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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Career aspirations: when is it time to stop?


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This subject is dear to my heart because of three generations of women in my family who were passionate in their pursuit of the performing arts and had very satisfying and long careers, but not as they originally dreamed of. A grandmother (who would be about 120 if she were still alive) was denied by her family the opportunity to study voice in London (oh the scandal!!) , emigrated to Western Canada, became a well respected acting teacher, and I can remember visiting her when she was around 80, partially blind, dependent on a live-in nurse - and still tutoring private students preparing Shakespeare monologues. In the next generation one would-be actress taught and directed while she raised her kids (thereby putting me through college); another who discovered she would not be a great actress became a great critic; and next generation down; a would be singer is (amazing to me) making a living writing about music, musicians, and reviewing. And all had rather winding paths along the way before they arrived at their "destiny."


Recently at my office we hired a woman from a rather competitive applicant field who actually had very little experience in the job she sought. What she had (aside from a passion for our organization's mission) was this great cluster of "transferable" skills far and above the other candidates.


As for our dancers, I think they have amazing "transferable" creativity, passion, self-discipline, esprit de corps, tenacity, artistry. ETCETERA!!!!!!


To START down a path in life full of passion - oh how lucky they all are!


On the other hand.... If we want to indulge in crotchetyness, we could have a parental self pity session on vacations sacrificed, family dinners missed, summers or years with the little ray of sunshine living away, nutcrackers endured .......:D

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  • BW


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PleeA, thank you for your 20 20 hindsight. It's always nice to get some perspective! :D


And Syr - you are truly a "rare" one ;) ...well, maybe not so rare considering your roots! Your last paragraph is priceless!! :D

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I believe that my daughter is at the pointe in her pursuits that realism is coming into play. She loves ballet and to dance more than anything but having gone to auditions for SI's and not being accepted into the larger ones has opened her eyes. We have a fine college in our city that fortunately has a dance program, not ballet. When I first suggested applying there she wouldn't even consider it and was still dreaming of that big company in the clouds. As dates for applications and testing came closer she grudgingly complied. Now as she writes essays for scholarships I notice that she finally realises that college is more important or maybe a part of those those ellusive dreams. I feel that she will continue dancing but maybe in a different way than she expected.

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  • 3 months later...

Especially during this time of year!;)


I could have placed this on the "Angst" thread, just as easily.


In yesterday's NY Times, there was an article by Lisa Belkin, in the Job Market section of the Sunday paper, entitled: "Why We Kindle the Dreams of the Young" - and it reminded me of this thread, so I thought I'd bring it up again for some who might be interested to read the article... Better hurry, as I don't know how long it will stay "free"!

Here is the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/19/business...ney/19WCOL.html


It's a good article and not without humor. Here's a taste of it:



My son is planning to be Steven Spielberg when he grows up.


...Do we ever become what we want to be when we grow up? I certainly didn't. Back when I was 11, I was flirting with plans to be a veterinarian, a lawyer and, of course, a movie star (not an actress, mind you, just a movie star). My life's map was so hazy then that I came to hate the ubiquitous question — "What do you want to be when you grow up?" — cooed by countless well-meaning relatives who thought this was a good way to make conversation with a child. I never had an answer, and that always seemed to disappoint the grown-ups...


Read on, the best is yet to come. :cool:

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This article was so relevant when I read it yesterday. Yes, I thought of both my daughter and my 10 yo son with NBA stars in his eyes (now that's a shocker- he does not have the gene potential to be over 6', but knows the name of every short point guard that ever was in the NBA). I jjust hope both will be able to transition to other passions when the time comes (assuming it does...).

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Guest balletmom1

wow, what a great essay. Thanks for bringing it to us. Most of us have arrived at a place we could not have imagined growing up, but that's ok. All our life experiences have brought us to who and what we are today. I laugh that even high school cheerleading has its place (my kids are mortified when I bring this up:) ) as I spend my day teaching and encouraging adults. Hopefully we can guide our kids to keep their dreams high and find the path meant for them.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I meant (and said) a professional ballerina, one with a company contract. Clearly, anyone who enjoys it can --and should!--dance. A person with flat feet, poor turnout, limited flexibility, a poor sense of balance, or myriad other "undesirable" or "unsuitable" phenotypes is unlikely to be hired.

