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Ballet Talk for Dancers

the thrill is gone

Lady Elle

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Hi - my dd will be 14 at the end of the month. I don't exctly know how to explain it but she's just been a little off lately. She used to assure me through weeping eyes that dance is her passion (even though she often does not put 100% into it) but now she does not do that. She just isn't as inspired by ballet. She gets inspired when we go to performances. She loves choreography, enjoys pointe.


We changed studios the beginning of this year (sept) to a strictly ballet studio thought she still takes a tap class and a jazz class at her old studio that she had been at since 4 yrs old. The ballet studio has very good teaching albeit a bit dry. But there are not really any dancers above her level that are interested in ballet past highschool. There is one girl who is very good and I think will pursue a career but she is very introverted. I think she just needs a dance family. Her friends at school are volleyball players and she might feel a little left out of that - she's very tall and has found a couple of very tall new friends.


I somewhat feel that this is a natural phase but if she slows down the schedule (which is BARELY enough to begin with) and then 1-2 years from now decides ballet IS what she wants to pursue, she will be behind and it will hinder her opportunities. She is hoping to get into a highschool here that focuses on the arts and has a dance conservatory (more modern/contemporary) where the kids collaberate with the music department and come up with original productions. ugggg.... I see so much potential that is just almost ready to bust out! what to do... I just told her she needs to pray about it and ask God to show her what gifts he wants her to use to bless Him.


She's always been "Molly the dancer" - maybe she's having an identity mini-crisis while I myself am going through a hormonally challenged phase myself!!

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oh dear. menopause and adolescence in one household. Never pretty ;) I empathise! I think that being 14 is tough and that our clear minded focused 10 year olds go through all sorts at this age. Many seem to reconsider the discipline and focus required to be a serious dancer. Perhaps Molly wants to dance for pure pleasure and be in a more creative environment? That is no failure! When my 14yo fell in a heap and refused to dance (and after I had my own emotional upset about it!!) we had two agreements. 1) we wont discuss it AT ALL for the next 3 months and he could do as he pleased. After that time we agreed we would discuss it again and see what he thought. If he still wanted to change, then that is what he would do. 2) he was not allowed to quit ballet because of his crazy teacher/or the unhappy studio/or whatever else. He could leave for his own positive reasons but nobody was to force him out. Not after all the time and effort (and money!) that had been invested. So once we agreed on those things, he actually completely stopped dancing for about 4 months and then resumed. I think that a time of reflection is extremely important to check that they are doing this for the right reasons and for their personal reasons. No dancer can achieve something special unless they really really want it. They certainly can't do it for someone else. And BTW I am not suggesting you are wanting that- I just know that my dancer had to search himself in privacy from my prodding (not easy for me! but I managed) <img title=":)" class="bbc_emoticon" src="http://dancers.invisionzone.com/public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png" data-cke-saved-src="http://dancers.invisionzone.com/public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png" />

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Freshman year seems to be the turning point for a lot of dancers. I've seen so many dancers leave our studio once they hit high school in favor of dance team/show choir/whatever. I think its the age where they just decide being serious about ballet is just too much work for the reward. Dance team, show choir, and the like are not as much work for a more immediate reward. Its sad to see so many talented dancers drop off, but I think it is completely normal at this age. I wish there were more serious dancers for my son's sake but he also realizes he is not the norm. For your daughter, maybe she needs a change. My son was on the verge of quiting dance because the rec studio he was at was terribly unchallenging when he was 11 years old. He switched to a pre-pro ballet studio and totally fell in love again. He is the only serious one left at his studio and at the highest level. I continue to find him opportunities to keep him challenged and his love intact.

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Thanks ladies! Thyme - good point in letting them take more control and seeing what they really want to pursue. When we had 2 weeks off after nutcracker - she was "dying" to get back into dance. I think she questions maybe whether its dance, or just keeping her body active and challenged. And is it ballet, or any dance?? I've been hard on her :(. I've been putting some pressure on her saying if she doesn't ramp up ballet, she won't even have the option to pursue it after highschool so, better to have that option and be super diligent then to just be recreational about it and decide later that she wants to pursue. Strong ballet foundation will support any form of dance and choreography you pursue. I will always support her dancing in some way - but if she's feeling more recreational about it, i'd rather not sink the funds into it so much.


that said... This weekend is PNB, Ballet West and SAB auditions. And something I didnt even consider... Last week she received the rejection letter from Lines which was an audition she did well at (no pointe). Its one of those things where she looks around (and me as well) and see's that there really isn't anyone who is MUCH better than she is (except pointe work). There might be a few who re a bit better than her in certain areas. I tell her EXACTLY!! thats why you just need to put a little more effort in! just a smidge - you're almost there! Its those little tiny technique issues that make a difference.


