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how important is performing?


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My dd is 11, soon to be 12. She's in a pre-pro school, affiliated with the only professional dance company in our state. Besides the Nutcracker, there is usually only one or maybe two opportunities for kids to perform with the company. Besides performing with the company, there really aren't any other opportunities to perform. She's almost 5'5" and almost always too tall for any of the parts available to her. She has performed in the Nutcracker for the past two years (although in a small part as the bigger parts are for smaller children) and, this year, was too tall for every part she was eligible for. It is heartbreaking to see how sad she is when she finds out a (much shorter) friend was cast. She is almost always the tallest one in her class. She is part of a performing group but, to date, they have not actually performed anywhere and, as far as I know, so far, there is nothing set up yet (though I assume there will be at some point in time). Even so, however, it will be at an arts festival type thing, not a company production. My question is...besides being fun and something that she desperately wants to do...how important is performing experience? Is her height going to be a factor in whether she has a future as a dancer? (she probably has another few inches to grow before stopping). Thanks for any help!

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One of the members in the States will know a lot more about the way it is done over there but I would say she's got another couple of years before performing experience starts to become more important.


What a shame she's missing out because of her height!

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Guest tokyorose

I can sympathise with you and your daughter.

My daughter is at vocational school here in the UK and is also quite tall compared to her peers. She has now come to terms with the fact that she won't be chosen for many parts. There are about 4 of the girls in her year in the same boat and they are the tallest in the year.


I have also wondered about the performing experience, after all that is what they are ultimately aiming to do one day. I wonder are the girls who get all the parts going to be much more confident and feel far more at home on the stage, and is that fair?

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Could she perform anywhere else until the other girls catch up with her size? My daughter is 5'2" and just turned 11, and looks closer to 13. She is bigger and older looking than the other girls her age, not just the tiny ones. Our Nutcracker has a wide range of sizes for several parts, so she has always had a part she likes. There is another dance school not too far away putting on the Nutcracker with a small cast that would probably have been thrilled to have some good dancers of any size come to auditions. Another show might not be the caliber she is accustomed to, but she could be in the show and might even have a great part.


And there is also community theater, if she just wants some stage experience.

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You know, I think this is a very personal decision for each dancer and family. At my daughter's professional school there have been some, not many, performance opportunities over the years. The Company doesn't do a "big" Nutcracker, so very few children from the school actually get to be in it. I suppose we might have different feelings if most of the other dancers from her class were in it, but this has never been the case. She has been in a few company things over the years, but mostly of the walk on and look sweet variety.


The schoool has a performance in the spring, as most schools do and at your daughter's age that would be about it in terms of performances. does your daughter's school do some kind of a spring show?


Some years she has wished there were more, but there's probably only so much the school can fit into the schedule. In the end, it boils down to what your dd really "needs" as a person. Mine has wished she could have performed more, but has been fairly content with things over the years. Now that she is older there are more opportunities (another set of winter performances), and that's exciting for her. However, if yours is the kind that is quite restless and unhappy due to limited performing, you may need to look elsewhere - of course you'd still need to balance everything, which is never easy!


In terms of the height question, there have been a few threads over the years here on BT4D about opportunities for tall dancers. I encourage you to hunt these out with our search engine. What I can tell you is that we have known some exquisite tall dancers - one in particular is in her first apprentice season.



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I understand your feelings about being the tallest in the class because my DD feels similarly- although she's the shortest in the class (currently 4'11" at age 12)! She's also the youngest in her class- but has come to grips with the fact that she will probably only ever reach 5'4". DD has been fortunate in casting (she's Marie in this year's Nut)- but does understand why her taller friends get the chance to dance Snow and Flowers with the older girls.


I agree with ncdance that other performing opportunities might be an option. My DD had a dancing part in a recent community theatre production of Oklahoma and she absolutely loved it!! After she performed in this show, we started receiving email invitations for her to audition for other community theatre productions around our state. Oh that she could do it all!!!

