Jump to content

Life after ballet


cotes du rhone !
 Share

Recommended Posts

This is a fantastic thread and I think will be so useful to others that come to the end of the ballet Road, and at that time feel bewildered and alone with nowhere to turn. 

I walked in those shoes, my daughter suffered massively within the upper school vocational system. At times I felt that none of us would survive, let alone recover. 

It's been a long road, still bearing scars (they are deep), my daughter has taken time out, educated herself online and secured an apprenticeship as a digital marketing executive. 3 months in she was awarded a payrise and now after 6 months a permanent position. Through her own hardwork she has earned the respect of her boss and cohorts and this in turn has given her  the self respect and self belief that her ballet school stole from her. 

Without going into specifics, before we left, just a term before graduation, I stated to the school that  my beautiful daughter was broken - what could they do but agree, sadly they didn't seem to care. 

With hindsite I should have been strong enough to remove dd much much earlier, but for all the reasons so eloquently stated before, we kept the pep talks going, the physio appointments, the private lessons etc etc. We tried to buy happiness for our daughter, we tried not to let the dream slip away but in the end we all have to face the truth that the happiness and joy have to come from within, it can't be bought.... Once it slips away it is time to leave the ballet world behind because to keep doing something that brings pain and sadness is a form of madness and it will end in nothing but tears. 

Wishing all you wonderful ballet mums and your beautiful dancing children only good things. I do love to still watch the journeys that come to life through this forum. Thank you for sharing both the good and the bad. Always cheering you on! 

  • Like 13
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 100
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Thank you to all who are posting here. It is both heart warming and saddening to read about you and your DCs journeys.

 

DD dances with a local school, and an associates scheme. Over lockdowns she has been attending, and is fortunate to have found, many new classes with teachers that she would have never found or been able to try before. DD is going to do A levels at a local college. She herself decided that she needed a plan B or plan C ( even if she doesn't know exactly what that is yet ), and didn't want to put all her eggs into one basket by going to a full time dance college. She loves to dance, and I hope she always does ( even if it isn't her future ), but a bit of me is always prepared to say 'enough', ( and reading your stories has given me the courage to know that it will be the right thing to do, if that time comes ) and I hope she knows that we will support her, whatever her decisions are. 

 

take care, wishing your DC every success, and love to you all xx

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 26/01/2021 at 18:47, Kate_N said:

 

Maybe ... but to think of the relationship between young person, school, and parents only as a commercial one, is to distort the essential pedagogical relationship between teachers and pupils. It instrumentalises results (and I have heard statements close to: "why didn't I get top marks, I'm paying for this"). 

 

There needs to be a balance between advocating for your child, and trusting that the teachers are experts who know their jobs. And the knowledge that your child may be different at school, in class, than at home in recreation & everyday life. I don't mean misbehaviour! Just that in the teen years, education is an important aspect of a young person developing their independence and sense of self outside the family - and this can be a difficult process for parents - letting go.

 

That doesn't mean condoning bullying, but that there is a balance needed, and acting principally on the basis as a 'customer' can interfere with the delicate processes of education, especially in the creative & performing arts, where the highest levels of excellence are aimed for, and, sadly, disappointment is almost always inevitable - even for the most accomplished! 

That simplified my message. It’s about respect and access and protection for your child. Support and advocating for you child when their voice is ignored.  It’s equality of access and respect by the schools for the parents in this process. Simplification of the issue to an expected mark is not my point. Mental health and child protection is my point. Issues of teachers / professionals require oversight as well. - hence the need for school inspection etc. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As we all know, and as we are all told, the chance of becoming a ballet (specifically) dancer is tiny. And yet we carry on on the journey, until there’s an end, and that end is often forced upon us - often by not being able to get a job. I suppose people might slink away, as if ashamed, as if you’ve publicly fallen victim to a well-known scam, such as the foreign prince who wants to put millions in your bank account, and, hoping against hope, you fall for it.  It’s so worth while for people to bravely post here to explain what really happened afterwards. I’ve sometimes thought that there should be no vocational schools at all, and I do wonder about the future of some of them.

