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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Daughter -- Puberty/Ballet


balletmom225

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balletmom225

Hi everyone,

My 10-year-old has hit puberty pretty early -- she developed a lot throughout last year and this year and is much more physically mature than any of her classmates. She's still very, very slim, she just looks closer to 14 when she is only 10. She has danced at a serious ballet school since she was young and has shown a lot of promise, but her teachers met with me recently to tell me they think she should stop with the serious ballet program, considering her already curvier body type will not work in the ballet world. I think this is the right choice, considering it seems to be difficult for her to dance next to tiny, flat-chested girls when she has already gone through several cups in the last year or so. 

Does anyone have ideas for what we should do next? I could move her into a recreational ballet program or try some other styles, though I'm not sure dance is her best option at this point. What would you all say? 

Thanks so much for your input.

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ballet_talk

A

Edited by ballet_talk
i don’t like the way people are quoting my comment. they are misconstruing my intention.
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First, I think it is too early to really tell.  Some girls go through puberty earlier than others, but that doesn't necessarily mean that she will end up curvier than the other girls once they too start blossoming.  Also, I think the teachers' opinions are a bit old fashioned.  Yes, there are still some companies that prefer a thin, straight body type, but there are others that are not so strict.  Admittedly, it is/will be more challenging for curvier dancers, but it is not at all impossible.  Another thought, if she decides to lean more toward another dance style (modern, contemporary, jazzl, etc) she will still have the much needed ballet foundation by continuing to train seriously.  At 10, if she loves ballet, she should continue to pursue it.  However, I would consider this talk with her teachers as a possible red flag from the studio.  If they are not able to appreciate your daughter for her skills beyond her body type, perhaps they are not the best studio for her?  This is somewhat dependent on the type of studio it is...possible favoritism? students are cut from the program?  pressure to be a certain weight? Just something to think about.  But if she does decide to stick with ballet, she might also want to explore other types of dance as she gets older, which will just give her more options.  Options in dance (and in life) are always good.  And last, again it is just too early for any kid to stop doing what they enjoy and love because someone else said they didn't fit the mold.  

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threegirlpileup

I have a similar reaction to Amie....I worry about a child being told at 10 that she shouldn't study ballet seriously because of her body type, and what kind of messages that means she will be given by her teachers.

My daughter went from being a skinny and super bendy kid to a very curvy teenager.  She continued to study ballet but also modern and other dance styles.  She never really aspired to be a professional ballerina, but loves ballet and the serious study of it.  I am so thankful that she was at a studio where she was judged by her technique and artistry and not by her measurements.  She got great training and many performance opportunities, including playing Sugar Plum in the Nutcracker.

She is now in a modern-focused BFA dance program and continues her serious study of ballet (though in support of modern rather than as a classical dancer).

Personally I think the most important thing is to follow your child's lead and make sure she is studying with teachers who will appreciate and support her.

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threegirlpileup
18 hours ago, ballet_talk said:

 

Well...in a recent article Lovette talked about deciding to leave ballet as a performer because it was too much pressure to keep her weight at 95 lbs--she'd gotten up to a "heavy" 100 lbs. during the pandemic. So I don't know that I'd use her as an example of a ballerina with an outlier body type.

Edited by mom2
content removed as per member request
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balletmom225
11 hours ago, Amie said:

First, I think it is too early to really tell.  Some girls go through puberty earlier than others, but that doesn't necessarily mean that she will end up curvier than the other girls once they too start blossoming.  Also, I think the teachers' opinions are a bit old fashioned.  Yes, there are still some companies that prefer a thin, straight body type, but there are others that are not so strict.  Admittedly, it is/will be more challenging for curvier dancers, but it is not at all impossible.  Another thought, if she decides to lean more toward another dance style (modern, contemporary, jazzl, etc) she will still have the much needed ballet foundation by continuing to train seriously.  At 10, if she loves ballet, she should continue to pursue it.  However, I would consider this talk with her teachers as a possible red flag from the studio.  If they are not able to appreciate your daughter for her skills beyond her body type, perhaps they are not the best studio for her?  This is somewhat dependent on the type of studio it is...possible favoritism? students are cut from the program?  pressure to be a certain weight? Just something to think about.  But if she does decide to stick with ballet, she might also want to explore other types of dance as she gets older, which will just give her more options.  Options in dance (and in life) are always good.  And last, again it is just too early for any kid to stop doing what they enjoy and love because someone else said they didn't fit the mold.  