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Hello. I just wanted to add that my dd is in the same boat about being "too tall." My daughter turned 11 a few months ago and she is nearly 5'8!! She has always been too tall - never will be Clara and never was a party girl. She does however get some cool parts because of her height. For example, she is in Snow and a Rose in the Flowers. She is very strong on pointe and to look at her you would think she was 16. Her height has been hard to deal with sometimes. I remember when she was nine and she went to a very well respected 2 week intensive. Even though she was one of the most talented ones in the group only the "tiny" ones received the attention. She even had a teacher tell her that he hated tall dancers!! Can you imagine? This year's intensive (at Boston) was a wonderful experience. Boston seemed to really appreciate the taller dancers. I must add that my dd is an early grower and she is expected to reach 5'9. She loves her height now though!

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I always thought that, in the long run, taller dancers have an advantage, although I can see how tough it must be at a young age if parts are cast by height.


Our pre-pro school does a big Nutcracker, which all the school's kids have parts, regardless of height-because it is a large production, I guess they can work around different heights.


I think performing is necessary at this point because it is fun for the dancers, and breaks up the (dare I say) monotony of classes. I don't think its a career breaker if you don't perform at this young age, but it does keep the focus on what dancing ultimately is--a performing art, and not just a practicing art.

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I have seen many students reach a point when there are fewer childrens roles available due to their surpassing the height range (and girth, etc.) of the costumes. This leveling out, although it is often purely a matter of physical development and not necessarily an issue of ability, etc., can lead to some devastated feelings among students. As others have suggested, perhaps while your daughter experiences fewer ballet performance opportunities she can become involved in some other type of performing. My daughter is in a choral group, and has acted in school musicals. I have found that other stage/non-stage interests help to give her a sense of balance - especially during times when she does not have a dancing role. As far as the importance of performing, I believe that at age 11 it is about the joy of what they love but as they get older it seems that it would be important to have more performing experience.


In terms of height, I agree with Mom2: the discussion of height has circulated many times on various threads and there is a wealth of excellent perspective shared on those.

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I wanted to address the issue of the importance of performing. My dd's ballet school is small, and they don't do a Nutcracker at all. They do one or two productions a year around a theme where my dd usually performs in several pieces. They also perform in several community events - usually involving dancing on cement, so they don't really dance full out, and jumping/leaping is out of the question! In my opinion, this is enough. I do believe that the kids need some performing experience to gain confidence on the stage, and it is my opinion that they need to dance in front of an audience throughout the year, rather than just once a year, in order to really become comfortable with it. They need the experience of "cleaning" their performance pieces to ready them for performance, and they need to learn how to project to an audience, etc. I do not believe that the younger children - say 13 and younger - need to perform in elaborate productions in order to learn the skills they need for performance.

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There's a lot to be learned just from being in front of people, overcoming nerves, presenting yourself at your best, dealing with the unexpected and getting the confidence that you will get through and maybe even (hopefully) really enjoy the experience. I think when kids are younger it is great to take advantage of different opportunities, even outside of ballet. School talent shows, summer classes that end in a performance, choirs, orchestras, even class presentations, just to get out there and build confidence. I find the older my dd gets, the harder it gets to combine these types of experiences with the ballet schedule, and it seems community theater expects the kind of availability that conflicts with keeping up with classes.


The girls chosen for parts in ballet get a lot more coaching and polishing, which leads to being chosen again for the open roles, and I see them improving from the experience. It makes me wonder if private lessons would be a way to make up for missing out on this process, even if the pieces the dancers worked on were never performed for an audience. Or, is it necessary to be in front of an audience to improve your ability to perform?

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I agree that performing in some venue is important for confidence but I don't think it has to be ballet. Many of the schools associated with professional companies out here only have a "showcase" where students present barre and center combinations at the lower levels and the older, teenage dancers present group pieces.


And perfoming all the time isn't all its cracked up to be. It's exhausting for the kids and hard on the parents and the schoolwork. Our studio presents three shows a year, Nutcracker, a spring ballet and a summer ballet. The summer ballet is optional. In addition, the professional company in our area does a Nutcracker with parts for every age, height and ability level and usually my daughter does that as well although she is taking a break from that one this year as she was Clara last year and it was exhausting.


