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Ballet Talk for Dancers

highschool and ballet


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  • tutu2you


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  • slhogan


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.


Not totally germane to the conversation, but this seems a good place to throw out that it is common for PhD students in the sciences to get full tuition plus a stipend. So, no loans to repay and enough to live on (barely). If that is a direction a kiddo might be headed, it eases the burden substantially. I don't think many people know this; in fact, many years ago I called the IRS to ask where to report the stipend and the agent asked incredulously, "You mean THEY pay YOU to go to school?????".

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Yes, that was true for my husband when he was in school oh so many decades ago. I agree, the stipend was very small, but then again, with free tuition for two year, you can't beat it. We've had luck in our family with Master's programs as well; if you are hired as a TA then there is financial support for that as well. The problem I see is getting them through those first four years. If they want to dance, and they go where there is a good performance program, they will most likely be unable to pay back large loans on a corps de ballet salary. If they decide not to dance in college but have pursued a pre-pro training program , then I guess whether they get scholarships to a college all depends on whether or not they find the right program for themselves based on their ballet, academic, service and other involvements in high school.


Many on this board talk about finding the "right fit" for the student. That is hard to do, given that it costs a lot of money to do all the college visit trips out-of-town. If you stay in town, then you lose the bigger pool of schools from which to find the fit. How has everyone gone about finding the right program? For DD, it came down to picking the best ballet performance program she could get in. What have others used as their criterion for choosing a college?

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My daughter also struggles with balancing 20 hours/week of dance, 20 hours/week of driving to get to dance, honors classes, and volunteering. Sometimes I wonder if attending a residence program might make more sense, but dd is only 15 years old.

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  • 2 years later...

DD has reached point where we might be making some "go for it with no regrets" decisions for this upcoming year while still considering education options that keep college available. The experiences shared here have really given us a lot of perspectives to consider, so thanks! If nothing else, it makes it easier to commit to a decision knowing that there is no "right" answer.

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I'm glad this subject got "bumped" up! I don't think I read this thread a couple years ago, but it is now relevant and very helpful. DS is going into his sophomore year and his future plans are definitely on my mind right now!!


I've often heard that when it comes to serious training, you can only have 2 of the 3: Pre-Professional Training, Strong Academics, Active Social Life. It simply seems impossible to have all 3! For my DS, strong academics fall by the wayside. He loves to train hard in ballet, but he is not willing to give up his social life (girlfriend, non-dancer friends, school dances, parties, etc). I have a strong academic background (I am a school principal!), so this was very challenging for me to accept. *My* preference would be for him to back off the ballet training or his social life; however, ultimately it is his life and I cannot make these decisions for him.


As a result of his decision, he is following a minimum high school plan-- one that will get him into a 2 year community college but probably not a 4 year university right away. This allows him to have a break period during the school day, so he can get as much homework done as possible. This is essential because he otherwise gets very little homework completed because of his afternoon dance schedule and weekend social schedule. It also means that he will only have 2 credits remaining his senior year-- an English and Social Studies class-- and if he finds himself in a full-time training position his senior year (trainee, 2nd company, etc), he will be able to complete those 2 credits in an online high school setting.


I find myself less panicky about his future when he and I both know the plan:


Plan A: He moves into a professional career (paid or last stages of training) right after high school-- he will put off college until his career is finished. Hopefully, he'll pick up some college credits here and there as he is able.


PLAN B: He is still training to be a professional but isn't yet ready right after high school. He'll continue his training while attending community college part time or full time as his training schedule allows.


PLAN C: He does not try to become professional (injury, changes his mind, realization that he doesn't have what it takes, etc). He will attend community college after high school for one or two years then transfer to a 4 year college to complete his degree.

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My older DD is the same age as your son, and we have come up with the exact same list of three post-high school options. This upcoming year, she will have a reduced schedule (6 classes instead of 8) so that she can leave school early to train. She is in a high-performing high school, and we have had some push back from them for her not taking AP classes, but we have had to prioritize based on what SHE chooses, not what the school or anyone else (parents of some of her friends, etc.) expects.


