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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Younger child dancing with high schoolers


meilingsmama

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Just wondering if other parents out there have been through experiences with their DD or DS dancing with older students.

 

12 yo DD's director had been conservative with her for a few years, keeping her with age peers. Last year she took one class with students that were a little older. This past summer at her first away SI she placed well and danced with older and more advanced dancers. She was inspired to have more advanced students to model. I was worried at first that she would feel overwhelmed but she loved it.

 

Upon returning from the away SI and dancing at home SI, her school moved her up so that almost all her classes are with the upper level students. Her teacher wants her to model the older students. So far it's going well. I'm excited and a little nervous for her. So far the older girls have been very nice to her and are far less "competitive" than her age peers.

 

Any other parents have similar experiences? How did it go?

 

We are not at a big pre-pro as there is not one where we live but she's trained well. We hope she does get to a pro school in a few years.

 

It always seems like a balancing act of keeping the child challenged while making sure they don't take on too much.

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Dd 12 is one of the two youngest in her level, too. She was actually just cast in a performance in a few weeks where the next youngest girl is a sophomore in high school. Dd is going into 7th grade, so that's a pretty big age difference. I don't have any real experience, but wanted to let you know we're in a similar boat.

 

The older girls are mostly nice to her, but she did find out that last year one girl who is a year or two older than my dd told all of the older girls that dd was talking badly about them. Dd is a typical 12 year old girl: she worships those older dancers and never would have said anything negative about them. I think some girls have the propensity to become mean if they feel threatened. Hopefully that doesn't become an issue for your dd,and I'm also hoping it doesn't pop up again for my dd.

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DD is almost always one of the youngest, and often the youngest in her contemporary classes. The older dancers are generally kind and respectful towards her, but there is not a great deal of social interaction with them. It doesn't seem to bother DD (11). Despite being a hugely social kid outside of dance, she does not socialize much at dance these days. She experienced bullying at our prior school when she was younger, so perhaps she is skittish. She has said that she is at a more serious school now, and doesn't see it as a place to hang out with friends. So, even in long rehearsal days, she will often sit with a book during breaks, or connect with a friend her age from a different class.

OTOH, I have overheard a couple of other parents complaining or questioning when they see one or two younger dancers in a class.

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DD is 12 and the kids in her class this year are 14-18. So far it has been great. There seems to be less competitiveness, and the girls are all very nice. They talk about ballet, music and leotards- that seems to be enough common ground!

 

Last year she was at a different school with girls 11-14, and it was tough. There was a lot of drama. My DD is definitely much more relaxed with this group.

 

Good luck!

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DD is 11 and in 6th grade. We're in a small ballet program that does not have a lot of levels. Two years ago she was moved up to the second highest level (the one that goes from pre-pointe to beginning pointe) and put with two girls 2-3 years older. Two other girls also that age, but with less ballet experience, got added to the class and the original girls were moved up. It was a bit of a problem for DD simply because the older girls had more to talk about with each other and were nice enough to DD but didn't socialize with her. We pushed for a second girl to move up from the lower class and that took a year (she was ready but had scheduling issues). After a year, she joined the class and she's only 2 months older than DD and in the same grade. That made the social aspects of the class so much better for everyone. The 4 girls have been a close group this last year. They dance together in shows and they all started pointe together in April. There are other 6th graders in the lower class but they aren't ready to move up yet (in part because DD's level has morphed).

 

The same thing happened in the school where she took contemporary classes. She was with older girls. And she even took a class that was almost entirely older teens and young adults (male and female), but they welcomed her (I checked multiple times with different people) and she had a blast. It's just the way it often works when you don't have a large school with many levels.

 

When she did her first SI this year, she was in a level that was mostly 10 and 11 year olds but with a range of 9-13. Socially that was nice and it was the right level for her. Sometimes a dancer is very advanced and will dance with older students. Sometimes they're just advanced within the small cohort they dance with. I think it matters more how the individuals are with each other, and that the student is at the correct level, than what the actual ages are.

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I think it can work very well. We do not have experience yet , but we are about to. Our company-affiliated school is fairly large and has many levels up to trainee, so within specific levels, ages are actually consistent: DD11 (beginning pointe but not on yet) is in a level with mostly 11-12yos and a couple of 13yo, and most levels have this 1-2yr age spread. However, there is an auditioned group which she will be joining that includes class once a week (and special performance opportunities/rehearsals) that combines 3 levels: it will be 25ish girls, maybe more, and there will be maybe 3 other 11yos and the rest 12-14. The school has run the group as combined levels for a while, and all of the moms I have spoken with have been very happy with how supportive the older ones are as the new younger ones join each year, and how cohesive the group becomes over time, with the ones who start "younger" eventually getting to be the role models as they become the older ones in the group. Later on, as they move up to three of highest levels in the school(typically high school), there is a different auditioned group which is 13-18yo, which apparently also works well. So we shall see, but it certainly sounds as though mixed age levels can be a great opportunity.

