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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Are SIs mandatory for success under 13?


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My husband has a 12-year old daughter that is very passionate about ballet. She just started dancing last year and is a Level 4 in her academy.

She and her siblings live primarily with her mother in another state. My husband has time sharing over breaks and in the summer with his kids and looks forward to every second he can spend with them. It’s been hard to balance wanting them to engage in their interests but also knowing how important it is and vital for their relationship to spend time together. 

Their mother is very high conflict and doesn’t switch days when conflicts in the schedule arise, so we’ve had to be very strict about what we will and will not agree to. Recently, my stepdaughter auditioned for a summer intensive program (apologies, I’m still learning and all of this is new to me). She has already been invited to attend two programs, and we’re waiting to hear back on the others. Knowing almost all of these programs interfere with the time my husband is supposed to have with her in the summer, the mother sent an email about how imperative it is that the daughter participate in the SI — as if her future depended on it and missing is not an option. 

While of course my husband wants his daughter to pursue her passions, he also really cares about his relationship with her and worries she may be overdoing it with ballet. She’s been injured a few times already (she had to wear a boot for a few weeks earlier this year and has fractured her wrist) and we’re a little concerned she may have the beginnings of an eating disorder (suddenly very picky, choosing not to eat). These are other reasons we’re not super keen on a summer intensive at this age, regardless of whether she’s missing time with her father. If she’s 15-16 and wants to dance professionally, sure, but I just don’t know if this is the year.

We’re also upset that her mother took her to audition knowing this would be an issue, so now we look like the bad guys in any scenario. If she can’t go, she will be told it’s because her father wouldn’t let her, which doesn’t help an already delicate situation. It feels a bit hopeless because of course we want to support her, but it’s been a tough couple of years for all of us and we just want to start to heal and grow as a new family... which takes time spent together.

All of this is so new to us, and so I want to ask those who know better... is it essential to a potential ballet career to attend an SI at 12? Are we holding her back by asking that she not attend?

How do we even begin to navigate this?

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In short, no!  Personally, my daughter was 13 when she did her first. 

A few thoughts: 

- Are there any locale studios that are having week long intensives? 
- Could you turn it into a vacation? For example: Coastal Dance Center in Myrtle Beach has brought in some great teachers in the past like Mr. Du and Fiona Fairrie.

- Would the mother be willing to give your husband extra time this summer? Instead of the SI weeks count as his weeks?

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Thanks for your response @DanceDaddy.

- Are there any local studios that are having week long intensives?  Not in our area. She lives in Nashville and we're in rural Virginia.

- Could you turn it into a vacation? For example: Coastal Dance Center in Myrtle Beach has brought in some great teachers in the past like Mr. Du and Fiona Fairrie. We're not opposed to this, but a little concerned about what this may require from us financially. A week away from home with four kids (I have a five year old son) and having someone care for our pets could quickly turn into a lot of $$$!

- Would the mother be willing to give your husband extra time this summer? Instead of the SI weeks count as his weeks? I wish! If that was an option, we'd trade weeks in a heartbeat, but she isn't willing to switch. It's all take and no give.

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Another option... instead of a summer intensive, would focused privates be possible? If you are near Richmond Ballet or Washington Ballet (in DC), or Maryland Youth Ballet. 

And even if nothing is possible at this age, I'm hoping she dances somewhere this summer. It maybe a local studio. She won't be harmed by not doing an SI. However, she will fall behind if she doesn't dance for 3 months.

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Doing a summer intensive at 12 is (in general) not a necessity. I think a lot of this "need" is kind of a peer pressure to keep up with the Jones of the ballet world.  There have been many past discussions about what age SIs become necessary (I would encourage you to search through the Summer Intensive forums to read these threads - I think one was about what dancers learn from summer intensives - they do learn a lot even at 12, but it isn't anything they can't get from their home studio and/or going away at a later age).  Usually the answer about age comes in around 15/16, but is dependent on the goals of the dancer, current training options of the dancer, etc.  The necessity of attending an away SI starts when dancers are looking for opportunities that they can't get at their home studio - connections for jobs/post-grad training, partnering classes, men's classes, etc. Usually this is not necessary at age 12.

My question would be why does the dancer/dancer's parent feel it is necessary to go away to a summer intensive?  (Because everyone else is doing it is never a good answer for this question or any other in life.)  What are the dancer's goals for that summer?  Can those goals be met another way? - at her home studio or studio near where she will be for the summer, at a shorter intensive, with private lessons, or a combination of any of these.

If your husband's daughter continues to want to pursue ballet at a high level there will have to be sacrifices, all around, just like any other sport or special activity.  It would probably be important to keep communication open with everyone involved, especially the dancer. Perhaps your husband's daughter will be disappointed with whatever the decisions are this year.  However, if everyone begins discussions about what is possible/acceptable next year, then maybe this can be turned into something to look forward to next summer.




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