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Ballet Talk for Dancers

highschool and ballet


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I want to encourage you not to worry. My DD did not want to leave the classroom, but did want to pursue ballet training that would allow a career.


In 9th grade she also trained 20 hours a week. She did not cut back. 10th grade was very hard. 11th grade was easier.


She never took an AP class and never participated in a school activity. In 12th grade, she attended joint enrollment at the local community college. That was her easiest year, even though she added morning ballet training that year.


She was accepted to every college she applied, including one very competitive school. She was even offered $20,000 in academic scholarship to one school that she didn't apply to. She deferred them all and is dancing professionally now in a second company.


Her "extra curricular" activities on her applications included a fabulous ballet schedule, participation in national festivals, lovely roles in many ballets, rehearsal assistant, ballet teacher, etc. etc. At age 18, all options are still open to her.


College applications are not nearly as complicated as people may lead you to believe. No worries!!!!

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I think that these college admissions people know a dedicated and hard working student when they see one and I don't think it matters how these kids earned their high school credit...just as long as they earned the credit from an accredited institution. For what it's worth, here was our journey:


As was a freshman in high school, dd participated in extracurricular activities that met during lunch, took college prep classes and danced. As a sophomore, she moved to a program where she attended high school until noon and then she danced into the evenings. It was a necessary move as we felt she needed more intensive training than her studio could provide. It was a tough year so she did not volunteer or have extracurriculars. Her junior and senior years she did high school online as ballet classes were all day. She could only manage 2-3 courses each semester and took only 2 AP courses. She was a teacher's assistant at her ballet school and was editor of the ballet school year book.


She wanted to pursue a professional career and "get it out of her system" before majoring in something totally different in college. We supported her plan with one condition. She had to apply to college as her backup. She applied to 2 state schools and one pretty selective liberal arts college and was accepted to all three with academic scholarships. So even though she did not attend a bricks and mortar high school for 2 years, she still was able to get accepted into college.


I think you need to follow your daughter's lead, if you know what I mean, with some guidance from you. Watching our daughter as a sophomore, we were highly doubtful that a career would happen for her, but because she was so passionate about ballet we were willing to let her try for the career. She is in her second year dancing professionally in Europe and is loving her life with, as of yet, no plans of attending college. I figure that she will know when it is time to throw in the towel and start the next exciting chapter of her life.

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Thank you, all of parents who shared your experience and wisdom with me. I know there'll be a way for my DD, though not easy at all. Many people don't understand why my DD is so dedicated to dance, including her HS and my spouse. He simply wants our DD to reduce hours of practice, get involved with school activities and prepare with college plan! He would not support our DD's passion; she doesn’t stand on any chance, dancers don't make good living or anything he can come up with it.

What if our DD really can become a professional as she dreams, and suppose we parents ruins it? College education is important (not for everyone) and needed as back up plan A or B, but how do you get on your skeptical and difficult spouse to support and believe in your DD? Practicing ballet at our DD's level is not inexpensive any longer, you can't do it without your spouse's wallet- I am fulltime mom

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Victoria Leigh

It would be a shame, if she really does have the talent, facility, and passion, to force her in a different direction. I have seen it happen, and it's not a good thing at all. You could end up with a resentful and unhappy young person. :(


If you really believe in allowing her to follow her dream, then it is up to you to convince her father that she deserves a chance to follow it. It would not necessarily mean that she would not go to college at some point, or perhaps even change her own mind at some point. But if he makes up her mind for her, she will resent that. Hopefully, he will see the light. Perhaps having him read some threads on this board could help. There are a lot of very intelligent parents, with high achieving academic students, who are supporting their children's passion for dance or other arts, knowing that if they can achieve what they want most to do, they will be happy with or without great financial success.

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sousatzka, If your DD is 15, she may be eligible to take community college courses part time as a dual-enrolled student. This is what my DD is doing this year, but as a homeschooled student. She will receive a transcript from the community college with college credits, which will transfer to colleges to which she may want to apply, when appropriate, in the future. An advantage of homeschooling is that most accredited homeschool diploma programs that will count a college course as a full year's high school credit. Another advantage is that some of these courses can be taken online. We could not have added hours to her current ballet schedule at our home studio without this flexibility and it has been a great way for her to learn time management skills. Homeschooling is a serious decision; nevertheless, it is not such a daunting one at this age if your DD has excellent academic skills already and is fairly independent. Your spouse needs to be able to see what a gift it is that your DD has a passion at this age. There are many kids in high school who belong to a lot of clubs and get good grades. But colleges do love a student who is dedicated and focussed on a dream and has acted on that through high school.

