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Ballet Talk for Dancers

increasing self confidence in my 11yo dd


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here is my dilemma- my 2nd daughter is 11yo. her 13yo sister also dances and has been moved up quickly in levels due to hard work. both daughters have been dancing since 3yo, and have been focusing mostly on ballet for the past 3 years. 11yo was initially more interested in ballet (we changed studios to focus more on ballet), and 13yo fell in love with ballet after the switch. needless to say, 11yo tries very hard, but lacks the self-confidence needed to advance. her teachers all say she really has the natural ability. for example, and i've seen this first hand- if they are doing a combination across the room, 11yo will be silly and fall at the end, or run into the wall, and you can tell she is not giving it her all. her sister (if she is in class with her) will mention this to her, saying that she knows she can do it the right way and it will look great. after discussing this problem with her teachers, she was placed in more classes ( a class one level higher and a class one level lower) hoping she might gain more confidence in herself. i don't see a change yet and this has been a couple of months already. my concern is that as the end of the year approaches and evaluations are handed out, she will not move up. (all girls in her class have already moved up this year with exception of one who's much younger). her teachers have told me that her form is great, it's just her confidence level. i know she will be crushed if she doesn't move up- another hit to her confidence. can anyone give me some advice? by the way, she loves to dance (tap, jazz, irish and ballet) and enjoys taking classes. if it were her choice, she would live at the studio!

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Is it a question of self-confidence or maturity?

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It can be really tough to be the younger sister. The older one WILL be more accomplished, simply by virtue of development. The younger one never seems to take the developmental difference into account; all they know is that they don't measure up. Acting silly can be one way of defusing the feelings. "If I act silly, they can't see how bad I really am."


Is there a way to get them out of the same class? My two were four years apart, but there were times when they were in the same class (after the older one had surgery, for example). It drove the younger one crazy! I'd try very hard to separate them and give each of them their own space.


Another possibility -- and this will be heresy, so anyone who might be offended should cover their eyes now :) -- is to encourage her to pursue one of those other dance forms as her major interest. Because her older sister is doing so well at ballet, she may be forming the idea that ballet is THE thing to do. My younger one followed older sis into ballet, and has enjoyed it ... and I've sometimes worried that it was at the expense of forming her own interests and identity.


My final thought is to ask how she fits in with her academic peers. Is she silly in school? How would her teacher say she compares developmentally? Perhaps she would benefit from being in an environment where she gets to shine and be the one who can do everything well. That might mean that staying in her current class could be a really good thing.



Edited to add: Rhapsody was posting at the same time. She voiced the same ideas much more succinctly than I did.

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Although my advice is not specifically dance-related, often when you have two siblings who excel at the same activity, the younger will be challenged because big sis represents a level you can never reach. No matter how hard Miss 11 tries, she cannot be 13 or at a 13 year old level, so her response may be to show, by goofiness in class or whatever, that she is not really trying, so nobody can blame her when she fails. I wonder if the response to all this is threefold: First, no more classes with big sister, or at least, no more corrections by big sister; second, more accolades for the types of dance she is NOT competing with sister in (tap, jazz, or such), and lastly, a more specific series of suggestions from you or her teacher - not just "focus", but "today in class I want you to try to finish every combination" or "today, try not to fall" followed by post-class compliments of "today you were so much stronger looking than last week. You didn't fall once. The work on your core strength is paying off." I think if she feels as though she is competing with herself, and not with sister, she'll find the inner confidence she's looking for.


Wow, Treefrog - I was typing what you said at the same time. You put it so well!

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Great advice given,


Why does the teacher allow her to continue the silliness part in class? Perhaps a private conversation regarding future silliness might mean being sent out of class tempered with an acknowledgement of her ability might work.









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Since this is about an 11 year old, I'm hoping it's O.K. if I post on this thread, even though it's in the "Parents of Dancers 13+" section.



My daughter, also 11 years old, does not have the issue of an older sibling in class, however at the beginning of the new year, after she came back from nearly a month off for winter break (we took a family vacation prior to the actual winter break), she had lost focus, and was being silly in class - much as you describe. Her teacher called me, and we came up with a plan which was very much like what dance1soccer1 has recommended. She was given very specific goals to work on prior to the start of class- some she came up with herself with her teacher's approval. She also began keeping a "corrections and complements" notebook in which she would write down at least one correction, and one complement she got in class. She would do this as we drove home, when the information was quite fresh in her mind.


It was interesting to me that when we first started this process, she would say "I don't remember what corrections I got." Well, that was part of the problem! If she wasn't remembering what she was supposed to work on, how was she to improve? Of course, she wouldn't always get corrections, and sometimes she'd only get corrections and no compliments, and sometimes she'd get only compliments and no corrections :). But the process of thinking about what she had done well in class, and what she needed to work on in class right before and right after the classes really helped her focus. I think she also stopped the silliness because I told her that the teacher had called in frustration with her lack of focus, and her silliness. She was so upset that her teacher was frustrated with her! Her teacher took pains to let me know that dd's behavior in class wasn't horrible at all, but she wanted to nip it in the bud before bad habits began to set in. I was very glad the teacher had called, and the issues were resolved quickly. My dd's confidence has grown, and she's really taking off. :thumbsup: .

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The concrete suggestions offered are great. 11 is a hard year, regardless of whether or not you have an older sister in class. She may be acting silly because then if she doesn't quite measure up, she can say "I wasn't really trying". If she puts her heart and soul in it and still doesn't reach whatever bar she's set for herself, she may not have any cushion to deal with it. Two of my daughter's really close friends did the same thing and I believe it was a form of self-protection. There was a group of seven close friends who all danced at about the same level, but when two of the girls started moving ahead, two others started acting silly and playing around in class - pretty much what you're describing. As adults we recognize it's not a particularly good coping mechanism, but these are young girls. By setting specific tasks/goals/etc., you may be able to get past the emotional issues - some of which she may not even be aware of. I don't know where your daughter is on the puberty scale, but hormones are difficult enough for adult women to deal with and our daughters don't have our experience or perspective. I also think it's a good idea to encourage her to find a second area of dance to excel in. It's hard to always follow along an older sibling and it helps to have something that's 'yours'. Even if she decides ballet is her one true love, facility in jazz - for instance - will only make her a better dancer.

Best of luck. I know it must be hard for you - especially as you're trying to nurture and support both of your daughters.

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Thanks to all of you for the great input. i've received alot of tips to try. one thing that i did'nt mention about my 11yo is that she has a more fun-loving personality as opposed to my older daughter's more serious personality. i think this is what plays into how she expresses herself when she doesn't think she's able to do something. this is what makes her what she is and i don't want her to lose this. in the studio as well as at school, she is not a trouble maker or disruption to the teacher- it's only when the focus is on her. in fact she loves watching others do their thing or helping out if someone is having a difficult time. she is so nurturing. i always thought at times she acts as if she's the older sister. Anyway, this is sounding very much like a child psych class. i just want to be encouraging to her and want her to find it in herself that she can do it. i feel that if she is directed into another type of dance when her true love is ballet, she will view it as if she's not good enough. as it is right now, her sister is no longer taking any classes other than ballet and only takes the same class as my 11yo if it's a make-up.. i know this is a post for 13+ dancers, so maybe future posts will be in the under 13 forum. again, thanks to all your great ideas- i'll give them a try!

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