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Ballet Talk for Dancers

What Do You Do? and How Do You Know?


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Thank you, everyone, for this thread! DD13 is also a highly capable student and we have always stressed that her future involves college. My husband especially sees dance as "just a hobby" and since I know how difficult the path to principal dancer is, we've always stressed to her that dance is not be a viable career. *hangs head in shame* This thread just showed me how flawed that is!


This year DD13 decided not to audition for any prestigious SIs, although many of her friends have. I do worry that she will fall behind those of her peers that do travel to programs elsewhere, but we have always stressed that any extra $$ we have goes into her college fund. After reading elsewhere in these forums about the importance of continuing to train over the summer (not necessarily at an SI) I have felt better (our studio does offer classes through the summer, including master classes and an intensive with guest instructors brought in from a variety of programs across the country).


Reading through the posts here made me realize that college fund will be there for her WHENEVER she decides to pursue higher education. It doesn't necessarily have to be right out of high school like we've always stressed. We just brought her into the living room and let her know that if a dance opportunity were to present itself, she doesn't have to avoid it in favor of college. The look of excitement and relief on her face was priceless! Do I think she'll be a professional someday? Not necessarily, but it feels so good to let her know it can be an option and dreaming is allowed!

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My DD has some years to go before applying to college, but academics vs. dance is already an issue for us. My DD is very intelligent and gifted. She's also a musician, and one teacher keeps encouraging her to join a top tier music program. However, the older she gets, the more days she is required to be at the dance studio and the longer her ballet classes become. She says she likes dance more, but refuses to quit music just yet. Her music and dance teachers all agree that they complement each other, and since she is still young, I allow her to continue with everything. Lately, I have been considering a performing arts public school with flexible hours to accommodate her growing ballet schedule. It's a hard decision now, and I am dreading the high school years. I wonder if parents of other young dancers are experiencing this..   

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DanceMumNYC, my DD is 16 an a rising senior this year.  We seem to have the same overachievers.  While she was young (before high school) we continued rigorous and challenging academics (gifted/honors) and youth orchestra and chamber orchestra with her violin, math team, science fair winner, and of course, dance.  By 8th grade, she was pushing herself with honors everything and high school mathematics and science, orchestra, dance and then the role of Clara was thrown in the mix.  Decisions had to be made, something had to give.  I think this was when my dancer just knew - ballet would be her life.  I was the one she had to win over.  First she let music go.  Both demanded an amount of discipline her schedule could not accommodate. Then, dropped the teams for an extra Youth Ballet.  At the start of high school she choose to attend a local IB program that also had a Fine Arts program to further dance. After 2 years (with her first away summer intensives) she came back to me and said she needed to train more often and at a higher level. She stated that her mind wasn't going anywhere and college would always be the plan B but her body was at her peak for becoming the dancer she wanted to be.  We've just finished our first year in a pre-professional program and taking school online.  I'm still insisting on college prep classes.  She has to apply to college but, I can see the writing on the wall.  Dance is what she will do and plan B will have to wait. So, let her while she can push herself but don't be too afraid when she starts to make her decisions. We can help them stay focused. Ensure that plan B is solid but their will come a point dance will become a call that will not be ignored or waylaid.  It's hard as parent raising a dancer. And when she dances soooo rewarding.


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On 26/01/2017 at 10:49 AM, Victoria Leigh said:

Okay, former professional dancer and very long time teacher speaking here. First, I have found that over many years of teaching top level ballet students, the extreme majority are also gifted academically. This of course makes it very difficult for parents to totally support a passion that is not one that promises definite rewards. However, if you have a dancer who, by the last year or two of high school, who has the facility, talent, training, encouragement from teachers, directors, choreographers, who has been given major roles in productions, and, most importantly, is a young dancer who HAS to dance.....not one who just thinks she/he might like to, then forcing them into an academic world they do not want is not a good thing. If they have the kind of drive, focus, commitment, and passion, along with the elements listed above, then they deserve a chance. College can wait, ballet cannot. These students will ultimately succeed in whatever they do, but moving on into something that is not their decision for their life is not the way that happens. They will most likely continue their academic education at some point, but hopefully it will be their own choice to do that.


As parents you need to know they have a realistic chance, but that is all anyone can know. That is where the teachers/directors/coaches come in. But also, your knowledge of your own child and how important continuing to dance is. A dancer has to dance, and they will find a way, with your help, hopefully. :)

Wonderful words Miss Leigh, this forum has been invaluable for us over the last five years. Dd is one of those dancers. I used to worry that she didn't have any plan B or C or D but now I realise that her commitment to plan A was so all encompassing that considering any other plan could cause her to lose focus on her primary goal to be a professional ballet dancer. 

This is not to say we as a family didn't place significant importance on her academic education, we chose a path that combined both ballet and education ensuring she graduated from high school at 16. In retrospect this decision was probably slightly at the expense of her ballet training, she was significantly behind her peers when she started full time ballet overseas at 17 years old. 

