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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Career aspirations: when is it time to stop?


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My daughter told me last night that she wants to dance for the rest of her life. She wants to go to college and get a degree in dance and teach other people how to dance. After saying this, her face fell a bit, and then she asked, "But, how does dance help the community? I mean, how can I dance and do something that helps the community?" I gave her the blah blah blah about how important arts are to the community, but being only 9 she wasn't moved. I needed another angle :D


My kids are in Independent Study Programs through the public schools, so they go to classes 6 hours a week, and the rest of their academics are done at home. One of the classes is SPECTRA arts, where real artists (including dancers :thumbsup: ) come to the schools to teach. I pointed out how kids who ordinarily woudn't be exposed to dance, or be able to afford dance classes can begin to learn, and how this helps the community. Wow, did her face light up. That's what I want to do! she exclaimed. There are so many ways to share dance, and to keep dancing.


On another track - I grew up devoted to playing piano. In high school, I practiced 3 to 4 hours a day (and still managed to find ways to get into teenage trouble :devil: ). I then went on to college as a music major, but gave it up after one year (the major, not the piano). I realized that I loved piano, but I didn't love being a music major.


Fast forward 25 years, I woke this morning from a dream where I was realizing that I could have pursued piano as a career if I had really wanted it. I guess that dream has never really died, and I have always had mixed feelings about that early decision. Never the less, I have used music in my career as a speech language pathologist - using chanting, and rhythm to facilitate communication with autistic kids, for example. And more recently, when I'm practicing, my daughter comes and dances to the music. It's happening spontaneously, but really, it's a dream come true for me. The idea that such a simple thing as playing the piano while my daughter dances could mean so much, and be so fulfilling would have mystified me at 18, but at 44, it's just right.

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This reminds me of a conversation that I had with a young dancer right after 9/11. She had just accepted a traineeship in NYC with a small company when 9/11 happened. It made her take a hard look at dancing and she struggled with the need to "help" people and "what matters in this life". I encouraged her to hang in there a bit longer and give it some more thought. I think that in a difficult life situation, people need something beautiful to lift their spirits. I tried to tell that young dancer that seeing her dance beautifully on stage would be as important to some people as medicine could be. I truly believe that. I am a registered nurse and see that many people are as affected by discouragement and emptiness than they are by physical difficulties. My own daughters are dancers and I feel that their work is very important. The young dancer in my story did stop dancing and is now in college with the goal of becoming a doctor. Also an important career.

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DD, high school junior, is in full college preparation mode now so I guess she has sorted the dance thing out for herself. Feel like I dodged a bullet. . .

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Is she planning on majoring in dance, or being involved in dance in some way in college? :innocent:

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  • 1 year later...

I would like to reopen this topic--my dd is at the point of making big college decisions--what have been the experiences of parents who have had a daughter pursue other college goals, but have tried to maintain ballet as a secondary activity? We would really like her to pursue it through her school as our financial contribution has already been significant. Thank you for your input! :blink:

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Please forgive me if I am stealing the thread in any way from the previous poster; that's not my intention, and I do hope that some of you will answer her question. However, my DD is not as old as the previous poster's child is, and I have a different but similar dilemma.


There are no serious pre-pro schools in our area without a significant drive, which is basically impossible for us to make on the almost-daily basis required for progress in ballet. DD has worked very hard at her recreational school and has made some good SI's (I think, reading this board, that they have been good.) Now, though, it seems that a residency is her only option. Some of them have been eliminated by our family for various reasons (financial, not a good fit, lack of housing, etc.), but the bottom line is that THEY have to accept HER, so she tried for the one that seemed a perfect fit, but received a rejection. In addition to the obvious sadness that anyone would experience, this is, in our opinion, a sort of door closing. It seems to all of us that if she isn't good enough to get into this SI and/or its residency, then she really has no hope of "making it" in ballet.


We aren't so financially well-off that we can just throw money away indefinitely if she has no hope of "making it." We support her as much as we can, but I think that all of us know that there someday comes a cutoff point, and we don't know if this should be it. She is 14, and maybe there's time to keep trying, but she brings up the valid point that there are some incredibly talented girls she's met at SI's who get in everywhere they try, and apparently she isn't one of those.


