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Dancers: Those who are told they "have it and those that don&#3


Georgia

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I have personal knowledge of dks who were told they "didn't have it" who have gone on to very successful careers in ballet companies. They did it through hard work and determination against all odds and in spite of those who told them they would never make it.

 

Those are exceptions to the rule. Every field has them. Hard work and determination alone is not enough.

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But that's the rub, isn't it. How does one determine whether they are the exception or the rule until they are at the end of the line?

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And what about the dancers that may not be verbally told they "don't have it" but feel it when they are invisible or ignored because of others getting all the attention? That is why I turn to BTFD because of the encouraging stories from parents of professional dancers that did make it despite some odds! You may be able to help direct of a course of a ballet driven dancer but you can't change it. That comes from within.

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Momof3darlings

You don't determine it until the time comes to cut the mustard so to speak. There are clues along the way for sure. (SI acceptances, scholarships, placement within student companies, eyes without parental blinders, etc.) But isn't that the case in almost everything? You don't know if you get into Harvard until you send in the transcripts. Heck, you don't know if you get in the local community college until you send in your transcripts. You don't know if you make the Olympic team until you go to the tryouts. You don't know if you are in the top 10% of your class until the last exams. So in the meantime, you do the best that you can for yourself, you are honest about your potential and where that might put you, and you continue to strive for more. And if you in the end, do not dance professionally, you use all that dance has taught you in the rest of your life. Reaching for a goal and having to detour at the end is not a failure.

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And what about the dancers that may not be verbally told they "don't have it" but feel it when they are invisible or ignored because of others getting all the attention?

 

I'm just speaking from what I have seen personally. My daughter went to many varied programs growing up. I am speaking about a relatively small group of about 25 students who are either working or in post high school training. None of these dancers were ignored as teens. They were all noted for their talent. There are exceptions of course.

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Georgia, I respect your observations but my observations are also that talent alone is not enough either. I've seen lots of talent burn out, change directions, tire of injuries and even a couple of principal dancers who suddenly quit. One who may be coming back and another who is going to dental school.

 

What we've seen are a lot of politics, influence and luck in this journey too. So if I were mixing a potion for a ballet dancer it would include: talent, the right body parts in the right proportion, determination, thick skin, nerves of steel, a good brain that learns quickly, emotional stability, blinders and earplugs to block the distractions and naysayers, a lot of money, well-connected and excellent mentors, a bit of luck and a good dash of life experiences to round it all out! And even then, who knows? Some won't find success and some will will find success without every single ingredient of my magic potion! All we can do as parents is to supply the best training we can find and afford, use our common sense and the dance student will figure out the rest. It won't be easy and it won't be a smooth journey but the lessons learned along the way are just as important as achieving the goal! :yes:

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I totally agree with swanchat's post above.

 

With regard to the dancers that "have it" or "don't have it" or are feeling invisible or being ignored, my own DD was one of those for whom some people ignored and others raved. It depended upon the biases and pre-conceived notions about what a dancer should be, or what the educators believed to be the most important factors at a particular age, and whether she got any help to become the best dancer she could be along the way. Because of the discrepancy in attitudes about her by the powers that be, it was difficult to figure out her future beforehand.

 

Nevertheless, I think that most dancers have both positive and negative attributes (whether they are physical, artistic, emotional, related to work-ethic, etc). Our experience has been that some of the dancers we know who supposedly "had it all" actually didn't. Many of these particular dancers had the facility but not the other factors which we know are so important to surviving and thriving in the dance world.

 

My own DD, who is going to perform in a world-renowned choreographer's premiere this weekend, would say that in fact, NOT being a chosen one was a blessing in disguise. She had to 1) REALLY figure out why she had to dance (not for any glory, but for herself and to share what she had to say to the world through dance) and 2) work VERY hard all the time (no matter the politics, the unfairness, the naysayers) in order to ultimately achieve her goals. She also is very lucky, but in her case, I truly believe that she created a lot of her "luck" by her perseverance, her hard work, her humbleness, and her intelligence in how she approached her life in dance.

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Georgia, I respect your observations but my observations are also that talent alone is not enough either

 

I agree. Talent alone is not enough. You also need the drive, work ethic, etc, and yes, a little luck helps.

 

My own DD, who is going to perform in a world-renowned choreographer's premiere this weekend, would say that in fact, NOT being a chosen one was a blessing in disguise

 

And a lot of dancers will say that being chosen was what enabled them to become a dancer. Some dancers are late bloomers and no one notices them until mid to late teens when they start to really take off.

