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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Will other forms of dance harm a boy studying ballet?


finallykf

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Hi there. My son is currently studying ballet and doing very well - he's the one who was recently promoted into an older age group and was feeling discouraged. He's feeling much better about things now and has made some friends.

 

He has recently been talking about wanting to take some different forms of dance - we have been watching So You Think You Can Dance as a family friend is one of the contestants, and he wants to try out all other forms of dance to see what he likes and what he doesn't like - what he's good at and what he isn't good at.

 

His current school only teaches ballet to the pre-pro students and only teaches ballet and tap to the very young recreational students. The owner trained at ABT and feels very strongly that students should not attempt any other forms of dance until they have mastered ballet technique. She feels that learning other forms of dance can lead to bad habits when learning ballet. Therefore her recommendation is that students be at least 15 or 16 before trying other forms of dance. She doesn't allow students to do competitive dance at other studios or be cheerleaders. But she thought it was GREAT that he played baseball this summer.

 

I can understand that view point. I danced when I was younger and took all kinds of dance. When I decided to get serious about ballet I had to go back and learn "real" technique and unlearn some bad habits. But I also wonder if it is fair to limit him to just ballet. He's 8, he loves ballet but wants to be a firefighter, you know what I mean? I am fine with him trying out other forms of dance at a different studio while continuing his ballet training at his current ballet school. The problem is that the owner thinks this is a huge mistake and seems to be conveying the attitude that they won't be taking his training as seriously if he chooses to take other classes. This is upsetting and confusing my son. He was asked to audition for Fritz in the Nutcracker this year and now he is afraid he won't really have a shot at it if he chooses to take other classes.

 

Just wondering what opinions are on this subject.

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Mel Johnson

Well, you know, he's 8. He is probably not functioning at even an Elementary level in ballet. It's best to keep them from getting confused at this stage. Although 15 or 16 is longer than I'd put it off (13 or 14, depending on the student), the teacher has the right idea. He can freestyle bop around on his own between classes, and probably satisfy a lot of his curiosity that way.

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I don't necessarily agree. I think boys should explore at that age. It was through exploring tap, jazz AND ballet that my DS decided he hated everything but ballet. It was hard for him to try those other forms of dance when he was introduced to them again at around 14 or 15 - he had become too fixated on doing everything the "ballet way." It's been very hard for him to loosen up enough to try not just jazz, modern, and hip hop, but even look good doing contemporary ballet. He's had to work really hard at that over the last two years.

 

That said, my DS is now convinced that he would have been better served if he had started ballet at a much younger age and done nothing but ballet so that his muscles would have developed in the proper way. His words not mine. I guess he thinks his thighs would have remained more leaner if he had, though I think it's more genetics and testosterone (according to the way my husband explained development of the male legs.) Of course, all along we though he was going to be a professional baseball player so were making decisions accordingly.

 

Be careful of the studio's opinion, though. If he wants to pursue something else, talk to them and see if they will hold it against him (i.e. when auditioning for Fritz.)

 

If I had insisted that my son only stick to jazz he would have never found ballet. Maybe your son will find passion in another dance form if he has some exposure now. When he is 10 or so I would think it would be a bit more problematic to try mixing styles. But 8 is still so very young. And ballet isn't very exciting in those early years!

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It seems really strange to me that there is this kind of attitude when your DS is only 8 :wink:

My personal feeling is that your DS should be allowed to explore - this type of approach may just turn him against ballet in the end! Also - maybe it's because I'm not from the USA but I was pretty shocked by the stress adults can put on kids at that age!

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My son was in ballet at 3 years old. By age five he was in classes 4 days a week - tap, ballet, jazz, leaps, modern - he couldn't get enough dance! I am certain if he hadn't explored all areas of dance, he would have lost interest in ballet alone. He did loads of musical theater and he was Fritz in the Nutcracker (for five years!) I think your son can only gain appreciation for dance by taking anything that interests him. My son will start his second year at NCSA in the fall and is at Boston SI for the summer. At 16, he's now full-on ballet. In my opinion, at 8 years old, the world is your son's oyster!

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CoventGarden

I’m in the UK where dance training is quite different to the US. Here children are positively encouraged to study other dance forms alongside ballet often from 5 years old but definitely from 11/12 where major vocational dance schools teach contemporary, tap, and various other genres and national dance styles. I’ve been told that the variety helps children to develop freedom of movement and musicality.

 

I would look very closely at an environment where an adult in a position of authority would coerce an 8 year old in this way. For me that’s over-stepping the mark by quite a long way!

IMHO - As parents we can take advice from teachers and hear their sometimes very persuasive arguments about what they believe will make the best dancer.

As parents, our concerns are about what might make the happiest, healthiest, well educated, rounded and confident individual - as well as what might make the best dancer.

Listen to and consider advice carefully by all means. However when the ‘advice’ comes in the form of ‘If you don’t do what I advise the consequences will be ……….’ and the consequences include less desirable treatment by the studio then it stops being ‘advice’ and becomes a threat.

 

You sound as though you are keen to give your son the opportunity to try something else. He’s only 8 years old, and has a whole world to explore and many new things to experience. Why not let him do so until he reaches a point where he decides for himself where his passion lies?

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Mel Johnson

I think that we're seeing one of the "Mozart Phenomena" in play. To some extent, every parent wants to see their music student be Mozart, as long as the poverty of the original is left out. Every ballet parent wants to see their student be Baryshnikov, preferably with lucrative TV and movie contracts and a line of fashion already predestined. Leopold Mozart even had a "Mozart phenomenon" in play. He wanted his son to have a big career so that people would hire HIM, Leopold! (Spell the name right! Spell the name right!)

