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Ballet Talk for Dancers

When to persevere and when to throw in the towel


iceberg*lover

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Recently my dd received results from an audition for a school show and the role she was(not) cast was quite devastating to her. All her classmates/peers (at least the tall ones like her) got a particular role in an ensemble, whereas dd got the understudy. She was literally dumbfounded, and actually believed there was a typo. Blindsided is the word, as she believed that she was doing well.

 

Quick backstory: this is dd's first year at a true pre pro ballet school. She is newly 15. Prior to this, she was at a recreational/competitive school that, as I know now did not offer nearly enough quality ballet instruction to prepare her for this. She was put on pointe at age 12 with 2 1 hr ballet classes a week ( one hour was always used to rehearse for competitions) and 1/2 hr a week for pointe. But she did really well with her ballet solos at competitions, so we sent her to a SI last summer and then got an invitation to attend year round, which she did.

 

Anyways, she did ask why she got cast as the understudy and was told it's because she's weak at pointe. If she works hard next year she might get the role then. She has a ballet body, beautiful feet, is her classes best turner and has gotten very flexible.Is the lack of strength at pointe due to her lack of previous proper training? I am just concerned that she is 15, and is it too late for her if she is behind now will she ever catch up??

 

I have received very little feedback from the school (progress reports go out mid-June) one teacher has informally told me that she's not working hard enough and another told me that she has made incredible progress but has not caught up to her peers. We have had many serious conversations in the last couple days about how it is important for her to give 100% all the time and to start doing strengthening exercises at home. She loves her classes, loves ballet and dancing but this has been very humbling for her. She has vowed to work harder but I am doubtful. Not of her, but just of this journey we have taken.

 

So is this poor casting an indication of her ability as a dancer or to be totally expected considering her backstory?? She is obviously not one of these kids who whiz through the levels but when is the progress too slow?

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I'm sure that parents with much more wisdom and experience than I have will weigh in soon, but I thought that I would just give you a quick reply and hopefully offer some reassurance!

 

While a casting decision like that can be very, very disappointing I would not make too much out of it. While it may seem to you and your daughter that she is progressing slowly, really she has only been getting proper training for one year - and that is really not very long at all. And there are so many other things that are happening for dancers around the ages of 14-15 (growth spurts, puberty, etc.) that can add other challenges to the mix. If she is still loving dance, and still willing to put in the work please don't throw in the towel yet! She obviously has a great facility for dance, and as long as she is willing to do it and you are able to support her, I would keep moving forward.

 

Good luck!

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This is absolutely not at all the time to throw in the towel! It is probably the best thing that could have happened to her. She came from a totally different kind of school, and has only been at this one about 9 months. It's a wake up call and she will learn a great deal from this. Just because she possibly has a great deal of talent and potential, she has not yet put in the work that the others at her level have, and it is not at all surprising to me that she is not cast at their level in her first year there. That also does not mean that she cannot achieve what she wants to achieve, only that it is not an instant thing and she has some catching up still to do. She will need to work harder and earn her way into the ranks at this school. If she wants it, it sounds like she probably has the ability to do it, and giving up now would not be the way to do that.

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First of all, kudos to your daughter and her vow to work harder! I'm in agreement with ddsbiggestfan and Ms Leigh. If she is really enjoying dancing and getting the best training possible, then why throw in the towel? If your child had been on her high school basketball team and sat on the bench for a lot of the games, would you have pulled her out even if she was having a good time? No. Because if they love it, they will work hard at it. Fifteen is still young and she has time to improve. Please, please, please, ignore the casting. Someone will always be disappointed in the casting and it is painful, but that's part of being a ballet dancer. She needs to be able to absorb this disappointment and move on. (And it sounds like she has with her vow).

 

As far as feedback is concerned, you have already heard from 2 teachers with different assessments. Perhaps after your dancer receives her progress report, she can talk with her teachers and ask specific questions if not answered in the report: What areas do I need to work on? Do I need to do some pilates for strength and how often? Can I take extra classes or lower level classes to improve technique and pointe work? Then follow the recommendations. They are the experts and you need to trust them.

 

Also remember, you are your daughter's biggest fan. Encouragement and optimism from you will go a long way in helping her confidence in trying to achieve her goal. Enjoy the ballet journey with her. It's not the final destination that is important. It will be the trials and tribulations that you two face together that will be the most rewarding when looking back in the years to come.

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Thank you all for your input. Ms. Leigh, I said the exact same thing to her about it being the best thing to have happen.

 

I think what makes this so hard is that we sent her away to go to this school. It is a half day program, so she has to fit in online studies along with attending regular school until noon. It does not have a residence, and while she s perfectly happy with her billet family, she has to get around by the bus and train. Which makes for a long day.

 

It just breaks my heart that I can't be there for her, a shoulder to cry on or even just a ride home after class. So if I am talking too quickly about throwing in the towel, it's not because I doubt her, it's because I miss her. And of course there's the expense, it's a lot of money for her not to be up to par. I was just concerned that I was ignoring the writing on the wall.

 

However, she wants to persevere and return next year. I told her she has this next year to give it her all. I will be sure to ask about additional classes, and I have already called a local Pilates studio about her taking classes when she's home during the summer.

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