 

I noticed, starting around the age of 12, my daughter and her friends would talk about certain dancers and how incredible they were. The teachers loved them, etc. When I would watch the class or performance, it wasn't always clear to me who these girls were, but all the students knew. That's why I would never trust my own judgment or another parent on who they think should have gotten the lead or the best part. Some of these talented girls quit around high school or at graduation. But many of the students who were identified earlier on, are the ones who continue to train or are already working.

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Of course some of those early identified students are still dancing but some of those not identified are too; just as some from both groups are no longer dancing. As long as a student receives excellent training, all it takes is one person- the Artistic Director of a company to notice them and hire them to be a professional dancer and then give them the opportunity to grow. It makes NO difference whether they were Clara or the Sugar Plum fairy in the school's Nut or the lead in the end of the year show. It makes no difference if they were a favorite of the teachers or told "they have it" when they were 12 or even 17. Sure, there are some phenoms who seem to be born to ballet and succeed but the true phenoms are few and far between (and some of those phenoms quit too!) As much as people think going to a certain SI or having certain roles in school performances matter or predict success or mean they "have it," it really does not matter (other than having the experience and the joy that those experiences bring). My dd has just started her 2nd professional year. She's been fortunate to have performed a lot already and her resumé no longer has room for summer intensive information and even some of the performances she did as an upper level student.

 

It takes excellent technique, artistry, musicality and a body suited for ballet to get the attention of an AD. Sometimes it takes a phone call from someone willing to donate money for this person to dance, or a phone call from a prominent choreographer who works with the company for a person to be hired (we've seen both) or sometimes a person of the right height and hair color shows up when another with those same attributes is now pregnant and leaving the company (luck). But the common denominator is excellent training.

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Momof3darlings
But the common denominator is excellent training.

 

Yes it is! It is also an understanding that no one has a crystal ball. If you can get the people who speak of "haves" and "have nots" to clarify themselves, then sometimes you at least have a reference of where they are coming from. Let's be real, it is highly subjective even among those who appear to have everything in place. The subjective part can come from those things that swanchat mentioned. But even before that, the underlying "why" of the communicator's subjectiveness can also be part of the reason for their perception of who is a have or have not.

 

As an example, 2 of my DDs first teacher was a former ballet dancer in the professional company nearby. Her oldest daughter went through SAB and danced for NYCB for a time. Her younger daughter was a fabulous dancer who had a consultation at SAB arranged by the older daughter in the early 90's. As it was repeated within the studio, she was told she would have been a candidate except for one seemingly small flaw. The family was devastated and how that then transferred over is that every dancer within the studio since then was held up to that situation as a standard. If the owner didn't feel you were a better fit than her youngest then you were put in the "have not" category for ballet because "if Suzie wasn't accepted because of this, then you will not be accepted because of this and that". The things they felt they knew, became the barometer they used to determine who might have a shot. Their barometer was flawed. For them, DD was a "have not" while everyone else was telling us that there was potential. Most of the dancers in the same class as DD1 there, left around middle school to go to other studios. Some went to more jazz and tap based studios, some to larger pre-pros where there were more performance opportunities and a better track record of placing professionals. Of that class, most of them danced in some capacity post high school, yet according to that teacher they were "have nots". I'll note that the other two teachers within the school did not feel this way about that class, they spoke often of the enormous potential within it. They might have still had their "haves and have nots" but they seemed to be based on completely different things and also did not use that knowledge within the class to label the students within it. The studio we left this one for had a greater understanding of all that ballet technique could help students achieve and therefore, there was far less of the imaginary placement that we sometimes pick up on as "haves and have nots".

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Even schools with excellent track records of graduates who audition successfully for contracts in professional ballet companies, there are always a few surprises. DD's school has a near 100% record of graduates who dance professionally and they choose their students from a large pool of applicants. They are selective so in theory, these students should all be the "have it" crowd. Every year though, there are a few students and even some of the "favorites" in each class who seem to struggle to find contracts. Mind you, these are all well-trained students who have what's thought to be the right stuff to dance professionally- so why do a few struggle to find jobs? Perhaps another of the students auditioned first and was given the only contract, perhaps the company director is making alliances with another school, perhaps the student auditioned during a full-moon and they were looking for a half-moon dancer.... it really eludes reason sometimes. While it might be flattering to hear that your dk "has it, or doesn't have it" I wouldn't read too much into it. It would be nice to know that these statements are accurate because we parents could stop worrying so much but as Momof3 says, there is no crystal ball in ballet (or in life, for that matter.)

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I have three more questions along this thread. (I hope I am not straying too far off topic.)

