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Potential


tutoo2much
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I know I have read on this board that a parents has been told that there son was extremely talented, with the potential, with the right training to become a world class principal dancer.

 

No-one has actually said anything like this about my child. In fact, although she has had success in auditions and exams, any comments have been low key. ie "Not one of the best in the class" "She works very hard". Nothing really negative ruling a career out though. I had always assumed that this was just how ballet and ballet teachers were, very understated. I thought they didn't really know who had this potential in the end. Reading this board, lots of posts emphasise the mystery and randomness of how children are selected.

 

However I am now wondering if there are ballet teachers at vocational and local ballet schools telling parents how amazing their offspring are.

 

I suppose I have looked on it as no news is good news!

 

editted for clarity

Edited by tutoo2much
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Hello I would imagine there probably arent many teachers who would make statements about a child potentially becoming a world class dancer as there are so many factors involved in the journey. It is lovely to read how other dancers have become successful and all their paths have been somewhat very different, they would have been advised many different things along the way. I have a DD and I probably would feel very pressured if someone had made a statement like this as so many things can happen along the way and children can often choose to change their paths of what they would like to be when they get older.

Ax

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I have wondered over the years if the word 'potential' is used by ballet teachers to placate both students and parents. My DS was an associate, went to a secondary vocational school and is now at the end of his first year at a London ballet school. We have never been told that he is a fantastic dancer who will go on to have a career as a ballet dancer but the word 'potential' has been used several times.. Personally the lack of affirmation would make me want to give up. However, my DS is now 100% set on his goal and perhaps that is the key factor i.e. perseverance. He is not the only one; I have noticed that dance students just keep on going and work hard for the odd compliment or being told that if they just did x or y they have the'potential to get there!

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That is a very good point amber21. It would actually increase the pressure and make it harder to change your mind.

 

Veryskint- I know how you feel, the word potential is a vague bit of faint praise, which on reflection means very little, but could be seen as a compliment and a reason to keep going.

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I've learned that many Ballet teachers are very understated. This may be partly by nature, or partly a desire to not put too many expectations or pressures onto a student. As a parent, it's important that the teacher is honest, and as has been said, there are so many factors which determine whether a student will be successful in gaining a contract with a classical ballet company - let alone whether they could be a Principal!

 

I just want honest and constructive feedback from my dd's teachers. As none of them seem to think that post 16 training is beyond her reach, that's good enough for me. But we still take things one term or one year at a time because who knows what could happen?!

 

 

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I think the word potential is the best word ever. After all, what teacher can predict the future or give you any guarantees? If any of your DCs have heard the word potential then that's great. It means that with hard hard work their dream may well come true. With no potential there is nothing. In my DD school they praise during class eg " much better" or "you're getting there!" but if you ask them " is she likely to make it?" they will say "the potential is there". That's enough for me and I've learnt not to ask any more!

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All we have ever been told over the years by different ballet teachers is that my daughter is a hard worker, has the right attitude and has the potential and then there will be what they have to work towards. I just listen to my daughter and if she still has that determination and attitude it will help her towards hopefully her chosen career. I suppose with the little boy that has been refered to, his teachers have perhaps recognised that he has a good physique, the right attitude and determination with that bit more wow factor. I kdon't think many vocation school teachers would put their necks on the line saying other that what has been said above. I would love to hear how that little boy is getting on, and I hope he does achieve his dreams.

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I think the word potential is the best word ever. After all, what teacher can predict the future or give you any guarantees? If any of your DCs have heard the word potential then that's great. It means that with hard hard work their dream may well come true. With no potential there is nothing.

 

 

 

Completely agree Elly, I have been told this about my dd on a number of occasions by different dance teachers. However, I think at 12, so many things can happen, she is determined and prepared to work hard and perhaps not do some of the things her non-dancing friends do. But there will always be things you can't factor in and although I can't imagine it now, she could always change her mind in the future, so to be told she has potential is certainly good enough for us :)

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I don't think a ballet teacher can say much more than "potential." It means the "equipment" - the body - is there. After than everything else is a variable: physical growth and changes, attitude, work ethic, family circumstances, health, injury, etc.

 

If the teacher indicated more than potential he/she is forecasting beyond the reality of forecasting.

 

If the potential is not that there such as a body which is not compatible with professional level ballet study or poor work habits, etc. - the teacher, if asked, should give an honest assessment. And, then I would seek a second opinion of an unaffiliated teacher.

 

I have personally seen one of the finest bodies ever created to dance negated by poor work ethic and vice versa. Attitudes and bodies change over those difficult teen years. The teacher can't forecast that. She can only speak to what she sees in front of her at that moment.

