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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Glasses on stage?


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My dd is 9 years old. She has been taking ballet since she was 5, and is currently the youngest student in her studio's pre-pro program, is a strong student, and takes about 9 hours of class every week including being a teacher assistant in a Level 1 class. The studio she attends is affiliated with a large private university.


My dd also has a hereditary myopia (near-sightedness) problem - both parents have severe myopia. As of this October, her near-sightedness progressed to -4.5 diopters, which roughly translates into 20/400 in Snellen. As a reference point, 20/200 is considered legally blind without correction, so dd's vision is a little worse than legally blind without glasses. She is currently seeing one of the best optometrists in our town who prescribed wearing bifocal glasses, wrote her a prescription to wear glasses on stage, and said that she is too young to contact lenses. I am happy to buy contact lenses once her doctor approves it.


Our studio does not put a Nutcracker on, instead opting for a single end of year performance. My daughter auditioned and danced Nutcracker through the Moscow Ballet program instead. The auditorium where she danced is a union shop, and they asked the company to accommodate once I presented the prescription. Moscow Ballet considered the issue and allowed glasses on stage - she was in a group scene as well as danced a solo. We secured the glasses (small wire brown frame) to prevent any possibility of them falling on stage, and there were no issues.


I have been in discussion with our studio since October regarding this issue as well, and they refuse to budge. Finally, last week I filed a petition for disability accommodation through student services (since the studio is not free-standing and the university takes federal funds, they are accountable through ADA). We filed all the paperwork and are now waiting for the resolution. Has anyone else gone through similar processes? If so, how did it work for you? If we are unable to resolve this issue and find ourselves transferring to another studio, how would you handle that situation in the new studio?


I guess I just have jitters while awaiting what they decide to do. My kid is a good, strong dancer who loves participating in ballet, and I would have to see her lose that outlet because her retina is shaped a little differently than average. I would love to collect some experiences here. Thanks for your reply.


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  • dancemaven


  • buzzandmoo


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  • Katya


Personally, I would get a second opinion. My DD started wearing disposable contacts for dance class only, at age 9. I had to help her initially with putting them in and taking out, but boy what a difference! She is now 12 and for the last 2 years she has been doing it on her own. If your DD is serious about ballet she will have to go this route eventually. Good Luck!

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I think the issue might be the bifocals, as far as I know they don't really come in contact lenses. Our optometrist also sees increased incidence in eye infections when children start the lenses too soon. I will definitely raise the issue of disposable contacts during our next visit.

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Katya, I just got bifocal contact lenses after wearing regular contacts for nearsightedness for 35 years. When I hit middle age, I discovered I couldn't see up close like I used to. And, in fact, one of my eyes is -4.5 diopters (the other is -4.25). Honestly, I wouldn't say that the bifocal contacts get my eyesight anywhere near 20/20, but they do help. I agree with buzzandmoo about getting a second opinion. There are lots of new advances in ophthalmology. If you are close to a university-based doctor, I would go that route. I would also make sure she sees an ophthalmologist rather than an optometrist. An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor and has more experience with research.

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While not as myopic as your daughter, my daughter also needs glasses and has been wearing disposable daily contacts for ballet since she was 10. Glasses are not even an option for her on stage.

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Here is my concern - the doctor that my daughter is seeing a professor of pediatric ophthamology in our medical school, which has a high national ranking. She is a senior attending in one of our area hospital, as well as someone who has been voted Top 10 Doctor of the Year in ophthalmology. She says that contact lenses are counter-indicated at this point.


I could go shopping around for a second opinion, but it would be hard not to feel that I am disregarding reputable medical opinion to please the ballet teachers, whose primary concern is esthetics on stage. Our doctor thinks we need 2 more years in glasses.

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My DD wore glasses since ---oh, I can't even remember--pre-school? It made a huge difference when I realized how poor eyesight must have been prior to getting those glasses. Unfortunately, she inherited my eyes, I guess. Double astigmatism and pretty much in the same locations as mine. I wore hard contact lens since I was 13 years old. She started wearing contacts (semi-permeable) when she was about 9 or 10. Prior to that, she danced in Nutcracker on a union stage for several years. The dust in the green room and the theatre was always getting in her eyes once she got contacts.


That being said, your DD's eye issues are different than my DD's. I, like you, would respect the doctor you are seeing. That is a rather specialized area, I would say. So, I would consider the other issue more at hand, i.e., wearing glasses on stage.


Now, I am quite aware that when all is said and done, it is preferable not to wear glasses on stage---for aesthetic reasons. But, jiminy christmas! This a spring performance of a young dancer studio--not a professional production. Personally, I think your studio folks are being ridiculous. What exactly is their reasoning/rationale? It can't be just because it is a union house (my DD danced on a union house stage for several years in glasses). Glasses are often props in musicals---with dancing.


I would definitely pursue the ADA angle. I think they are being absolutely ridiculous!!!

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If I may add one more observation......my vision was identical to your DD's at the same age, but never was there a use of bifocals. Contacts were not an option and ballet was out for me by age 11, partially due to my inability to learn to spot correctly in turns (among other things! LOL). It was here on this board that I learned that it wasn't so much a lack of talent at age 11 that prevented me from spotting correctly but my glasses. After reading that on this board, I RAN to the eye doctor for my DD, thus the contacts. We have never had an infection and she rose to the responsibility in ways I never imagined. It is not just an esthetics issue; glasses are an imperfect correction. Contacts are the closest to normal correction you can achieve without Lasik.

