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Very talented


daisychain

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My nine-year-old daughter's ballet teacher loves her. She has told me on more than one occasion that DD is "very talented." I don't know anything about ballet, never having danced myself, but I can see that she has a dramatic flair on stage that is sets her apart from the pack. She is super flexible and has good technique. The teacher told me in the middle of the year that she can do most things better than the girls who are a year older, but that she cannot move her up a level, due to her young age. Fortunately, there are two other girls in her class who are similarly talented, so she is not alone at the top of her class. The teacher has mentioned that these girls are extraordinarily talented. My daughter loves ballet class and glories in being on stage. She wants to be a professional dancer.

 

As I mentioned, this is all new to me, so I'm trying to figure out what it may mean for her/our future. I have many questions running through my mind, so I'll spread them out over several posts over time.

 

First, I'd love to hear from other parents who were told about their child's talent at a young age. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the combination of my inexperience and her potential. I want to make wise decisions as we go along.

 

I also want to make sure that we make good choices about this year. She will be taking two 1.5 hour ballet classes, plus one 1.5 hour jazz class. She also will take gymnastics (not at the dance studio) for 2 hours once a week. In addition, she will have extra time at the studio several hours a week for rehersals. Would it be beneficial for her to add a third ballet class each week, or is it unncessary at her age (fourth grade)? Her teacher has told their class that they can join in on the lower level classes to improve their technique. My daugher would love to live at the ballet studio, so I'm not concerned about burn out. I do wonder about dropping gymnastics. I hate for her to lose the tumbling skills she has worked so hard for, since I think they can be beneficial for dance, but maybe an additional technique class would be a better use of her time????

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First of all, daisychain, the good news is that you have a lot of time to learn all the things you will need to know. The other good news is that we probably have all of it on this board somewhere! We have been doing this a very long time, so, the best thing you can do now is to get a cup of coffee and pull up your chair, and do a lot of reading! Seriously. There is sooooo much here. But, if you have questions, please feel very free to ask them. That is what we are here for!

 

The bad news is that, generally, gymnastics is aided by ballet, but it does not work the other way around. So, in my opinion, I would rather see her add another ballet class. Once they pass the tumbling only stage of gymnastics, and start getting into the more difficult areas, there are problems with injury potential, and with alignment and rotation. For some insane reason that I do not understand, all of the dismounts, including in the tumbling, stress the hyperextension of the back, with the ribs thrown forward. This is totally contrary to anything in ballet. They also use a great deal of over-stretching in their exercises, which we do not feel is safe or necessary for ballet.

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My 10 year old DD has had much the same experience as yours as far as teachers comments/class placement/obvious stage presence. Last year she was taking 3 ( 1.5 hour) technique classes per week, but no gymnastics or jazz. She did chess club, girlscouts and piano lessons and performed in two company shows w/many rehearsals. She burned out a little on piano and chess club by the end of the school year, but never ballet. I admit I have kept her out of both gymnastics and ice-skating lessons due to a combination of time/money/priorities/worry about injuries.

 

She took the summer off from everything to "just play with her friends", this fall she starts Level 3 which adds a pre-pointe class each week. She is starting to explore setting her own choreography to different styles of music which I find amazing!

 

Best to you and your DD!

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The bad news is that, generally, gymnastics is aided by ballet, but it does not work the other way around. So, in my opinion, I would rather see her add another ballet class.

 

I agree with Victoria that at this point the extra ballet class would be better than the gymnastics, but I'm not sure I'd agree that gymnastics is of no benefit to ballet. My observation has been that the girls who take gymnastics young and then find ballet, advance a little more quickly because they already have the flexibility, leg strength and core strength that is necessary in ballet. Almost without exception, in our studio, the girls who had the best leaps and flexibility at age 10 had a gymnastics background. Until they get into the pre-pointe level where they must start taking at least 3 technique classes a week, the lower level ballet doesn't offer the number of classes or the type of classes that will develop that flexibility and strength needed, unless you are in a serious pre-pro level school (IMO).

 

That said, there comes a point where the non-gymnast dancers start catching up, and that's when you tend to find out who is really more talented.

