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Ballet dancer to midwife


balletla
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Just picking up this from another thread on DaDAs and the press release on the BRB website. One of the dancers at BRB has announce she is leaving to train as a midwife. She went to Elmhurst and has been at BRB for 5 years as an artist.I think it's great that she has been able to make this decision and I wish her the best of luck.

 

I guess what I am wondering though is what would I be thinking as a parent if this was the situation with my child. I would be sad that after all the emotional investment in the world of ballet over the last 13 years that it would be coming to an end for both my child and me. I would be more concerned about my DD though - how do you cope from dancing every day at that level, to virtually nothing overnight? If ballet every day is all you've known for your whole life, how do you make the adjustment mentally and physically when you stop?

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Perhaps there were circumstances behind the decision such as health problems or injuries? The career of a ballet dancer is fairly short and I'm sure it would be easier to retrain at 23 than at 33. I'm not likely to ever be in that situation but I think the thing that I would be most upset about is that my child had been a border (presumably) at elmhurst and I had missed out on all that time with them. I'm sure midwifery is more financially stable etc so in some ways I would be glad of the career change!

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It is a very tricky adjustment - there are organisations such as dancers career development (DCD) in the UK that support dancers in this position, and it could be that she has had injuries which mean that dancing as a career is no longer enjoyable. In this case dancers will go through the similar issues that retiring athletes will - and is basically a grieving process. I would assume that the healthcare team at BRB have been able to offer her advice, support and contacts to help.

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I've often wondered if the reality of a dancer's life doesn't live up to the expectations that a student has while training and learning to become a dancer. It must be harder, of course, if a dancer is not in a large established company like BRB, and spends their life auditioning for one short-term contract after another, and living out of a suitcase. This dancer is lucky in succeeding in their dream of being a ballet dancer. If that dream has now changed, that's fine. As has been talked about before on this forum, it's all about the journey and no-one knows what the outcome will be. And I suppose, too, that any emotional investment involved should really only be that of the dancer. I'm not sure that the emotional investment in ballet should be the parents' at all, unless it is through their own interest.  I realise that if a parent has spent years being involved in the ballet world through their child, when that ballet world stops, it is perhaps like a bit of their world that is being closed off to them, but really it's the parents' job to raise a happy, healthy human being, not raise a dancer, and they can consider their job well done if the dancer has the desire, courage and willpower to change direction in life.

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She is not the only person to leave and go into the medical world.  A young male dancer left some years ago and qualified as a doctor.

 

As I said on another thread.  The education that children get at specialised vocational schools is never wasted and perhaps that person just felt the need for a change.  In any event she will have lived her dancing dream for a few years and, for whatever reason, has decided to move on.  I am sure that her dance background will stand her in good stead for the years of training ahead.

 

Good luck to her!

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Why speculate about injuries? It may be that she has decided to take a different path? Children enter this dance world at 11 to go to vocational school.  She was clearly very talented and special to be offered a contract with BRB, but what someone wants to do as an adult or as a 10 year old auditioning for vocational ballet school may be very different. In her statement she clearly cherished and values the time both at Elmhurst and BRB.

 

If either of my children wanted to make a change in their path I would support them. I would feel as though their years at vocational school weren't  in anyway wasted, but contributed to who they are. Its their life and their choices, though Ribbons I am with you that I would be very sad.

 

Dancers, having gone through the life they have had from aged 11 are extremely resourceful. I see that in my 13 and 14 year old daughters. They have to cope and manage with situations and responsibilities regular children don't have to ;). A degree in Midwifery at Leeds is a challenge for anyone, but this lady is very well placed to take on those challenges and who knows how many future little dancers she will deliver into this world!

 

NL

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She has done very well - good luck to her for the future. The competition for places on midwifery degree courses is fierce so she certainly sets herself big challenges. My niece graduated in midwifery last year so I know that it's certainly no easy option.

