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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Articles: on Growth and Training

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The abstract is kind of vague about what is meant by "maturation?" Do they mean puberty? Muscle mass? Height?

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Maybe because we aren't seeing all the data in the paper, we are missing definitions but that was one of my first thoughts too. What are the criteria for maturation and who would make that assessment in ballet world?

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The article primarily focuses on puberty. Here are some quotes from the paper (don't shoot the messenger, these are direct quotes : )


"You can look and you can probably go I think your shoulders are a bit broad or your hips are a bit wide or you're quite young and you've already got a chest so maybe that's not, you know, gonna go in your favor."


"I think through puberty girls go through a lot of different changes which do include...gaining weight, curves in the places that the dance world doesn't want curves."


"puberty does kick in and it can radically alter...technique first...lose their jump, they lose their extensions then the body, you know, the breasts kick in and the posture goes to pot."

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Well. I think I've seen enough of this. While it's true that puberty obviously changes bodies, the development of womanly features doesn't always mean the end of a ballet career. It may take some time for things to settle out but many times the long lean look returns and nice curves on a lean toned body are found among many lovely principal ballerinas.

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Trying to read this with an open mind. My DD is a late maturer for sure. 11 with zero signs of puberty, very short (most of that is genetic), not much muscle mass, etc. But she's the youngest in her ballet class and the first one to join that class and not yet get moved up. Her emotional maturity isn't delayed and she works hard at her dancing. She looks like the 8-9 year olds but would probably up and quit if she was moved from her class into theirs.


I can see a lot of different ways to measure readiness and sometimes they contradict. Bone development is very important for pointe and even non-pointe dancing. Emotional maturity including motivation, attention, willingness to sacrifice other activities for dance, etc are important too. I don't know enough about how puberty affects dancing (or any sport) but the article seems to focus on that type of maturation.


So I can nod and say, sure, that sounds important. I have absolutely no idea how it would work in practice. For my DD or for anyone.

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As the parent of a late-bloomer, I'm also trying to read the article from an open mind. I have a 14-year-old who still doesn't have curves, but there have been some changes over the past year that, while not perceptible to the eye, have affected her dancing and, thus, her training. I think this is what the article is trying to hit on. My DD hit her growth spurt this year, particularly in the past six months. As a result, her balance was thrown off as her body not only grew taller, but also became slightly more muscular. Her ballet teachers knew what was going on and consciously held her back to let her body catch up. It has been an extremely frustrating year for her as she realizes that she isn't keeping up with her friends' rates of progress. We can now see the end, and it appears as though she's going to come out of it with a lovely ballet body. But I think what the article is trying to say is that 14-year-old girls who are currently in the middle of puberty have bodies that don't need to be handling the same stresses as 14-year-old girls whose bones, muscles, and ligaments are fully developed. Whether or not they have curves is irrelevant.

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Yes, exactly , Pensive! Or at least that is what the article should be trying to say--from the quotes on this thread, they clearly muddled it a bit.

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Wow - we are failing into the usual discussion of ballet and body types. This article seems to be suggesting that it is not possible to tell if someone will have the correct body type for ballet until they have gone through puberty. Yes it is true that some dancers will not develop a perfect body but many of the physical requirements for dance are evident from a very young age - flexibility, turnout potential, good feet, musicality, etc. Should we as parents discourage our children from pursuing something they love based on our prediction of their final body type?

True, I have heard stories of dancers being accepted very young into companies and then "fired" when they finished puberty but I think the dance world is opening up it's criteria for "correct body type."





Beyond Perfect: A Manifesto - Dance Magazine

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Thanks for sending me the Article Gis66le. Although it is set out in a scientific way, I am a little concerned with the comments quoted from the participating teachers. There were only 10 and I do wonder if this is truly representative of ballet schools in UK. I don't recognise this way of thinking in the teachers I know.


It has long been said that you don't know what the female dancer's final physique will be like until she has gone through puberty, but I don't recall ever hearing anyone talk about puberty as anything other than a normal phase children go through as they grow up. Yes there will always be a high drop out rate as pupils go through their teens, but this is not just due to physique.


The mother of one of my pupils is involved in career advice for students, and she says in the mid teens, they still have the illusion that anything is possible. Only as they get older does reality strike, so by then a dancer may realise that it is not the career path he/she wishes to follow.

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Swanchat - I so appreciate you bringing that up about the changes and changing again. When I was young, my ballet teacher gave up on me and told my mother I wasn't going to be in her company because I didn't have the right body. Around that time, I was hitting puberty and I remember starting to fill out in my legs, hips, etc.) If she would've waited, she would've seen that my body eventually went to a very tiny facility in terms of shifting - after my menses my body slimmed down significantly - even more so than it was before then. I wish that during that delicate time there could be a little more patience given (I was barely 12 ... seriously?)

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Are we missing the point of this concept? I am fairly sure that the Vaganova Schools in Russia implement this type of concept- physical exams and placement in classroom work that would more clearly match children of the same physical age. By doing so it could be said that they can then tweak the training happening inside the classroom so as to diminish injuries to developing bodies.


Is that the point of the article?

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Clara - I think that is exactly what the article is trying to convey. Adolescent bodies can withstand differing levels of training depending on what physical maturity they're in. That includes growth plate closure, muscle mass, ligaments, etc. It has less to do with what the body looks like, but more with what's going on beneath the skin. My DD has scoliosis and her doctors have all sorts of ways of determining what stage she's in as far as growth is concerned. Curves aren't really a predictor because some girls will be genetically curvier than others. One thing we do know is that bodies in the middle of a growth spurt handle physical demands differently than bodies which are fully grown and bodies which are in early growth stages.

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Clara76 in Vaganova Academy they do select by body type, meaning all have the potential to turn out.All have feet and legs that point and stretch. All have long legs and arms with tiny hips and shoulders. All are flexible. All have a light jump and are coordinated. All are musical. They do group them according to height and try to group them by birth date.


Students are dismissed on an annual basis for not developing as hoped physically, as well as mechanically. They have their criteria. If you look at older photos you can see how the body type of today is far different from the body type of the mid 20th century. Even photos of Makarova and Baryshnikov as students are quite different from the students you will see today.

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