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Sacrificing childhood to ballet?


Ian Macmillan
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I haven't read every word of the article yet, but it's really about the Russian system - children in this country don't "sacrifice" their childhoods in too extreme a fashion - lets not get into comparing who has sacrified what - we've had enough of that in the past.

 

But to answer your question from my son's perspective - definitely worth it to know that he tried to make a career out of doing something he loved (and he is now at the start of that career), but remember they do have to love it.  Noone knows if they'll make it in the end, but if/when they give up trying they have to be happy knowing that they gave it a go to that point.

 

For us as a family - yes, it would have been much easier if he hadn't followed this path - but only from a financial point of view.  On the plus side we've all made great friends and had some great experiences along the way.

 

Hope I've made some sense!

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If the child has caught "dance fever", then yes it is worth it.  However, I am not sure how accurate the article is overall.  One point leapt out at me - they say there is a shortage of boys, yet at Prix de Lausanne a few days ago there were more boys than girls in the final and everyone was saying how male dancers are really coming into their own these days!

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Ooo yes - didn't notice that.  Well, I'd agree that there are far fewer boys going into ballet than there are girls, but you're quite right that we regularly see excellent boys in the finals at the PDL and other competitions - in fact there are often more boys in the winning places than girls - so evidently at least the boys who are going into ballet are getting good training.

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Sorry to go off topic but it kind of follows - is there such a demand in companies for a large number of male dancers?

 

The corps are made up of females - are companies just accommodating a lack of male dancers? Are there roles for more men?

Edited by BankruptMum
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If the question was changed to is it worth giving your child to vocational school at such a young age the reponse may be a little different. I feel as a mother that I missed out. If I knew what I know now, I think that I would have found a really good dance school coupled with an associate scheme and allowed my daughter to have gone away at 16. My daughter however would say differently and would come up with lots of for and againsts.

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I haven't read every word of the article yet, but it's really about the Russian system - children in this country don't "sacrifice" their childhoods in too extreme a fashion - lets not get into comparing who has sacrified what - we've had enough of that in the past.

 

But to answer your question from my son's perspective - definitely worth it to know that he tried to make a career out of doing something he loved (and he is now at the start of that career), but remember they do have to love it.  Noone knows if they'll make it in the end, but if/when they give up trying they have to be happy knowing that they gave it a go to that point.

 

For us as a family - yes, it would have been much easier if he hadn't followed this path - but only from a financial point of view.  On the plus side we've all made great friends and had some great experiences along the way.

 

Hope I've made some sense!

I'm with Julie on this one and in fact in many ways my ds had a richer childhood thanks to his ballet with an excellent education too. Somewhere I have photos and films of him and his friends having wonderful times in Richmond Park - I'll will never forget the phone call about the camera "happened to fall out of a tree"!  Far better than hanging aroud streets locally.

 

And now he is being paid for doing something he's always loved before he could walk, that is dressing up and performing. Even if he hadn't got a job though he is been glad to have had a childhood that also accomodated his passion for dance.

 

But the article is about Russian training which is far harsher than ours. But again, to those students who absolutely love Ballet, it is their life and they would have been unhappy children without it.

 

Edited to add that as a teacher I have seen many very stressed young pupils struggling to cope with school work, extra dance classes, social demands, school commitments etc. Although life can also be very difficult at vocational school I have found that on the whole students of mine lucky enough to be in full time training are far more settled than those that aren't- especially those in unsympathetic schools.

Edited by hfbrew
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I think it was a shortage of Russian boys - of the little bits I read I did notice them say that most Russian families would rather their boys went into better paid sporting professions than ballet

 

We had a Russian waiter on holiday last year: he noticed dd's Kirov Ballet t-shirt and said his parents had made him do ballet and folk dance for seven years, and he hated every minute of it - he wanted to be a basketball player!

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Hmm. I have some sympathy with the issue of whether the end result meets the dancers aspirations (in terms of whether you can get a job, what your roles are like etc) but I don't think the life in vocational school described by this article bears much relation to the experience of my DS, who rang me excitedly for a 5 min chat last night to say he didn't have time to skype later as he had rehearsal for a show, then partnering, then an hour to practise guitar as he and a teacher were accompanying a fellow student who was going to sing at the school valentine party that evening.... oh and only went to vocational school at 14 after begging us on bended knee to let him go...

 

I can't help feeling that the key factor here (and why this article is less relevant to western Europe and the States) is that most of our children are doing ballet because they passionately want to (by and large we parents are the slightly unwilling but resigned support team) and we constantly strive to show them that if their career doesn't turn out the way they hoped there are other avenues/careers/ ways to have a great life. Ballet for us isn't an instant ticket to fame, stardom and riches as it used to be in the USSR (and in China- has anyone seen Mao's Last Dancer?!) and certainly the impression I get from all parents on this site is that our DKs are following THEIR dream, not ours.

