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GingerMama

What to do when a child wants more of a challenge?

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GingerMama

My DD is 7 and she is taking pretty much all the classes she can at her studio for her level but she is frustrated that she finds it too easy. She’s constantly telling me that she wishes it were harder and that she wants more of a challenge. She is taking the level above what she did last year and I think she will go up to another level next year but I don’t know what if anything I can do about her frustration now. Any advice?

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Balletmomtoaboyandgirl

I would consider a new school if she feels she is maxed out. However, I also think it is really important to remind dancers that easy classes are great to refine technique. Sure a child can do a tendu, but maybe they can work on extending their knee more or pushing their heel forward or any other fix. I don't always think the answer is harder classes. It is a great skill to learn to create challenges for herself in class. My daughter has a class she finds easy, but she's used it to clean up her technique. It's been really great to watch. It's turned out to be one of her favorite classes.

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Amie

This is a difficult question because although your DD might find the class boring or not challenging, it does not mean the class is not at her level.  Sometimes kids find the basic building blocks of dance (esp. ballet) to be boring.  These days, with social media, tv, etc., kids see other dancers doing all sorts of tricks and "cool" steps.  It is hard for them to understand everything that goes into perfecting those moves or what it takes to do them correctly and most importantly SAFELY.  There are some teachers who can make things a bit more fun for younger kids or some kids who are just naturally drawn to perfecting the steps, but this issue is really the reason many kids quit dancing.  Perhaps this is a clue it might be time to move on to another activity that interests her more or maybe just scale back and introduce a sport or another art form to see if she gravitates to something else or finds renewed inspiration to continue dancing.

That being said, to give her more challenges while she is in class....you could suggest she work on 1 or 2 overall corrections each class or maybe concentrating on one body part for corrections, or maybe at barre challenge herself by barely holding the barre to check her balance.  Another idea might be to suggest she dance like a different character/person each class (Elsa, Maleficent, Clara, etc).  At 7 (or even 27) this can really spice up a class and is great practice for being on stage.

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DanceMumNYC

I agree that the fundamental stages of ballet can seem very boring to a young child. A child may think it's "too easy," unbeknownst that they aren't even doing all of the steps correctly. I would also advise to have your DD focus on a particular correction during each class. If she's focused on a specific goal, her mind may not wander into boredom. I also like Amie's suggestion of playing a different character during each class. That sounds quite fun for a 7 year old! If the issue persists, I'd say have an honest conversation with your DD, her teacher(s), & the AD about specific goals and expectations. Your DD is very young, but if you find that the school cannot meet her current needs in the next year or so, perhaps look elsewhere. Maybe even try other schools in the summer to get a taste of how she responds to classes/teachers elsewhere. When you've done all that you can, & if your DD thinks ballet in general is boring (as opposed to only her class/school), that's when it may be time to try another activity. Again, she's very young & it may take time to make a few changes & get to the bottom of this, but eventually you both will know.

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GingerMama

Thanks Amie! That sounds like a really fun idea to imagine she is a different character! She is definitely not bored of ballet itself, the problem is she really wants more of a challenge. She loves corrections and her teachers have said how well she takes them but I’m not sure at her age how much time they spend on corrections. I think she’s unusual in wanting them at this age so I understand if that’s not something the teachers are doing. She says the teachers often use her to demonstrate moves and will often have her doing something harder than the rest of the class so it sounds like she is ready to move on to something more challenging but they promote on a school year schedule so at the end of this year she’ll find out what level is recommended for the fall. She’s obsessed with dance and always telling me how much she loves it so I hate to hear how frustrated she is getting about not being challenged. She loves ballet and is always telling me how important it is to perfect something so I know she gets that. She definitely does not want to do anything other than dance and she’s tried other extracurriculars like sports so that’s not what she’s looking for. She’s just a very focused child and even last year she recognized which teachers were harder, even if they weren’t as fun, and wanted to take classes with them. I know this is unusual for her age and amongst her friends so I’m just not sure what to do. From talking with her friends moms I know she’s unusual in being so focused and serious about dance when her friends are a lot more casual about it. Unfortunately she is at the most serious of the studios in our area so there’s really nowhere else to go. I know I’ve read here that real ballet instruction begins at 8 so I’m hoping in the fall she will be getting the challenge she is looking for and I can sign her up for more serious summer classes so it’s really trying to figure out what I can do for her until then.

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DanceMumNYC

Every child is different & it's great that she has good concentration so young. It's definitely needed in ballet. My DD was also very focused at an early age. At 7, she progressed a little fast & took about 3 ballet classes/week (2 technique, 1 rehearsal). More classes may not be the answer, but perhaps some individualized instruction may help. I think it's best to have an honest conversation with the AD & see what they can do until the summer or fall classes begin.

Does she do other dance styles? When DD found one particular class boring or unpleasant for whatever reason, the other dance classes that she took at the time helped her to get around that.

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Amie

Well, since it sounds like your DD is all in on dance, try out those other ways to keep her interested.  The character idea is really fun, it comes from my DD(20) who still does it when she takes class.  It might even be fun to talk about it with your DD, who will you be today?  How did it feel to be...?  Great communication builder!  Since she's really all in, another exercise would be to see how much of class she can remember.  What was the tendu combination?  adagio in centre?  etc.  It will challenge her memory and is a great exercise for the future.  But not as much fun as being your favorite hero/princess/villain!

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GingerMama

Thanks, DanceMumNCY! She is taking all the ballet classes she can a week and maxed out on the other genres as well for her level. The AD is not very approachable but I will see if I can get some feedback on what else I can do to keep up with her desire for more of a challenge. 
 

