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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Boy/girl training gap?


Midammom

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So my ds (age 11) just took 2 SI auditions this weekend. At both auditions I was able to watch the audition class. I was suprized by the talent and ability of the young girls at the auditions. They were close to my sons age, but worlds ahead in dance training, bringing me to my question: Is there a boy/girl training gap at this age? And if so at what age should I look for my son to "catch up" to his female peers. Or if no "gap" exesist, should I be searching for another dance program that holds boys to the same standards?

Edited by Midammom
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I also observed a gap when my son was about your son's age. It did start to close between 12 and 14. It seems that some boys develop their technique later because of the way their bodies mature. I can't generalize about all boys, of course.

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I observed the exact same thing. When my DS was 11, he also started auditioning. While girls in his cohort were en pointe, or being conditioned to be en pointe shortly, my little DS looked like a little boy. I always attributed to the fact that girls develop earlier, hitting puberty at 10/11/12 years old. With puberty, it seems like they develop strength and body control, that my son clearly hadn't achieved yet. My DS was a late bloomer. He didn't start looking like a young man until well after his 14th birthday. And, I noticed that that's when everything started to come together for him. Now as a 15.5 year old, the gap appears to have closed completely.

 

Regarding auditions though, after reading all of the wise words on this forum, I suspect that qualified teachers and adjudicators understand and recognize the developmental gap between boys and girls at this age. I wouldn't worry too much about that. They know what they are looking for.

 

Regarding your question about searching for another dance program, I suggest that you dig into the Parents of Boys forum. There are many conversations that I have gained so much insight on about this question. The conversations can help direct your observations of the studio, of his teachers, of the availability of male role models, the amount and level of teaching, etc. that your DS gets at his current studio. Then, you can start thinking of the right questions to ask to make your own determination.

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Finallykf, my son has been studying ballet for 3 years and currently takes technique class 4 days a week and character once a week.

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I have a set of Girl/Boy Twins. From 9-11 my daughter was leaps and bound ahead of my son. Between 11 and 12 my son started progressing more quickly and now (13) I would say that they are both "equal" in their abilities. It is an amazing transition to watch as your son matures and everything comes together.

 

 

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Mother of a boy and 2 girl dancers. The boy is my oldest and my first introduction to serious ballet training. While I didn't notice a skill gap with him compared to girls his age, I have seen a serious gap across all ages in a competition setting and with our local nutcracker production. So much so, it is sometimes makes me very embarrassed for the boys. Where we live has very few boys who dance and even fewer who are serious about ballet. I think sometimes it is the situation that less is expected of them than the girls to keep them coming back to participate. Boys generally get less class around here because they don't take pointe and there aren't enough of them at any given studio to have men's class. During the 12-14 age range, my son would take pointe with the girls on flat just to get the same training hours in as the girls. A lot of boys don't do that. 15-16 he was tall enough and strong enough to be sought for partnering gigs and could use the rehearsal time to replace having to take pointe class on flat. My son has always set a seriously high standard for himself and never allowed gap to be present, nor did his teacher. He also was blessed/cursed with hyper mobile joints and has always been super flexible. The majority of boy dancers struggle to get and maintain the same flexibility as the girls due to how their muscles develop. Coordination also develops later in most boys than girls and of course puberty throws them back to square one sometimes. :wallbash:

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I think it depends on what age a boy starts and how good his training is. My son is 12, he started Ballet at 5. He takes class 6 days a week totaling 14 hours. I don't see a gap between his technique or skills compared to girls his age.

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Training doesn't account for the gap that I have observed in my son's studio. My son got the same training from the age of three that the girls received. Nor does a lack of potential account for the gap, because my son has now caught up to the girls. Perhaps boys have a greater variety of growth patterns! In my son's case, he was a very tall (92 percentile) kid with a lot of athletic ability. He was great at large movements. But he didn't have the mind for the small movements until he reached 13 or 14. He also had much bigger, heavier limbs than the girls, and his height made balance more difficult. Once he was able to add some finesse to his athleticism and once his adult muscles developed and allowed him to finally get decent extensions, then he really improved dramatically.