I think I have been better at having an open mind about her future, though it has taken my husband a little longer to come to terms with her probably not pursuing a four year college right out of high school. Ultimately, we can guide her, but she has to make her own choices.

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One of the most helpful things I have read on this board is that our job as parents is to raise human beings, not just dancers. I agree that our late adolescent children will ultimately make decisions on their own, with some influence from us (on a good day). What works for each dancer seems to be such a complex calculus, which depends on so many factors ranging from something so mundane as how far the dancer must commute to daily classes to individual characteristics such as temperament, aptitude for traditional school, and determination. What has worked for our 17 yo DD (soon to be a high school senior) has been dancing 20-25 hours per week at a small but excellent studio 8 minutes from our house, taking a full load complete with many AP classes and all the rest at our local public high school (around the corner from her studio), and continuing to play violin in her school orchestra (she started as a Suzuki student at age six and practices before school). She is fortunate to live so close to where she trains, which is sheer luck. She dreams of being a professional ballet dancer and has attended excellent intensives, but is adamant about going to either a top college dance program or an academically selective college that is strong in string music. She has always loved everything about school. She has struggled with pain from an ankle injury so her dreams seem to be evolving. I guess I think it is important not to panic about anticipated academic demands, but to encourage our DK's to take it step by step, do what makes sense given who they are and what they can handle, and encourage them to aim high but to be open and prepared for other paths that may unfold before them. As a university professor, I can say for sure that college will always be there, and that many non-dancing students end up at universities way before they are ready. As a clinical psychologist, I also believe that it is important to do everything we can to keep preserve our dancers' mental health. The process of working toward their dreams should be rewarding, and pushing these young people too hard in too many domains could have serious risks. I think we are wise to listen to our DK's about what they most want, what they are willing to do, while helping them take the long view and hold open the possibility of different dreams. I marvel at the schedules these dancing high schoolers keep. At that age, I focused solely on school and boyfriends (and I was very happy and turned out ok). That our daughter is determined to pursue her love of performing arts with so much energy is just one more reminder she is such a different person than I ever have been.

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I also have a rising senior DD, who attends public high school, participates in a limited number of school activities and is at a pre-pro program. Everything MaryKTX has said here, sums it all up perfectly. I have heeded the advice on this forum to make sure there is balance. I encouraged DD to have a social life because I believe this is where interpersonal skills are learned and experimented. Up until a year ago DD had no desire to attend college after high school or at all. Maturity has made her realize "if I don't go to college after high school I know I will never go back to school and I know I want to own a business one day and I feel I need to go to college."


This was a 180 degree turn around and DD is happy right now that she has friends outside of dance, is able to socialize and connect with many personality types, and that her participation in things other than dance actually help her to dance better. This was her own personal assessment of her path as she readies for whatever comes next.


DD has a very outgoing personality, so the path she has chosen up until now, completely suits her. I have to admit, she and I have had many, many conversations about how she would like dance to fit in her future and the realities of pursuing that path during high school and beyond. She would be unhappy at a residential school with a limited social circle. Where that sort of life might suit another personality type to a T.


During the journey up until now I STRONGLY encouraged DD to keep all options open, to not close any doors; to have balance. I am so glad I had the information from people on BT who have gone before, so that the path was a little more clear.

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Guest Blossoming ballerina

Thank you for bumping this thread

We are at a similar point with our dd.

she is at a pre- pro school. 16 hrs / wk. we live 3/4 hr away and by the time preparation for class with meals etc is factored in we loose another 30 mins.

Dd is homeschooled.

We have aso had long chats about career choices.

Dd is very committed and what's nothing more than to be in a studio all day.


It's necessary to ground them and have normality.

I to value the advice given by people ho have gone ahead of us.

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  • Administrators

MaryKTX shares some very wise thoughts. I can't think of anything else to add really - other than to add that every family is different and what is a good fit for one may not be for another.