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Some things we've learned about high school and college that might help your DH:


AP classes are not necessary to get into college. In fact, statistics are starting to show that the reason a lot of students take AP classes is because their schools push them into them. This helps when ranking the high schools since some of the rankings look at number of students enrolled in AP classes. There are additional studies that show the percentage of students that actually pass the AP tests - and these numbers are often quite a bit lower than the numbers enrolled. This will vary with each high school, but it is certainly true with where we are. People are looking at us kind of strangely because we've told our HS Freshman to NOT take AP classes. Because he won't be able to play football and tennis and engage in his other after school activities. AP classes simply don't guarantee admission to college! If you are looking at boosting GPA, then consider Honors-level classes. I know for our school system, that gives you a .5 bump as opposed to the 1.0 bump that an AP class provides! The option that has been presented to us is to wait until a junior or senior and do dual-enrollment with a community college. That way your student KNOWS s/he is getting the college credit - they don't have to rely on test results. This might help with the homework load, especially if you can find a good online college class that allows her to be very flexible with her schedule. This is what we are hoping to do.


The average age of incoming frehshmen has become higher as more and more students are opting for gap years. So deferring college a few years while your DD pursues dance is no longer uncommon. I know when I went to college it was almost blasphemous if you said you were taking a year off after high school. But not anymore! And pursuing ballet is a great way to fill that gap year! My DS is not exactly inclined to go to college (nor has he ever been exactly academically focused) but if he changes his mind I have no dougt that colleges will look at him very, very favorably (as long as he doesn't have to take an SAT!). Thanks to ballet he has learned two additional languages (not taken in school) and lived in or visited eight different countries. That includes a year each in two different countries. And he isn't even out of his teens yet. Most of the people who were not supportive of DS' career path when he was in high school are now quite impressed with what he's done. So maybe enouraging your DH to look at the paths that are available - and have actually been followed - might help him see that the traditional route of HS to college could become a lot richer if ballet is a serious part of your DD's life. To not follow that dream could close a lot of doors - and opportunities.


Calamitous mentioned that her DD was less effective (in school) when she was less busy. There are also a lot of statistics that support this. We were worried when our middle son entered HS this year thinking he couldn't handle sports and acadmics (he is very average academically but very self-disciplined). DS was in residency during high school so we really didn't have a point of comparison. His worst grades have, in fact, been this semester when he isn't playing sports. Football season was as demanding as a ballet schedule, but he always managed to be on top of his school work and make As. Now that he has that "extra" time he doesn't use it wisely and we find we have to do a lot more pushing and shoving to get him back on track. We're actually looking forward to spring sport season - which starts next week - because once again he will be forced to make the "right" decisions - or forfeit playing sports. And for him, like for most dancers, that isn't an option.


As a final thought, we've seen some beautiful dancers manage IB degrees in high school while dancing a pre-pro schedule. They've even thrown some clubs in there - especially those that meet during lunch or once a month before school! There are so many different options available now that you can help her find ways to satisfy pursuing dance at the level she needs and preparing for college, too! A lot of those stories are here on this board - it's amazing what some of the dancers have been able to accomplish.

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As I read all the comments I am struck with pride. So many truly want to do a good job raising our children, and guiding our children. We all really don't know what it will look like, for there are so many directions one could take. Whatever you pursue, even if it is for a little while, do it with all of your heart. You can never go wrong when looking back. You will always gain when you give it your ALL!!! I am inspired to let my DD fly and see where she lands doing the best our family can do. Now, what does that look like?! :)

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Sousatzka, some dancers manage to juggle a high academic workload and an intensive ballet schedule. My daughter was one of them. What's key, I think, is what someone else mentioned: talent for organizational skills. That's always been a strong area for my daughter and she's happiest when very busy. She attended a private high school with high academic standards. She took two AP's: math and biology. Our only stipulation was that she apply to colleges and defer, which she did. Since high school, she has danced professionally for just about 8 years and will be attending an Ivy League college next year. The admissions dept. loved her strong commitment to her passion.


So it is possible to do both. My daughter's not exceptional. She's a bright kid - not genius bright :D with great organizational skills. We know several other students from her pre-professional school as well as dancers from other pre-pros who have done the same thing: danced professionally and then attended an Ivy. I don't think there's anything wrong in your trying not to let that college possibility slip away. A high school freshman doesn't need to be taking AP's. Frankly, neither does a sophomore, in order to get into a super competitive college.


As others have asked, what does your daughter want to do? Is she willing to shoot for intensity in both academic and ballet schools? If not, then she will really need to choose one over the other. The good thing is that she really does have until junior year to make that kind of decision. Happily, that's the year when most ballet students are best able (higher maturity level) to size themselves up and decide whether or not to pursue dance as a career. Your daughter's options for colleges, assuming her grades continue as they are now, will not be affected if she doesn't take any AP's till junior year. Her intense commitment to ballet training will be considered at least as valuable as a slew of AP's.


Also, don't worry about volunteering. College admissions officers say over and over again that they are not looking for cookie cutter students, but are seeking out individuals who pursue a singular passion at a high level over many years. Neither my kids did any volunteering through high school, but both were accepted to very competitive schools based on singular pursuits throughout childhood and high school.

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I think volunteering can be critical, depending upon the college that you want to attend. Many of the schools where my DD and her friends applied were strongly geared to service activities. Not all schools are like that, but some are. My neighbor commented that at one school where her daughter applied and is attending, the students couldn't just have volunteered, but had to have almost started their own charitable endeavors, because that was a focus of the University, and it was extremely competitive for admission. Since my DD had wanted to dance all the high school years, she chose not to apply to that school, but they are out there.


