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Ballet Talk for Dancers

To Compete or not to Compete

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I can't imagine working as hard as one can and still being told to work harder. I agree dancestar, just going to the finals in NYC is amazing and such an accomplishment! I'm sorry her instructor isn't reminding your DD of how wonderful that is, how many dancers would trade places in an instant, and that DD truly has a gift. I do, however, know as a parent, how it feels to see other dancers receive recognition when your own has worked equally as hard and not received the same, it's difficult. Add to that, going back to the studio with those same dancers can certainly shake one's confidence. I hope the other dancers are being gracious and kind, and that you are able to work this all out.

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Perhaps as someone said, this is the way the ballet world is evolving; yet maybe not.


We have a young dancer in our second company who is extremely gifted yet didn't place in the top 12 of two different regionals. Her much younger sister placed not at all in one regional, received 2nd place in another and also did not qualify for finals. The mother shares one of two opinions to anyone who asks depending on which daughter is being discussed: 1) the competition is so politicized, the judges are overworked and no one can possibly pay enough attention to every dancer for the few minutes they are on stage; and alternately, 2) what a wonderful experience the competition is and how it serves a greater purpose in identifying new, young talent. These polar opposite opinions are from one person, and I believe she is sincere each time she shares her feelings. The objective truth (if there can be one in this situation) likely lies somewhere in between.


Dance competitions are meant to be objective evaluations but the standards of judging are based on personal, subjective opinions. Do you see the disconnect here? When you willingly put your art "out there" to be judged, you accept all the terms, including any ensuing disappointment. In particular, what happens at YAGP is whatever Larissa wants (which is perfectly fine, as long as you know that from the beginning.) There are some extremely beautiful and highly talented artists who compete in this and other very respected ballet competitions. There are also dancers whom I am hopeful will grow in artistry to complement their obvious athleticism.


If as a dancer (or parent), you understand what you are getting into, can handle the outcome no matter what, and can afford it - then why not participate?


If the outcomes become devastating or cause your dancer to question the worth of her contribution to the art of ballet - or worse her own worth, maybe it's best to walk away

Edited by Mousling
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If the outcomes become devastating or cause your dancer to question the worth of her contribution to the art of ballet - or worse her own worth, maybe it's best to walk away


I think this summarizes my points very well!!! And if you walk away, acknowledge that it is perfectly OK to do so.

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My dd's experience with YAGP was a turnoff for me for different reasons. In a regional, she placed top 12 with a solo piece that was thrown together and practiced in the last two weeks (she was already going to dance in an ensemble piece and her teacher decided why not also do a solo since she'd be there anyway). She was invited to NY. Now I am a big fan of dd, but I figured that if she was asked with that solo, then NY was just one big money maker and they wanted as many people to attend as possible. Needless to say, we didn't go to NY. This was a couple of years ago, so maybe it has gotten tougher.

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I'm wondering if anyone else watched the mock ballet competition that was put together by YAGP and aired on ustream?


The summary states that you could "Join YAGP jury members to gain an insight into the selection process and watch as they critique dancers’ performances during an impromptu ballet competition."


There were many, many comments from the judges about how the dancers needed to develop their artistry. It was long, but very informative in my opinion. Here is the link if anyone is interested.


YAGP Mock Competition

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>> If as a dancer (or parent), you understand what you are getting into, can handle the outcome no matter what, and can afford it - then why not participate?


I guess another question could also be asked, "why participate?"


Unless a DK's family has infinite financial resources (& time), parents would be wise to consider future financial needs for their DKs (and other non-dancing family members). College plans will arrive sooner than you realize, and esp. for DKs, this means $$ for traveling to all of those college dance program auditions, and even company auditions for possible trainee/apprenticeships. Also financing college itself (if that's your DK's path) since, even with scholarships, it never covers the full costs of attending college. Oh yeah, there's funding for retirement, coverage during unanticipated unemployment, and healthcare costs (so we parents won't have to mooch off of our offspring or work until we're 90 :-) ).


Wouldn't it be a wonderful option for DKs to experience great ballet training with an emphasis on performance opportunities to develop that on-stage artistry & virtuosity that company ADs look for -- all without having to enter dance competitions?


But, I understand there are many different opinions on this, and I respect that. :-)

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I guess another question could also be asked, "why participate?"


And I suppose that was the purpose of my original question - basically what would DD be turning her back on if she decided not to compete in the future, and would that signify a major handicap in terms of ballet training and career aspirations. I think that it was fairly clear that many on this board feel that competitions are not necessarily critical, especially at the younger ages, and that a solid training coupled with ample performance opportunities can eventually yield similar results in terms of technical and artistic mastery. However, some students seem to thrive and reap real benefits from the competitive experience; assuming that the financial burden is bearable for these students then competitions can be a wonderful embellishment to their training experience that may very well produce some very positive outcomes, especially towards the 'end' of training when hoping to launch a career. Results from these competitions, whether positive or negative, may or may not be reliable indicators of future success and/or potential.


Based on the above, not to mention my bank balance, I feel better about my DD's decision to pursue a different path next year. Neither of us feel that continuing on her current path is helping her to accomplish her end goal of becoming a solid dancer, may actually distract from that goal, and is turning out to not be all that enjoyable anyway.


