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Ballet Talk for Dancers

wanting to give up


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My daughter that commenced full time training Sept last year suddenly announced a few days ago that she doesn't want to dance anymore. I can't get anymore out of her other than 'I don't know". Over the weekend she was telling me all the plans she has for herself and how she felt she was improving then this... I really can't understand. I gave her a day off as she was in such an emotional state that she could barely dress herself. The next day she went, but said her heart wasn't in it. She said nothing has happened ie. harshness from her teachers or the other students. She has been working very hard and doing her schoolwork via distance ed. Maybe she is burntout? I don't know and is especially hard when she won't talk. Has anyone faced this? I feel like wrapping her up in a baby blanket one moment then shouting the next (I do keep myself under control as I know it won't help). The rest of the family have made many sacrifices to support her. I just don't know what to think.

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ok I have some very recent experience of this as my 14yo DS did this late last year. If you look at my thread 'Crunch Time- thinking of quitting' you may find some of the posts helpful. I also have a very good adult friend who danced seriously for several years (Latin dance, doing her exams etc). She went to Argentina to take classes and came home and quit. Had a great holiday but quit nonetheless. Neither of them were able to shed alot of light on this but my friend said 'she just didnt want to dance anymore'. Nothing bad had happened, she just stopped. It was like someone turned a tap off somewhere. As a bystander I think both of these dancers exceeded their capacity and just went 'too hard'. Both lost their joy and it was liked their batteries dried up. Is that the definition of burnout? Perhaps. The good news is that with breaks for several months both have resumed but on their terms and at their pace. As a mother it just about killed me to 'zip it' and not pester my son for reassurance that he wasnt completely finished. In all seriousness I found it quite challenging to give him the power over this (if you read my posts you will see that I did force him to dip his toes after about 4 months but that is a whole other story.) I think that if I had tried to force him or somehow got mad he could have quit altogether. I completely understand what you are saying about all the money and all the time you have put in. My DS wasnt dancing full time but still, it was the dream that I found hard to let go of. Once I stopped worrying about that, the thing I didnt want to see disappear was his joy, his pleasure in dancing- something he is good at. My husband made it very clear to me that I was to 'bud out', that this is our son's life and that I was to not try and control it. He said that if he was finished with dancing like crazy he was finished and that was that. I knew he was right- that I couldnt be a stage mom but it was still hard to comprehend. In the end I just let go and agreed to a complete break for about 4 months. No analysis. At the end of that time we talked more, clarified his goals and what he wanted. It resulted in a toned down dance schedule at a different less pressured studio. He is very happy now and I feel so relieved. It was a great parenting lesson. I dont know if any of this is on the mark for you but I still dont know who turned their lights off!

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Pressure on children at this age is immense- they begin to feel stress from everywhere- merited or not- about the looming "FUTURE". "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Remember that question???? Sometimes it helps a child just to know that whatever she decides to "be", you will support her. It can be a simple as that, especially when there is not a big precipitating event.


Try reassuring her that she does not have to be any one thing, and that making that decision might take awhile. Tell her about your work history, and advise her to just work on becoming the type of person she wants to be. Reassure her that the rest will fall into place.


And then, let her take a little break. We all need that sometimes......

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Thanks Thyme and Clara. She is just 16 so I feel, rightly or wrongly that if she has a break and then decides that she wants to pursue a career, it will be too late and/or the school won't take her back. We also have the problem of her education, we moved into an area that enabled her to safely travel to and from ballet, but the local high school is not somewhere she would fit in - it is a pretty TOUGH place be. She will not be able to continue with Distance Ed if she is not in full time ballet. It is not so much the financial sacrifices (that has been hard) it is the time factor and all the emotion that has gone into supporting her.