 

Obviously, not every boy will have my son's growth pattern. There's a more petite boy in our studio who has always had finesse and balance. There's another boy who grew really quickly one year and struggled with balance and awkwardness but is now turning into a really nice dancer. If you are pretty sure your son is getting good training, then a gap is probably nothing to worry about.

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I know the difference you are talking about and I think a lot of it has to do with a combination of factors - depending on the boy:

 

1) Lower number of training hours (most boys train less hours - e.g. our son was sent home when the girls had pointe).

2) Lack of competition (e.g. many boys are the the only boys in their studio)

3) Coming later to ballet (most boys don't start at a very young age like many girls).

4) Later puberty than girls. This is a big factor.

 

We have boy-girl-girl triplets - and although they don't all dance (one of the girls plays various sports), I have definitely seen a huge difference in the timing of their maturity and body sense.

 

I think that this might also be the cause of the great resentment that many girls have with boys getting the juicy SI scholarships. For the most part, they aren't as fluid as the girls - but as someone above pointed out, the auditioners know what they are looking for in a less mature boys body and what potential looks like. I have seen much less of a difference (if at all) once the boys are a year or two after puberty (around the ages of 15/16) and are getting more serious training and develop strength.

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I've been thinking more about the issue of training, and whether or not equal or boy-focused training at an early age could help close developmental gaps between boys and girls. Perhaps it could help. Competition with other boys might also help to spur progress. However, I would not want to use top pre professional training programs to test and answer these questions, because top programs probably get most of their boys after, not before, they close the gap. Thus, if a 12 year old is still finding his sense of balance, he's more likely to stay at his home studio until he has matured and then make a move to a bigger program at 14 or 15. So, you won't see as many gaps at places where admission is competitive, but it's not really the pre-pro program's training that closes the gap. Rather it's the fact that admission or self-selection brings boys to these programs who developed finesse somewhat earlier. The boys who develop later join these programs later. Thoughts, anyone? Am I off the mark?

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I think it's really pretty individual. My son started when he was 8 and after a few months was pushed ahead and skipped a level and then was moved up another level. So not long after he started he was always in class with girls 2-3 years older than he was. But he also figured out really quickly that he wanted to be a professional ballet dancer. Typically the few boys at his original studio would only take the Boys Ballet class that was offered twice a week but that wasn't enough for him and none of the other boys in that class wanted to be professionals. So he started taking the girls pre-pro track right away which was an additional 3 days a week. When the girls started pointe he would take class with them and work his feet and legs.

 

His original studio was extremely picky about proper technique and they had the same expectations for my son as they did for the girls. By 10 years old he was taking class 6 days a week for several hours a day.

 

So he has never had any kind of gap compared to the girls. His issue was that his old studio didn't have enough boys who were serious about ballet to have any kind of formal men's training program so he eventually had to leave to go a full time program where he could get really good male training. He is 14 now and in his second year of full time training.

 

I think part of the problem is that many studios are so desparate to get boys that they will do anything to keep them - including moving them up levels when they really aren't technically ready to be moved up just so they can stay with the other dancers their own age. Or, like at our old studio, they have separate boys tracks that aren't as serious as the girl's pre-pro track and have a lot less hours. I have also noticed that, although it is great to focus on the altheticism that is needed to be a male dancer, there has seemed to be a shift lately in local studios towards being hyper-focused on that element of male ballet at the expense of male gracefulness. When I have seen many boys and young men dance lately, many of whom who have been dancing for years, I am surprised by the number who seem to kind of clumsily move their way along without any kind of graceful movement at all. My son has actually commented just this SI audition season that he has been surprised by the number of younger male dancers he has seen so far who haven't even pointed their toes and, in general, just seem to be very uncoordinated.

 

I think though, for both male and female dancers, there can be times that some dancers can have difficulties. I have seen some dancers really struggle when they have very quick growth spurts (both boys and girls), puberty can be an issue, I think for some kids the pre-teen age seems to be when they kind of hit a temporary plateau for some reason.

 

I do think we need to be careful whenever comparing dancers to other dancers, especially when trying to compare them to dancers of the same age. All dancers develop completely different, both physically and in terms of their dancing ability. Plus, unless you specifically know the dancer you don't know how long they have been dancing, how many hours they have trained, whether they get private coaching for competitions etc.