Thanks, Amie. I think this is true, what you said about puberty, but my daughter has already grown quite a bit, her breasts are bigger than her older sister's. I think she's around a C cup and still growing.

I think it's difficult for my daughter, too, as she looks noticeably different, and the dress code for her age looks so unflattering on her chest and hips. I've asked and there's no wiggle room to switch to a leotard with a shelf for some extra coverage.

She is talented, and I think would do well in other styles, maybe with an older grade so she feels a bit more comfortable in how she looks. For now, she's homeschooled, and I'm anxious to put her back in a regular school where she might be embarrassed. Any input on this?

We haven't talked yet about quitting ballet, and I'm not sure how to go about the conversation. Should I tell her it's about her body? Will she know even if I don't?

 

10 hours ago, threegirlpileup said:

I have a similar reaction to Amie....I worry about a child being told at 10 that she shouldn't study ballet seriously because of her body type, and what kind of messages that means she will be given by her teachers.

My daughter went from being a skinny and super bendy kid to a very curvy teenager.  She continued to study ballet but also modern and other dance styles.  She never really aspired to be a professional ballerina, but loves ballet and the serious study of it.  I am so thankful that she was at a studio where she was judged by her technique and artistry and not by her measurements.  She got great training and many performance opportunities, including playing Sugar Plum in the Nutcracker.

She is now in a modern-focused BFA dance program and continues her serious study of ballet (though in support of modern rather than as a classical dancer).

Personally I think the most important thing is to follow your child's lead and make sure she is studying with teachers who will appreciate and support her.

I think it was a bit odd too, but I wouldn't want her to be somewhere she feels uncomfortable. I'm thinking other styles might be our best bet.

Worried about having the conversation with her, and finding her some new friends, as she's homeschooled and the majority of her friends are from ballet. Don't think I want to send her back to regular school either...

 

10 hours ago, threegirlpileup said:

Well...in a recent article Lovette talked about deciding to leave ballet as a performer because it was too much pressure to keep her weight at 95 lbs--she'd gotten up to a "heavy" 100 lbs. during the pandemic. So I don't know that I'd use her as an example of a ballerina with an outlier body type.

Hah, yes, makes sense. My DD is thin, but tall for her age and developing curves that are not helpful to her ballet body.

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vrsfanatic

Does your daughter have a desire to dance professionally? If so, she must study serious ballet as the best school available to her. If you offer her substandard training, the results will be substandard.

As for her body maturing at age 10, not a big deal at all, if she is talented for dance and her teachers want to train her. It is very unusual for a school to turn talented, paying students away. Seems, very odd. Now, if you told me she was on scholarship then the discussion would be quite different.

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balletmom225
32 minutes ago, vrsfanatic said:

Does your daughter have a desire to dance professionally? If so, she must study serious ballet as the best school available to her. If you offer her substandard training, the results will be substandard.

As for her body maturing at age 10, not a big deal at all, if she is talented for dance and her teachers want to train her. It is very unusual for a school to turn talented, paying students away. Seems, very odd. Now, if you told me she was on scholarship then the discussion would be quite different.

She does, and she goes to a very elite school. I agree that the level of training is important — I danced professionally myself — but I’m not sure now this is the right path for her.

I think her teachers only brought it to me because my daughter has possibly expressed she feels uncomfortable, or simply looks and feels out of place. Another option might be better for her — they’re not turning her away but referring her to a less intensive program where she won’t feel so uncomfortable. 

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Keeping the lines of communication open between you and her is my recommendation, as you find a way to engage her in discussing maintaining a positive body image.

10 is so young, and coming from some personal experience right now with my DD's ballet BFF having just taken a break from ballet due to an eating disorder at age 15, it is very tough for even older teens to handle looking in the mirror and maintaining a very positive body image without comparing themselves to the other dancers. For this friend as she has gotten back to healthy eating, she is considering contemporary dance solely because she can wear clothes that won't make her inspect her image in the mirror.  Maybe it's easier to handle at 10?  Young kids are sometimes more resilient. I don't know. So I would highly recommend increasing the talks you have around healthy body image, along with nutrition, as only you two know what that looks like for your DD.  Not saying that nutrition is her issue, just that good nutrition is a very important part of every elite dancer's life, whether there are weight issues or not. 