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As someone has already posted the reality of being a professional dancer will not necessarily live up to expectations.  Even if a dancer is lucky enough to stay injury free its a tough life, you are unlikely to choose what you dance or what role you play and if you are in a short term contract there is no guarantee of future work. And if you are in a long term contract you may not get job satisfaction if you are only ever in the back row of the corps.  And then there is the travelling if you are touring plus a class ,rehearsal and performance at the end- the audience don't care if you've just travelled the length of the UK!

 

As a parent I am thrilled my ds is dancing professionally (and he is loving it by the way) but he has already got plans for the long term future as he says he wants to retire before his body wears out! I fully support him in this and will not mind at all, he has already achieved so much. I rather suspect that the young lady's  parents will be as proud of her becoming a midwife as they were of her becoming a ballet dancer. Not only has she been in a fabulous company (I love BRB) , she has been there a good 5 years. And she is being so wise to retrain in another, very well worthwhile profession whilst still young- if she was my dd I'd be so proud. Her vocational training won't be wasted at all, it will stand her in good stead. And what an interesting life already!

 

The sad fact is that many dancers working lives are short and they don't necessarily all want to teach or choreograph. And its better to have something else to focus on rather than suddenly realise that your dancing days are numbered but there is no alternative that appeals...

 

I will never ever begrudge my ds going away at 11 and training for so many years even if he announces he is quitting tomorrow (and that nearly happened only last year!)   He once said that he didn't want to dance, he NEEDED to dance and having felt that way myself I was more than happy to see where the "journey" took him.  Its his life and as long as he remains a decent human being I will be happy for him in whatever he decides to do.

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She may have just fallen out of love with life as a professional ballet dancer. It's a gruelling profession. When you read some of ENB's dancers's tweets the classes and sessions in the gym, as well as the rehearsals and performances, sound like torture, with dancers saying that they can barely move, talking about ice baths, painkillers etc (and I don't think that there's much exaggeration!) The hours are long and unsociable. When your friends outside the company are free you're often working. Touring can be tiring and boring and brings its own additional strains. Not everyone suits living in close proximity to their work colleagues for days or weeks at a time. I always wonder how the shyer dancers manage. If you're not particularly outgoing and don't enjoy being part of a large group it must be tough. I can understand how a dancer might feel that s/he has had enough after a few years. You can never really coast or take it easy and there's the constant anxiety about fitness as well as competition for roles.

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The transition to another vocation or retirement is difficult even if it is voluntarily taken on.  It changes the structure of one's day, the people one sees every day - and it is also chemical.  The body used to putting out a certain amount of energy and dealing with the chemistry of that.

 

Many dancers that I know when they take on other vocations often keep up a certain number of ballet classes - not nearly as before - but more as one would do visits to the gym.  Many times, if they were members of a company, they are given the professional courtesy of attending company class which enables them to keep up that social contact. 

 

I found that does help.

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Personally I think it is very sensible to have another career option.  Not every dancer gets the dancing job/jobs of their dreams, and injury can prematurely end a career.  A back up plan is an essential.  My 12 year old is very determined but has two career options.  Ballerina or Architect.  Both have very long training periods, so I will never have any money!

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 And I suppose, too, that any emotional investment involved should really only be that of the dancer. I'm not sure that the emotional investment in ballet should be the parents' at all, unless it is through their own interest.  I realise that if a parent has spent years being involved in the ballet world through their child, when that ballet world stops, it is perhaps like a bit of their world that is being closed off to them, but really it's the parents' job to raise a happy, healthy human being, not raise a dancer, and they can consider their job well done if the dancer has the desire, courage and willpower to change direction in life.

 

Amen! I often wonder, particularly with children, who wants it more - the parent or the child!

 

 

 It's a gruelling profession. When you read some of ENB's dancers's tweets the classes and sessions in the gym, as well as the rehearsals and performances, sound like torture, with dancers saying that they can barely move, talking about ice baths, painkillers etc (and I don't think that there's much exaggeration!) The hours are long and unsociable. When your friends outside the company are free you're often working. Touring can be tiring and boring and brings its own additional strains. Not everyone suits living in close proximity to their work colleagues for days or weeks at a time. I always wonder how the shyer dancers manage. If you're not particularly outgoing and don't enjoy being part of a large group it must be tough. I can understand how a dancer might feel that s/he has had enough after a few years. You can never really coast or take it easy and there's the constant anxiety about fitness as well as competition for roles.