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My 16 year old DD is also going through this. She came home from her summer intensive last year with muscle strain in both hips. That has healed but the pain has never completely gone away. The doctor just says she must live with it and the physical therapist doesn't know what else to try. This has taken all of the joy out of her dancing. She wants to stop but is afraid she will be so behind if she rekindles her love. How long can a dancer realistically take a break from ballet before it becomes impossible to return and dance professionally?

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Crystal heart, my DD has dealt with injuries & similar advice in the past. Although I don't know your situation I will say that DD's experience suggests that a few months of complete rest is much better than a few months of aggravating an injury by trying to ignore it. My DD lost almost a year following advice like you are receiving, and did not completely recover until taking 4 months off completely. She is doing very well now, a year and a half later. Right on track.

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At age 16, she may very well have taken stock of the depth of her desire, the level of her technique, the reality of how likely a professional contract is (or isn't) and decided she'd prefer to direct her attention to something she feels she has more control over. She is at an age where many young dancers do exactly that. And, honestly, that is okay. And you need to let her know it IS okay.


She may not be able to articulate what she is feeling or why she is feeling it right now, but I'm betting in a few years when she looks back and matures a bit, she will be able to figure out what she was thinking and feeling at this point in time. (One of my daughters at age 16 couldn't explain why she felt as she did about one of her closest friends and shut him out. But two years later, with a little more life experience and maturity of her own, she realized what she was feeling at that time was a fear of losing him as he was headed off to college and she was still in high school. She realized she had reacted as she had as a way to protect herself from that loss. As is turned out, they are are still very fast friends).


Give her space to sort her feeling and to let her explore other interests. If you insist and push, it may well do the exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve and she'll resist and learn to despise dance. You also must search your own self and figure out if her 'quitting' dance (I would suggest you view it as 'moving on', not 'quitting') causes you to feel YOU have lost something or have given up too much for her to squander or if your concern is truly that SHE may miss it. That really is a hard distinction to discern sometimes. We parents have invested a lot in our DKs training and we (typically) derive great joy from watching them grow in their training. BUT, we must be very careful not to get so invested in their training such that we resent their moving on or insist on holding them hostage in the training because, after all, we've 'sacrificed so much for it' and 'invested so much in it'. :flowers:

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I have a beautiful piece of furniture in my house. It looks lovely decorated at Christmas and not so good when strewn with mail. I believe some people refer to it as a piano...


I distinctly remember the lurch in my stomach when my girls wanted to quit playing. That feeling lasted several days until I came to the realization that I would not have to nag them to practice anymore, or schlep them to lessons that I was paying for. Fast forward several years and I can tell you that my girls enthusiastically embraced many endeavors and have discarded quite a few of them. As an empty nester now I'm wondering what to do with that calligraphy set, the clay carving tools, etc, etc.


I believe whole heartedly that these explorations my daughters undertook, successful or not at the time, have made them into the amazing, inquisitive and creative young adults that they are now.


So have no fear!! At least it was only a year, and I'm sure your daughter will have grown from it...and so have you. :)


Now, would you like to buy a piano?

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It looks lovely decorated at Christmas and not so good when strewn with mail. I believe some people refer to it as a piano...


:whistling: I would be laughing hysterically if this was not the thing I fussed at my family about just last night! :whistling:


I agree with others. Give her some space. You haven't mentioned discussing this with a trusted teacher. You mentioned a move. Moving for teens is incredibly hard. But so is dance at 16. It seems to be a pivotal and transitional age. Maybe a conversation with a teacher would help sort things out.


Allow her that you will give her a few days and on a set day, you will tell her where the car should drive....dance to drop her off or dance to unenroll her. While I am not a fan of mistruths in the name of parenthood, I will say that "Mental Health Days" are valid forms of the use of the excused absense rules in my book.

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LOL, Denipark! I have a very similar experience: http://dancers.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=24368&view=findpost&p=204210 Post #65


We still have the oboe and I still haven't opened it to check its condition. :blush: It's a reminder to me that it is HER choice to decide what she's interested in continuing. :)


(And, although, she still will play the piano, she will not come near the oboe and sneers when I mention anything at all about any oboe.)

