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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Balance (in life)


Thyme

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hi everyone

this is probably a very vague and far reaching topic but I am interested in your thoughts. My 13.5 yo son loves dance and we are told he has the talent

and body to 'go all the way etc etc'. He isnt sure that he wants to dance professionally (assuming the stars align and that happens!!). He has all the homework

and other school commitments that 13 years old have. He dances 12 hours per week and has a very keen teacher who wants more! More! More!

How do we balance all this out? I read postings of children doing amazing hours of dance, leaving school early etc etc. I worry about burn out and injury but we

know (meaning me and my husband) that our son needs down time aka doing nothing but listening to his ipod and playing with his lego bits and pieces. There are only so many hours in a day, he has to sleep etc etc.

 

He may want to go for it and try to dance professionally but at 13 it is pretty hard to make that kind of decision in a real way. At this point he just wants to be the best dancer he can be. His teacher wants more! Yikes!

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My almost- 12 year old DS has had to pass on so many opportunities because dance is all-consuming. No basketball, hockey, swimming, soccer, etc, etc-- all of which I think he would be quite good at. It was a fluke that he started ballet so young before he had the opportunity to learn to love other sports. Nearly every day I wrestle with the fact that DS's life is so lopsided. He has done a bit of diving (although usually too tired after ballet) and a bit of Boy Scouts (although he falls behind his peers because he can't go on many weekend trips).

 

Tthe way I handle it is by asking him: "If we do basketball, you will have to give up some ballet. Are you willing to do this?" DS has always voluntarily put ballet as his top priority. So if he's happy, that is fine. He his learning at a young age that life involves sacrifices and you can't have/do everything you want.... (but I do wish he was more well-rounded...) I do try to monitor whether schoolwork is being adversely affected by ballet. He does get stressed at times because he needs his down time and then sometimes falls behind with school.

 

By the way, my DS dances 10.5 hours/week (mostly ballet but some contemporary) during the school year plus rehersals (2-4 hours/week) during fall and spring performance seasons. I don't know how a studio can demand MORE than 12 hours/week or regular classes.....

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yes I know (re wanting more than 12 hours)- probably 'demanding' is overstating it but 'wanting' would be better. My DS has drawn the line at another 1.5 hour classical class on Monday nights as he thinks getting home at 8.30 is just 'too late mom'. I agree. He has not done any other organised activities since starting dance, he never really liked any of them enough (except a gymnastics class which really helped his contemporary dance but this has since been dropped) and has never chosen another activity over dance either. It is really the amount of down time that seems to be at risk of being lost. we now defend this and make sure it gets planned for, that and hanging around with his Dad. I think that dance boys must easily lose time with their dads if moms like me take on alot of the dance organisation role. Not many dads hanging around the studio. Anyways thanks for your thoughts- to me this seems a crucial topic for all our children.

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Follow his lead. If he is saying, "Enough!" then, it's enough.

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Yes, it sounds so obvious doesnt it, when you type it all out! :clapping:Sometimes I (please tell me I am not the only one who gets a bit uncertain!) find the 'suck' created by the impetus to do more makes me second guess myself. You see these other kids really pushing it and they get lots of positive feedback from others. When you are the one who says 'enough' and leave early, an eyebrow can be raised (or at least in my imagination it can be). Anyways onwards we go!

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My son is also 13.5. At our studio I've found that the 13-14 year old girls are *much* more mature/focused/goal-oriented than my son. They are young women training to be ballerinas-- my son is still just a kid that likes to dance.

 

I've often thought that ballet teachers work with girls so often that they sometimes forget that many boys mature more slowly. By 14, girls with professional aspirations have to Commit with a capital "C". I'm not convinced that's the case with boys. As we did the SI audition circuit, I noticed most places had age ranges such as "ages 12-18 (21 for men)". The ballet world gives men a few more years to be ready, and I know my son will probably need that extra time! He's a good dancer with a lot of potential, but he is much more like the 11 year old girls than the 13 year girls in terms of his ballet commitment.

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Exactly slhogan!!!!!!!

 

It is easy to get caught up in the fever- try to avoid it as long as you can!!! :D

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I couldnt agree more slhogan! Recently my son seems to have become lost in a fog (forgetful, distracted) and couldnt make a serious decision to save his skin! Thank you for saying that because he goes to dance because it is 'fun' and that is about it. Career decision making? Hah! He has to remember to take his lunch to school first.

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My son used to be so forgetful, he once lost his wallet, including his driver's license, for a year and half- in his ROOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Don't worry- it gets better!!!!!

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The key is to let our kids decide when enough is enough. I have several friends at our ballet studio whose kids LOVE to dance every single day more than anything in the world, yet every day their parents are stressing about how they are so worried about how their lives are so unbalanced and they spend so much time trying to convince their kids to take some days off and do something else. They have arguments with their kids about this. So their kids are happy as can be but their parents are trying to convince them that they really aren't happy and healthy and that it isn't normal to spend so much time dancing. I always tell their parents "To your children it IS normal to be happy dancing every day. When YOU were younger whatever YOU did was normal to YOU. That doesn't make whatever YOU are trying to tell your child is normal, normal to your child. In fact, it will probably feel ABNORMAL to your child because it won't be what he or she really wants to be doing."

