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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Late bloomer at 11, what are her chances


GF2022

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Hi,

DD is 11 and compared to other dancers her age, she is not as strong as she should be. At the moment she is behind her peers, and is trying to catch up. I'm just wondering if she will ever be able to. She started ballet at the age of 4, but only started training at a more advanced level about 18 months ago (5-6 days per week, as much as we can find where we are).  I would love to hear your thoughts on what might lie ahead for her, based on observation or experience.

The good

- teachers think she looks 'right' for ballet (proportions, turnout, flexibility etc)

- was accepted to a very prestigious associate scheme, which was encouraging

The bad

- Perhaps this isn't bad, but physically she looks younger than her age. She is short but not far below average height for her age, she is slim and compared to her friends she looks a good two to three years younger. It's hard to define what it is but the other girls look more mature even if they're not much taller or bigger or more developed than her, they just look more refined somehow. 

- not amazing feet

- lacks strength. This is arguably her biggest problem. She is a bit wobbly compared to her peers, who all seem to have more bounce, attack and precision when they dance. Her pointe work is quite bad as a result of this. We do PBT and gymnastics for dancers (Vaganova type floor work) twice per week, hopefully this will help eventually

 

Do you have a child like this, and how did it go for them? Have you seen any children that would fit this description, and are there any success stories to share?  Can she bridge the gap between her and her peers within a reasonable timeframe? It's so hard when the other girls keep getting moved up and put forward for exams and do on, and she gets left behind. It is very hard to catch up as they keep improving and my DD id still getting herself sorted out. Are we waiting for a growth spurt which will help her develop more strength? Should she work harder? I am not sure how to support her.

 

 

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Hi GF2022!

 

Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers!  Please do take some time to look at all the information here, and to "introduce" yourself on the welcome forum!

It has been awhile since my DK was 11, but she was probably physically similar to what you describe for yours.  At 11 she was pretty small - perhaps lower average for height but low for weight.  She was quite flexible, but did lack some core strength.  In addition her feet weren't optimal.

She did end up dancing professionally.

My suggestions for you would be along the lines of:

* right now, she is young, so please don't stress.  Big changes can happen in a small amount of time.

* moving forward - so perhaps closer to age 12 and after - consider supplementing with Pilates, or something else that is strength-building.  However,  do try to find someone who knows about dance requirements - a former dancer turned trainer for example.  (My own personal trainer is a former ballet dancer).  In hindsight this is something I wish I'd made more available to DD.  It IS important that the exercises are dancer-appropriate.

* Talk to the teachers about your other questions, such as feet.  In fact, always consult with your dancer's teachers.  It sounds like your DD is in a good program; I'm sure teachers would be happy to consult with you.

 

I hope this helps.  Once again, welcome to BT4D!!

mom2

 

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11 is not too young. A lot depends on how much she wants it, and getting her with the proper teachers. Private lessons for a while can work wonders as do summer intensives. Having close to the perfect body type really helps. Some kids start out very young but then also burn out and never dance professionally. Many girls go through puberty and their bodies change weeding them out.  Slow and steady wins the race.

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Don't stress, it's not too late. Changes will happen with puberty. My DD thinned out, which is probably better for what the world thinks a ballerina should look like.

I would say as a parent, just keep an eye on is she enjoying going to class? Going to Gymnastics for dancers? etc. Because, if she isn't enjoying it, then look for other activities.

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This was my daughter. Physically, she looked 2-3 yrs younger than her actual age. She didn't start ballet until age 8 or 9. She was behind her peers in ballet specifically. A year ago she switched studios and went from ballet twice a week to now 4 times a week. She had a major growth spurt during this time that she then had to learn how to adjust. Her current instructors(pre-pro program) said it'll just take time and work & not to focus on 'catching up' to the other dancers but instead to continue to improve. Most of the time I still don't know how to support my daughter either but she seems to mostly want me to listen to her talk(& talk & talk lol) and be her audience while she practices at home.

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Welcome!

My DD12 started focusing on ballet exclusively two years ago after spending a few years in an all-around studio. It is hard not to compare our dancers against their peers. My DD has the opposite problem as yours, she looks older than her age so people make assumptions about her skills and maturity so she always seems to fall short!

My suggestion is to have her focus on what her teachers provide her for corrections in class. I gave my DD a notebook for her to keep track of her corrections and to read them before class to ensure she was focusing on the right things. She attended her school's summer program and made improvements in strengthening. 

But 11 is still young and she has lots of time!


 

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Thank you everyone who has taken the time to reply. I like the idea with the notebook, that might help her. 

We are waiting for physical maturity (growth + what she can improve herself by working on her strength) and mental maturity (she sometimes loses focus in class). She needs to gain more confidence, both dance wise and personally. 

And finally, it is a difficult time for her as she feels that she is missing out socially. Her school friends are often off to grab a Starbucks after school, or hanging out on the weekends, and we rarely have that time. When we do have some spare time, it's getting harder and harder for her to connect with her friends, as many of them are now in a different school to her and have formed new friendships. My DD has found some nice girls in her new school but no BFF's yet. So DD is definitely paying a price for her ballet. She knows she isn't the only one in this position and she still wants to keep dancing, but I can see how it's weighing on her a bit.

Anyone else in a similar position? 

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I feel like my DD (13) has no close School friends. Sure, she's "likeable" and isn't sitting alone at lunch. But, no close friends that she sees outside of school. Her "tribe" is the girls at the ballet studio. Now, when she hits high school we do want to see if that changes.

And hey, there is nothing wrong if your DD doesn't want to live at the ballet studio! Maybe, she just wants to be there 2-3 / week. That's okay to have other interests. 

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She's definitely not the only one in this position. When she was younger, my daughter didn't really care about missing out on other activities or playing outside with friends due to her dance schedule. Eventually her neighborhood friends stopped stopping by to see if she could play. She did have some close friends at school but now they're all at different campuses or have moved. She has other interest outside of dance including school cheer that has allowed her ways to still be social at school but she's not close to them. Her dance friends are her primary friends. They also socialize outside of the studio. She has become more social and has requested not homeschooling yet for this reason. It takes time & will look differently for each dancer. Some are content with their dance buds while others may want/need more. Just follow the lead of what she may be seeking & give encouragement along the way. I had to push her some to talk with the other girls at dance originally as last season was her first year at that studio.

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My DD12 switched ballet schools and started a new middle school this fall. She had to start from scratch and it has been slow going, especially with limited socialization due to COVID. I have been encouraging her to keep connections with kids she has known for a long while to make sure she can at least text or facetime with friends.

My DD does complain about missing out on various events and will ask to skip class every once in a while. What I tell her is to write down when she regrets having dance be a priority and at the end of the term we can look through her entries and decide if she wants to quit or scale back her training. So far she has never written anything down but it gives her the control over how she spends her time.  As she gets older I assume she will write events down and it will help her weight the importance of dance vs. a social life and if the sacrifice is worth it to her. 

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