 

Ballet is not like a lot of other skills which involve training not only a mind and an eye, but an entire body along with it. Have you ever seen juvenilia (works of childhood) painted by a major artist? Where they survive at all, there's not often much of a hint of the genius that came later, largely because the hand/eye coordination hadn't been worked out yet. My own educational philosophy is informed by the Pragmatist school of John Dewey and the slightly later work of Maria Montessori, but while that works fine for the mind, mechanical skills of directing the body's movements have to be developed over a long time and cumulatively, as the instrument itself matures and changes. Exploration and Discovery work fine for building a corpus of knowledge, but "know-how" occurs far earlier than "can-do". As I mentioned before, an 8-year-old will explore and discover quite a bit on his own, without rigorous promptings, but only a general gentle supervision, to make sure he doesn't hurt himself.

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CoventGarden
Leopold Mozart even had a "Mozart phenomenon" in play. He wanted his son to have a big career so that people would hire HIM, Leopold!

 

Seems to me that Leopold had a far a better chance of profiteering in his role as Wolfgang's teacher than in his role as Wolfgang’s dad! :)

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ToThePointe

I have to say that I understand what the teacher is getting at.

 

I have had girls who have taken jazz and ballet from a young age. I find that by the time they are serious about ballet, there is a lot of undoing that has to be done.

 

The problem lies in the fact that they are taught steps in jazz (the jazz way) prior to them being introduced in ballet, so the jazz way has been ingrained into their technique.

 

I prefer that my students don't start jazz until later (at least 12 or 13). Besides (IMHO) alot of movements in jazz are not apropriate for young children anyways (even at 12 or 13).

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My son was in ballet at 3 years old. By age five he was in classes 4 days a week - tap, ballet, jazz, leaps, modern - he couldn't get enough dance! I am certain if he hadn't explored all areas of dance, he would have lost interest in ballet alone. He did loads of musical theater and he was Fritz in the Nutcracker (for five years!) I think your son can only gain appreciation for dance by taking anything that interests him. My son will start his second year at NCSA in the fall and is at Boston SI for the summer. At 16, he's now full-on ballet. In my opinion, at 8 years old, the world is your son's oyster!

 

 

YEs, our pre-professioanl programs includes lessons in Mordern, 2 ballet, jazz and Pointe. (Tap or hip hop for younger kids).

 

You can choose all of them, or you can choose to take the ballet, the tap or the ballet and pointe.

I havent heard that it makes bad habits. I have heard that it increases the students understanding of movement and choreography.

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  • 1 month later...
elasticboysmum

My son started freestyle disco dancing at 8 years olf age ..it is very physical and gymnastic..he started attending competitions at weekends and then took up street dance too...he now does the fast freestyle disco dancing and slow lyrical dancing..about a year ago he started ballet and had a go at tap dancing too and took some primary exams..he is now studying rad ballet and character dance alongside his disco and lyrical..and still attending competitions for disco..he is amazingly strong and agile for his age...and his stamina is excellent because of the disco dancing and competition fitness training..he is hyper flexible and has all splits in oversplits and an excellent turnout in ballet...he loves dancing and his teacher said that she cant see a problem with him doing his other styles of dance....he wants to be a ballet dancer and plans to audition for rbs and elmhurst early next year..but until then he continues to enjoy dancing 5 times a week in all the different styles...he is passionate about dancing and it was the freestyle disco dancing that ignited that passion...i think for him, ballet would have seemed boring at 8 years old...he needed to explore other forms of dancing and really like freestyle because they dance to fast club beats..then gradually he decided that he needed ballet technique if he wanted to pursue a career in dancing..now the ballet has taken over...the main thing is that they are happy and enjoying their dancing...whatever style it may be

sheilax

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EXCELLENT, Sheila! Good show on guiding him "toward the light".

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  • 3 years later...

Not sure if this is the best thread to post this in... but

 

I'm interested in thoughts and experiences regarding ballet boys in Musical Theater. My DS does lots of MT performances in addition to ballet and I'm still trying to decide if this is a good idea. He loves doing it and he is passionate about it, but it does take energy away from ballet. Do others do MT as well and any thoughts on balancing it with ballet?

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I would let him "drive the car"! Kids who participate in varied-but-similar hobbies will decide what is right for them, usually somewhere around the 13th or 14th year.

 

Provided kids have support and a loving family, partaking in activities like ballet and MT will help set them up for a successful life. Continue to do as you have been doing, and offer him the best possible training in whatever area he decides he wants to focus his interests in. And, if he wants to continue to do both, then he'll have to figure out how he's going to organize his schedule so his health, your family, his academics, and his activities don't suffer. Kids who are participating in these types of activities tend to be able to make it all happen, even if we adults cannot fathom how we might have done it!

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J66B I think our boys were separated at birth!

 

My son is exactly the same!! In fact, up until last summer my son also did a musical theater "intensive" in the summer as well but then it didn't fit in with his ballet SI. He took drama and voice lessons as well but as ballet became more demanding he has had to give those things up.

 

He was one of the kids who was being considered for a role in Billy Elliot on Broadway when it closed so he says he knows he wants to go to New York but doesn't know whether he wants to be on Broadway or be a ballet dancer, however the ballet always seems to win. I figure that if he has awesome ballet technique then he will be able to do just about anything in musical theater. I did musical theater when I was younger and everyone was envious of the people who could REALLY dance. My son has an older ballet mentor who has done some Broadway and he has said that at auditions no one has been really impressed by any of his previous musical theater experience but they have ALL been impressed by the difficult ballet variations he has performed and he believes that is what has grabbed the attention of the choreographers and directors.

 

With that said, if your DS enjoys his musical theater involvement then he should do it - he will surely be the best dancer of the bunch!! I know if there was a way for my son to fit in doing a show with all of his ballet he would do it in a heart beat!!

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