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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Guidance would be appreciated


balletsky

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Hello everyone. This is my first experience on this forum. I am really looking for help and guidance as to what to do next. My 11 year old daughter has been dancing since the age of 2 and 1/2 years old. For 7 years she took ballet as a main interest, jazz, tap and hip hop. 2 years ago she decided to switch to a pre-professional ballet studio. Since then she has gained tremendous technique in leaps and bounds. She says that she loves her classes and the program that she is in. She also says that she wants to dance. She takes 3 ballet classes with pointe a week, 1 character and 1 modern also a week. She says that this is what she wants to be doing. Now with that all being said...Her instructors have seen her look tired, fidegty, and no facial expression in class. They have said that she seems like she does not want to be there because of her facial expression in class. Tonight I was able to observe a ballet class of hers and saw what her instructors have been saying. Her technique is where it should be compared to the rest of the class. But her face showed me that she was unhappy and not really enjoying herself. It really sadened me to see my daughter look so unhappy. After the class I asked her if she wanted to take ballet this seriously, if she was not happy she could do other types of dance. She broke down and started to cry saying that I thought she was a bad dancer and that she wants to do this and take all of these classes. It is just so different than what her face is showing during classtime. I am so concerned and really looking for some advice. I don't know if I should pull her out of ballet or let her just take it recreationally. She told me that if I pull her she will never forgive me for the rest of her life. Is this normal? Should I just pull her out, even if she is mad at me for not believeing in her? Or should I continue to support her and just hope her facial expression improves. Please help. Thank you

 

Very worried mom.

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Also, she wants to study ballet seriously and refuses to let me put her in a recreational program. She is building on her technique and gaining strength. I am more worried about her emotional well being. She says she loves it, but her face says something else. Is this normal? Is she over concentrating? Is she just lacking self-esteem in the class? Or do I risk her being mad at me and just find her a new hobby?

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Hi balletsky,

 

Welcome to the forum!

 

Eleven. Yes, I have one of those- a non-dancer and a boy. After reading your post, my thoughts are that your daughter wants to stay where she is. Eleven year olds hardly do what they don't want to do- especially if you are giving her an out. So, if she says she wants to stay and she is making great progress I would just leave it be. As for the facial expression- who knows? Maybe she is tired, or concentrating very hard. I think if she really was unhappy it would be apparent in other ways... not listening is class, making excuses not to go to class, not progressing, not trying, etc. Try not to over-think it. You will know when she is truly not happy :)

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I have to agree with Beezus21. I have a 12-year-old and he certainly lets me know when he doesn't want to do something. However, every once in a while I would still ask her how she was enjoying ballet, or did she have fun at dance tonight- that type of thing- to keep lines of communication open. It sounds as if your daughter is very intense. Sometimes kids like that push themselves very hard, and the experience of ballet is not what looks to be "fun", but it is nonetheless rewarding to her. Some very talented kids are extremely self-critical, and feel compelled to continue in things that are very challenging to them. This could explain some of her less than happy expressions. Fidgety? I'm less certain how to explain this, unless she is impatient and wants to move on with the next part of class.

 

Hope you figure it out!

 

Dascmom

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Relax, balletsky. She is just one of those who really concentrates, and has not yet learned how to dance and express herself at the same time. She is only 11. Give it some time, and hopefully the teachers will be able to change this in the next few years. :) I would guess that you might see some changes around 13-14, but that could also depend on the teachers and also on what kind of performing she gets to do in the next couple of years.

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My DD is younger than yours (9 1/2), but want to share about her. I knew she loves ballet - dancing at home & street, reading about it all the time, somehow managed turn major school project to ballet related,etc. During the class, she does not look happy. However after class, she dances to the car with a big smile.

 

Asked questions here and there,find out a few reason. As others said, one reasons is she is just focusing to a teacher and technique she working on and cannot smile when she is doing that. Or, she is having a bad ballet day - she feels she is a worst one in the class or she is not improving.

