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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Catching up a late starter


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Hello everyone!

So I have a question about “catching up” (if you will) my son who is 10, but is in his first year. Let me be clear that I am in NO WAY looking to push him more than he is ready for. He used to do team gymnastics and was introduced to ballet at 9 and begged to go. This is his first year of taking classes (took a 5 wk sat intro class and a 2 week full day workshop over summer 2018 and has been taking elementary 1 classes 2 days/wk since sept. One boys only and one mixed). There are other boys his age who are in Elementary 3 because they have been dancing for 4-5yrs already. A parent of another 10yo (who will turn 11 before the summer) mentioned that her son is going to a 2 wk summer intensive out of state this summer. I NEVER even thought about sending my baby 😉 off to a summer intensive!!! He is very much interested in ballet and wants to “catch up” to his friends. I remind him often that he can only compare himself to himself and that these two friends have been dancing for years and he has just started. The summer intensives at his school start at age 12. I’m wondering if I should really think seriously about looking into one for next summer and if that will help him be more prepared to audition for the program at his own school? Or how do boys who didn’t start at 4/5/6 “catch up” if at all? 

Thank you! 

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10 is not late for a boy; a lot of boys start in their teens.  It's frustrating at first, but be confident that your ds will catch up.

Many dancers do not start summer intensives until they are 12 or older.  There are some young dancer workshops, but there's no reason to worry about these if your ds has just started dancing.

Perhaps you can find something nearby that would be inspirational and educational--a live professional ballet for instance.  Or perhaps another local ballet program would take a younger boy for their daytime summer intensive.  Perhaps enjoy a theater or music program this summer that would contribute to his ballet progress in other ways.

Let us know what you find!

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Thank you, mln! This is reassuring! He wants to go to the 2 week workshop again this year and I am going to ask his instructors if the Saturday class is still appropriate for him. It’s actually designed as an intro for students just starting, so it may not be, but I’ll ask to make sure. I will also look into other local ballet day programs. 

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Ten is not late for anyone to begin ballet, male or female. While attending dance classes at 3 is a great activity and helps to get a family situated in a particular school early on, the study of real ballet cannot begin before the age of 8 or 9 because the child is neither physically nor mentally capable of doing the work. Beginning at 10 is a great age and actually puts your child at an advantage as the body is now stronger. If possible, try to take anywhere from 3 to 6 ballet classes a week during the academic year with trained, professional teachers. More progress will be seen with daily classes throughout the academic year than sending a child to a summer course.

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Good morning, vrsfanatic.  Thank you for your input.  My son is looking at the other kids his age and how they have their splits and are more graceful and can kick higher, etc.  So [I don’t know].  But he's also always been a tight kid from infancy (used to have PT for it through Early Intervention as he would hold himself in a "frog shape" he was so tight!) and even after 3 years of team gymnastics he was still working on getting into a split.  I started looking into summer day programs in my area for the month he will be without any ballet and hopefully that will help.  Thanks again for sharing that perspective.  Hopefully he will even out...

Edited by dancemaven
Spelled out full words per BT4D Rules and Policies.
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Hi Addie. My now 20yoDS started when he was 10 and I am not sure if he has ever 'had' splits! Tell him not to worry about that. There will always be loosy goosy dancers around him but it takes waaay more than the splits to be a dancer. And yes, 10 is a great age to start. Enjoy the ride! 

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Many kids (especially boys!) don't do full splits for years. Its absolutely not a measure of anything other than one's ability to do splits. I agree that 10 is not late, he should not feel at all discouraged. My son wasn't really ready to go "away" until he was 13. If you look at most of the summer programs, they are not even open to dancers under age 12, don't worry a bit about that! 

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  • 1 month later...

I too have a question on the topic of 'late starter'. My DS (almost 12) is very much a ballet beginner.  He takes a couple of ballet classes a week (one of them includes floor barre), and has done two summer intensives (while living at home). In fact, it was at the first SI where he took his first ballet class. Although the dance hours at the SIs were good quality, they were reasonably light in quantity, with a lot of free time built into the schedule. This year is the first year to be taking ballet classes during the year. This summer he will go away and he's quite excited; he specifically asked to audition for this particular school.  

I have observed some classes at his previous SIs, and some boys his age were so incredibly advanced, and I guess I am wondering if he will (or can) catch up... Some schools say that no ballet experience is required before 12, but I have seen auditions where some young dancers have many years of training. 

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Dancers who start between 10 and 14 often catch up pretty easily.   It takes a bit of patience while they learn the basics.  But I've seen motivated, late-starting dancers catch up to their age group in two years.  This isn't any formula, by the way, just my observation.

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Just want to offer more reassurance-- 10 does not seem too young, especially for a boy.  Mine started at nearly 13 and he definitely felt like a late starter, but he did catch up very quickly.  At 16 he is an advanced student and placed with experienced boys his age or older in master classes, SI's etc.  The first year might be a tougher and frustrating and he learns the terminology.  One thing mine did was to take privates to help bring him up to speed with kids his age.  

I do think there is almost an advantage to starting later and have a more mature focus.  I am sure your son will be just fine!

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Thank you very much nynydancer and mln! I really appreciate your feedback and sharing your experiences!  

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All of this is extremely helpful!!!! He is “auditioning” Monday for a summer intensive, but even the audition photo requirement seems out of reach for him! Admittedly we haven’t tried it yet, but he ddn’t even know what it was when I said the term. I had to google it-first arebesque. .. Privates are certainly NOT in our budget. So he we will have to rely on programs and good old fashioned hard work if he wants it!

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uptown, I actually thought the splits helped or were somehow an indication of how high they can kick/get their legs up. Guess I still have much to learn!

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Nah. Forget about splits. That is a slippery slope to get on. Many men are just not able to do them. They aren't built for it. Aiming to be generally flexible is more practical in my/our  experience with this 'issue'. 


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  • 3 weeks later...

My son started ballet around 10 (but no more than half an hour a week) then upped to about 2-3 hours aged 12/13 and went to vocational school at 14 where the teacher considered him almost a beginner. At 20 he had contract offers from the 3 top companies in the country where he was training.

He wouldn't have had splits until he had been at vocational school for a year or so, and he is actually naturally extremely flexible.

So neither the starting age or splits ability you mention should be of any concern at this stage. There are many other aspects to being right for a ballet career and I wouldn't focus on these particular ones at all... 

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