarious and have stressed those points with DD. It's definitely a process, with many ups and downs, but I am proud of how she is developing, not only as a dancer, but more importantly, as a person.


Since we're still in the middle of it all, I can't say that I have any sage advice, but at least you know there is someone in the trenches with you!

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My DD age 10 seems to be having a different kind of crisis. My younger DD age 7 has decided she doesn't like tights, so no more dance. She is trying soccer, which she is not great at, and will try some other things to see if she has a passion for them. Well, DD age 10 did take one year off from dance to try soccer and gymnastics when she was 6, but now seems to be jealous of her younger sister being free to try other things.

At the age of 10 what would it hurt if she took a year off from ballet? I know she loves to perform. But I am not sure her love of it all is enough to keep her from trying something else.

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try this, at age 10 is she doing such intensive dance that she can't also do other things?

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At 10 trythis, can she not do other things along with ballet? Her schedule at 10 should be busy at dance but not all encompassing yet. So if there is time on the family calendar, then she should be able to try more than one thing at this stage in the game.

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Lizzy A,

This is a tough moment for a youngster who is working hard. Sometimes a wise intervention from a teacher can put things into perspective. How was this situation handled by the ballet school?

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her teacher has been wonderful - very supportive and understanding towards dd. She has promised to defend her when/if the AD challenges dd's right to remain in that level of class despite a letter from her doctor. At the moment we are flying (dancing?) under the radar so that we can at least last out the semester in relative peace.


DD has actually adjusted well to the situation and is doing fine and dancing happily for now, despite being asked by all the other kids where her pointe shoes are on a regular basis. Thank you so much to each of you who responded! I shared the gist of your responses with dd and it *did* really help her to get a broader perspective and understanding on it all.

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at age 10 is she doing such intensive dance that she can't also do other things?

Yes, her ballet classes are scheduled every day of the week except friday and sunday. Then she has two optional classes that add to the schedule. It would be really hard to find a team sport that had the practice at a time when she isn't in the studio. I have promised her to get her into some summer camps that will let her try some stuff out. And then in the mean time when ever it comes up I acknowledge that she is making sacrifices for ballet, and in the end only she can decide if she loves ballet enough to make the sacrifices worth it. It just seems like ballet took over really fast. She was doing one day a week and then it went to three and then she got skipped up a level and now it is all she has time to do.

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