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Your post was so much more eloquent Dancemaven! Let's just take away that we had good intentions...


I think an oboe hanging on the wall would be quite a conversation piece!

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Our piano, a baby grand, is just the right size to store the flat tutu holder! And the black cat likes to sleep in the center of the black tutu holder on the black piano. Very cute but impossible to photograph well.


I know a dancer who is successfully completing her first year with a professional company. She took six months off of dance at age 16 or 17, not because of injury but because she wasn't sure that was what she wanted to do with her life. She came back more committed and did not suffer from taking that time away from dance.

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Thank you so much for the thoughtful responses! CeeCee and Cricketmom, thank you for sharing your stories of those who were able to return to dancing after a break. I thought my DD's pace the last three years was too much, but she loved it so, that I couldn't refuse. After the summer, she has lost her joy. She still goes through all the motions, attending classes and performing, but she is genuinely happy when a snow day prevents going. We have talked about trying new things or revisiting things given up for dance. She is worried if she stops that her technique won't return. Thats why I appreciate the responses that assures me that if she steps back, she can at least return to the level she is now. DanceMaven, I hope that she doesn't feel that I am pushing her. I have nagged that she needs to try other things to make sure that this is the path she wants, but admittedly I haven't pushed. All I have ever wanted is that my girls find something to do that fills them with joy and that they love doing so much that it doesn't feel like work.


momof3darlings, thank you for suggesting a teacher. That is something I will have to give more thought to as I and my DD are quiet and don't talk to the teachers very much.

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as a non-dancer parent, one of things I have observed about the ballet world (perhaps it is like this in all intense pursuits but I dont know that either) is that there is a strong message of 'staying on the track or dire things will happen'. The urge to make sure our children have the best training at the appropriate number of hours each week. I have no doubt that this is important (I have sought this advice myself) but the flip side of the message is that if you dont do the 'right thing' (such as have a break for several months) you will never 'make it' (whatever that means). I think this is a dangerous subtext and can lead to a to fear taking a needed break? I can see that being a professional or serious dancer takes alot of energy, determination and focus. This is not a pursuit for sissies! The other message I hear is that ballet is a life long pursuit, one that takes years and years to perfect but in fact nobody is ever perfect. These two messages can be contradictory in the sense that long trips need breaks and rests along the way. We all need to take stock, plot our path and refuel. If their decision after that break is to keep going, surely the dancer is in a better place for the trip? Clearer, energised and likely more determined about what they want? I also hope that the resources we as families put into our children are not conditional on them going the whole way. I think we would all say that we do it for the process, not the destination? Otherwise we risk holding them ransom- that they have to do it because of what we have done. I doubt any of us (or at least very few of us) would verbalise that but I know I felt it. I wanted to say it- I wanted to say anything to save the situation. There are some very wise posters on this thread but perhaps most of all, us parents need to keep our agendas and needs clear in our minds. There was never any guarantee our kids would not change their minds. Life is very long with lots of cross roads and twists.

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I used to be a dancer. When I was 17, I quit cold turkey due to some disappointments over summer intensives. I was off for about 3-4 months if I remember correctly. Ended up missing it, did one last audition "for the fun of it",was accepted, and never looked back. When you train for that many years...the technique doesn't disolve away that quickly. It is surprising what the body remembers. I am an adult now, and though retired still just take class once a week. Not in pointe shoes anymore...those days are gone, but I can still jump full out, and have the same extension I did when I was dancing professionally. This is after taking a year off here and there and having 2 kids. Don't worry parents. If your kids decide to take a break, let them. It is not the end of the world. If they decide to go back, they will have to build back up the stamina, but it is possible. Even if a girl is out of pointe shoes for a while, they can get back to their original level if they are back at it full force with a new love for why they decided to dance in the first place. Sometimes, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

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