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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Am I allowed to brag here???


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My son's pre-pro school had auditions for the Nutcracker in August and the kids have to be 8 years old to audition. My son just started taking dance last January but he's 8 so he auditioned. He has been doing very well and has been progressing much more quickly than we (or his teachers) expected (in fact last weekend we were told, once again, that they think they will need to move him up another level in his girls class again because they underestimated how much he improved over the summer). He is a very theatrical kid and loves to perform so, of course, he wanted to be Fritz and told the AD. She told him that there were plenty of other good parts for little boys. The 8 and 9 year olds who get cast are usually girls who are cast as angels who walk across the stage with candles in act 2 or are soldiers who march across the stage. So we told him that if he gets a part he would probably be a soldier but not to get his hopes up since he hadn't been dancing very long.


So this past week, letters started to go out to kids letting them know what roles they had been cast in. My son heard some of the older kids talking about it and asked the AD (for a little guy he is not at all shy about approaching her!!) if she had decided on all the roles. She asked him if I had received her letter yet. So he comes out and asks me and of course, I haven't received anything yet. So she tells him that that all of the letters have been the sent and the final letters were sent the day before. So I'm thinking, that's not a good sign - but he's only 8 and he has only been dancing since January so at least he got some audition experience. So he's REALLY paying attention to who's talking about what roles they got. He knows who got Clara - the same girl as last year. He goes to his all boys class. None of the boys in his class have gotten letters yet (including the oldest boy in his class who was Fritz last year). He asked some of the older boys who only take classes with girls - they have parts but none of them are Fritz.


So, he is getting upset now and decides he either didn't get a part or he's a soldier. We both agree that the older boy in his all boys class must be Fritz again. So the next day the letter arrives. My son gets all upset and starts to cry because now he's convinced that he didn't get a part at all so he doesn't want to open the letter. So he runs upstairs to his room and I open the letter and have to go upstairs and read it to him. "Congratulations! You have been cast in the role of "FRITZ" in the 2010 production of the Nutcracker. . ." I have never seen such a enormous smile on that little boys face!!! I am one proud mommy!!

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Please brag here all you wish!!! As parents we all understand the joy that goes along with our children's opportunities. Congratulations to him!!!!



A tempering thought: But what about the times when he doesn't get "the" part or any part? Having been through this with a male dancer who is 21 now, I would like to share my experiences that will hopefully help other parents of young boys navigate the weirdness!


There were times when my son got the part, didn't get the part but got another part, or didn't make it into the cast. With each time I worked very hard at how I reacted, because I knew that the happy times would inevitably be replaced with sadness and "injustice" at some future point, and I didn't want a huge part of his disappointment wrapped up in worry about disappointing me. I tried to say things to him that would simply be reflective of his own emotions, like, "I'm so happy for you!" or, "I know you really wanted this and I'm glad it worked out this way for you".


By being careful with not going too overboard with "I'm so proud of you" and taking him out for a huge family dinner with long-lost relatives, so far it has resulted in a young man with an ability to think clearly about both the fun things and the not-so-fun things that happen to a dancer, without taking it personally. Conversely, when there was disappointment I would listen to him and reflect back to him his feelings, so he knew that he was allowed to have those feelings, and that I was listening to him, but my ultimate reaction would be to say, "Well, maybe next time- that's how things work in this business".


Think about newspaper reviews: if a dancer hasn't developed the ability to invest in their performance without caring what others think, he will not be bothered by a "good" review or a "bad" one. Ultimately dancers must dance because they must- not because of another living soul.


Not saying that any of you posters are not doing the same things- just trying to put some of what worked for me 'out there' in case it helps someone else.

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I had to laugh at your post. I grew up in LA and did lots of theater as a child so I have been through a ton of auditions. I had this conversation with my son before his audition for his dance team and then again before his Nutcracker audition. He's 8 so it will take him some time to get used to the whole process. But my point has always been if you can't learn not to take it personally, you shouldn't be in this business. I explained that sometimes you might be perfect for a part except you are 6 inches too tall so someone who isn't as talented will get it instead, etc. But for this one we're thrilled because we never saw it coming!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Congratulations to your son. Having a son who is 3 or 4 years older, and having gone similar experinces over the years, your comments brought a bunch of thoughts to mind. First, parents should keep in mind what a challenge it is to pursue the life of an artist, as inherently one is being judged/assessed by those third parties (i.e., casting, critics, audiences) who oft may not be as advanced in understanding the art as those actually doing it day in and day out, or who may have different sensibilities, or who may even be influenced by favoritism, politics, appearance, etc. It's not a sport like tennis -- where if you 'win' you advance -- here you are always at the mercy of third parties. So from the 'get go', an artist has to expect that at times he will experience things that are unfair either in his favor or against him, so try not take the ups and downs of others' decisions too personally.


