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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Teachers showing favoritism, how to deal?


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Nice thoughts Rosetwirl.  Thank you for sharing.  

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  • Momof3darlings


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Rosetwirl, thank you for offering us non-dance parents self-forgiveness and grace just by hearing part of your personal journey.  The fact that you -- as a former dancer -- also questioned your DK's ability, talent, and path gives me some amount of (uncomfortable) comfort.  I will admit to a guilty sense of relief at hearing that those much more experienced than I am could have the same doubts and questions.  I know I questioned my DD's path... often...out loud...and sometimes with a sense of panic and often with confusion.  The fact that she was frequently not "favored" by her pre-pro school compounded those questions and doubts and frequently left me frustrated and feeling as if my faith in allowing my DK to "follow her own path" was misplaced. 

 As you pointed out, it is a delicate balance.  And the struggle to find that balance is good, if painful.

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This experience also had me questioning my daughter’s potential.  There is no doubt she works hard, and I see someone with beautiful grace and musicality, but without the coveted hyperextension but I am no dancer.  And I wondered too if I am unable to be objective.  I shared my observations about her current situation and my daughter’s input on class with a friend and parent of a student in a lower level who was a dancer and a dance teacher and she watched a bit of the class through the window.  I believe her when she said that my daughter and a few others drew her eye as ones with potential.  She had wonderful comments that I shared with my daughter.  I am going to fill in with a few private lessons with her old, tough teacher, and another who likes her and hope that some positive reinforcement will change her outlook.  She did say her teacher has been spreading the corrections a bit more lately, maybe she reads this forum 😀

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My heart goes out to you, MEWDancer.  I think you can tell by now that we've all been there. 

I think private instruction with an "old, tough teacher" is a great idea.  And seeking input from a few, trustworthy sources is also good for the psyche, as is remembering that progression in ballet (as in everything that is difficult and worth doing) is not a straight line up.  Hopefully, this summer will also give you some more input to put in the mix and balance. 

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12 hours ago, MEWDancer said:

and someone who is now always saying how terrible her knees are

Hi MEWDancer - I've been following along here nodding with agreement at a lot of the advice !  I wanted to chime in on this part - my dd, 18 used to say all kinds of things at your dd's age  such as my feet aren't good , I don't have good turn-out, my extension will never get higher  etc ( meanwhile not one of these comments had been said by anybody ever - it was just in her head although she had to work very hard over these years to get flexibility, strength  etc - just like everyone else had to do ! )...  at points I would say , "ok if that's the case then you should quit because if you can't get any better then ..."   fast forward to the present and we laugh because she can now see how her view of herself was not quite right and when she looks back at pictures and videos she now says , "hey, I was pretty good". To which I always respond that if she wasn't good or didn't have the potential she had, we would not have encouraged her, we would have been very honest and had her pursue something else.

The point for me is that at your dd's age, there is a lot of doubt and as others mentioned, the next few years she will have her up's and down's - times where she may feel she isn't progressing and then times of great change and success.  Tell her to hang in, believe that she can and maybe she will be comforted knowing that all the dancers who have come before her go through this.  

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  • 2 weeks later...

Many thanks to you, Mom of 3 💕🙂💕





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  • 6 months later...

I know this topic is old but I wanted to share some thoughts that have been touched on but not fully discussed here.  Years ago I read an article in one of the dance magazines about current principal and soloist dancers that were stuck in the corps in other companies before they were recognized and promotes. The gist of the article was that these stars once danced in a company and they did not stand out.  They then changed companies and were recognized for their talent and they started to climb the ladder to their current position. When I read the article I thought about why that occurred and my conclusion was: “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.  Each person watching sees each dancer differently and some will love my dd and some will not. (I know there a few exceptions of the dancer that stands out in every crowd.  We can’t all be that person.  I’ll add, we might get bored if it was too easy.)

To apply this to a real world scenario.  At our pre pro school. DD is not the dancer most corrected or most cast.  She gets occasional corrections and casting outside of the corps. It is a small scool. Everyone dances in the corps. There are dancers who are cast every performance in the best parts.  Yes, it can be disheartening. My dd struggled with that.  Then she attended a large SI.  She was placed at the top level and one of the teachers was very harsh about my dd’s abilities. She was clear my dd didn’t have what it took.  Or so my daughter thought.  My dd walked away crushed.  It reflected in her dancing the next year.  That year she was the only performing company member at the school not cast in the performance.  She danced in the corps hidden in the back.  She talked about changing schools but in reality she almost quit. 

That SI audition season she won a few scholarships. Yet there were still costs we could not incur so we selected a pro ballet company SI close to home with no scholarship. She attended for 5 weeks.  She was not placed in the top level there but she was recognized. She improved so much that summer that her teachers could not stop talking about it when she got home.  That year she still wasn’t the most corrected or most cast but she received a good role in the final performance.  She was happy.  

The next summer she attended the same SI. Still not on scholarship.  She had many teachers at the SI. Some loved her dancing.  Others did not. It was a true mixed bag of responses from my DD’s point of view. At the end of the SI she was asked to stay for their pro training division.  We decided for financial sake and because she is a senior in HS that she should come home. At home her teachers again noticed the improvement. She still is not the most corrected or most cast.  She will never be. She is not the physical type our AD loves.  

Now she is looking at companies to dance with next season.  Her AD believes in her and is helping her search.   He professed he has always seen believed in her and could see her potential from the beginning.

