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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Is ballet a good idea? Not sure whether to pursue!


moonlight71

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I'm a ballet fan who danced herself (recreationally) for many years. My four year old daughter started ballet (baby ballet) a year ago and in April this year I was finally successful in convincing my 7 year old son to give it a try! He'd previously dimissed it as being "for girls" but a visit to his sister's teacher's very nice RAD Grade One class, with everyone in their plain navy leotards (no pink tutus) and another little boy in the class convinced him otherwise!

 

The teacher placed him her Grade One class with others of similar age. The main problem is that he had no prior ballet experience at all (although has a little "general" dance experience from the once a week stage school he's been attending since age five).

 

He seemed to start enjoying it straight away and in the summer took part in the end of year show (The Ugly Duckling - he was a little frog, saute'ing in his green unitard! Very cute!).

 

However since then, the other little boy has left and he's now the only boy in a class full of girls. It doesn't seem to bother him (he's sociable and talkative and happy to chat to the girls), but I'm really not sure whether to keep pursuing it for him . . .

 

For the main thing . .. he really isn't very good! He doesn't seem to understand that there is a "technique" required in ballet and that legs need to be turned out, feet nicely pointed, movements have to be smooth and graceful. He spends a lot of time jumping about and trying to do the wonderful leaps he's seen male dancers perform (mostly unsuccessfully!) but other than that he doesn't seem to understand the whole idea behind ballet, that of control, posture, poise etc. He also doesn't seem to have the patience to stand still, concentrate etc. He fidgets - a lot!

 

Naturally, he was rather disappointed this week to find that he is the only one in the class who will not be sitting their Grade One exam in March next year - and moving up to the Grade Two class. The teacher rather apologetically gave him a practice CD as well "just so he's not left out". But he looked rather crestfallen and I had to explain to him that he hasn't been dancing as long as most of the others, whereupon, he brightened up and said "well never mind, I'll be doing my exam the year after, won't I?" .

 

And I really didn't know what to say! I asked him if he wants to continue ballet, would he like to swap it for something else - football, perhaps, or the kickboxing he's wanted to try for ages. No, he wants to carry on with ballet. He turned 8 two days ago and I worry that next Spring, when his classmates move up he'll be faced with being not only the only boy, but the oldest in a class full of incoming little 6 year old girls.

 

How do I approach this? I really don't want to discourage him, but at the same time I don't want him to feel frustrated, upset, disappointed, if he is completely unsuited to a relatively demanding dance style such as ballet.

 

There also seems to be a maturity gap between him and his classmates (girls do mature earlier, as we all know). Is it simply that he's a boy,and hopefully he will mature into ballet, perhaps a little later than the girls?

 

His physical abilities (sport, etc) are pretty average for his age, he can be a little clumsy at times, certainly not a star athlete or a sports progidy, but he's very energetic and loves running, jumping and being "on the go"! Part of the reason I was keen to start him in dance, I thought it would be a good outlet for his energies.

 

I don't know if its a good idea to keep pursuing ballet or do my best to steer him away before his confidence gets damaged. Would a few private lessons with the teacher, where they could really get to grips with technique and set a few goals (ie keeping turned out, posture etc), be a good idea? He's a slender, petite little guy and quite flexible, just doesn't seem to know what to do with his body!!

 

Would really appreciate some advice on how to handle this!

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I'd say completely normal. I have four boys. My twins are 10 and are still a little wiggly. The girls are always light years ahead. That's why it take years of training.

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Is there any way to find another school with more boys and, better yet, with boy classes? That is what they mostly do at those classes - a bit of barre and center and then jumps, turns, etc. That is what kept my son in ballet when he was the only boy in class with girls who have been doing ballet for much longer. A male teacher would also help, boys like to have a role model. About focus and concentration... My kids are hyper too. Although, my son has mellowed down a bit since his sister came along. An understanding teacher would certainly help, but other than that - you just have to wait till your son grows up and start paying attention to the teacher. A few privates somewhat helped in our case, but still, focus-wise, we had to wait till the kids mature enough to pay attention and follow the teacher's directions.

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If he is happy, let him dance. Let him jump, leap, and twirl around the house and choreograph his sword fights. The attention will come later. Boys take a little longer than girls, but they eventually catch up.

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My son and slhogan's son had to dance with the younger girls for years. Girls start dance at a younger age than most boys, also their attention span is shorter than girls that are the same age. Then all of the sudden they catch up.

 

My son didn't take the Level 2 RAD exam until he was 10. He is now 16 and getting reading for the Advanced Exam. The most important thing is to make sure that his teacher knows that he is a boy and will act like a boy. There are teachers that will talk about how much they want and need boys, but they don't really understand that teaching little boys is different than teaching little girls.

