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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Is she on the right path? Did we make a mistake?


Bub'sMom

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My daughter is in grade 8 and is in her first year in the professional division of a ballet school. When we went for viewing week we noticed that she was built quite differently than the rest of her class. She has more of an athletic build rather than the "typical" ballet body type. We have known this but it didn't stand out as much in her old studio as it does in the professional division of this ballet school. She has always been a very good dancer, very technically trained, loved all disciplines but gravitated towards Ballet. I know she will have a harder time than the others turning this opportunity into a career because she doesn't "fit the mold". I just question whether we made a mistake allowing her to focus her training almost solely on ballet when that area will be the hardest for her to realize a career in?

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Hi Bub'sMom,

My eldest who is now a junior is in similar circumstances to your daughter, and she seemed to stop growing at 5'2''! After asking the same questions- my thought now is this: whether she makes a career of dance or not, she is getting to do something she loves now, she is learning persistence, grace, humility, courage, and self-discipline. Best of all- she has an outlet for her artistic spirit. That is a privilege no matter what future opportunities exist (body type or not!). Ballet will give our daughters a rich life...have given our daughters a rich life! I remind myself of this especially because the reality is I might not see her dance in a few years, despite the strong conviction I have that she ought to be on stage making the world more beautiful with classical ballet! Practically, (with some prodding from me) she has sought out other dance experiences outside of her studio to cultivate the familiarity with modern ballet expression which seems to have more room for all sorts of body molds. Enjoy the season.

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Thank you wallis,

 

Another quick question, does you daughter realize that she may have the deck somewhat stacked against her? For the most part my daughter doesn't realize it yet but I am afraid when she starts getting passed over for slots for YAGP and Prix de Lausanne and such (which is a recent development at our school) she will clue in. Do I try to gently burst her bubble ahead of time or let it pop naturally, with the hope that somehow it won't have to pop at all?

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Personally, I would let it go and just ride the ride. Let her enjoy the journey. There are no guarantees in ballet, even for those with the supposedly perfect body. Also, body types can change. DD is a Junior as well and her body has changed even in the last year. We thought she had finished growing in height only to have her grow another inch over the summer. A lot can and does change. If your daughter loves it, let her find out what limitations she might have. Kids tend to be able to figure things out and I feel it is better for them to discover any limitations on their own. That way they can do something about the things they can change and learn to accentuate their own positives. The school your daughter is in must have seen something in her. I would also recommend looking at ballet companies online. I think you will find their dancers don't all have the same body type. Some like tall, thin dancers. Some like shorter, more muscular dancers. Your daughter just has to see where she fits in when the time comes.

 

YAGP and Prix aren't the only route to a career. DD knows a lot of YAGP and Prix participants and winners. Some have gone on to other schools for more advanced training and some actually haven't gone anywhere after their time with competitions. DD also knows dancers that have gone to Prix that do not have what many consider the "perfect" ballet body, but they are gorgeous dancers and it is the dancing that opens the doors. A good dancer will get noticed no matter where they are.

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OK, so deep breath and relax. Let her just do her thing, and enjoy the show. Ugh. That's the hard part I guess. Letting them create their own path.

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Bub's Mom, I can't emphasize enough how body types can change over time. I have seen kids that were very thin grow into a more mature body at 16-18. I have seen those who were considered more muscular, grow taller and the result is a body that is perfect for ballet. You just never know. The only constant is that is isn't consistent. Seriously. If your daughter's body type can be changed in any way, such as thinning down a little, her instructors will probably help her do so in a healthy way. If her body type is just naturally more muscular, they can help sculpt the muscles to where they look good for ballet. Basically, what I guess I am trying to say is change what you can, but don't worry about what you can't.

 

Trust me. I know how difficult it is to let go, but at some point, it has to become their thing. Once you let go, you'll start enjoying the ride more. It goes by so quickly. Make sure you relax and enjoy the ride with them.

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Agree with other posters - my niece also is more athletic and on the shorter end of the spectrum, a very very good ballet dancer, cecchetti trained, scholarshipped etc. she had the opportunity to dance nutcracker with Sara Lane, who told her that she should still pursue classical ballet if that was her passion. She trained in England and performed for Madame Monica Mason who gave her tremendous accolades! She now dances with connecticut ballet. So.... It can happen. See if she can find some contemporary ballet training as well - just to broaden her view of ballet.

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She has been focusing on the more classical companies mostly because thats what her friends talk about all the time. Is Connecticut Ballet more contemporary in nature? Does anyone know any good companies I could steer her focus towards?

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No, Connecticut is classical. My niece excels at contemporary ballet, however, she injured her knee years ago, had surgery removing part of her meniscus and finds classical less torquing than contemporary. But i think generally speaking contemporary ballet companies are more open to athletic builds - but many classicals are now too, just maybe not the biggies! You can look at different companies web pages and see pictures which might give you a little bit of an idea of the look of the company.

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Bub'sMom, she is only in 8th grade, so has a lot of time and some growing still to do. The parents are right, let her do her thing and see where it goes. I don't think you need to start steering her in any particular direction at this time. In another couple of years she will figure out a lot of things for herself, and maybe at that time a conference with her teachers would be in order, in terms of gaining information on her potential, and possibly looking in a different direction. But I have seen too many changes come about in the years between 13 and 18 to make any kind of decision at 13!

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Hi Bub'sMom,

 

There are many ballet companies that have dancers that don't fit that cookie cutter mold. Look at ABT's soloist Misty Copeland. She is such a beautiful dancer and yet she often comments about her body not being the "norm" for ballet. She is 5'2", very muscular and curvaceous! She is such a talented dancer! I think you should let your daughter enjoy the moment for what it is, an amazing experience that will only benefit her in whatever capacity!…...And when she realizes that her body is "different", have her use it to her advantage. Also, as everyone is saying, she is only 13 and you don't know what her body is going to do. Misty Copeland said that she did not start going through puberty until 19!

 

So no, you did not make a mistake!

 

(P.S. Enjoy the moment too!)

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The text of the original post aside, the title of this thread is something that I am sure I am not alone in wondering on this roller coaster ride! "Did we make a mistake" is something that I wonder at least a once or twice every year for one reason or another and my daughter is further along than the original poster's daughter. :)

 

When dd was in 8th grade, I probably would have thought the same thing about her body type. She will never have the classic Balanchine body, but she does look much more like a ballerina as a 16 yo than she did as a 13 yo.

 

Basmatina ballerina's final after thought is an important reminder to me at this moment and to all of us! Enjoy the moment!

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You are all amazing. So glad I found this board, its nice to have someone talk you down off the ledge before you get too caught up in things. I will sit back, relax, and enjoy the show, and let her amazing teachers do their thing. At best, she ends up with a great career as a prima ballerina. At worst, she ends up spending a few fantastic years following her passion and getting a great academic education to boot. Win-Win I suppose.

 

Thanks Again Everyone!

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