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Ballet Talk for Dancers

To Compete or not to Compete

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Thank You LauraR, interesting article, thank you for sharing. One of DD's instructors agrees that virtuosity is appearing more important than artistry lately. DD has experienced this first hand in a small Masters class in which there was a dancer that was techinically near-flawless, but danced in a rather robotic fashion with no fluidity or passion. The Master instructor only paid attention to her. If judges are simply looking for the height of a leap, the number of pirouettes, or a perfect turnout, then maybe it isn't worth it. In our case, DD is lovely and gifted (we are told :wink: ), but not necessarily the showstopper with "tricks". I'll continue watching this thread with interest and would love to see competitors' discuss their experiences, positive and negative.

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Yes, thank you LauraR. Loved the article.


Almost 14 year old DD just returned from the YAGP New York Finals. She may provide her feedback later. I think she had a lot of fun hanging out with her friends in NYC. This is her second time that she has gone to the NYC Finals, but the first time she competed there as a soloist. However, as soon as we were alone together in the car the first thing she said to me is that she wants to now focus on becoming a good dancer. She does not wish to go back to YAGP or other competitions until she is a senior. Often kids reflect their parental attitudes (perhaps less so as teenagers!), but I could tell this time that she had processed all this by herself and arrived at her own conclusions.


I do think that all the focus on competitions she has had from being 11 has added an extra dimension of anxiety that she doesn't necessarily experience during class, exams or performance. Preparing for competition becomes a huge emotional investment that dominates much of the school year. Not only does she have to nail the technique but she has to understand and adapt to the competition 'system'. At the same time, it has given her a perspective and a goal that would perhaps take a long time to accumulate even by attending SI programs and auditions. Experience is never wasted. And through the years she has seen the scholarship opportunities it has yielded for her fellow students. But she is definitely now focused on completing the work in progress (herself), enjoying the journey through plenty of performance opportunities, and then seeing where all that brings her for her personal 'final round'.

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Thank you again LauraR for the article link. I passed it on to our studio director and the YAGP parents. It is always good to reflect when a season is over and decide where your next year will take you. We will definitely be thinking hard about the YAGP decision.


I do have to say that competing in local competitions is probably less stressful, less expensive, and the judges' feedback takes the artistry into account probably as much or more than the tricks. They also LOVE having ballet and pointe entries at their competitions. (JUMP is offering free entry fees for group ballet entries) I think it gives the other attendees a better idea of what highly trained and committed dancers really look like. Except for questionable flooring, it does give the dancers a little more performance experience if they want or need it. You do have to be a little more tolerant of the hip-hoppers 'whooping' in the audience, which is actually quite comical! :shrug:

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I recently posted below, but thought it was more appropriate for this forum:




Hello - This is my first post on this website, and I'm unsure if this is the write forum to post in. Let's just say "I hate competitions" caught my eye. It is wonderful to have these forums to read and learn so much about this crazy ballet world. My DD is 15 and has been dancing since she was four years old. This summer she will be attending her first SI. My daughter LOVES and LIVES for ballet. She has sacrificed so much (times spent with friends, hs activities etc.) in pursuit of her dream to be a professional dancer. My daughter has participated in YAGP the last 4 years, and has placed in the top 12 each year, invited to NY the last 2. A lot of training and a lot of $$ goes into preparing for these competitions, not only their dance, their costume, their music selection, everything. I actually love and hate the whole process at the same time. I love how dedicated my daughter is in preparing for this competition and I love watching her perform. I love how this competition has provided my daughter the opportunity to dance in front of and attend master classes taught by some of the top Artistic Directors in the world. The part I hate is how my daughter feels after the finals is over. She is so talented, but in a sea of super talented dancers she is lost in the shuffle. She does not get noticed as much as her peers (not just at yagp but at auditions for SI's), and does not get offered scholarships at these auditions. She takes ballet at a very competitive studio which has many dancers go on to be professional dancers.


As I drove home with my daughter last night, she was crying over her lack of being noticed in NY at the YAGP finals. I feel like I am at a crossroads with her. Do I let her continue participating in this competition that is so expensive and competitive, and in the end only leaves her feeling depressed? I tried talking to her last night about YAGP not being the only path to becoming a professional ballerina, and I also want her to pursue college with ballet conservatories - which she is not thrilled about. If it was up to my daughter, she would be home-schooled dancing 8 hours a day (like some of her dancing peers). It is important to me she goes to regular high school, maintains a high gpa (which we make a requirement to continue dancing), and does not throw all her "eggs into one basket" in her pursuit of a professional dance career.