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Guest samba38

The dance world needs many citizens -- not only those on stage. Support their dreams but keep their minds open to all the many ways they can channel their minds, hearts, gifts and discipline. The world is full of people who worked like demons but still didn't get to be first base, first violin, fighter pilot or CEO. They find new forms of expression and go on. The only crime would be to let a person grow up with the habbit of regretting, of always looking backward or caring more for what they don't have and didn't achieve than for what they have and do today. There have been several times when my kiddo has danced straight up to a brick wall -- and then over, under around or through it. She hasn't always landed where she dreamed or expected, but I think with her relentgless dream and drive she will always land on her "feet" whether those feet are on stage or not.

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I am a student, but i thought it would be interesting to see what all of the parents out there thought of this subject. I have danced since for 12 years, I am now 15 and graduating high school in May. Until recently, i hadnt even considered dance as a career. The thought never crossed my mind until I realized that if I really worked hard and made ballet difficult for me, I would love it. The only way I could ever love this torturous thing is if I made professional ballet my goal. since then, I have dedicated myself to my small studio in Alaska, and I am going to audition for college in March, even though I know my limited training and body type will inhibit me. Before my 'revelation,' I wanted to be an architect, or write, or continue Stephen Hawking's search for the theory of everything, and i could do any of these things easily. But ballet is harder than that. Dancing is the one thing that I can really love-maybe that is what your children want. Maybe they haven't found it yet, and maybe they aren't sure, but even if they never make it past their hometown studio, its worth it. I know that no matter what, I will always take class just to feel that little piece of a dream.


And, BW, one of my dreams is to be a National Geographic photojournalist!

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Hi everyone.


No. i am not a parent yet, (hopefully in about 5 years, just got married.) I am 'one of those students'. Here is my point. What about the student that was not ecourageed enough. I was excepted to every major ballet SI, had several of the SI companies intersted in me, but no self esteem whatsoever. And i quit ballet right on the start of a proffesional carreer. my parents encouraged me, but were totally against ballet. They even tried bribes. My hometown teacher would play myself against another dancer in our studio who was less talented in order to 'keep me from becoming arrogant.' So, i at the age of 17 let all of this convince me i was not good enough. I wish there had been one person who would have told me straight out if i was talented enough. Hindsight is 20/20 and maybe i should have been able to read the writing on the wall, but i couldn't as a teenager. Maybe i got so fed up with the competiveness that i just couldn't take it anymore. Or maybe i was afraid. I doon't really know. But i will always wonder hhow far my career would have gone. So maybe being frank with someone isn't bad, but it s the choice of words that are used that is the real delima. Encourging someone is never wrong because there are so many options in the dance world, especially for someone who is weel trained. Reality is what we make of it, and if we know early on that there are options, not making it is a little less harsh


Sorry for rambling on, but thought maybe i could bring light on another side of the argument. ( and vent a little)

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Guest goingforsatin

Allow me to post from a kid's point of view (sorry if kids postings on this board are prohibited!). I am 4'10'', weigh 130 lbs., and it's clear I'm never going to be a pro ballerina, even if I grow five inches and lost 30 lbs. My parents always taught me to follow my dreams and I appreciate that. When I was five I wanted to be a ballerina, a firefighter and a paleontologist. I grew out of the dreams of digging up dinosaurs and fighting fires, but I never gave up on the ballet dream. I face major challenges because of my physical limits, and my parents have always been there for me. Kids need parents who will tell them to keep going. I found out on my own that life is hard, but I still have a lot of fun pursuing my dreams!

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  • 4 weeks later...
Guest mystargirlrocks

I'll open this up again because I have a story that I have passed along to my children, these many years...

I was not a ballerina, but a synchronized swimmer. The discipline is very similar. It takes years of training and technique to be worth looking at, let alone hold your breath through it all.

I was nearly 12 when I started...too old, they said, to really make it, but I stayed with it.

My younger sister was on the team as well. She was a natural athelete, everyone said she had potential. I was a weak swimmer, by legs too thin for a proper kick that propels you through the water. I was not a natural athelete, actually I was pretty klutzy. So, to me they said nothing, behind my back (if I over-heard) they were just waiting for me to tire of it and quit. That made me more determined than ever.