I can sympathize with the disappointment of the student who returned from NYC with no scholarships or recognition. I think my DD went to NY with no expectations of placing, nor even a scholarship, but it does make it harder when classmates return with one or even multiple offers. She's a fighter, though, and is just more determined to discover a 'solution' to the 'problem'. I imagine that the scholarship aspect might also be a bit of a different animal anyway, since they do hold a scholarship workshop class - so a bit more akin to a typical audition class experience? Perhaps that sharpens the disappointment? Nor do I have any clue about how savvy one needs to be when filling out the scholarship forms that YAGP issues. Not sure if expressing interest in 2012 SI scholarships only (plus a few year-round programs), and the fact that we didn't select every name on the list, hurt her chances of receiving an offer? Just curious!

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There is a point at which competition may be good and a point at which it may be bad. One has to understand going into a competition that winning is not the goal nor is beating one's school mates. This is regardless of which competition it is. When self-doubt shifts over to destructive thinking, then it is time for a break or at least a revisit to why one dances or competes, what it is supposed to do for you and what is the limit to which you will push yourself for something as subjective as dance/competition. What dancestar has outlined in her dancer's thinking, in my personal opinion from the armchair critic/psychologist that I am, is time for re-evaluation whether the competitive environment is working for her dancer or not. Every dancer is different thankfully! For some, the competitive environment drives their soul without taking it away in the process. For others, it chips away bit by bit. This is why it should NEVER be a given within a school that one must compete. And why it should be a given in ALL schools that even though competition may give an edge to participants, that the students in the school who do not compete are receiving enough of the goods to be competitive without the actual entry.

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The point of competition – by its very definition – is to win. Now one may have other reasons for wanting to take part, but the entire structure of the event is to choose a winner (or multiple winners, as the case may be). The fact that one is navigating such an environment will no doubt have an effect on the experience and the competitor themselves.


I have gone on record many times as saying that I despise competitions in the arts and that any of the benefits that “some” of the competitors experience can be gotten in other healthier and more productive ways.

This, however would require a monumental shift in thinking and frankly, I don’t see that happening.


Some posters have pointed out the changes in Summer Intensives from a relatively rare phenomenon to an all but a required basic training component in order to keep up with ones fellow classmates. I join ranks with the more fatalistic thinkers – I believe what we are seeing now is the beginning of the same path for participation in dance competitions.


Anecdotally, in many (if not most) schools that place a great deal of importance of competitions – and the numbers appear to be increasing – students who do not compete are clearly at a disadvantage. They do not receive the same attention, level of training, encouragement, accolades or recognition. Many young dancers and parents now feel they must join the competition bandwagon in order to stay, not ironically, competitive. If dancers and their parents start to feel that the dancers who are competing are getting more attention, better training, and increased opportunities at scholarships and contracts - well it’s obvious what happens next - isn’t it?

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Guest coupe66
DD started at a residential school in the fall and while the school hosts YAGP they do not have their students compete. They did address this in our first meeting at the beginning of the year and I really liked and respected their reasoning. They believe in training a dancer to become a profeesional dancer and to be ready for what ever is thrown their way. The have A LOT of performance opportunity and they allow as many dancers as possible to learn as many roles as possible. They said that they prefer this over focussing on one or two pieces for months on end to perform for one specific competition...in other words they see more value in training the dancer for the life of a dancer and not for one competition. I can absolutely see how someone could argue the benefits of training for competition but I respected their position. And it made sense to me.


Also, the reality is that we would not be able to afford to do YAGP and I feel like at some schools that really push it, dd would be a little left behind or left out if she were not participating when many are - it should not be the case...but I think that the reality is that it would be the case.


This sounds like an ideal situation. If all or even most schools approached training with this mindset, I think far fewer students (and their parents) would fee that competitions such as YAGP are necessary. Unfortunately, not every school approaches training with the mindset you describe your dd's school has. Many of us are limited also geographically, in that we cannot commute to the schools that do offer this kind of training, and still others either cannot or do not wish to send their dancer away to a residency program. So, for those families, YAGP does fill that void - it allows a young dancer to learn variations above and beyond what they would be allowed to do within the framework of the school syllabus/performance schedule, and it gives them an opportunity to challenge themselves and get a bigger glimpse of what is going on in the larger ballet world. These are the reasons we have allowed our dd and ds to take part in YAGP.


To be very honest, while my kids enjoy it, the stress of it really bothers me, and even though we work hard to stay on a budget with it, it can get as costly as you want it to get. I wish I could say that my kids would get the same level of attention and training without the YAGP coaching and experience, but in reality, they wouldn't. Does that bother me? YES :):sweating::yes: :yes: :yes: Would I like to change it, YES again. But unfortunately, it isn't always that simple.

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I am curious to know how much parents are spending to have their children participate in competitions such as Youth America Grand Prix. How much to prepare for the 1) regionals and then the 2) finals if they choose to attend? How much have people spent on coaching, costumes and entry fees? How many hours of private lessons are taken on a weekly basis? I think this information would be helpful for the parents who are considering this in the future.

Edited by thebaron
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The costs vary widely according to your school's policy. DD did Regionals through one school at which it cost over $3000 (didn't have travel expenses because it was nearby). She did Regionals through a different school where, with travel expenses, it cost around $600. They really kept it affordable. She placed better at the less expensive school. Edited to add: The cost of coaching is obviously higher with the amount of time spent preparing. In both of DD's cases described above, the coaching began about 3 or 4 months before the Regional. I understand that this varies widely, as LoveMyJob described in her post above.

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I guess, as with most things, there are varying degrees of what can be spent. I'm sure that many people spend the kind of money that LoveMyJob outlines above, but although my daughter has not ever participated in YAGP, our trips to NYC have been considerably more frugal, to say the least, haha! We stay at the $100 boutique hotels instead of the $200/night big name ones; we eat for about $40/day for 2; we take the subway & walk instead of cab rides. All the same, we LOVE New York!

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