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

49 minutes ago, rowan said:

I suppose people might slink away, as if ashamed, as if you’ve publicly fallen victim to a well-known scam, such as the foreign prince who wants to put millions in your bank account, and, hoping against hope, you fall for it

 

Yes, this is so true.  I felt guilty that I’d been fooled by a pair of really good salesmen, with the gift of the gab and full of bold promises, because I thought that a funded place (waiting list and unfunded boarding being the other two options) was my dd’s best chance at 16 and one she was desperate to take.  I never wanted her to resent me and say that I hadn’t even let her try, but I beat myself up for a long time for letting her go to that “school”.  

 

Now when I look back, I can accept that at least I wasn’t alone in being fooled and that a lot of the information I needed wasn’t out there, mainly because other parents were too scared of possible ramifications for their own children - which is totally understandable.  Everything about the school - at first glance - was credible and only with hindsight could I see through the shiny facade.  There’s no point beating ourselves up though for being trusting and falling for good sales patter or even the name, longevity or reputation of a school - and the only shame should be placed at the door of those who hurt/damaged/were reckless with our children, and those who perpetuate the toxicity that exists in the ballet world.

 

As long as we learn from the experience, and remember to listen to our guts, there should be no shame in having wanted our children to have a chance to follow their dream.

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Can I just add a couple of positives to this debate?

 

My DS received exceptional support from his upper school, and from staff at the school he attended in years 10-11.    They both went above and beyond, one supporting dance, whilst never allowing ever favouritism, the upper school in their pastoral support.

 

Musical DD had the sort of MDS experience we all dream of.  She wasn't the best, or the favourite, but was valued for what she could bring.   When DS visited her boarding school the constant refrain was "it's so unfair .."   In fact I'd love to take the staff from some of the ballet schools there, to show how it can be done!    

 

At their core, I felt both Musical DD's school, and the upper school, had the students at the centre of what they did.   It wasn't smooth sailing all the way, but at no point did I feel they were there merely  to pay the electricity bill for the establishments concerned.

 

And yes, I did follow my gut instinct, particularly for DD (she hadn't planned to go away until 6th form, it just sort of happened), based on hard learnt lessons from before.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Like ballet, there are four "main" music schools (I'm afraid I don't know much about the Scottish ones).  Three take only musicians, one takes a mixture of musicians, choristers and non-specialist students.   3 offer MDS places to all qualifying students, one has just a handful.  My daughter attended the latter - she just walked in and said "I love it here."  And she did.  Unlike the specialist ones, she was actively encouraged to play sport, access all the opportunities available, and be as "normal" as possible.  This is what she wanted - the thought of being with just musicians did not appeal, possibly given her big brother's experiences in the ballet vocational school  world.  

 

The majority of students from the specialist schools go on to study music in some form - some at Conservatoire, some study music at university.  But not all.  The academic standards vary quite considerably between the schools, one regularly sends students to Oxbridge.   She was expected to take music at A level as an MDS student, also taking geology (which she thought seriously about pursuing at university) and maths.  Most, but not all of the specialists went on to study music from her school, but they were encouraged to consider all options, not just music.  

 

Like ballet students they had to be self motivated and organised to succeed.  One of DD's main problems in first year at conservatoire was what to do with the time - she had been scheduled from 8 in the morning until 10 at night in the upper 6th, and had to negotiate separate homework arrangements with some teachers because she physically could not get it done.

 

There are more similarities than differences, particularly the skills needed by our DC to navigate the artistic world, both personal and professional.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Perhaps I am simplifying but it seems to me that big differences are:

 

1:After school - after the age of 18 - music students can go on to either university or a conservatoire, whereas dance students need to look for work. OK, dance students get an extra third year at school which I assume music students don’t.


2:A levels. Music students seem to have a full cohort of A levels open to them that they can/must study alongside their music, which keeps doors open for them.

 

3: Music, unlike, dance is more usually regarded as a proper academic subject at university, so going on with music is much less likely to close off other options.

