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Career: Unsure re profession for daughter

Guest dancermama

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Guest dancermama

Hi Everyone,


I have just tonight discovered this web site, and I am thrilled!


I am a the mom of a dedicated dancer, who herself NEVER had a dance lesson in her life! My 15 yr old LOVES ballet;has loved it since she began taking classes at the age of three; she attends an excellent school, intent on quality instruction. Her ballet mistress has a MFA and lots of experience in dance, so I am confident that she is in good hands. My daughter has always been a workhorse, almost never misses class, doesn't complain about any of it most of the time.


My dilemma: having no experience myself, and being a quite serious professional person, I want to encourage her, yet I simply don't feel that to really consider a career in dance/the arts is at all practical. Now, I have never voiced that to her; but of course, as on nearly everything that we think we aren't communicating, I'm quite sure she knows my true feelings! I don't feel that I'm conveying my real feelings here...I am so glad that she has something that she is so dedicated to, and I have done/will continue to do everything that I can to help and encourage her. At the same time, I do so hope that she finds something to do to support herself with a little more reliability. And the other thing is, while I don't have a lot of "intelligence" about this field, I know that she is not one of those girls who seem to have been born with gifts...i.e., she, unlike some other girls she dances with, is not blessed with phenomenal flexibility. She IS probably the hardest working dancer in her company and loves it...and she isn't one of those dancers who really has no coordination, that I sometimes see. Wow, was that tacky enough? Help! Is there anyone out there who kind of understands my viewpoint?


I don't want to unwittingly discourage her with my unspoken attitude about dance! Thanks for any input-be kind, please. I love dance, but grew up a no-nonsense kind of person, and need help here.

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Hi Dancermama, Welcome to BalletAlert and welcome to a group of parents who probably often share your feelings!


I've had similar thoughts myself and often fear for my daughter. But then I remember that she's a sensible person and a resilient one.


We'll support our daughter in whatever she pursues, whether it's financially rewarding or not. She'll figure out for herself what she's willing to accept in terms of life style. Naturally I'd like it to be a cushy job somewhere so I don't ever have to worry about her taking care of herself :)


The truth is that most of these kids will not end up with dance careers. They might pursue it for awhile, then choose another direction. Some will stay associated with dance but in another capacity. Most will go to college.


But really, when you think of it, there's not a whole lot of good jobs waiting for a college grad with an English degree either and yet people find their way. I'm sure our children, with their committment and self-discipline, will all figure out for themselves how to live reasonably well in life. And I hope very much it includes being involved daily in a vocation or avocation that they love.


I'm often reminded of a good high school friend whose parents refused to pay for her college because she wanted to major in music. She got a scholarship, majored in music anyhow much to the chagrin of her parents who for a time wouldn't have anything to do with her. Ultimately she was hailed in the NY Times as the next Sara Caldwell, a female conductor. She has a gratifying career that pays her more than the ordinary person in America makes as income (despite the pronounced glass ceiling female conductors in America are up against).


Whenever I get nervous about my daughter's choices, I remember how difficult Carol's parents were during a time when they should've been celebrating their daughter's passion. I vow to never do that to my daughter; I also vow to trust her judgment. She'll figure it all out for herself. These kids always do.

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Hello dancermama, welcome to Ballet Talk, and especially the Moms and Dads forum :)


Your thoughts are valid and I think a lot of our parents here will totally understand, as do the teachers/moderators. Ballet is a very tough way to make a living, and it's certainly not the best living in the world. However, those who must dance do it because they must, not because they are considering it a good way to make a living! This may not be the most practical or logical way of thinking, however, for some, it is just the way it is.


We do encourage even our most talented students to maintain the best grades possible and to prepare for college, because even if they do get the opportunity to dance for a living, there may well be a time when they want to move on to other things and to further their education. Some will discover this sooner, somewhere along the line in their teens, as they start to see the handwriting on the wall as far as a viable career goes. But in the meantime, all of the work and dedication and commitment that have put into ballet will serve them very well for whatever they decide to pursue. They will not only have the physical benefits, but also the ability to organize and prioritize their time, to study efficiently, and to probably excell in whatever area they study in college.


