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Ballet Talk for Dancers

juggling school and dance


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I know this has been covered before, but I just had to post to say that middle school (DD is in 6th grade), classes 4x/week, and a full time job (me, not her), is wearing me out a bit.


DD had 2 big tests today, and was in dance until 7:30 last night, so not too much time to study, but she did work over the weekend.


She is supposed to have class again tonight, but I did something I have never done before--I advised her to miss this class to catch up on all her homework, and practice her flute (she is a good musician). She will do a make up class sometime during the week.


She was asked to do an added class this year at her pre-pro studio (in addition to her usual 3x/week) at a higher level, and although she really likes this additional class with the more advanced dancers, I think it puts an additional strain on the school work. I am not so sure this additional class is really worth the toll it takes on what little down time she has.


Anyway--thanks for listening.

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I think that's a problem most children that aren't homeschooled are strugling with.Most of the time my daughter is doing her homework in the car,on the way home from school or on the way to ballet or training.She only has half an hour between coming home from school and leaving again,so she needs that time to have someting to eat and change.

We are living on such a tight schedule,if anything goes wrong we're completely lost,since both my husband and I have full time jobs.

Sometimes I think we must be crazy,but well,if we are,I hope our children will have enjoyed their crazy parents :P

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Heleen--Your schedule sounds like mine! I feel as though I am herding a cat, trying to get an 11 year old to do all that she needs to do, I am pretty exhausted at the end of the day.


How does your daughter handle this sort of schedule? Mine does OK, up to a point, and then she unravels, which is my cue to try and decompress her day a bit. I feel a bit guilty letting her skip class, but I have been reading other parent's posts, and they sometimes do this, on occasion, and hey--what's the worst that could happen?

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My daughter is almost 13, and we did something this year that many dancers and their parents would say is crazy -- we slowed down. She no longer takes any private lessons and dances only 3 days a week now instead of 4. She has always loved to dance, but the pressure was sucking the joy right out of her. At some point, perhaps after the nasty effects of puberty begin to wane, she may be ready for more intensity again. Or maybe she won't and just doesn't have the stamina required for a dance career, and that's okay. She is still getting great ballet training, and had we not slowed down, she likely wouldn't be dancing at all anymore.


I can't stress enough that you need to take cues from your child. I often felt guilty letting my daughter skip a class, but my experience has taught me that there is absolutely no one who knows my child like I do. Yes, it's important to consider how many hours of class your child's teacher says she needs, but it's also important to consider your daughter's goals and how the schedule is affecting her physically and emotionally. All kids unravel from time to time, but if it happens too often, I think you are wise to trust your instincts.

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Thanks bec2--if you asked me several years ago if I thought I would feel guilty letting my daughter cut out of a single ballet class, to catch up with school, I would have said you were crazy. Now, I feel the pressure to keep her going to class, even when I think she would be better off just taking a break. When I told my DD that I would call the studio, to let them know she was skipping class to do homework, she said the last dancer who stayed out of class to study and catch up was ridiculed by the teacher!


Keeping the big picture in focus through all of this is really the challenge for parent and dancer. They are only 11, after all.

Thanks for your support.

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Keeping the big picture in focus through all of this is really the challenge for parent and dancer. They are only 11, after all.


Isn't that the truth! :P

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I completely agree with encouraging an occasional day off. If you think about it, there are additional slots of time required for rehearsals at various points throughout the year so their average number of hours per week are really greater than what we normally account for if you average things out. I also think that making allowances for breaks helps to minimize the likelihood of injury, illness, and overall burnout. We are all about trying to maintain some balance for as long as that is possible because before too long, if our children continue to dance, they will be faced with the choice to commit to more hours of dancing. If not more hours of dancing then they will likely add something else which will keep them extremely busy. I have a high school student who's workload is heavy, and coupled with his activities and social life, I INSIST on downtime whenever possible.

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My dd is now in high school, but this sounds oh so familiar. Warning - high school academic schedules are increasingly rigorous and dance on top of it all can get overwhelming. Give your children time while you can. When dd was in middle school (with fewer attendance consequences), I would very occasionally give her a day off - everything. She would sleep late, eat breakfast in bed and read and lounge around until mid-afternoon. She would then catch up on her homework, I'd get home and make a really nice family sit-down dinner and then she'd soak in the tub and (gasp!) get to bed early. She never missed a rehearsal and we picked a day when she didn't have tests, etc. at school and I'd end up with a new child. The 'stolen' time seemed to be exactly what she needed and it didn't make a bit of difference to her dancing or to her academics. Sometimes we have to put the brakes on for them - consider it an investment in their mental well-being!

And don't forget to take care of yourselves!

