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Can you "make" a ballet dancer?


balletbrokemybank
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My dd is only 8. As a toddler she was incredibly clumsy but as she has grown I have realised it is not clumsiness per se but that her brain is very busy so she just doesn't pay enough attention to what is going on around her (she is one of those that is very bright but has no common sense). She has danced for the last 15 months and although loves it I have never thought of it as anything other than a hobby, especially considering her clumsiness. However as she has grown she seems to have a natural poise. She has beautiful posture and is naturally flexible. Sometimes when she dances I think wow she looks amazing but at other times she is too distracted by what is going on around her and is too hesitant. The musicality side of it doesn't come naturally to her although she is musical so I think there is a confidence thing too. There are other girls in her class and they seem to be much better dancers in some respects but not others.

 

I guess my question is which elements of ballet do you think are "trainable" and which elements do you think need to be inherent?

 

FYI I don't have any aspirations for dd and dancing. I will support in whatever direction she decides to go but I just find it interesting!

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Can't really answer your question but your description of your DD 'brain is very busy so just doesn't pay enough attention to what is going on around her, no common sense' etc etc. sounds JUST like my DD, who is starting vocational school in September.

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From my experience what you can't train is

1. Body shape. It is what it is. My DD has been doing ballet since age 3, would have loved to be a dancer, at 17 still does ballet and 2 different modern dance classes, and doesn't have (and never has had) the slightest hope of being a ballerina. She is completely gorgeous but has inherited her Welsh family's body type.

 

2. The desire to be a dancer. My Ds2 has exactly the same physique and musicality as DS1, did 2 years of ballet with the same teacher who started DS1 on the pathway to vocational student, but then gave up, as he felt it didn't suit him. I also felt the same, he doesn't have the temperament or application. But the teacher always said she thought his body was slightly more suited to classical ballet than DS1 so it wasn't ability that stopped him.

 

3. The 'it factor'. This probably less of a deal breaker, and perhaps more controversial. Eg there are many who succeed who don't have that stand out sparkle and some who do that fall by the wayside for other reasons, and some who may start without it but grow into it as a development of their artistry as they mature (if that makes sense). So by itself it isn't a guarantee of success. But it does seem exist as a kind of personal attribute and I'm not convinced it can be taught (at least not in the same way technique can). But maybe others would disagree?

 

And in reference to your daughter I would say 8 is very young. My youngest is 8 and I have trouble getting her to focus for more than 5 minutes at a time on anything. At the same age my older daughter was competing nationally as a high board diver, but her character is just completely different. As long as your DD likes the ballet classes and wants to continue that's probably as much as you can hope for!!

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Only up to a certain point. But it mainly comes down to elements such as talent, physique, musicality, dramatic ability, receptiveness. The actual technical training is of course,taught over many years. Margot Fonteyn in one of her books, I think it was A Dancer's World,summed it up beautifully when she said,"Talent for dancing is something that one is born with. Once it is discovered,it can be nurtured,it can be developed,but it can never,ever be manufactured."

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Who knows really?? Underlying natural talent can be optimised with good training and lots and lots of hard work, and the combination of those elements will vary from person to person. Physique is of course key,and there is not much you can do about that,but even then, there are people without ideal physique who succeed because they absolutely shine in other ways.

There is an increasing tendency in many sports these days to select candidates for elite training programmes based on scientific assessment of their physical capacity, which I guess makes sense to a degree,but when you look back in time,plenty of the greats in sport actually didn't or don't have the "perfect" physique and physiology for their sports. But what they do have is huge drive and love for what they are doing,and often bags of personality.So within certain limits, it's clearly possible for other factors to overcome physical "deficiencies" even in fields where success is defined by pretty objective measures -speed,height and so on.

Ballet is of course an art form not a sport so the judgement as to what constitutes a great dancer has highly subjective elements to it as well as those that can be more easily measured, so someone who is a supreme artist with a good physique could easily be a better dancer than someone who has a fantastic physique but lacks the same degree of musicality and performance quality.

I really don't think it is possible to predict how those key things are going to develop at an early age - puberty regularly upsets the Apple cart for starters - but the most important thing is enjoyment. Very few students are going to grow up to dance professionally, especially in purely classical companies, but I think that if their dance brings happiness to themselves and to others then they should be considered successful dancers.

One of the most commonly given pieces advice here is to "go with the flow"as long as your child is enjoying what they are doing and you can afford it. The more I learn about ballet, and about being a parent in general, the more convinced I am that this is the best way.

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When my dd was 8 the thing that helped her so much with musicality was tap. I'm not sure why other than counts and just being more confident with movement

 

I think the thing that's hard at that age is that sometimes they focus so much on getting a dance right and possibly are too aware of what else is going on around them, that the musicality and expression takes a back seat. But it will come :)

 

At that age we just found dd had to practise more so that instead of concentrating on remembering choreography she could start to enjoy it more without worrying about going wrong.

 

My dd dances beautifully now and she is complimented more on musicality and expression than technique! It's as if her love for movement has taken over the finer detail and she has that to work on now! Haha

 

My dd is also extremely distracted but in our case we discovered a year ago that she was struggling with severe tinnitus. Her hearing was fine but getting spikes in tinnitus caused her to lose concentration and it became more evident at school and dance. She just thought everyone heard a high pitched eeee noise and she was no efferent. She now has masking hearing aids and they've changed her so much as she can now focus more.

 

I'm saying this as I would never known at age 8 there was a reason. I don't mean to imply there's anything wrong with your daughter it's just in hindsight I wish I had paid more attention to my dd's distraction issues so that her tinnitus had been recognised earlier.

 

The other thing that might effect her is how corrections are given and how age perceives them. Is there a chance they are coming across a little harsh?

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I would agree with all the above, but dancers have to be intelligent, think quickly, pick up timings and chereography fast. Good concentration is a must along with focus. 8 years old is still young, but even at that age they can still listen, focus and apply at their level.

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I'm not sure, but maybe you could stop assessing your DD or comparing her with others, and focus on what jumps out from your post: your DD loves dancing. To me, that's the main thing when a child is 8.

 

The formal technical training in any kind of dance will give her specific skills & expertise in that form of dance, and also a set of what we now call "transferable skills." But those are nothing in comparison with enjoying doing something you love.

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I don't think you'll ever teach a person to dance unless they have that ability from birth. By dance, I mean to move in a beautiful way that expresses the music and makes you want to watch that person. This is the x factor that is so needed. Physical faults and technique can be changed. The desire and dedication is also a factor that must be present as you can take a horse to water but can't necessarily get it to drink. You also need to be as tough as old boots, both mentally and physically. Hope this helps.

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I agree with what a lot of people have said about your DD enjoying dancing being the most important thing at 8 years old. I would also say it's very important to have a good ballet teacher.

 

My DS has natural musicality and his brain is like a sponge. unfortunately his early ballet teacher wasn't great and he had absorbed the bad habits and teaching! He is still young (11) and his new ballet teacher tells me she wishes she had got her hands on him 4 years ago when he started ballet. He has had to work extra hard at correcting those early mistakes but it is possible! He is starting vocational school in September.

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