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How do you know if your child has what it takes?


csmith263
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Hi,

 

I'm a new ballet Mum my ds who's 9 has been dancing a short while approx 3 months and he seems to be quite talented he's been put in for his first exam already and I suppose what I want to know is how do I know if he's got what it takes and encourage him to pursue his dream by getting him in to extra classes and workshops etc or encourage him to keep it as a hobby?

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I think 'has he got what it takes' is not a definite thing when you're 9. My DD is only 11, but it has all been her motivation and wanting more challenges this last year. Our job as parents is really to facilitate things (within our logistical and financial means), but not to push them faster or further than their motivation. I do have a son who is now 23, and at 9 he certainly had some very different ideas about what he wanted to do compared to how he ended up (teaching English in Korea!). So don't rush, there's plenty of time and I think you have to see if it's him who wants more. Hope that helps!

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At 9, in my humble opinion, all that truly matters is that he is enjoying himself and is getting decent tuition (so not learning lots of bad habits). That is equally important whether he ultimately pursues a career in dance or not, as either way he will benefit from a good teacher who keeps him.safe and shares the love of dance and music.

Thousands of children start ballet every year and only a tiny percentage will eventually become professional classical dancers. At 9 it is night on impossible to know who those will be, as it depends on a multitude of factors, many of which change as the years go by - puberty has a lot to answer for! So I wouldn't worry about it to be honest. It's very early days so just see how things develop. There are lots of lovely opportunities available, so if he is interested and you can manage it, let him have a go at a few different things and take it o.e step at a time. He might end up a principal in a prestigious company, or he might end up someone who has happy memories of when he danced as a boy but who does something completely different professionally, or numerous points in between. If you follow his lead and he has fun, it will not be time wasted though, whatever he ultimately does. Just go with the flow!

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I am mostly a lurker here, but agree with Cara in NZ, it really needs to be us facilitating what they want to work hard for, it has to come from them and we just need to help make things possible if it is within our financial and logistic means.

 

When my daughter told me she wanted to dance professionally at age 9 and begged me to ask her ballet teacher about it, I talked to her teacher expecting her to tell me it was not a realistic dream for her (she is very honest and wouldn't tell you a child could do something if they couldn't). But she frightened the life out of me and started me down a scary and somewhat costly road of trying to get enough ballet lessons in rural Ireland for a girl with some big dreams in her head! I guess the teacher thinks she has the facility and body shape and talent so far to at least give it a try. I won't fund any extra ballet though if my daughter isn't motivated herself. Her teacher recommended trying for Royal Ballet and POB for the experience... So we will try for summer schools and do the ROB auditon in January for the experience (good friends live near Richmond so this makes that an easy possibility...) My fluent French is not enough for me to let my just turned 12 year old try for POB lol as it would be an extremely long shot and a costly trip for just experience.

 

She still has the dream after several years and is taking as many hours with her teacher as we can and taking master classes and summer schools when she can. Who knows where the journey will take us but I love to see her passion and if she stays focused I will help her where I can, but she has to want it...it isn't my dream it is hers and if she doesn't work for it then I will be happy to see her move on other other passions. I do admit that I do love to watch her dance though!

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Well aged 9 I didn't think I would be anything else but a dancer and it all came from me not my mum or anyone else!

 

The "dream" was alive till I reached the age of 14 though I had a first reality check age 11 when failed to get into the RBS!!

 

However I was also,aware of just how talented everybody else was and knew without a doubt by then I didn't really have the right body type....at least not for ballet which was what I loved doing the most.

Perhaps I was too one track minded and should have got more into other dance styles but even though my teacher felt I had a reasonable chance at least of getting into the Rambert which was still a classical company then I decided that I didn't have what it takes and in the end it WAS the right decision for me as I'm not cut out for that steely determination to succeed in the face of strong competition which you also have to have quite a lot of to make it professionally.

 

I'm only sharing this because ......at nine you just don't know what is going to happen!! But if the enthusiasm is coming from the child then you can only go with it and see where it takes you. Who knows could end up a professional dancer or be very happy doing something else.

One thing is that Ive never lost my love of dancing even though did not have a career out of it.

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For my daughter from a very very young age she just loved the stage, as did her two brothers. The difference with her was she naturally literally came alive and was able to take on a character straight away. Off stage she was very well behaved and quite shy. In addition to musical theatre she loved ballet. Ballet won in the end and she went away to Tring at 12.

It has been extremely tough and painful at times, especially as my daughter wasn't happy at Tring but wouldn't leave, even when I encouraged her too. She just really wanted to dance. Now she has been at Central, it has still been hard but very rewarding. This is what she wanted and she knew this from an extremely young age. As someone said above as parents we were there to support her in all aspects.

