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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Just don't see it

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Very insightful posts here! My daughter has been dancing for 9 years, since she was 6 years old. When she was 8 she knew she wanted to be a professional. When she was 9 she needed os trigonum surgery. It was an excellent time to seriously ask if she wanted to continue dance because the surgery was elective—there was no need for her to have it if she didn't want to be professional. Without hesitation she said of course she had to have the surgery, even though it came with some risks. A year and a half later she needed the surgery again on her other ankle. Again, she said it was a given that she was going to have the surgery.


Every year we ask our daughter if she wants to continue dance, just to let her know that we support her decisions, whatever they are. Like some of your dancers, she is also gifted academically, and it is difficult for me to see her "mind go to waste." Of course it's not going to waste, but I often feel that she could be in all the top academic classes and be an incredible academic if she didn't do ballet. But that is not what makes her happy. What makes her happy is dancing. So until she decides it doesn't make her happy anymore then I can only sit by and watch and support.

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I had written a long post when this thread originally began and never hit the "post" button.


I certainly did not see it in my dd at 14. She certainly had a strong stage presence (I think she was born with that), musicality, the desire and the drive. But that was all she had. She did not seem to have the feet, the flexibility and the body. Nothing can change that. Or can it all change? At 13 it really did not look like she was developing a body compatible with ballet. She had lower than average arches. Didn't use her arms well and so much more. She was often near the bottom of her class. She had corp roles for much of her school career. She never was the stand out. And, like many of the others posting, she is bright, very bright- as in Ivy League bright. She ended up homeschooling not for ballet in particular, but it did allow her ballet related activities to grow. I tried hard to make sure she had an education that would prepare her for any sort of college career. Still, it was dance that was in her heart and in her head. Like the original poster, she took extra classes when she could and worked outside of class daily.


Along the way, I think there were times when she might have been the only that "could see it." Her own teachers are included in the people that did not see her moving along this performance path. Her former school director even said as much just about a year ago. I know that I am only quasi-anonymous here, but dd has slowly started spreading the news that she will actually be moving on to the next step in this journey as a company trainee so I will share that here because I think it is particularly appropriate. People who see her today don't know that she did not have the body at 13 or 14. They don't know that she wasn't flexible and was average at best because isn't any of those things today. I totally did not see it in her then, but I know I'm not alone in seeing it in her today. When dd was about 13, a wise teacher told me not to count her out. Something about the ones that know how to work hard are the ones who have what it takes to hold on and last in this crazy field. There is so much value in what they are doing even if they never make the next step, it is all worthwhile.

A little addendum: In testament to dd's "stick-to-it-ness," when that former school director told her outright that she did not see dd moving along the performance path beyond high school, dd immediately got a second opinion and a third. Despite having come off 2 successful SIs that summer, including one where she was a soloist in the performance in the top level (the other soloists all had scholarships to well known top tier schools and/or major competition wins), she heard these hard to hear words when she came home. I know it is very hard for teachers to have to help students realize the truth. It was a very confusing time, wondering if the summer was the true picture or if what the home teacher had said was the truth. We had been looking at other programs already and then began to look with a new urgency. Dd knew exactly what she was looking for and finally found it- a more nuturing environment with excellent training that brought her to the next level, I do think that change made a huge difference for her in the end.

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Your post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for posting, it really means so much to me to read this. Congratulations to your DD and best wishes to her on her next journey!

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Yes! I think MelissaGA's post is what this thread needed. Of course this is a difficult path our children have chosen to follow but also a very worthy path. DH and I have decided to support their pursuit for as long as we can and as far as DDs want to take it. It's not easy but we are fortunate to be able to do so with some sacrifices.

If only the favorites or bodies with the most potential at 12 years old were to continue, DDs wouldn't still be dancing. But here they still are, surprisingly strong and still improving at almost 17. Be very wary of someone saying they know who will be successful at 12 years old.

