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Ballet Talk for Dancers

The journey


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I just happened to stumble upon this thread, because I Liked the title- "The journey." Thank you so much for sharing. Lately I've had so many concerns about my 16 year old dd, as her first year away from home at 2 different contemporary ballet programs has not gone smoothly at all thanks to injuries that took a while to be diagnosed and a lack of support at the first school (a larger, big name school) she attended, and ultimately needing to put the second program on hold until after she has recovered from her summer surgeries. It seems that you have weathered the storm, so to speak, and are able to look back on the trying times as all part of a journey that brought your dd to the positive place she is now. Right now, we are in the midst of our "storm" and are looking ahead towards the most difficult part, and we are hoping to end up where you and your dd are. When you are going through the tough times, it is hard to see it as a journey; it feels more like a whirlpool, sucking you down. Hearing your story gives me hope that this time next year, and hopefully much sooner, dd will be able to reflect on this challenging year, and appreciate her ability to dance even more than she did before this all happened. The difficult part, though, is getting through all of the time waiting for the surgeries, the not-knowing how the surgeries will turn out, the uncertainty of the time table for her recovery. Any words of advice, from Danceintheblood or anyone else, to put it all in perspective?

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I saw an interview on the golf channel and the guest was asked about how he could improve his already amazing game. His response was simply to "be patient and see what happens". As in golf, we need to stay in the moment, be patient and see how 'the shot' turns out. It seems so simple but is probably my hardest challenge regarding my DD's dance training and future goals. You can't control the future and the journey is about being patient and open. The future will come whether it was the planned path or something you didn't imagine.

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That is a great philosophy, Kristine: "Be patient and see what happens." I'll talk to my dd about this and hope that she can hear what I say and allow herself to gain something valuable as she travels on this rocky path. I guess what has stopped us from doing that to this point is that we both (maybe more so me) start playing the "what if?" game. What if the surgery goes wrong? What if she heals very slowly? What if she can't catch up with where she would have been? What if she's not healed enough in time to audition for colleges? What if she can't dance as well as before the surgeries?


I'm sure that anyone who is a dancer or is close to a dancer gets the picture. Performing their art is almost as essential to the dancer as the air he/she breathes. (I always thought that a statement like that was kind of cliche, but now I think its kind of true.) To be able to perform at the peak of their ability provides for a large part of a dancer's happiness, his/her peace of mind. That is why hearing stories like the one that started this topic really gives those of us facing a difficult time hope and maybe even courage. Seeing that it turned out all right for you makes us think maybe it will all be well in the end for us, too. And it makes us feel as if we aren't alone in this situation that feels so HUGE to us, but in the larger scheme of things, is just part of the journey.



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dascmom, here's what I told my DD (and me) when DD reached her senior year in a BFA program, poised on the cusp of embarking on an European audition tour, and sustained a 'routine' twisted ankle in class one day, a month later was facing ankle surgery, and three months later faced a career-ending second ankle surgery: Just remember, whatever happens, she will NOT disappear in a puff of smoke tomorrow. The day will dawn, you will find your next adventure, and you will be happy. (But be aware, too, that there most likely will be some dark and /or angry days).


Rather than having the opportunity to dance in a company in Europe--or anywhere else--my DD is preparing to start a two-year pre-med post-baccalaureate program less than one month after her BFA graduation. At this point, she plans to go to medical school and become an orthopedic surgeon specializing in dance medicine and conditioning for dancers.


If you had asked her last Fall what her plans were, I can assure you they did not include anything remotely associated with medical school or surgery. Nevertheless, the Three Sisters played their hand and this is where she is. And, I will say, she's very excited about the prospects of her new adventure.


So, all I can say is: Don't drive yourself crazy worry about 'what ifs'. Believe in a satisfactory outcome, but do remember that if it shakes out differently, neither she nor you will disappear in a puff of smoke if she doesn't continue on a dance track. There are other things that she can do. She just needs to be open and see those changes as opportunities to make a new adventure for herself. There is a big, big world out there---with lots of potential and with lots of adventures.