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In a way it is reassuring that everyone else is getting the p word too! However, I find it hard to believe that all potential is equal. My DD bless her, does not have the potential to be a world class dancer. She may have the potential to get a 6th form place at ballet school and a job as a dancer.

 

Now that I think about it, a friend whose dd started at WL a few years ago was told that the staff had been very excited by her arrival, as they only got a child like that once every few years.

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Children come along like that very occasionally - my ddd is 11 and a girl joined her class 18 months ago having had no training other than one ballet class a week - although she didn't get into white lodge for a year 8 place next sept - she is amazing - won Janet Cram Junior Cup - wins all local festival junior cups and you sit up with goose bumps when you see her dance - but she is on a par with my dd class wise/grade wise - who also gets placed at festivals and has auditioned sucessfully for various associate schemes etc - this girls is amazing but the teacher at the school says they have both got potential to go further - in the dance world - and i believe the teachers at the school are very honest. Pontential means my dd will push herself if she wants to persue dancing as a career - i will encourage her but she has an excellent relationship with her teachers and we trust what they say.

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Oh for a crystal ball ! I find that some parents expect me to say he/she will make it , others don't always believe me when I say their child has talent. Once case was when a pupil of mine was offered a place at WL from an associate audition and the parents were told by Miss Stock that their child was very good. They said that they hadn't had that said to them before even though me and my colleagues had been saying the same for ages!

 

I also hesitate to say that a child will never make it as a professional dancer as I know from very personal experience that some of the most unlikely people do. So yes, being told you have potential is very positive indeed. We were told by teachers that our DS had talent but in a realistic way and he obviously did or he wouldn't have gone to WL. But so many ingredients are needed to become a successful dancer, its not enough just to have a perfect body, you need the brains, drive, work ethic and passion to match.

 

I do like to be positive to pupils but realistic too. Its very risky telling someone that they have world class potential because whilst it may possibly be true it does raise expectations of parents especially. It can then place enormous pressure on a student especially if its said prior to going to vocational school because it can be quite a shock to find that there are plenty of other students all with the same potential. Under these circumstances its so easy to become disillusioned and lose sight of the fact that the student had to have talent to be accepted in the first place.

 

There really are no guarantees either way other than that if you don't work and commit fully then no you won't become a principal!

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Different for different people surely - the ultimate goal of all the training is to get a job (surely - if you've gone to a vocational school - whether at 11, 16, 18....) so the realisation of the potential is earning a living dancing?

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This is a very complex area, as I know my daughter has gone through so many changes. Growing, one leg longer than the other affecting all mannerisms of dancing. Self doubt when no matter how hard you work it just does not come off due to body changes again. The strengh to carry on working regardless, and finaly the moment when the body settles down and all that training and hard work starts to come together. It sometimes also doesn't help if you are one of the youngest in a year, therfore going through all the changes after everyone else, or as I know of one beautiful young lady who is younger than the rest who has not gone through puberty who is doing really, really well, but will have to deal with everything that is enedabitly about to happpen to her when she hits puberty. Worrying if you are about to go through a growth spurt just before a major audition. The potential may well be there, but are they emotionaly strong enough, will body image ie anorexia affect them, all the knock backs will it make them fight all the more, or will they buckle and fall. The pressure for all these wonderful young dancers is huge, will they make, well who knows. I do know of one fantasticaly talented young ballerina at White lodge who was seen as very gifted, to only go on to develop an eating disorder. Her mother made a very, very brave decision to pull her daughter away from dancing altogether. These are all the pit falls along the way to becoming a classical dancer, good luck to them all, and if they get as far as achieving a contract then all I can say is WOW, they have done amazingly well.

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I am taking the liberty of posting in an article I had published (I own the copyright) a number of years ago - I thought it might be of some interest......(if inappropriate - moderators please delete). Name of student has been changed....otherwise it is true.

 

The Whippersnapper

 

The first time I saw Jeff in ballet class I knew he was a phenomenon. He came into the studio quietly with a pleasant smile on his face and without fanfare found a space for himself at the barre. Though his demeanor was restrained, his natural gifts immediately screamed out at all of us in the room.

 

It was a professional level class and everyone’s attention was riveted on this newcomer. For the women a new man in our midst represented the possibility of a dance partner, for the men perhaps a threat. Jeff was both. He had been endowed with every natural asset necessary to a classical ballet dancer.

 

Though only eighteen years old already his handsome masculinity shone from his face and body. The broad shoulders accentuated his slim hips. He was strong but exceptionally supple. Most men, while more powerful than women, are not as loosely jointed as the female dancer normally is. But, Jeff was both strong and flexible. Few men have a ballerina’s beautiful foot with its graceful highly arched instep. However, Jeff’s feet had both strength and beauty. His arms, though well muscled, fell into perfectly symmetrical curves, expressive and captivating. Natural musicality made his dancing seem as if the impulse of the music emanated from within him instead of as a response to an outside source. In short, Jeff was a magnificent combination of all the attributes a dancer could ever hope for. In addition he was also bright, quick, pleasant and unassuming.

