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NCBalletChauffeur

Late starting daughter - need advice

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NCBalletChauffeur

Hi, Ballet friends!  My eldest dancing daughter (16) is off at her first summer intensive.  It's so strange not having her in the house!  She's a little homesick, but she's hanging in there.  Thankfully she is only an hour and a half away, so we will go visit her this weekend.  Anyway - I'm coming to you for some direction and advice.

Some background (DD's dance history):  took a few classes as a very little girls (once a week, age 4-5 or so), liked the dancing, but didn't enjoy the classes.  Decided to give it a try again at 12.  We went with a well-respected local studio - some pre-professional students, some recreational students.  Good instruction, several performance opportunities each year...and eventually the possibility of being invited to the company (small town company - but not just a "studio" company). She joined an older beginners class and LOVED it.  The next year she was placed in level 5, then level 6.  This past year she was in the first pre-professional level: intermediate and had one weekly private lesson.  She has grown and become one of the best dancers in her level.  Most students stay at each professional level for about 2 years, but I highly suspect she'll be moved up to the next level in the Fall (Pre-Advanced). This would put her more with her age-peers, and she'd be about in the middle of the class, skill-wise.  And, as I said, she's at an intensive this summer (Univ of NC - School of the Arts, 5 weeks). 

So, as a late starter she still has some real firming up of technical skills to focus on. Her privates have helped so much in this area this year.

Her goals in dance are to do some professional dancing at a smaller company (a few years, maybe), but then get training to teach.  I think this is a realistic goal.   I think she's on target to make this happen, but I also want to give her the best possible opportunities to go further, if she decides to.  She loves performing...and while she would enjoy teaching, I think she'd miss the performance aspect if she gives it up too quickly. 

We do have a well-respected regional company and school in the area - but very expensive, competitive, and an hour away.  She is really not interested in changing studios.  Our studio is very supportive and the performance opportunities are good.  Comparing the two for the amount of class time...the bigger program would give her a little more.

Here's what I'm thinking, please tell me where you might do things differently:  Stay at our current studio. Continue taking level classes (hopefully at the preadvanced level in the fall), plus one or two at a level below (intermediate) for skill firming. Take all performance opportunities. Continue with privates, maybe move to 2 per week. Do summer intensives the next few years. When she graduates, she may spend a year taking classes at the regional company, and consider their trainee program....or something similar.  This may end up being a "gap" year if she decides to go to college...or it may be the first step in her career.

So, I guess what I'm asking is - what are some suggestions for training for her?  Are her goals realistic for someone who is a late starter?  Is there something she absolutely *must* do?  Are we making a big mistake by not moving her to the larger/more competitive program? 

I really want to give her the best training we can afford...but I also realize that most likely any professional career will be limited to regional companies...*maybe* a smaller national company, but I don't want to completely hamper her in case this could become a reality for her.  (I mean, who knows!)    

Thanks for any suggestions!

Edited by NCBalletChauffeur
accidentally hit "publish" too soon

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Noodles

I have a couple of thoughts...first of all the level of training that she gets trumps everything else, so that is really what you need to look at. I suggest comparing not only how many in each school are moving on in a professional direction but also perhaps compare admissions to SI programs. I don't see that discussed here often but that seems like a useful bit of insight as to the training at a given studio.

Change is hard, I know. It may not be necessary as it sounds like your dancer has made great strides in her current training. You just want to make sure she is really getting what she needs and sometimes, as they age and become more advanced, those needs change. 

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ballet1310

Hi - it’s hard to answer this not knowing the school your dd attends or the technical level she is at.  As Noodles suggested, see who has moved on to professional career from this studio and where they have gone.  You can go online and see video of spring programs from wel known schools and see where your dd fits in technically. Sometimes it’s hard to know if she hasn’t been around more advanced dancers to judge where she is.   She seems to have advanced quickly and if she gets the right training over the next 2 years that will make the difference - now the question is ... what training, where, with whom etc ... it’s diffetent for each dancer , maybe being at the intensive will clarify some of it for you .

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Eligus

I second and third the other comments.  Training in the next 2 years is critical... I know she and you are getting good feedback at home studio regarding her progress (since she's moving up levels), but does that home studio evaluation hold up in a bigger pool of competitors?  

Because that bigger pool is (of course) what she'll face in the job market.  

It sounds as if you've planned and analyzed carefully and are supporting her well.  Just try to look coldly and carefully at her training opportunities.  Perhaps travelling to the studio an hour away on a monthly basis (?) to do some drop in classes so that "new eyes" can measure her progress?  

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NCBalletChauffeur

Thank you all!

Eligus, I think this might be a good option for the upcoming year (taking a class there once a month or so). And it might make a transition easier if we decide to do that in the future. 

 

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NCBalletChauffeur
On 6/22/2018 at 9:57 AM, Noodles said:

I suggest comparing not only how many in each school are moving on in a professional direction but also perhaps compare admissions to SI programs. I don't see that discussed here often but that seems like a useful bit of insight as to the training at a given studio.