I was not a dancer, and I seriously have no idea how these judges decide who gets in the Top 12 and who gets asked to NY, to me their abilities are all very similar, and they are all talented in their own way. I thought she looked wonderful in NY, but so did everybody else! My daughter just obsesses so much about ballet, I'm often up at night worrying - even last night she said she needs to be skinnier then they may notice her more (she is nearly X'X" and weighs about Y).


Anyways, after a sleepless night of worrying about my daughters future - I could use some advice from all you seasoned dance moms out there!


* edited to remove height and weight specifics as this is not allowed.

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This is a very interested thread to read. I have two DD's who have both experienced YAGP. Our experience was a wonderful learning lesson. We needed to experience it to grow. Truly. We need to all remember that the beautiful art of dance is subjective!! What one judge likes, the other doesn't. You may have a DD or DS that can do wonderful athletic gymnastic feats in ballet, OR you may have one that is artistically breathtaking with fluid movements. Rarely, you may have a child that has it all! Each dancer will be subjected to scrutiny, because the reaction will depend on who is watching/judging! Life is full of scrutiny - you need it to become wise. Do the best you can, pursue dance with your heart. Do your art because you love it and see where it takes you. If you look at it that way, you are a success no matter what. Ok - now I need to go tell this to my DD's! Raising teenagers is so hard! :shrug:

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I have been reading this thread with interest. Many good points have been made. I think that the real concern expressed here is that a focus on "tricks" or gymnastic-type feats and flexibility is being rewarded over technique and artistry. DD didn't participate this year, so I have no first-hand knowledge of this year's results, but that is what I seem to reading on this thread. I agree with Sugarflake that judging is subjective, and it worries me that judges might seem to be leaning toward favoring "tricks" these days, but maybe, since art is always evolving, this will be the future of ballet? Maybe they could just change its name and call it "ballenastics?" I actually think that the most successful dancers will be the ones who have it all- the awe-inspiring extensions, neverending balances, banana feet, perfect lines/bodies, expression, artistry, many turns, etc. But, especially at the younger ages that some of these dancers compete in YAGP, the total package might not yet be there; they might have the tricks at this age and the artistry might come with maturity? Maybe the judges see that potential and are rewarding them on the basis of what they currently have, knowing from their years of wisdom and experience that the rest might follow? I don't know; this is just my idea. I would be interested in the views of our teacher-members who were actually there.

Congratulations to all members who participated! It takes a lot of talent and effort to make it that far, and I also want to congratulate those who did Regionals and worked hard and did well but were still not invited to NY. There is a lot of talent on that level, too, but not everyone gets the NY invitation.

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Dancestar - perhaps at this point in time it's best to ask your DD about her goals and objectives? Does she want to get a professional contract or does she want to win a competition? You can have one without the other. Many YAGP alumns go on to get professional contracts. But not all. And not all dancers who get professional contracts participate in YAGP. The one time my DS competed (though he was unable to attend the finals) it was at a particularly good time for him. But it's certainly not how he got his first contract offer.


But maybe your DD is looking for something more tangible right now as opposed to waiting many more years for that elusive contract. We know some dancers that just love to compete and, probably more so, want more of the instant feedback that competitions provide. It may be that perhaps your DD is focused more than ever now at succeeding in this particular event for one of those reasons. Or for some other reason. I have known many who were. They competed year after year after year. Some eventually placed. Many walked away frustrated year after year. Some were able to have an incredibly positive experience regardless of the outcome. But whether it was a good goal or not, many had the goal of winning.


It may also be that this might not be the right/best competition for your DD. There are others out there where she might find more success.

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Thanks Cheetah for your advice - you pose an interesting question. Honestly, I guess she really doesn't care about placing/winning at yagp. I think she just would love to get noticed there, and get some scholarships like some of the other girls in her studio. She did get offered one scholarship (her first one) but it was for a summer program she was not interested in attending. My daughter gets a lot of pressure from her studio to participate in YAGP and would be devastated if I told her she wouldn't be able to anymore. I wish I could make her see that it is not the only path to a professional career. I'm excited for her to participate this summer at her first summer intensive. I think it will be great for her to come out of the shadows of the more recognized dancers in her studio and hopefully give her the opportunity to shine. I just want her to be happy!!

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Welcome to BT4D Sugarflake!


I had to stop reading and tell you how wonderful your post is! 'Do the best you can, pursue dance with your heart. Do your art because you love it and see where it takes you' - truly words to live by!


