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Dancing, training and issues with body image, resilience, etc.


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13 minutes ago, Tulip said:

I mean Peony discusses Rojo and gives her opinion whether it is correct or not, about why she didn’t get a contract. Unless I’ve mis-understood, was this opinion based upon observation or fact. 

 

Thanks Tulip.  It looks to me as though (through observation) she got a contract when she graduated in Spain and was, several years later offered another contract with SB and then moved on again.

 

We none of us really know why or how particular dancers ended up in particular companies and, on the whole, I think it is pointless to speculate.

 

None of this should detract from the very real concerns parents have about their children embarking on the vocational route.

 

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yes I could have misinterpreted what she has said in interviews. I think it’s a valid point to make that there are multiple dancers who have spoken about these issues themselves. Rojo has certainly been vocal about her support for diversity, support for eating disorders etc at ENB

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I usually only read the Doing Dance section, as I'm only an audience member, but I was musing on this thread & have a query. Is it likely that the developments in choreography as regards lifts since the mid-20th century have contributed to the desire for thinner female dancers? More recently-choreographed ballets seem to include more frequent & more spectacular lifts than older ballets. Thinner & smaller female dancers are presumably generally easier for the men to lift (I realise the dancer's core strength & spring also have an effect). There was an interview the other day with Edward Watson when he said something along the lines that he'd been able to do roles he otherwise couldn't have done because he had the very petite Leanne Benjamin as a partner. I could imagine that a role such as Rudolf in Mayerling, which is supposed to be one of the most difficult for a man, might be slightly easier if his numerous pas de deux partners, and especially Mary Vetsera, are (relatively) lighter.

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When I read that, it did strike me as Watson being unduly modest (not uncommon, in my experience), as he's successfully partnered a number of rather larger dancers than Benjamin over his career as well.  It's not as if he had a tiny dancer parachuted in so that he didn't need to develop partnering skills.

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Speaking from a ballet history perspective, I think we might wonder about the recentness of this phenomenon. people like to say that bodies were not so thin 50 or a 100 years ago, but nutrition etc were not so good, and people overall were generally smaller (my father at 6 feet in height was considered very tall in his 20s in the 1950s - he would be seen as 'normal' nowadays).

 

Just a thought & a wondering ...

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But very often it’s the parents who sit there watching these children dance doing the criticising, judging their weight, talent etc etc. They think that it is ok to say she only got chosen because she’s skinny, but she’s not talented enough and is forgetful. My child is far more talented but can’t get a place because etc etc. Inside vocational schools can be bad enough, but some parents who don’t always know the requirements for classical full time training, sit there making critical judgements. It’s cruel and distasteful. 

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1 hour ago, Tulip said:

But very often it’s the parents who sit there watching these children dance doing the criticising, judging their weight, talent etc etc. They think that it is ok to say she only got chosen because she’s skinny, but she’s not talented enough and is forgetful. My child is far more talented but can’t get a place because etc etc. Inside vocational schools can be bad enough, but some parents who don’t always know the requirements for classical full time training, sit there making critical judgements. It’s cruel and distasteful. 

And the children are very aware they are being judged by the watching parents. 

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Indeed, Tulip! I saw it go on when I was a teenage ballet student - my sister (who went on to have a very successful career in an excellent company) was particularly targeted by such comments. We ere talking about this the other day. 30 years later she still remembers the hurt of the envious comments. 
 

I think that’s why I find some posts on this thread a bit uncomfortable. 

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34 minutes ago, Kate_N said:

Indeed, Tulip! I saw it go on when I was a teenage ballet student - my sister (who went on to have a very successful career in an excellent company) was particularly targeted by such comments. We ere talking about this the other day. 30 years later she still remembers the hurt of the envious comments. 
 

I think that’s why I find some posts on this thread a bit uncomfortable. 

 

I am very sorry to hear people said nasty things and targeted your sister - or any young student! 

 

Auditions are competitive situations and can be stressful.  Directors are making selections based on their personal, preferred criteria.  Of course.  Different students have different advantages - in their facility, their body shape, their dancing, their looks, their height etc.  I don't believe that commenting on where the preferences (appear)  to lie, is necessarily a product of envy.  

 

People are looking to understand the selection criteria and what directors want.  Over the 4 pages of this thread there are posts discussing pressures on those selected to maintain an extremely low body weight - despite their (probably) natural leanness!  This is not in the interest of any child or adult interested in pursuing ballet, professionally or for pleasure.  IMHO!

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15 minutes ago, DD Driver said:

 

I am very sorry to hear people said nasty things and targeted your sister - or any young student! 

 

Auditions are competitive situations and can be stressful.  Directors are making selections based on their personal, preferred criteria.  Of course.  Different students have different advantages - in their facility, their body shape, their dancing, their looks, their height etc.  I don't believe that commenting on where the preferences (appear)  to lie, is necessarily a product of envy.  

 

People are looking to understand the selection criteria and what directors want.  Over the 4 pages of this thread there are posts discussing pressures on those selected to maintain an extremely low body weight - despite their (probably) natural leanness!  This is not in the interest of any child or adult interested in pursuing ballet, professionally or for pleasure.  IMHO!

But if you’re a self conscious 12 year old, say for example you’re one of the first in your class to reach puberty, and a number of the observing parents are watching you intently and whispering behind their hands rather than watching their own offspring how do you think the child feels? 