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I hope you don't mind me jumping right in to this, I'm new here but have read many of the threads here. The wisdom, support and great practical advice found here is what made me take the leap to join!

 

I echo so many of the others above who have said that it is a sacrifice for US as parents, but not for the child who passionately loves to dance. It can be so hard to fit in dance with the demands (social and academic) of ordinary school, particularly at secondary school. My child chose to make a lot of sacrifices to get to dance classes instead of parties, after school clubs etc etc and it used to kill me watching from the sidelines worrying that eventually these invitations from friends would stop coming!

 

For us as a family, vocational school means that our child can absolutely pursue their passion without having to feel guilty about all the other things they could be doing if they weren't always dancing. The sacrifice is ours, emotionally, and it is hard. Although there is such a lot to be said knowing that your child is among like-minded people who "get" them. There is also the bonus of small classes for academics, and the sheer privilege of being part of a community that nurtures our children's need to dance.

Edited by jess
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Vocational training is very blinkered though and whilst it is a passion unless you have experienced an alternative then you can't make a balanced decision.

I understand exactly where you are coming from with this. I had very similar worries about my child, anxious that at such a young age they were having to make a huge life decision. I am in my 40s and I still feel like I wish I had taken different decisions at school! So I relate to what you have said.

 

 

The way I cope with it is to absolutely value the experience for what it is, without focusing on the future and what may be or not be in terms of a career in dance. I now can relax more about it than I used to and feel that my child is really lucky to be receiving such a great education, one that is priceless really, and the discipline involved and the hard work they put in are characteristics that  will only hold them in good stead regardless of what they choose to do in the future.

 

 

Thank you for the welcome "the quays"  :)

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I couldn't agree more Jess. We felt that vocational school would offer 5 years (all being well) of excellent education and dance training and was what dd wanted to do. When the time comes to make choices and decisions, you can only look at what is on offer at that time and make the best choice for your dc/family from that. We encourage dd to make the most of chances and opportunities on offer now, knowing that the future is not planned or guaranteed, but that choices and decisions will need to be made again at the next transition point.

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and who's to say that standard school education with all it's cultural cliques and academic only expectations isn't just as narrow... yes for some kids it can be a rounded and enriching experience but if you don't fit the system it can be a horrific torture. My DS, being mildly dyslexic and severely dyscalculic but very bright (so not qualifying for an educational support) drifted along as an average student, fairly ok but in a difficult, snipey social cohort so was frequently sad and upset and not pushed to achieve in any way.

 

In vocational school he is mature, independant, with a loving close and nurturing group of students and staff, having amazing experiences (dancing at the Russian embassy in Washington, flying all over the world on his own, staying with a friend for an American Thanksgiving etc etc), absolutely loving his dancing and even being pushed academically because it is such a small school... we miss him, but the positive rewards for us are also huge... he stays in touch with his mates at home and one of them is the son of my best friend so i know exactly what he would be doing at the moment were he still in his old school. I honestly don't think he would be having a richer or broader education if he had stayed at at home, and that's even before you put the loss of his potential career into the equation....

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Hi, I am a newbie on here, only my 2nd post!

My son is in yr 7 at vocational ballet school and loves it. I, however, find it a huge sacrifice, for him and for the rest of the family. I realise that he has this amazing opportunity, and I support and encourage him all the way. But it is hard to give him to 'houseparents'. Hard not being there when he is unwell. Hard not being there for his birthday. Hard not being able to give him a hug when he has had a bad day, or another child is being 'nasty' to him. It is a huge amount for a child to miss out on, and a huge amount for a child to have to deal with alone.

I admire him for his determination and drive, I know that I would not have been able to 'sacrifice' so much at his age. Yes I do think that he has to sacrifice things. He is no longer allowed to ice skate, go on the BMX track, go to the skate park, play football, eat what he wants when he wants, just lounge around doing nothing for a while (there is always the constant stretching/conditioning to do!!) etc etc. I am happy for him to pursue his dream, but in many ways they do sacrifice their own childhood and also their siblings miss out on so much. My daughters miss their brother so much. There are many tears from them when he goes back to school after weekends out and holidays.

