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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Career: Unsure re profession for daughter


Guest dancermama

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This is a great thread and I'm glad it was brought back since most of it took place well before I found this board. I am a ballet dad whose 12 year old has some potential, but is a little while away from where many of the posters are in terms of their son or daughter attempting to dance for a living. My brother danced professionally for 20 years--lots of touring in shows like 42nd street and Singin' In the Rain--and as he was finishing his career in Las Vegas, got his college degree. He turned 40, graduated, and now sells drugs for a living. (He works for a pharmaceutical company.) He pursued his dream and got to live it and, I think, has few regrets about the path he chose. (Its funny, he's come out here a couple of times to watch her perform and has been very excited about her potential as well as the training she is getting. Now, when he comes to visit, he talks dance with her and shows her stuff. They were doing lifts over Christmas.) If my daughter chooses to try to dance for a living, well, he's a good example and not just because he succeeded. Its because he has the peace of mind of knowing he tried to do what he loved to do. I would like that peace of mind for my daughter if she decides she wants to dance for a living.

 

The other thing is, you have a limited window to do this, physically. Its no different than playing a sport. Not many professional hockey players over 40 and, I bet, given the physical demands of it, not many ballerinas either. But you can be over 40 and get your college degree, go to graduate or professional school, whatever you want.

 

I have a job I like and my wife has a job that she likes. But how glorious would it be to be able to do for a living what you did when you were a kid because it was fun? If your son or daughter has even a remote chance of being able to be one of those lucky few, I say encourage them and help them however you can.

 

Mcgwillie

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Victoria Leigh

Thank you, mcgwillie. What a delightful addition to an old, but I guess still valid thread! B)

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I will add my three cents and give you three perspectives. One is what I went through as a dancer, one is as a studio owner/ballet director, and the other is as a mom.

 

I knew what I wanted to be from the time I was four years old. Come hell or high water, I was going to be a ballet dancer. My mom enrolled me in classes and life continued. When I was ten we moved from Northern California to Southern California. My mom did not put me back in classes right away. She was afraid that she was pushing her dreams on me. At age 12 (yes, I missed two very important years) I started posting phone numbers and class schedules (I had called myself) all over the house. She got the hint, and enrolled me in a small studio. When I was fourteen I was told by a substitute teacher that if I wanted to dance professionally I need a better school and a lot more classes. What I haven't mentioned yet is that my body did not even come close to being what was required in the 80's and I really didn't stand a chance. I have very broad shoulders and a short to medium neck. We switched to a better school, and then switched again to one closer (only 35 minutes away). I worked harder than anyone I've ever known.

 

During this time I was miserable in High School. I did not make friends easily. I was very shy. I did not fit in anywhere. My grades were horrible. I was so bored that I would fall asleep in class. At 16 my parents agreed to let me take the California High School Proficiency Exam and leave school. They knew I was smart, and that my future would be whatever I wanted it to be. Even to this day my parents and I consider it the best thing I ever did.

 

Back in ballet I was studying on full scholarship, taking a minimum of two classes a day. My primary teacher (she was the owner/director) was very abusive. Luckily she hired a number of outstanding teachers that shaped my philosophies regarding teaching. She stripped every ounce of self worth from me much to the anguish of my parents. My parents knew that if they pulled me from the school I would never forgive them. I thought this school was my only chance. I started auditioning for summer intensives at age sixteen to some success. Unfortunately my parents could not afford to send me. I never even thought of applying for scholarships because my teacher's reply was "well I guess they must have taken everyone." What I still don't understand is if she thought so low of me why did she have me on full scholarship? At seventeen I reached my breaking point and walking away. I wouldn't go anywhere else. I was too beaten up and felt like everywhere else it would be the same.

 

So off I went into the working world. I worked as a secretary for a couple of companies. Then got a job as a loan underwriter for time-shares. As I gained confidence I decided that I would like to study ballet again, just for fun. What started as just for fun quickly turned into being a principle dancer with a small semi-professional company. I was not getting paid to dance, but I didn't have to pay to dance. I would work during the day and dance at night and on the weekends. I ended up dancing roles I probably would have never gotten to in a major company. I switched companies in my real job, started an escrow division for a mortgage broker, which turned into underwriting construction loans. I stopped dancing in my mid-twenties to have a family. My body was just complaining too much every morning about getting out of bed. I still miss dancing though and will take some classes when I finally find some time to myself. Both kids will be in school all day next year.

 

My job now? I'm vice-president of operations for a mortgage banker making more money than some people with college degrees. I never went college. I would like to someday (I love mathematics and science), I just don't have the time. I self study, and read a lot. School will always be there though. Not everything else will.

