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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Ballet and ADHD


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I would love to hear the experiences of other parents (or teachers) who have dealt with dancers who are challenged by ADHD. DD is 10. She takes 3.5 hours pf ballet per week at a very good dance school. She does not aspire to be a professional ballet dancer, but may be interested in pursuing modern dance. More than one of her teachers has told me that she has a great talent and facility for modern dance. She takes ballet because it is required in order to purse modern at the level she is, and also because she understands that strong ballet technique is important for whatever style of dance she may ultimately pursue. However, watching her in ballet class, she looks like a totally different dancer from the way she looks dancing modern. It is as if the language of modern movement makes perfect to sense to her brain and body. But ballet, on the other hand, requires an enormous amount of focus (for any dancer), and that level of focus is hard for her with her ADHD. And maybe modern would require just as much focus for a dancer who didn't have a natural knack for it. For DD, modern makes sense; ballet requires lots of attention to many details that don't come naturally to her. She gets by, and never gives up because she knows it is important, but it is hard for her. A couple of months ago, one of her ballet teachers yelled at her to focus. DD started to cry out of embarrassment. When the teacher spoke to me about it, her tone was to the effect of, "why is she even in my class?' I explained about the ADHD, and asked if the teacher could possibly observe DD in a different genre to understand why she is at this particular school. The teacher was sympathetic in the discussion with me, and did actually watch DD in a modern class. DD says the teacher no longer yells at her, but doesn't really give her corrections anymore either.

I guess I am just wondering if any others have dealt with this issue. I don't expect DD to improve enough to be a ballet dancer, but I am hoping that she can improve enough to be able to purse modern at the level she would like to.

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ADHD is a bear isn't it? As an 8-10 year old my DD was a hot mess in ballet class. Even during parent observation week with parents sitting in the front of class, DD couldn't remember combinations and I could see her attention drifting as early as the barre. I could see that she had so much potential and a facility for dance, but her brain just wasn't working for her. Our studio didn't offer contemporary classes for the younger age groups so I have no idea if that would have appealed to her then but I suspect it would have.

One summer, we decided to try her on medication (not telling any of her teachers) and all of a sudden, the teachers who had previously complained that she never seemed engaged in class and was always making excuses to sit out, reported to me that she had totally turned it around. They praised her newfound attention to details and new attitude towards dance in general. I am by no means suggesting that you medicate your child. It took us a long time to come to that decision but it was what worked for DD ultimately.

Flash forward 9 years, DD now loves the intense discipline and focus of ballet and is at a residential pre-pro school, living and breathing all forms of dance. No one who doesn't know how far she has come would even guess that she has ADHD. Good luck to you an your DD. It will get better as she gets older and I honestly think that practicing her focus and attention during ballet class will ultimately improve her ability to do so as time goes by.

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I'm so sorry to hear this. Hope she will stick with ballet since she is very bright to understand the importance of it as a foundation to any dance.

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I have 4 kids total - 3 are medicated for ADHD and one who perhaps should be but she has such a high IQ she has learned to cover it well so far. For my kids who are dancers, they have never had a problem focusing in ballet because it is so black and white to them. We do this, then we do that, etc. It's a regiment they have in-grained and it gives them peace/focus to do it. It's really fascinating to watch - it's like their bodies know exactly what to do and they can just shut their brains off and let it happen. Where they start having problems is learning new choreography. None of them pick it up quickly because they need time and repetition. It's especially hard if it is later in the day and the meds have worn off. For my dancer who is unmedicated, she needs overnight to process choreography she's learned that day. The next day she will have her part down better and in a few more practices, she will know everyone's part too, but she has got to have that process time. My dancers like modern as well because its constant movement and less barre time. Genre's outside of their comfort zone - jazz, hiphop, those are very difficult for them to pick up quickly. They need extra time because those types are generally really fast.

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Thanks so much for these comments. It is encouraging to know that ADHD has not prevented your dancers from continuing to pursue dance at a high level. DD is medicated. She does much better in her Saturday classes, because they are during the day. Evening classes are a struggle for her though.