Really good point!  Thank you for this.  I thought I'd responded to this piece of advice earlier.

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NCBalletChauffeur

Thanks, ballet1310!   I like your suggestion of watching spring programs...I'll do that.  I'm biased because I know how far she's come - so it is hard to assess.  The only thing I have to go on are intensive acceptances, but I realize these are not a *true* indicator of technique proficiency. Now we have her placement levels at the intensive: upper middle of the pack for all ages in ballet (12-18+), lower for pointe  (partially due to some shin issues the director suggested she move down).  

I think she is getting a good idea of where she is technically - and, more importantly, what it will take to advance.  In the past she's not known what to do other than take as many classes as she's able...but she's learning how to really take a class and be more "professional-minded", it seems.

She gets discouraged at her home studio sometimes when she sees girls her age, or younger, come in right off the street and get placed higher than her, based on age and years dancing (vs having to take a placement class that assesses technique), while she is still dancing with girls 3+ years her junior.  She has watched these new students in class (one classroom door is almost always kept open) and feels that they aren't significantly more advanced than her.  While I don't disagree completely...I know some of her feelings are based on being a little envious. 

Her studio director is very complimentary of her work and wants to make sure she is strong before she moves up (to avoid injuries), and I appreciate that.  However, I think she could do well to be in a class where she is in the middle rather than the top 2-3 students.  It would give her something to strive for.  You know you kind of work to the top of what's around you...but then it isn't always clear how to work beyond that unless you are told or can see it.

Any encouragement/advice you might have to offer her (any of you!) would be appreciated!  I'll relay it to her.  :-)

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ballet1310
36 minutes ago, NCBalletChauffeur said:

but she's learning how to really take a class

This is important - good for her.  As far as others being "better" or not, just remind her it doesn't matter... she can only do what she can do and that's all that is  important.  I think SI acceptances can be a good measure of where she stands at 16, 17 - it's not as important when the girls are younger - it's more about potential at that point than solid technique ... if she has been accepted to competitive programs thats a good sign !!

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Noodles
20 hours ago, NCBalletChauffeur said:

I think she could do well to be in a class where she is in the middle rather than the top 2-3 students.  It would give her something to strive for.

I understand where you are coming from here, but I think at this stage it is really more about the work happening in class. Your dancer needs to be focused on building upon the skills that she is learning every day rather than pushing herself to do more. Building a solid technical base is really more important than moving ahead quickly. Slow and steady wins the race :)

It sounds like she must be naturally well suited for ballet and will very likely catch up. Going away for the summer should surely help. I hope that she has a great experience and that she continues to grow as a dancer at a rapid pace!

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dave9988
21 hours ago, NCBalletChauffeur said:

I think she is getting a good idea of where she is technically - and, more importantly, what it will take to advance.  In the past she's not known what to do other than take as many classes as she's able...but she's learning how to really take a class and be more "professional-minded", it seems.

She gets discouraged at her home studio sometimes when she sees girls her age, or younger, come in right off the street and get placed higher than her, based on age and years dancing (vs having to take a placement class that assesses technique), while she is still dancing with girls 3+ years her junior.  She has watched these new students in class (one classroom door is almost always kept open) and feels that they aren't significantly more advanced than her.  While I don't disagree completely...I know some of her feelings are based on being a little envious.

I feel like these two paragraphs may be related.  If a dancer is taking a class to focus on what they need to focus on in order to improve themselves as a dancer, then who else is (or is not) in the room doesn't matter all that much.  I get that there may be certain social or other concerns when a 10 year old take a class with a 16 year old, but I've seen some pretty wide age ranges with both of my daughters.  My 12 year old had a HS Senior in class with her last year (he started very late).  My 15 year old is used to pros from the regional company dropping in on class now and then.  She can't gawk or be in awe; she has to take class for herself.  Part of the "professional-minded" attitude is putting your nose to the grindstone and getting your own work done, whether that means perfecting a single when others are ripping off triples, or vice versa.

Obviously I can't comment on the technique of your dancer vs. these others having never seen them.  I wouldn't rule out the possibility that your daughter is new enough that she's not aware of some subtelties, nor would I rule out the possibility that there really isn't that much difference, and your daughter will soon join them.  From watching the progress of transfers into the studio where my daughters dance, I've seen both.

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Eligus
11 minutes ago, dave9988 said:

I wouldn't rule out the possibility that your daughter is new enough that she's not aware of some subtelties, nor would I rule out the possibility that there really isn't that much difference, and your daughter will soon join them

This.  So much this. 

From my parental experience only (never having danced), I've observed that it took YEARS before my own eye developed.  I'm assuming that in a dancer, that will develop faster and earlier, but the subtle weight/alignment and specific muscle use took me forever to see, and I'm still learning....  My DD tells me that's what is so "fun" about ballet.... 

