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Ballet Talk for Dancers

The social fine line as parents...


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Attended a lovely open house with my DD yesterday. Lovely facility, wonderful faculty, DD enjoyed the learning there and will likely add a class or two there with permission from her home studio.

DD previous environment had a very unhealthy parent / teacher / studio owner atmosphere. Ultimately we moved on due to a combination of that atmosphere and the unavoidable issue of lack of safe and proper training.

I now find myself at a crossroads as we meet new parents, new teachers, new studio owners. On the one hand my instinct is to stay as disconnected as possible from the adults involved in her education, knowing only enough that they are behaving professionally and able to provide DD with the education she needs, nothing more. On the other hand, remaining in quiet observant mode at this open  house I had plenty of opportunity to people watch. Parents were working over time along a spectrum from cheery socialization to overt somewhat desperate attempts at making connections and networking.

I questioned whether or not my rather detached (but most certainly polite) approach is a pendulum swung too far in the other direction. I saw parents who I'm sure know who my daughter is as they have children at her home studio, and I'm sure know that we "belong" to each other, but just kept my head in my book. I made no effort to go and introduce myself and neither did they. Normally my instinct would be to greet them with a simple, "Hello, I believe our children both took class at xyz this spring. I'm Noel, nice to meet you." But yesterday I decided that I would rather keep to myself than insert myself into anyone else's circle.

Anyway, I guess the point and question I'm making/ asking is how do you decide how much or how little you attempt to socialize with the other parents and with teachers? Yesterday it was obvious to me that some hard core networking was happening and like I said, my decision was, when in doubt, sit it out. DD is young enough that while she makes plenty of friends, she has no social media or smartphone privileges and won't for quite a while, she needs to reach out through her parents to connect outside of the studio. Otherwise she would simply be responsible on her own for most of this. I don't want to neglect the role of helping her network but I also don't want to jump into it as headlong as I did before as I believe my instincts were off base last time and resulted in a false sense of social kinship within a studio that truly had a toxic environment.

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I think its fine to be less involved, if that is what is comfortable for you. The culture at my son's ballet school doesn't involve parents anyway, so that seems quite reasonable to me. The kids are there to dance, the peer social network will develop over time between the students who share a focus and interest in studying ballet. 

However, I have also tried to reach out to parents in my son's school and group because I also want to help create some positive, supportive community for the boys. It is important for them to develop relationships with peers outside of the studio (or, it has been for my son). He self-commutes now (he is 12 and travels by public transpo), but I make a point to show up about once every month or so just to sort of lay eyes on the scene and make sure everything seems ok. By which I mean everything from him being ready for class on time to seeing that the boys not getting too rowdy in the halls while waiting (that happens a lot less now that they are older) and making sure that the different age kids are treating eachother appropriately. I also try to check in with him regularly about how things are going-- because at his school parents are at such a remove (we can't see into studios etc even) things can also happen unnoticed- my son had an overuse injury that I wasn't even aware of for many weeks, for example. And there were some bullying/behavior issues that I also didn't know about (and I informed the school once I learned of them, as well as talked more to him about how to handle himself better when there are negative social situations).

From my own experience I would say that it is healthy to let dance be your child's thing. She is the one who is there to dance. You aren't there to make friends or frenemies... But also to find a balance where you are keep an eye out for issues, so that you can intervene if necessary, or step in and provide the kind of guidance and correction that parents should be doing if your child's behavior or decisions have not been the best. 

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I love this post so much!  I am someone who is at the center of the parent circle at our school, because I have small roll in the administration.  Sometimes I just want to hide in my  car (there have been some maddening situations), but most of the time it's okay.  Our school has a high sane parent vs uber competitive crazy parent ratio, so it's pretty good.  I know this is not the case at some schools.  Our school has lately gone out of the way to foster community.

