Why you shouldn’t put your kid into ballet…

I have seen all of these posts about why you should put your kid into ballet. With reasons like: smarter, more successful, better workers and so on, after doing some research, these articles were based on dancers who are now retired… Not students… As RDT has been attracting dancers around Souther California at all different levels of training and different age groups, I have been having a lot of meetings with parents.  This is not a formulated post, nor is it based on extreme research, but rather my experiences as a teacher, dancer, and student. It isn’t that ballet makes people better workers; sure, ballet creates a rigorous work ethic, but that is because I have noticed a lot of ballet dancers have the same personality traits. For girls, personality traits I have noticed that are common among successful ballet students are:

-Slightly introverted, as they are able to consciously have an internal monologue with themselves. Totally helps with developing their artistry.
-Slightly OCD, from the way they sew their shoes, to performance rituals, how they make their bed, or how they have their things organized in their houses. Totally gears themselves for the long haul and rigor of ballet.
-Double egos, one personality is extremely introverted, self conscious, and overly critical which is compensated by being extremely extroverted, fun, ability to goof off, and more.
-Extremely smart. You can’t be dumb and dance ballet, I mean seriously, you just can’t. I have said it a billion times.

For boys I have noticed that the thing they have in common is their extreme confidence, and ego. I don’t know if it is a good thing or a bad thing, but I guess for a boy, you do have to have a thick skin to grow up dancing in tights.

Recently, a mom of a five year old came in to the studios. She wanted her daughter to dance anywhere between 15-20 hours a week. I laughed. I didn’t mean to, that was rude of me. But no five year old should be in the studio for that long. Seriously, what is a five year old going to do for that long? If the average advanced training schedule is five days a week, consisting of a typical 1.5 hour class, 1 hour pointe class and 1 hour misc. pas de deux, rep class, condition etc… that is 3 hours a day averaging out to 15 hours of training a week, and then you add rehearsals and that is 20 hours. What five year old needs that much time in class? Seriously. Then another mom, was complaining that her daughter was placed into the Advanced Intensive course, which makes her daughter dance 18 hours including rehearsals. Her daughter is 14, and the week prior, her mom told me she wanted her daughter to audition for SAB’s summer course…. WTF… Your daughter is already behind in vocabulary technique and still doesn’t have the strength to control her turn out or feet…. Come on…. Then I have moms who are clueless to ballet, but coming in basically demanding that their daughters belong in advanced, when their fifth is not closed, their feet don’t point, and they aren’t flexible. BUT because they were the best at their school previously… They should be in advanced. -_____- Then I have the mom’s complaining about casting… Which ironically, I was beyond fair, and I created 3 cast lists so their kids would learn 3 different roles… and have the chance to dance in 3 different roles. Now they are complaining they have to buy tickets to three shows blah blah blah…. I just don’t get it. If your kid is 11 years old, and all they were cast in Chinese Attendants… wouldn’t you be mad? It’s not like we have a party scene or battle scene to fill…. (in my previous post, I mentioned i cut it out from Nutcracker). Also, it isn’t like you are paying 3 costume fees, or 3 of anything. I don’t know. Maybe I was being too fair? So the typical, decently trained 11 year old is learning Chinese Attendants, Arabian Attendants, and understudying Marzipan… The typical 14 year old is cast 1st cast Arabian Attendant, 2nd cast Marzipan attendants, and understudying either flowers or snow. The typical 16 year old in our trainee program is in 1st cast Snow and Flowers, 2nd cast paquita corps, snow and flowers, and understudying one of the lead variations. I feel like this is pretty fair casting… Even at the schools I was at, I feel like this is typical casting? I could be very wrong, but I felt like this is pretty fair…

So, why shouldn’t you put your kid (any age under 7) into ballet? Because ballet dancers are nuts. No just kidding, not really. The more and more I watch kids enter into ballet, the more and more I see them set up to fail. I see parents that can’t afford the training needed, or pointe shoes needed. I see kids develop unhealthy friendships that are based on talent. If a kid has been dancing since age 3, by the age of 10 their parents are demanding their kids to go en pointe, and some random dolly dinkle school puts them up, with bad technique and so their feet become damaged, or they get biscuity and don’t point properly. It is just a mess. I feel like kids under the age 7 should only stretch, listen to music, take tap class, and do jazz/hiphop. Go compete and gain that stage awareness and self confidence. Go to jazz class so you can learn to be fearless, and have ridiculous tenacity and attack. Start ballet at age 7 or 8, when they can actually sit and focus on turn out, and begin to comprehend how you have to use your facility ballet. I don’t know. Just my opinion.

5 responses to “Why you shouldn’t put your kid into ballet…”

  1. (I discovered the blog just recently and am reading back posts while the baby sleeps on me.) I really dislike how studios compete with each other by attempting to snap up students who are younger and younger. It kind of reminds me of the way retailers try to one-up each other with black Friday crap. I belong to a facebook group for dance teachers and saw someone the other day posting about her tiny tots class for 16-20-month-olds. Say what?? Everybody keeps asking me when I will have my daughter dancing. She’s six months old. She isn’t even mobile yet, guys. I actually have no intention of putting her in a dance class (taught by me or anyone else) until she’s about six. If I thought I could get away with it financially, I wouldn’t even offer classes below that age at all. Not only do we have to deal with unrealistic expectations from parents of little ones (or those who think that time invested = ability as you mentioned re: pointe), but I think families get burned out on it way earlier when they start so young. At recital time – or even Parent Observation Week, I always see crowds of people there to watch the babies. Seriously – mom, dad, siblings, two sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. There are cameras, there are flowers, they go out for dinner. Then by the time you get to the advanced level classes, it’s down to just the nuclear family. Maybe. After about age ten, when the kid has been dancing for six or seven years, the family is tired of it, and if the kid doesn’t insist, the decision gets made to move on to something more novel. (Then when mom reaches the seven-year-itch point in the new activity, the kid is old enough to be independently mobile and so it’s easier to stick it out.) And since ten is still very young in terms of ballet training (and again, unrealistic expectations), they conclude that they weren’t getting anything out of it. Makes me sad. Guess I needed to get that little rant out of my system. You can have your soapbox back now.

  2. GAH I FEEL SO VALIDATED THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. I’m going to come read this every time I deal with these exact issues. *sigh* I appreciate the honesty and solidarity more than you can know.