Best wishes on her surgery and recovery!

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Don't drive yourself crazy worry about 'what ifs'. Believe in a satisfactory outcome, but do remember that if it shakes out differently, neither she nor you will disappear in a puff of smoke if she doesn't continue on a dance track. There are other things that she can do. She just needs to be open and see those changes as opportunities to make a new adventure for herself. There is a big, big world out there---with lots of potential and with lots of adventures.



And let me say, that not only do I agree with dancemaven on this but I know because of what her DD has been through, she will make the best darn Orthopedic Surgeon with a Dance Specialist on the planet and she will never be without a long line of patients wanting her attention. She will be awesome at her new found job because of the road she's had early on and the detour she was forced into. I only hope DD never needs to see her in that capacity but has her as an option should she.

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Thank you, dancemaven, for your helpful words. I plan to share your thoughts with my dd. And I love the "puff of smoke" imagery. Yes, I think that describes exactly what my dd thinks would happen to her if something stopped her from dancing.


Please understand that my dd's life focus, as I'm sure yours was until her injury, has been 100% on dance since she was just a little girl. She left her high school and family, and now lives in the city and is schooled online so that she can get the best in dance education, her friends are all dancers, her hobby is to choreograph, and so forth. Reading your post reminds me that although I may not want to say, "Just in case things don't turn out so well with your surgeries, maybe you should take a couple art lessons", when she is home recovering, it might be the right time for her to pick up her instrumental lessons again. After being reminded that all music education is helpful in dance, picking up her drumsticks may re-awaken an old passion that she can focus on as she recovers, while not discouraging her from dance at all.


It must have been so difficult for both of you when your daughter was injured during her senior year of college. I can't imagine how she was able to refocus all of that dance ambition on medical school. Don't get me wrong, I think it is awesome, but your dd must be extremely well-adjusted to have been able to make that change without completely breaking down. At least that is my perspective, from imagining how my dd would react to that same situation.


I've always been a "what if?" type of person, and the best thing I could do for my dd is to try to teach her that whatever happens, we will adjust to it. Neither of us can know what is going to happen in the future, so it is best to be open-minded and prepare for different options. I guess that means that my dd and I have some other options to explore this summer so that her life isn't so one-sided. Because it seems that a dance career always depends upon the physical health of your body and there is no guarantee of a dancer living injury-free.

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dascmom, my DD's path was very similar to your DD's: she started at age 3, went to away to a residential school as a sophomore, transferred to a release-time program in another state/city as a junior, did her junior/senior year simultaneoulsy on-line, graduated a year early, moved cross-country alone to a full-time training program for a year, then entered an associated BFA program. The ankle injury this year in the first semester of her senior year was her one and only serious injury. Prior to that, she'd had some back issues that would be resolved with a little adjustment here and there. (oh, I forgot, she did have a shoulder surgery that was unusual and was the result of an injury she sustained in a gyro foundational class due to another student. But it was resolved and she was back dancing full out.)


Along the way, we did periodically explore what might come 'after dance'. She usually had some thoughts, but none were really crystalized. I was surprised how quickly her thoughts crystalized as a result of these ankle surgeries. Her surgeon had been a dancer until an ankle surgery ended her career and she turned to medicine. But she said she'd always been interested in medicine. DD has not---well, when she was two . . . .


DD has not had a math or science course since she was in high school and even then she wasn't crazy about them. So, this is a real step for her. But she has always done well academically and we always insisted that she apply herself and insisted on AP courses, even on-line. I'm sure she can do the academics if she wants to. It was because of her stellar high school records and grades along with her summa cum laude BFA degree that it was so easy for her to get admitted to the pre-med post-grad program. So, it IS important for the dancers to maintain their academics as part and parcel of the 'what if' scenarios. Because she would have that college degree, she was able to maneuver pretty easily at this juncture. Otherwise, that would have been the first step to anything else--and college admissions, of course, depend on high school grades, test scores, etc.