For me, the parents I have met have given me the most incredible insight to the ballet world and the journey.   Last year I resolved to drive up and drop my DKs in the parking lot then scram.  However, if I had hid in the parking lot, I would not have learned so many helpful things.  Fellow parents can be so helpful!  Even this summer I met so many amazing parents at the summer intensive who gave me great advice.  There are parents at our ballet school that have taught me so much, and I in turn will always be encouraging and share what I know.  I read long ago on Ballettalk to share information and be kind, and I do try to do that.  We are very open with others about where the kids are auditioning etc.  I am always careful to be encouraging and supportive of other kids.

So those moments I want to hid in my car, or block numbers frome my phone?  It's usually parents whose children are struggling, or who are impatient for a role or a level or pointe shoes.  Last year I was brought really low by a friend who complained bitterly about Nut casting, about the school, and the teachers and even about other kids to the point I had to cut her off.  She became angry with me, and to my sadness the school caved in on some stuff to keep them happy (I posted about that :)) but they were gone within months anyways and moved on to a dolly dinkle where the kid is now a star.

On the flip side, there are parents who are too passive and not involved, and especially if they were never dancers themselves, they are hopelessly uninformed.  You obviously have found ballettalk, so you will not have this problem.  But I have seen a couple parents and kids become completely bewildered by the ballet world, not realizing why their peers were going to SI's or doing xyz, or even what is going on in the school.   So I think it's good to not be too passive or detached.  Also there are parents who are stand offish who just look kind of mean, or look like they are too good for everyone else.  But again, our school has a mostly friendly environment so these people stick out.

So for me, being really kind and open has paid off.  My relationships with some of the parents are very important, and I try to be as helpful to them as they are to me.  I have had some headaches, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.  I sense you are still battle scarred from your last experience.  

As for socializing with the teachers, it depends.  I don't go out of my way to be besties with the teachers.  I am nice and friendly and let them do their thing.  I rather let the relationship develop between the kids and the teachers.  I will say I have become over the years very friendly on a personal level with a couple of the teachers at our home ballet school.  Again, part of this is because of my role, but it's also the way they do things. They are friends with most of the preprofessional families so it's not odd.  There are times when I know a little too much about what is going on, and but that has been my struggle that I just have to sit on and shut up about, and respect the fact I have insider info.

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I very much appreciate your both taking the time to respond. I'm soaking all of it in. I think finding a good balance will be key. At the least, as the parent of a dancer, much like a dancer themselves, I know what I believe did not work, I know that corrections are in order... I'm just not sure what exactly those corrections are. In this case, much like a challenging or dangerous if done poorly piece of technique I'm not going to just wing it and hope for the best. DD has found a stable, professional, lovely home. I don't want to let any adult social nonsense to disrupt that. Thank you again.

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Thank you to all of you for sharing your thoughts.  Noel19, I see myself in your actions.  I was always reading or in my car as my DD danced. I am/was one of those non-ballet moms that had no knowledge and through this site have been educating myself (so many years of total anonymity/trolling) .  I am socially awkward in any situation and find it hard to socialize.  That I kept reading that networking is necessary, made me fear that I might be penalizing my DD in someway. Holding her back a little. We left our local studio after 10 years.  Few people will miss me or even know my name.  She began her first year at a Pre-Pro program.  Thank goodness for the open, gregarious, networking parents of ballet.  My DD new dance school has dragged me into volunteering and connecting, even when I can't think of the words to say or feel out of place.  I may never be super comfortable (I feel like I'm fooling everyone when my advise is asked for or heeded).  I think a bit of contact has benefitted creating a more community environment for my DD.  Teachers, I am cordial with but that's my DD territory but other parents have been very helpful in helping the hapless. 

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Ballet_Mage I wish you were here. I'm sure we'd muddle through this together. Your words reminded me of something I cannot hear enough. To be patient. Rome wasn't built in a day and what networking does not happen today may or may not happen, but either way I need to just be present in the day itself. 


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Thanks Noel19.  I will be trolling you to see how your journey goes (and when I get brave, post back).

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I'm fairly introverted so my natural instinct is to keep my distance. At my DD's old school, I did get to know a few of the parents (and a few I knew before my DD started dancing so it a natural fit). At my daughter's current school, parents are fairly arm's length except for on certain viewing days and performances. In the end, the interaction is between the dancers and their teachers. I'm fine with that.

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