I have thought it valuable to convey to our son is that he'd be blessed in the long run if he truly enjoys his daily dance classes, and enjoys working to develop his technique and artistry. If he doesn't value that, maybe this is not the right thing for him. The performance opportunties at this age are just an added perk.


I also have found it important to explain to our son that casting is sometimes based on who the ballet mistress/master has worked with before, or who he/she has gotten more of an opportunity to see in class, or who is the right height or the right look... and it's often not based on who is actually the 'best' dancer or most deserving. If our son got a part, rather than act as though this meant he was the most deserving, we instead focused on what a great opportunity this would be for him to get more experience on stage, to get to work with the adult pro dancers, top musicians, to be part of a team, etc.


Relatedly, when our son first started -- like your son -- he too was cast as Fritz, and ended up getting some incredible reviews in the press. Since he had little previous dance training, it was seemd obvious to us that this press was largely arbitrary or the luck of the draw -- one or two big critics happened to notice him for some reason or other, and then other press pcked up on that. It seemed it was likley that if he had done the same thing anotherr year, the same or another reviewer might not even have noticed opr mentioend him. As fun as it is to see your child get a nice review, we found it important not to make a big deal about it.


Most kids I'd bet innately have a healthy attitude toward casting, reviews, competition - and our goal has been not to distort that with our own input or ego. It's not easy - and beieve me, I have been not been plenty guilty about keepng my own fragile ego in check when talking to other parents -- but at least with regard to our son, I have tried to not taint him.


One thing we have prepared our son for is that he will reach a certain in between age where he is too old and tall for most child roles, but will not be mature enough for adult roles -- so there may be years where he does not get performance opportunities -- and if he does not love dancing, class, learning, he will not be fulfilled.


Lastly, these performance opportunitiesat a young age cna be really helpful in bolstering a child's confidence. I sensed a surge in our son's confidence in entering new situations after his experience as Fritz. Also, 'good luck' in getting cast in a role or roles can be helpful in providing a cushion for the inevitable time when a boy is not cast in something or other. But one truism for every boy is that being cast in these child roles has little or no bearing on who ultimatley be a terrific dancer.

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Posters, please respect the location of this thread---"Parents of Boys". If you do not have a son who is in dance, then you are not eligible to post here. We understand your well-meaning intentions, but they don't serve as permission to post in this special group's forum.


Thank you for your co-operation and understanding.

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. But one truism for every boy is that being cast in these child roles has little or no bearing on who ultimatley be a terrific dancer.


I think I may disagree to an extent. I think that child roles can truely play a part in how our boys perform in later roles, and ultimately how they dance. I know that my sons love of dancing was inspired by Fritz. And I know that that one role has made him far more appreciative of ballet and the theatre. In turn he has spent much more time nuturing his dance. Everyone tends to have that critical moment where they fall in love with ballet. Often for boys that is the role. And it does have bearing on how they decide to train and how much effort they put into it.


Now not every Fritz will be a pro. But I think that being cast in a postive male role early on does have a bearing on how they perform in later years.

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Congratulations to your son! Quite an accomplishment to jump right into the role. My youngest son is also Fritz this year after 3 years as a Party Boy and Russian. He is very excited even though it is tempered by the fact that his hopes to have his sister be 'his' Clara didn't materialize. :-( The HARDEST part of having multiple dancers in the house... when one gets a role they want and the other doesn't.

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Congratulations to your son :lol:


Unfortunately in the UK we don't have the same "Nutcracker" season so chances to perform are few and far between. I hope he enjoys it and gets a lot out of it. My son's first time in a big theatre was when he was about 10 and it was certainly what got him hooked on ballet

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The last 10 years DS has performed in Nutcracker. One year he was out of the country. He still performed in Nutcracker but we didn't get to see him. It was still a part of our life, though. This year - no Nutcracker. While we're going to see a local production (it's fun to see the little girls who were once mice suddenly become Dew Drop, Snow Queen, and Sugar Plum) our DS will not be performing in Nutcracker at all. It's kind of sad. He'll be doing a contemporary/neo-classical work somewhere in Europe. Not quite the same. So enjoy these performances, annoying schedules rehearsals, casting joys and disappointments, and all!


I'll also add that he never played Fritz. The one year he was offered he declined - the schedule was too much of a conflict with other events in his life at that time. It was his choice. I asked him if he ever regretted not playing that role. Answer was, "No." He was always focused on working towards being Sugar Plum's prince/cavalier!

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