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Our local ballet school offers a free boys class weekly for one hour. It has grown to two levels. Some of the boys also are enrolled as students. It is a wonderful program--has been around for many years. Our son was the only boy for several years who was enrolled at his level. He did just fine at that 7-10year old range of ages. Take your son to as many ballet productions as is feasible in order to see male adult/young person dancers. There were young boys who began to look up to our son as he got older. It's natural and helpful as the boys discern if they want to continue.

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Moonlight71 - Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers! We are so glad that you found us and we look forward to your future posts.

 

First off, at age 7, you should not be concerned about your son's technical abilities. Even with the RAD syllabus, young dancers are only learning rhythm and kinesiology, not specific ballet technique. I'd ask his teacher if you could enroll him in RAD Ballet 2 next year (along with his Ballet 1) and see if the mental/physical connections start to make sense for him with the more 'complicated' steps.... Again, even at Ballet 2, he will not be doing hyper specific ballet movements - I don't see why it couldn't be an option?

 

Next, be sure that he knows that you support him regardless of how good he is. It is already hard enough for boys to join ballet classes, let alone continue to take ballet classes, so it shouldn't matter (at this moment) if there are other boys in class... or if he is good or bad at what is being asked of him. If he loves it - let him do it. As things get harder, and he doesn't meet up with the challenges, he will self-select something else to do with his time. Let that be his choice.

 

Last, spend some time surfing through our multiple forums. The question you have asked here has been addressed many times.... though usually with the dancing daughters of our members. At the age of 7, the advice will be the same, so give those threads a read. And there is LOTS to read.... grab a cup of coffee (or glass of wine) and spend a little time absorbing all that this site has to offer (which is quite plentiful).

 

Welcome!!

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I just wanted to add a few observations, based on my own experience.

 

A lot of boys fidget and show impatience with the slow discipline in lower-level classes. And their technique seems to improve more slowly than that of the girls. In my son's case, he did not have the eye for detail and imitation that the girls had between 6 and 10. I remember watching his class demonstrations when he was younger and thinking, "This is hopeless. He's a good year behind his age level." Then, sometime between 11 and 13, he started to catch up. Take heart! It does happen.

 

My son has also been in the situation you describe, where he's the only boy in a level. He's also been held back a level and has had to dance with younger students. Ironically, last year, he was promoted two levels so that he's dancing with older girls now. Looking at the other boys behind him, it seems common that boys are not trained exactly with their age groups.

 

While my son was in lower levels, I tried to show him videos of great male dancing and take him to live performances, so that he knew what he was working toward. I sought out summer intensives pretty early, so that he could spend some time with groups of boy dancers. He had some regular guest teachers who were male, and we would always seek them out for advice. Now, he has a male teacher for about half of his classes. I always made sure that he knew that ballet is very athletic, too.

 

I don't think every studio knows what to do with the young boys, which is a shame. But if you can find a studio that will patiently train and encourage your son, don't worry that he seems a bit behind now. He won't be behind for long.

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luckyfortune8

My son was mostly a couple of years older in his class too. He preferred it because he had a very fixed idea of men dancers being the big strong, older ones who support the girls and this fitted his self image and future expectations better this way. He was also lucky to have a teacher that had him do lots of very tame partnering with all the girls so he felt quite the little hero.

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In addition to all the wonderful advice already posted, I would suggest that perhaps you give him a venue to "perform" at home. My son LOVES to have the rest of the family sit on the sofa, pull away the coffee table and watch him as he twirls and jumps to music. No corrections, nothing but pure love of the movement. We also get demonstrations of what he has been learning. It might help your son feel better about his abilities when they are appreciated without being compared to the others in his class.

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Hi everyone

 

Thankyou for the great advice! Its given me a lot to think about and made me feel happier about pushing on with ballet for a while longer. I introduced him to ballet and I would love him to continue, I just don't want him to be disappointed and feel we've poured too much energy, time, money etc into something he won't get anything out of.

 

I love the idea of a male teacher and an all boys' class. Unfortunately, where we live (rural part of the UK), there is no such thing! Indeed,even good ballet schools are few and far between (lots of what I've seen called "Dolly Dinkle" type set ups but very few decent, qualified teachers and "proper" ballet classes.) The school my son and daughter are at is the best I could find, (and thats still a good half hour's drive away), with a qualified RAD teacher who is kind and patient with the children, and has a real passion for what she does.

 

I think the best we could hope for in the future would be acceptance onto a locally run pre-pro programme like Royal Ballet School Associates (even then, nearest class is 1.5 hours away!) but they are very selective (entry by audition only) and my poor little guy wouldn't stand a chance at the moment!!!

 

I think maturity is a big part of the problem. He is so keen to start leaping about that he doesn't want to spend time working on the "boring" things like Port de Bras, turnout etc. He has the same problem at school - a head full of ideas but poor presentation and handwriting, as he's in such a hurry to get them down on paper. His class teacher recognises this as a maturity thing, as lots of bright little boys are apparently the same.