When I was 15 we both auditioned for the 'A' team of our local Synchro Swim club. I was selected, and my young sister was made alternate. For the next 4-5 years I struggled to keep up and improve by working harder than ever. When the other girls were laughing, goofing off or gossiping, I swam extra laps. I volunteered to help coach and choreograph routines for the younger girls. I just kept at it.

When I was 17 and traveling around the country for national competitions, the coaches and parents all started to say "wow, she has potential"! Yeah, right! My sister had potential, so did the half-dozen girls that quit in their teens because boys and football games held more interest.

In the end, I retired from swimming at the ripe old age of 19. I was team captain and had accomplished my goal: I was named to the All American Team, 4th place nationally over all.

So, here is what I tell my kids: Don't let anyone tell you, you can't or its impossible. If you really want it and work hard enough, anything is possible - I'm living proof!

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Guest mermaid's mom

Mystargirlrocks, your post was inspiring to me as well. My daughter quit after 9 years of dance (jazz, tap, lyrical, acro, and her favorite, ballet) when she was 12 years old due to many reasons, a little over two years ago. She was at the point in her dancing where she would have needed to choose classical ballet training or rec/comp dancing, and she decided instead to learn what may be inside herself besides "being a dancer." In addition, her lack of proper and correct ballet training to date would have required remedial training and her knees had been stressed...both knees became partially dislocated at the time she quit. She joined the local YMCA swim team, which I later learned, enjoyed a national reputation for outstanding coaching and swimming results.


At the beginning of her first season, last year, I got a lot of comments from parents whose children had been swimming for years, such as, "My, she's awfully old to begin training, you know, but I'm sure she'll enjoy being part of the team." Little did they know that my dancer-turned-mermaid had learned a LOT about goal-setting while she had danced, and she was determined from the first day of the season to become a strong enough dancer to advance to Districts, which is 1/2 of our state's YMCAs annual meet. The first obstacle? She had to learn how to swim competitively. Sure, she had taken a couple weeks of swim lessons during the summer and her PE class had swimming, but this was competitive swimming in a very strong team. Her years of discipline and training in dance served her well to transfer her understanding of line, extention, and muscle development and muscle memory to the pool. During this time, she also had physical therapy for her knees, and there were times when she was very sore from all the hard work she was doing in practice. But, that first year, she managed to reach her goal and just barely qualified for Districts and swam her personal best time in the 50-yard breaststroke there.


This year, her second season, she decided to set her goals toward Districts again, with the hope that her time in the 100-breast would advance her to States. A very high hope, indeed. But this year, people saw how determined she was and how she could manage the "head games" of competition (having experienced the "competition" in a dance studio and on a dance competition stage) and how much she truly enjoyed goal-setting. Her knees, thankfully, are strong now and she has one of the most powerful kicks among her training mates. She placed first in her League Championships in her event and is in a position where, on Sunday, she will swim at Districts with a very strong chance of achieving a time that will advance her to States. "But if I don't make it, that's okay, I can do it next year."


I have seen her inspire her teammates when they were down on themselves, be a role model to younger swimmers who want to swim like her, and study older swimmers for their technique, all the while learning the sport of competitive swimming with grace, intelligence, and and wit. She has one of the most realistic attitudes on ability, talent, and drive I've ever seen, and her philosophy of "one day at a time" and "there's always tomorrow" has helped her through, well, good (swimming) times and bad.


This from a girl who, when she joined the team two years ago, didn't know a thing about competitive swimming, had two bum knees, was pretty much in the back of the pack, and was thought "too old" to fit in with the veteran swimmers her own age. There have been times when I wonder how she can set a goal and just keep swimming til she reaches it. She told her dad and me at the beginning of this season that she will qualify for Nationals next year...and you know what? We believe her. We believe that whatever she wants to do, she will find pleasure and satisfaction, and we admire her ability to never squash her own dreams. She looks back upon her many dance years with very fond memories, and the lessons she learned and the experiences she had during those years has benefitted her tremendously in her swimming and, I am certain, will continue to do so for years to come.

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