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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Short boy blues


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DS, who is almost 14, sees on the cast list he is going to be paired up with a cute little 10 yo girl (lower level) , leading a bunch of even younger kids (and even lower levels) in the spring show. Meanwhile, his taller peer, will be partnering a 13 yo girl who is his same level, leading a dance of their peers. These two boys are the same level and ability, with DS maybe even have the edge including in physical strength. But alas, DS is short. The reactions we have had so far is "how cute"!. Especially as it is known the 10 yo girl has a crush on DS,


DS is a good looking, well put together kid. But he hasn't hit his growth spurt and he agonizes over his height. He feels bad when girls his age talk about their crushes, and feels invisible. He knows he looks young. This "cute" casting, with this 10 year old crusher, is not cute at all for him. He's going to do it, but he is now also wondering if he can quit the show! He loves ballet so much, it's his life. I think he feels a little betrayed by the casting.


Any words of wisdom? Mom is at a loss....

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In my training years I was quite short and young looking as well. As a freshman I was almost 5 feet tall. But the end of my senior year however I had grown to 6'. During those years I was always paired with much younger ladies who were leveled below me. I feel working with ladies at that lower level actually helped my partnering skills. In fact, as a professional, my biggest strength was my partnering ability. I would not be concerned at 14. I would encourage him to stay focused on his training and take the role as a leader and mentor to his younger partners. He will need to provide that to his future partners as a professional.

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Well if I can chime in here from the other end of the height discussion....18yo DS is now 6'4" and he has been jealous of the 'short' boys forever. He has always stood a head taller than the other boys in every studio he has been in.


From where he stands, these guys can turn more and faster, jump and lift more sooner. He has taken years to catch up while he has watched boys like yours master moves that he could only think about. His teachers have had plenty of discussions with him to boost his spirits after he watched shorter boys on stage.


Yes he is catching up now but it will be another few years before he will put on the same amount of muscle and not look gangly in his tights. So I think in the end all of our ballet boys become beautiful and marvellous. Different but they are all wonderous.

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nynydancer - My DS would completely relate. He was always the shortest and "cutest" boy in the studio. When he was an 8th grade, he was placed in dance with his sister who is five years younger. He was absolutely mortified. Another boy that was a year younger but had started hitting his growth spurt and was taller was cast in a part with older girls. There had always been a bit of competition between the two, so my DS was absolutely miserable during that show. It was all he could do to hold his tongue when the other boy lorded his part over him. Sigh.


But, like Thyme said, it does work out. He really does need to be patient. My DS is 16.5 now, has grown to 5'10" and is building muscle. It has started to come together for him. What helped my DS was a very kind male professional dancer who sat him down and talked about the ALL THE YEARS he spent as a Nutcracker party boy (including Franz) while his cohort of female dancers had moved onto other parts. If you can find a role model for him, either another student or teacher, I think it would help him tremendously.


The other thing I would say is that teachers are watching. They know (hopefully) that this is a tough phase for him, and that if he sticks this out with maturity and grace, they will remember.

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Thyme, that's a great point. It does appear shorter kids have an advantage in technique. I will remind him that his height is not a complete curse :)

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Perhaps get him to do some research into the height of men such as Nureyev (5'8"), Wayne Sleep (5'2"), Ethan Stiefel (5'7") and Baryshnikov (5'5"). Certainly didnt impede any of their careers!!

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Like Thyme, I have a boy who is tall for age. At 8 when he first was eligible to audition for Nutcracker he was sent out as too tall for party scene. This past fall at age 11 he was 6" above the maximum height for a boy in the performance. He is at a company school where the only performance opportunities are children's roles, so his last chance to do any at all was December of 5th grade. He's retired! He has had a hard year accepting that. Lots of tears about how disappointing it feels to be passed over completely for any chance to perform. And yes, I do think it can be harder to turn, it's harder to get some of the jumps [because] he has a lot more body to control, but isn't anywhere close to putting on the real muscle. And I've heard the bigger professional guys say that too-- it's just more work to move that greater mass, to have that different center of gravity.


We remind him-- as we would if he was small for age!-- that this simply isn't something he can control. That the challenges are different for all of the boys. When he starts partnering, his size will be an advantage. All he can do is to be the best dancer he can be with the body he is in. Dance as a profession is going to be harsh this way. Casting based on size will happen.


And yes! there are many very successful short male dancers. My son admires and follows the careers of several of them.

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Isn't it a shame when they don't have any performance opportunities outside the professional performance. Don't they have any other type of recital where they can perform before parents and friends what they have been learning?

Ballet is a performing art and not to perform at all must seem extremely frustrating. It's like practicing a team sport and never playing an actual game!

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nynydancer, and others whose DS are very short, or very tall, thanks for sharing your stories.

my DS is on the short side, has always and still is the shortest and cutest, now almost 15.

Every year at the ballet school conference, first thing they tell us is "we want your son to grow". !!

in front of him! They seem to take comfort and hope that his father is tall, they say that, too.

I feed my family with good home-cooking, take the kids to doctor's check ups, so I just smile and

dismiss them. Every time before the conferees, my DS, my husband and I joke about it,

"oh, they are gonna tell you to grow again!"


Anyhow, I hope my story may be encouraging to you, too, as yours have been to me.

my DS was in the same situation, as a almost 14 yo, paired up with a cute 10 yo lower level girl, Nutcracker and Clara, children's roles

in this production. Naturally, all the other children's roles are filled with younger kids. I was concerned DS would grow frustrated,

spending so much time with young kids in rehearsals and performances, his role not requiring much technique either.

One day, my DS said to me, "I don't swear anymore, or do so a lot less." I didn't know he did that, but as he said, "of course I do,

when you are not around." (!!) He explained, "I spend so much time with these young kids, I don't want them to pick up on my

bad language." tear, tear !


He is not the 'type' who appears to take care of other kids, so this was the biggest take away for me that Nutcracker season.

it doesn't sound like your DS has a vulgar language issue, lol, but I do see something of a 'discrimination' against short boys

in many social situations, not just ballet, and I think that extra pressure gives these boys a kind of character training that

helps them be over-comers, and a great sense of humor.

My DS had his own friends, from school or ballet, does horrible name calling (in my eyes), some kids are more persistent than

others, but he had smarter come backs and they all laugh and have a good time.


The conference is coming up in just a few weeks.

I wonder if they tell him to grow taller, again!

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haha dance-and-skate, we hear that too. "we want your son to grow" :) Your story was definitely helpful!


DS's dad is tall too, and was a late bloomer. So I guess will be the same for DS!

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Oh, isn't that funny they tell you to grow, with a straight face!?!?


I think real challenges as a dancer will come when these small boys go through growth spurt, though. They may lose those mastered technique, may need to adjust to changing balance of their body... different kind of frustration as the parents of young and tall boys mentioned.


In the mean time, there is nothing we can do about it but laugh it off :-) My DS and the younger girl were so cute together, and audience loved them, they really enjoyed each other as friends. I hope your DS can enjoy the performance.

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  • 2 weeks later...

My DS at 14 was 5 foot 6. By 17 he was 6 ft 1. So plenty of time for your son to grow.


As for the challenge of the growth spurt yes of course- but most boys have to go through this, so a good men's teacher should be able to accommodate training to fit.


An advantage of being shorter when younger is not being pushed to do lifts too early - just because they are tall young boys don't necessarily have the requisite strength in back and arms, and too much lifting can result in injuries and ultimately put training on hold or worse.... You can gain lots of partnering skills ('reading' your partner, balance, empathy, performance, co-ordination) without lifting... Of course it's in the nature of children to want to move forward, but not always good to move too fast!

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