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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Career: Unsure re profession for daughter

Guest dancermama

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Two comments: My ds is in a trainee while going to college, finishing his 3yr year of pre-engineering. In high school he was in gifted and AP so I understand your husband's thoughts around why would you do this when you could be earning a great salary in 4 years and get on with life. But if its not their passion and they are unhappy because of what they gave up what kind of life is it really. The only true failure is the failure to try to suceed at something you love.


While he is always taking 1st period (7:25am) and getting a schedule that will work with his dancing sched is very hard, it is doable. Not sure that would be the case with an Ivy League school. When he moves into his major classes he will most likely have to go to part time. Those teachers only teach in the middle of the day. What you will find is that a lot of universities have gone to tv replay classes and multiple classes for the first 2 years of college so you can do a work around. At Orlando one of the company dancers is enrolled in Rollins college and the company makes some minor concessions for his schedule.


After many years doing arts related jobs dance, costumes, dj.... I went back to school at 29 for 7 straight years and received an undergraduate degree in business and an MBA in Finance and DIS. During which time I worked and had a small child. Not recommended but again doable. I really felt that I got the best of both worlds.


So if your dd is very motivated, home school, let her go to college during her first few years where the company is and then make a decision or take a year off before she would start her major field of study. Having worked in the admissions office of a major university (undergraduate job to defer tuition) they like people who have high life experiences and time managment skills. It makes for very successful students.


Just some suggestions from a mom with a college aged dk.

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Our DD is a professional dancer with a major company. She left a public HS at 15 and moved to a pre-pro school to finish her training. She finished her last two years of HS through correspondence with the University of Nebraska. A course I highly recommend. It was not easy, but essential for her to do it this way. By the time she was 17 she had her contract.


For her it is not possible to go to a college for classes, while dancing. During her 39 week/200 performances a year season she dances 6 days a week, and is often at the studios or theater from 9:30am to 10:00pm. She is now 22 and very pleased with her choice to dance. Dance is who she is, at least for now, until the other parts of her have time to come to the surface! She was passionate about ballet at age 12 and she remains passionate about ballet today.


We had little choice in this. Did we think we were raising a child to become a professional dancer? Never. We too saw college and a living made with her wonderful intellect only. We came to agree with her that college will always be there, but to dance is an opportunity given to only a small few.


Afterall, it is her life. As long as the choices she makes do not hurt herself or others (parental dreams shattered do not equate to hurting others) she should make the choices. Just as we have learned from the choices we've made, so will she.


If she is truly passionate about ballet, all you have to do is ask her, "What do you want to do, college or dance?" She will not hesitate with her answer. Then, you will know you raised a dancer. For that is what she was born to do. Denying who she is, can be a very risky thing.

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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.

It's been wonderful reading all the posts from those who've "been there." Even though my gut feelings have been to go with my daughter's hopes and dreams all along, it helps to hear some reinforcement. Convincing my husband has been more difficult, but he has (grudgingly) agreed. We've found a correspondence program that we're excited about--through the University of Missouri--and I've discussed with my daughter how difficult it may be to schedule her time between a full day of dancing and a full academic schedule, but she feels confident it will work. I e-mailed the company manager yesterday about our decision, and all that remains are to work out the details. My daughter is excited, I feel good about it, and hopefully my husband will some day agree we made the best decision. Right now, it feels good just to have made a decision.



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This is an amazing thread that I have found so moving. I am sort of embarrassed to tell my story, it really is just a little story about a girl who didn't get to dance, but since no one has relayed one from the point of view of the child, I hope my doing so will help persuade the parents who are frightened for their child, who are scared of the loss of an "education" that there are worse things. Like the loss of a part of yourself.


I started dancing, like most children, at the age of seven. I was at ABT in New York, when they had a fine training school, and studied with several wonderful teachers. I studied principally Olga Merinova, who was a disciplined, charismatic, funny and warm woman...In those days (the sixties) there were only four levels, I believe, at ABT: ABC and D. You worked your way slowly and painfully up the ranks, the class moving with you, a few kids joining your level each year, a few getting pushed over the top into the level above. I became more and more passionate about dancing, so much so that I took as many classes as I could and went away to Banff in Canada the last two summers, which was also unusual in those days, as there were very few summer programs at all, much less all these wonderful Summer Intensives.


When I was ten or so, I auditoned for The Royal Academy in England and was accepted, but there the trouble began because it was then that my parents realized this ballet thing might be serious. They were very negative about it. They said, "won't you be unhappy to be so far away by yourself?" I could see they didn't want me to go. Of course I was a little scared, but also excited and secretly, I was dying to go. Had they encouraged me, I think I would have loved it. But I, like most children, was too concerned about disappointing them to fight them and so let that chance go. "No, no, it's okay. I don't really want to go."


A year or so more passed. Finally, at age 12 , I was promoted to D level. This was the last level in the training school. After that, you auditioned for the company, or went out on your own, auditioning, joining whatever company you could. Progressing as I had been, I would probably have spent three, perhaps four years in D class, so at 15, 16, I would have been where the kids of some of you moms and dads here on the site are now...And that was when my parents pulled the plug.