 

If dance students could have more of those options, perhaps it would be better for dance students.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is a really interesting and I think very valuable thread. I think it is very important to acknowledge the realities of this world and how it affects us as parents as well as our DCs. I can relate to the feelings of shame expressed by several others. I think I was duped by sales patter too, failed to spot problems and also felt that I should slink away with my tail between my legs when my DD decided not to pursue a career as a performer, but I have kind of come out of the other side now and can see more positives. 

It can be really hard to walk away from something which you have invested so much time, effort and money in, even when it is not working out how you imagined or isn't making anyone happy any more. And of course this is not restricted to ballet - I've seen the same scenario in many different walks of life. Only this last week there has been a lot in the cycling press about one of the world's best riders who has gone home from his pre season training camp because he isn't sure he wants to continue. People are expressing incredulity that he would "give up" and he has been accused of letting people down, being weak etc. But others see it as I do - its brave and strong to recognise that something isn't working out - whatever the reason - and to take action to do something about it. In many ways it is easier to keep doing what you have always done.

I dislike the term "giving up". It is loaded with negativity. I've started trying to reframe things. If someone asks me why DD has "given up" I now turn it round and say "Oh, you mean why has DD decided to pursue a teaching career?"  A change of direction is not failure, but being unable to adapt to changing circumstances might be. Nor does it mean that it was wrong to explore your original path or that it was a waste of time, money and effort. Not if you have learned and developed as a result.

The parents whose DCs have achieved successful performing careers have every right to be very, very proud of their children. But so do we that have children who have changed direction, whether that is in to another part of the dance world or something completely different. I think for our own and our DC's sakes as well as those who are earlier in the journey, honesty is crucial. Let's stick together and shake off any sense of failure or shame, as well as highlighting how "the system" needs to change. I have thought many times recently that I have nothing more to offer on this forum,but maybe actually I, and all of you, do still have a lot to say?

  • Like 9
Link to comment
Share on other sites

25 minutes ago, Pups_mum said:

I have thought many times recently that I have nothing more to offer on this forum,but maybe actually I, and all of you, do still have a lot to say?

 

You don’t need to have a dc currently employed as a dancer or in full time training to be of value here, Pups_mum - over the years I’ve “known” you, you’ve never failed to give brilliant advice.  I hope all the “retired” parents here stick around; we all have valuable experiences to share and there *are* positives alongside the negatives and the things we’d do differently, second time around.  I don’t think it’s a bad thing that we’ve been honest on this thread; it’s made me feel better to hear from other parents who have felt as I did, and hopefully it’s helped others too.  

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, rowan said:

A levels. Music students seem to have a full cohort of A levels open to them that they can/must study alongside their music, which keeps doors open for them.

 

This is something I’m always banging on about, rowan - the importance of vocational students having a good bunch of GCSEs to enable them to do A Levels and go down the academic route if necessary.  I honestly think all 16+ vocational schools should offer A Levels or the equivalent, rather than starting students on a degree course at 16.  

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you for having such an open discussion on this. To those thinking you probably don’t belong here anymore, please don’t think that. Actually hearing from ‘retired’ parents is so valuable to those of us who are only just considering vocational routes for our DCs. Or helping those whose children attend vocational schools to spot red flags. The honesty is so important. 

It’s not uncommon to hear rumours about things that happen in vocational schools but never from anyone who’s directly (or via their DCs) experienced the bad things, so you never know what to believe, especially when there are so many promises about mental health provisions, injury prevention, strong parent-school communication etc at this end. It’s good to take those rose-tinted glasses off.

Edited by BalletBoyMumma
  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, rowan said:

Perhaps I am simplifying but it seems to me that big differences are:

 

1:After school - after the age of 18 - music students can go on to either university or a conservatoire, whereas dance students need to look for work. OK, dance students get an extra third year at school which I assume music students don’t.


2:A levels. Music students seem to have a full cohort of A levels open to them that they can/must study alongside their music, which keeps doors open for them.

 

3: Music, unlike, dance is more usually regarded as a proper academic subject at university, so going on with music is much less likely to close off other options.

 

If dance students could have more of those options, perhaps it would be better for dance students.