Anyway, the plan is to get into the arts high school, get into conservatory her sophmore year still take her ballet classes 6 evenings a week and see how she feels. We wont attempt the prepro school quite yet as its about 1/2 hour away. Although I know PNB and SAB are not really going to happen... I hope some place comes through for us - if not, she'll do the local prepro - (vaganova... A whole different thing!) and it will be fun. Just not as many hours as regular intensives.

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My DD went through a slightly similar thing when she was 13. Her home studio wasn't challenging for her and she was losing interest. I was shocked. We switched studios to a better ballet program with a stronger emphasis on modern too and she is just flourishing! She is so happy now and much more confident. Her old teachers made her feel overlooked and second best to the other girls who received all the corrections and attention. Her frustration level was high because she was so driven and primed to excel, yet her old school continually made her feel badly. They discouraged her from attending any other SI but theirs and theirs wasn't very good and only minimally attended by the students.


The new studio has been a godsend! Watching her come out with smiles and confidence is just great. She is challenged and stretched as a dancer. Best move we made!


Anyway, my point is that I would give it time and see how she feels. Just from reading on these forums, it appears that some girls go through this self doubting phase. I found that when I pushed her too hard, she recoiled and considered dropping it altogether. Good luck!!!

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest chappiedancemom

Well I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one struggling with a DD who is struggling with high school life and dance. We've had several "battles" about her declining lack of commitment to dance. She trained in classical ballet from age 7 1/2 - 11, two years at SAB. She then went to a competition studio and trained in various styles, even winning a national title at age 12. She decided she missed classical ballet and so last year (at age 15, sophomore) she switched to a pre-pro Vaganova ballet school with serious Russian teachers. She loved it and made a great friend her age who was also very committed and talented. This year being her Junior year, she has been feeling overwhelmed with academics, tutoring for SAT's and dance. She wants to get into a good college, so she had decided to scale back on her dance in order to do well academically. I agreed but then she was skipping a lot more than I expected. She thought she would not do their Nutcracker this year but when the director offered her Sugar Plum Fairy she couldn't say no. But it took a toll and she danced more than she wanted so after the 2 week break she has been less motivated to go back. I think part of the problem is that her best friend in the studio has lost interest and has been skipping dance a lot so that has affected my DD's motivation as well. During an argument in the heat of the moment, she said to me that she hates dance but she misses it when she isn't dancing. I don't think she hates dance but she is feeling very overwhelmed right now. So we made an agreement that she can control her own dance schedule and I won't bug her about not going. After all, dance should be enjoyed and loved, not hated or resented. So I am backing off but it pains me as she has been dancing for so long and has real talent and facility. But if the passion is not there then it doesn't make sense. I think we will discuss after the SAT's are over. For now I will have to back off and take some pressure off.

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  • 1 month later...

As a former dancer I understand both the original poster's concerns as well as possibly her daughter's lack of passion. Since I couldn't remember not dancing, as a teen, I took my life as a dancer for granted. There is so much to discover as a teen that dance may no longer provide the excitement it once did. I would encourage you to talk with your daughter and find out what is going on. (And as any parent of a teen knows, you may need to read between the lines a little) If you really believe your daughter has the talent and love of the art needed to succeed, you may want to look into a better program. At her age she needs a really strong program where many of the dancers have gone on to get paid to dance. A new environment could make all the difference.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I am going to jump on the bandwagon here with my 14 year old...she is at a pre-pro school on the top level and bored to tears. The school moves incredibly slow and chooses the least challenging variations (in her opinion) making her feel as though they dont have confidence in their students. Add to that hormones and body issues and she is a mess...her heart's desire is to be a professional ballerina and my heart's desire is to see her happy and dancing with joy again. Since changing schools is not an option as it is the only pre-pro ballet focused school in the state, I am thinking of trying to have her take either private lessons or a class at a competition school. Not sure what other options I am missing...