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Our experience is mostly good. Mine made the move about 2 years ago to an older group, and it was older again the following year. Same group this year. I've had to remind my 11 y/o to remember her classmates are older. Sometimes they have to remind themselves she's younger. But it's mostly very nice and supportive, and they all pretty serious and get along. It's been good for dd.

 

I can say it's much much better being in this class than the group with the group that was the same age. THAT was hard.

 

No issues with parents either.

 

Now on the BOYS side it's different. They keep the younger boys in their own class and dressing room. They older boys locker room chat can be very mature at times.

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DD just turned 12 and is the youngest in her current level, where the range goes up to 15. This summer and now fall she will be taking some classes with the next level up, which will include girls all the way up into late HS. She will still be the youngest, although there is a girl in the same grade as her in that level, so she will not be the only young one.

 

DD really loves the challenge of being with the older dancers and they are lovely to her and the other younger dancers. The only time DD feels left out is when the other girl her age isn't around during breaks. The older girls talk about HS things: teachers, events, etc, and DD isn't able to participate in the conversation. She doesn't want to come off as a pest.

 

Honestly, DD prefers being with the older dancers. By 15/16, the only students left at our school really want to be there, and they are serious about class. DD finds that in her age-peers, there are still a handful of dancers who talk, fool around, and generally aren't there to work, and she finds it frustrating.

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My youngest DD is dancing mostly in with girls her age or 1-2 years older, but her older sister was the youngest in her gymnastics level for years. She had a much better time when she was middle school age (about 11-years old to now at 13) working out with high schoolers than when she was mid elementary (8-10 years old or so) while the others were in middle school. Hope it goes well for your daughter!

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Our dd had the same experience. Until she was 13, she was with her contemporaries even though some her age had already been advanced. When she was advanced, she enjoyed being friends with the older kids (some of them were in their late teens). I think there was no sense of competition with "the kid" until she was recognized nationally. It was interesting to see which of her older friends remained friendly and which ones were suddenly glaring and staring and not talking. Those who were still friendly remain her friends years later. I truly believe that many of these middle schoolers and high schoolers demonstrate their immaturity when confronted with competition among themselves. While it angered me at the time, it was good training for how to handle less than kind reactions to casting, promotions etc once our dd was a professional. Also, some of those who weren't kind at the time grew up and became nice and supportive of other dancers. Ballet is a small world- be kind, be gracious and the rewards will come. (And even if they don't your dk can be at peace with his/herself) Also once a dancer is in a professional company, that dancer will be with a very diverse age group so your dd is getting good experience in dealing with older dancers.

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DD has been on both sides of this - the 12 year old dancing with the older high schoolers, and now the junior in high school dancing with the 12 and 13 year olds. She never had any problems when she was the younger one, and it doesn't bother her now to have the younger dancers in class. As long as her classmates work hard, show respect to each other, the teacher and the art form, and are basically nice, she's good. And an insecure dancer may react out of jealousy regardless of the age difference, so it's always good to learn to handle that graciously, whether you're the one on the receiving end or you're the one feeling the jealousy. Likely your dancer will experience both at various points along the way, from what I have observed over the years.

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On the flip side, the younger ones can be extremely annoying to the older ones if they are not mature enough to follow class/studio/theatre etiquette. It may not be jealousy, it may just be sheer annoyance at the immaturity of the younger dancer in their behavior. Excessive talking, not being on task, not being serious when they should be will turn the older students trying to focus really fast.

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I agree with you on this dinkalina; however, the behaviors you describe don't fit the actual profile of a dancer of any age who is performing well enough in class to be moving up the promotion ladder in a school training professional dancers. If this is happening, IMO it's more an indication of the school. Promotions should be taken seriously for the benefit and safety of the students and the overall productivity of the class.

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Unfortunately, some of those behaviors happen even at top schools. DD was once the youngest in her class by far, but as she has progressed to more competitive schools, she has become first one of the "middle" students with regard to age and is now one of the oldest (she thinks THE oldest) in her level (at the top of a large company school). She is frustrated with exactly what dinkalina describes--younger students who lack etiquette in class, particularly with regard to spatial awareness, focus in class, and respect of other dancers. I would guess that quite a few of these younger students were prodigy types at their home studios and are not used to being in a room full of others who are at the same level. It is still early in the year, though, and it takes time to work out some of these issues.

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My dd dances with girls who are older. When I watched class I was really annoyed at the behavior of the OLDER girls. Age is but a number. My dd knows how to focus in class. It's different everywhere, of course.

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