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Newbie Dance Mom

New to competition and unsure about so much. HELP!

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Newbie Dance Mom

A little background.  My daughter (8 now) has been dancing for a few years just for fun.  She is not the strongest dancer in any class but she enjoys it and dancing has really brought her out of her shell.  The studios she dances at is wonderful.  They are like a family and the director cares more about building the girls up than pumping out award winning dancers. We are lucky to have found this place.  And even with that low key attitude the studios has an impressive competition team that does in fact win many awards.  I was shocked when my daughter was offered a spot on the team for the upcoming season.  I am under no delusions that my daughter is a gifted dancer.  She's a hard worker and wants to do this.  But she's not as flexible as the others and knows this. She stretches and works hard to get more limber but that will take time.  I also have noticed  that she is not great at keeping rhythm and while other girls just seem to always move to the beat  she is often off sync.  By the time last year's finale came around she kept pace and did a great job but I can still see it happening during summer classes.  I worry about her keeping up and what competitions will be like for her.  The director thinks letting her join the team will help her become a better dancer/performer.  She is starting her out slow and she will be doing only a few routines all in groups of younger dancers.  I used to dance and have a lot of rhythm.  My husband isn't bad either.  I'm not sure why this is challenging for her.  I wonder if sometimes that just comes with age and practice. 

So am I crazy to allow her to do this?  Has anyone else watched their child go from just an average dancer to sometimes to can keep up and shine with their peers?  Will she get more rhythm in time? I am not looking for her to become a professional dancer.  I just want to know this is something she can enjoy and get better at.  I feel like if she is always behind it won't be fun but I also don't want my fears for her to hold her back from this opportunity.  The director has to see something in her to offer this right?  Am I over thinking?  I just would like to hear from moms who also had the dancer who might not have been the best and hear stories of how the experience went for them.  I'd really appreciate some feedback. 

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Victoria Leigh

Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers, Newbie Dance Mom. 😊

Although we are primarily all about ballet training here, there might be a few moms who have also experienced dance teams and competitions. We can’t really know the answers to your questions in terms of your child being accepted, and I might get clobbered for saying this, but I would question whether the director’s decision might be financially based.  Schools that do competitions seem to do rather well financially. I’m afraid I am of the opinion that young dancers, especially very young, need a lot more training and a lot less rehearsing competition routines. They learn to become performers, but very often with a serious lack of actual technique.

 

 

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Ballerinamom2girls

Competition teams and competitions are huge money makers.  Most studios will "find a place" for anyone willing to pay.

Girls have so much fun on competition teams if they're at a studio that doesn't put you down for not "winning".  Only you can make the decision whether this will be good for your daughter. 

Yes, I think you're over-thinking it, but we all do that, so no worries :)

Good luck!

Edit: it was this forum that helped me decide that I needed to switch my DD from a competition school to a ballet school when she was 8 years old.  This turned out to be a great year for her to switch.  However, we know many who stayed on the team, and they are very happy.  

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Victoria Leigh

I agree with Ballerinamom2girls, especially in the having fun part. And, some of the things I said previously might not apply to your studio. There are some who also offer good training. But we cannot know, so you will have to try to determine where their priorities are. My concerns with this kind of program is because if the child becomes serious about dance at some point, she might find herself quite behind technically. But, if dance is just a fun thing for her, then she could well be in the right place. It’s kind of hard to know that, with an 8 year old. 

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Sunnygirl

This site also helped me many years ago switch from a competition school to a pre-pro ballet school. I felt much like you did back then, my daughter was just o.k. at the competition part, where I felt like the other kids shined. The older she got the pressure on her became worse. My kid hated it though, had she loved it I would've let her stay and work her kinks out. It's funny though, she's very good now at tap, jazz, contemporary etc. after focusing on her ballet training. She is always put at the front of any of those dances.  I always think you should let your child, and a healthy dose of your checkbook balance, guide what path you take. Eight years old is very young to get rattled if they are happy.  Trust your gut about the director and money motives though, sometimes they do push kids into competition situations purely from a profit standpoint.  It is very, very costly, especially the older they get.