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I've heard the challenging variations issue before. The answer I heard was that these variations were actually choreographed for principal dancers, not students (despite what they see at competitions and on you-tube). Just as a plie is the first step you learn and the last you master, a variation is not just about the steps. Learning to bring artistry, bringing the character to life, in a simple variation is actually quite challenging. The nuances of every movement are just as important as the technique. Was just listening to Alastair Mcaulay, the NY Times critic, talk about the differences in a single movement by different dancers and what that conveyed in Aurora's wedding variation and was blown away. Highly recommend those recorded interviews now available online through the Jerome Robbins Library.


My recommendation, if they really love ballet, is more ballet. Learn the history. Watch the great dancers who came before them. I love the energy my dd gets when she watches 3 different versions of a variation and comes running to tell me what makes each special. Shaking things up with a class in another genre is not a bad idea either. There is no such thing as a classical ballet company that only does classical ballet these days. Even the Bolshoi has contemporary rep. Learning to move in other ways is probably important as long as it doesn't interfere with the ballet training.


My older teen is a bit of a negative rut as well. Maybe it's the time of year, the age, the long winter? She hasn't been as happy lately for a few reasons, but still lives for dance. She is particularly tired of dancing with others who do not want to pursue dance further and thus are not as interested (or maybe as obsessed?). It amazes me that people who don't want to pursue it will still take classes 6 days and week and rehearse for hours on end when there are so many other wonderful things they could be doing. Not that ballet isn't wonderful, but there is more out there if this isn't your thing. But, I suppose it's a bit like the early high school years when they start finding their niche. In the later years, some are starting to realize this isn't really for them, but they stick with it maybe because it is all they have ever known or because they don't want to disappoint others.

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MelissaGA, I agree that part of the problem is wanting to be a professional when the other students' goals might not be the same. I say might not because although they say they want to be professionals, the do not take corrections, fool around in class and miss class if they have danced "too much" that week (meaning rehearsals).


I would love to hear the interview -- is it through the NY Public Library (that's what I saw when I searched).

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Yes, it is through the NY Public Library. I have taken dd there several times to watch ballets not available on youtube. So awesome that so much is now available to everyone! It is actually a series of maybe 12 interviews with him. Educational for anyone interested in ballet from the student to the balletomane.


At some point in time, some of the teens do stop saying they want to be professionals, mainly those who exhibited the same behaviors you mentioned. But, at least at dd's school, they keep coming but don't seem happy and engaged.

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I agree that part of the problem is wanting to be a professional when the other students' goals might not be the same. I say might not because although they say they want to be professionals, the do not take corrections, fool around in class and miss class if they have danced "too much" that week (meaning rehearsals).

This used to aggravate the devil out of DD and I must say I could never understand why the dancers acted this way. It was especially mind-boggling when we found the same behaviors occurring at a residential ballet school. We had thought that would not occur when dancers had left home and parents were paying significant tuition.


A very wise teacher there told DD (and me) that she would have those kinds of dancers around her everywhere, every step of the way, and at all levels, including in professional companies. She told DD she needed to come to terms with it, not pay any attention to what those dancers chose to do or not do, and learn to do what she needed to do to keep her own head in the game. We thought surely the teacher was nuts. Surely there would come a time when everyone had the same degree of dedication and same work ethic.


But, everywhere DD went, and at every step of the journey, those type dancers were there. Her very wise teacher was absolutely right.


She also told us that not everyone has the same perspective of what 'working hard' is and that DD could not expect everyone to work exactly like she did. Again, very valuable lessons---ones that do take years to really understand.

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Wise words from a very wise teacher indeed. In my daughter's professional dance life with three different companies as well as various guesting appearances, she was shocked initially to find that there was always a group of dancers who took the easiest path, made excuses for missing class, etc. She had thought that the professional ranks would be filled with really hard workers. It is. But it also has a minority of people who were born with such a natural facility that they think they don't need to work at it. Ultimately, they find they do.


And, yes, this is a reality that will be true in all aspects of adult life. There will always be, in every field, in every group, the people who simply don't work at something very hard and take it for granted.

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Told my daughter about all this wisdom and she was blown away that there would be dancers along every step of her journey that wouldn't be as driven as she was...so glad for this site...thank you all.

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