If one's child isn't one of those, is there really hope for acceptance at a top-notch program, and, later, a company? Has anyone else ever experienced what we are going through? It's heartbreaking, as we don't know how to get her good training that she obviously needs, if places won't accept her. She's an extremely hard worker and would do whatever it took if just given the chance. At this point, I don't even know if she should bother auditioning for any summer programs, since she might not have anywhere to dance next fall. Thank you for any help!


*edited by moderator to add some paragraphs for easier reading by those with bad eyes!

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2llori--is your DD's desire to dance at a level during college so that she can still have a chance at dancing professionally? Or dancing in college for her own satisfaction at a level she is accustomed to? The answers for you might be different depending on that direction.


Pointeprovider--14 is still very young although it generally is a sort of turning point (no pun intended) for many. If your training is truly recreational then it may be a bigger turning point. I am sure it was hard for your DD to receive a rejection. Most dancers do in fact receive a few during their training years. Most just don't talk about them, especially at SI's where there tends to be a competitive spirit, so it sounds to a young one at an SI that "they get in everywhere".


I think at this point, you just need to help your dancer with the natural life progression of rises and falls, wins and losses so to speak. With the support of parent who loves her dearly she will come through this one rejection. It is at this age that many start to question their place in dance. Some will work through the questions and dig in deeper to continue, others will start what is a slower process of walking away.


But if this is something she wants, then yes let her continue to audition for SI's. I would pick one where there is a residency audition during the summer fo those who might like to stay for year round. (most will have those) Sometimes seeing a dancer's work ethic and over the summer and ability over the long term is what a director needs to garner and acceptance.

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2llori: My DD is a senior this year, applying to colleges under EXTREME parental duress for a double major (dance/poly sci), but hoping and planning to get a trainee or apprentice offer somewhere during the upcoming audition season . . . . Most of her friends graduated a year or two ago. Several dropped dance completely, and are happy without it at all. Several teach part-time at studios close to their colleges. Two dance as trainees for small regional companies in the same city as their colleges, several are doing a dance and something else double major, or a dance minor (one at a college that doesn't offer dance, but allowed her to craft her own minor using classes at a stong pre-pro school nearby and summer intensives) and one is a NCAA athlete in a totally different sport (crew). It seems as though they found their college first, and then made plans that suited them with the dance scene in that particular city. My advice would be to research colleges in cities with strong dance schools or small companies, and take it from there. Many regional companies will work out something with a strong dancer, even if it is unpaid and just consists of free company class in exchange for performing with the company. There doesn't seem to be any reason to totally drop dance if the dancer still wants to take class and perform.


With regard to one rejection from one school - please make sure you AND your daughter know that for many, many dance students, particularly in the 14/15 age group, there are LOTS of rejections coming. We all know those magical dancers who DO "get in everywhere", but for each one of them are a jillion wonderful girls and guys who get yesses, noes, and wait lists, sometimes without any rhyme or reason. Kids change so fast at that age - and it seems difficult to predict what will happen. And, for each rejection - yes, some of them mean "hah, no talent!" but many mean simply - no place at your level or in your particular grade, or you just don't fit with the dancers we have, or we already have a tall brunette and are looking for a short blonde, or we've taken all we want from your region of the country, or you had a bad class, or you don't quite seem mature enough for a residency, or it's too early in the season and we're still looking for that magical wonderkind. They (and you) have to learn to take rejection in stride and cruise on to the next opportunity. 20 "no" answers might mean you should re-evaluate. One no is simply that, okay, you didn't fit at that particular place.


My own DD has gotten scholarships at some wonderful places, and nasty rejection letters from other equally wonderful ones. It happens to everyone. Dance is rugged!

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2llori, we have quite abit of discussions going on along the lines of your concerns and questions in both the Higher Education General Discussion forum and the Colleges and Universities with Ballet Program forum.


The easiest way to those forums is to click on the "Ballet Talk for Dancers" just above the blue 'you-are-here' line, which will take you to the Index for the Board. Just scroll down to the Education section and you'll find the two forums I mentioned. There are numerous threads that might be of interest to you---which is why I didn't just link you to one.

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OK - so one place told you no... that's it for you and your dd? This will seem very blunt - but if you quit after one rejection, then you really are not cut out for a career in dance.


Dance is full of rejection. For most dancers - more rejections than acceptances. The trick is to find the place where you are accepted and to keep all your options open because you never know. Your dd has already received acceptances and now you are at a turning point (no pun intended :) ) with her training... so keep looking. The writing for your dd is not on the wall yet - unless of course you decide she won't "make it" after hearing one "no."