I was one of five children, and the most academically gifted so far. My whole family on my mother's side were brilliant people, but none of them graduated from college, even though some became extremely successful in the arts. You might think they would understand. But on all sides of the family, education was valued above everything, and my parents thought that unless I was going to be an absolute star, a prima PRIMA ballerina (and we all know the odds of THAT) it would be dangerous and a shame to throw away the opportunity to get the great education they thought I was capable of grasping. In my last year of ballet, my grades had slipped a bit, I was doing so much dancing. I went to what is still considered one of the top schools in the country, and still got mostly As and Bs, but one or two Cs crept in here or there, mostly in subjects or on tests I really didn't care much about. This terrified my parents. They saw me becoming a "dumb dancer" , and simply announced that I would not be doing ballet that fall. Furthermore, they tricked meinto acquiescing, saying that if, that fall, I pulled my grades up, in December I could begin dancing again.


Of course I was shocked. At that stage, from what I can judge the equivalent of about a level 6 today, losing three months was horrifying, but what was I to do? They promised to get me private lessons to bring me up to speed if I fulfilled my half of the bargain. So I did. I pulled up my grades to their satisfaction, regularly tried to give myself little "classes" in my bedroom, but instead of living up to the agreement, when December rolled around, they simply announced that I wouldn't be dancing any more.


To put it simply, I hated my mother ,whom I saw as the the principal malefactor, and whom I had always adored, for ten years. Hated, with a seething white hot hatred I carried with me for years. I dispised my parent's perfidy, was disgusted by their lack of knowledge about the thing they were judging. To put it simply, my heart was broken.


And I think there is still a piece of it missing really, and I believe there always will be. I will never know what I could have made of it or where it would have taken me. Worse, I loved it so, and I was robbed forever of the pleasure of having my body do those amazing things with such ease. It felt like being inside the music. Every once in a while I have a dream, a dancing dream, in which I get to put that body back on...and then I awake with a pang of sadness realizing that was long, long ago.


Of course, I didn't die of it. I graduated from a fine boarding school Exeter (magna cum laude), and Yale (cum laude), and majored in french literature. After graduation, I had a brief career in acting, on Broadway, off B'way, regional theatre, T.V., during which my ballet background and my fine education stood me in great stead, but by the end of my twenties, I found I didn't have the love of the whole life or the drive it takes for that profession. (My hat is off to those who do.) I hated not being able to get up in the morning and work, but have to wait for someone to give me the job. Finally, I ended up painting (portraits, mostly, and landscapes), where my knowlege of the body and how it all goes together is also informed by all those years of watching the muscles move. For all my parent's precautions, out of the frying pan and into the fire...


When my daughter was tiny, she took little baby ballet classes. I could see she has good feet, better than mine ever were. As she grew , I was determined not to push her towards it because I was so aware of not wanting to "project" onto her by trying to make her do what I was deprived of. When she wanted to quit after a year or two, she quit, and did other things. Only by fluke did she start studying again at eight years old, when a friend invited her to her class at a not terribly good school. I let her go that afternoon thinking, "What the heck!" . But this time, it stuck. After a few months, when I realised she really liked it (and after I saw a Christmas concert by that school that convinced me I had to get her out of there FAST), I went shopping for a good school for her, and found a small but good one, where, after a year and a bit of their fine training, she coming along nicely now in the 3rd level. I think she has the potential to be better than I ever was, because she starts with even better basic ingredients.



But if she ever wants to quit, I will back her 100%. That will be difficult, perhaps. Even harder, if she wants to proceed, I will back her 100%, scary as it is, with all that I know, for as long as she wants to persue it. I would not wish on her or anyone what happened to me, not just because I will never know about the road not traveled, but because the choice to turn away from it was not my own. I passionately believe that we as parents need to help our children develop their inborn (or God given) talents to their greatest potential. And now, much more than back then, there are new ways to help these budding young people persue their love of dance as well as develop other potential talents. To rob them of the opportunity to see it through is a terrible, terrible thing.


This morning, my mother came with me to my daughter's class. She says she felt like she was going back in the past. We long ago made our peace about what happened, and it was a lovely bittersweet moment of love and support between us, to stand watching this next generation in a long and literally noble tradition. I explained bits of things that were going on that she never understood back then, but now she listened with curiosity and real interest for her grandchild's sake. Plie, tendu, frappe...it is always the same. The movement , the music. What could be more divine?


sorry this is so soppy. can't help it.



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Thank you so much for giving us your moving story, mcrm55. I'm so glad you told it, and believe me, it's not "just a little story..." Best wishes to you and your daughter.



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Wow, thanks for sharing that! You're right, that is a perspective we don't often get to hear about. I congratulate you for supporting your daughter, and I'm so glad you have made peace with your mom. Have you ever thought of going back to dance yourself, mcrm55? I also danced when I was younger; it has really helped me to understand my daughters' training. I can see their strengths, but also their weaknesses. I know how difficult dance can be, and also how rewarding. I love watching my girls dance, but like you, I will support them 100% if they decide to follow other interests instead.

