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balletmermaid

Taking a break vs quitting

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balletmermaid

DS is 14.5. He is very advanced for his age and has gotten a lot of feedback that he can go far in ballet. He went away last summer and got into his top SI this year and was planning to go. He dances every day at his studio and for several months in the fall and spring, every weekend for rehearsals as well. Over the course of the year, he has become more anxious and depressed. He has been working with a therapist and is on medication. Over time, he has been missing more and more ballet- refusing to go, saying he's too depressed or too anxious to go. He has also been missing school and has just been struggling in general. This week he has decided to take a break from ballet. He says he's really conflicted. He loves ballet and can see himself doing it, but it also causes him a lot of stress and prevents him from pursuing other interests. He has fantasies of being a pro skateboarder. I'm a bit heartbroken as this has been his dream for so long and he really is very very talented. I hate to see him throw away the opportunity he has. However, I know this has to be his decision. I can't make it for him and he has to dance for him, not for me. What I'm wondering is, has anyone had experience with a dancer who took a break and went back? What helped? How long of a break can he take and still go back? Any advice?

Thanks!

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Thyme

Hi balletmermaid. I am so sorry to hear you and your son are suffering in this way. I can only offer you my DS's story- perhaps some parts of it will resonate for you. 

DS is 20yo now and what I hear in your story is that your DS may be burned out. It sounds like he has been going pretty hard and may need a break to rest and recover. Our experience is that ballet training is particularly tough because of the need to 'get it right'. Creativity and fun can disappear when the focus is on technique and performance. 

The other thing I hear is that when my DS gets a lot of good feedback and is told he 'can go far' (or whatever) he internalises that and feels pressured. He avoids praise when possible (counter intuitive I know) and looks for corrections (something he can work with).

My suggestion for you is that perhaps your son could use some time spent dancing and moving instead of 'working'. I know I say this all the time on the board but for my DS (and many other dancers) going to the LINES summer intensive was almost a form of rehabilitation for the burned out, stressed out dancer. So many of them remember why they dance at all when they are down there.

 

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BoyDanceMom111

My son is much younger (8.5 years old) but when his medication was mismanaged he became depressed, wanted to quit dancing and he also got extremely anxious around school and any social interactions.  Does your son take any medications that could be strengthening the impact of an already stressful time?  14 is such a hard age, and with ballet where your physical form is obviously so important and skill and advancement can be high pressure, it's a tough age even without additional influences.  

For what it is worth - my son was on too high a dose of Ritalin and it almost made him suicidal. I had no idea Ritalin could impact you in that way, so had been thinking it was all external forces. 

Edited by dancemaven
Spelled out complete words per BT4D Rules and Policies.

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5uptown

my son has some classmates who took a break and then went back to ballet the following fall, but in a less intense studio. He also had friends who took a break and then realized they were much happier and didn't go back to dance. these aren't my kids so I can't speak from experience as a parent, but what I thought was great was that the pressure was off and the parents let the kids make a decision about what they wanted to do. Perhaps setting a period of time (a month? until June?) that you don't even talk about whether he wants to go back could give him time to enjoy the time off and not feel pressure to decide what it means. And use it to try some other stuff he may have had to forgo-- a seasonal sport? school play? A musical instrument or an art class? I feel like ballet pushes out so many other activities, maybe get a chance to try out some other interests.

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Thyme

Yes DS took a 3 month break when he was 12 and we agreed that there would be no questions, no reflecting  and no discussion about ballet unless he raised it. Just about killed me! In the end, we changed studios to a more sympathetic, less 'technique is everything' studio with a wonderful male director. It took him about a month to find the joy again, once he learned to trust the new teachers and he has never looked back.

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Jennifer H

My son loved the LINES summer intensive too! He went at 15.5, just before leaving for residential school.

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Clara 76

There isn't anything wrong with taking a breather, provided the reasons are clear. I see a red flag, but I may be wrong, so take it with a grain of salt.

Whenever a child shows a drastic change such as this, I'd want to check up on the usual suspects that tend to cause drastic reactions: Bullying and abuse. I'm sure you've already checked those things, and you've received great advice so far. If there isn't anything other than a burnout, than absolutely follow his direction. Even if he is a bit burnt, a short break may help him to figure things out.

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balletmermaid

Well now he says he wants to quit forever. I'm so sad. He says he would still love to be a professional dancer but he just doesn't like doing class any more. Him not dancing will be a major rearrangement of our lives- different high school; withdraw from summer intensive etc. I definitely can't and don't want to make him dance if he truly doesn't love it but...I guess that's where we're at.

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Thyme

I agree with Clara76's comments- as hard as they are to hear.

My DS also said that he wanted to 'quit forever' when he had his break. It is hard to hear also. He was not obviously bullied or abused but he did have a pretty damaged person teaching him who abused all of her students through her emotional manipulation. By the time I recognised it, he was 'quitting forever'.  A change in studio and a wonderful male teacher got him back on track but only when DS was ready.

My advice is to listen to him and withdraw from what you have to. Give him space. You dont know what will happen next but the main thing is that he is listened to. It will be what he remembers in years to come. That his well being trumped everything else.

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Clara 76

It would be interesting to do a thesis on how many teachers and ADs are emotionally damaged.........it's interesting to me that some of them who are themselves emotionally/physically/otherwise abused as kids, end up repeating the bad behaviors, while some others end up trying really hard to create a healthier environment for today's kids. 

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Thyme

Yes I guess that is the paradox of all forms of abuse. Some victims go on to abuse while many live lives dedicated to 'never again'. 

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Oreo

I'm bumping this up to see if anyone else is having a similar experience right now. After a bad summer intensive experience, my son has now decided he never wants to dance again. The funny thing is, the 2nd day of the intensive, I receive an offer via email for him to train year round on full scholarship. Meanwhile, in one of his classes, the teacher pulls him aside, tells him he is unteachable, and will never be a professional. There have been a lot of tears, and needless to say, we declined their offer.  It is really disheartening to see such a change in him. He has always been so steadfast with his love of the art form, and now doesn't ever want to take class again "Anywhere".  My son is 16, and has been dancing for years. I  told him, he can change course, and not be on the professional track any more, and he wants absolutely nothing to do with it.

 

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Thyme

My goodness Oreo! How terrible and confusing for you. I would be very tempted to tell this story to whoever made the offer and ask for an explanation. It's outrageous for a summer teacher to behave like that. As far as your son goes- time and space. If he is anything like ours the whole story will come out at some point. When DS has announced that he is 'done' our response initially has been 'OK'.  The whole story was eventually spilled out. I say 'whole story' as there could be more. Good luck. This stuff is taxing.

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Momof3darlings

Oreo-what you have described is not only the subjective nature of judging whether someone has what it takes, but also the personal biases that individuals can bring to the table in that regard.  Much like a school teacher who never believes a student will become XYZ, it is up to the student to find out in a healthy environment whether or not that teacher is factual or just a pebble in the sand who believe they have all the answers.  

Not everyone with the name teacher or parent behind them, in a moment of power, truly deserves the honor that should come with those titles.  Some take that more seriously than others.  It is not that the teacher who pulled them aside was right or wrong, but obviously someone else at that place felt differently.  

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