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My dd has struggled with ADHD, and she is now almost 17 and a pre-pro ballet student with career aspirations. At first, we received all sorts of advice about changing her diet, drinking coffee, etc. For us, all of that turned out to be a waste of precious time. Medication has been the only effective treatment, and she has experienced no ill effects from it after five or so years of taking it. I hope the moderators will allow my response, since dd was diagnosed well before age 13.

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I can concur with dinkalinka's observation about choreography. This is one of the areas that is hardest for my DD as well. She needs time to practice and get the choreography into her body probably more than other students. With things like Nut and our spring performance, it is especially important for her to be practicing her part in the back/side if there is a split cast and to not miss rehearsals if at all possible. It was a struggle of at least 6 months for her to adjust to longer, faster, more complicated combinations when she was promoted last year as well - I found I needed to prepare her for this and support her, so she didn't think that suddenly she was just 'bad' at dance.

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I think I'd have to agree with everyone that picking up combinations or choreography quickly continues to be my DD's biggest challenge. At her last summer intensive, she and a friend would practice giving each other complex combinations until she improved her speed and accuracy in learning.

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It is funny, but my daughter does not actually have trouble remembering choreography, but she often looks like she can't remember. If she is in the back, or if she is not feeling confident, she will get distracted by watching other dancers. She then ends up a beat or so behind. It's a mess. Again, it rarely happens in modern, because she is confident of her ability, and is usually in the front. She doesn't usually even realize that she is looking at other dancers. One of her contemporary teachers realized the problem right away, and talked to me about it the first class. He periodically makes her do choreography by herself, or with one other dancer. Or, he makes everyone turn and dance towards the back. Once he does that, it reminds her that she does know the choreography herself, and snaps her out of watching other dancers. One of her teachers told me she had the same habit as a kid, and outgrew it. I am hoping that happens with DD too.

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Has anyone whose dancer is medicated for ADD or ADHD had issues with their height being stunted due to the meds?

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My DS was 6' at age 17 and still growing. My DD is adopted from China is 5'1" at age 13 and still growing. DD will never be tall due to her heritage. The meds they take do NOT keep them eating at all. :clapping:

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My dd still maintains a healthy appetite. Be sure your child is carefully monitored by her physician to assure correct dosage. I seem to remember that her appetite fell off at first but slowly returned.

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Thank you! Dinkalina, I also have a DD adopted from China. I saw a significant drop in appetite during the first week, and now we are upping the dose to see if focus will improve. I just want her to reach her full height potential, which they had projected to be 5'4-5'5. She's 10. Dr will closely monitor dosage Rosetwirl.

Dinkalina, did you mean to say that the meds didn't affect appetite, or they did? We are trying Vyvanse.

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I have 3 DK's all thriving in ballet with ADHD. All 3 are medicated (2 are on Vyvanse, 1 on Adderall). No issues with growth DD is 5' 10". 1 DK is professional now and other DK is heading off as Trainee in a Major Company in the fall. Choreography doesn't seem to be difficult for them. The biggest challenge we have found is determining when the optimal time to take the meds is. Adderall was good because it was 2x per day and wore off quicker. Vyvanse is a challenge if they have a day that exceeds a 12 hour span between school and class but Adderall didn't have the same efficacy for them. It seems to wear off by the end of class. The other thing that I think is a problem for my DD with Vyvanse is she has very little appetite throughout the day but once it wears off (7:30 or 8:00 pm) she is extremely hungry. I don't want to tell her how much to eat for obvious reasons but I also know that it's not the best to eat a huge meal and then go to bed. I suppose I could just start making salads for dinner but I don't think that would go over well with the male species in my household. :ermm: DK's do not like to go to class when they aren't able to take their meds and I can see a difference when I peak in the window.

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I am curious if any of you have told your kids' teachers or studio directors about the ADHD. I have only discussed it with two of DD's teachers, with mixed results. They were both understanding in the conversation, but as I said earlier, one just stopped paying much attention to DD after I told her.

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