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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Son is discouraged


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My son is 8, will be 9 in October. He started dancing in January and was just moved from the level with 6-8 year olds to the level with 9-12 year olds. However the other students in this level are late 10 year olds to 12 year olds, no other kids closer to his age. He is very intimidated, especially by the girls who have been dancing since they were 4. He was so intimidated he literally froze in class and couldn't do the most basic of moves. I agree with the teachers that he has surpassed the lower level so going back isn't an option. We are considering some private lessons to help him get his confidence back. Any one been in a situation like thus before?

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Give it time. It's about the only thing to cure his "stage fright" in class. In fact, this is a situation where private lessons are quite contraindicated. He needs to function with a group. Tell him it's an honor to be promoted into a more advanced class, and he deserves it!

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Is there anyone from the younger class who could move up with him? Something similar happened to my younger daughter a few years ago. After a few weeks another from the younger class moved up & it helped her confidence tremendously. She had someone familiar to "go across the floor with" and someone to talk to on water breaks.

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8 is awfully young still, and it will absolutely not hold him back if he were to drop back into the lower level, as long as that is what he wishes to do.


Boys are different from girls in that they need more energetic work when they are younger and teachers who can keep their minds engaged. If he does not wish to drop back, then is it possible for the school to open a new class of boys only? A Boys only class would be ideal balanced by the more advanced level class.


It is difficult because boys already have the odds stacked against them. Better to move them based on social readiness as much as technical readiness.

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A few years ago my DS was moved up at the age of 9/10 ( his third year of classes)to a more advanced class consisting of a group of girls ranging in ages from 12 to 15. Looking back I can see it wasn't easy for him but he did improve that year and he didn't complain. (Though I think some of the girls were unhappy at first) and the next year some girls he was friendly with who were closer to him in age moved up and he enjoyed himself a lot more. So I think the best is to just to wait awhile and see if he relaxes. Good luck with whatever you decide. Also it does get a lot better for boys as they get older. The girls start to appreciate them more!

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This happened to my son when he was older, 12 I think, and he was intimidated to work with high school aged kids. He was allowed to straddle the classes, and take with both levels for a while. which helped him with the transition. On the positive side, once the adjustment was made, he adapted well to lots of changes that were yet to come. So it was a transition adjustment that had a long term benefit in terms of dancing with older, more advanced dancers through the next training phase. Wishing your son all the best!

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This has not been an issue with my son in ballet, as he has moved up more or less with other kids his age and ability. But in other things he's tried, he has been on the low-ish end of ability when he's moved into a more advanced setting - it has always worked out well for him. I always tell him that I learned and improved most whenever I was with a group that was stronger than me. This has been most true for me in competitive running and cycling. In terms of how to encourage your son, I would suggest reminding him that the expectations of the other kids in the class will be that he'll be the least skilled, so there needn't be any pressure to excel just yet.

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I have had some more thoughts-


I'm concerned about the school he's in. One class for 9-12s? That's a broad range of development and ability in itself, unless we are talking about a beginner's class that might be structured differently. We are not, though.


I'm concerned about a school that places a child with only six month's training in with children who have been dancing for eight years. I missed this the first time I read your post, but something has been gnawing away at my gut- this is it.


An 8 yo is very different socially and emotionally from a 12 yo. That's a huge developmental chasm. Add in the sex difference- especially at this stage of accelerating development for girls compared to boys- and I can see why he feels uncomfortable.


I'd want to know that someone is monitoring the social/emotional situation closely to make sure no teasing is going on. You know 12 yo girls ...



I received a pm from a member who is not allowed to post on this forum stating my thoughts exactly. I think it's important to note that others are worried about the situation too.


Please keep us posted. We're all here to help!

Edited by Clara 76
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My son had the opposite problem initially - starting just before he was 8 - they put him in with girls who were a year or two younger, but fortunately his sister was there! He soon moved up to be with girls his own age but it took him a while to be confident in class because all the girls (in both classes) had been dancing since they were 3 or 4. I would recommend some private lessons (not many probably needed) just to gain some confidence in knowing what he's meant to be doing.


