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Doubting a dance career...


swanprincess
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Just seeking some advice/reassurance really....

 

Ever since I first saw Swan Lake, 4 years ago, I have been absolutely determined to go to ballet school, so I can dance as a career and pass on the gift of inspiration through dance.

Now though, I'm not so sure... Do I really want to dedicate my whole life to dance, and get no further than the back row of the corps de ballet- or worse, not get a job at all?! At school, I am (apparently!) exceptionally talented in Drama, which makes me wonder- I could potentially achieve a lot in an acting career, whereas my dance teacher doesn't think I'll ever achieve Soloist rank in a company. I desperately wanted to go to vocational school- what I naively didn't think of, was the blistered feet, exhaustion, and constantly feeling inadequate, and I'm not sure if I do want to be a dancer after all...... Are these doubts normal?! Obviously, dance really is my passion, and I can't imagine life without it- the ambition to get in to ballet school feels like a part of my personality, that I can't let go of... If I was ever lucky enough to get in to vocational school it would mean the world to me, and I think that being able to prove wrong everyone who said I would never succeed, as well as achieving what I had worked for so long to achieve, would help me to deal with the physical/emotional exhaustion that seems to be a part of vocational training. Yet I can't help wondering, what if I choose drama instead? Should I let go of the dream I have clung on to for so long, and pursue something more "realistic"?!

And if on the off chance I did get in to vocational school.... If I was unable to cope with the pressure etc, would I be able to leave after a year, then go to university to study drama instead?!

 

I'm sorry for the rather bizarre and jumbled post but I just feel so confused and don't know what's best to do :(

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I was going to say exactly the same thing, Pictures.

SP - I've only been on here a short while but I'm super impressed by you and your attitude. I don't think you should give up dancing ever - but from the sounds of it if you could combine that with your drama skills you would be a force to be reckoned with. I'd look into the Musical Theatre side of things and vocational schools like Hammond for sure.

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SP I would carry on with what u love but second what others have said and look into other schools all MT schools will do ballet. My eldest dd who has given up her full time training knew that it wasn't for her anymore even though at 15 her only dream was ballet, we were shocked when she told us but she found the stress of it all too much and now isn't dancing at all !! I must of seen u at BTUK summer sch performance as was watching dd2 who was going full time to BTUK in sep but realised she was too homesick after 2 days she also felt that at 16 it wasn't right for her and she wants to do her A levels but carry on dancing. Like you she isn't sure what path to take. Have u asked any of your dance teachers what they think ?? Good luck and enjoy whatever you do u sound very mature.

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Hi Swanprincess, I think you should follow your gut and you won't be wrong... It's the best advice I was ever given!

You and my DD became friends at BTUK SS, she really liked you... I wish you all the best for whatever you decide!

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I had always wanted to be a ballet dancer. But I had absolutely no dedication whatsoever. I never practised anything, and only did the 2 days a week training at Northern Ballet School. This was after begging my mum to allow me to go when I was 12. I could have stayed at the local dancing school I had been at since I was 9, holding on to the backs of chairs. But I wanted to go to a proper Ballet School. Simply because the facilities were better. But also,like you when I saw Swan Lake I was literally in tears at the beauty of it. I went home and was determined to try and arrange more lessons and was determined to become a ballet dancer. I thought if I didn`t I would just die of a broken heart. But after a couple of weeks that feeling wore off me. I wanted to be a ballet dancer in my head,but practically I had no intention of putting in the work. The only reason I auditioned for Urdang when I was 16 was because I wanted to experience living in London . At the audition I danced like my life depended on it. Not because I desperately wanted to go to Urdang, but because I didn`t want to be rejected. But once there I hated it. The very worst for me was pointe work. Now I was always very good at it, but the sheer monotony of endless releves,over and over,and the blisters on my toes. But we had to keep going. I remember one day I was in so much pain I though that`s it, I cannot do this for a living,simply to never get beyond the back row of the Corps,exactly as you say,sw.  I didn`t even stick it for the first 2 terms. I was back at home and got a job in a cafe. But then I realised I didn`t want to work in a cafe either. So I joined a local fitness centre, that had a spare room upstairs with a mirror and barre. I used to go after work and practise my flexibility and my cartwheels. I had seen an ad in The Stage for dancers wanted for the Moulin Rouge,and the advert just leaped out at me. THIS was what I wanted to do.! I didn`t get in first time but re auditioned six months later and was accepted then. I was like,well I guess i`m going to be a dancer then.  I loved it but later contracts in Japan not so much. I quit dancing altogether after about 3 and a half years. Didn`t miss it,and still don`t.  But i`m glad I did what I did.  Wasn`t it George Balanchine who said, "I don`t want dancers who want to dance, I want dancers who HAVE to dance"  ?   I would imagine if you want to become a ballet dancer you would have to want it so much,more than anything else in your life. I can`t imagine how being any less committed and dedicated would work. Only you know ,or will once you get to vocational school and you are doing the same exercises every day, if it is something you HAVE to do. And if that is the case,it will be like you don`t have a choice.