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The culture of ballet is to press young people to the max; our job as parents are to do the best for our kids. These are competing interests. Tough job, ballet parent.


Thanks for your help.

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I learned the hard way I'm never ever going to have someone tell me again what's best for my daughter.

When I get the feeling she needs a break,I have her skip a class.I always make sure this isn't around rehearsals or in rg around competitions and if it's a teacher who I know won't understand,I make up an excuse.

A year ago,I would never have dreamed of doing that,but after all,my daughters health,both physical and mental, is much more important to me than having her attend every class.

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I try to take cues from DD and allow her to miss a class when/if she gets so behind that it will mean staying up REALLY late to get the homework done or when she is behind on projects due. Another one of my "cues" is when she starts having issues with missing homework, problems focusing at school, or is generally very tired all the time. (Usually she is very motivated and a self-starter. Missing assignments is a red flag here that she is not "on her game").


Not worth it to me to push because she will just end up sick in 2 weeks with a cold or some other virus (or missing assignments/school focus issues can increase). One of her ballet classes (a 4th class) is "optional" at our place if she needs a "dance free day" (DFD!).


Another big problem with all the homework, parent job responsibilities plus dance, is the lack of time for mom to get things done at home or just for "family time" when the whole group can "chill" and refocus. Sometimes it is worth it to slow the pace for a day or two for EVERYONE to catch their breath.

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Thanks to all for your thoughtful responses--I have just one thing more to throw out and get some feedback on, which is related to how tough dance training is for our young children.


Although this may be somewhat off topic, why is it that a professional ballet dancer's performance shelf life is so short?


The youth of these girls is spent in the studio, for a career that is painfully brief.


Is it that ballet is a culture of youth and beauty? Many dancers in their mid 30's are tremendously fit, and, I think, can handle the physical demands of the art (although I am no expert--full disclosure!), while contributing artistry that comes with age and experience.


Men seem to come off a bit better, performing into their late 30's and early 40's.


It is difficult for me to encourage a dance career for my daughter, knowing that she will be considered long in the tooth for performing at age 35.


My sister is a concert clarinetist, and while being a professional musician is a tough job to get, at least you can perform your entire adult life.


Anyway, when I see my daughter working so hard for a career (potentially), that will be so brief, I think to myself--maybe she should take up golf!

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There are so many unknowns when dealing with younger dancers, and that just makes our job of establishing priorities even more difficult. We don't know how our kids' bodies will ultimately develop, we don't always know whether they have the emotional stamina for the difficult training and the rejection they are bound to face if they do pursue a career. And like parents of older dancers, we struggle with the idea of making sacrafices (financial, time, academic) for them to pursue a relatively short career that is not likely to give them much in the way of financial rewards.


Since I am not a dancer and can't speak from experience, all I can say is that the demands of ballet put a lot of stress on one's body, and the wear and tear over time can make a dancer's career rather short. My daughter's ballet teacher was proud to say that she danced until she was 37 with almost no injuries, and she really stresses strengthening and injury prevention to her students with the hopes that they can have a long career. I also heard a physical therapist that works with NYCB say that occasional rest is essential to preventing injury. So I think the key for us is to find the proper balance between training and rest that will help them to avoid injury and burnout. While I think that consultation with the professionals at our kid's school is essential in making the decision about what the right balance is, I believe it is ultimately our decision as parents to make. And of course that decision will change with time. As kids move into the advanced levels, I think the opinions of the teachers will end up carrying more weight with our kids than ours do. :shrug:

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Dear Bec2:


I am a bit torn about how, if and when I should step in to guide my DD to another pursuit. I really don't think she will become a professional dancer, and she is very bright and I hope will end up in a really good college, with a wide range of choices for careers. When I see her trying to cram school into her tight schedule I am afraid that she may be short changing an academic pathway which she has a real talent for--this will naturally be more of a concern when she reaches high school.


I think that you are absolutely correct that at this time, she is probably listening more to her teachers than me! As an example, I have advised her not to practice ballet at a home--she does quite enough as it is. She told me, somewhat resentfully, last night, that her teacher wants students to practice, so she donned her shoes, and off she went!

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we always told our children that as far as we were concerned,school was more important than ballet,rg or gymnastics in which my son was competing in a high level a few years ago.

Their schoolresults were their ticket to either balletclasses,rg-training,international competitions etc.

When those results dropped,some of the hours were cut back for a while.

I know this might sound hard to some of you,but in my opinion,at this age,they just don't know yet what they want to do with the rest of their life,and I don't want them to ruin their chances of getting a good education if that is what they ultimately will go for.

My son is a good example ,he quit gymnastics on the highest level because he realised he wanted to study medicine,and he wasn't going to be able to do so if he kept on trying to combine highschool with the many hours of training.

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