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Ballet Talk for Dancers

highschool and ballet


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The reason that Treefrog’s post resonates so strongly with me is the suggestion that often the qualities and gifts our children hold are so unique they truly can be a testament in and of themselves when looking towards college placement or other post high school opportunities. There are so many colleges and career options out there, the important thing is for them to find the right fit, the place where they will genuinely be happy and develop into independent and vital adults. And I want to be clear here in light of where I am posting, this may not, realistically, be in the ballet world.


This is not to say that we don’t have a responsibility to advise, and to provide direction and experiences which may help our children determine their goals … and yes, they absolutely need our support.


This generation of young people travel a different road, certainly than I did.


I believe there are two primary things that are unique to them. One is the very tangible concern that there may not be employment at the end of the road. The other worry I have is that we plan for, and guide our children so much, so lovingly, that we are not helping them develop the tools and experiences to figure things out for themselves.


I’ll go back to brokemama’s comment about her pride in how many on this board truly working hard to raise our children. It is an incredible gift that is shared here by everyone.

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Tutu, I loved your post and you made many excellent points but I was really curious to read your quote and just wanted to give you some food for thought:


"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."


I do understand the need for the dancers to make good grades in high school in order to attend college if a career in ballet doesn't pan out. I think it has been pointed out by various posters that AP courses are not always necessary to get into college. College admissions is looking at the whole package. Good grades can earn scholarships, but not always. I have seen scholarships awarded to students who were dedicated to community service and others interested in a certain major. We also found a college that awarded scholarships to students dedicated to the arts. Once your student is in college, he/she can apply for scholarships based on their career interest or grades they earn during their first year of college.


I am also wondering if "student loan" is no longer in our vocabulary. My husband and I got through college on student loans and we worked throughout college. Colleges now have wonderful work/study programs to help students cover their expenses while gaining valuable work experience, a lot of times, in their major.


We all want our kids to be challenged in college. I think state colleges don't get enough credit for giving their students a good education. They are a cheaper educational option and can be very challenging depending on the courses that are taken. Simply, you get out of it what you put into it. I found an interesting article in the NY Times:




" A long-term study of 6,335 college graduates published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that graduating from a college where entering students have higher SAT scores -- one marker of elite colleges -- didn't pay off in higher post-graduation income.


Researchers found that students who applied to several elite schools but didn't attend them -- either because of rejection or by their own choice -- are more likely to earn high incomes later than students who actually attended elite schools.


In a summary of the findings, the bureau says that "evidently, students' motivation, ambition and desire to learn have a much stronger effect on their subsequent success than average academic ability of their classmates.”-NYTimes


College is doable financially and I don't think that the dancer who opts out of a ballet career will suffer by focusing on ballet in high school while maintaining good grades in their classwork. So I think it is possible as Treefrog says to "just let your kid live her life!" if we can quietly, in the background, prepare for college as the backup plan.

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I have two DD's and I couldn't agree more with all the comments. Ballet is a huge financial sacrifice, but so is basketball, soccer, baseball, football, etc. If we have a child that excels in something that requires hours of time outside of academics, it is a huge sacrifice - not just financial. Academics for me is very important and I have made that a requirement for my girls. Dance is very important for them and they have the desire to make academics important to be able to pursue dance! Balance is crucial, and I am afraid most of the time we are working on making the scales as even as possible - it is all hard. Talking in a forum like this lets me know I am not alone. Thanks everyone!

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There are many difficulties right now with finding funds for college. The bad economy has had a huge impact on the scholarships that can be awarded. In addition, last year's graduating HS Seniors and this year's class were larger than they had seen in decades, at least in our state, and I assume throughout the US. This made the competition for funds even stiffer.


Admissions are more difficult. We know a student with a perfect ACT score, graduating as a junior, placing out of the highest level Latin the school offered, not being able to be accepted to two or three of her first choice schools. She is very quiet, and her activities tend to be more home-based, but even she was not getting overwhelming scholarship offers. Money is just too tight. We know numerous academically gifted, involved students who were offered very little in the way of scholarships. In fact, in our state, to get the automatic scholarship from the state, the ACT score had to be a 31.


As far as needing AP classes, I advised my DD not to take too many as that could wait for college. But I know many parents that push them because of the college money it saves them. My DD instead chose to take classes that carried college credit from a national university in our city, but did not require the AP tests. The cost for the courses taken this way are only $180. Compared to college costs per credit hour, and that makes a significant difference, ie., a lot of pairs of pointe shoes.


