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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Anxiety over another dancer


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I have 3 dancers who've all been dancing since they were 3.  We've been at the same studio for the last 10 years, it is the best ballet studio in our area.   My oldest daughter has always been a very confident dancer and takes control of the stage, etc.  She is 13.  Over the last few months, however, she has had her confidence shaken slightly.  This past spring, our local company put on a Spring show which all 3 of my girls danced in.  A friend of my middle daughter was cast in the lead "young girl" role and has had it go to her head.  She just turned 9 this Spring and in May was told by the studio director to get pointe shoes over the summer.  She is a nice dancer and has strong, archy feet.    She is extremely tiny for her age and nowhere close to being finished growing in either feet or body.  This action alone created a lot of stress with older dancers who feel she is being given special treatment.  She has taken to bragging about various things that she gets to do and when classes started back up in August went around telling everyone that she will be competing in YAGP.  Our studio is not a competition studio and to my knowledge has never sent a student to a competition.  I have come to understand that one particular teacher suggested to her mom that she compete and that is how it all was started.  I believe that she is planning on entering in 2 different cities in order to "increase exposure".  Anyway, my point in bringing all of this up is that my older daughter now feels like she has to compete or that she isn't good enough anymore since she wasn't singled out, etc..  I have read through the threads on here concerning competitions and understand that is just one path to a career but not necessary at all.  But, my question is at the age of 9 am I correct in saying that there is really nothing that this girl can "gain" other than possibly a ribbon or trophy?  I believe she's too young for scholarships or such, obviously too young for a job offer, so I'm trying to understand the point?  We have plenty of stage time and performing experience at the studio so that can't be the reasoning, and with the cost of competing I'm trying to understand what benefit if any there would be to it?   Is "exposure" really necessary at the age of 9?   I could understand if she were 15 or older and wanting to get her name out there for a potential job, etc. 

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Is your question about why the parents/child would want to compete?  Or why the studio might be interested in having her compete? 

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My advice - and it may seem strong but is really from the heart ... Don't put any energy into worrying or thinking about other dancers ... That's a road that leads nowhere - focus on your beautiful dancers , if they want to be prifessiknals  they will need all your focus - at such a young ages 9-13 there is still no determining who will end up being a professional so just try to enjoy the ride 

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Eligus - Sorry, I guess I should have clarified.  My question is more why would she would want to compete at this age for "exposure"

ballet1310 - that's what I told my daughter, but I guess I'm second guessing that we're doing all of the "right things"

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This is coming from a parent, not a professional, but from my experience, parents and kids make decisions from a number of different motivations that are difficult for anyone to understand.  I'm not being snide here.  I'm just trying to say that I've seen people make the strangest choices in their kids' development.  But I've also come to be a firm believer in trying not to judge another's decision when I do not understand their motivations or circumstances.

I will say that it is also my belief and experience that social media can sometimes drive choices  to compete and the need for "exposure" .... and not for the good.  Sometimes it is difficult to fight against the "fear of missing out" -- as an ADULT I have been guilty of those thoughts slipping into my head as well ("oh no!  So and so can do such and such and he/she is only 9... is my kid doing enough?  Am *I* doing enough?"  -- SHUDDER).  I can only tell you that is a very slippery slope to stand on.  I read a quote (I can't remember who it is by) that helped me and my DD get through those thoughts...  "Comparison is the thief of joy."  Your DD's journey is hers and hers alone.  This other child's journey is separate and apart from your DD's.  Focus only on what your DD wants to do and where she wants to go.

Sit down with your DD, look honestly at HER journey, and make a list of things SHE can work on (both short term (3-6 months) and long term (3-6 years)).  Make a list of concrete goals that she can achieve.  And then work on those and only those.  This process WILL require laser focus and frequent checking in on your goals to keep your perspective.  At 13, your DD is only JUST ENTERING the truly competitive and difficult times of the dancing world.  It helps if you tunnel your and your DD's vision down to see only that which you can control. 

Does your daughter think she needs more performing experience where she "carries the stage"?  If yes, that might be a reason to compete.  Does your daughter need more one on one training to "coach" her in stage expression and presence?  If yes, that might be a reason to compete.  Does your daughter need more experience handling pressure and nerves?  If yes, that might be a reason to compete.

