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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Technique/Pursuing a career/Cost of Training


zmagal

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My daughter is at a Russian summer intensive. She has 4 1/2 years of ballet. At the intensive, she's learned a few things about herself. If she wants to improve, she needs to get stronger transverse abdominal muscles, she needs to work on not pronating, and she needs to clean up her technique in general. I know she wishes she could instantaneously make these corrections over night, but she says it will take practice, because of building strength, and relearning some bad habits. I'm curious to know if girls who just turned 13 need to already have all their technical ducks in a row to really pursue a career, or is there still more time for her to work this out?

 

When I watch videos of girls at ballet competitions, it's as though they had the perfect instruction from the very day they began ballet (which always seems like 2 or 3 years old even if it wasn't,) and it's as though they never do anything wrong. So what I wonder is if there are girls who appear to be 100% perfect at 11 or 12, can girls who figure out they need some harder and better training when they turn 13 still have enough time to catch up to these international ballet competition winners? It seems as though those are the only ones who will get jobs someday, if any at all. As a parent, it's hard to know if it's worth it to put every single penny earned into the education. If there is a chance at all, however unlikely, then yes, a parent can live with it.

 

But, if there are some technical issues at 13, and if that means there's no chance on Earth, then it's a lot of wasted time and money. Realistically, should a ballet dancer already have everything worked out by 13 in order to pursue dance? I know that when my daughter performs on a stage, people say they can't take their eyes off of her - she's very artistic. She can amaze people who are not professional ballet dancers. But she hasn't been training at a pre-professional ballet school, so she's got some work ahead of her. I'm willing to put everything into helping her if I know all is not lost due to needing to correct basic technique issues like pronation, muscle strengthening, etc now that she's turned 13. I'm curious how other parents, teachers, and dancers feel about this.

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I'll leave the specifics of the actual technical question to our amazing teachers. But 13 is no time in ballet's road to training to be hanging up the shoes because the dancer still has work to do. At 13, he/she is really just at the cusp of taking all that needs to be done to turn it into a dancer later.

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That's reassuring. I guess I feel overwhelmed right now after watching these videos of these young girls at YAGP, or WBC who literally look perfect at 11 or 12! I can't imagine how my daughter feels knowing there's so much work to do. I just keep telling her to give 100% every day, and then some, and eventually, she'll correct these things. I just don't know the age at which things are pretty much set.

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First of all, you need to stop watching YAGP videos! Those children are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. They have probably had more years of pre-pro type training, and therefore will be better than students, no matter how talented, who have not had that training. Also, keep in mind that they have worked on those variations for months and months, with private coaching, and have acquired the ability to execute them well for a child of that age.

 

That said, 13 is by no stretch of the imagination too late to get into the best possible training. It will take some time to undo and redo things, but if the student has the physical ability, the focus and the desire, it is certainly doable.

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Thanks Victoria. It helps a lot to hear that from someone of your background. I will be making sure we get her the training she needs to work towards her goal.

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If you subscribe to Dance Magazine there is an article in the new issue that has interviews with professional dancers who do not have perfect attributes. Check for it in a few days. I have not looked today, but it was not out last week so I'm assuming they will add it up on July 1.

 

Now there is "not shaped right" and then again there is "not shaped right". So open the child's eyes to the many places that top notched dance training can take you. Don't limit those to simply ballet and you'll find that the training/expense will likely be worth it in other ways than simply a career.

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"Super arched feet" are one thing, and really good feet, with a decent instep but not necessarily banana shaped, if developed well and used really, really well, can be found on many, many professional ballet dancers. They do not all have the "over the top" instep. How much one can develop, improve, and learn to use them really, really well depends on what there is to start with and how much one is willing to work, and of course excellent training.

 

Hyperextended legs are not a requirement. The are both a blessing and a curse, and while they do help create a very good line in extended positions, they are hazardous in terms of vulnerability to injury. They are not a requirement for a professional ballet career, and while a lot of professionals do have them, my guess is that there are just as many without them.

 

Encouraging a student into other forms of dance might be best if the dancer is missing too many of the other physical requirements for ballet, not just feet or hyperextension. However, one usually does not do that until the student is older, still serious about dance, and ready for making that kind of decision. Most often they figure that out for themselves, if they are well trained, intelligent and knowledgeable, and exposed to professional ballet dancers and performances. As has been said hundreds of times on this board, including something just yesterday or today somewhere, the benefits of serious training go way beyond becoming a professional dancer.

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zmagal, I would like to reassure you (as a parent) that at 13 it is not too late to fix problems if your DD has the desire to do it. My DD didn't even start ballet training until she was 13 (almost 14). She also lost a year of training when she was 17 because of a serious injury. She has caught up to her peers & is dancing alongside those international ballet competition winners you mention. I will say that (although no amazing hyperextension or feet) she does have what her teachers call an "easy" body for ballet and that has helped. She is also very driven and tenacious. I understand that her progression might be unusual, but it is possible.

 

As for super-arched feet & hyperextended legs... they might get a dancer a closer look & maybe even an opportunity from an AD... but there is always someone with even BETTER attributes coming down the pike! If the dancer doesn't have the work ethic & a good attitude I doubt they will last very long.

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Ceecee, if there was a like button for you comment I would hit it:):). Wonderful perspective!!

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Thanks CeeCee. My daughter's feet start off looking flat, but they arch like crazy. And she's definitely hyperextended in her legs - she has to work really hard at working her base leg as a result. It's pretty, but it makes her work a lot harder. She's very determined, (uncertain about the reality of it all, which I think is good down-to-earth thinking,) but extremely hopeful to make it work. She says she needs some extra help from an instructor right now, because there are times she doesn't realize she's doing it wrong until she looks in the mirror. Other times, she knows it's wrong, and doesn't know how to fix it. We're definitely looking into getting regular private lessons at the very least. I'll just keep encouraging my DD, and doing the best I can as far as getting the right training for her.

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Guest Blossoming ballerina

I too would like to add to this thread. My dd was 13 when we went to per professional school. Before that he was at a recreational school with litte correction.

Now she is working really hard with her teacher. Advancing Herself and catching up to her peers. -if you want to say that. She has a goal in mind and is motivated to get there.

Along with her normal hours, we also look out for any ballet intensives that will hep her achieve her goal.

Inoperable all goes well

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My DD moved from a recreational school to a pre pro school when she was 13. At the time, we had no idea that she was behind. She has worked very hard, but not only has she caught up with her peers, she is truly blossoming into her own. We began to see a true difference when she added additional ballet classes and pilates to her week. Her growth has been unreal this past year. If your daughter is determined, is willing to work very hard, and understands that things won't come easy, then I suggest you do everything you can to support her in her dreams.

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My daughter was at a dolly dinkle studio and didn't started her serious training last year at 14. She went to a SI and then that was that. This year has been very challenging for her and has showed that she is quite behind other girl her age and younger. She has made tremendous progress, but there is still progress to be made. I have to keep reminding her that this is her path and journey, and no one else's. Comparisons are useless.

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