The Chess Game of Ballet Strategy…

When it comes to ballet, parents can get a little a crazy, and truthfully, I don’t blame them. Between the hours of dedication, the thousands in tuition, pointe shoes, private lessons and costumes, you should have some sort of strategic plan, right? Parents start to strategize what YAGP they will go to, what the odds of finals invitations are, what weekend to audition, and what summer course is going to look best on the resumé. All of these things matter to some extent, but at the end of the day, unfortunately ballet is still only based on three things:

  1. Your body type, look, and facility. Lame, I know. Trust me, I know.
  2. Your level of technique. Manageable, always upsetting, and kind of a daunting task, but doable.
  3. How you move, or the quality of the dancing. This is what should matter, but is always overlooked and trumped by body type.

Unfortunately, there is no principal contract for effort, handwork, or perfect attendance, but then again, major league sports are the same way.

Parents will do anything for their kids, and will do anything to see the success of dreams. I have seen parents donate thousands of dollars to companies, hoping that they will offer child something. And unfortunately, sometimes it works. Regardless, parents go above and beyond to make ballet happen, and because of that, it makes them go a little crazy.

You know crazy ballet parents, the kind of parents that are super secretive about where their child is auditioning or attending, pretending they don’t know anything, plotting years in advance their child’s future, and chasing instagram followers. You know, the kind of parent that will spend hundreds of dollars for a workshop so that their child can get a photo with a famous ballet dancer. 

Recently, social media and “fast art” have come head to head with the very fundamentals of ballet. Producing content at a super high rate for the sake of staying on top of a trend, but at what cost? Most young dancers are barely training anymore, and they are focused on winning competitions and being photographed by the next insta-famous photographer. Older generations accuse social media of ruining ballet, while others are embracing the exposure and network social media has created. 

But, I will be honest with you. If you want to be successful in ballet that strategy is plain and simple: focus on the work, the art, and the technique and be patient. You can’t rush turnout, feet, or legs. It is a process. It is a painstaking process that most schools see as an eight to ten year process to even be considered a possibility as a professional ballet dancer. Because of this, instant gratification and instant results are usually not how it works. Just because you go to a school that is known for turns, doesn’t mean after a week of training there you will be able to turn.

When it comes to the competitive strategy, I think it is overthought way too much. Dance cleanly and lovely, and try your best. At the end of the day, ballet is still subjective, and preference, whatever preference it is based on, will win.

When it comes to technique, yes, you should have a plan. You should be at a school that believes in your child, and wants to help your child grow.

When it comes to your body type, I would embrace what the baby Jesus gave you. Because you can not change it, no matter how hard you pray or want longer legs or “better proportions.” If your technique is strong and clean, you will be noticed and given the recognition of technique. If you move beautifully, your artistry will be recognized. But, if you have a “difficult” body type, be the best and be undeniable in talent.

As we continue to pursue ballet at the ridiculous level that it has become, the crazy becomes that much more intense. And while I do believe social media has become an amazing tool for the arts, we have to remember that the foundations of ballet are rooted in constraint, composure, and the work ethic behind the art form.