Thanks again, Amie! I really love the character idea! Unfortunately I know nothing at all about ballet so I have no idea how to ask specific questions about her dancing. Clearly if she keeps up this passion I’ll need to figure this stuff out!

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Oinkteller

There are some really great suggestions in this thread! At age 7, in addition to her ballet classes, we quietly signed DD up to join the performing dance troupe her older brother was in. It exposed DD to different styles of dance (lyrical, hip hop) as well as acting and importantly, it gave her stage experience. She learned what it is like to be behind the scenes doing quick changes, finding props, and the importance of being a contributing community member. If there are dance theater groups, or acting camps, local to you suss them out and see if they might stretch your DD’s artistic sensibilities in other ways. Good luck! 

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AnastasiaBeav

Have you tried introducing ballet performances to her? Have her listening to the music and understanding the story? It is an aspect of dance instruction that is sometimes overlooked in class. 

Every few months I introduce a new ballet to my DD10. We will watch short clips on youtube and discuss the story line. I play the music during dinner and on drives to dance class. Then we watch the full ballet together and talk about various aspects of it. Like the choreography and costumes and also the different roles. 

We recently reviewed Giselle since we could watch the Bolshoi simulcast in a theater.

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GingerMama

Thanks AnastasiaBeav for the great suggestions! I have been doing that with her and because of a post here we are going to see the Bolshoi simulcast of Swan Lake. She is really excited about it and looking forward to it. I’m still nervous that it could be too long for her. I figure if it is a success we can make the simulcasts a regular event and I can look into taking her to live ballet performances which are far away for us. Since I know nothing at all about ballet if she does love it I’ll probably have to find away to educate myself more on ballet and to understand what she is always trying to tell me about her classes. 

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motherhem

If at 7, a dancer is not challenged, then she is unable to see the technique required to do proper ballet.  It is good that her teachers use her as an example, but I am sure it does not mean she doesn’t have anything to work on even in her level.  The classes a dancer takes at 7 are building blocks to all classes.  The simple things she does in class are done in all future classes.  You daughter is very young but if she continues dance she has years of performing the same steps she is doing today.  Most classes are about perfecting the movements not learning new things.
 

But rather than point out she still has imperfections, perhaps you should talk to her about finding the joy in the classes she takes.  It sounds like she enjoys a challenge rather than enjoying ballet.  Remember, there are many things in ballet she should not even attempt right now. If she does, she will learn them wrong, because at her age she does not have the physical capacity to learn them correctly, and she could even injure herself.  

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GingerMama

We both understand that everything builds on what she is doing. She is quite a perfectionist and wants to do everything perfectly. I think the problem is her teachers know she is ready for more advanced work so they are telling her to do things differently but there is only so much they can do when the rest of the class needs to learn something else. I do not want her to feel frustrated or to learn bad habits if the teachers have her doing something harder but can’t actually supervise how she is doing it. She recognizes that there is always more to learn but she really craves corrections so she can learn. She gets frustrated when she doesn’t get corrections and doesn’t know what else she should be working on. I think she’s frustrated with not having more she could be working on. I’m guessing at her age most kids don’t enjoy being corrected so it’s probably not what the teachers are focusing on as they are trying to teach technique. I think because she can do the basics that are being taught she’s craving more. Neither one of us wants her doing more than she should. One of the benefits about knowing nothing about dance is I have no desire at all to push her. 

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Orange Blossom

Hi GingerMama,

Your daughter sounds like a very focused young lady!

Does she keep a journal of all the corrections she receives? If not, this might be a good idea. She can record the date and the correction (in as much detail as she can remember). Then she can review her corrections before each class and choose one or two to focus on. That way she has a goal specific to the areas she needs to work on. My daughter does this after each ballet class in the car on the way home). Some corrections involving things like turnout for example take many years to improve. This type of journal can also act as a great motivator when she reviews it and noticed that she has in fact improved in an area she used receive corrections for all the time. 

All the best!

**Moderators, just realised this is Parents Under 13... please delete if needed as my daughter is older.

Edited by Orange Blossom
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dancemaven

We are talking about a 7-year old here, folks.  Please take that into consideration when providing suggestions.

At 7, they are still in the “pre-ballet” stage.  There are soooo many building blocks being laid down, so much muscle development waiting to grow and be tapped.  Ballet is a “slow-boil” endeavor.  There are no shortcuts (that won’t bite you in the bum down the road, anyway) and “no hurry-up, get there” faster methods. 

If she is serious, she needs to learn patience.  If she thinks she has learned all there is to any particular skill, then she needs to explore it more deeply and precisely.  Tricky in a 7-year old, no matter how perfectionistic she is.  (Had one, been there, done that).  If she’s getting bored, then check out tap or flamenco or something that moves quicker and can occupy her mind when she’s not in ballet class.  That helps round her abilities to “hear” and respond to other non-verbal commands, hear different beats, tempos, etc.

The suggestions to start introducing her to actual performances are very good ones.  With videos, she can start looking for the skills she herself is learning and begin to look for how they are utilized in choreography.

Add a musical instrument for her to learn thereby giving her depth in learning and instilling musicality.  It will help her “hear” the music, count music, how to be on or off the music (which will come in handy later in choreography).

At 7, she can still take time to “cross-train” by doing sports or other activities so as to build strong well-rounded muscle groups.  

Take a look at the Teacher-Moderators’ Pinned Topic (at the top of each of the Parent and Young Dancer Forums) that set forth Age-Appropriate Guidelines for Pre-Professional Ballet Training.  There is such a thing as too much of a good thing—-young bodies need diversity during those growing years.  Muscles and ligaments grow at different rates and it is best to go slowly in these growing years.

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