 

To reiterate, I see nothing wrong (and potential benefit) from a tumbling class (especially if you dd has any aspirations to high school cheerleading!), but if it's a choice, at this point, the ballet class would probably be better.

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This is an interesting topic for me on many levels.

 

For background, I have two DD's, both currently dancing at a well-respected pre-pro ballet school. DD2 is also a competitive gymnast.

 

When DD1 was 9 (at our previous studio), we were told that she was exceptionally talented in ballet and she was moved up a level as well as given the lead child role in Nutcracker that year (Clara's younger sister in this production as the Clara role is performed by one of the professional company dancers). A year later, after an overuse injury, she was no longer identified regularly by the AD as "one of the most talented kids in the school" anymore, though she did move up with her classmates to the next level of ballet (pointe), but was kept off pointe (at 10). Quite honestly, this was all fine to me because I didn't think she should be on pointe then anyway. Throught the next two years, my daughter worked extremely hard but always felt like she wasn't living up to the potential identified when she was nine. She grew taller but lagged behind her peers in physical maturation (i.e. she was the skinny girl with no sign of puberty), and it took a toll on her emotionally as did some other studio issues.

 

In our experience, "potential" and "talent" can be very much in the eye of the beholder. Even now, in the new school, there are some teachers who obviously favor certain students over others, while other teachers are very unbiased and would balk at the idea of identifying the potential of one student over the other because they have seen as many students succeed through hard work and dedication as they have through "potential." To be clear, though, there are certainly students who have more physical facility than others, but again, that attribute alone is not necessarily going to sustain them. My daughter, until recently, was "planning" a career as a professional dancer. At 13, now, however, she is weighing other options as the reality of what she has seen and experienced in the dance world sets in (on this board, you see it as "Plan B").

 

DD2 is almost 9, and was in a similar scenario at the old studio (as I mentioned in another thread). She is doing very at the new school, but I am glad that there is less "labeling," at least at the lower levels. They, too, would not move her up because of her age at the new school, but it has enabled her to really work on technique. She already has no problem standing out on stage, so to us, it's more important to build the proper technique. In her case, gymnastics has not been a hinderance to her ballet training. In fact, she gets the same correction from both her coach and her dance teacher--alignment! She does have a flexible back and tends to stick her ribs out, but that posture is not encouraged at our gym, so there is continuity there between dance and gymnastics. At her age, I would hope that her options are still very much open...and she is lucky enough to do well in a variety of activities, so my goal right now is to get her the best training we can afford for her!

 

More experience, less advice...maybe some insight for you.

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The bad news is that, generally, gymnastics is aided by ballet, but it does not work the other way around. So, in my opinion, I would rather see her add another ballet class.

 

I agree with Victoria that at this point the extra ballet class would be better than the gymnastics, but I'm not sure I'd agree that gymnastics is of no benefit to ballet. My observation has been that the girls who take gymnastics young and then find ballet, advance a little more quickly because they already have the flexibility, leg strength and core strength that is necessary in ballet. Almost without exception, in our studio, the girls who had the best leaps and flexibility at age 10 had a gymnastics background. Until they get into the pre-pointe level where they must start taking at least 3 technique classes a week, the lower level ballet doesn't offer the number of classes or the type of classes that will develop that flexibility and strength needed, unless you are in a serious pre-pro level school (IMO).

 

That said, there comes a point where the non-gymnast dancers start catching up, and that's when you tend to find out who is really more talented.

 

To reiterate, I see nothing wrong (and potential benefit) from a tumbling class (especially if you dd has any aspirations to high school cheerleading!), but if it's a choice, at this point, the ballet class would probably be better.

 

I definitely agree with cakers in that gymnastics training can be beneficial to young dancers and my dd had a gymnastics background before putting more time into ballet. My dd started concentrating more on the ballet when she turned 11 (3 technique + 2 pointe classes a week) and all of her teachers have said how much she has improved and grown as a dancer in the last year of dance. They are very impressed with her leaps, physical strength and flexibility that the gymnastics has given her. However, I do have to agree with Victoria Leigh, in that her "archy back" and gymnastics posture is somewhat of a hinderance to the ballet in that she still needs to be reminded and corrected. And I am happy to add that she has finally gotten rid of her "hamburger hands" LOL. My dd is currently competing on a rec league and isn't that high in level (about a level 5) so she isn't doing any really risky moves yet. And she also has decided that this upcoming year will be her last year in gymnastics so that she can focus more time on schoolwork and ballet when she enters 8th grade.

