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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Dealing with negative comments from peers


sagemom

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My 13 daughter is dealing with a lot of negative comments from her peers in ballet right now. She is a talented dancer that stands out and gets a lot of attention from teachers wherever she is. At her home studio, whenever she has gotten a good part or when she has gotten accepted into hard to get into SI's, all the little passive-agressive remarks start showing up. And now it seems like every class it is happening, even at a different studio (although the majority at this new studio have been really nice, so it is just a few girls). It is all said in a nice tone, but they are definitely not nice things to say and it is obvious the purpose is to cut my daughter down.

 

To give an example, my daughter was eating grilled chicken breast and a cucumber salad for dinner before a performance, and a group of older girls came over to say how fattening it was. My daughter remarked that she didn't really worry about fat in food (she is underweight despite eating well), and they said how her metabolism is going to change soon and she won't be able to eat that stuff. Later they came over to tell her they were shocked she was having a frozen yogurt before a performance, and then talked loud enough for her to hear about how the SI she attended this year really wasn't that good, despite being hard to get into, and that she probably just got in because of her body type. Now as isolated things, it seems like not a big deal, but this is like very day, and I would imagine it will start to wear thin.

 

The funny thing is my daughter is very quiet and would never brag or even bring up any of her achievements, so these girls seek her out just to be nasty, especially if she is by herself. It is often with older girls who I think are threatened by this younger student getting more attention. At her SI, there really weren't any nasty remarks, which surprised me given how competitive the environment was. Perhaps because the girls there were secure in their abilities? Thus far my daughter is most comfortable just blowing the comments off and make it seem like it doesn't bother her, but I am thinking she may need to stand up for herself. My daughter is pretty tough under her very sweet exterior, so I think it just ticks her off rather than wounds her, but her dealing with this every day from supposed "friends" really bothers me, and if she wasn't so strong I can see how this could affect her classes. Is this just part of ballet? I am sure this is just a teen girl thing, but have others dealt with this?

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Your post looks like something I could have written. My 13-yo dd is going through the same thing at her studio. Fortunately and unfortunately for her, it is from one girl only. The older girls at your studio probably do see your dd as a threat and are a little jealous about her receiving the extra attention, corrections. I completely understand what you mean about "as isolated things" they don't seem like a big deal, but when someone gets those comments on a consistent basis, it does get tiring. I hear this kind of behavior happens across the board in ballet, so our dds need to get used to it if this is what they aspire to do. There will always be people trying to get into other dancers heads. I think for the girls to survive, they need to stay above it all and just remain strong in their abilities. Hopefully, when the mean girls realize they're not getting the reaction they want, they will cease with this type of behavior.

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I would venture to say that it is not only in ballet that this kiind of behavior occurs in young teens, especially 13-14 years olds. This is prime time for the "Queen Bees" to come out of the woodwork and look to build their own (rocky) esteem by stepping on others. Often they choose the secure girls to 'abuse' and try to break them.

 

Good news is that most will grow out of it in a few years. Bad news is two-fold: sometimes they never grow out of it (think about some of the adults you deal with0 and secondly, there's nothing fun about being around them in the interim. It certainly doesn't make it right, but it does seem to be a matter of how girls (in particular) mature emotionally and socially during these middle school years.

 

These things, too, shall pass. Your DD seems to have a good attitude going in. She just needs to remain secure in herself and her outlook. She's not likely to change their MO for a while, but they will eventually get bored with torturing her without response, and will move on to more satisfying 'victims', i.e., those who react and cower and those that bow to their superiority.

 

My DD did neither and, as such, had some pretty miserable middle school years. Luckily for her, the Mean Girls were at academic school and her dance classes/environment provided the welcoming respite. So sorry your DD's Mean Girls are at the studio.

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MyDancinGirl

My 13 YO dd has also gone through this when she was about 9 years old. She was very quiet (well, before you get to know her) and she NEVER said anything back to these bullies. I think that is the key to the bullying and "nasty girl" equation. The mean girls and bullies seek out the quiet ones who will not say anything back. And most bullying and mean behavior comes from their own insecurities and jealousy. I gave my dd some responses to say back like "Wow, that was really mean to say" or "oh thanks for the info, I'll keep that in mind!" and have her smile and walk away. And you know what?? It worked. Just by the simple act of saying something back, told the bully or mean girl that she could not be "messed with" and that she wasn't going to be pushed around by them.

 

Most mean girls want to have the "last word in" and they will say mean things to other girls knowing that they will not say anything back.

 

My dd still does encounter some mean stuff but it usually comes from this one girl. It is obvious that she is insecure about her own abilities and feels threatened by my dd who is younger. Some kids just don't know how to handle competition. I told my dd that even though this girl will say mean and nasty things, take the high road and be sure to compliment her when you see her doing something good. That usually softens the blow a bit and makes the mean girl question why she has been behaving this way. This approach doesn't always work, but it usually works on the girls who are a little insecure and need to put down someone to make themselves feel better. If they get positive feedback back, then it helps boost their self-esteem.

 

Good luck to your dd and tell her to hang in there and to paractice some good one-liners back. They don't have to be mean or rude responses (because you don't want to stoop to her level) but you want to show the mean girl that you are just not gonna take it!!!

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and sometimes when the 'turn the other cheek' strategy isnt working, these horrible girls need a stronger response. I think that our girls need to be prepared to fire up and give something back- being nice all the time doesnt work either. I am suggesting a hierarchy of prepared lines here- rehearsing and preparing is essential here too. A strong pithy response with abit more steel in it is sometimes needed. Real bullies dont respond to anything other than a show on 'dont mess with me'- they dont understand irony. I wish I had been told it is ok to be assertive when I was a young girl instead of being told to be 'nice'. Something along the lines of 'why dont you shut up and go bug someone else' might serve nicely?