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I will only say that it is easier to take up acting when a little older or even much later in life than it is any form of Dance.

 

However Ballet is a particularly hard taskmaster and many hitherto very keen dancers do tend to give up around 15/16 for various reasons so it is not that unusual for you to feel this way.

 

But........maybe you could just give this year your very best efforts to get to Vocational school for ballet which is your current passion and if it doesn't happen for you........then think about another direction you could go in.

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Don't do this to "prove everyone was wrong."  That's not a reason to commit yourself.  

 

Even the most committed dancer has days when questions arise about pursuing this road.  If, however, you these questions arise in your mind more and more, it might indeed be time to reassess.  There is no disgrace in reassessing - in fact, it is a positive thing.  One should always be open to the possibility of changing course.  It could happen for many reasons - injury, lack of opportunity, or change of heart.  It would be much more negative to pursue something beyond the time that it appeals to you or seems realistic for you.

 

But, should you change your plans, one need not opt out completely.  Dance is certainly an asset to anyone pursuing a career on stage.  

 

There are some dancers who are perfectly happy being in the last row of the corps de ballet and some who prefer it.  

 

If you go forward with your effort to get into a vocational school - would you truly be happy?  It seems to me that the fact that you are thinking about the "emotional exhaustion," blistered feet and feelings of inadequacy, is particularly indicative of a road sign that says: "slow down, rocky road ahead."   A student who is totally sure doesn't think about the inconveniences of blistered feet - even when she should.

 

You can do several things:

 

Stop fo a while and see how that feels to you.

 

Get several opinions of people unconnected to your present teachers.

 

Go for the vocational route and see if  you get it and how you feel about that.  If you make it do you feel happy or apprehensive?  If you don't make it do you feel relieved or distraught?

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Swan Princess, the path of life has many twists and turns and very few of us end up where we had planned or started out.  If you love dance to the point where you cannot imagine life without it then pursue your dream, however there are a number of options which could combine both dance and drama.  Some have been mentioned above, but my DD spent last week at Laine Summer School.  She loves ballet and contemporary with a passion and her ambition is to go to Rambert, but she sings like an angel and has good drama skills so chose this year to broaden her horizons.  She absolutely loved it and the end of school performance was amazing - West End quality.  She still wants to go to Rambert, but has now realised that there are options open to her.

 

Do what you love but explore your options - perhaps a summer or Easter course at a Musical Theatre school will help you decide.

 

Good luck with whatever you choose to do.  You seem a really sensible young lady and I'm sure you will find the perfect solution, but only you can decide!

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I agree Fiz, but there are two main differences - age when applying, and physique. Neither of which are deal-breakers for MT and drama, but they certainly can be for classical ballet training and getting a contract thereafter.