 

I often think why on earth would anyone WANT to do it?!? I also spend many, many hours explaining the true reality of the career to 'wannabe' young dancers. 

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Just to second Pups-mum's post. We had a Leeds midwifery student doing a summer holiday job with us (in a GP surgery) 2 summers running and she loved the course. She herself was very bright and had a great personality. She'd had a choice of offers and had gone for Leeds as her favourite - definitely a tough course to win a place on!

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Personally I think it is very sensible to have another career option.  Not every dancer gets the dancing job/jobs of their dreams, and injury can prematurely end a career.  A back up plan is an essential.  My 12 year old is very determined but has two career options.  Ballerina or Architect.  Both have very long training periods, so I will never have any money!

 

Made me smile as my daughter grew up wanting to be a ballet dancer or a vet.  So, again, two long and expensive options!   It was when she went to secondary school and hit puberty (and started getting "curvy") that she switched to the vet idea more and more - and now is in the throws of A levels with offers for vet schools, hoping to start in September.  Slightly off topic, sorry, as she never got as far as vocational training :)

 

It has been interesting seeing my son and his friends going off into their first dance jobs - and certainly the reality is not always what they had hoped for.  He's lucky in that he's in a good company where he gets a good ballet class every day and plenty of chances to perform.  The company's very friendly, and his two best friends were already there (and he's now sharing a flat with them).  However, others have found it a struggle - English not being widely spoken, hardly any dancing day-to-day (even with one ballet class,that's nothing like doing dance all day like they did at school).  Anyway - this is also off-topic, as we have no idea why Laura's leaving - I just wanted to add my bit to some of the conversations that have been going on! ;)

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Perhaps it is something that ballet students should be aware of. The ballet career for those who do win that coveted contract is often only a few years.  There were statistics published, I am not sure where, but I seem to remember it was only about 6 years average for corps de ballet, and progressively higher for those who made soloist or principal.

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I can only speak of the reality of company life abroad for my DD and it is tough! Homesickness, language barriers, short and often rushed company classes. Performances sprinkled over several weeks and mixed with perhaps a contemporary piece or dancing in an Opera....not a run of say Swan Lake like a company such as BRB would do but bits here there and everywhere!

Pay can be shockingly bad and just enough to live on. Getting very few days/weeks holiday so they can't get home to see family doesn't help but it also means that the long summer break is very much needed when it finally comes.

 

Yes you get the "ups" when they get a good role to dance or are enjoying a particular performance but in general it is very hard. I think the difference to being at school especially in the last few years at 6th form where it is so busy, so full on with stresses of company auditions compare to life once in a company is massive.

If finally after all that training they manage to get a job they may end up a long way from home and it can come as a real shock. Lets face it they are still so young at 19 when most of their friends have only just started Uni life!

 

I have no idea what the future will bring for my DD, at the moment she has another years contract where she is so time will tell. But having another career plan for later on can only be a good thing...ballet is a very short career for most.

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I think it is great that BRB have encouraged and supported their dancers to study part time and took the time to explain clearly on their website how they did this, what the dancers had studied and what the dancers would be doing when they left the company. There was also support for them once they had left. It made interesting reading.

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I'm shocked to hear that corps dancers only dance for an average of 6 years. I had assumed that, barring long-term injury, they would be able to dance into their thirties (ie perhaps 15 years). Why do they dance for such a short time? Do they get injured, lose interest or become disillusioned, find that they can't afford to live on the pay, want to commit themselves to a relationship? I'm referring to dancers on permanent contracts here. If you're effectively freelance and just picking up contracts for a few weeks here and there, with no permanent contract on the horizon, I imagine that you would give up after a few short years.

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I think that it's great that she wants to be a midwife now.  I think that (most) Midwive's are really special people she must be a lovely person!  Maybe she will apply her ballet training in someway, perhaps develop excersices for pregnant women or for during labour - Pilates and Yoga are good for pregnancy so maybe ballet too!

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