It is so good to hear teachers such as vrsfanatic state that it should not be an issue at her age.  Unfortunately, from seeing teens in the studio struggle, it is too often easier said than done, and many times comes from within the individual dancer not the studio environment, which makes this issue so difficult and heart breaking when it goes wrong.

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balletmom225
58 minutes ago, Adf said:

Keeping the lines of communication open between you and her is my recommendation, as you find a way to engage her in discussing maintaining a positive body image.

10 is so young, and coming from some personal experience right now with my DD's ballet BFF having just taken a break from ballet due to an eating disorder at age 15, it is very tough for even older teens to handle looking in the mirror and maintaining a very positive body image without comparing themselves to the other dancers. For this friend as she has gotten back to healthy eating, she is considering contemporary dance solely because she can wear clothes that won't make her inspect her image in the mirror.  Maybe it's easier to handle at 10?  Young kids are sometimes more resilient. I don't know. So I would highly recommend increasing the talks you have around healthy body image, along with nutrition, as only you two know what that looks like for your DD.  Not saying that nutrition is her issue, just that good nutrition is a very important part of every elite dancer's life, whether there are weight issues or not. 

It is so good to hear teachers such as vrsfanatic state that it should not be an issue at her age.  Unfortunately, from seeing teens in the studio struggle, it is too often easier said than done, and many times comes from within the individual dancer not the studio environment, which makes this issue so difficult and heart breaking when it goes wrong.

How would you recommend I communicate with her about this? She doesn't seem very open to it.

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vrsfanatic

Is the less intensive program run professional? Many programs for less physically suited students or those who do not wish to pursue a professional career are taught with lower standards of accomplishment for the students. There is good ballet and bad ballet. Make sure they intend to teach only good ballet in this less intensive program if this is the course your daughter chooses.

As for body image, pretty much all young people are exposed to negativity when it comes to body image. it is all over the media. They cannot escape it. Please do not focus only on ballet being the cause of a bad body image. Ballet is not solely responsible for this issue in the life of young people.

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balletmom225
Just now, vrsfanatic said:

Is the less intensive program run professional? Many programs for less physically suited students or those who do not wish to pursue a professional career are taught with lower standards of accomplishment for the students. There is good ballet and bad ballet. Make sure they intend to teach only good ballet in this less intensive program if this is the course your daughter chooses.

As for body image, pretty much all young people are exposed to negativity when it comes to body image. it is all over the media. They cannot escape it. Please do not focus only on ballet being the cause of a bad body image. Ballet is not solely responsible for this issue in the life of young people.

I think it's a less professional program, unfortunately. I think this may be the right move for us, though, since she looks and feels uncomfortable next to her peers. She's already grown through several sizes and I see no signs of it stopping, the curves are inevitable.

Should we be pouring time and money into a ballet career that will never happen/will cause her pain in the future?

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vrsfanatic

Sounds like you are closer to a decision. This is progress.🙂

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balletmom225
1 minute ago, vrsfanatic said:

Sounds like you are closer to a decision. This is progress.🙂

Would you support this decision?

And if I make it, how should I talk to my daughter?

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meatball77

Don't stay at that school no matter what the decision.  They've already told you that they don't value her as a dancer because she's developing curves.  Go to a school where everyone is respected for their dance ability, espically when they are ten.

She's ten, she should be able to study ballet at a high level as long as she is physically able regardless of her curves.  She may not be able to be a professional, but she's ten, you shouldn't even be thinking about that right now because she's ten.  She may decide that she wants to be a scientist.  This either you are a training to be a professional or you are not worth my time attitude that some dance teachers have floors me.  You don't see this in other areas of the arts.

The discussion that her studio had with you about your ten year old is one that may be appropriate for a sixteen year old who is making shorter term life decisions and one that has actually matured physically.  If at sixteen she doesn't have a body that will be successful in ballet (and who really is to predict who the ballet world will be hiring in six years or even what ballet companies will look like, I wouldn't be surprised to see the ballet world go more to the Matthew Borne model where dancers are hired for specific parts in touring productions instead of settled companies).  Many a ballet dancer has moved into broadway or commerical dance.

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