 

My dd has had the opportunities to try many activities as a child and it wasn't till this past year at age 12, that she decided that the dancing is what she ultimately likes best and wants to pursue. If I asked her that same question of what she likes best and wants to pursue at age 6 or 9, I would get different answers :thumbsup: LOL.

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I too think that at a young age, talent can sometimes be in the eye of the beholder, and so much can happen once puberty arrives. DD had a teacher who held her in high esteem at a young age, but in retrospect I wish I'd never known that. I appreciate that her current school does not create stars at a young age.

 

Get her the best ballet training you can and let the rest be up to her and her own hard work and determination. And I agree with Ms. Leigh - there are pages and pages here of great advice and conversations to be had. This site is a wealth of information from those who have been there, done that.

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Thanks for all of your comments. I admit I was taken aback in the beginning when her teacher began to sing my daughter's praises. I wondered if she often told other parents the same thing. Over time, from personal experience with my other children and from other parents, I've learned that the teacher is not usually overly encouraging. In fact, she can be so blunt in her critiques that many take offense. (This, of course, could be another topic altogether.) Anyway, she sees great promise in my daughter. One of my questions was whether early talent is an indicator of later success. It's good to know that things can change along the way, so that we don't get too starry eyed.

 

As we go along, I just want to give her every opportunity to grow into her potential. I'm excited to be able to have a great pool of experienced people to learn from on this board.

 

About gymnastics -- So far, I think it has been good for developing her core strength, and her ballet teachers never seem to correct gymnastics habits in ballet class. In fact, I think she moves like a ballet dancer in her gymnastics class, rather than vice versa. The only reason I hesitate to have her quit gymnastics altogether is that this is the first year that she can actually compete at meets. I'd like her to make sure that she knows what she is giving up. Then again, she is not at all competitive and says she doesn't care about going to the meets, so maybe it is my issue, not hers.

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At my DD's school I have seen many kids on pedestals at an early age only to face a hard fall when they fell off for various reasons (DD included). I have also seen ugly ducklings later emerge as surprise swans, and others who seem to be progressing consistently. I'm with the poster that prefers approaches that don't involve labels at an early age. Perhaps there is a critical age (maybe 12, 13?), however, when not to call attention to potential might result in a promising student's family missing out on certain opportunities?

 

I would really recommend the book "Talent is Overrated" for anyone interested in the topic of potential/talent. It doesn't apply perfectly to ballet (or sport), since so much of the physical aspect is beyond anyone's control. However, it is still a fascinating study on some basic ingredients that result in superior accomplishment in many varied fields. I want my own children to read it at some time because it exposes the myth that 'genius' is simply a 'gift' bestowed on chosen ones, and shoots down the argument "I can't do [math, writing, shoot hoops etc.] because I just wasn't born to it". The most extraordinary thing about superior accomplishment turns out to be an insatiable desire to perfect and practice beyond the norm (in tandem with expert mentoring).

 

And just editing to add that 'insatiable desire to practice' means over an extended period of time - not just a month or year of increased enthusiasm. According to research quoted in the above book it takes approximately 10,000 hours for the human brain to achieve a high level of mastery in most fields.

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Blanche, I appreciate you sharing your experiences. I have been concerned about my daughter being singled out by the teacher, mainly because I don't want the situation to foster resentment toward her from the other girls. I did overhear a comment through the door one day, when the teacher was scolding older girls for not being able to do something my daughter could do, and I cringed. Fortunately, dd seems to take it all in stride and doesn't seem to get a big head. I haven't told her everything that the teacher has told me about her, because I want to guard against her having an overinflated sense of her own worth. It hadn't occurred to me to think about the opposite -- what happens when/if she is not a favorite any more. I guess we will deal with that when/if it occurs. It's good for me to be aware that it might happen. Although I'm glad that the teacher confirmed what I suspected about her abilities, I think it's unfortunate that the teacher sometimes compares students to each other in class and fosters some competition among them. Favoritism is never pretty or helpful, in my opinion. I hear about the unhappy experiences of some of the other girls in the class, and even though my daughter is on the receiving end of the good comments, not the bad ones, I worry about the effect being in that environment can have.