Our take always from the experience:

1. Dance is subjective.  It’s all about perception.   The person watching will see different things other may not see.  A different person may love her artistry and technique and see all her potential. If you have the technique and artistry all you may need to change is your zip code to be recognized.

2.  There will always be someone better, more beautiful or more talented. But that does not take away from your talent, technique, or artistry. 

3. Not getting all the corrections she would like does not mean she wasn’t noticed.  

4. Our pre pro school isn’t we’ll known but they teach very well. And while SIs helped her leap over some hurdles and potholes she would not have gotten to those places without her current school and current teachers.  We are so glad she stayed there.

5. DD owes where she is today to her school and teachers and to herself for the hard work and to God for her natural physique and her born musicality.   Without all three she wouldn’t be here. One would not have done it.

6. DD is not always the best judge of who likes her or how much they like her.  She is so self critical she often takes the nonverbal cues as negative ones.   She is working on that.  She has had to learn that she can’t read the teachers mind and she probably judged the nonverbal cue or response too harshly.  

7. DD has learned what teaching style she responds to best   She flourishes from positive reinforcement.  She learned that kind of teaching is rare so she has to give herself her own positive reinforcement.  She focuses more on the things she does well when she is replaying class in her mind.  She tries to congratulate herself on even small improvements. She works hard at letting the mistakes fade in her memory.  It is a daily struggle.

i have one last comment to add.  This is a hard business to be in   Most dancers will never be the “favorite”.  My DD has to be OK with that if she wants to stay in this world. And because she loves to dance so much she will.


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Thanks Motherham!  I posted this last year, it was a rough year, looking back it was a year of huge growth for her entire class.  I kind of think it is the test year to see if they have what it takes to be invited to the pre-pro level.  4 from her level last year are gone.  She moved up, with the same teacher again this year, but the teacher seems happier with all of them this year, and in turn, all of the girls are happier.  I can’t say what exactly changed, if it was the girls or the teacher.  DD will never be this teacher’s favorite, and that is ok, but she no longer feels unseen.

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Thanks for following up, MEWDancer, and for posting your thoughts and learning experience, Motherhem. 

I always found it fascinating to read through "older" threads and try to gain the bigger picture perspective.  I still do.  It gives me some amount of peace and reaffirms my faith in my current "keep calm and carry on" mantra as my DK transitions into the next phase of life.

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Bdancermin, I am glad you found this helpful  I hope your daughter does too!  I have read so many good things on this board.  I am happy to add when I can. 

MEWDancer, I am so glad to hear this year is better!  I know it is hard to go through what your daughter went through last year.  

Eligus, I love to read older threads too.  Other people’s past learnings I free help us when we need advice. Because our school is small there isn’t as much experience to learn from. Except for the school faculty that used to dance professionally and they are always gracious when I ask questions but I feel like I am bothering them when I ask too much.  ☺️

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I thank you both for taking the time to read older threads and noting that past experiences are still valid to your journeys.  In this day of "immediate satisfaction", far too many dismiss that the roads of others is the same road they are on.  I read our current questions and my mind first goes to those who helped me through similar situations many, many years ago.  

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On 4/23/2018 at 10:13 AM, Momof3darlings said:

Favoritism is everywhere.  As adults we know this and have worked through this to usually just keep going.  It's in the workplace, it's in church, it's in social clubs, it happens in Algebra class, Art class and in private schooling as well as public schooling.  It is in our friendships and sometimes in our families.  It is rare not to find it. It is gifted teacher who can make every person in a class feel the exact same internal worth.    So yes, these feelings exist in ballet much like they would in any performing art.  

Whether it should or should not happen is asking human nature to not exist or need to be worked on everywhere we exist.  It is important for your dancer to learn that there are many reasons for favoritism and they are not always stilled in who the teacher thinks is best.  Also, many times the "favorite" of a teacher is not who teens really think it is.  DD at times was "favored" but was not the "favorite" and then sometimes was also the "favorite" yet not "favored".   And everything in between including being totally ignored.  :P Regardless, it was important for her to focus on her journey and what she could gain from each location/experience for herself.   

Remember that each teacher has a different personality. 



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I don't mean to sound unkind. I just want to express a deep conviction that deep down I think we all share. Fairness is important and essential. A bad behavior, such as favoritism is common, however, it is still bad. Obviously, we all have likes and dislikes. However, operating only on likes and dislikes to the detriment of a person is a lack of integrity. Impartiality is essential to any professional relationship in every facet of human life. Human nature, evil inclination, urges, drives etc. are on full display in prisons because human nature, evil inclinations, urges, drives etc. need to be restrained by ethical standards. When I take my vehicle for any maintenance, I expect the mechanic to do the best job they can do, regardless of whether they like somebody else in line better than me. When I purchase something at a store, I expect the clerks there to treat me with professional courtesy, whether I am their favorite customer or not. When I seek medical services, I expect the health care professional to employ their highest professional skills, even if I am not their favorite patient. Obviously, I expect a fire fighter, or a judge to operate with the highest degree of professionalism, or they should be made to seek another way to make a living.  Along the same line, when I sign up my child for dance training, I expect the teacher to be invested in my child's training to the same extent that they are invested in the training of their favorite student. The teacher can have private lessons with their favorite student and fawn over them then. However, when a teacher teaches a class this teacher has a fiduciary responsibility to the entire class.  

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