 

We all tried to be as unobtrusive as possible in observing him but as the class proceeded we were overwhelmed when Jeff’s body effortlessly articulated the many shapes and designs of the ballet. That was the key. Everything he did was without strain, he was born to dance. His jumps rose, soared and lingered in the air above and then descended with feline grace. The connections between his movement was liquid, strong and smooth as an unbroken skein of silk. In allegro the feet glittered with pizzazz and speed, skimming over the floor. The pirouettes were mesmerizing. Jeff’s leg whipped out to initiate the turn and his head snapped to finish. Like a top he spun out the revolutions and then gradually wound down to a miraculous stop. We watched enthralled at the rhythmic syncopation as the leg whipped and the head snapped; whip, snap, whip, snap, whip, snap.

 

I noticed as the class proceeded that occasionally Jeff did not complete a given exercise. Sometimes he would pause to change or adjust a shoe or item of clothing. But a certain amount of hesitancy or nervousness is not at all unusual for a dancer in a new classroom. After the lesson was over and we had a chance to meet this wonderful youngster, we all found him to be a warm, friendly individual. Even the men who might see him as a rival to their status within the dance class, couldn’t help but like Jeff.

 

As the days went on we were even more impressed. The ease with which he executed all phases of the ballet’s requirements was enchanting. However, I began to notice more and more that Jeff almost never really completed an entire dance sequence. He always found an excuse or a reason to interrupt his execution of the choreography. Everything was so effortless for him and always had been, that he became frustrated when he was thwarted or challenged in any way.

 

Even the most gifted dancer cannot expect that every result will be perfect. Things will not always go smoothly. On some days the body is not quite as well balanced as on other days, or even the floor or a shoe may be a problem and the dancer must learn to cope and overcome these obstacles. But Jeff could not seem to manage this. He would cuss under his breath and stamp about in frustration instead of searching for a solution to the problem before him. Because he had not learned to deal with frustration his mind did not impose the discipline on his body which every dancer must learn to do. His muscle memory instead learned and remembered to quit at the least difficulty. Sometimes I wanted to shake him and say “how dare you not try?” But, I was not the teacher in that class. To the rest of us, who were used to expending major efforts to make our bodies comply with our demands, persistence was a way of life. The ballet was too easy for Jeff.

 

One day a representative from New York City Ballet came to San Diego to observe our class and immediately spotted Jeff’s glorious gifts. He was auditioned and as a result given an apartment in New York, a stipend and a fully funded scholarship to the School of American Ballet. This is a premier school of the classical dance, one of the finest in the world and the school for the New York City Ballet. Acceptance to this school is a life altering event in any dancer’s life. Jeff had hit the jackpot.

 

Everyone congratulated him and he was thrilled. I was truly happy for him, too, but in my heart I knew he would never make it. After one year in New York, Jeff was informed by the ballet school that his scholarship would be extended for one more year but only on a probationary status. He had not worked hard enough. When Jeff told us this on a visit to San Diego he was unfazed about his impending loss. It was all still too easy and he had no concept of how to work, really work at something he wanted. I am not sure he really believed he might actually lose this spectacular opportunity nor did he understand the connection between it and his level of effort. New York City Ballet had put him on probation hoping to awaken him. They were investing in his formidable natural talents, reluctant to give up on him.

 

One year later Jeff was back in San Diego, his scholarship terminated, his hope dashed. I don’t think he ever perceived that his dreams were fully within his grasp and he alone held the key to success. It was an excruciating lesson to see that such overwhelming talent and natural gifts were not enough and still had to be wedded to the discipline of the intellect. The willingness to meet challenges and work relentlessly is the fire that ignites success.

Edited by Anjuli_Bai
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I think it's entirely possible that the DS you mentioned at the beginning of the thread is mine! or if not I certainly did post something like this. To put it into context this was because I was asking advice about sending DS abroad for his preferred training at the tender age of 14, coming from a family of non dancers (none ever in our history on either side). DS's potential had been noted to us by around 4 or 5 international standard teachers (eg who had either been and/or taught principal dancers all over the world) in order to emphasise that it was a serious matter that DS needed the right training. It is really hard to judge what is meant by potential and I suppose I posted our dilemma including this assessment of potential (despite my fears that we would sound horribly full of our own importance) because we were potentially putting a huge amount on the line going down this path and wanted to know how to weight the pros and cons. When you are looking at losing your beloved firstborn at 14 years old you want to kow that there's at least the possibility it will be worthwhile in terms of outcome. Much as they loved it I don't think any of us would consider doing this if our DKs had been told they were averagely good (we would probably keep them at home and wait and see how they progressed.

