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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Confidence Buster


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DD has had amazing growth this year in ballet. She returned from NYC this summer stronger, more flexible, able to do things that she struggled with prior to the trip, and feeling confident. She hasn't been on pointe much during the summer, and she needs a new pair of pointe shoes. They were on the buy list for next week. Yesterday she had a private with her teacher who wanted her to work on pointe. It was not a good day for her. She struggled more than usual, and her shoes were giving her fits (heel falling off, etc.). I could tell that she was frustrated. When she came out and got into the car she began crying. Her confidence went out the window. She was very hard on herself, and had one of those "I'm a terrible dancer" moments. It took awhile to calm her down (she rarely, rarely gets like this). I called the dancewear store to see if the fitter was in and made an appointment right away. We went to eat (and indulge in ice cream), then we went to get the new shoes. She found a pair that she felt satisfied with (and I pray is a true fit and will do the job). I tried to remind her that she hasn't been on pointe much during the summer, and that her shoes were definitely a hindrance, and that everyone has a bad day sometimes. She seemed better after we got the shoes, and still wants to take an open class today (which is generally done on flats).


Last night I couldn't go to sleep. I thought about how far she has come just in the past year. I can't begin to express the difference since this time last year. It occurred to me (being a non dancer) that perhaps it's one thing to dance on flat and another to transfer all of her newly learned skills to pointe. She has been on pointe for a long time, so she is strong, but I think she is facing a new challenge since she has learned and improved at such a fast rate. I went to her last night and asked her if she would like for me to ask her teacher for a weekly private in pointe until she felt more confident, and she shook her head yes. She has a private scheduled for next week, but I originally intended to stop once she goes to her studio's intensive and fall classes begin. She will have more than enough hours in technique (the intensity level is increasing quite a bit this coming year), but I think she could do with more pointe work. I hope I'm doing the right thing, especially since the cost of the privates are going to be a squeeze. I'd hate to see her take huge leaps forward, only to go backwards because she struggled with her pointe work this week.


That being said, she also made a comment that really disturbed me. She said, "I don't know why we have to focus so intently on classical ballet, and not so much on contemporary." Her focus and intensity on ballet has been much of her own making, so I don't know if she was doubting herself so much that she thought she just couldn't do it or what. She is also a very natural contemporary dancer. She can move her body in unique ways, and it just seems to come easy to her. She has been noticed more than once by outside people who have come into our studio for special occasions (including a well known choreographer who said that she had her own unique style which he felt could help her become a choreographer in the future). I reminded her that the company was going to perform a contemporary program in the spring, so she would get an opportunity to focus on contemporary. She seemed to accept that thought.


I guess I'm feeling emotionally wrung out after yesterday. I suppose every dancer has these moments. I just hope I handled it correctly, and that she will come out on the other side being her confident little self again. She has another private next week, and I confess I'm a little worried that she will go through this again. I could tell that her teacher was breaking down her pointe work and focusing (and correcting) details to create perfection. Her teacher and my DD are both perfectionists. She is going to take her new shoes to open classes and use them for bar work to break them in a bit before her private (and the intensive coming up). I am really praying that all will go well next week, but I admit that I'm worried. I'm probably over reacting, but it just breaks my heart when she gets like that. She is usually very strong, tough, and has proven that she can rise to the challenge and persevere again and again.

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I am so sorry your daughter had such a hard class and I think many parents on this board can remember feeling great pain at our dancers' distress in a simmilar situation. I sometimes wonder if we take it even harder than they do, because there have been so many times when I have been profoundly disturbed by our DD's upset one day only to see her get up the next morning, ready to face the day and go to class again, and have a much better day (though sometimes hard classes definitely run in streaks). I think the best we can do as parents is to be a soft place for them to land and to encourage them to hold an incremental theory about ballet technique. Sorry to sound like such a psychologist, but an incremental theory suggests that we build competence, in this case, ballet technique, slowly, over time, bit by bit, by sustained effort. If we have a bad day but hold an incremental theory, then all we need to do is keep trying and maybe try a little differently. The alternative is an entity theory, that competence, or talent, is something you either have or you don't. If our DD's hold an entity theory of ballet, then a bad class is devastating, because it means you have no talent. I believe most who stick with dance learn to take the incremental view, and that we moms can encourage our dancers to believe that everyone, professional dancers and students, can have a bad class but what matters is how they respond to it. It sounds like your DD has already shown that she knows how to persevere. I hope the shoes help and she has some better classes soon.

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I think there is often a transition time in returning from an SI and getting back to the year-round school. Comparisons, etc. Did she have a lot of contemporary at her SI?

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You know what builds self-confidence the best? Learning how to handle the lumps, bumps, highs, and lows in life yourself. There's no avoiding them. If we shield, we create a false sense of self within our kids- the opposite of confidence. They begin to look to the outside world for credibility and attention, rather than looking within themselves for their strength.


Having said that- did her teacher know she did not do much pointework during the summer, and that she was in need of a new pair?

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backstagemom, I hope the new shoes do the trick, and I can attest that having a perfectionistic DD certainly doesn't make our jobs as Moms any easier!

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She did a little bit of contemporary while away, and has taken a couple open modern classes since returning home. Her teacher is aware of her summer situation, and her need for new shoes (which we just picked up). I think she might try the shoes at barre in open classes this week in order to get used to them and start breaking them in.

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I guess I'm trying to figure out why the teacher decided to have her immediately don her pointe shoes upon returning :shrug: Usually, if a student has been away from pointe, they are eased back into it. It's called 'ramping up', and is common at slow-boil schools.

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I don't know if this will help, but when my son (I know, I know- boys are different from girls!!!) used to get in the car and have meltdowns after class, I'd say, "So, quit." He'd protest that he didn't want to quit, but just that he'd had a bad class. I'd say, "Well, get used to it. You are a perfectionist, and that means you think you have to always have "good" classes and "good" rehearsals. But the truth is that the "bad" days teach us more than the "good" days. We all have them, and sometimes, they are just what we need to help us figure something out."


It worked for him. He is successful right now at life-navigation, and he's happy and confident. Now, the "bad" days flow over him, and he learns that he was perhaps, tired, which is what made it a "bad" day. Or he learns that the bad day made him question something, which led him to figure out a better way or add something to his life/routine/job/whatever that makes it better in the future.

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Thank you Miss Clara, words of wisdom that are much appreciated and timely. DD's teacher was discussing "trying to be perfect" just the other day. DD really struggles with aiming for perfection and simultaneously giving self encouragement by the things she has done well. She always comments on all the negatives......mental torment......we are working on it........

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We've busted through the clouds (they were stormy indeed). The new pointe shoes made everything seem better. She starts an intensive this week, so I'm glad that they work for her. :clapping:

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