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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Advice for next dance year

Diamond Fairy

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I am seeking some advice on DD's upcoming dance year. She has been promoted to the first year of pre-pro training at her school. She worked her tail off this last dance year (her first year at new studio) to move up to this level. Exams went well and she had a very positive, satisfactory evaluation.


This studio (in the past) has been very cautious to move students to the pre-pro level. Not only do the instructors look for technical ability but more importantly, mental/emotional maturity. There are three students who were promoted to this first year pre-pro level. One (who is a year younger) completely skipped a level (the last level before pre-pro approval).


This is just my thoughts as a parent. Having observed recent ballet exams and living through studio life for nearly 10 years now, I feel this girl was promoted because they didn't want only two in class at this first year pre-pro level. Some classes are combined with older pre-pro girls so there can be up to 12 girls in combined classes. Some classes are only their level. The younger dancer is a hard worker, is at the studio early to stretch, and strives to get as much out of class as she can. However, technically she is not there and, more importantly, maturity-wise is not there.


She can be an eye-rolling, conceited, mean-girl type who manipulates relationships out of insecurity. I have quietly observed and listened to her behavior all year. The instructors have even called her out on it. As a middle school teacher, I completely understand this age and all the insecurities that seem to "come out" during this stage of life. Here is where advice would be appreciated...


DD is now demotivated about next year. She is one who is a bulldog in class but doesn't always stand up for herself outside of class. She needs to learn how to deal with these types not just for dance but for all areas in life. How do I encourage her to get the most out of next year and not let this dynamic affect her learning and growing as a dancer? Anyone else been in a similar situation? I would love some advice on how to guide her. Thank you!

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There are always some differences in abilities in classes, and the teachers and students need to recognize it but not allow it to determine the value of the class. Your DD has been promoted and one student of lesser ability in the class should not be a demotivating factor. She needs to focus on herself and the benefit she will receive from both the very small class and also the times when the class is combined with students a bit ahead of her. It's all about her work, her attitude, her focus and commitment, and not at all about another student. Students like the one you describe will not thrive in the end. How and why the other dancer was promoted is irrelevant.

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Last year my DD (12) auditioned and was accepted into her school's ballet company. She has two girls on her level who also auditioned. One that we see as a hard worker who was doing everything 'right' as a young dancer did not get accepted. One who is not a hard worker, rolls her eyes, doesn't pick up choreography and is always arriving late and the first to leave the studio...got in. Watching them both dance I would have predicted the outcome would have been reversed.


First I would offer that it is important to recognize as parents and students, we really do not know what the teachers are looking for. Could be height, potential, how the three look dancing together, technique, artistry etc...so we just have to smile and say "cool, good for So and So!" and assume that our teachers know what they are doing.


Second, when DD found out the one girl who is not exactly a hard worker got in to the company it did diminish her excitement. At first she was incredibly proud that all of her hard work had paid off. But once she found out the other girl had gotten in as well, she felt that it lessened that achievement.


Now that the year has ended DD feels satisfied that all of her hard work is acknowledged, and the other girl's lack of effort is also noticed. This is a good lesson....just keep your nose to the grindstone, always do your best to be the professional that the teacher is trying to groom and let everyone else make their own choices. All choices (good and bad) are noticed.


Congrats to your DD for moving up!

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Diamond Fairy, if this is the first experience for your DD noticing that phenomenon, it certainly won't be the last. I would totally go with Ms. Leigh's advice and observation.


Encourage your DD to focus solely on her own achievements, her own training, her own progress. What goes on around her is only incidental---to the extent it can provide her with context, depth, cautionary experience, and adjunct/second-hand learning, then GREAT! To the extent it can be soul-sucking, distracting, self-defeating, or diminishing, then the sooner she learns to ignore it, the better off she will be for the moment, as well as for the future.

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I so appreciate your thoughts! I have not let DD know my frustrations but have tried to encourage her. So much energy can be wasted by worrying about these types and should be put into focusing on personal growth. I try to explain that class is the ONE place where she can be selfish and not think about anyone else. I am looking forward to seeing how this will help her to grow next year.

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When my older DD was about that age and was the hard worker who was often overlooked and worried about how others were progressing, one of her favorite teachers gave her a card that said, "I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself." (Mikhail Baryshnikov) She taped it to the wall next to her bed. It helped remind her daily that it is HER journey.

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It might also help to remind ourselves and our DDs that as much as we have picked up as dancers and as parents of dancers, we are not (usually) professionals. And sometimes there is something that a teacher sees in another student (or doesn't) that we wouldn't even know to look for. So judging others as worthy or unworthy to get into a level is kind of silly. Only the professionals know what they are looking for. Do they always get it right? Of course not. Is there sometimes politics? Of course! The best we can do is mind our own business and worry about ourselves.


As far as dealing with difficult personalities, that is a very valuable life lesson. Difficult people are everywhere.

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I have told DD many times, particularly this last year as there's been some leveling drama: "The only girl whose level I care about is yours."

(I also occasionally have to repeat this mentally to myself, but I'm only human.)

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Mom de deux, I have the same mantra :D

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Yep, I"m going to chime in with the "concentrate on yourself" advice to your dancer. It is the only thing they have control over, and there will be many other times this sort of thing happens. It doesn't even matter why-- like mom de deux and pasdeduxmama . . . . the only dancer I concern myself with is my own daughters. :)

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Thanks again to everyone for the consistent message... Not only does the dancer need to be reminded but Mom does too! ?

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