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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Isn't it hard enough???


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Just have to vent a little. My ds is a good, dedicated and hard-working dancer. He may even have what it takes to make dance a profession if he chooses. But the obstacles, the opinions, the little things people say...argh!


Ds is a bit of a late starter and late bloomer. But he's been working very hard for the last two years (as have I finding the right school and teachers in this smallish city we live in). He's at 6 days a week in ballet and also takes modern, ballroom, and tap.


Today he auditioned for a youth production of a musical (set in the 50s). I know he was certainly one of the top dancers there and is probably the top dancer of any high school student in this town. We've visited all the dance schools here over the years, so I really do know who is out there boy-wise. And there's not much.


So he learns the short bit of choreography in about 1 minute, totally gives it his all, gets a correction to make it less "ballet", does it, and looks great. Then the choreographer comes out and chats to me for a bit on how he'll really have to tone down the ballet and if you're not careful, you can really get "stuck" in the ballet way of doing things. I just don't believe that that is really a danger quite yet! He's really a very versatile dancer as one needs to be these days. And young, too. Any thoughts....


Sheesh...you know, you'd think he'd get a little credit for having good technique, turns, jumps, and not just look like he's messing around up there. Really makes me wonder if it will be worth doing the production if he gets a part. He's a good singer and actor, too. So he's got the package. But why are people like this towards boys??? Especially other dancers or dance educators???


It is really hard enough as it is. Sigh...thanks for listening....

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A few thoughts. My first question would be the experience of the "choreographer." My DS actually had a similar experience in middle school when auditioning for the school musical. They brought in a "special" director who would do set design, choreography, etc. - the whole directing thing I guess you would say. She was "known" throughout the area for her expertise. What we realized is she was good at putting together middle school and high school plays. She did wonders with what she had to work with but we found she knew very little about performing arts outisde of that venue. What she could do, however, was mesh the materials she had available (costumes, dancers, actors, props) into a cohesive unit.


Overall this was a fun experience for my son. The director was kind to him and recognized that he could dance, so he didn't face the comments you mentioned. But I will say that his ballet technique kind of hindered his overall ability to fit in with the other kids on the stage. Many of these kids had no dance training, so when they were all turning and doing different steps, they were very "loose." Those that did have training were competition dancers from a local studio whose students were scary in ballet class (we're talking using the barre to hold themselves while jumping onto the top of their pointe shoes!) My DS was focused on doing the steps perfectly - and doing them like a ballet dancer. Honestly I think the ballet was a nuisance in that situation - it was if he had never taken jazz (which he had.)


Others may have different experiences, but from what we have seen so far, it's been hard for our DS to break away from ballet. I believe it has, in fact, impacted his versatility as a dancer. And that's the most recent feedback he's gotten. He's working on it, but it will take some time. It's as if his body just naturally does things the "ballet way." Given that he's now taken a couple of hundred hours of ballet for every one hour of modern or jazz, I assume it's just kind of hard to overcome some of the muscle memory that's in place. But he has to find a way.


Hope your son has fun with the production!

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Thanks for your insight, Cheetah. Yes, I looked up the background of the choreographer last night. She's more of the type you described, not with a lot of formal dance background (not a lot of ballet, no MFA degree in dance), but lots of dance experience gained through taking classes all her life. She works in arts administration, does lots with kids, community organizations and theater, etc.


It may also be the the choreographer feels that she'll have her hands full getting the other kids where they need to be and doesn't want to have a dancer that is really in such a different place. Although I have to say that my dancer is very good at ballroom, tap, and especially, swing, which would fit in nicely with this musical. But I'm not sure if she really looked at his info sheet in the end. We came later on in the audition, and she seemed pretty tired.


I guess I'd heard that having a solid ballet grounding can help with all kinds of dance. But it may be that I really have to look around a bit more to find more modern/jazz classes for him. We're very limited here because of the size of our city. Most classes in other dance disciplines (besides hiphop and dance team type stuff) seem to end at the advanced beginner/intermediate level and I've had to spend too much money on privates because of this. It's also a university town with a very modern-based dance program at the college that seems to accept a lot of types and levels of dancers. Of course, these are the people who end up in the community teaching, and ballet or even modern/jazz doesn't seem to be of much interest. Of course, teaching the more current dances is more financially viable as well.


