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LaFilleSylphide

Ballet Birthdays

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LaFilleSylphide

Maybe this is a rant, but am I being overly sensitive that I get offended when random parents (some not even my students' family) asking me to entertain at children's birthday parties?

 

This year there have been a strange rash of requests for me to don a ballet costume and come to a toddler party, make an appearance then lead the kids in a "little ballet dance". I don't know if my expat parents suddenly got seized up by some Pinterest ballet theme party trend or what, but for the time and resources I've spent laboring into training, I feel very offended that these people ask me to show up in a tutu and prance. Sorry, that's how I equate it.

 

The majority of my parents have never asked, but it started with one woman (who is one of my student families) and somehow all her friends caught wind of my phone number and email and have been requesting this. I don't know often how to respond besides, "no." And they follow up with "why not, it'll be fun and cute! We'll pay you!" I usually just say I don't have time, but the reality is I want to say: "Look, I starved in Europe and pained myself physically for a good portion of my adulthood to seek out some amazing teachers from amazing companies and schools so that I could teach children actual ballet, not do a ballet themed birthday party."

 

Or should I just embrace the good natured fun in all of it? I just can't bring myself to. The expat mentality is to throw money at things and expect it to happen, but I'm frankly annoyed that this is something they get huffy about when I refuse.

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Redbookish

Well, the point of training is to make it look like you haven't had training, f you see what I mean. So people who know little about ballet may not realise that what they think of as lovely fairytale dancing, costumes etc, is what you call "prancing."

 

There's a few things going on here -- the effect of Frozen (I have avoided seeing the film, but it's impossible to avoid its influence!), the enduring fascination people have always had with ballet, particularly the ballerina on pointe -- this is not a new thing, it goes back to the emergence of the Romantic ballerina in the 1830s and 40s.

 

My current studio runs on 'BabyBallet' -- lots of tinies in pink. Some of them just might go on to learn the real serious art & technique of ballet, most won't. But does that really matter?

 

So, you can either say politely & smile sweetly and say "Thanks for the offer, but I'm not available." Or you could see this as a learning experience, and devise a party programme which includes some activities for the littlies, and maybe a short bit of fairytale ballet "magic" -- I'm sure you'd be able to adapt a proper solo piece of choreography into something that would entrance toddlers and small children.

 

I suppose it's the way you're asked: randomly and as if you're in a service industry. And I get the expat mentality (I've seen it close up) -- although actually, there are a lot of people living anywhere in the world who think like that!

 

But it seems to me that the ball's in your court for this, and there's no compulsion to do it if you don't want to. And if you did, it could be an opportunity to show people what ballet really is?

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Doubleturn

Is there any chance that you could use these parties as a form of advertising for your proper classes? Perhaps make it a condition of your appearing that a pretty picture or leaflet is included in the party bag inviting the children to continue with classes at your school. Even if too young now, they may remember in a year or two.

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LaFilleSylphide

If I had a proper full time school with a littles program, this would be awesome advertising i suppose, but I wouldn't feel comfortable exporting my dancers (faculty or students) that way. Maybe having a theme party within the walls of our own building would be an answer, but at the moment I only teach two small groups of children which I keep pretty closed off (new kids have to fit in with not just the class level but get along well with the group).

 

I don't know what frozen has to do with ballet, but I've been asked to wear a frozen-Elsa costume before and to make a dance for the kids using that "let it go" song.

 

I guess I find it a tad bizarre. I don't ask acquaintances who are scientists or doctors to wear white lab coats at my parties and lead a mad scientist themed party.

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Redbookish

I don't ask acquaintances who are scientists or doctors to wear white lab coats at my parties and lead a mad scientist themed party.

 

I suppose that scientists, doctors, lawyers etc aren't primarily in the business of entertainment, as dancers are. A dancer's training is all aimed towards entertainment and performance.

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Claude_Catastrophique

Actually, I have got a friend who runs a studio and she does birthday parties for kids. She does them in her school and advertises for her studio. She asks a lot of money for the parties and people are willing to pay it. She gets some new students this way. But she does not dance. The kids can wear party themed costumes and play littles games.

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Guest Pas de Quoi

A dancer is a performance artist, true, but a teacher is not (while she is performing her job as an educator) and this is what would make me uncomfortable. If someone wishes to hire an entertainer for a party, that is fine. If someone wishes to contract services from a ballet teacher, that is another thing entirely.

 

I have done what you are describing, LaFille, one time and one time only. I had a lesson prepared I thought would be appropriate for the children at the party - they didn't want to take time out to listen and participate in the simple class I had planned for them. And I completely understand.

 

I agree that this kind of thing can work - at a dance studio. The children attending the party would have advance notice this would be part of the birthday celebration and in their minds, they would be able to separate the lesson from the rest of the party activities.

 

And I have to say if I were a teacher just starting out, I would not want my resumé to include "birthday party performer". I know you have worked very hard to become a good teacher - trust your instincts and don't do anything you don't feel will help you in your chosen career.

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LaFilleSylphide

Thank you Pas de Quoi, this made me very uncomfortable and I wanted to express that, especially since my frustrations can never be voiced to the people who ask since I simply say, "I'm sorry I'm not available." Or "I cannot."

 

Yes, I know many studios that have dance parties and do well. My own school in the States does summer workshops that are basically arts, crafts and ballet themed week long get aways for the kids, but again, there's something different about the kids coming into your school and building. The expectation is different, and they really can find that they love the environment and choose to take classes.

 

My day job is also 100% completely geared at entertainment, and I would be pretty aghast if someone asked me to come pretend to do that job at a children's birthday party. No one has yet asked me to come make a pretend film at their kid's party and scream ACTION! with a cardboard slate for a film themed party.

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LaFilleSylphide

Yet.

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