I would have to say we are also realistic (especially after having become a complete addict to this site) about the long and difficult path between potential and career, but also I can report that after 1 year at his school in which he probably only danced for 6 months (he had 2 months off after breaking his foot in a' teenage boy' non ballet injury) and in which he struggled immensely to get to grips with being completely self actualising (getting himself up and to class, organising his own study time, washing his own clothes) and a new academic system (progressing from eg outright fail of one subject in term 1 to over 70% in the final exam) he is thriving. He finished the year as the only boy in his group with an A grade in the end of year ballet exam, with a full scholarship for next year and with a work ethic which I would never have believed possible (after 4 weeks at home he was desperate to go back to summer school and do more). He has improved beyond what I thought was possible in such a short time.

BUT. He is still not yet 15. He goes to RBS summer school at Covent Garden in a few weeks, so will be interesting to see if any positive feedback. Will let you know!

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"Potential". Reminds me of a teacher I knew who was bemoaning the loss of a (very young) pupil who, she said, had all the gifts it took to go "all the way". Precisely what she meant by that, I don't know: professional level? principal level in an internationally renowned company? somewhere inbetween? We'll probably never know, because her parents decided to put the money into giving her elder brother a private education, and decided they had to sacrifice her dancing lessons to pay for it :(

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"Potential". Reminds me of a teacher I knew who was bemoaning the loss of a (very young) pupil who, she said, had all the gifts it took to go "all the way". Precisely what she meant by that, I don't know: professional level? principal level in an internationally renowned company? somewhere inbetween? We'll probably never know, because her parents decided to put the money into giving her elder brother a private education, and decided they had to sacrifice her dancing lessons to pay for it :(

 

Reminds me of the Brontes.

 

(for some reason I am no longer able to put in that mark over the "e." :( )

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Thank you Tulip! yes he seems to be completely in his element. No-one can fore tell the future so at the moment I can just say- he's improving, he's happy. Can't ask better than that....

 

Btw DS's very first ballet teacher was once asked if she could spot who in her class had the ability to become ballet dancers and she said she could spot the ones with the physical/musical potential- thereafter the ones who would become dancers were (I quote) the ones who wanted to be dancers....

Edited by CeliB
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I suppose that potential being recognised by a teacher is really only the start.

 

Alongside that, perhaps what is also needed is a robust constitution, extreme fitness, a steely resolve and determination, single-minded ambition, enthusiasm, motivation, a strong work ethic, and enough of an ego to be able to cope with setbacks without it affecting self-esteem and confidence in their own ability.

 

Hang on a minute - am I describing a ballet dancer or an Olympic athlete?!!

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I suppose that potential being recognised by a teacher is really only the start.

 

Alongside that, perhaps what is also needed is a robust constitution, extreme fitness, a steely resolve and determination, single-minded ambition, enthusiasm, motivation, a strong work ethic, and enough of an ego to be able to cope with setbacks without it affecting self-esteem and confidence in their own ability.

 

Hang on a minute - am I describing a ballet dancer or an Olympic athlete?!!

 

The ballet dancer needs more.....

 

Musicality. The ability to blend in with others while executing difficult movement patterns - corps de ballet.

 

The ability to work smoothly while in very close contact with others - pas de deux.

 

The ability to act out a role.

 

Able to work inside a costume - or use a costume to good effect (cloak swirling comes to mind - or a mask, etc.)

 

There is no end game such as winning a medal.

 

The ability to move with grace and poise. Olympic athletes are often graceful - but that is not their purpose - it is the purpose, however, of the ballet dancer.

 

The ability to know and perform several entirely different sequences of movement (knowing several different ballets and ready to perform any of them on a given night).

 

The ability to learn a sequence of movement (a ballet) and perform it immediately if called upon to do so.

 

The abilit to know what everyone else is doing.

 

No grunting, spitting, twitching or other unchoreographed movements.

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So to summarise, there are children who show amazing potential (ie body musicality, brains), which teachers can recognise. However, this is no guarantee that they will go on the be world class ballet dancers as there are so many other factors involved.

 

Teachers,for a variety of reasons do not put this label on individual children or burden parents with it.

 

No way of knowing whether or not a child has potential with a capital P or a little p. Unless of course you are in CeliB's position and put teachers 'on the spot'

 

By the way Anjuli- I loved your description of Jeff. I could almost feel the quiver of excitement when he first arrived at the studio.

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