 

(1) At what age does/should a teacher determine whether a dancer has it? It seems to me that a lot of teachers make that decision of their dancers when they are around age 14 or 15. I find that incredibly young. The body, the mind, the spirit go through so many changes at that age and forward. Why would anybody even bother asking if someone has "it" at that age?

 

(2) It seems to me that there are many complaints about teachers focusing corrections and attention on the girls who have "it". Why? The classes are an 1 1/2 long, 5 to 6 days a week usually. Why can't the teacher spend time with all the students in her/his class? Why are some students in the class made to feel invisible or deemed unworthy of corrections? What is in the teachers' heads that makes them act this way? If you are a teacher, why not teach everyone in your class?

 

(3) Why is the assumption by some ballet teachers/schools that their students' goals are to work at a company? I am thinking in particular of a heavy girl actor/dancer from the tv show "Bunheads." She is a beautiful ballet dancer but much too heavy for most ballet companies and some SIs. Her ballet training helped her get a great job. Yet, I am sure there are some dance schools/teachers who would not have given her the time of day or even let her into the school.

 

As so many have written, the study of ballet can help a dancer in many dance and non-dance related fields. If that really is the belief, why so much emphasis on body size or "it" factor? Why not just teach all those who want to learn?

 

I do know there are many excellent, generous teachers, thank goodness! But this forum is filled with complaints like the teachers I have described. To be blunt, what gives? Any insights?

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Momof3darlings
Every year though, there are a few students and even some of the "favorites" in each class who seem to struggle to find contracts. Mind you, these are all well-trained students who have what's thought to be the right stuff to dance professionally- so why do a few struggle to find jobs?

 

Yes, but sometimes in those cases, it is the students and their belief system about where they should end up dancing that stiffles them. In other words, for some of them, they have decided that the company list that they find acceptable for them is narrow. So when jobs are not available (or not offered) in those companies (the proverbial small fish in a big pond) instead of having believing that it's okay to be a big fish in a small pond they determine that that is not a worthy road to take and move on. In that case, the journey has not forsaken them, they have instituted choice.

 

Curandera--in answer to your questions from my perspective:

 

1) all along the way and sometimes it changes as the student changes in look, focus and ability which it should. I was an A+ honors student in math until college and then.........something changed. :) This is why you see us around here when someone goes overly global about how well their 10 year old is doing, saying see you at 13, 16 and again at 17. Things change, people change and so should the teacher's belief system.

 

2) I was always taught as a student that corrections were given to those ready to make the change immediately and fix things. I believe however, that a good teacher will correct all their students from time to time. Key though is that many a teacher corrects the students they see making the changes. So sometimes that means that a cycle starts where the better students in the class actually make the corrections and therefore also get more. I was also taught that corrections spoken while looking at one student applied to the entire room. I believe you do have to accept that in some schools. However, I still believe that a good teacher will correct every student, but not necessarily every day.

 

3) That is not necessarily the belief of every school. However, if you are in a pre-pro school, the definition of that is a school that can prepare students to the level of becoming a professional. So in some respects if you are in high school and at a pre-pro there is an assumption that dance means something more to you than the average person at a regular old dance studio that offers a ballet class or two. The other students that danced at the studio where DD took over the years that might not have been ballet fits, certainly were able to use that level of dance training to take them forward in dance. Some on Broadway, some on Cruise ships, some went to ballet colleges, some dance modern and some contemporary. The key is that without the teacher teaching at the level to make them professional in ballet, they likely wouldn't have found the other so easily.

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Here's one more thing. Am I imagining it? It seems to me this favoritism for the girls that have "it", to the exclusion of the other dancers in class is more prevalent in ballet schools than in other types of dance. (CAVEAT: Truth be told, we have only been to one pre-professional dance school. I am basing this statement on what I have read here on BT4Ds, especially the SI forums, conversations my dd has had with her ballet friends and conversations I have had with other ballet moms and other forums.)

 

My dd has taken a lot of other types of dances over the years: recreational dance (jazz, lyrical, hip hop, tap), workshops, conventions, guest choreographer classes, open classes for professional dancers (they let her in as long as she stayed out of the way).

 

And frankly, we've never seen this "it" behavior anywhere else. There have been favorites, but again, not to the exclusion or limited teaching, correcting and demonstrating to the rest of the class.

 

It has been a struggle to understand this behavior.

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iceberg*lover

[ As it was repeated within the studio, she was told she would have been a candidate except for one seemingly small flaw.

 

 

Now I'm curious,,,,what was the flaw??

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