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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Legs too short for ballet?


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My DD is 13 1/2 years old and currently 5'2". She has been in a pre-professional program at a very serious ballet school since age 12. The program is rigorous. She has been progressing nicely there, but in recent months her primary dance teacher has stopped giving her many corrections. Other teachers there seem to really enjoy working with her because she works really hard, is very focused and takes corrections well.  She has been on pointe for 2 yrs. Though she has long arms and a great torso, her legs are on the shorter side and disproportionate to her upper body where the ballet aesthetic is concerned. Judging by the length of her femur, she is unlikely to get longer legs - at least according to her pediatrician since her period started over a year a go. 

My DD is very serious about going professional but I’m not sure her teacher has faith. Have there been dancers with shorter legs that make it in this industry? She has a beautiful shape in my opinion and takes wonderful care of herself, also she is acutely aware of the pitfalls of body image and VERY self-assured, healthy mind-set… no worries there… but this industry is unforgiving. I am hoping things are changing because so many of these girls work hard with what God gave them but some dance teachers only see body type and promote that or see a someone with virtually little skill or interest in going pro, but the “proper” aesthetic and focus on them, hoping to “inspire” them. This is a very huge investment at this point as many parents can relate to, and a huge sacrifice. We know she loves it so we don’t want to give up on her journey it’s just becoming apparent by her teacher’s priorities and behavior of other students that she is not expected to go far. Just wondered if there are other parents out there who have a dancer who has done well and moved up into a studio company or finishing school, despite not being the "industry standard" with the longer legs?

Edited by Cosmo7
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I am not a parent of a student who has the challenge of height, in any direction, but I am a teacher of quite a few successful students of ballet who did succeed to a professional level. There is no crystal ball, so no one can actually predict the future of any student. I suggest you arrange a meeting with the teacher and/or director to ask these very questions. My experience has been regardless of challenges, those with talent, confidence and determination to succeed do find their niche. The niche may not be a permanent place, as is the same for many, but my advice is to never give up until one is ready to do so. You daughter is still very young. If possible, let her lead her dream. Support her in her dream, if you can. Otherwise, make the choices that are best for your family as a whole.

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I don't have any words of wisdom about your real question but thought I would post that my dancer just grew more (her height is measured quarterly) and it has been almost 4 years since her first period.  The majority of her growth did take place by the end of the first year after her first period, but she has grown more than two inches since that time.  I am posting this in the spirit of "never say never."  Best of luck to you and your dancer!

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Thank you, vrsfanatic this is wonderful feedback and much appreciated. She is strong, determined, committed - will not waiver whatsoever, passionate about ballet and has proven time and time again that she can rise above challenges (it takes a thick skin, as we know). I feel like though she may lack a natural talent, her talent and acquired skill is born from her hard work, focus and attitude. When she sets her mind to it, she achieves. I feel like there will be company out there for her someday, and she is not intimidated in the slightest to go where ever the road may take her if the opportunity is a good fit. I have been approached by others about the morale she brings to other students when they go through their own challenges and I see her personal work ethic on a daily basis. You are correct, she is young, so I may try to meet with the teacher when she turns 14 and ask some questions. Time will tell, as you say... no crystal ball. It's easy to get caught up in wondering if she is being overlooked in class if the aesthetic is not specific to someone else's standards so I thought I'd ask. As parents though, we will be here for her and continue to support her and let her lead the way. :)



Edited by Cosmo7
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InTheWings thanks for the input. You never can tell, it seems! Based on my DD height at age two, and the standard calculation (parents height average, etc.) she is projected at 5'5", but despite her reaching her healthy weight, height has been very slow these last 2 years and pediatrician assured us she is done. Not sure how they can determine that without a bone-age test or X-ray of growth plates, but dr was emphatic about this determination. Anyway, we will see what happens! 😉 

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Cosmo7 it can sometimes seem a student is being overlooked by a teacher but often, it is the teacher trying to teach the student acceptance of responsibility and independence. Students are unaware often that they themselves must accomplish the words and actions the teacher is describing. They have to do the work, not wait to hear the same correction over and over again and do nothing. Students often equate what they call trying, to being enough. May I compare it to something such as 2+2=4 but the student keeps adding it as 5? The study of ballet is measured by physical accomplishment but also confidence level, acceptance of responsibilities and independence. The teacher may be interested to see how much a student can accomplish without constant attention. Afterall, I am sure corrections are happening in the classroom. Explain to your daughter she can always apply the corrections she hears given to others. This is an important aspect of the study of ballet.

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1 hour ago, vrsfanatic said:

The study of ballet is measured by physical accomplishment but also confidence level, acceptance of responsibilities and independence. The teacher may be interested to see how much a student can accomplish without constant attention.

What Vrsfanatic said is so important, Cosmo7.  My DD (like yours) was a super hard worker, but she struggled to make independent decisions and accept the self responsibility that is at the core of an excellent dancer.  She is a bit of a "people pleaser" and it took her a long time, the help of some excellent teachers who "ignored" her and also pushed her to make decisions on her own, and some deep maturation for her to become more of an independent dancer.  She still second-guesses herself and worries about the artistic decisions she makes, but I am so grateful to the teachers who didn't give her easy answers but made her search for them on her own.  The lessons she learned on her own stick better than the ones she was "told."

She's also on the smaller side.  😉  She only made it to 5'4" (I think, but it's been awhile since we measured).  It turns out that measuring her made her stress about something she could not control, so we stopped at around 16 or so.  Worrying about that wasn't worth the angst.  And I can assure you that her height didn't prevent her from dancing professionally.  

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Eligus although my daughter wants to do well in her teacher's eyes, thankfully she is not a people pleaser and very much her own person. Thankfully, she also does not struggle with making independent decisions or taking personal responsibility with her training. In fact she is the opposite which is quite a distinction of maturity for a girl of 13, let alone one who is training in ballet. All of her training decisions are hers and hers alone. I am grateful as it will suit her well with whatever she chooses in life.

Although this was not at the heart of my post, I will share that last summer during an out of state summer intensive, a dance director told her that her inner monologue will always guide her and fill the need to look for corrections from teachers. So in a sense...she will always be her own teacher. This has been invaluable to her and a departure from thinking that an intense ballet program means you will get corrections more than a once or twice a week "good job". Her desire for corrections was less about being "corrected", but rather being invested in. Part of that is understanding how your instructors communicate too, each has their own style and teaching philosophy. My DD focuses strongly on improving her own technique but also understands that she is at a school that recruits a certain aesthetic, so she accepts this because it offers the intense training she seeks. Watching a teacher pass over you (and others) for the same 5-6 students who are clearly at the top of the class already is odd in my opinion when all students are their to learn equally, regardless of how great or small the correction may be or how often. 

My questions was more about whether her legs, being shorter, would hold her back. It is nice to see where it did not impact other dancers like yours. I think perhaps we as moms see how hard our DD work, their sheer dedication and how invested they are, and if its the one thing out of her control that holds her back it will be a reality that just needs to be accepted. I completely agree... worrying is definitely not worth the angst especially when their may be still time to grow. 😉

Edited by Cosmo7
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