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Laine is very good we live quite near to the school and my DDs used to go there . Younger dd is thinking of going back there in sep especially for the jazz . I Agree with Huddsballetmum if u love dance there r other options. 2 yrs ago my dd only loved ballet but now she wants to do more jazz and modern. Things change especially when you are young my dd is also feeling very confused like you SP at the moment she is having a break from dance and next week we will be on hols. Good luck and follow your heart SP. x

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Hi Swan Princess - Have you ever thought about doing a degree in dance at University? 

That way you could put your passion for ballet and knowledge of the dance world to excellent use and you still get the opportunity to dance - as you would be able to 

train, choreograph and perform. There may even be the option of working collaboratively with a drama department 

 

Maybe have a look at Surrey University or Roehampton - a quick google should give you a number of options. Just a thought - and looking at what else is out there is always interesting   :) 

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Sorry - not sure why the text jumped about like that  :blink: 

 

Just a word on MT courses - have a think about how much commercial dance you want to be doing and also about the type of drama you really enjoy.

Eldest dd's course really favoured those who were strong at commercial jazz (think X factor dancers etc) and tbh there was very little drama taught (and what was taught definitely had an MT 'look' to it). Again - there are lots of courses out there and they will all vary - enjoy looking around at all the options, you've still got plenty of time. Have fun doing some research and all the best with your decisions :)  

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I think the suggestion of a Dance degree......I know for sure the course at Guildford is excellent and if this had been around when I was 16 may well have gone this route and satisfied the parents with the University whilst studying something I loved!! But I was lucky too in that I did love Languages!!

Like you I found it tough round about 15 as I loved ballet but didn't get on that well with pointe work and all the associated feet problems!! I also from 14-19 went through an excessively shy period.......adolescence and all that.....which didn't help so in fact I just suddenly gave it all up though in my case the teacher did want me to continue and was very cross with me. So I went for the academic route much welcomed by my parents though they had never been anti anti ballet just worried I wouldn't make a career out of it.

 

I have heard that Roehampton is pretty good too but don't know anyone personally who has done that course.

 

However if you think you do have a chance to get into vocational school this next year unless you wake up and suddenly decide you really have had enough of ballet then I do think its worth giving it a go......whilst it's still your passion.

 

You may get to Vocational school and feel it was worth persevering with all the difficulties and see where the training takes you even if it isn't eventually to a career on the stage......who honestly knows?

Or you may achieve Vocational school and then think well I don't want it now!! Again who knows at this point!!

 

However if you don't want the full on vocational experience I do think the Dance or even Dance/drama degree might be for you!

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Did you enjoy summer school SwanPrincess? Could you see yourself doing this everyday ..... week in, week out? Do you get "itchy feet" if you have a break from regular dancing?

 

Do you think you are apprehensive about the audition process which is giving you cold feet? I wish you all the very best for your choices this year.

 

It is so hard, I know my daughter has friends who are going to local college to do A Level courses they really don't want to do, simply because they don't know what they do want to do .......

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Hi again SP - just seen that they do a dance degree at Coventry Uni  (looking at website as middle dd wants to study photography there) am guessing Coventry Uni is not too far from you? Might be worth going to an open day?

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But do university drama courses lead to a career as an actor? I don't know. I do think that if you want to be a classical ballerina (there seems to be a bit more leeway for boys) you need to specialise in classical ballet from 16 and attend a school which specialises in classical ballet. Dancers in classical companies (certainly the female ones) very rarely come from other schools. Of course, there are more options if you are considering other types of dance.

 

I wonder why you are getting cold feet now. Is it fear because you will shortly be starting the audition process and you are afraid of failing to get a place at a vocational school? Is your teacher a bit discouraging? Wanting to prove other people wrong should *not* be part of your motivation. I question (and this is asked kindly and not in a hostile way) why dancing as part of the corps would not be enough for you. Many dancers do not progress beyond the corps (although most dancers are usually given small soloist parts from time to time in the UK companies) and many are consigned to character roles (eg King, Nurse etc) even when they are quite young. If you become a classical dancer you have no way of knowing what roles you will eventually be dancing. Dancers in training all have to accept this.