 

Hi Rowan to answer your questions:

 

1.  Yes - not many will be looking for work at 18.  In fact many jazz musicians will be older, some institutions prefer students who are older than 18.  

 

2. Sometimes - Two of the schools offer a fairly limited range, two offer a full cohort (in fact, DD had a much wider range than if she had stayed at our local but small grammar.)  Also, remember a musical brain is quite often a mathematical brain - in ancient greece they were considered part of the same discipline.

 

3.  Definitely.  But GCSE/A level choice was part of DD's decision making process.  

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 26/01/2021 at 00:30, Nama said:

Surely if these schools had the best interests of the dancers involved they would want a co-op between the dancer and their support network (parents)   These young people are often quite sheltered being focused on their ballet. Their families are very supportive and want to help. Not hinder. The schools have a barrier up. They generally don’t make you feel welcome. Once a term for watching day and only a meeting with the teacher for 5 quick minutes in a room full of other parents. Not ideal for a personal discussions. In my experience a meeting with the AD is confrontational and not helpful for your kid. They are thd hostage and you watch what you say. 

Just because they are private schools or they offer a degree course shouldn’t let them slip through responsibility. In my experience they made us as parents sign responsibility for our daughters fees and her behaviour etc. If you tie me in legally I’ll not be silenced and will expect open communication. These schools are quick to drag in.parents if there is a behavioural issue but don’t want to speak to you as a parent when you are enquiring about their responsibility towards you and the student. They can’t have it both ways. The sponsors of other students and board members saw my child dance in class more than I ever did as a parent. They also got more feedback and discussions about the students than I ever did. That’s not fair or right. If the door is shut - make it fair for all people involved. But - that access to the kids is money for these prestigious schools. Parents need to speak up and make the schools involve them as it should be. Imagine going to a normal school with 16 year olds and be told that the parents would get no feedback or discussion about a student. There would be a walk out. Change needs to happen. Write to the board of governors or the owners of the schools. Put them on notice - speak up. Watch them get nervous !! 

The schools running degree courses are bound by the awarding university rules and regulations regarding confidentiality. The students are considered adults (even though many are under 18) and the schools are simply not allowed to discuss the student with parents. They will refuse to do so. It is like talking to a brick wall.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another 'retired' member here.  My DD gained a great degree from London Contemporary Dance School - she is now 29.  Was offered a contract with Richard Alston but broke her foot and as they needed a dancer the contract was withdrawn.  She gave herself 3 years to gain a performance contract (ballet, contemporary, MT) and auditioned often but found on a number of occasions she was taken to one side to say although she was the only one who picked the routine up she was either too small or looked too young! She made a niche for herself in West End theatre management and was just about to move to run Mary Poppins last year when you know what happened.  She is severely dyslexic and always doubted her academic ability however is currently doing an Access to HE course Science (all elements distinction at present)and has offers to study BSc in Dietetics and Nutrition in September. She is very determined - developed through years of dance training and had acknowledged the need for Plan B, C and D whilst still in training.  Her interest in this area developed whist at LCDS and she had always thought it might be something to consider.  She was made redundant from Delfont Mackintosh, as 90% of the company were, in August and had a place to do her Access course within 5 weeks.  There is another life, however difficult the present might seem and our dancing off spring have already built up great resiliance and bounce back in amazing ways.

  • Like 13
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I’ve often hung around this forum as a student and agreed/disagreed with many things. This thread is excellent and something I personally can certainly relate to. I recently wrote a blog post that may be of interest to you all: https://lizzie-donson.medium.com/trials-and-tribulations-of-the-dancer-are-we-reaping-what-we-sow-c9278b0dba11

 

Out of my seven years of vocational school, I can confidently say that the last (and most vital) three years were the worst, and in hindsight the worst of my life. I went in as a high-achieving, promising student and left damaged. Ballet ended up being like a drug to me - I was going through many lows, thinking that the few highs were worth it. Much like @Kat09 my parents tried the best that they could, providing me with private lessons, physiotherapy and words of encouragement. 
 