As I've posted before on other threads, the company where my dd now dances rejected her initially - for the school, the second company and the main company - so go figure. :thumbsup: After giving up on that dream - she moved on... but a little opportunity fell into her lap at an unexpected moment and she was off and running!


Who knows what the future will bring - had she quit when she had that rejection, she wouldn't be an employed professional now.

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My D was exactly in this frame of mind as a senior in high school.

Dancing at a top level pre-pro school where she was able to perform with a large city company was what she was accustomed to.

While ballet is part of who she's become, she made the decision not to pursue it professionally.


One of her primary decision factors was to go to a college where the ballet training would be strong, ON CAMPUS, and that would actually count towards academic credits. (She turned down Vanderbilt because it required a commute to Nashville Ballet, a mile away, for example.)


She wanted a college that offered a dance minor and still allow her the chance to perform. She wanted to dance almost every day, but have it be a 2nd major or minor. She applied to a variety of colleges and audtioned at multiple schools. She did apply to a few that did not have a strong ballet program, just in case she changed her mind during the process.


She started out a double major in biology & dance. She's now a biology major with minors in dance, chemistry & psychology. She was in Paquita this past semester so is still performing.


Dancing is becoming less a part of her life, but she still finds a way to keep doing it. The college she chose did give her what she wanted, although I'm not certain she'd go the same way again. I only say that because as she's dancing less, she wonders more how being at a more academically prestigious school would have turned out. But at the time, it was a a great offer (full academic scholarship) with an excellent performing arts program.


The most important thing is that the dancer really search her soul and be honest about what she wants. The problem is that most kids change their minds. The good news is that most kids make the best of where they end up.

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Dear pointeprovider,


There are many roads to Rome. So, apparently, the 'road' your family thought was the 'perfect' road didn't work out for the immediate future. The choices then become to (1) re-group and re-focus on what other roads will get her from here to there; or (2) decide Rome isn't where she wanted to go anyway. Either choice is inherently correct for your daughter and your family. Deciding which choice is her preference and will ultimately bring her happiness is another story.


Having permitted a dancer to go off to residency that we thought was 'perfect' for her, then having her find that the 'perfect' residency didn't really address her training needs, we had to re-calibrate what we felt was best for her and make some compromises as to what we felt we could 'agree to' in terms of living arrangements and educational options. In exchange for fabulous training for her needs, I had to let go of my expectations of a dorm situation and a brick-and-mortar school set up. She's doing great! Once she began her school arrangement, I found it was not only not a compromise, but afforded her more flexibility, accountability, and interaction than any school situation she'd been in since graduating a small private middle school. The living arrangement was a compromise, but it is working sufficiently.


The key to finding the appropriate training for your daughter is maintaining some flexibility and open-mindedness about what is 'perfect'---and what she ultimately wants from dance. That end pay-off may change as she grows older, but if she wants the chance to dance professionally, she absolutely must receive the best training possible at all times. There is nothing easy about some of the sacrifices and compromises that we parents end up making in helping the dancers keep that chance viable. And there is nothing shameful about the child deciding that the rough and tumble, rejection-laden road to Rome is not where she wishes to travel--no matter how far down that road you all travel. There is so much that the child absorbs from dance training that it can never, in my opinion, be considered a waste of time, effort, or money.

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  • 4 months later...

Lilliana, I loved your saying how dancing beautifully can be as important to some people as medicine in lifting their spirits! The arts are so often under appreciated.


---Edited by moderator to remove lengthy quote.

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As a follow-up to my post of several months ago (above), I would like to thank all of you who responded with excellent advice and support. DD had a grieving period, but I shared your responses with her, and she decided to go on with SI auditions, which was a good decision, because she was accepted to a very good one which had rejected her the previous year, and she was offered a residency on the spot to another! This did wonders for her confidence and morale, but financially was still beyond our family's reach. However, that success prompted her to look outside the "brick and mortar" one-building residency, and she fell in love with a different residency, which accepted her and offered a partial scholarship! So, although it will be difficult for us financially, and we are taking it one year at a time, she has hopes and exciting plans for next fall. She can hardly wait for move-in day! We both want to thank everyone who helped at a tough time. Those of you who have been down this road before are such a great source of support! DD and I vow to "pay it forward."

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