As far as loans go, I too, worked and paid totally for five years of college and graduate school on my own through scholarships, grants, loans and work study. You will find these GREATLY cut back from what they were 30 years ago, at least at our income level. Work study exists on my DD's campus, but we were advised that it is EXTREMELY competitive to get jobs since she was not awarded it in her financial aid package. So, the students who with it in their package get the jobs first, and what is left over goes to the rest of the students. My DD has applied for jobs, but not yet gotten any. The head of the Career Center at her University said that it was due to the recent increase in the minimum wage. They still have the same amount of money for the program, but now it does not go as far.


Far my older children, I was a proponent of them working and paying for college. However, it is not longer realistic with the increase in college costs. I went to a nationally-ranked university, ranked in the top 15 in the US News ranking. I only mention that because you can imagine what it now costs. I believe it is now $55,000/year. Since I grew up at what was considered poverty income level, I knew I had to stay in my city and live at home. So to compare things equally, tuition alone at that same University is now $41,000. My last year of graduate school I paid only $3,600. At the time, I was making $3.50 per hour. It is clear to see that while wages have doubled in that time, tuition has gone up 11-fold. My husband went to a state school and we did the same comparison. Same type of result. So while I expect my children to help pay for tuition, it has become impossible for them to do it all, as we did. Also, if they do stay with their dance major, they are unlikely to make the salaries that can afford them the ability to pay back large loans.


Now, I am not suggesting that if you have a child with learning difficulties or other problems that prohibit him/her from performing at this academic level, that you impose this type of pressure on them. I was responding to the original poster that talked about her DD's straight "A" average. I don't think the same level of expectations applies to every student. But I know, as I think I mentioned in my earlier post, that we expect our kids to develop the talents God gave them. For my DD, that involved academics as well. She was extremely bright so whether or not we pushed her, she wanted to keep challenging herself as well. I did not expect Ivy League achievements, but I did advocate strong study skills, as you never know when dance might have to come to an end, even in the case of an injury. Education is very important in our family, but NOT because of any salary of specific job or social status an "elite" school gives you. It makes me shiver a bit when I read all those articles about how career-wise there is not a payoff in going to an "elite" school. I know that is not the reason we would choose a challenging university. The school doesn't need to be the name in a study, but it needs challenging academics. For that is the purpose of education - to enhance life, change the way you think about the world, expand your brain and your life. We have dumbed-down so much of our culture, that it now makes it necessary for a bright, hard-working student to go to a very hard university in order to be challenged, but that does not mean it has to be a "name" university.


I do believe that finding a school that is a "perfect" fit is possible, but I think they can be difficult and cumbersome to find. Think of all those trips to visit schools and the cost involved in that. And then if you add the desire for great ballet training, then your options become slimmer. We discovered that if we made the ballet training the priority, then our DD had to give up other qualifications she had originally had for her college. For the future, we have learned to limit our requirements for college, and base a bulk of the decision on the cost and the scholarship funds given, especially since my last two children do not seem to have the need for any special type of educational training, like ballet.


We have done all the sports, Boy Scouts, music, etc., as well as ballet. However, in our case, nothing required the time, dedication, expense and absolute family commitment of ballet. We decided after DD, that we would never invest that much of everything in anything with such an uncertain outcome again. If money were no object, then certainly we would. But, for most of us, money can ultimately be the deciding factor.


Sorry I got a bit winded, but my husband, DD and I have bandied these discussions back and forth since she was in 6th grade and trying to juggle school, grades, ballet, Church, volunteer work, etc. Perhaps if my DD had been "gifted" in ballet, we might have been able to forgo all the college worries and let her just "live in the moment" in ballet, but she worked very hard to achieve what she has in dance, so we always had in the back of our minds that she might not make it.

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Where do people get the idea that dancers aren't also living up to their full potential mentally? Dancers do have to use study skills, and analyzing skills, and math skills....


I think sometimes we can get so caught up in fear that we may lose sight of the important things....

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Clara 76 - We must have been posting at the same time. I do think dancers develop all of those skills. But in this economy, it is even more imperative that there be a back-up plan, especially if, as parents, you don't see your DK as "the next, greatest talent." Also, with the financial support it takes for ballet, if the DK continues to dance/train before going to college, then there is little to no money left for college, so their prior academic track record must then help carry them through. Just my opinion.

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Absolutely, there does need to be some forethought- I agree. But dancers are not brainless wonders, and I haven't yet heard of any stories of professional dancers going on to living in a refridgerator box under the overpass. I've known many, and the post career options are varied and interesting!


Many ex-dancers go on into the medical field, either becoming massage therapists, Physical therapists, doctors, even vetrinarians! Many go into teaching, arts-administration or marketing, and others open their own companies.


I think we have to have balance- not preclude state or community college options as not being "good enough".