 

In defense of the teachers and ADs, I am assuming the sons we are talking about here are all at pre-pro schools, so the understanding from the school's point of view is that the kids at their school are considering a career in ballet. So they look at their job as doing what needs to be done to make sure the kids with the potential to do so can have a professional career in dance - that means putting in lots of hours at a young age simply because bodies are only young for so long and ballet careers start fairly early. But good teachers and ADs also know that they have to balance those hours with the understanding that asking too much too soon can burn a child out and turn them off. That's why the key is to let our kids decide what they want. This year my son's level didn't have required classes on Saturday but he could have taken a new optional Modern Dance class on Saturday. Even though he wanted to take the class, he decided he would rather have a free Saturday for once. Even though the AD thinks that the kids need Modern because all companies are doing contemporary ballet pieces now, she agreed that if he wanted to have his Saturdays off, he needed to NOT take the class because it is more important for him to NOT get burned out at such a young age than it is to take Modern.

 

From what I have seen, and this isn't just for ballet but is for ANY activity, at around age 13-14 (right around 8th grade to starting high school) it is very common for kids to decide whether or not they want to continue to pursue the activity or hobby they have been involved with for many years or not. Some of them may tone the intensity of the activity down and have it be more of a recreational thing, some may stop all together, some may give it up for an enirely new activity, some decide they want to give it up for the chance to have more free time and get to hang out and be social and see what high school is like before they decide what they want to do. Like I said, having gone though this with a teenager who didn't dance - and watching his friends who also didn't dance have similar experiences, I think it is a very common scenario at that age.

 

As someone else said, when my 10 year old gets upset that he can't go to a birthday party, sleep over, school event, join Boy Scouts, etc. I always tell him he CAN do those things - it's his life and his choice. But when I tell him he would need to choose between taking his pre-pro dance track or doing those things - he always chooses ballet. When it comes down to it - at this point anyway, quitting dance isn't an option for him.

 

As for the concern about the balance in life. Don't worry about it. I'm guessing that those of you who have that concern never had a "thing" like ballet that consumed your life when you were young so you look at it as bizarre compared to what your life was like when you were young. Normal is all relative. I get it because from the age of 10 to 16 I did basically nothing but Musical Theater. I went to school and then left for Musical Theater classes from 3:00 in the afternoon which I had until 7:00 when rehearsals for whatever show I was in started and rehearsals ended at 10:00 at night. I also had rehearsals all day on Saturdays. I went to Musical Theater Summer Intensives every summer where I was every Mon-Fri from 8:00-5:00. I had friends at school but my best friends were all the kids at my musical theater classes - that didn't mean I didn't enjoy school. And when I turned 16 I decided to back off outside Musical Theater and then do more of it at school and also become a cheerleader. But I consider my childhood extremely "normal" and never considered myself "unbalanced." I enjoyed every second of it. I have never looked back on my life as an adult and wished that I had lived a more varied childhood - and I didn't even go on to do Musical Theater, I went to college, majored in Biology/Chemistry/Nursing and became a nurse!

 

Your kids won't be scarred because they spent so much time dancing - there a LOT worse things they could be doing! : )

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What a wonderful post - thank you so much for your words of wisdom!

I couldn't agree more that the child should lead as regards balance but at the same time, I am convincing myself that not letting my son go to study abroad at a residency full time at 16 was the right thing to do !!

 

Only time will tell if that was a wise decision but I feel that a boy has the privilege ( as compared to a girl) of going more slowly in the ballet world and that the advantages of staying at home, having the support of his family and absorbing his own country's culture until the end of high school would be more beneficial in the long run. As has been stated many times, Ballet is NOT a sport and to be a good dancer and to survive in that world I feel needs more than just technique at a young age -he must be able to know who he is and for my son ( I am stressing here that this is just a personal opinion and in NO way a criticism of anyone else's decision) I think that the final 2 years of high school would benefit him in the long term. He is not totally convinced :wink: and only time will tell if I made the right decision but I like to think (if only for my own peace of mind) that I am not destroying his eventual career. Any comments on this would be greatly appreciated!

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Great advice- follow the child's lead. I think another good indicator is how the child feels about the winter/spring/summer break when he is off from ballet for a week or two. My son misses ballet if he is off for more than 2 days. At the end of the break, he is so excited about returning. If that is not the case, I might suggest dropping ballet for a few months. I am assuming that a studio would be pleased if a boy decides to come back with renewed dedication after a hiatus (one of the benefits of being of the rarer sex in ballet). If the enthusiasm isn't there, then the break may take the boy in different directions, which is OK too.

 

These days, all sports seem more intense than back in my day. It isn't only the ballet kids who seem to have crazy schedules. On weekends with miserable weather, I am often happy to not be going to 3 soccer games! And most of the kids in other sports realistically don't have a potential career at the end of the line- although the do have college scholarship opportunities rather than an either/or college/career decision at the age of 17 or so.

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Thanks everybody for talking this through. My experience is that my boy is different than the girls- bit 'fuzzy headed' and happy to go with the moment. In his clearer moments he expresses a desire to pursue dance beyond next week (poor kid he isnt really that bad! :huh: ) and the rest of the time he just loves his dance. He always works hard in class and is improving so we seem to have that 'balance' now which is the main thing! I love hearing about the other 13 yo boys out there- aren't they just the funniest things? Gorgeous. :clapping: Out of interest, can someone talk about th ekind of hours these boys are doing who are interested in possibly going professional?? My DS does 8 hours of technical (open, general technical and exam work), 1 hour of pointe, 1/2 private classical, 1/2 hour private contemporary, 1 hour of stretch... This happens over 3 days per week. What do your boys do?

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Mel Johnson

Why would he do any pointe at all?

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Well what I have been told by his teacher is that it helps to strengthen his ankles.

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