Looking back I'm undecided as to whether we would have done things differently, given where we are now. 

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Time has past since I originally posted and I've had some time to reflect. My current belief is that some are just destined to go down a certain path and others won't. Life has a way of intervening whether by way of circumstance or opportunity that will put them in the right place at the right time. I now believe that my child can do as much as she wants, and if that is a combination dance and academics as long as there are hours in the day and energy in her body she can happily pursue both. I also believe that up until the age of 16 a fair amount of fantasy occurs. Dreams of stardom are fed, potential is speculated and bodies are yet to reveal the outcome of puberty. Junior and Senior years of high school are critical and intense for young dancers. Schedules and demands quadruple, and although some are still single minded about their dance pursuits, most are opening their minds up to the world and all it has to offer. Expectations are also increased as the demands of training and performing daily battle; AP classes, college courses, SAT scores and college applications. This period of time will go quickly, and in the end, most dancers will continue on to college, as trainee and apprentice positions are scare and the cost of relocating and continued training exceed most family budgets. These realities are just that, realities and although some dancers will continue on to professional careers, the road is difficult and short lived. That being said there is nothing on the planet that can be compared to the physical and mental experience of participating in dance. As long as there is desire, and talent is verified by opportunity there is no reason to prematurely cut short the participation in the arts.

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My daughter just came back from Ballet West with a renewed confidence in pursueing her ballet career via the college route.  She met several dancers there who graduated with BFA's from a variety of universities and are now on to professional companies.  One of the companies she is drawn to has many graduates from universities.  

I do know there are companies, probably mostly contemporary ballet companies who prefer older, more life seasoned dancers.  It's hard to believe that a dancers career averages 7 years.  

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On 8/4/2017 at 5:01 PM, DanceMumNYC said:

My DD has some years to go before applying to college, but academics vs. dance is already an issue for us. My DD is very intelligent and gifted (she's an active member of Mensa). She also plays violin and piano, which she has shown good talent in, and one teacher keeps encouraging her to join an accelerated music program. However, the older she gets, the more days she is required to be at the dance studio and the longer her ballet classes become. I keep telling her that she will have to choose music or dance, and then the arts vs. academics. She says she likes dance the most, but refuses to quit music just yet. Her music and dance teachers all agree that they complement each other, and since she is still young, I allow her to continue with everything. Lately, I have been considering taking her out of a private academic school, where she receives a scholarship, in order to attend a performing arts public school with flexible hours to accommodate her growing ballet schedule. It's a hard decision now, and I am dreading the high school years. I wonder if parents of other young dancers are experiencing this..   


I am a parent of a much older dancer. My recommendation is to keep all doors open as long as possible. Yes, there will be some decisions to make along the way. In our house, it was first ballet vs other arts. I don't feel as if we really ever made a choice of academics versus the arts though. There are many other creative ways today to continue high level academics, though it may require moving out of a traditional school environment. 

In our case, the academic decision came first- to move out of a traditional school environment. Having grown up that way, as do most of us, it can be hard to imagine something different being just as rigorous or even more so. Dd left an excellent private school with high academic standards for reasons that had little to do with dance. She began online schooling with a virtual private school, Later, we did a more eclectic approach using a variety of resources including college classes in high school. Once she started working with the online school, it was very clear to me just how valuable a more personalized approach to education can be for some. It was definitely that way for dd. if math came easily for her (as it did), she could complete a math course in a matter of week instead of months. If something did not come as naturally to her (one science class in particular!), she could take the entire year. Various virtual schools can have all the AP courses, college guidance counselors and other hallmarks of traditional schools.

This nontraditional  approach actually opened the door to dd having more hours available for ballet. We did not do this for ballet, but it definitely made ballet easier than it would have in her private school or in our local public schools. While dd did dance in NYC, we are not NY state residents. Note that homeschool requirements can differ from state to state dramatically. Though, private virtual schools can be an option that avoids some of the rules and regulations if you are not seeking a state university or a state high school diploma. 
Continuing with your concerns about other arts vs dance... Music did eventually fall by the wayside. She played 3 instruments and they fell one by one, leaving piano and then one day, her teacher recommended that she come back when she had more time to actually practice. :o She did pick up voice lessons at one point near the end of high school, but once she left NYC for her trainee program, that was difficult to keep up between the heavy ballet schedule and her college coursework. 

Dd has continued at a very high academic level taking college classes (some graduate level but only undergrad credit) while she was in a trainee program with a professional company and will continue to do so while she is dancing professionally. Her hope is to be done with her undergraduate degree by the time she finishes her career. 

My advice is, as I said at first. Keep all doors open as long as possible. If she is young, or even if she isn't, you don't really know where any off this will lead. The academic component should never be brushed aside. A dancer's career is short, if it ever even happens. I've watched student dancers who i thought were for sure headed to the company path either decide to attend college (not for dance) right after high school or a few years out after not finding the success they had hoped for. 

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Thank you, everyone, for sharing your experience & wisdom! You all have been very helpful! :wub:

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