Also, service work is a strong interest for my DD, so that is one thing she chose not to give up in high school (there were requirements for service in order to graduate anyway.) My DD was willing to give up almost all clubs, extracurriculars that were not service related, in order to keep volunteering and dance in her life. So I think each parent and DD or DS needs to think through what things are important to them, and will be important for their next step in life if they stop to dance. But I don't think it is reasonable to assume that they can "do it all." Somewhere along the line, something has to give.


I think the Ivy League college is a possibility, as vagansmom has pointed out, but I think it is extremely rare for a dancer to be at an Ivy WHILE majoring in dance. Yes, some dancers go to an Ivy after their dance career has been established, but very few who feel they need more training after HS will end up at an Ivy League school. The intense ballet training that leads to a performing career usually occurs in a conservatory-type program.

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tutu2you, thank you for the comment about volunteering being very important at some colleges. I was thinking only about a certain group of colleges that I (perhaps mistakenly) thought sousatzka was referring to. As far as majoring in dance while at an Ivy, I also doubt that's possible. I was only discussing the "first dance, then college" scenario. Although some of the Ivies have great dance programs or are situated near strong dance centers, they're not geared to dancers. That said, I've known so many kids through the years who've attended Ivies following 8-10 years of intensive pre-pro training. Some went straight from high school into these universities, while others danced first. In my earlier post, I was trying to address sousatzka's husband's concerns about their daughter not being able to attend such colleges if she pursues intensive ballet training. Many of these dancers do so.

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Yes, vagansmom, I agree with all you said. Since sousatzka said her DH was not supportive, I was trying to give an alternative that would include intensive high school training, and then the possibility of a performing career through a college training program. I think our intent was the same, we have just offered her two alternatives - dance straight out of HS or dance in college and then pursue a degree.


sousatzka - I know, my DH was worried about many of the same things as your husband, though he did support her choice even through the college audition process and her attendance at a top ballet college program. But he felt better about her dance career choice due to the fact that she was at least going to college, and that allowed her academic alternatives in case she decided when she got there, that she no longer wanted a professional dance career. In the end, we were all happy with the final situation.

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Referring back to your original post: getting into college is only complicated if you allow it to be. And that usually means trying to game the system by guessing what the magic combination of grades, extracurriculars, service, etc, etc, etc, is.


Sometimes I feel like a voice in the wilderness crying: just let your kid live her life! (And when I say "your", sousatzka, I'm not pointing a finger at you; I mean ALL of our kids.) And then see where it takes her. There is a college out there that wants a kid just like yours! And that's the type of college at which your child will thrive and be happiest.


BTW, I personally attended the Iviest of the Ivies. It's not all it's cracked up to be. Fun for some, not for all. That's why I'm passionate on the subject of fit between student and institution.

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Sometimes I feel like a voice in the wilderness crying: just let your kid live her life! And then see where it takes her. There is a college out there that wants a kid just like yours! And that's the type of college at which your child will thrive and be happiest.


Treefrog ... I think I've just become your biggest fan!

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In an ideal world, what you say, Treefrog, is a wonderful concept. It would make family life easier and less worrisome to "let the kids live their lives". And as for the worry part, we learned to let that go since there were too many issues over which we had no control. But for some of our children, college is not a possibility without scholarship funds, which makes it imperative they take advanced classes, and worry about GPAs. So for our DD, she needed to focus on serious grades as well as her dancing. And we also want them to develop and utilize all the gifts God has given them. So, we wanted our DD to use her intellectual/academic abilities as well as her dance talents. We never expected her to go to an Ivy League college, but we did expect that she would go somewhere to be challenged.


While we all like to think our children will have the performing career they desire, it is not possible for many. Our DD was on a pre-pro track, but did not really mature in her dance until her final two years of HS. Therefore, concerned she would not be able to make it into a serious college ballet program or a company, she needed to stay involved with academics as well. If she had had her choice, she would have chosen to move away from home at a young age for training, something neither her father or I sanctioned.


The other point for us, and I know this is true for many other families, was that her ballet training was taking a large amount of family funds. We asked knowledgeable people for their opinion of her skills, so that if there were no possibility of her having the career she wanted, we could channel the funds to a more appropriate need. She could still have danced, but it would not have required such an intense investment of time and money from the entire family.


In most "activities", it is possible for children to be left to grow and mature and see what happens. But because dance requires such significant involvement for so many years from the whole family, it requires more thought about the future. In addition, ballet is a career that is age-dependent, unlike voice or instrumental music. So the initial decision to dance professionally happens at a much younger age, giving our children less time to figure out what they want to do. We were constantly reevaluating our position as DD grew, to determine if ballet was still a possibility for her in the future.

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Well said! I also need to add very responsible too! Many lose sight of the actual odds placed against the dancer and the money being spent---where does it stop? It really helped me to get back to reality and make smart choices----which are not always the "dream" choices! Thanks for your post.

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