Use MaryKTX advice and listen to your dk. Add this to what your family is comfortable with/able to manage and you'll have a plan.



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This thread is really helpful in shedding light on the fact that our situation is similar to many others. It helps to calm the stress!


My DS, a freshman in HS, is at a pre-pro school and will have approx. 17 hours of ballet/classes per week (maybe more) starting in Sept. He is homeschooled (online), currently taking a full load of courses. What I'm finding is that I need to adjust my expectations on the academic side as I see how difficult it is dance at such a high level every day (mentally and physically) while balancing a full course load in your free time. I'm expecting things will all even out in the end, and hope we can actually lighten his academic load a tiny bit once he finishes his present courses, and see how that goes. For me, Slhogan's post rings true- kudos to those who can 'have it all,' but it is definitely difficult to train for a career at such a young age while maintaining academics and social life at the same level. We have also found a need to encourage more of a social life, especially with a homeschooled child. Seeing your friends every day at ballet is not the same as getting together with them socially and we find this an equally important aspect of life/growing up.

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So true, nymom! While DD has tried to have balance in her life, she knew going into the 18.5 hours a week of dance (plus 13 + hours commuting) that she couldn't have it all. She is an average student and does not have the time to put in all kinds of extra hours of studying, plus she doesn't want to, regardless if she dances or not, it's not in her personality.While DD has a social life, goes to school dances, Prom, band,football games, friends outside of the dance world, she does not do all that she could if she didn't attend the pre-pro school. There are plenty of events she misses because "I can't I have dance". But she has managed to have a group of guy and girl friends that understand her ambition and schedule and are supportive and that has been invaluable to her. The dance friends are great, too, but most live so far from us making it difficult to get together socially. Plus, in DD's experience and as a girl, she has found having non-dance friends is when she can relax and escape the competitiveness and drama inherent in friendships with other dancers.

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There is definitely a learning curve to all of this. On the one hand, you've got the child who is pursuing a career at an age when other peers have no idea what they want to 'do with their lives,' --and all the inherent stress and expectations that go along with that. On the other, you've got yourselves, as parents, struggling with what is a very different experience than the one you probably had and trying to do the best you can - fully supporting your child's professional aspirations while continually reminding your child of the importance and necessity of an education (and trying to keep them on a normal 'calendar' track with their brick-and mortar school peers [because you think you need to!]) -----and then on the other hand, you may have family (and sometimes friends) who don't understand what this 'life' is all about and often are critical of the road your child may be taking (trying to balance professional goals with education)...and that you're allowing things to play out this way right now...


A lot of stress and open questions. It's not easy...as they say.


Meanwhile, this board is so helpful in making me realize we're not alone on this journey.

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slhogan, i think your plans A, B, and C, are very much on-target for the reality your child will face. My DD just finished her junior year at a local high school and has completed all but 2 of the required credits for graduation. She is finishing those 2 online through the local school district this summer. We began working towards that goal sometime during her sophomore year, as we knew she wanted to further her training elsewhere when high school was complete. So where are we now? She is still at her SI now but was accepted into their year-round program at a level she is very happy with, so she will come home for the month of August, finish the last online high school credit, then return in September to the new year-round program (new for her). She will have applied for graduation before she leaves and will have enrolled in 1 online college course that will begin in September.


During her high school career she took honors courses, 1 AP course, sang in an honors choir, went to the prom, etc... At the same time she danced 6 days a week (7 during performance weeks) and had many, many late nights. Her choice was to have good local pre-pro training and the high school experience at the same time. She was very tired, but also successful!


Now, after 3 years of that, she is ready to move on. I will have to say that the time-management skills she gained have her ready to handle the next step with not much stress. So, I am pleased that her choices have been good for her!


It has already been said, but I will repeat, that each child is unique, and it is all about finding what works for your child. As you can see by all these posts, there are numerous paths towards the same goal.


I wish you and yours all the best in finding your way!!!

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