Bodies change, passions change, potential sometimes doesn't evolve into the talent predicted. We've seen it all. DDs have a self driven nature and toughness. I think not being the focus of the favoritism has given them an internal strength that serves them well.

It was difficult at the time to be a vulnerable 11 - 13ish year old - the years I look back on now and am amazed DDs didn't throw in the towel from the favoritism. In hindsight, I'm not sure I would have wanted them to have been the favorite or the one people talked about as having it all at a young age. I've seen how hard a fall that is when the attention ceases or they move to a school where they are no longer treated so special. When the drive was fueled by external validation what's really going on inside? Just my thoughts on the flipside of "being the best."

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I read this somewhere recently and it stuck in my mind.


If you are depressed, you are living in the past; if you are anxious you are living in the future; if you are at peace you are living in the present.


Don't be afraid to live in the present.

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Congratulations to your daughter, MelissaGA! I love reading all of these posts that show growth is possible. And I love reading the bios of company members from different companies and see that no, not everyone went to SAB or PNB for summers or for training, and not everyone was a prodigy, and these dancers are living their dreams. All of it adds more fuel to that "possibility" fire that I try to keep burning here at home for DD, and I'm not necessarily talking about the possibility of being a professional. We don't really talk about that. We talk about the possibility of 13-yr-old DD getting better, getting stronger, and dancing a long time. She's talked about dancing in college and I just listen. I think in her dreams she'd love to dance professionally but doesn't say that out loud. Right now I just keep trying to encourage her that it really is a long journey and not a sprint whenever she feels discouraged because someone "her age" can do this or that better right now.

And I'm encouraged to do that even more after a few recent experiences. One happened by chance as she and I were looking at youtube videos of YAGP to find the variation that she was learning at her SI. We stumbled upon a video of a 14-yr-old dancer with a company noted in parenthesis after her name. We watched the video, and while it was beautiful and the dancer was lovely, it didn’t cause us to think automatically “oh this girl is going to be a pro one day” the way some other YAGP videos have done (and perhaps we thought that wrongly about other dancers?). But the funny thing is that this lovely dancer IS now a pro in a top company. So we looked for other videos of dancers who are now with companies. The result was actually encouraging for DD because though the dancers were excellent, she walked away with this feeling of “maybe I could do that too.”

The other occurred this summer when I was picking up my other daughter from a basketball camp held at a university not too far from here. It's a top 25 women's program and I really appreciated the remarks made by the seasoned head coach, who is also a grandfather. The kids in attendance were ages 10-12. After thanking us for sending our daughters to the camp, he looked around the gym and said that he could guess that almost all of the people in the room played their last game (whatever kind it was) in high school because the reality is that in our big state, only 1% of high school senior girls will go on to play at the college level. Then he went on to talk about how even at the college level there are many levels, from top 25 division 1 schools to the division 3 schools where you pay for your child to play a sport (as he did with his son and soccer), and everything else in between. With this reality he said that our job as parents is to help our kids—through encouragement and finding training—get to their next level, whatever that may be. For some the next level could be middle school team for others JV and others high school. A few may keep going. But he talked about the advantages and benefits of keeping them busy with something and involved in activities with friends, and that we should help them find a passion even if it wasn’t basketball. And bottom line, as parents, we should help them dream about possibilities. And then his grandfatherly side came out when he said whatever you do, don’t let them leave high school early each day to go work at a fast food place just to buy more things at the mall; they don’t need more little things from the mall! HaHa! I loved his talk.

I know ballet has different financial considerations than other passions. Every family must decide what it can do to help their child achieve goals and keep going, and that is a very important, personal decision. But right now I’m encouraged to keep encouraging my DD when she feels down and to help her get to her next level, whatever that may be.

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Thanks, MelissaGA for sharing the story of your daughter's growth as a dancer. Sometimes the supportive encouraging parent needs encouragement, too, and your words did that for me. You reminded me as a parent to look beyond the widespread messages about ideal height, feet, turnout, etc. for success in dance. How exciting that your daughter's success can show dance teachers the power of potential and hard work. It may make them look twice at all of their dance students instead of the top three obvious students who are blessed to be born with a dancer's physique.