 

Personally, I think that people generally regret not trying things rather than trying things and failing. There is no shame in failure if you give something your best shot. It's obviously a decision for you (in conjunction with your family, teachers etc) but, unless you have really lost your passion, I would be inclined to apply for a classical ballet place in a vocational school; if you don't get in you can reconsider your options. Of course, if you feel that the stress and pressure of auditioning and training would be damaging to your health it is perfectly reasonable to decide that you do not wish to jeopardise your health and to go another route.

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Apart from all the wonderful advice already given I just wanted to comment that part of what is making you doubt yourself is the idea that you will never get beyond the corps. I wonder who said this to you and at what age- just because I know there have been examples of others who were told they would never make it but just decided to keep going because it was their passion, and in the end achieved far higher than had been predicted. And you will never know how high you could have gone if you bale out early. It's one of those horrible dilemmas and we are all facing it all the time (apart from those whose DKs have already 'made it'!)- is the sacrifice worth it? Will our DKs end up consigned to being third spear carrier from the left for ever after the years and years of effort and sacrifice? How can we predict whether the vast effort and funding will result in a job?

 

I think the only thing we can say is there are no certainties, so if you do keep going it has to be because you can't bear the idea of doing anything else. And with the knowledge that if at 18/21/22/24 you decide to give up because you haven't achieved at the level you wanted then you are still young enough to change - at your age I know it feels like 21 is virtual retirement age but honestly it is still early enough to start something new, and you will be welcomed anywhere because of the discipline and work ethic you have learnt from ballet.

 

With our DS we have no idea where he will end up, but we have always felt it is better to try and fail than not try at all and spend a life of regret thinking maybe you could have made it....

 

Good luck with your decision.

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This is a tough one. As a general rule, my view is that it is pretty much always better to try something, even if it doesn't work out, than it is to spend your life looking back and wondering "what if...".

However, dreams have to be tempered by reality sometimes. The hard part is deciding when to say that you have tried and that it's time to change tack. I hesitate to say "give up" or even "stop" because I don't believe for a second that deciding not to pursue a professional ballet career is in any way a failure, or that it means that you have to stop dancing. (Just look at the adult dance threads on here for evidence of that!)

Nobody who has followed your story can fail to be impressed by your tenacity S-P. You have taken plenty of knocks and bounced right back, and that is something that will stand you in good stead whatever the future holds. Determination is a great quality, but so is the ability not to become blinkered. Take advice from those who know you well, but listen to your inner voice. If it tells you to keep heading in one direction, that's great, but if it's telling you to take a turn, then remember that is also great.

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Thank you so, so much for all of your responses, I really appreciate your support.

 

I hadn't really thought about musical theatre schools, but drama school is my backup plan- if I don't get in to vocational school next year I think I would be ready to accept that ballet isn't the right career for me, and pursue my other passions. I thought that I could do a Drama degree if dance doesn't work out, but I am curious about a dance degree- what would be the career prospects afterwards?

 

Thankyou for the suggestion of trying a drama/MT Easter school, I'll definitely look into that- any recommendations?

 

Lifeafterballet, yes I really loved summer school, (and I am at another summer school this week!!) although it made me realise how intense vocational school is, which just planted that seed of doubt in my mind as to whether I would be able to cope with it every day.... I can't imagine life without dance though, and I definitely do miss it when I have days off!!

I don't think I'm apprehensive about the audition process (or, maybe my subconscious mind is already stressed about it and I don't realise?!)- I suppose really I'm stressing unnecessarily- I haven't got in yet so I don't need to worry about wether id be able to deal with the demands of vocational training!!!