I know of parents who have refused to let their children audition for vocational school, and I can really understand why they do that. I let my son audition as I didn't want him to go through life never knowing what might have been. I thought the audition process was bad enough. So stressful for all concerned. But I have quickly realised that that was just the beginning!! But then I guess this goes with the territory of having talented/gifted children. I can only thank goodness his sisters do not wish to follow in his footsteps. :)

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I can totally relate to what you are saying balletboysmum. My daughter has persude her dream and went away to vocational school. She herself said that it was important to go but I don't feel that she loved every minute of it. There was home sickness, one nasty teacher, uncalled for knock backs due to one teacher and yet my daughter still felt that it was important to leave home at 11. Ofcourse she had her good times with lots of friends, dancing everyday with some lovely teachers etc. but what she gave up was havining that secure family around her every night. The school she went to from the age of three continued until the age of 16 was fantastic, with friends that she had known since she was three. She gave up all her drama shows and singing lessons. The one thing that I know for sure is that as young as she was, she really knew what she wanted and that was vocational training. If however I as a mother and my husband agrees as a father, we would not let our child leave home until they were 16 yrs. some of you on the forum may say that would be selfish but I personally feel robbed that I never got to see and hug my gorgeous little girl every nigh. I have not said this to put people off vocational schools this is just my view as a mother. I am however more than happy that my now older daughter is trAining in London and I marvel at her independence, her strength of character and her ability to live independently at the age of 16, perhaps these are skills she developed because she left home at 11.

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I also can relate to Tulip and balletboysmum but only insofar that I can imagine what you're going/went through. I, on the other hand am having the best of both worlds in that we live in London and DD goes to YDA so comes home every night. When she auditioned at other vocational schools she was offered a place at Tring but chose YDA as she didn't want to miss out on home life. Sorry, don't want to gloat or twist the knife but I'm trying to say I feel for the above mums and admire them for putting their own basic motherly needs aside to let their children follow their dream.

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Hi Tulip. Good to know that I am not the only one that feels like this!! So many people say that I should be thankful that he got a place on full scholarship etc etc. I think it is way too young to be expected to cope with all this, but I shall continue to support him (although I always remind him that he can come home at any time!!)

 

elly - I am so envious! I would love for my son to be able to come home, even for weekends, but we are nearly 300 miles away. He does have a boy who is a day student in his year though, and he hates having to go home after supper. I guess we often want what we can't have.

My son is home on half term at present, but going back just before his birthday. It will be his first away from home :(

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My son goes to vocational school and is loving it. Last year I was driving him to school in one town then driving 25  miles to his dance school 4 nights a week. Some nights not getting home until 10. Now he is home between 3.45 and 7, had academic work and dance lessons. he went to a private school in Abingdon and I was concerned about his academics but I am now happy.

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As a mother I can certainly identify with missing your child, even now I sit wistfully looking at my mobile in the vain hope my ds will be in contact- nothing changes.

 

But I honestly feel my ds had more of a childhood at vocational school than if he'd remained at home where he had few friends his own age who understood him. And he is adamant he would probably not have continued ballet had he tried to juggle lessons with state secondary school.

 

There were times my ds was unhappy but I know that would have been the case at secondary school too. Certainly ds was having a different childhood rather than a missed one. And during holidays he was never stopped from doing other activities (though it has to be said he wasn't particularly adventurous!) - and we cherished every moment.  Incidently we lived only 40 miles or so away but most of the time ds preferred not to come home or have a visit- "I'm busy!" he'd say!

 

I have the privilege of teaching both sexes to dance and have noticed over the years how seriously stressed young people become, also how fast they grow up especially if they feel they have to conform to whats seen as "normal". Only the other day I had a 12 year old (yes 12!) in tears over a boyfriend,  I've had talented boys give up through bullying , meltdowns over school work, burn outs due to pushy parents etc etc. Now vocational school is also stressful I know but at least concerns can be shared with people who understand and who are all going through it together. And I know for a fact that my ds had no problem enjoying his free time- he'd never been able to climb trees where we live...

 

Now my ds is independant and earning doing something he loves whilst many of his primary school friends are struggling now on student grants at University, some already have dropped out and have no idea what they want to do in life. DS s cousin is the same age and is in this predicament - yes he had fun in his childhood and was close to his mum but sadly this is not the case right now.

 

I was totally against the idea of boarding school, especially a Ballet one but I am so glad my ds had other ideas. Yes I missed him, especially just after holidays or during the odd unhappy spell but on the whole he was safe and happy with lots of like minded friends. How could I not be also?

Edited by hfbrew
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Balletboysmum, if a child is training seriously for anything it has an impact on the whole family. If your ds had stayed at home you would have had to spend an increasing amount of time driving him to classes, possibly some distance away, and waiting around. Your other children would have had to spend many hours at home without you or, alternatively, if they were too young to stay at home on their own, hanging around in the car, uncomfortable halls etc waiting for their brother. It's not much fun being the sibling of a child around whom the whole of family life revolves.

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