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Author Topic: WWYD? A dance question
Member # 6306

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Livvie, my 7 year old, hasd never had any goal or desire except to be a ballerina. She has bveen dancing for three years. She is a student at a Royal Academy of Dance School which we both really love, and which her little brother will be starting at in July. She has a wonderful teacher, they put on a full scale production every year, the tuition is affordable, and they are less than 10 minutes away.
However- I feel that if she's going to be a professional ballerina, this may not be the best long term home for her. She wants to dance for the Pacific Northwest Ballet. I have not seriously considered classes for her there because a) on a good day, it is a 45 minute drive and b) the cost. Next year she will be old enough to audition for the PNB's student/professional division. Yes, that's a year away, but this would be a major decision for us. Do we take her to audition? She just may audition and not be accepted- then she just continues at British, nothing changes. I think she may be good enough to get in.Maybe, maybe not. I can't assess her without bias. When she took her badge dance this year, she got 21.5 out of a possible 22 points, so she's obviously not too shabby. If she's accepted though, we are looking at a major commitment. Assuming that she gets a scholarship, and we therefore aren't paying tuition. We still have gas, parking, the huge amount of time involved. I might have to cut back on work to take her to shows. The boys will spend time in the car that in no way benefits them. I have afreind whose hubby works two blocks from PNB, who said she would help out if we decide that route, but still. I don't know. I feel like there's no right decision.

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The thing about professional ballet, is that it's not always about what you can control. Not only do you have to have the talent, but the body type as well. I knew a girl who had everything - but no professional troupe would take her because she was too short. You can't be certain at age 7 that your daughter will even have the stature for ballet.

Professional ballerinas have high rates of eating disorders and the damage to the feet is unspeakable - it's a big time decision and not one I envy you. Fortunately, as Natalie got older she decided on her own that she wasn't willing to pay the price. She wanted more out of life than just dancing, and if she had stayed on the track she was on she would have been working out five days a week for hours a day after school. She just wasn't willing to do it. But for one year, I allowed her to work with a highly regarded ballet school, I drove an hour to the school twice a week and it was definitely a hardship, especially on the younger children who spent two hours a day in the car.

After learning about what type of life professional dancers lead, I was glad she chose to cut back. It's a hard life, full of physical pain and emotional ups and downs. I personally would not wish my daughter to live the life of a professional ballerina. I just don't see where it's worth it.

Of course, I have a gymnast daughter, who is pretty good and we may soon be looking at spending three nights a week in the gym...so who am I to talk, huh?

You should consider what's best for the whole family. Can you afford this financially? You mentioned scholarships, but what would you do if she auditioned and got in but didn't get any scholarships? Could you afford it? Would you have to take things away from your boys to pay for this? If so, how is that fair to them?

Is the time commitment worth it? You will be taking that time away from things you can do together as a family, are you willing to sacrifice time the whole family can benefit from to benefit only one member? What if your sons want to play baseball and it's on nights when you're already committed to driving her to dance practice, do the boys have to give up their activities and hobbies to accomodate your daughter?

These are all things that must be weighed. We weighed them when we decided to let Emily compete in gymnastics. I have committed to my other girls that their dance classes (Natalie still wants to dance but only one class per week) will not be compromised because of our commitments to Emily. It's expensive, but we've found a way to work it within our budget. We made the commitment that family and school and church came first, and that even though the gym held Wednesday practices for girls at the higher competition levels, Emily wouldn't go to them - she would attend church on Wednesday night with our family instead even if it hurts her competitively.

These are some of the tough decisions we parents have to face. I wish you luck coming to yours.

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DISCLAIMER - I do not have children, so I can't really address your dilemma from that point of view. However, I do work for a semi-professional ballet company from time to time as props mistress, so I have some experience working with both kids and professionals (we have guest professionals in for every production).

Having said all that, my first thought is that as long as she is progressing well and her teachers think she shows promise, I would recommend supporting her in every way that is possible without completely disrupting the family's life.

As far as the audition goes, I would probably lean toward letting her do the audition if that's what she wants to do. Even if she doesn't get accepted, she will learn a lot from the process - and that definitely includes being able to handle not passing the audition. It might even be a good thing to know how she reacts to that. If she does get accepted, then you can make any decisions you need to. On the other hand, I don't see it as essential for her to make the switch so early. The school attached to the company I work for, even though it is not in what you'd call a great center of ballet, has had girls who have trained there go on to dance for some pretty big-time companies around the country. If the teachers are good, and if she is good, I don't think it will hurt to stay put for awhile.

One thing I think I would do if I were you is talk to the staff wherever she goes and ask them their philosophy on the whole eating thing. As Belle says, dancers can fall into the eating disorder trap. I know that the company I work for and the attached school keeps a close eye on their dancers and makes sure they eat in a healthy way.

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Thanks for the responses- I really appreciate your perspectives.
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