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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Career aspirations: when is it time to stop?


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Victoria Leigh

fille'smom......NO! :(

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  • 2 weeks later...

I just happened to come across this and thought it was appropriate to post here in the Destiny and Dance Thread. Just a little food for thought...


Destiny is not

a matter of chance,

it is a matter of choice;

it is not a thing to be waited for

it is a thing

to be achieved.

William Jennings Bryan

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Vickie Co...that's wonderful to hear! Your daughter is certainly starting out in life with the right frame of mind for a 13 year old! I think I'll do the same and post it on my fridge...never too late huh even for us moms! Tango :(

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I hope not Tango! This is such a new world to me. I am an older mom with a daughter in her 30s and a son in his 20s. My 13 year old has opened a new world for me. I had no idea what was in my future when i put my young one in a ballet class when she was 5. This website has been a godsend to me, answering questions I didn't even know I had. Thanks for all the great insight and information. I am working on not being shy here and becoming a "full fledged" member. :angry: Thanks everyone.....

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  • 1 year later...

I have a question that I would like to pose to the board which is sure to cause some controversy, but at the same time be thought provoking and meaty enough for us to sink our teeth into.


At what age should our dk's, the ones who are currently training and hoping for a career as a professional, leave their pre-pro schools, their residencies and their SI's behind? Is there an optimal age where this discovery about themselves can be made?


As we know, residencies are not only conservatories of the art form, but also, in many cases businesses. Is it fair to prolong training of a dancer who faculty may have their doubts about? Many of these kids will, on their own, either choose not to continue, burn out or recognize that the lack of paying positions will hinder their future lifestyles.


The all encompassing nature of ballet training does limit the rounded education of a teen. The physicality of today's dancers requires year round training. This is a choice these kids have made, a sacrifice, just as their parents sacrifice family funds to send them to these programs, provide shoes, travel expenses etc. In the family of a dancer training to be a professional, this training can hi-jack the family budget. Often, the other kids in the family are short-changed. Do we, as parents, have a responsibility here to make clear how far we are willing to fund their training?


And, if the school, pre pro or otherwise, bills themselves as such(a school to train future dancers), what is their responsibility in identifying who will 'make it' and help them in that direction, and at the same time work with those who clearly, never will?


This discussion is not aimed at those dk's who are training at high levels purely for the love of the art, which is quite wonderful if it is known to all as such, but for those dk's who are actively planning a career as a dancer.

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I think these are fair questions, AsleepATheWheel! Personally I feel like 15 is the age by which I'd want to know if my child was on the path to gainful employment. That's long enough for a child to have trained hard enough at something to acquire the self-discipline and time-management skills that would stand them in good stead, no matter what s/he ends up doing. But it's not so late an age that they can't shift those hard-earned skills into a new area and start over again.


I also feel like ideally a school could provide a family with that kind of information, but realistically I can see where they might be afraid to. So often I've seen what teachers tell parents get misconstrued and used against them, so I don't expect to ever get any kind of definitive prediction from anybody. and I only listen with half an ear when we have received them.


But all that said, I think, by 15, most dancers and their parents have caught the clue bus all by themselves. Certainly I've seen a few sad cases where they haven't, but the vast majority do.

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I don't think that there is a hard and fast answer. Just as every dancer/kid is different, the situations are different. We have often discussed that if there were differences in the equation that everything will change.


Every family has a limit. How much they can sacrifice for a pursuit, whether that is money or time or whatever. The number of kids, job situations and where you live can make all the difference.


We decided that we would pursue a specific course (with a few changes along the way) and the predetermined time to re-evaluate is coming (when DD is 18). That does not been that we are done but that we will discuss how much more we can do financially/emotionally and the rest. This is the only way that the non dance people in the family feel that they can contribute. It is a full family discussion and decision.


I don't know that I can say....if you are not making x amount and dancing professionally that you will be done. It has to be individual.


How is that for a no-answer answer ?!

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I, sadly, disagree about most catching "the clue bus" - though I do like that turn of the phrase chauffeur. Perhaps it's the NYC ballet scene but I can vouch for the fact that there are classes very top heavy in over 15+ year olds that haven't caught the bus and/or their parents haven't. I'm not exagerating on this and, as AsleepAtTheWheel has asked, I'm not including the students who are continuing just for their enjoyment either. In some cases a parent is driving the whole ballet as career path while their soon to be 16 year old may not have the assertiveness to say "Hey! Stop the "bus"! I want to get on!" :(


Part of the problem is the self-perpetuating nature of this the ballet school that does not have any sort of funding outside of tuition - they can't afford to be honest, or at least they don't think they can... There are, however, programs that do tell their students by not inviting them back... I have not had personal experience with this, but I know of a number of people who have from SAB, to name just one program as an example.


And what about the parent(s) that can see clearly and yet their teen can't at all...that's got to be very difficult especially if they are not able to look upon the expenses involved at this level as mere extra curricular activity monies... I'm sure there have been families that have had to have difficult heart to heart conversations, as well.


I keep coming back to add on some thoughts as I realize that I didn't really address some of your specific questions, Asleep. In my view, by age 15 it's really important for student and parent alike to try to be as realistic as possible in what the real chances are for a future career - the question is how do they become realistic? These days the SI acceptances and scholarships can be good indicators... As it's been pointed out numerous times, it's at this stage of the game that academics really start to kick in in a very intense way.


Back to your question about the responsibility of the ballet school in being as honest as possible in re the chances of a student at the age of 15 or 16 - I think they owe it to the student to be very honest.

Edited by BW
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Given the odds against dancing professionally, I don't think any parent should allow ballet to take over his/her child's life to the point that a non-dancing Plan B is unthinkable.