 

I would as yourself whether you are noticing the gap only at the auditions or if you see it at your home studio as well. SI auditions can be eye opening experiences. If you only see the gap at the auditions, perhaps it's time to looks for another studio - maybe the training he is receiving isn't on par with other that of other studios. However if you notice the gap at your studio, I would suggest talking to his teacher and/or AD to see what he or has to say.

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finallykf,

I think you may have brought another concern to the surface: maybe the training he is getting isn't on par. He is at what I think should be a "pre-pro" school but the number of hours he gets a week is short of what looks to be standard. Also, the hours available for training don't really go up in any of the next few levels of classes. How do I bring up my concerns with his teacher and/or AD? Is it appropriate to ask if he could take classes at another studio to supplement?

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In my experience (actually I have not personally experienced it because we were never in that situation, but I have "lived" it via all the wonderful parents of boys on this board!!!), the vast majority of studios don't react well when you bring up the idea of supplementing training at another studio - even when it would logically seem to make sense because your current studio simply does not offer something that your child needs and another studio does. From a business perspective, I understand the concern. They worry if you head to another studio for one or two specific classes you might like it so much you decide to take ALL classes there and you never come back. Also, because boys are such a rarity at most local studios, they are in constant fear of losing them - and other studios are always trying to find ways to bring boys in. Your current studio knows any other studio will start to salivate the second your son walks through the door. In terms of training, it can be a not so good idea for a dancer to go to more than one studio when they are still in the process of working on proper technique. Teaching methods and styles are different at different studios, my personal opinion (and again, this is only my personal opinion - I am not a teacher but there are teachers on this board so if they have a different opinion listen to them not me) it is better to spend time doing some investigating, having a dancer take a class or two to get a feel for a possible studio, and then pick one studio for all of their training.

 

Does your son have anymore upcoming auditions? If so, in most auditions there is some waiting around time when other dancers are doing combinations in center when he could get a look at their dancing. If he sees some dancers he thinks are particularly good he can always ask where they train (sometimes they might even have a jacket or bag with their studio's name). Or if you recognize some of the dancers from previous auditions that you thought were particularly strong, you can always strike up a conversation with their parents and ask where they train. I have found that ballet parents are very friendly and always happy to meet a new face - the ballet world is small and you will find that you will see these same people a lot during your son's ballet journey. If you see a trend of strong dancers coming from the same studios that are at least somewhat close to where you live, go ahead and give those studios a call (they will likely all have websites) and see if your son could take a placement class as part of checking out the studio.

 

I do think you should speak with your studio's AD about what you and your son have observed at his auditions and what your concerns are. It's important to hear their perspective first. I would just ask to schedule time to discuss your son's progress. Personally, I would not mention that you are thinking of looking into other studios. You may be blessed with very kind teachers and a wonderful AD but many here have had to deal with studios that have become unbearably cruel to students when they discovered they either were thinking of changing studios or had taken a class elsewhere. I will mention that I do know a few dancers whose parents were told by their home studio's AD that they needed to move on to a new studio because they couldn't provide the intensity of training that he or she needed. So although I have made the experience seem bleak - there are studios who truly do have their students' best interests in mind and want to see them succeed, even if that means they have to lose them. So I would go into the meeting with an open mind but also remember that all of us here have learned that as parents of boy ballet dancers we have had to educate ourselves about the world of male ballet because, even though studios will often tell you they know how boys should be trained, this is often not the case. So if you feel like they are dismissing your concerns, saying things to scare you (as in your son will likely be injured if he leaves to train at another school - in other words speaking negatively of other studios because they fear you may leave), tries to intimidate you by telling you you don't know what you are talking about (if you don't know what you are talking about they should be educating you, not making you feel stupid), or in general you get the feeling they are just saying a lot of positive things about their studio and their training in order to "convince" you that your son is where he should be without ever addressing what he needs to work on and how their training philosophy will help him to improve - politely thank them for meeting with you (the ballet world is small - never burn bridges) and start your new studio search as fast as humanly possible.

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