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Our state colleges cost around $20,000 per year. In our household, that still means the attempt by our children to be awarded scholarships. In fact, my next two children are already talking about going to our flagship state university. I believe in community colleges in some instances, but I know my DD would never be satisfied with that. We've already discussed it, and it is not sufficient for her academic needs. Now, again, that is a personal choice that she has made, and one that we support her in. And she was willing to give up HS activities to work harder at school work. One of her friends is in community college as a stop gap between a transfer to a different college, and not very happy there. For some it is fine


There are many dancers that have marvelous careers. I am speaking about our family and for many others who have also spoken on this Board about the financial straits they are in after their children finish their ballet career or attempt thereof. Perhaps some of the dancers that have become physical therapists, doctors, lawyers, etc. had funding behind them to continue their education. Or since those in the professions you mentioned make incomes that are considered more lucrative, perhaps they can accommodate larger loans. In our case, we will not be able to support our DD through college if she chose to dance first. And since her back-up career choice was always literature, education and social work, she will likely not have a large income to support student loans.


I think dancers are some of the brightest, most artistic people I associate with. Dancers made up the bulk of my friends when I was single. I was not trying to intimate that dancers were "brainless wonders", in fact just the opposite as many are trying to balance high academics and dance. What was originally discussed was how to help dancers whose parents want them to have the ability to choose college after high school if they need/want to do so. The original poster did not say whether or not her husband would sanction community college.


And perhaps my husband and I are just not risk-takers. And some of it comes down to knowing your child and their talent, and your belief in whether they will be able to support themselves by a dance career. I think on this thread we are all trying to share our experience and thoughts, and what works for one might not work for another. It comes down to parents knowing their children and the dancers knowing what they want out of dance. And has been stated on many other of the threads here, "there are many paths to Rome."

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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.


lsu - If I may ask, which online high school program did you daughter enroll in? My daughter is in a charter school which is a hybrid homeschool/brick and mortar program. I think a program in which she only had 2 - 3 classes to complete each semester (I'm assuming that, say, a high school year of Biology is completed in one semester) would be ideal for her.

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She took 2 AP courses with Florida Virtual High School and also physics non-AP, (really good teachers for the courses) but actually graduated from Indiana University High School. At the time Indiana did not offer AP courses and she really wanted something more challenging. Both schools are set up where you must take 2 semesters to get in a year of Biology or any other course for that matter except for health.




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Hello all.


First I have to say that I truly admire all of you in the US with respect to the challenges of college preparation. So far it is much less complex here north of the border in Canada. I must say I prefer the less complicated, but I hear loud and clear where you are coming from.


I also want to point out that it isn't easy for anyone these days...........


A while back I posted elsewhere on this site about the issue of higher education and costs. I have one daughter who left the dream of a dance career during her college application process actually. She graduated from University here in Canada, and now is in Law School in the US. She has zillions of dollars in debt - all from law school (zillions being my description) - and is having a challenge finding something for this summer. And by something I mean a position that would facilitate employment post law degree. She will get something for the summer it appears, but as with many of her cohort, this will not be a paid position.


My younger daughter is still pursuing the dance career. This is not easy by any stretch of the imagination, and she has chosen not to apply to post-secondary programs at this point. This said, she has had more of an income in the last 8 months or so than her sister.


What's a better path? I've no idea, but am living out both in my own family.


Every family is different, and every kid is different. I applaud all of you here who are supporting children in the transition to career - regardless of what the chosen path is, or what the chosen career might be.


People make jokes about all of this when babies are born. Thank goodness young parents don't take it too seriously - it would be too much!!



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I think anxiety is a prereq for being a good parent! I am a risk-taker, though I recognize that it takes all kinds of people to make the world go 'round. Ballet as a career is not for everyone, and that is ok! The one thing I can say is that most people will continue to uncover the gifts that ballet has given them long down the road.


Life really, truly is a journey and you've provided a wonderful one for your children so far! They have had the experience of training for something that is not easy, is really, really hard work, and requires an almost single-minded approach. Maybe those skills will be useful in their futures, and maybe that's the way things were supposed to go.


And you're right- every family does need to do what works best for them. It sounds like your kids are already working things out, and that is a good place to be!



Tell her to not defer those college loan payments....no matter what. Those payments will have to get made before anything else. Suze Orman talked about that on her show.


To me, that is why community colleges and then maybe transferring credits once a scholarship is won sounds like a better plan than those loans. Talk about loan sharks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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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.


My DD is going to high school next year and so DH and I have been grapling with a lot of these same questions. A friend who raised two very successful DDs herself gave this same advice. Don't try to put your child in the classes that will make her attractive to a college; put her in the classes that are attractive to her. In the end then she will be the in the perfect place to go to the college that is the perfect fit for her.

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