 

Where does the studio owner/director come in? After becoming pregnant I started teaching. I never would have expected how much I love teaching ballet. It is an obsession with me. I taught at a studio for six years. After that time the director and I stopped seeing eye to eye on what was best for the students and we terminated the relationship. A year and a half later and I have my own studio. I can't wait until I'm making enough money at the studio to quit my other job. Even if the studio only ever breaks even and I never get to quit my other job, that’s okay. It's not about money for me. It's about passion, mine and my students. A life without passion is not worth living.

 

There is a constant fight between parents and children about college verses dance. I encourage my students to keep their options open and my parents to keep their minds open. Sometimes I think my job title should be "Mediator." The same path is not right for every dancer/person. Money does not buy happiness. College does not insure success.

 

All in all I think things turned out okay in my life. I have no regrets and some good stories to tell.

 

As a parent what do I wish for my children.... passion of course! The path to it is their own to find.

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Wow! What inspiring stories especially tothepointe's. My daughter is struggling about what to do with her life right now. She loves ballet and to dance more than anything in the world but keeps getting knocked down, rejected, dejected in her pursuit of dance everywhere she turns. She hasn't given up but she's not feeling too sure of herself these days. Following your heart seems to be the right thing to do in the long run.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Guest BalletAuthor

Great thread, thanks to you who reposted it.

 

Hi, Always a Mom!

 

I was very touched by your post.

 

I'm relativelynew n this board and the thread: Unsure in re pro for daughter was suggested on another thread today and having gone there I was quite inspired by your story. Also, I'm curious as it is 2 1/2 years since that post and you do not seem to post too often.

 

What is dd doing now?

 

Is she happy?

 

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply and for making the post about your dd in the first place.

 

*Post edited by moderator to remove a part about a questionaire. I'm sorry, but we cannot allow the board to be used as a source for private information gathering, whether for a book or PhD project.

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Thanks for the great post, To the pointe.

 

I especially like the part about being a Mediator. It is so frustrating telling parents hellbent on sending their kids to Harvard that they've got professional dancers on their hands instead. And vica-versa.

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This topic is so pertinent to my daughter's present situation, that I felt close to tears while reading the wonderful posts above. My daughter is 16 and a sophomore in a good public high school. She has been offered a position next year with our local professional company (most likely as a trainee). I saw more joy in my daughter's face after being told this than I have seen in several years. (I'll admit the last few years have not been a picnic for our family in several ways.) The chance to make a living someday at something she loves thrills her; dancing professionally has been my daughter's dream since she was 11-12 years old. Her current school, affiliated with the company, is only able to offer about 9 hours of instruction weekly at her level, which I realize from reading this board is not enough for a dancer with any sort of professional aspirations. Some of her friends are at NCSA and would like her to join them, but financially it won't work for us right now.

 

I spoke with the curriculum specialist at her school about the possibility of working something out with her schedule next year to allow her to join the company, but she and the head of guidance have been less than helpful. So it looks now like the only way she can go this route would be by completing high school through correspondence. (I have been researching several excellent programs through the internet.) My husband, though, is the practical-minded type and is having a lot of difficulty giving his blessings to this arrangement.

 

My daughter is a gifted student and after taking the PSAT and PLAN (10th grade version of the ACT) has received letters from over 50 colleges and universities, including Yale, Stanford, MIT, NYU, etc. My husband feels that her chances of being accepted to and receiving scholarship money to these schools would be reduced if she finished her high school career through correspondence. I think he may also fear she will never go to college. My viewpoint is that of someone who wanted to be a professional artist, but was too afraid to take the chance to go for it because I always felt the pressure to make a living first & foremost. I regret not following my dream when I was younger, and I admire my daughter for her singlemindedness.

 

This is something our family is still trying to work out. I'm encouraging my husband to be less rigid in what he would like to see in my daughter's future. If anyone has any insight into this situation, I would be most thankful.

Edited by Balletmom
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Our dd is a very good student and a very motivated dancer. I think for her parents (us), this being her senior year, the most difficult aspect of the decision for college or attempting to dance for a professional company has been the security and stability of a life as a dancer vs a college career. We are still in the middle of this crossroads, looking down one road and then the other.

 

Our decision has been a little different because our dd has always homeschooled, except for ninth grade. She is graduating as a twelfth-grade homeschooler this year and has already been accepted to two universities. She has also been accepted to two summer programs affiliated with companies on full tuition scholarship. She is looking at those scholarships, being 18 and graduating from high school and saying to herself, "They must be interested in looking at me as a potential apprentice--hopefully."

 

So now, for her, the question is whether to follow a life-long dream, or go to college. She might attempt both. She might accept one of her university offers, ask to defer, and try for a year to advance her dance career. If the dance career takes off, she might take a college class or two while she dances.