The moment of truth will come at high school graduation if not before.


I've seen many thoughtful posts from parents whose children are at this crossroads, hoping to focus on dance post-high school, but preparing an alternative path as well.


I don't think it is the ballet school's role to dictate who should continue and who should not. After all, the school is focused on teaching an art form; it doesn't view itself as providing vocational training.

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These are great questions and I'm very glad you posed them. As was said already, there's no hard-and-fast answer. It depends greatly on family dynamics and economics every bit as much as on the talent and marketability of a dancer.


If a family is truly struggling to keep their dancer training, and if it's at a point where the other children are not receiving attention they clearly need, then something is very wrong with that picture! I would say that's a dysfunctional scenario. And I'd say so regardless of whether or not the dancer might have a career in the field. A parent needs to maintain the overview for the entire family, not for just one member.


I think that a very important point needs to be made about ballet training: It's the basis for all other dance styles. There's a kind of evolution in thinking that happens to both parent and dancer through the years. When dancers are young, they, and often their parents, think that to be successful, the dancer needs to be hired by a major ballet company. That belief lasts for some students all the way through high school, for others till about 16. (Forever for some parents :huh: )


Most dancers know by about 15 or 16 that they don't stand a strong chance of being hired as a ballet dancer. But somewhere just about there, they realize that they don't need to limit their sights to ballet alone. They start looking more carefully at other dance possibilities and at other careers within dance or other arts. I have known MANY ballet students (throughout my 17 years as a ballet parent) who have entered musical theater, become stage managers, lighting or sound directors, dance teachers, studio owners, contemporary dancers, and even circus performer (Cirque du Soleil). Those final couple of years, from 16-18 or even later, of ballet training, were critical to their moving into such fields.


But if you'd asked them when they were children if they would consider such a possibility, most of them would say something of an all or nothing basis about ballet. They need to mature before they can see the other possibilities.


I wouldn't worry about the "clue bus" issue when it comes to parents. It's extremely rare for a parent to be making those decisions for their 16+ children. And if they are, then they're the parents who'd be doing it in some other way with their teens if ballet weren't their interest. And they would be viewed as odd and stick out in a different chosen field too. We all know one or two people like that but thankfully, late teens NEED independence and they ARE thinking for themselves. These kids will do just fine making their own decisions.


As far as the limiting nature of ballet training, I do think that while there are certain limitations, there are also some great expansions of ideas that go on. The love for the arts, the self-discipline, and the satisfaction of seeing something through to completion (usually high school graduation) cannot be emphasized enough. If a dancer feels that s/he's being constricted, then that would be a clear sign that this dancer should leave. Most of the dancers that age believe their lives are quite rich because of their dancing.


Regarding ballet schools themselves, yes, you're right: they ARE businesses. As such, they DO accept dancers whom they may believe will probably not have a career. There are only a couple schools who don't have to consider their finances when making such decisions. But you will find that nearly every single school MUST take that into account.


For example, a school that is building their program will take many students they don't especially have hopes for in terms of a career. As long as a school has empty spaces, they will need to fill them. Ideally, they'll try to fill those spaces with dancers with potential but truth be told, most schools don't have that luxury. It's just the way it works. Occasionally a kid they had little faith in will surprise them. The reverse is true too, that a dancer they had high hopes for will disappoint them.


So is that a bad thing? My contention is that no, it isn't - as long as parents have that overview of their entire family and not just that one kid in mind. It's all about balance. :( (hey, good pun) :D

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fendrock, just want to be clear that in part of my post I am talking about ballet schools that are very serious about training dancers for the profession. True, there is not any ballet school that will promise that each and every student will become a professional dancer, but they're definitely aiming for it... For example, National Ballet School of Canada, SFB, SAB, RWB, NCSA, Harid...and these are several examples of programs that will indeed "not ask back" a student who they do not feel has viable potential in the field because they do not have a "recreational" track. And of course there are still other ballet schools that have it set up to appear as though they do not have a "recreational" track, but they can't afford not to keep their students and do not have the studio space to have, for example, a "release time" section and a "regular" or "recreational" section... I still think it's a good school's job to be upfront in assessing a student's abilities - which is not to say that a student who may not have the abilities shouldn't continue their ballet studies, however AsleepAtTheWheel's main thrust is in the direction of the students who believe they are going on to become professionals.


And more generally, I don't think anyone would ever say that there weren't a plethora of plusses gained by a student of ballet :(


P.S. Sorry for my multiple edits! :huh:

Edited by BW
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I prefer to be an optimist. When I read BWs post about how certain schools tell students they don’t have it, the words of Egon Madsen’s biography ( former Principal Dancer, Stuttgart Ballet), in a program come back to me: “Fortunately for the Stuttgart ballet, Madsen, a native of Copenhagen, was rejected by The Royal Danish Ballet School at the age of eleven. He continued studying, however…….” Imagine what his parents thought when he did not get into ballet school, but also imagine how they must have supported his wishes to dance. And, although he never did dance with the Royal Danish Ballet, he had a dance career that most of us would wish our children could have.


So, I have told my DD that I will support her in her attempts to be a dancer. She has a fine education on which to fall back, and if at some later date, university beckons, she will be ready. But Egon Madsen’s experience (and there are others too) certainly should be there to remind us that there are alternative routes to the goal and that schools are not always correct in their assessments.

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I would just like to comment here and say that being rejected at age 11 is not the same as being rejected at say, 16, after training intensively for close to half ones life. I think that most parents would encourage their 11 year old not to give up if rejected at that age. At 11, it is generally not clear...physically or mentally, whether the child is suited to be a dancer.

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