While your DD is home, she should start giving thought to what might interest her later. One never knows how soon later may come. 'What ifs' are fine------as long as they are constructive thoughts and not paralyzing thoughts. But you probably don't need to dwell on it. At 16, as long as the surgery goes fine, she has plenty of time to recover and get back in shape--even for college auditions, which are a year or two away.

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Because it seems that a dance career always depends upon the physical health of your body and there is no guarantee of a dancer living injury-free.


Because of the that won't be me type thought of many, it's easy to go by without thinking of Plan B. I think sometimes people think that a Plan B has to be a firm plan or that having a Plan B means you're not totally focused on success of your Plan A. I personally don't buy either. A Plan B is simply a thought process and can be as loose as an "I could be" list or as firm as a "I will pursue" list. But it can also be very strict: I will be a Nutritionist, or Dance Teacher. It is also ever evolving.


The key is that having a Plan B in thought is much like having a $20 bill in the glove compartment of your car for emergencies. You're not supposed to use it, you don't focus on the fact that it's there daily, but in an emergency (in this case detour), you can pull it's existence out of the stacks in the brain to remember it's there for you to use as needed. Thus allowing for the deep breath you need when you've run out of gas and left your purse with all your other money at home. While simplistic as an example, it truly is the groundwork needed to help a dancer through.


If your DD hasn't looked squarely at the "what if" of injury, don't scare her, but do guide her that it's not too late to understand that nothing is guaranteed tomorrow and that it's important for her to embrace the side of herself that is not the dancer but instead the human being who dances.

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Good point Momof3. Just wanted to add that most "plan B"s don't have the same kind of "now or never" time constraints that a career as a professional ballet dancer has. They can wait until later. (edited to make it clear that I don't mean people should wait to conceive the plan, but they can wait to pursue it.)


My husband and I watched the movie "Moneyball" the other night & there was a quote in that movie that reminded me so much of what our kids are told about their careers in ballet. This was spoken to a talented boy's parents by a major league scout:


"Unfortunately he can't do Stanford and professional baseball. He would have to pick one or the other. If he wants to be the center fielder for the New York Mets, he wants to be the baseball player, he really needs to accept this as life's first occupation, a first career. We're all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the children's game, we just don't... don't know when that's gonna be. Some of us are told at eighteen, some of us are told at forty, but we're all told."

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One thing that occurs to me reading all these responses is that these children are highly athletic, highly artistic, individuals, and that the better part of wisdom would be to also cultivate a plan B artistic expression outlet? As a freshman, my dd really enjoys math and science, and for the first time in her young life, has expressed a desire to study them at college at some point. But I regret that her equal love of the violin had to be abandoned at age 11, initially due to an impossible schedule, and now because there literally isn't a single violin teacher anywhere close to the school she attends. I think that is something I need to find a solution for. I know for myself that if I cannot find a way to be creative then my life becomes hollow. But that creativity can be expressed in many different ways.

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I had the same reaction to those lines in Moneyball! Recently, dd had the pleasure of meeting some of the Team USA Ice Hockey players and found out that much of their life is like a ballet dancer's. Many go away from home quite early in life to train, work far away from home and are an injury away from needing the plan B. Some of the players went to college, some didn't. Some make good money, some make great money but the earning power doesn't last forever. The fact that so much was similar really helped put ballet in perspective for dd. While she loves her job and is having success currently, plan B is in her closet and she brings it out and dusts it off from time to time but it's always there! During her summer break, she'll actively work towards the plan. I think everyone's plan B is different. For dd, she believes that when her ballet career is over, she wants to move on and wants to move in a completely different direction.But... she will always be a ballet dancer, even after her career has ended.