Well, thanks for listening. Just a bit discouraging. I'll update on how it all turns out.


PS. Maybe he won't even get cast! Then I'll be saved from having to decide what to do....:grinning:

Edited by foliedespagne
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The contestants on SYTYCD face that criticism all the time....:grinning: and it's always the best ones who face it as well. It depends upon the "eye" of the observer. In other words, the more educated the observer, the more they appreciate the classical training. I wouldn't worry too much about it.

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Thanks so much Clara76, I didn't realize that about SYTYCD. I'll stop worrying. Cast list up today so we'll see what happens. This has motivated me to have ds try a more musical theater type class, and I think I may have even managed to find a good one.


You think you're doing the right thing, and then, surprise, it seems you're not....:D:)



The contestants on SYTYCD face that criticism all the time....:dry: and it's always the best ones who face it as well. It depends upon the "eye" of the observer. In other words, the more educated the observer, the more they appreciate the classical training. I wouldn't worry too much about it.

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Yes, unfortunately.


Is your son auditioning for SIs this year? I forget how old he is...

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Yes, first live auditions this year. He just turned 15. We sent out some audition tapes last year very late, but in the end just wanted to be home and did our best with what was available here. We'd been away for four months in Europe, and ds studied pretty intensively at two great schools where we were. So that was our winter/rather than summer intensive.


This summer, he's trying for PNB (1st choice) since it's a drive there (no airfare), dates that work well for us, and we have some friends in Seattle. Also a more regional SI at Whitman College in Walla Walla, possibly SF Ballet, Austin Ballet, TBT, and ABT. If PNB is a go, we probably won't audition for many others. If we're going to fly this summer, I'd like it to be to visit family or go on a short vacation.


Yes, and Magnus Midwest. Hope it's good for boys, but we've heard great things about it for girls.

Edited by foliedespagne
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Ok. So keep on the path you're on then. It sounds like things are on track for ballet.


Ballet provides a basis for all other forms of dance. It is the most comprehensive and detailed of all dance forms. It teaches the body correct alignment, line and symmetry. It teaches weight placement and provides the dancer with his or her "center". If taught correctly and without affectations, a dancer can learn Modern, Jazz, Ballroom, etc., with a short period of adaptation.


Ballet is a process, and during different times within the process, the movements may take on a certain "look". That is why having class with other males, and with male teachers, alongside co-ed classes, is very important. If you're within driving distance of PNB, and if he is accepted into the summer session, you may want to consider their year-round program if the training locally isn't going to get him to the next step.


Merde for his auditions!!!!

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  • 2 weeks later...

As someone who did tons of musical theater as a teenager I will tell you the more ballet you have, the better you will do. I spent years trying to learn ballet technique that I wish I had learned earlier. My son is 8 and wants to do musical theater so I insisted he take ballet. It's the basis of all dance and will only help him. Your son will easily learn to make his musical theater dance look less balletish with experience. Believe me - all the other guys in his productions will be jealous of his ballet skills!

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Thank you so much for posting that! Just had my ds read it, and he feels, again, much better. This is also good since he's doing another SI audition today! I really had thought that ballet is very helpful in other forms of dance and can be adapted by the dancer to the project at hand with some practice and experience.


But we just felt so unsettled by the comments. And discouraged that all his hard work at ballet was perhaps, well, maybe not very valued. In a way, the choreographer was probably not really thinking about how such a comment would sound to a boy. I'm sure it wasn't said intentionally. She probably just isn't aware of what boys in the dance world go through.


The good news is he was cast in a very nice role in this musical theatre project, not the lead, but a great role and it fits him perfectly based on looks and voice type and style. He was really thrilled that he didn't get the "nerd" role which he was very worried about. Instead he'll be a character that teen girls adore. Maybe you can figure it out from that :). I don't know if he's going to be doing any dancing since his role doesn't call for it, so we'll see. If there's no dancing, he has more time for dance training. If he does have some featured dancing, he'll have fun, too.


Thanks again!! :lol:

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There's your vindication!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :innocent:


"Take that, you musical theatre wannabe "choreographer". Hhmph. :D:)

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