So, for now, as long as she is happy, doing well in school, and loving what she is doing, I think it's okay to go with it. If she is in a good school with professional level training, and also attending good summer intensive programs, she will know in the next couple of years whether she has a chance to make it or not.

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Guest Watermill

Hello, dancermama!

Yes, isn't this a terrific forum?

I've been in a few others, but find the warmth, wit, intelligence and sheer love of ballet one finds in this group to be extraordinary.


I am always so impressed when I read a post like yours. I spend a lot of time in my profession with what are currently called Youth At Risk. So I see a lot of troubled kids who are not receiving the care and love that you display towards your daughter. I don't take it for granted. So, as you struggle with this difficulty, at least know that the struggle is happening because you care so much for the well being of your child. And know how important that is for her.


I probably can't say anything to add to what Ms. Leigh & vagansmom have said except that I have always thought ballet students pick up some extremely important attributes like discipline, poise, physical health, endurance, group spirit, mental toughness, self esteem and more. Even if they don't go on to professional careers, all of this will help them in later life.


BTW: Has anybody done a study of the "success" rates of dance students?





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Guest dancermama

Thank you so much, all of you who've responded. I don't feel like such a faithless curmudgeon anymore! As all mothers, I think my daughter is wonderful, but really hate the idea of her subjecting herself to such ruthless scrutiny that is based on a narrow vision. And you are all so right that she's learned/learning so much more than technique and physical discipline. Her grades are excellent, and even if dance doesn't end up being her end-all, be-all, she's talked of becoming an actor (ack! probably a worse fate!), so her discipline and performance experiences will stand her in good stead.


At the very least, dancing has her at the studio at least 10-12 hours a week, instead of a host of dubious other places she could be! I am so grateful to have found this great site/bulletin board, and will be checking back often. Again, thanks to everyone who took the time to respond. As my daughter would say, "You guys rock!" :)

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Welcome Dancermama

Yes I would say this forum helped me choose and make a very important decision regarding my daughters first SI experience this past summer. Had I not had this forum to put me in touch with some people who had been down the road.....who knows what would have happened. You are lucky to have found it. My daughter still says "thank goodness my mom was on the computer that day."

My husband and I just had this converstaion the other day regarding our 13 year old, who since she went to her first SI this summer seems more determined to go the ballet route and is admitting that is what she wants do.

My husband is concerned will she be able to support herself. With her starting high school he "hopes" she is opened minded to all options.

She is a good student as most dancers I know are.

She realizes she needs to keep her high average, just in case.....

She continues to play her flute, because she loves to, but just in case.....

She is interested in photography and hopes to pursue this at high school, just in case....

As Victoria says all the dedication and commitment from ballet will serve them well in life.Perfectly said.

So for now I am enjoying the journey this ballet passion is taking us on. I understand my husbands concern but we continue to support her. I have FAITH things will work out for her .


thy will be done If not in ballet in what is ment for her.

I trust her judgement.

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This discussion about economy vs. passion has caused me to think back to a pivotal decision I made that relates to this dilemna. Here goes:


After I graduated from college and had been out working in corporate America for about one year, I got a call from my alma mater's recruiting office, offering me a job as a "goodwill ambassador" for the school, speaking all over the country to prospective high school students and parents.


I dearly love public speaking and I really enjoyed talking with students about a school that I felt very passionate about. This was my idea of the perfect job for a young, single gal like myself. I considered it a great honor to be asked to respresent my school, as this was a highly sought after position and I had several friends who had actively pursued the job without success. I really wrestled with the decision. As a state university, the salary they offered me was not very high. It certainly did not match what I was making in the corporate world. At the ripe old age of 23, I was worried that stopping my business career at that point and taking a few years to follow my passion would be ruinous to my future in business. I was also aware that a life in academia would never offer the same financial rewards as a job in the private sector. (Growing up as the child of a young widow, I was always mindful of being able to support myself and the importance of being self-reliant.) Ultimately, I decided to turn down the job.