The school productions aren't well organized. Rehearsals are sometimes an afterthought and there have been times when we've made an effort to get to rehearsal only to discover the teacher had completely forgotten about it. Last summer Coppelia's friends rehearsed themselves with a video from a previous year.


I can't say they are coached well and the girls have to dance on a stage that is basically cement, covered with wood laminate, covered with very slippery marley. The girls pull their movements to compensate since no one wants shin splints or to twist an ankle during turns. If the company girls weren't required to do the productions, most of them wouldn't. Before my daughter joined the company she often stayed away from the performances and will be taking the summer off.


And the sad thing is that this school offers the best training in our area :>


There are plenty of professional dancers out there that didn't get a lot of performance opportunities and they have done just fine.


As for the height thing, I think it all washes out in the end. My dd is the smallest in her level and she looks younger than 12 so she usually gets the "cute" parts and doesn't get to dance with the Flowers and Snowflakes even though her ability is the same because she isn't as tall as the other girls. Things may be looking up though. She was supposed to be the smallest milkmaid but she grew and is taller than one of the girls in the level above her and they had to switch places :> The director hadn't expected that.


Tall dancers are very much sought after nowadays so she will have many performance opportunities as she and her classmates grow taller.

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Well, thank you all for your responses. She cried herself to sleep last night but her mood seemed ok this morning. The girls had just gotten their casting letters and, yesterday, they were all talking about it and were very excited. I think it was just so hard for her to see, yet again, all the very petite girls get the parts they wanted, knowing that she isn't eligible for them and I think my daughter just felt left out but saved her tears and emotions for when we got in the car going home because, as soon as she got in, she just started sobbing. She is often frustrated by her height although I think as she gets older it will become less of an issue. The casting for our Nut is purely height based and the roles that typically are performed by the older, taller girls - snow and flowers, etc. - are performed by company dancers and not by students. Her school does a spring show but it's basically like what Kandi described - basically an observation of a class. Other than that, there are very few opportunities to perform in a big production and her height is always an issue and usually she's too tall to even audition. It's nice to know that her height hopefully won't always be a issue...

Oh, and yes, she is involved with other activities (music, etc.) but we live in a small town so those opportunities are sometimes few and far between but she always takes advantage of what she can.

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Balletdaughter...kudos to your DD for keeping her emotions together until she got in the car! She must be/learning to be gracious,which I think is wonderful! :) Although it still doesn't help with her frustration and disappointment. If it will help her to know...my DD is 12 1/2 and at 4'9...still gets "little kid" parts because she is so petite... she would love to be a little taller and to get some of the other roles. I guess the grass IS always greener on the other side!! (especially at this age :D).

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Mom of a tall dancer, who "sized out" of Nutcracker while friends were still able to fit into the party dresses, who attended a company-attached school where any opportunities to dance with the company were given to the small girls (because my dd was taller than many company members, and the AD wants a true visual distinction between the kid and the company dancers). Spring production...where she (tall girl) was always in the back. This year...a switch to a new school (for many reasons...) and the ability to be in a student company with dedicated rehearsals, guaranteed performance time and a cohort of other tall dancers...I have a MUCH happier dancer. My kid is one who simply must be working toward a performance. Otherwise, according to her, class is "flat." We are lucky that there is a choice for good ballet education in our city. The pre-pro school she attended was one excellent option. Now the other one (with excellent teachers) is the right place for her. She used SI audition seasons the past couple of years as ways to convince herself she was performing for the auditioners, but now that she made the move (NOT EASY!) to the school that fits her needs, I have a happier child whose dancing is totally re-energized.


What other posters have said is true -- you have to know your kid, and every dancer is different. Hang in there, and wait for the other kiddos to grow. (Between summer and fall one year, my dd went from towering over everyone else in the room to being pretty much the same height as several of her friends...) Meanwhile, keep listening, research any other training options (or other performance opportunities) should the need arise, and hang in there! We moved our dd from the neighborhood school at about 8 when she wanted more professional training. That was a good thing. She moved again, as a teen, to a school with the training she needs and the performance she craves. I wish you the best in your quest for the "best" for your dancer...and realize that the definition of "best" is subject to change as kids and/or programs change...and what's good for one child is not necessarily the perfect for for another.

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