But also, as above, it would be worth considering any other opportunities for schools/classes with boys in (must just add that both my sons were the only boys in their classes - one went to full-time vocational school at 11, the other carried on until he was 13 not minding at all, but has now given up - just because other things are more his "thing" - but if he'd wanted to carry on we would have had to look for a boys class)


Good luck

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Thank you all so much for your replies. I think the big problem is the gap between age groups. It's odd that there is a jump from about age 7 to age 10.


My son takes an All Boys class at another studio where there are only 2 other boys (ages 11 and 13) but he isn't intimidated there because, honestly, the other boys have been dancing for 3 and 4 years but aren't very good. They keep the boys and girls separate there until partnering so he only has that one hour class each week.


The studio where he was just promoted has a recreational and pre pro track. He is in pre pro. I looked into switching him to recreational but the kids there don't take it at all seriously and it is very basic. As far as ability he definately belongs in the 9-12 pre pro track. They have several classes each week with different instructors - right now they have a minimum of 2 hours each day. He has started to feel better and is getting to know some other kids. The girls have all been really nice and encouraging to him. In fact, they have all been somewhat motherly and are all taking turns with him when it's time to go across the floor in pairs. There is one other boy in his level who is 11 but not very strong. He is actually the only one who picks on my son.


So we'll see how it goes. The teachers want him to complete 2 weeks of classes to see if he is feeling better before we consider private classes. There is a male teacher here that my son really likes who said he would be happy to observe him and see what he needs to work on to get "caught up."

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My son is 13 and I wish there was a "just boys" class for him. I've read a lot of people post about how good it is for boys to interact with girls and that's it's "contraindicated" and all that.


But just look at the numbers. They are abysmal. If you get the same result year after year (dropping number of boys in class as they grow older and "get interested" in something else), maybe something should be changed.


Just put yourself in their shoes. How many dance classes start and end with a bunch of girls with their heads together gossiping, laughing and just being friends? Boys, unless they have a great personality and are uniquely outgoing or have some other "in" like a sister, are excluded. Those same boys would interact just fine if every other person in that class were boys.


Oh well. Too late for my son. But if my daughter ever grows up to open up a dance studio, she'll at least know better.

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I think a point of clarification is in order here: "Private" class does not mean a boys' only class. It means only the teacher and the student. While this device is useful in a pedagogical sense for achieving a finite goal like an exam, or a role coaching, it does virtually nothing about building rapport with other students. In a boys' class, the students bond with a group, although the group is all male. "Only boy in school" is a familiar problem faced by students, parents and teachers alike. The solution is aggressive recruiting for more male students.

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Curandera - I'm not sure I agree with you. Things change based on the age of the children, but we have found that the for the most part girls do not exclude the boys any more than a new girl that comes to class. What we have seen is that often the boys will isolate themselves. There are some really rough spots around the age of 14 - 15, but younger girls have always been very receptive to my son. At least after the first few classes. They might be a little leary, but once rapport is established it's not such a problem. Granted he didn't hang out with them in the dressing room packing up pointe shoes afterwards, but he was invited to pool parties, dinners, etc. And they managed to steer their gossip in such a way to include him - though he opted to not participate. He still maintains contact with a lot of the girls from his first studio, where he attended from 11 - 14. That said, my son really, really liked girls and the girls liked the novelty of having a boy in class. So perhaps his personality worked for him. I have another son that would probably hide in the corner during a dance class because he has always been afraid of girls. But the one time we did put him in a mini dance camp - as the only boy at about 7 - the girls were really nice to him. Didn't help his fear, though. At 14 he is only now getting over it. Now, would it have been different if the class was all boys? Probably. For my DS, he actually would not have bonded as quickly - the all-male dynamic is very different and there is an awful lot of initial posturing that can go on for several months. When he was older and was in all-boys classes he made the situation work for him. My other son still would have struggled because he is so incredibly shy.


Any individual, boy or girl, in a new situation will have to learn the norms of the group. Just like moving to a new school and being the new kid in that class. We have found that ballet students, for the most part, are well socialized with exquisite manners and often (though admittedly not always) will eventually include others into their fold. But there has to be effort all around and that's a life lesson that our kids can take away from ballet and apply to the rest of their life. If our boys want to dance and being the only boy in the class is the only option - then they will make it work.


(I will say that there are still mean students. That's a different matter and has to be addressed separately.)

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And, being the mother of 2 boys, as well as surrogate mom to many others, I can vouch for the fact that boys enjoy gossip as much, if not more than girls!!! :ermm:

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