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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Anyone taking the residence plunge this fall?


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learningdance, yes, yes, and yes!!! Your post should be pinned, not just for this topic but for residency programs and any away-from-home-programs period! These are spot on.

For me, #1 was the hardest--I am a planner and problem solver by nature.

The only thing I'd add is to know when to contact the program; that is also a fine line between letting your kid handle something as a learning experience and being in over her head. There is also a fine line between being an observant parent and "that parent" when it comes to communicating with the program.


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I still don't really know "when to contact the program."  Our program treats all parent e-mails or calls as an intrusion.  It is not "parent friendly" at all. My criteria are: let dd handle it. If she is getting blown off then I step in.  If the issue is health or education I am very "hands-on," as those two things have long term implications but a leaky faucet, not enough protein in the cafeteria etc can work themselves out. 

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My experience was that there was a bit of a separation between residence issues and dance/artistic issues and when to call.  I rarely called either, but certainly if I was concerned about a health issue I'd call the residence staff.  Residence staff did communicate regularly with artistic staff, so I rarely needed to call a dance teacher or Director.  That said, I did call my dd's primary dance instructor for big issues such as a death in the family or my own hospitalization.

My dd was never the sort to call home frequently - even if we insisted that she do so.  Now at least (years later) she'll text us if she's flying somewhere to let us know she arrived safely - back then she would  often "forget."  She would call us if she was ill, injured (which thankfully was rare), feeling really excited about something or conversely feeling really down/upset.  One thing she had to learn to navigate was her growing body.  I remember one time she said she had some pain/discomfort (foot and/or knee I believe), so she had booked an appointment with the PT.  Well, turns out that her street shoes - or boots I think as it was winter - were too small and way too worn down.  Not a dance-based issue at all.  So, once she had some new footwear things improved drastically.  I still remind her of this, as she is incredibly picky when shopping (which is how she came to have the issue in the first place). 🙄

One year I had a bit of an issue with her luggage - which was lost for a number of days on her return to school following the Christmas break.  This coincided with my stay in hospital.  Anyway, the airline didn't have my husband down as having access to dd's file so they wouldn't talk to him about her luggage.  I had to call from the hospital, which was a bit annoying.  I don't know if airlines still do this, but it was a lesson to always have one other adult with access to her information.  Thankfully I wasn't in the hospital long - I probably was out before her luggage was returned!

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learningdance, for us the line was when health or safety was an issue. DD has had more than one roommate with an ED and felt unequipped to handle the potential consequences if the roommate experienced a medical issue related to the disorder. She did not want to be accused of "ratting out" anyone, so I did step in and reported what DD had told me, with the caveat that I expected no response to me or to DD, and they could handle it as they deemed appropriate. DD was provided support in each instance as was the roommate. We had another serious incident directly affecting DD, which was actually handled by the school AD, who called me herself with a plan to resolve the problem. Although I always felt like my emails or calls were intrusive, it seemed that if there was a serious issue, then the parent would be involved.

With regard to anything artistic, I have been as hands off as possible. We were fortunate that the AD of the first program older DD attended was invested in encouraging her to learn to advocate for herself in artistic situations and provided guidance to us both (for me, how to support her). A year later, the only time I ever spoke with artistic staff was if I was introduced to them at a performance or event.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Learningdance, your advice is spot-on and much appreciated. DD is just beginning to think about residential programs and timing but DS has just left the nest for college. Much of what you wrote resonates with me. It’s a time of transition for both of us - he’s learning to be independent and manage his own “problems” and I’m learning that it’s better not to step in and try and fix things. He knows he has our support from home if he needs us and it’s given him the confidence to fly. 

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  • 10 months later...

Ok, NOW experienced parents of residential dancers...what would you teach us rookies coming up to this Fall?

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I would love to hear as well, my DD (14) will be living abroad in France and be away from home. It will be her first year in a dorm, though she is very much used to full time training. But a new country and a new language and culture... everything will be new to her.

What would be the advices for the new experiencing parents?

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Anyone ever been told by local studio that DK isn’t ready to leave after they were offered year round spot? 

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Yes. We listened to everyone's perspective and weighed it all up. It was challenging to do but we made our own decision. That was a situation when I was grateful I had several people to listen to. Previous teachers and mentors outside of the local studio as well as the local people. It was vital to be clear if people were speaking about their own need and fears or our dancer's needs.

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Wow Bekah21.  Could you say more about that statement?  Did the studio teacher say "why"?  Being ready to leave home has multiple factors attached to it.  Having a child in college I have found that social, emotional readiness, some self sufficiency, responsibility, street smarts (at least some), knowing when to ask for help, management skills (study, sleep, nutrition; alcohol and drugs hopefully avoiding; relationships and sexual activity; finances etc) and motivation have been helpful for my non dancing kid.  I imaging the same would be true for DK going away.  Do you believe your dancer is ready to deal with life out of the nest?  Will there be counsellors and support people available to them while they are away until you can get to them?  Having a bit more of the conversation regarding the whys would be helpful in proving feedback to you to help you process.  Congratulation to your dancer on being offered to stay for training.  I bet you both are excited about possibilities 

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There was no follow up as to why the comment was said to child. My parents live two hours away so she wouldn’t be able to stay with but they would be close.

shes 14 so on the younger side but wants this so bad. She’s always been mature and independent.

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we are nervous to leave and not be welcome back should we ever need to return to home studio. May I ask if you decided to go against studio advice and leave anyway?

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yes we did and if the new program hadnt worked out, we would not have been welcome back. that's not sour grapes, that is based on a couple interactions atferward. Our reasoning was that if our dancer was truly ready to leave home but the new place didnt work, he would have gone on somewhere else. Our dancer was REALLY ready to leave home- he REALLY wanted to do that. So our judgement of readiness was more than just about dance.

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