 

Aileen- I suppose I am afraid of failing again; my parents aren't completely keen on the idea of a dance career, so if I don't get in this time, they want me to give up and pursue drama instead... You're right, my teacher is quite discouraging, she doesn't think I'll get in to a classical company at all- she said that if I'm very lucky I could get work on a cruise ship as a performer, but nothing more than that. My teachers always say that I have potential and a lot of passion/determination, but my physique/technique/sense of rhythm etc aren't perfect.... (Actually, my teachers at BTUK associates are the first teachers I've had who say that I have potential and talent- which makes me so desperate to improve so that I might have a chance of going to the full time school at BTUK) Hmm, I think I worded my original post wrongly (or rather, I was in a different mindset when writing it!!!!)- I would love to dance in the corps of a classical company, I agree that character roles are very satisfying to do, I actually prefer corps work to solos- however I just question whether I would achieve as much fulfilment dancing in the corps, as I would in an acting career, where I could potentially play much bigger roles....

 

This afternoon, I spoke to the therapist who has helped me through my anorexia- he helped me to see that life has a bigger plan for us, and that if things don't work out, then that's for a reason. I realised that I do want to pursue dance, because it is my passion and I can't imagine life without it- but if I don't succeed at next years audition (I think I'm just going to apply for the School of BTUK, because they've worked with me at associates and summer school, they know how much I love to dance and how determined I am, so if I don't get a place there I don't think I'll get in anywhere- advice on this theory would be appreciated!!!!) then I think I might be ready to move on to drama instead....

 

 

Thankyou for all of the advice, I really do appreciate it!!!xxxx

(Edited to correct spelling)

Edited by swanprincess
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Hello Swanprincess. I'm glad that you can air your frustrations and anxieties with your therapist and get sensible advice from the forum members here. I echo most of their comments, if you haven't got that 'need' to dance then you will most likely focus on the pain, expense and exhaustion (because these things are irrelevant when you do dance!) but if the need is there in your heart then follow it.

 

You say you want to give the gift of inspiration through dance, but you don't have to be a prima ballerina to do this! You can still inspire people and emote if you're a corps dancer, provided you're dancing work that moves you and is close to your heart. You may dream of going to vocational ballet school, but there are other programs out there like the CAT at the Northern Ballet for example that can provide decent enough ballet training to run alongside any other training you choose to do. Similarly, you will get a good dance education at Rambert, Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Trinity Laban (where I'm headed in September) and the Scottish School of Contemporary Dance and even though this isn't the traditional ballet dancer's pathway there's nothing to stop you getting out there and creating your own work and company when you graduate. Take it from someone who is just starting their professional dance career 10+ years later than the 'approved' age ;)

 

I would also suggest looking into the UK's contemporary ballet companies. Check out Chantry Dance Company for starters if you want a good example of reaching people and inspiring them through dance. Similarly Murley Dance, Hack Ballet and The Crossword Ballet. Many of these small companies audition apprentices and dancers on a project basis, yes they want to see excellent levels of technique but they also want dancers who can communicate themes, ideas and stories with their bodies and as long as you are training and trying your hardest to get the best level of tuition you can they aren't going to be so bothered about 'where' you do your training (within reason!)

 

If it really is your passion you will end up following it! So even if you do take a break from dance now I'm sure, like me, that you will find your way back to it. Good luck and trust in yourself xx

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S-P, I am not trying to put a dampener on your plan B, but I believe that a career as an actor is just as, if not more in some respects, precarious as that of a dancer.

 

You talk about being a dancer in the corps but in many of the smaller companies dancers have much more opportunity because the size of the companies precludes traditional productions that have, eg huge swathes of swans or wilis.

 

Whatever your decision do what you feel is right for you and your wellbeing.

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I must admit having the same thoughts as Janet. I know you have probably already researched but drama is also very oversubscribed. Even for a foundation year they'll be expecting lots of practical experience and post school 'life experience' as well as talent and fitting whatever looks/ talent/ style etc they prefer. Sorry don't want to sound negative, you've been given very good advice hope you manage to come to the right decision for you

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