In order to “save” myself I walked away almost three years ago. Although I am much happier now, it has taken me two rounds of therapy to get to this point. I still don’t have the greatest relationship with food or my body image and still have days which are so utterly dark. I have achieved a lot since I left. I’ve re-studied and after rounds of interviews and admissions tests I got into one of the world’s best universities. However, there is so much irreversible damage, and I know I’m not alone in my experience. 
 

Please help your children if you see them struggle. I think most people are too afraid to stick their head above the parapet, but it isn’t worth ignoring. It isn’t worth hanging around a prestigious school if it is of detriment to mental/physical health. I often think that ballet needs to come with the same warning as gambling: “When the fun stops, stop.”

  • Like 13
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Chamomile said:

I’ve often hung around this forum as a student and agreed/disagreed with many things. This thread is excellent and something I personally can certainly relate to. I recently wrote a blog post that may be of interest to you all: https://lizzie-donson.medium.com/trials-and-tribulations-of-the-dancer-are-we-reaping-what-we-sow-c9278b0dba11

 

Out of my seven years of vocational school, I can confidently say that the last (and most vital) three years were the worst, and in hindsight the worst of my life. I went in as a high-achieving, promising student and left damaged. Ballet ended up being like a drug to me - I was going through many lows, thinking that the few highs were worth it. Much like @Kat09 my parents tried the best that they could, providing me with private lessons, physiotherapy and words of encouragement. 
 

In order to “save” myself I walked away almost three years ago. Although I am much happier now, it has taken me two rounds of therapy to get to this point. I still don’t have the greatest relationship with food or my body image and still have days which are so utterly dark. I have achieved a lot since I left. I’ve re-studied and after rounds of interviews and admissions tests I got into one of the world’s best universities. However, there is so much irreversible damage, and I know I’m not alone in my experience. 
 

Please help your children if you see them struggle. I think most people are too afraid to stick their head above the parapet, but it isn’t worth ignoring. It isn’t worth hanging around a prestigious school if it is of detriment to mental/physical health. I often think that ballet needs to come with the same warning as gambling: “When the fun stops, stop.”


Thank you for sharing your blog. Your vocational journey and experiences echo ours and I’m sure many other students and parents 😢 

It is time to be brave and honest and to step out from the shadows and share the reality and truth about ballet training. 
 

  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you to everyone on this. It’s so useful to me as a parent of a wannabe year 7. You only have to read the threads about year 7 auditions to see the rose tinted spectacles-if children are ‘lucky’ enough to be offered a place (at an audition or a school) is a common statement for example. Right from the start the power imbalance is there: we should be grateful they’re even considering our child. Too many parents believe the fairytale and not enough do their research. 

  • Like 7
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 01/02/2021 at 13:40, Chamomile said:

I’ve often hung around this forum as a student and agreed/disagreed with many things. This thread is excellent and something I personally can certainly relate to. I recently wrote a blog post that may be of interest to you all: https://lizzie-donson.medium.com/trials-and-tribulations-of-the-dancer-are-we-reaping-what-we-sow-c9278b0dba11

 

Out of my seven years of vocational school, I can confidently say that the last (and most vital) three years were the worst, and in hindsight the worst of my life. I went in as a high-achieving, promising student and left damaged. Ballet ended up being like a drug to me - I was going through many lows, thinking that the few highs were worth it. Much like @Kat09 my parents tried the best that they could, providing me with private lessons, physiotherapy and words of encouragement. 
 

In order to “save” myself I walked away almost three years ago. Although I am much happier now, it has taken me two rounds of therapy to get to this point. I still don’t have the greatest relationship with food or my body image and still have days which are so utterly dark. I have achieved a lot since I left. I’ve re-studied and after rounds of interviews and admissions tests I got into one of the world’s best universities. However, there is so much irreversible damage, and I know I’m not alone in my experience. 
 

Please help your children if you see them struggle. I think most people are too afraid to stick their head above the parapet, but it isn’t worth ignoring. It isn’t worth hanging around a prestigious school if it is of detriment to mental/physical health. I often think that ballet needs to come with the same warning as gambling: “When the fun stops, stop.”