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On the topic of Plan Bs that are artistic careers, I have to add that this is frustrating, as artistic careers usually require many years of development. There is so little time to even fit core high school courses in well during these final years of training, that the art related courses, being electives, have to be after thoughts and be perpetually delayed. Next year, dd's level will have a schedule that begins at 10am and generally runs until 5:30pm. The closer the reality becomes that Plan B is important, the less time these students have to prepare for them. While dd shows aptitudes for other fields in addition to an artistic one, the second interest that excites her most, in her heart, still centers around design. No matter how often I try to offer other suggestions, she comes back to that. I know in my gut that this is what would fulfill her when, for whatever reason, she stops dancing and have known for years that she has a gift for it. Yet I feel as if I almost have to encourage her to choose a different Plan B, that is more practical and can be realized more quickly, given the close to non existent amount of time she has to develop another artistic one. Momof3darlings, it is good to hear your comment about the thought process being important to have, even if the actual work on the Plan B can't be achieved yet. I imagine this type of frustration must exist for many of us with dks at this advanced level of training. Do any others feel the need to encourage more practical Plan B's? Ideally, we let children pursue what they love and discover, as they grow older, whether they need to change the path to be practical. But this is already happening in the pursuit of ballet at a young age! I guess my comment is that for those with artistic leanings all around, the career preparation for Plan B is a challenge at this age and there is little time available for it. :mellow:

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Marigold, I agree that Plan B artistic careers are difficult to prepare for when completely immersed in ballet training. But I do know dancers that have maintained or developed artistic interests that have sustained them emotionally, if not always financially, post dance.

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Marigold, if the pursuit of a Plan B, such as design, takes time, so be it. In the grand scheme of things, it won't be a matter of rushing forward and everything doesn't have to be in place at once. Plan Bs still need to be something that satisfies the person, otherwise they will become bitter or unhappy. What is time but something to spend? The trick is to understand that certain foundations will provide pivoting points later on. Those are what must be attended to----like a good high school foundation. Everything else can be laid into place as needed, when needed.


Now, it may be that one can't prepare for concert violinist and professional ballet dancer at the same time and that, at some point, the ship has sailed on one career following the other. But, that doesn't apply to all Plan B's. They don't have to be instant. DD's Plan B begins with a two-year post-baccalaureate program, then a glide year. So, she's added three years to the typical medical school routine. Many have said, 'omygoodness, medical school takes so long and now she'll take even longer!!! Why would she do that?" Her response is simply to shrug her shoulders, look blankly at them, and explain that she spent 19 years becoming a dancer, so she knows she has the discipline and focus to go the distance.


Momof3darling's is absolutely correct. The Plan Bs don't have to be concrete and definitive. They can evolve as the person matures and finds their interests in life. They don't quit evolving and maturing just because they are in a dance bubble---at least, they shouldn't because they should be adding other facets to their friendships and life.


But, it is okay if Plan B takes a bit to implement. One just needs to not ignore that reality. It will come, one just doesn't always know when. So, be ready by at least having the conversation with oneself periodically. The ones that are left high and dry are the one who either never had the conversation with themself at all or kept putting it off and not really giving themselves the chance to have the conversation.

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Plan Bs still need to be something that satisfies the person, otherwise they will become bitter or unhappy. What is time but something to spend? The trick is to understand that certain foundations will provide pivoting points later on. Those are what must be attended to----like a good high school foundation. Everything else can be laid into place as needed, when needed.


This is so well stated! Yes, agreed that we are looking at young people who have been fortunate enough to have already invested so many years of their lives into something they are so passionate about and this makes the Plan B need to be especially fulfilling to satisfy what could end up being a sad ever-present void someday. There are plenty of people who are using college, itself, as a "pivoting point", depending on the type of college they choose, whether liberal arts or more vocationally oriented - so there is time, if we look at that age group, as an example... I guess we are so involved in making our dancer's training possible for them now, that it just feels like we need to help guide them to the path they want to take for Plan B's career, as well. We just do what we can now and let them take the reigns and see what they can manage with finances and education later on, as their siblings who aren't dancers have done, or will do. For artistic second careers, they will, as LovesLabor says, find bits of time to enjoy just being creative in their spare time (on their breaks from core academics :unsure: ) and that may be enough to nurture that interest for the future without spending three hours at a time in actual studio courses required for preparation for a design-centered career. I do recall visiting a noted art school once with another sibling and was surprised to learn they didn't require an extensive portfolio, just because they said so many high schools didn't have enough of a fine arts program to provide preparation.

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