Does your daughter need more technique training?  If so, that's a reason NOT to compete, but to focus on class and/or privates.  Does your daughter need more strength?  If so, that's a reason not to compete and to focus on class and/or cross training.  Does your daughter need more stamina?  More practice on spatial awareness?  More practice picking up choreography QUICKLY? 

Those are just some of the questions you and she need to ask each other (and trusted teachers) and work on figuring out to plan out HER journey.  And then, (most likely), you wind up changing or even throwing out the plan and remain open to the doors that open for her. 

I know the feeling you are struggling against.  I know it intimately and am not judging the question you've asked or the anxiety accompanying it.  All that is part of parenting -- dance related or not.  I wish you love and luck and clarity on your journey.

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I don't have any real advice, just sympathy. My DD also had a girl in her class who was young, tiny, and really good. Comparisons didn't help anyone. My DD was disappointed that I couldn't provide the additional dance opportunities which that little girl got from her mom. We've had various talks about balancing time, money, and opportunities for our family. I still have no idea what it takes to raise a dancer, but I trust our studio owners and DD's teachers.

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Eligus said everything I would have said, only better. I would agree that people have many different motivations for the training decisions they make for their children. Personally, my decisions always start with asking myself if something is best for my child from a training standpoint. It is a long road to potentially becoming a professional dancer. You don't need to be "known" at 9. Younger children are judged more on potential, but as they age they have to be able to back it up with ability. I think some people get caught up in the "wins" and the attention and forget that the goal is good training. Just this past weekend I witnessed a parent pass up an incredible opportunity for her child because she believed it wasn't worth their time. When trusted, proven professionals are telling you your child needs to work on something, but you can't hear what they are saying because your child was fawned upon at some other studio or competition in the past, you know you're headed down the wrong path.

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We had a kid like that at our circle, almost to a tee, and our tactic was to embrace her. She upped the ante for my DD and my DD works even harder because of her.  My DD never competed the way she did, but she learned that having this little one snapping at her heels helped push her.  It was hard for me, but one day I told the mama of this kid that we were glad she was at our school to help us learn more about the ballet world and challenge my daughter.  Since then, we've all gotten on a lot better.  Think of it as inspiration and not competition, maybe.



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Both AB'sMom and nynydancer made excellent points.  Competition is good and healthy (although hard to handle).  Fawning attention is not good or healthy.  Figuring out how to teach your DDs those beliefs so they become integral to their souls so that THEY are able to tell the difference and value between the two is tricky and what every good parent who questions his/her path (like you currently are doing) needs to accomplish.  Being open to the ideas on this board means (IMO) being headed in the right direction. 

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Thank you so much everyone.  You have given me much to think about.  I guess dance, like life, has it's ups and downs.  Just yesterday, the Nutcracker cast list was posted and my DD (13) was thrilled to learn she was cast as Clara, so her confidence has been temporarily restored!  I know that we will have many more obstacles to face on this path, and I appreciate that we have this forum to turn to for questions/answers.  Thanks again. 

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  • 2 months later...

It's interesting at the studio, there's a girl in my daughter's class who does/says a few outrageous things. Like shares the cost of her "professional" tights. And heck, the SO put this girl on pointe (at 9) during a summer workshop.

But, the SO let slip that my daughter scored higher on exams.

I'm glad your daughter got Clara! And hope she rocks it.

Edited by DanceDaddy
reality check!
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Dance Daddy--I'll give you a little wisdom about this journey as a parent with the utmost respect.  The sooner you honor that one child saying a few outrageous things does not then mean it's okay to imply she acts a certain way....but......my daughter has "scored higher, etc. etc."    That's what we call around here lobby jockeying and one way of doing that based on what one has is no better than doing that because of one's talent.  

What's best to learn is to focus on what you and yours can control and that is her work ethic, her determination and her journey.  One thing we cannot control is someone else and what they need to do to feel accepted.  The dance journey as much as there is in school competition, is really about the individual dancer and themselves.  


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