But I've also seen her watch and watch and watch and try to analyze on her own, figure out WHY something is working for someone else, and how to do "that" in her own body.  So, I'll agree with you that it's nice to take classes with those who are above you, and try to "play up" to their level.  However, that "need" to see more advanced dancers on a daily level and work up didn't really kick in until I would say she was in a sort of "beginning advanced" level... or maybe "advanced intermediate."  Most specifically, she had to figure out her alignment, first and foremost... that seemed to take quite awhile.  Once alignment "gelled" a bit (along with correct muscle firing), then she could watch and try to add in nuances of head/eyes/arms and musical phrase timing that added to the whole "dancing" effect. 

Some dancers have all (or other parts of) those things more together than my DD did at different times in their progression.  That's why, in my opinion, comparison doesn't really "work" in ballet.... it's so dang individualized -- you have to figure out what YOU need. 

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learningdance

I have a 16 year old who is NOT a professional dancer, so know that I am right there in the mix. I think that all the information that has been shared with you is useful. . . I guess I can offer a few thoughts.

1. It takes 10 years to train a dancer.  That's the typical time frame that various syllabi allow (e.g. Vaganova).  So, if she started at 12, it might be useful to think of her being ready by 22??? Mods and Teachers can enter in here. 

2. The pool of dancers that I've seen is EXTEMELY talented. There are kids who have unparalled technique, have won multiple international competitions, and can turn 8 pirouttes pretty consistently. What I observe, is that it is all a bit like college admissions--people tend to actually land at places that are a rung below their expectations. So if they are hoping for a top tier US company (e.g. Houston, ABT) they might end up in a mid-tier company (e.g. Atlanta?). The job market just seems to be very, very tight. I guess it might be good for her to try next year to do some competitive intensives so that she can kind of acclimate to psychological challenges of dance. 

3. I think that people really underestimate the impact that life skills have on dancing well in a company. You have to be able to manage a budget, cook for yourself, keep your body healthy with cross training and pilates, get your self up, do laundry, sew pointe shoes, etc. It just seems that I"ve seen kids who have the "dance" part kind of whither in a traineeship when they get injured or get into disordered eating that taps their strength, etc. 

4. One way to predict the possible outcome for your DD is to look at the dancers who have come out of the training program that she attends.  She is likely be trained for whatever caliber companies those dancers are in. 

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Bavalay

NCBC--after my DD12 started ballet I became curious about this dance form and read, studied, watched everything reputable that I could to educate myself about what I was getting into as a parent and my kid as the dancer.  And as several have posted here, the subtleties of turn out and developing for those who were not blessed with the all of the "ballet esthetics" (I think this is short of 5% of population) takes years to improve what one was born with.  While one can "spin", are they turning in a manner that is ballet standard (for example)?  If your DD has not had a chance to read/watch videos/talk with ballet master about developing proper ballet alignment (which is not natural for majority of people as skeletal system and supporting muscles and ligaments were not designed with ballet in mind), I would add that to both of your preparation lists.  I thought my DD was late to start ballet when everyone around us was talking about their kid dancing from 18 months (!--seriously?), and here she was well into her old age of 8.  Behind, I thought until I started to study it and understand more.  It's hard not to, but encourage your DD to focus on comparing herself to herself rather than everyone else; looking at her improvements in all areas that she discusses with her ballet master.  One never knows who will make it into the ranks.  And why not her!😎 Best to your ballerina.

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NCBalletChauffeur

dave9988,

Yes - they are related, you are right.  I think I should have said that this past year she's gotten discouraged...but I think this intensive is helping her to look beyond that a bit.   Part of her discouragement is that others come in and are placed without a placement class and some is related to being unsure if she is any good.  Getting a decent placement at her intensive is very encouraging to her and I hope will give her confidence in her strengths and clear-sight about her weaknesses (she sees these way too quickly!)  I hear confidence in her voice, which she needs.  

She and I have had several talks about the fact that she might not be able to see what her teachers do.  However, after a very frank talk with a mom of a dancer from our studio (since she was itty-bitty) going off to a good college dance program on full scholarship, I think our thoughts about this are actually on target in many (definitely not all!).  This frank talk confirmed some suspicions I'd had...and reminded me of some positives of her studio.  We are going to meet again in the fall once her daughter is off to college, and she's got more time to talk.  That summer before you send your first

I do like the reminder to look beyond age...and you know in her intensive she's enjoying the classes despite (maybe because of, actually!) a pretty wide age-range.  

Thank you!

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NCBalletChauffeur

Bavalay,

She's taken privates all year to work on exactly these alignment things.  It's been good for her.  She'll continue this year, too.

How do you not compare yourself to others in some way?   There are certain standards you are going for, you look for them in others and say, "Am I doing that?"  Hopefully in a healthy way.  I think she is doing it in a healthy way - although this is something I will continue to discuss with her.  There are dancers in her own level she admires as well as dancers in higher levels.  She strives to "get that good" - not with a mind to surpass, but to attain.  Does that make sense?  

Thank you for your well-wishes!  :-)   And the same to your and your dancer!

 

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