That was very well put thank you. Gymnastics is the same but starts so much younger!  I think the lesson for us all is to go in with your eyes open - and talk to your kids with the assumption that these issues are there, not wait for them to raise them. 

  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello all. I've been reading this post with much interest and as a professional musician who had two, and now has one vocational ballet dd I have so much to say I don't know where to start! 

On the musical front, not only do we go to music college at 18 for a 4 year performance degree, most now stay on and do a postgraduate course or two. I stepped straight into a full and busy freelance life after my degree and almost regret not staying on, as my teacher suggested. But because of the difference of the length of career/peak in physique etc, perhaps its better for dancers to be able to continue studies alongside their dancing, as many do? 

There are many similarities between the two disciplines and the sacrifices one has to make in order to follow the path to a career, though the sacrifices that I made were always happily made as I loved what I was doing. The one thing I've always envied though, and especially during lockdown, is the group classes and the whole nature of learning together, albeit via zoom these days!! We've always had to have the discipline to stay a room by ourselves for hours every day to practice... I wonder what a scale class would be like for 15 violinists 😂

There are very much downsides to the one-to-one learning too, as you're probably all aware of the awful stories of abuse coming out over the last few years, and was prolific when I was at music school. This means I've always been on high alert for anything similar in the ballet world. 

I have so far, two hugely different experiences of ballet schools. My eldest dd went to vocational school for year 10 and other than the wonderful friends she made and the times she had with them, it was otherwise a horrendous experience for her and the happy, excited and confident child I sent there ended up broken by mid year 11. I still wake up angry with certain people at the school and at myself, for not dealing with it better and sooner. But, I didn't know the full extent of it until I heard my child talk to a councellor about it recently. In complete contrast, my youngest dd at a different school couldn't be having a more different journey. From the pastoral care, to the contact from ballet and academic teachers, how they're assessed, looked after physically and emotionally, it's a different world. However, I also know contrasting stories from both schools, so it's never the same journey for any child. I would just ask your child to be open about everything and not to worry about saying if it's not all they thought it would be or if they have any worries whatsoever about anything. We had a wonderful programme of teaching and performance ops for my eldest before she took her place in year 10. I just wish we'd stayed with it. 

I sometimes fear for my youngest who is still loving every second, and just hope she has a happy ride, no matter what happens for her regarding a career in ballet or not. It's a precarious world out there for the arts at the moment but the majority of people I work with and come across in the ballet world are wonderful people and I certainly wouldn't want to be doing anything else. I hope I don't have to! I very much hope to playing in the pit while one of your children (or even mine!) are on stage. Please just dance in time.. 😂😂❤️❤️

Edited by Coffeemum
Miss-type
  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 27/01/2021 at 18:50, alison said:

Presumably this must also apply, in the world of academia, to Scottish freshers who took their Highers (if that's what they're still called) at 17, too?

I bleive it does.  from my own ( now  20 + years ago)  experience  of University, the main  thing with under 18 freshers   generally was they  were  pplaced in catered halls  with all the other support structures halls have (  senior residents / subwardens and like)   were those over 18 could  be placed in  'flats' or 'university houses'   

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just to add that now, at least in my own son’s uni in Edinburgh accommodation for all students is in the shared flats within student accommodation but every hall has student support. Anecdotally he has seen  a huge drop out in students who start courses straight after Highers... but there are a number of different factors for that.
 

 

 

 

Edited by Balletmummy18
Changed mind
Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, Balletmummy18 said:

Just to add that now, at least in my own son’s uni in Edinburgh accommodation for all students is in the shared flats within student accommodation but every hall has student support. Anecdotally he has seen  a huge drop out in students who start courses straight after Highers... but there are a number of different factors for that.
 

 

 

 

I suspect, however, that Edinburgh's experience  is  based on being in Scotland and having a lot more people coming with *solely* highers than is typical across the UK as a whole as  the Welsh  and NI systems are fundamentally the same as England in terms of  final year of secondary education being at  18 for the vast majority of pupils

 

Edited by NJH
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share


×
×
  • Create New...