 

I have to say that coming to this board and reading threads like this one, and others, has been so very helpful in facing these kinds of decisions. Some of the parents and dancers who contribute are so eloquent! It is because of their description of the love of dance that I think that without at least trying to dance, which has been her passion for so long, I think life as a freshman in college would be so difficult. There would be adjusting to another path in life, and adjusting to a new place to live, and new friends, without some answers about her ability to dance as a professional. For our dd, that would be stacking the deck against her success in school, which is what this is all about anyway: helping her to succeed.

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I can't help you from the ballet angle as I am fairly new to this world. I can offer insight on educating your daughter at home, however, as I have been doing this with my three children for eight years.

 

Your daughter is in a great position!!! You say that she is in a good public school, she is a gifted student, and she has performed well enough on the PSAT and PLAN to be receiving attention from some outstanding colleges and universities. She has a proven track record on the high school level, so if she finishes her education at home, any grades she receives at home will stand next to what she earned in her first two years at the public school.

 

If your daughter had performed poorly in public school, then she finished her schooling at home and her grades did a sudden and marked increase, you may have potential colleges/universities questioning how rigorous a course of study she pursued at home. That would be a problem. Clearly, this won't be an issue for your daughter. There are some excellent, rigorous high school options out there; many of which offer honors and AP courses.

 

Most likely in the eyes of the colleges/universities, your daughter will have an advantage by finishing her schooling at home as opposed to finishing her education at the public school. One of the main factors that attracts colleges/universities to homeschoolers is their ability and proven track record in being able to learn independently and have the time management skills required for college life. I know for a fact that MANY top schools (Ivy League included) actively pursue homeschoolers for this very reason. And yes, homeschoolers definitely get scholarships, too!!!

 

Please feel free to PM me if you have any further questions. I also know that Clara 76 homeschools her son, so you may want to pick her brain. MMH

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Guest BalletAuthor

Balletmom,

 

I'll have to return later and read the rest of the thread, please excuse me if I'm just repeating what someone else has said, but take a look. Home schooled kids do very very well being accepted at the most presigious universities in the country and do extremely well when there.

 

I know girls who have deferred both Harvard and Stanford to dance professionally, and then have liked their lives as dancers so much that they allowed their deferrments to lapse...(one was a dancer with a MAJOR company with an enormous world-wide reputation, the other was with a smaller regional company. It's loving what you do that is important, not where, and often as not, having much to do with $)

 

Job satisfaction is enormously important and if a parent forces a child to give up a long-held much-cherished dream, then the parent ends up being the enemy (even if he/she believes that they are only doing what is "best" for the child!)

 

I have never heard nor heard of a dancer saying..."I hate my parents and my life because they allowed me to pursue my dream!" Alas, the converse is heard constantly!

 

Smart 16 year olds become smart 40 year olds and can go to college when they are dancing, or after they are finished dancing-it really doesn't matter too much, but unhappy 16 year olds often become unhappy 40 year olds and that is a burden which will weigh heavily upon her father if he doesn't develop a much more flexible and supportive attitude soon!

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Just a quick thought-

 

One of my friends has her Masters in Psychology, and another one in Social Work. Guess what? Neither one is currently working in their "chosen field" because the actual experience of working in the field was not quite what they expected.

So as my one friend puts it-now she is the proud owner of a 100,000$ piece of paper with the school loans to prove it. And a job that she could've gotten without spending a dime.

 

I would have children follow their dreams, absolutely, unequivocally, definitely, right now and forever.

Life is too short.

Clara :D

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Guest Chedva

To quote (or garble) an old saying, "You always regret more what you didn't do than what you did." Spending the rest of your life wondering if you could have "made it" is very tough. College will be there for the taking for a long time; dancing won't.

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When I worked in the grocery business we joked about hanging our diplomas over our checkstands. I didn't get my degree (a mistake) because I was making much more money working part-time than in my planned career, an art teacher or another Van Gogh. Had I finished and entered the field of teaching, which I doubt I have the patience or personality needed, I might have earned more but the voice of youth told me to "make hay while the sun shines". After 10 years as a checkstand "Cow" as we were rudely called, I quit my grossly overpaid job and took one for half the pay more related to my schooling. I worked in a printing company for awhile making proofs. I didn't get to create but at least had a hand in the process. Now I'm coming closer to using my skills designing costumes and the occasional graphics project mostly without pay. So way off the subject of unsure re: pre-pro for daughter, we do eventually find our places in life and every bit of education in school or life becomes valuable.

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Guest balletandsynchro

Tu2mama, you are so right! Our children cannot neglect their HS education in the name of dance. Life is uncertain, they may wish to go on to college someday, and even if not, our children need at least a general knowledge of subjects for life!

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