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Newbie Dance Mom

Thank you for the replies!  I know money is not the motivation here at all.  I can tell by the way the studio is run that everything is done for the love of the children/dance and not for profit.  I have witnessed several cases that prove this. 

I too think I am overthinking all of this.  She is having fun so that is what is important.  I just hope her sense of rhythm comes in time.  Hopefully it will.  I'll give it a year and if it doesn't work out we can always choose to leave.  I don't feel this will ever be more than a passionate hobby and I'm totally fine with that.  I just needed a sounding board for my concerns.  It can be hard to watch your own child have to work twice as hard at things that come so easy to another. I so appreciate those to responded. 

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Victoria Leigh

You know, often the things you have to work the hardest for become the best things you do. :)

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Newbie Dance Mom

❤️ So true.  Although it's hard for an 8 year told to see that right now. 

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newballetmom

 

Quote

Has anyone else watched their child go from just an average dancer tosometimes to can keep up and shine with their peers?

In a word, yes!

My daughter’s issues were mostly related to her anxiety which presented in her practically hugging the barre in fear. But she loves ballet, so we pushed on.

However, the only reason she is the beautiful dancer that she is today is because we were relentless in finding the right school for her.

We, like so many others, started at a competition school that sounds similar to where you are currently. It was very low pressure and accommodating. However, there was no real chance of growth in classical ballet, so we left.

Next we went to a very famous school that utilizes second company dancers as instructors for the ballet 1/2 levels. My daughter’s issues were beyond what you could expect a 20 year teacher to appropriately deal with, so we moved on.

Another studio went by the ABT curriculum, and was perfectly lovely, but didn’t really want to deal with a student who struggled so much just to tendu without shrinking. So, again, we moved on.

Finally, we found our Cinderella school. It is run by a married couple who both danced professionally. It is classical ballet (Vaganava) only. Most importantly, the instructors were able to meet my daughter where she was and carefully inch her out of her shell. She’s blossomed. Now she is right on par with the rest of her age cohort and is one of the stronger dancers in her class.

But, as you can see, it took a ton of trial and error on our part. Had we left her at school #1, I have no doubt that she’d have eventually competed, but because the technique was not there, I don’t think she’d ever have thrived. Part of what has made her a confident, graceful dancer is that she has been given such a strong foundation that she has utter confidence in her movement. Without that, I’m sure she’d still be dancing out of time and as smally as possible.

 

 

 

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newballetmom
18 minutes ago, Victoria Leigh said:

You know, often the things you have to work the hardest for become the best things you do. :)

Absolutely. When we arrived at our Cinderella school it was obvious that our daughter was not at the level to be involved in the spring production. 

You can imagine the crying and heartache that brought! However, she pressed on and tried harder and by the next Nutcracker she was cast in two scenes. By that spring, she was dancing with her class and you’d never know she had been so behind.

But this was HARD work for her, not just as a dancer, but as a person. This is a child who literally would not speak once we entered the ballet building because of her anxiety.

Now she’s the one welcoming new students! I’m absolutely astounded what good, consistent training can accomplish.

 

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TipToes

My oldest dances simply for fun and fitness. We changed studios a few times as we learned more about good dance training and as her needs changed  (including trying the pre-pro route at 11-12 because all her teachers were encouraging her to consider ballet as a career, but she didn’t enjoy serious ballet training). She recently did a few years of competition dance and loved it! Her technique at 18 is still better than my 11-year old, who dreams of dancing professionally and has 4-ballet classes a week at that same pre-pro, but I can see the gap closing rapidly. If your child is serious about ballet, I’d go somewhere with the best training you can find as soon as possible. If she’s just in it for fun, then do what works for your family and try to enjoy the ride. As a side note, the girls in my younger dancer’s class are, as a whole, getting more musical, so I wouldn’t count your dancer out at such a young age.