As I look back 25 years later, I realize now that I would not have starved on the meager salary that they were offering to me and while I would have never become wealthy, I would have been able to lead a very comfortable life on a university salary. In hindsight, I realize that it might have led to other jobs within the University that would have challenged and inspired me. I understand now, that if I did not like the work or grew tired of the travel, etc. that I could have easily parlayed my experience, in that position, into a lucrative job in the private sector. I know now that all of the skills that made me suitable for that job and that I would have further developed as a result of taking that job, would have served me well in the business world too.


While I have loved the business life I chose to pursue and I am thankful that it turned out to be a good choice for me, I realize now that I could have made the choice to pursue the Goodwill Ambassador job and still have returned to the private sector a few years later, without losing much ground and certainly without losing the opportunity to move forward in my chosen field. I also have come to understand that pursuing a passion, a dream or a difficult goal is worth far more than the dollars shown on your paycheck.


This personal experience has really helped me feel more at peace with my daughter's passion to dance. I realize that if it is her decision to dance right after high school, that does not preclude a change in direction at some later point. I encourage her to develop her academic skills, pursue leadership opportunities and explore other areas that interest her as I am always mindful that injury, economy or a change of heart can all make a change in direction necessary and I want her options to be broad.


We think nothing of talented young men and women who choose to spend a year or two in the Peace Corp or in traveling throughout Europe exploring other cultures or working as collegiate consultants to fraternities and sororities or other low-paying programs aimed at young people when they first graduate from school. And yet, we seem so fearful about letting our dancers pursue their dreams and see if they develop into the life they have been preparing for, for so many years!


I keep reminding myself that 18 is really not that old and that at 18 I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up at all! (I completely changed my major before my junior year and had to scurry like crazy to still graduate in four years.) I am trying very hard to allow my daughter the time she needs to explore her dreams, while still giving her the tools she needs to make it in the world. If that means that college must wait a few years or be pursued via correspondence or some other non-traditional track or that college does not happen for her at all, I believe that the time she is spending in pursuit of her dream will be time well spent and it will only enhance whatever career she chooses to pursue, if at some point she chooses to leave ballet.


As so many of you have said, ballet offers so much more to our children in the way of fitness, life skills and character building than just about any other outside activity I can think of. I am trying to keep my "Survivor" side in check and hold firmly to the belief that my daughter is going to take much more away from ballet than she is putting into it and allow her to savor these years and fully experience the tremendous opportunities and challenges that a life in the ballet world has to offer.


Dancerama, we do understand where you are coming from! You've found a good spot to share your concerns and gain valuable knowledge. There are lots of like-minded parents on this board and wonderful professionals who can provide you with support and encouragement along the journey. You've come to the right place! :)

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May I add also, I personally know quite a few Very successful people who have only a high school education. Skilled craftsman, an artist,and even a school bus driver, a stay at home mom, our ballet teachers to name a few off the top of my head.

Success is not to be measured in $ I feel. It is measured in feeling contentment and being a productive member of society. It also is being kind to others and putting others before yourself.

My daughters flute teacher has her Masters degree but after a long talk one day said to me it is just a paper. She is very qualified to teach at University but chooses to teach many students privately,and plays in a small orchestra. She not too long ago said to me,

my life is simple, I could and have been offered many other jobs but I would not do any different I am happy
We are blessed to know her.:)
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I would like to repeat those last sentiments that success is not measured in dollars.


Those of us who have chosen the non-profit arts sectors as our chosen profession learn to make do with what we have just like everyone else out there. It means we do not own lavish cars or houses or the latest fashions or even DVD players. We call it supporting our dance habit. If we aren't making ends meet, we pick-up a part-time job. Or we free-lance or we teach in community programs that don't pay a lot but contribute. We live with roommates into our forties. But they are sacrifices we are willing to make for our art and WE ARE HAPPY TO DO IT. And I think that happiness is what makes us successful.

