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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Share your story - preteen to teen, how many dance decisions are yours vs dancer’s?

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Today my 10.5 year old rather mature daughter announced at pick up:

1. She will try doing the barre work for the first hour or hour and a half in the intermediate level intensive which follows the three hour intensive she is enrolled for.

Her intensive is geared for students who completed 3-4 years of ballet. She is moving up to the next level in the fall and is at the top of her class.  Her mandatory choreography for ballet trainee starts three hours prior to her intensive and overlaps by an hour, so that she has to miss an hour of something.  Two days this week, the next level intensive starts with barre.

Total of 5 hours today would have changed to 6.5 hours straight without time to really eat or rest, so she decided not to try for barre today. However, she simultaneously announced that she would try it tomorrow.

Fortunately, tomorrow choreo was changed to be only an hour, so she will be able to eat lunch in leisurely fashion and have energy for intermediate barre. She did not know about the lessened hours when she said it, though.

2. She feels like she’s becoming a teen because she feels more short tempered. 😂

I have in the last few years strongly encouraged her to challenge herself with higher grade level classes in dance, but I found she stressed out about not being able to come up to speed as quickly in split level classes where she was not in the upper level. She’s easily a top performer all around, academically and otherwise.  Challenge is unexpected sometimes when you are used to things coming easy.  However, come to the end of the year and she somehow caught up in all areas she initially struggled with.  She managed to catch up the first three years of jazz and a lyrical 3rd /4th year split class just like that.  She’s amazing to me, how well she usually learns, listens well, and just gets things.

My dancer is a focused and deliberate girl.  She can also be over sensitive and doesn’t deal with failure well, or being wrong.

She started directing decisions last fall, when I pushed her to start jazz for the first time, so she could try lyrical. The year prior she was hesitant about adding ballet classes, and even then was agreeing only reluctantly to do what I recommended. 

Last fall, she definitively put her foot down. She insisted on controlling her dance schedule.  I still had to push, but I followed logic and fair discussion and she and I adjusted classes until it worked out, and we have since abided by this unwritten  agreement.

Of course every child is different, but I enjoy reading other parents’ stories. Sometimes the drive and commitment their dancer developed seemed correlated with their love for dance, and sometimes it showed outside of dance as well, before they even started dancing.

She doesn’t want to be a professional dancer, she is just enjoying challenging herself. But while she can choose ultimately what she wants to do, I still have to work hard to persuade her to consider her reasoning and try things that seem hard at first. She seems to meet the challenges head on more than not, now. 

I’m so proud of her. 

I would love to hear your stories about your child’s dance journey and becoming a teen. 

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My daughter just enjoys dancing and putting on a show.

Quick story...

In the fall, she had briefly mentioned about adding a Cecchetti class. At first, I was resistant to it. It was her 5th class and I was concerned about who was teaching. My wife made the point that if she started in Jan, that she could exam in June and be done in half a year. Further, the teacher (who usually teaches) the next level is EXCELLENT! She took it, worked hard, and we should get results soon.

So it was something she wanted, it benefitted her.

Sure, I see her making more decisions. But, there are still times when she just needs guidance. I think we all go through that.

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I'm new here; Hello, everyone! 

My daughter is also 10, and has her sights set on a professional career. Her short-term/long-term goal-setting has always been driven by her, but she needs guidance from teachers (and parents!) to assess what the path should look like. There's lots of time, but we're not keen to waste energy (or money) on things that don't serve the goal if resources could be better spent elsewhere. That framework is helpful in deciding what's a nice offer, and what's an important step.

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Our DDs are about the same age. We don’t get much of a say when it comes to ballet training. The school assigns each child a level, and they have to take all classes at that level. There are no more or less classes. They also don’t allow privates. 

Kids are allowed to take other genres of dance elsewhere, as the school only offers ballet. That’s where I advise & give Dd a say. I let her know which classes I think she should take (usually just jazz & tap), & she’ll agree but ask for a few other classes as well. Depending on the time/schedule & price, I’ll let her add 1 or 2 more classes. There are instances when she asks for more, but I have to give her a limit. The non-ballet school has more options for leotards and the dress code in general so I allow Dd to pick out her dance attire & accessories (clothes, shoes, bag) to have a sense of freedom.

I understand that many ballet students change schools over time to find the right fit for their current needs, so every year I re-evaluate if Dd should stay or move on from the school. I involve her in this process. 


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I have seen 10 year olds burn out and I have seen other's thrive being in the studio a lot. At 10, my daughter was taking 3 Ballet classes, pre-pointe, tap, and Jazz. When she is not dancing, she is listless and anxious to be doing something or on the go, so this REALLY helped us keep her energy focused. I do believe, even until they are in their 20's, we need to act as guides. We need to constantly assess how much is too much and guide them in choices. This is especially important for kids who are focused on a  professional career. I always advocate for her and research options. When she wants to add classes or shows that come with rehearsals, I always make sure her ballet training is priority. I encourage either a contemporary/modern class or jazz to help keep her rounded out. Sometimes she can fit both. She is not a competition dancer, so we stick to the basics, but she was able to take hip hop one session for fun and variety this year. She also takes tap whenever she can fit it in.

As she got closer to the teen years, and now she is 14, I have had more trouble with her not wanting to do the "extras" like master classes and weekend intensives. She wants to be on her phone or make plans with friends. It has been hard for me to step back and support her social life. She was in our schools pre-pro company this year, so she had even less time for friends and homework. This has been our biggest struggle going into the teen years. Oh and moodiness, periods, and DRAMA at the studio between the girls.

When the kids get to middle school there are summer intensives to consider and then arts high schools vs pre-pro dance studios. I always had my eye on her going to Baltimore School for the Arts, but she was never interested. I took her to an open house last year anyway, and she absolutely fell in love and decided to go through the audition process. She got in and starts this Fall. If I had not taken her to the open house, well you get the picture.

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Thank you for sharing your experience HarfordDanceMom. I wish your daughter all the best in her new school this fall! 

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My DD has been singularly focused on ballet for her entire childhood. Up to age 11 as parents all decisions were made by us which included non-dance activities. And there was one year we stopped dance altogether and took acting classes to see if it was more about performance and being on stage with fun costumes. But ultimately we discovered it was being in ballet class that made her happiest. 

By middle school DD thought she was in the driver’s seat with her dance training but in reality she was riding shotgun. Yes, we listened and encouraged research on summer intensives and dance schools but during the tween years our guidance and parental decisions became more about not burning out and our family’s financial needs. For us we found DD had no concept of her physical/emotional limitations or our bank account. She was not able to see the forest through the trees during those years and there were many conversations with trying to make her understand that as parents we were raising a person not just a dancer. 

Now that we’re into the high school years we’ve found balance. She’s still interested in a professional career in dance and I’m happy to bow out and let her take on the responsibility for her training needs. She’s worked hard and I feel she now has a better understanding of the path she’s set on. 

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