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Newbie Dance Mom

Chase Away - Thanks for your feedback and personal story.  I am glad you see your time as a positive experience.  I will keep a close eye to make sure my daughter doesn't feel like the worst student. Since this is something she wants to do I will check in with her often to make sure she is still enjoying it.  She isn't the hardest worker either but I can see the maturity slowly coming and with that she is taking things like her flexibility a little more serious. 

I love what you said about "working with teams, self confidence, making friends, taking constructive criticism".  These are all the reasons I was leaning towards yes.  Those are the things I would love her to take away from all this.  No it is very unlikely she will go pro...not my intent at all. I grew up performing (theater) and absolutely loved it. Since so far this seems to be her interest I want to help it blossom for her.  This opportunity came out of the blue but I am now leaning towards taking a chance and going forward.  I'm really glad you wrote back. :)

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Ballerinamom2girls

Just a word of caution (unless money is no issue)- some comp teams end up being very expensive.  Like 15-20K per year when you add it all up.  Smaller studios with less emphasis on winning may be much less expensive.  Just trying to prepare you for the possible sticker shock.  Where does all that money to you may wonder-

Classes, costumes, rhinestones, makeup, leotards, tights, shoes, comp fees (per dance), comp workshops, required master classes (sometime studios add these and require "company members" to attend), private lessons (if performing solo), fee to teachers to attend comp weekends with you, travel (gas, hotel, eating out)...just the things off the top of my head!

Depending on the environment you're in, there may also be pressure to "keep up with the Joneses", AKA buy expensive brand name dance wear like Jo&Jax/Yumiko.  Go on shopping trips when traveling, etc.

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Newbie Dance Mom

Oh no.  I already know exactly what we are getting into financially and it's not bad.  The competition factor is very small.  Only a few a year and we fund raise a lot of it.  Costumes will be the kicker but we were going to commit to several classes anyway so I pretty much already anticipated that expense.  Thanks for looking out though.  When it's all said and done it's something like $3K a year.  Very doable.

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Justinitforfun

My daughter was very similar at that age, in that she loved dance but there were clearly some things that didn't come as naturally to her as her peers. She is at a primarily ballet studio that teaches fantastic technique, but they do also have classes in other genres as well as competition teams. They are definitely not what you would consider a "competition studio" though, and like you said with yours, they do not focus on winning. The director is very clear that the goal is to give the girls additional performance experience, not to get trophies. While we see other competition studios put lots of "tricks" in their dances at young ages, and then try to add the technique later, our competition dances for young kids are only as complex as they are technically ready for. We also only do 2 a year, so it is not an expensive or disruptive experience. Anyway, that all said, the girls LOVE it! I have seen many benefits for my daughter, not even just dance related. Socially, it has been a great bonding experience for her and her friends, and has really strengthened their friendships. It has really helped my shy child develop more confidence on stage. And the pressure of that type of performance has helped motivate her to want to improve her technique and skills. For so many reasons, it has been a great experience!

As far as whether it will help your daughter keep up with her peers, I don't know. Honestly, I'm not sure that should even be your goal. She is on her own path, and as long as she is doing her best and HAVING FUN, that is all that really matters. If a professional career isn't the end goal, how she compares to others doesn't ultimately matter. I know we all want to see our kids succeed, and it is great to feel like they are shining in comparison to others, and it is hard when they feel they aren't as good as they would like at something. My daughter, over the years, has not always kept up with her peers, and most of the girls she started with are a full level above her. Because they did often outshine her, she was often frustrated to not have special parts in dances, or be stuck in the back onstage. Now that they have moved up without her though, she is actually really excited to be in a level where she can be the one who is the more advanced in comparison. It has actually improved her confidence and self-esteem. She moves to the front in class, and is often the first to volunteer to do new combinations. So not "keeping up" has actually been a blessing in disguise, and has worked in her favor. 

Bottom line - as long as you don't feel that joining competition will detract from good technical training, go for it! There is lots to be gained and little to lose (except the aforementioned $3K, lol). If it doesn't work out, if she doesn't like it....then just don't do it next year! Good luck, and enjoy!!

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