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well, unfortunately, my feet are really a mess. All the women on my mom's side have bad feet, I don't think it was actually the ballet that did it, although it may have exacerbated things. I had one operation on one foot about twenty years ago, and need to have them both done again in the near future. I wear orthotics and just try to wear sensible shoes, but any pounding at all is just agony after a few minutes. (Neuromas and one dislocated toe!) I took class a few years back during the time my daughter was taking the baby class. It was exhilarating in one way, but my feet really couldn't take it, or anyway jumps were just misery and even standing on demipointe was sort of difficult. I had these hysterical conversations with the ballet master about the differences in technique that have come along in the intervening years since my day. He would crack these jokes about "here comes mcrm with the antediluvian pas de chats circa 1967!" he was very good natured about it and I actually felt appreciated because he knew the training I had had and understood where I was coming from. I was actually surprised to find how much came back. I had no extension any more of course, and beats were almost impossible, but my mind worked pretty well...maybe after the operation I can try again...

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and, dancindaughters, I do find my background helps with my daughter. Sometimes she'll get so upset over not getting something right away and usually I can help her out by explaining it from a new direction her teacher may not have thought of, because I know her so well I can see where she's stuck, doesn't "get" something that makes a combination or passage go wrong. ("well, remember to keep your weight on this foot here after the assemble, because you need to get your left out for the tendu..." that kind of tactical thing) But mostly I find I can help just by being encouraging. She knows I know what she's going through and (eventually) believes me when I tell her she's doing fine. There's some bitchiness coming from some of the older girls in her class towards her, and I also help her think that through. Whew. Sure is tricky, ain't it? :wub:

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mcrm55, I'm very sorry for the pain you had to go through due to your parents' single mindedness. It's very, very sad what can happen with even the best of intentions.


And I congratulate you on your making peace with your mother, in particular.

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In the end, I think all roads lead to Mecca. Everything contributes to the richness of who we are. My mother was a fabulous, creative, generous mother in many respects. Most respects, in fact. She just had a little blind spot caused by her love and fear for me that skewed her judgement. But it is so nervewracking already watching my dd! What did I let her get herself into??? AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH! :(

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mcrm55 I too read your story with great interest and empathy. We did let our dancer leave home at thirteen to persue her dreams. I second guess myself often about it but I feel we did not have the right to say no to that much dedication and will.

I do have concerns about the academics and post secondary education but I know from experience that sometimes career paths are not straight. My husband went back to school for four years and embarked on a whole new career when my oldest was one month old (actually two because he had to sign on with the goverment to receive financial support).

My biggest worry with my child is what the long term physical effects of intensive training will do to her down the road. Will I feel responsible if she develops problems with her feet, hips, knees etc.? I have no doubt in my mind I will. Can I do anything about it at this stage? NO :(

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true, she might develop physical problems later down the line. But if she loves it that much, I doubt she will regret it, on balance. My feet are a wreck, and I don't. It gave me such a sense of discipline all my life, love of music, coordination etc etc. So my feet aren't so great now...oh well, small price to pay, as far as I'm concerned. Bravo to you!

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mcrm55, your story is the kind of wisdom that draws one to make a copy and keep close by. My copy will be in my dayplanner...easily available to read at those frenzied times of lost prespective. Thank you for sharing your experience of not only dance but mother-daughter relationship.


Off topic but related....My son showed some interest in becoming a doctor at an early age. A trip to New Orleans was not complete without a visit to Charity Hospital to see their emergency room. As a nurse, I was proud and fostered his interest to an obsession. What I lost sight of was that it was just an interest and curiosity at an early age. Next to stage moms, there's nothing worse than potential doctor moms. As my son grows, his interests have changed....and will change some more.


I have to reign myself in frequently to stay the encourager, not the enforcer of dd's ballet experience.


I once heard "Make your career one you enjoy because you will be doing it a very long time." I'm not sure if dd has what is required for a professional ballet dancer but at age 12, I'm not going to dash her passion.


The wisdom and expertise of this board isn't limited to ballet but includes life lessons itself. What could be better? Thanks to all for sharing.

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Guest jen72

Hi everyone,


This question may seem foolish, so please excuse me if it is. I was just curious for the child that becomes serious about ballet and wants to go professional as a goal, what different avenues are available? What different career choices are there? And are any of them realistic? :shrug:

Also, (boy am I the new kid on the block!) I am ready alot of things I dont understand all the abbriviations. Ex, SI, DD, ECT.........

At what point did you know it was time for your child to try a summer intensive or to try for ABT or the other things you all mention. Will I know when it is time, is this something the teacher will mention or something I need to research? I am sorry for the crazy questions, I am trying to learn as much as possible.



Thank-you all!

You have all been so helpfull.



Jen :wacko:

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