 

As I mentioned before, fortunately, there are a couple of other especially talented girls in her class, so she is not the only favored one. I have talked to her about being friendly with everyone in the class and being encouraging to girls who may feel discouraged by the teacher's critical comments. I'm sure we will have opportunities for some good character training along the way.

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I am just new on here, but my dd has just come over to the ballet from elite gymnastics. She is 7.5 years old was training a huge amount of hrs. I took her to her first ballet lesson about 8 weeks ago to help her with her floor routines. Since then all the teachers and all the older girls couldn't believe what my dd was doing. The teachers have said that they haven't seen anybody like her since this other girl who is an adult now and that she needs to come over to dance. I have my doubts I do wonder if teachers say that to get the girls in so to speak. Anyway my dd is loving her ballet. I do believe however that the only reason why my dd might be better is due to her gymnastics. She is very flexible and very committed person. She still loves her gymnastics but loves the ballet more.

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My daughter's teacher has a well-deserved reputation for being tough. But recently she told dd that she has nothing she needs to improve. This was in the context of giving each of the students one compliment and one thing to work on. While I'm pleased that dd is doing so well, it makes me wonder. Shouldn't there always be things she needs to improve on?

 

I'm not concerned about the quality of the teaching at the school, but I'm wondering if it's a drawback to be at the top of the class. She is a hard worker, so I'm not concerned that she will just take it easy in class. I've talked to her about working hard in "easier" classes to perfect her technique.

 

I've wondered about getting an outside opinion about her. Should I just trust what her teacher tells me? She's the kind of person who bluntly tells things like they are, without feeling the need to spare feelings, so I know she is not just trying to feed my ego. Our studio requires students to attend their own summer program, so her chances to attend an SI to expose her to other talented girls -- and the instruction and evaluation of other teachers -- are going to be limited. At what age would seeking another opinion be helpful or even essential?

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daisychain - Is your dd at a Pre-Professional ballet school? I just reread your posts, and I'm sorry if I missed that information. If she is in an excellent pre-professional ballet school, and she at the top of the class, I would advise leaving her where she is. If that is the case, then she will likely move into more and more challenging classes in the future where she can develop as a dancer. If she is not in a pre-professional ballet school, and her main interest in dance is in ballet, then I would advise you to take her to a pre-pro school. As you know, having nothing to improve at 9 years old isn't realistic at all. Having nothing to improve at 29 years old even if one is a principle ballerina at the Royal Ballet isn't realistic at all, so for that reason, I would think that having your child in an environment where the teacher would be interested in challenging her would be to her benefit.

 

As far as going to summer intensives at 9 years old, that is not at all necessary. Later, in her high school years (and even in her middle school years, if you can afford it and think she is ready for the responsibility) summer intensives are important. At 9 years old, teachers are attempting to get the correct placement, movement quality, etc. into their students' bodies. Sending a child to other teachers to train in other methods at a young age can, in some cases, actually set them back because at young ages they are laying down the neurological pathways necessary to develop muscle memory, and that process can be derailed by receiving training that is different than their usual training. Once a child is old enough to have the muscle memory established, and to understand intellectually what they are doing with their bodies and why, then branching out and learning other methods (e.g. a Vaganova trained dancer learning Balanchine) is beneficial, and even necessary to his or her development as a dancer.

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Could I ask what is a pre- professional ballet? Also I don't agree that everything could be perfect. I think there is always something you could improve on. If your dd is finding it to easy couldn't the dance teacher give her something that is more challenging.

Edited by layla78
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"Pre-professional" is a usage adopted by many people as a rough synonym for "vocational track". I don't care for it, but it's passed into the language, and there's not much we can do about it.

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