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I once received some great advice from a wise administrator at my daughter's studio. She told me that as long as I let my daughter make her own decisions regarding her future dance pursuits, she would never regret them. I have always tried to follow this, even though it's hard sometimes not to offer just a bit of parental opinion! You are right - the dance world is difficult, competitive, and not financially rewarding. But your daughter must find this out for herself. If she truly loves it, and can't imagine her life without it, then let her go for it. Yes, she'll bump her nose a few times, and it may break your heart to watch her if she takes a knock or two. Only she will know if it's worth it in the end. I've watched a couple very talented and promising dancers pursue their dreams, only to realize that dreams can change. One was taken into a company right out of high school. She danced some lead roles, and looked to have a bright future in dance. After 4 years, she left the company and went to college. I don't think she's danced since. The other was a high school senior, already signed to be an apprentice with a company. The summer before this happened she, too, decided that she didn't think she wanted to live the life of a ballerina. She is now a happy high school student going to class full-time and planning to go to college. So, in short, you can't predict what your daughter will decide to do in the long run. I would support her in whatever path she takes. It won't be easy for you, and you'll worry, just as I'm sure you do for any other children you may have. I know the phrase "as long as they're happy" may be overused, but it's true. That's all we want for our children's futures. Especially on a day like today, we realize that life is too short to spend it doing something we're not happy doing.

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I have a daughter who from the time she was 3 has wanted to be a ballerina. She spent the last 2 years in one professional school and has now moved on to RWB for her highschool years. Every year she becomes more driven to succeed in her chosen field. As a parent I have always felt that my job is to provide her with the opportunity to pursue this, not to question whether it is the "right" choice of a career. She was blessed with the physique, the drive and the talent and deserves the chance to try. I have had many parents say to me that they just wouldn't allow their child to leave home at a young age. I feel that if a child is stopped in their tracks by a parent, then when they grow up they could very well resent that parent for not allowing them to chase their dream. It is ultimately up to the child to choose which road to take. We cannot choose careers for them.




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Originally posted by tutu14

I feel that if a child is stopped in their tracks by a parent, then when they grow up they could very well resent that parent for not allowing them to chase their dream.  It is ultimately up to the child to choose which road to take.  We cannot choose careers for them.  






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My husband and I have often said we will do whatever we reasonably can to support our children's dreams. We have three teenagers, each with their own aspirations, one of whom studies ballet.


It means alot of sacrifice for us, but is definitely worth it. I sometimes look at these amazing, confident kids and know that whatever they choose to do, they will be successful because they know how to be happy. They know it's okay to try something and later decide it's not for them.


We do occasionally bring up life's realities, but also tell them money is only important to the point that they can support themselves. "I wish I knew what I want to be when I grow up" is one of my favorite things to say, especially to my dancing daughter when she worries about not making money dancing, and whether she should go to college right away. (She's only in 8th grade.)

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Guest Liz'smom

dancermama, I, like every of the parent, want to see my child succeed. The make of success happens to be more difficult in this professsion. My husband and myself are very realistic with our daughter about career oportunities. She is not a "natural," but she is determined, intelligent, and totally committed to ballet; and she will continue to pursue her dream of becoming a dancer because she loves it so. The personal qualities that she has gained thru her ballet training, namely, poise, elegance, gracefullness, maturity, and dedication are the same that we know will carry them through life no matter where it leads them.

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Amen again. My daughter's relationship with her father (we are divorced) has suffered significantly because of her passion and commitment. His attitude is "she's not going to become a dancer, so she shouldn't waste her time, summers, etc. on this". I support her in her commitment- as long as grades stay up (which they have been). To see her dance is a great joy. Even if she does not become a professional at the end of it- her discipline and focus will stand her in good stead. Of course, all this has put her in the middle- which is terrible as well.

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