Yes the dance world is very subjective. Each participant I think will come away from YAGP with their own personal experience regarding this. My DD competed this year for the first time. I can only say that in our families' experience it was the journey, and not the end result that mattered. We tried to look at it from a learning standpoint. As a whole the experience was a great one. My daughter enjoyed the process of learning new variations and choreography, working extremely hard to perfect them (on both technique AND artistry) and the one-on-one time afforded her in the process. Once at the semi-finals, it was very interesting to watch, and observe all that was going on. The constant rush of dancers, the schedule, the judges. I can certainly understand the judges' subjectivity, and would not like to be in their place! But as a whole, they try to give you feedback, and they are watching you. I'm sure as you continue competing, they get to 'know' the dancer better, and then maybe they can better hone in on the dancer and their abilities. (although I do realize that the same judges are not always present every year) I do remember seeing some 'tricks', but also seeing some very beautiful dancers without those as well. While she didn't place, she was definitely not concerned about it. She truly enjoyed the actual competition, and performed wonderfully. She was very excited to take the classes the next day and to receive the feedback from the judges. Bottom line is that my DD was inspired, and challenged, and even I, as a ballet 'novice' observer, can see the change in her after the competition. She believes in herself more than ever I think, and it comes through in her dancing. So I think for us, it was an invaluable experience that had a very positive effect.

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Dancestar - my DS was always in the shadow of other dancers and we couldn't even get his studio to recommend he compete. They never thought he was ready. So I know what you are talking about and can imagine what your DD must be thinking and feeling. It must be hard to be a dancer in a studio that places YAGP so highly. And some studios do. But maybe a frank discussion will reveal what she is really hoping to gain through the experience. If it's the journey, and you can afford it, then maybe she continues. If it's to "win", then maybe a different competition might be just as beneficial (same types of variations - different judges), such as World Ballet Competition. If it's to get scholarships, then maybe in the next year she spends some of the extra money and does more SI auditions.

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It is so wonderful to read everyone's experiences and opinions, it is such a help to us. After reading the posts I just chatted with DD a little, just to get her feedback as a teenager and serious dancer. I explained that the mental toughness seems to be as, if not more, important than the dance. "Can you handle the pressure?". DD responded with, "I don't expect to win, I'll do my best and see where it takes me-no problem." Ok, so what do I say to that?? I'm a little more relieved now.


Dancestar, two of your posts were of particular interest to me. Let me begin by congratulating your DD for her competing in the finals, that is fantastic! However, it made me sad for her, and you, that she cried on the way home and is worried about her weight. Later, you posted that there is a lot of pressure from her studio to compete and she would be upset not to compete. Obviously your DD is a gifted dancer and it makes me wonder if the studio's pressure to compete isn't a little self-serving for the studio. The more gifted dancers from any particular studio, makes that studio shine, in my opinion. Maybe a good, frank discussion with DD about what makes her happiest while dancing? Is it the pure dance? the friends? the competition? the discipline? I don't mean to overstep any boundries and I apologize if I am, but I just thought I would offer food for thought as I am concerned for you and your DD. Best wishes.

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Thank you Dancer830 - I wish my daughter could recognize how very few even make it to NY and she should feel accomplished just for that feat! I struggle with her studios emphasis on this competition believe me. Although it brings rewards, it seems to stress my daughter out more than anything. I'm thankful for the posts I've been reading today, and gives me some good discussion material to have with my daughter later today. I actually really don't think her ultimate goal is to win a prize at these competitions, but rather get some opportunities that have been offered to her fellow dancers and ultimately become a professional dancer. So when she doesn't get the same recognition, she gets sad and immediately thinks about what she did wrong, how she can improve (is she skinny enough, which kills me), and it doesn't help when her director also tells her that if she works harder more opportunities will come her way. These statements upset her more than anything else, because she works just as hard if not harder than her peers who are getting more recognition. To me these competitions are subjective and every dancer has something beautiful about them and some strengths, some may like you, some don't. I'm hopeful she will enjoy the SI she is attending this year, and I'm thinking maybe next year exposing her to some more SI auditions outside of the ones everybody attends.


I feel really sad for these girls - I feel like they face so much rejection at such a young age! :)

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It sounds like, for her, the recognition is the prize she is seeking. But there are other ways to get that recognition. If it is stressful, and she is that sad when it's over, I would find another way to help her achieve that recognition. It just may be that this particular organization looks for something different than what your DD is brining. It's not a negative reflection on anyone, the organization or your DD. It just may be the "way it is." That's why I said another competition, performance opportunity, audition, etc. might help her more.


We know professional dancers today that couldn't even make it into the top 12 at their regional competitions.

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I certainly don't want to discount the experience of those who compete and do well. There are beautiful dancers who compete, and I know quite a few young dancers who gained tremendous opportunities from YAGP and even smaller competitions. It is difficult when the studio places an emphasis on YAGP and those who are not selected to compete doubt themselves for that reason alone. Young students value the opinions of their teachers and I think they do look for validation in some way from judges, awards, coaches, etc. It's hard not to.

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