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ballet advice

Should I keep Dancing?

Recently, a young woman wrote in asked if she should keep dancing. Her e-mail was nothing new, we get these emails all the time. But, as she went on and explained her proposed trajectory, I was reminded why I started A Ballet Education. I asked if I could share her e-mail, and she politely declined but said I could blog about the email and what was discussed later.

So, her email was pretty straightforward. It was polite, and she introduced herself, and her background within ballet. But her big issue was that she did not get accepted into a summer intensive this year, and while she could go to a summer course where you don’t have to audition, she felt like it was a sign. A sign to hang up the pointe shoes and focus on getting into college next year. Again, this distraught email isn’t anything new for A Ballet Education, we get them a lot. I was even stopped several times at YAGP Finals asking for advice and so on. The, “Where did I go wrong?” or the, “How did I get this far and not make it…” and so on…

Photo by A Ballet Education.

My normal response would be sympathetic and probably, well 9 times out of 10, I would encourage college and just enjoy ballet as a hobby. There is definitely nothing wrong with this, and it makes ballet way less stressful…. BUT, her letter went on about how her school promises a career in dance, and that they are a “professional school”, and that she had been doing 2-3 private lessons a week, but couldn’t get into a big summer intensive. She included an “evaluation” from her teacher which gave her all very high marks and very highly regarded compliments. Then, I asked to see photos and videos, and there it was. A very nice body, good legs, good facility, and decent quality. The problem? Missing the actual technique, and at 17, you kind of need to have your life together. Two years ago before the pandemic, she did go to a very big, very prestigious summer course, but age 15 in ballet is very different than age 17 ballet.

I told her she needed to get out of her current situation and find a very hard-core school to whip herself into shape and do it in less than a year since audition season is in January. (Don’t know the Ballet Calendar? Check out our article here.) I told her it’s very doable, as one of my students just did it, made the final round, and got a job. So it isn’t impossible if there is the willingness and dedication to making ballet happen. I told her it wouldn’t be easy, but because of her natural facility, she could probably do this if she really wanted to. Heck, I even offered her a spot at my school.

But, then her response came back.

She wasn’t sad, she wasn’t even mad. She talked about how ballet taught her an appreciation for classical music, that it gave her structure, and gave her confidence. And while this was a devastating blow, she realized, that if she cared more about ballet, she would have found a different place to train faster. Her parents were devastated, as most parents who aren’t familiar with ballet don’t really know what they are looking at, came around. And she decided that she was going to go to college and just take dance on the side. For a seventeen-year-old, this is a huge realization, and while I really wanted her to give it her all, and really give it the go, make it happen… but I realized, that this is just the cycle of ballet.

Hundreds of thousands of girls set off in dance, some will focus on ballet, and very few will make it. Others will go off to college, and others will completely move on from dance, but at least they had the experience of it all. Not every boy who sets out playing a sport will make it into the respective professional major league, or even become an international superstar inside of that sport, most division 1 players won’t make it professionally. It’s a sad realization, and it is probably that time of year, graduation, that makes it sentimental, sad, and sort of nostalgic, but this is our industry and we have to accept that not everyone wants to purse ballet as a professional.

Which brings me to my actual point: Should I keep Dancing? The answer is yes. Just because you aren’t going to pursue the world of professional ballet doesn’t mean you should cold turkey quit. In fact, keep dancing and just enjoy it. Still, go see performances (when they happen again), and still take a class for the music, for the exercise, and for the friendships. Don’t give up something you love. I love cooking, but will never be a professional chef, that doesn’t mean I am going to stop cooking and taking on more elaborate dinners and desserts.

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Cover photo by PressMaster.

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