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It's so hard to bite your tongue when others are mean. As a parent, I lost sleep over the terrible behaviors we saw in middle school but now that dd is way past those years, maybe our perspective can help.

 

When our dd was 13/14, we saw the same behaviors. Sometimes the behavior was going on at academic middle school, sometimes at ballet school. Fortunately the behavior seemed to alternate and dd could find refuge with whatever group wasn't behaving badly. Middle school is hard but it does pass. DD is still friendly with her group from her academic school and with some from her ballet school (the one she attended while 13/14). Some of the girls from that ballet school behaved so badly that she has no interest in communicating with them-ever again.

 

The students from her ballet school (high school years) are her really good friends, Some were "mean girls" in their younger years but matured into nice people. There were a couple who remained self-serving and mean. By the time they all reached upper school, most of the kids understood that they were better off supporting each other during both the good and bad times. Now graduated and off to the corners of the world they dance in different companies but stay in touch. This networking is vital as their careers progress. Those mean girls, well ... would you include them in the network?

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This kind of interaction is present, in varying forms, at all levels of the ballet world - just like it is everywhere, so they will have to learn to deal with it. It's an interaction our girls can choose to be a part of (on either side of the equation) or choose to stay out of. For a while, it will seem as if they have no friends but that is better than "frien-emies". Once they've made the choice not to participate in unhealthy relationships, then it gives them a perspective on how to choose healthy ones. And hopefully, they'll figure this out before they start choosing partners for more serious relationships... I've come to see it as an opportunity to grow as a person and be more tolerant, outgoing and inclusive imho.

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Along the same lines, has your DD received the "silent treatment" from any ballet friends? Girls who have moved up a level while others have been left behind now don't speak or even look at the "less worthy" ones--they literally turn up their noses or avert their eyes, like they can't be seen with the previous level. Some were moved for ability, some for age, and some for all those other reasons we can't imagine. There are a range of girls 12-14 who are behaving this way, and its particularly hurtful (as we all know) when someone you considered a friend now no longer gives you the time of day...but maybe it's better than having to listen to the insults.

 

Good luck to your daughter! I hope things get easier!

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It sounds like your daughter is less bothered (outwardly) about it than you -- which I understand as mom. Support her wonderful attitude and continue to be an advocate for her if things get tougher for her.

 

It sounds like she is handling it beautifully, so (and this is hard) don't allow your emotions to become hers.

 

Best of luck to your DD!

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This kind of interaction is present, in varying forms, at all levels of the ballet world - just like it is everywhere, so they will have to learn to deal with it. It's an interaction our girls can choose to be a part of (on either side of the equation) or choose to stay out of. For a while, it will seem as if they have no friends but that is better than "frien-emies". Once they've made the choice not to participate in unhealthy relationships, then it gives them a perspective on how to choose healthy ones. And hopefully, they'll figure this out before they start choosing partners for more serious relationships... I've come to see it as an opportunity to grow as a person and be more tolerant, outgoing and inclusive imho.

 

Absolutely, Mira! I was trying to figure out how to say this and you did it so well! Those awful middle school years were good practice for the future in ballet but also life in general. It's good for our kids to understand that there are all different kinds of people out there and that some will not have your best interest at heart but that doesn't mean you have to change. DD learned that she can ignore/exclude the "mean girls or boys" in her life and surrounds herself with positive energy and healthy relationships. It just makes life better.

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Thanks Swanchat. Having seen some of this, I've learned to let go and let DD figure it out. Most times, it's really not that the person that your DD/DS might be thinking of as "mean" actually is mean. They might be having problems or complications that your child knows nothing about. Teenagers are just waking up to who they are and their "issues" and, well, it's complicated. Many of these dancers are under so much pressure to succeed. Often it's not that one is really "bad" - just troubled - so the more you can spread goodwill around, the better.

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This age group is something. Remember middle school? DD made it through middle school by staying out of the drama and being nice to everyone. The girls at her studio are like a big family. There is some jealousy, but it's a quiet jealousy. There is a 13 year old girl who is talented and really shines. She got a lot of attention this past year, and yes, the girls were jealous, but this girl is so sweet they can't be mean to her (which is a good thing). I suspect that girls who are serious about dance will have to learn to develop thick skin -jealousy, rejection, not getting the parts they covet, etc. It's a tough world.

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this girl is so sweet they can't be mean to her

 

This is the way to go. Not only will she have an easier time now but years from now when she needs to network, people will look forward to helping her. Additionally, directors will be told by this network that she's easy to work with. Not that directors only hire those who are easy to work with, there are divas too but it helps to be known as someone who will be an asset to the atmosphere in the company. I know it seems like light years away from middle school to company life but it goes by quickly. Those who master the "thick skin" (which really means minding your own business-not worrying about what roles others are getting) will be happier in their own careers.

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I have to concur with all of the latest thoughts and suggestions. It is very hard to accept the fact that the truly important people in your dancer's life (parents, real friends, good teachers and artistic directors) will see a good, hard-working student for whom she really is. If your daughter doesn't let them,the mean girls, destroy her self-confidence (and I personally think that you should always keep an eye on that), she will persevere, and the mean girls, . . . well, either they will come around and be embarrassed by how mean they were(and maybe even apologize some day), or they will pass by the wayside and probably won't develop into professional dancers or even college students who actually take their studies seriously. It's very hard to tell your child (or even oneself sometimes) that he/she really shouldn't let those people get to them and that what they think of themselves is most important.

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