I can't tell you how much your story speaks to me. My 14 year old dd surprised her teachers with one of her performances this year. A few tried to express how proud they were of her, but it came out as, "We had to pick our mouths up off the floor!" One asked me, "Could you ever believe that she could dance like that?" I wasn't surprised at all, but clearly they were even though she's been at this studio for over a decade. I think it's a case of maturing as a dancer. Many of the kids bond and joke about being invisible, and that's a little heartbreaking for a parent to hear. There is a splash of teen drama thrown in there, but I'm glad they are tough enough to disregard the inequities in attention. Ultimately, you do see that there is a payoff for hard work, which is a universal life lesson.

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Thanks to everyone who posted here. I really needed to read this today in order to be there for my DD during an upcoming casting that has her (and her parents) stressed out. And also how to step back away from my mama-bear tendencies and let her take the lead. BT is great :)

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I linger here a lot, but I rarely post. I just wanted to point out that I am noticing a trend among my DD's long-time dancer friends. The ones who were favored early on and got used to being the center of attention at a young age are having a hard time now that they are older. Their expectations were set to a higher level because of the early attention they got. Several of them have had a reality check at various summer programs, where they were not the favorites, maybe for the first time in their lives. Some of them are not being promoted as rapidly as they had expected and are upset about that. They don't know how to handle being treated like everyone else.


Meanwhile, my daughter has never been used to being singled out, and her motivation has had to come from inside of her. She learned early on to apply corrections even if they were not given directly to her (Because teachers so rarely ever gave her anything), and she has learned to get something out of each and every class, regardless of the teacher's attitude. Even if the teacher doesn't look at her one time, she doesn't whine or complain, she doesn't make excuses or look for scapegoats. She just looks in the mirror, fixes her technique, and moves on.


It's a marathon, not a sprint. Those who are favorites early on may sputter out when the outward approval is no longer so easy to come by, while those who are working quietly in the shadows finally step into their own.

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Thank you to all who have posted on this thread! This is such an encouragement. Like a few of you, I am a mom to one that wasn't born with perfect turnout or beautiful arches, but my kid is so diligent and such a hard worker and refuses to take "No" for an answer. She has no patience for the drama of the girls who are used to being the star that suddenly get stung with a less than favorable casting or an audition rejection - she has been through it all and has risen above it. I love her quiet confidence and her ability to remain slow and steady toward her goal. Only time will tell if her career goals are achievable, but hearing from those who have walked the path is certainly an encouragement. Thank you! <3

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I totally hear you 3dragons. DD (14) cannot get her foot behind her ear, couldn't even get on her box during first pointe classes, couldn't make her splits for the longest time, doesn't have perfect turnout or hypertension, struggles with perfectionism which often causes her to look tense when performing. However, even with these apparent "setbacks", she has such a stinking positive attitude...and won't take no for an answer...instead, she works her little tail off, taking extra classes and doing exercises at home daily.


Last year, she was dancing 6-7 days a week (during performance season) when most the other girls were doing 4-5... and many of those girls easily slide by with their perfect bodies and amazing feet/hypertension. YET, DD, still smiles and blesses those girls...genuinely happy for them and their success. As you say, for the longest time "I just didn't see it"...(I would never tell her that), and I am actually starting to change my tune a bit. Recently, in a PT private, I finally started to see the budding of a beautiful line and a gorgeous dancer. She got accepted into a top 3 letter SI this year, and has a top role in the upcoming performance with local company.


I guess I post all this to say that I am amazed at what ballet has taught both myself and my DD about perseverance and has developed both our characters to be so sooooo thankful for the teachers and the opportunities offered to her in this competitive industry. I feel like a starving dog getting a morsel of food...and those times give DD motivation to keep working and keep on "keeping on". :)

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