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Depending on the ADA ruling, perhaps your doctor might let your DD wear a trial pair of contacts for the course of the show. If push comes to shove, ask if you could run your DD up to the office a day or two before the show so the doctor could insert the lenses and then run her back after the show so the doctor could remove the lenses and dispose of them. Most lenses these days can be worn for a week without removal without fear of infection, and that seems to be your doctor's primary concern. I respect that because sometimes kids that age aren't as meticulous with personal hygiene as they need to be.

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DanceMaven - thanks for your support. Actually it was the union who ran the stage for the Moscow Nutcracker which was immediately supportive of glasses on stage and overruled any objections by the studio that trained the participating child dancers.


The home studio's stage is the main auditorium in the university, and it's not union-based - this is why I even have to go through this process. I also think the studio is being unreasonable, and sending the wrong message to other students - "Oh, Katya's dd is a good dancer, but she can't dance with us on stage because she wears glasses".


Is that what they plan to tell other students if they take her out of production now, well into rehearsals?


Buzzandmoo, the spotting is definitely a consideration, also something I was unaware of until starting to read this board. Right now, the kids in my dd's level are just advancing from half-turns to full turns, and they are likely to progress over the summer. However, this is also the first year that my daughter's eyesight stopped falling a diopter a year - we switched to this distinguished optics professor, and she said that sometimes carefully chosen bifocals will slow myopia progression. I am SO RELUCTANT to mess with it - dd had these glasses since October, and she can still see the board in late April. This has not happened since she was 6 years old.


Mamatomary, thanks for the advice - hopefully I won't need to take it, but I will keep it in mind.

Edited by Katya
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My ophthalmologist will not condone sleeping in contacts---not of any kind, not of any duration. Many won't. One daughter wears CRT lens for diving (no lenses during the day, CRT lens at night during sleep. Hers is a pretty much off-the-shelf regular contact lens prescription. My ophthalmologist will have nothing to do with CRT lens. But the kid dives off a 10-meter platform; she needs to see! :) So, her original optometrist deals with her lenses.) My sister used lenses that one was suppose to be able to sleep in. When she woke up one morning hardly able to open her eyes and with great pain while we were on vacation, the ophthalmologist she went to told her he didn't care what the manufacturers say, he didn't feel any contact lenses was appropriate for overnight wear.


Secondly, given the extreme prescription of Katya's DD's eyes, I doubt they could even fit a pair of bifocal contact lens in a short period of time, or in disposable lens, or at a price that would be remotely reasonable for a couple days. I had bifocal lenses for years due to my double astigmatisms. It was tricky fitting them; getting them to sit just right and spin appropriately; and finding the manufacturers that could accommodate the prescription. Eventually, they were never right and after a year, I gave in for Lasik (unfortunately just before they could also correct nystagmus. :( )


Also, it sounds like her ophthalmology specialist has things well under control and is training her DD's eyes. Remember, this is a 9-year old's eyes and the structures have not yet reached a 'set' or equilibrious state---eye prescriptions and needs can change radically at these ages. Mine often changed as a child; almost never once I hit high school/college.


Rather than monkey with the health of a 9-year-old's eyes, I think the better path is pursuing the ADA angle and dealing with the ridiculous and insensitive stance of the studio folks.

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My sympathies! If it helps at all, my parents were told that I would be legally blind with correction by high school because of how often my prescription needed to be changed. That did not happen though! The summer after high school I finally went out and got contacts and never needed an adjustment after that. Because of my history I watched my kids like a hawk and at the first squint they went to the eye Dr. The contacts worked for my DD in a multitude of ways but every situation and set of eyes are different. Good luck!

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Before my dd got contacts at age 13, she wore the most inconspicuous glasses that we could get. They were 'frameless' with just a small wire bridge and wire ear pieces (whatever those side pieces are called). I also got the anti-glare coating so that they would be less likely to reflect light. Maybe next time you get glasses you could check into something like that.


I hope this works out favorably for you--good luck :)

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Well, since our school got our ADA paperwork and is thinking HARD about it for a few days, I went ahead and called their two primary competitors without naming our school, but stating our issue. Both immediately said they would accommodate a child on stage with glasses in this medically indicated situation. While the commute would be less convenient, both schools are actually stronger for ballet training than our current home studio.


I think we are very likely to switch in the fall or possibly even take the summer intensive elsewhere unless our school tries to make some amends and in-roads. I do not want to fight this battle for every performance, or wonder whether dd would be treated the same by the teachers after this fistfight.

Edited by Katya
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We also say no glasses on stage for students in professional productions. We don't have a school, but I guess if we were threatened with a lawsuit, we would comply -- and we would probably not like it very much.*


Your child is your primary concern, though and you should always have her best interest in mind. Being litigious is sometimes the only option, but one I would've probably avoided. It is a small ballet world in some communities.


(The "not like it very much" part means we wouldn't like being sued; no judgment on children who wear glasses. It is an aesthetic issue -- as is so much of what comes into play when casting for any ballet. I agree studio shows are a much different animal than professional productions using students, though. They should be a bit more accommodating, as I imagine your audience is primarily parents and family .... but still no one likes being sued -- that is probably a fair statement.)

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