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11 minutes ago, Jane said:

But if you’re a self conscious 12 year old, say for example you’re one of the first in your class to reach puberty, and a number of the observing parents are watching you intently and whispering behind their hands rather than watching their own offspring how do you think the child feels? 

 

I would hope that is a rare occurrence.  Maybe you have seen otherwise.  My child and her peers seem to get quite a lot of audition, open class and stage opportunities so they are used to being watched and know (believe) that 99% of parents are very supportive of them.  Children not wanting to be watched (or refusing to allow, their own parents to watch) when they are dancing, is a whole other thread!

 

The parents I know are very careful if allowed to watch a class.  Parents don't talk.  There is a skill in watching of course! e.g. very limited focus for more than 3 seconds in any one place.  Don't make eye contact... No easy feat. 

 

So, I'm talking about trends in general.  I am happy for ANY successes for students I know even vaguely - based on whatever gets them through.

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This is exactly the issue Kanangra.  Some of the students admitted into vocational schools are not gifted dancers.  Maybe they look like someone's ideal of a ballerina.  I want to see talented people on stage.  People who are beautiful in motion, showing musicality and artistry that moves me. 

 

I see too many gifted full time ballet students being rejected by vocational schools, PDL and YAGP because they do not fit the mould.  Meanwhile they win the local and national Eisteddfods and comps because of their stage presence.  They are chosen as soloists in their ballet school productions because anyone can see they have 'it'.  Frankly, many who are chosen by the vocational schools can't cut it with these performers.   I can't change any of that!  I'm just saying it is very obvious to all involved. Sigh.

 

DD Driver, 

from your observation above of young dancers in vocational schools, forgive me if I’ve misunderstood you, suggests that you have sat and made a judgment of these students. You say in your opinion that some dancers in vocational schools are not gifted dancers, how do you know this?  The gifted dancers whom you have observed have been rejected by vocational schools, you say anyone can see they have it, but are you a trained professional dance teacher from an industry who knows which dancers will be employable. 
 

my whole point of me commenting on this thread was to point out that it is not only schools that put our children under so much pressure to be extra lean, but it is definitely parents who sit watching critically, she’s too thin, she’s put a bit on, she’s bulking those muscles up. 
 

It seems in the dance world a huge amount of adults mess with our children’s minds, contributing to body dystopia, never being good enough etc. 
Hence the comment ‘We dancers all end up being a little messed up to survive the dance world’. 
 

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I think you make a very valid point Tulip. It also doesn’t just happen in the dance world, adults can be equally awful to kids with learning disabilities, autism, problem parents etc. The common denominator is probably that the kids are a little more vulnerable to start with. Sometimes we don’t think about our behaviour and have to make a conscious decision to change our reaction to things.

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2 hours ago, Pas de Quatre said:

Pupils who are used to dancing solos at competition and in their own school shows often find it hard to adjust to become just one of many within a vocational school or corps de ballet.

which is exactly  my point  ref the 'phenoms' from (mainly) the USA who despite storming  competitions as teen disappear  once  they have to start pulling their  weight across the repetoire and  sink or swim on their own merits  among peers  rather than carefully  crafted  opportunities

 

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People talk about wanting more diversity in ballet.  Government bodies and Arts Councils talk about linking funding to Ballet based on clear examples that they are taking steps towards greater diversity.  Action must  however start at a very young age!

 

I see selections being made by big schools for training & intensives and by global comps, from the age of 9, that send a clear message to people with non-conforming body shapes - that they are not welcome.  I know 2 teenage girls who are part Pacific Islander.  They have curves - only if compared to others in the studio. They have the facility, they are lean, they are beautiful and they are gifted dancers (in my humble opinion and their teachers).  No offers for them!  They will have left the building soon.

 

Yes, I am a parent judging what I see is going on!  I judge that they have been rejected based solely on their body shape.  

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11 hours ago, DD Driver said:

People talk about wanting more diversity in ballet.  Government bodies and Arts Councils talk about linking funding to Ballet based on clear examples that they are taking steps towards greater diversity. 

 

But that's among audiences.  Difficult for organisations to control what's happening down at grass-roots teaching level.

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17 minutes ago, alison said:

 

But that's among audiences.  Difficult for organisations to control what's happening down at grass-roots teaching level.

that is also  in terms of other activities, however   the boxes can be ticked  with primary  age   initiatives and   stuff like over 55s... certainly my perception is that  'working age adult' provision beyond 'hobby'  classes happens  despite the big companies  and  is one of the first things to fall with the vocational schools  that have  supported / tolerated it

 

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8 hours ago, alison said:

 

But that's among audiences.  Difficult for organisations to control what's happening down at grass-roots teaching level.

 

That is interesting, Alison.  In many countries people are looking to see more representation of their community on stage.  Of course every country, quite rightly, has a different context.

 

Royal NZ Ballet went through a media furore in 2017/18 because so few of their dancers where New Zealanders.  They realised that they needed to  make 'better pathways' to ensure that kiwis could come through at the required level and that there was an NZ 'voice' in their works.

 

Yes, many lead characters in classical ballets are required to be etheral - delicate and light. 

 

I recall the story...about a famous dancer who was believed, by some, to be too big to play the sylph in La Sylphide.  The response from the director(?), who wanted that dancer, was "Er...have you ever seen a sylph?"

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