 

For performances and audition, smiling is the hardest thing for her. She eventually performs with beautiful smile with a lot of facial expression on the stage, during the practice those are last thing to come. First she have to learn dance and comfortable with it. She look bored and tired. She is a kind of perfectionist, and she is very nervous about forgetting choreography and doing things wrong. After that, she showed smile (or sad face what ever photographer requires). As she grow older, and getting more experience on stage, I feel this process getting shorter..

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My DD is younger (9) but just using my iphone to video her lets her see how she looks. That may work. I've done this with her at home. We are not allowed to video at the studio...but maybe if you can it would help her to see how her facials look and are perceived by others. And I would approach this when she is well rested and able to take the advice. Good luck.

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Sorry I just realized I may not beable to post this if dd is 13. Remove if necessary.

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My DD (almost 11) is also one of those dancers who looks unhappy in class. She's not the only one and the teachers in all of their classes constantly struggle to get the kids to smile. Part of it is that kids are concentrating, but they all admit that part of it is that there are just so much more demands in middle school that it drains them. A t hird factor - which may or may not apply to your daughter - is that in DD's class, most of the kids have braces and they are just self-conscious about smiling even with all of those crazy-colored rubber bands.

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Thank you all so very very much! Your comments have been so constructive and helpful in helping me see the light. I was not a serious ballet dancer, nor even had the thougth of it in my head, so this is all very new to me. After reading all your helpful comments, I went and gave my daughter a big hug and told her how proud of her I am. I also told her that I understand now, thanks to you all, how hard she is working and concentrating in class. She is a gifted child (acadmeically tested) and this intensity plays a great deal into the other areas of her life.

 

I am so glad to have you all! Thank you!

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A suggestion.....look at some youtube videos of ballet classes, there will be (for sure) some girls with similar expressions then you can give her an example that isn't personal. Also a question; at my DD's pre-pro school the girls were told to not stare at themselves in the mirror, my ultra serious DD took that to mean "don't look at all" Lol, do you think she has been told something similar? My other question is have her eyes been checked recently? About a year ago I noticed my normally smiley DD frowning in class and low and behold she need glasses! Now with contacts all is smiley and serene!

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balletsky, your daughter sounds almost exactly like mine. My now 12 year old is a perfectionist, which isn't a bad trait for someone pursuing a career in dance. While she knows that complete perfection isn't attainable, she is constantly self-correcting in all of her classes, thus focusing intensely on her technique and less on her stage presence. About the only time you'll see smiles out of her is during rehearsals, very close to perfoomrance time, when she starts to feel as if she's getting closer to a flawless performance. But for performances, she really turns it on. She's pretty new at this pre-professional studio, where she has 5 days/week of classes, but at this point in the year, her instructors understand that is the way that she is, so they criticize it less.

 

Another positive is that during the first observation week, one of my daughter's instructors said that she was doing beautifully, and that one area of focus was going to be to help my DD convey her love of dance to her audience. In the most recent observation week, the instructor reminded the class to smile, and my DD turned on the show of her love for dance to the max, and it was conveyed genuinely, not fake.

 

Some dancers always outwardly appear to love what they are doing. Others, such as our DDs, internalize that and outwardly show their intensity and focus instead. But rest assured that if your DD didn't really love dance, the intensity wouldn't be there, and what you would be seeing would be a lack of interest and sloppy technique. Going back and talking with your daughter about how proud you are of her and how much respect that you have for her dedication and focus was exactly the right thing to do. I'm pretty confident that when the stage presence becomes a significant part of the training focus, your daughter will nail that as well. :)

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Balletsky,

 

I think it would be a good idea to have a talk with the instructors, though. You don't want the teachers to think that your daughter is unhappy or uninterested, if she is merely concentrating.

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Hi balletsky, I tried to send you a PM (I can't post here as a nonparental adult) to the effect that your daughter sounds *exactly* like me as a child. :) Can I contact you via email or through one of the moderators?

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If you want her to contact you, put up your email. You can disguise it like kylara at such and such .com.

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