 

Being with a younger set of girls in the Spring might even be a good thing, as there might be less of a maturity gap. He's also physically smaller than all the girls in his class currently (he doesn't mind, as being the only boy,they've made a little "pet" of him and I think he likes all the attention!). He's a small, slender little chap who looks younger than his age, so he won't look out of place.

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In addition to all the wonderful advice already posted, I would suggest that perhaps you give him a venue to "perform" at home. My son LOVES to have the rest of the family sit on the sofa, pull away the coffee table and watch him as he twirls and jumps to music. No corrections, nothing but pure love of the movement. We also get demonstrations of what he has been learning. It might help your son feel better about his abilities when they are appreciated without being compared to the others in his class.

 

This made me smile as this is exactly what he does! He loves leaping and spinning about doing "fouettes" shouting "look at me, mum!"

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This thread has made me smile too. Little boys are such a thing of joy. So unrefined and raw. I can tell you with 100% confidence that no matter where his path leads him, he can gain so much from his time in the studio. There is one caveat on that though.... His teachers need to understand he is not a girl. We had one teacher along the way who absolutely did not know what to do with our young man. He quit when he was 13 as a result. Thankfully we found a kind male teacher who saved the day. I digress. Bottom line is that your young guy may have found a place to feel free, to move and just feel joyful. That is a special gift to him. As long as he feels approved of by you and his teachers, don't over think it and let the good times roll.

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As a mom of a DS, age 7, in RAD level 2, I couldn't agree more. I'm saying this with kindness, but it might be best to stop watching class for a while and just let him do his thing. If you trust the school, let them discuss not taking the exam with him. At this age, you really have no idea if he will be a success or not and I think it's our job as parents to not guard against disappointment (which happens; life lesson) but nuture our DK's passions and be supportive and not project our own fears and insecurities (which they will pick up). So what if he doesn't end up a professional? I can't think the discipline of ballet class is a wasted skill; it's the journey that's important, not the destination. Maybe all he gets out of it is a lifelong love of ballet.

 

I second the suggestion to see as many live ballet performances as possible. I also personally follow many professional male ballet dancers on Instagram (like Daniil Simkin and Roberto Bolle) and they post fascinating glimpses of what their lives are like (and how hard they work) which I then share with DS.

 

Lastly, and this is my pet peeve (so forgive my own bias), sometimes our children live up to the expectations we set for them. I don't like gender bias. If you treat your son as if he is less mature, he may fulfill that expectation. I've never believed that ALL boys mature more slowly than girls. While my son can be wiggly, he is consistently the hardest worker and the most skilled at his grade level. If he can't do something that's taught, he keeps at it at class and at home until he's satisfied. He gets frustrated when the girls in class are disruptive or chatter. He's the only boy in his class and also the smallest (and youngest, I think) and he couldn't be more at home than he is in the studio. Whatever happens down the road, that's enough for me as a parent to keep him going.

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Ahh Moonlight72 your post made me feel really warm and gooey about my boys when they were little- boys are such a bunch of fidgety airheads and so adorable with it! I would say the fact that your son is enjoying himself is paramount. None of us know whether our kids are any good at this age- and anyway if we discouraged kids from doing stuff they aren't good at what a dull life they would have.

 

My younger son had to be pulled out of gym classes as he spent most of his time running uncontrollably around the room (the stress was too much for me!). In kids music classes he never sat still for more than 10 seconds. He started ballet at 10 and is a beautiful dancer but aged 13 gave it up (much to his teachers chagrin) in favour of gym, contemporary dance and rock climbing! I don't regret one second of the ballet classes even though he would never have made a ballet dancer (wrong temperament, no focus).

 

Older DS was a county swimmer and diver then went to ballet classes aged 10 and spent at least 2 years just messing around (luckily with other boys) and I didn't really see anything spectacular in him (other than a perfect ballet body type). Royal associates turned him down twice. He took Grade 1 aged 11 but never any other exams. He then started vaganova ballet classes aged 12/13, and 4 years later (after 3 years on a full scholarship at vocational school in the USA) he is in his graduating year and has just been accepted to compete in the Prix De Lausanne.

 

DD has done ballet since age 3, is not particularly talented and completely the wrong body shape but at 16 still doing it and loving it.

 

Younger DD did a term of ballet aged 6 and professed it was 'too sweaty' for her (although her older brother says she has ballet feet to die for) and has never asked to go back.

 

So I guess I am saying we never know where our kids childhood interests will take them, but my philosophy has been if they are having fun, continue, if they don't want to do it anymore, stop! Your son sounds a delight and as if he is really enjoying himself. Don't worry about whether he is any good, just whether he is having a good time :)

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