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Thanks everyone I'm so new to all this it and it all seems to be moving very quickly which has freaked us out a bit I suppose I just thought he wants to do ballet so he'll go to a class each week and never thought past there but within months he's been told he's ready for an exam and maybe we should put him in this extra class and that extra class and we should think about holiday workshops in particular boys only classes etc! He's totally self motivated and is very driven and so proud that he's a boy who dances! I know it's impossible to predict the future it all just feels a bit of a whirlwind!! Lots of great advice thanks.

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Welcome to the forum csmith :)

 

There's been lots of good advice already - and yes, it's early days for you as your son has only just started.  But here's what I'd add from our own experiences.

 

My son started ballet just before he was 8 and progressed quickly and looked like he had an aptitude for it :) .  His local teacher suggested he try for RBS JAs, and that was the start of the madness for us!!  (He is now a professional ballet dancer)

 

He did NYB (National Youth Ballet) when he was 9 or 10 - that really gave him the bug for being on a big stage (as well as then getting to go on the ROH stage with the RB as a JA).

 

Definitely look out for boys only stuff - there's much more of it about these days.  Have a search on this forum - I'm sure there have been discussions before (I'll look when I get a chance).  Tring do great boys events (and a regular weekend thing I seem to remember) and the RAD often put on things for boys.  If you give us a rough idea of where you live, I'm sure people will help out with ideas on that front.

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Hi csmith and welcome to the forum.  

 

Lots of people have given you some great advice which I echo, but I wanted to tell you about my dd as she has been determined to dance since the age of 18 months when a friends older daughter taught her to point her toes.  She's now 14, will never make a classical ballet dancer ( legs not long enough) but still adores ballet and is now on the CAT scheme at Northern Contemporary and desperate to go to Rambert at 18.  

 

Whilst her vision has changed slightly, her dream of being a dancer has never shifted and her determination and motivation is as fierce as ever.  Encourage and be prepared for a costly ride, if it's what they really want to do and they show talent then children should be encouraged and supported in my opinion.

Good luck to your dancing son, I hope he has a fabulous time dancing.

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I think its worth saying that for a boy you have the luxury of waiting a little longer before jumping on the roller coaster. My DS did a once a week strictly recreational boys ballet class from around 10 yrs to about 12. He then started to do a more serious class (just because we'd moved and found a different teacher)  and upped the number of classes but still only 2-3 hrs a week. At 13 and a half he suddenly decided ballet was what he wanted to do, applied for 5 international summer schools, was accepted at his first choice (and all the others) and after attending was offered a full scholarship. So he didn't actually go to vocational school until he was 14.

He's just turned 17 and is at a standard good enough to be accepted into the Prix De Lausanne so evidently the late start hasn't held him back. I often feel it did him a lot of good to start late as he had experience of many other activities (swimming, diving, martial arts, rugby, football) and was old enough to have a good idea what he was doing when he decided to go to vocational school.

I'm not at all criticising those who start earlier- many people know exactly what they want from a much younger age- but it's nice not to feel quite as pressured to make the decision young if you don't have to :)

Edited by CeliB
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I think it's really difficult, particularly if, like me, you are not a dancer and have no experience of the dance world!  My DD showed an early talent for classical, winning lots of competitions, then went to vocational school, then studied privately with a Russian school in the UK and is now at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow.

 

My learning curve has been as steep as my DD!  And I'm still learning - looking back on the experience so far, my advice would be - find the right school and teachers.  A young dancer needs the right kind of support and nurture.  And don't be afraid to train with a range of teachers - through summer schools and additional training, for example. Support your DS through all the hard work and sacrifices - and if he is still smiling, feeling rewarded, and showing progress, then it may be worth it.

 

My approach has always been that my DD can take academic qualifications/ train for practically any profession at any point in her life, however, she can only really train to be a professional ballet dancer while she is young.  So I've chosen to support her and we'll continue to see where it takes us.

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Thanks JulieW we're from Nottingham I'll have a look for some boys workshops and take it from there see how he gets on as long as he's happy. He told me this morning he's writing to ask Father Christmas for a ballet barre tonight lol!

Hello csmith and welcome to the Forum. I hope you don`t mind but can I just advise you to exercise[if you`ll excuse the pun] caution about getting your son a ballet barre to practise at home? Practising at home,by oneself,without a teacher guiding your every position can result in a dancer [of any level] developing bad habits,regardless of whether they are standing in front of a mirror or not. Practise at home is fine for simple stretching,floor exercises,but i would be very careful about allowing him to practise unsupervised. If you go to You Tube and watch Royal Ballet Live,the daily class that was filmed,you will notice that experienced professional dancers ,many of them Principals,still receive corrections from their instructor. Might I suggest asking your son`s teacher for some stretching exercises that she thinks would be safe for your son to do unsupervised? Although she might not recommend doing any form at all until he gains more experience and becomes more aware of his body and placings/correct alignment etc. This might take some years of training first. I would advise you speak to his teacher before buying it.

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I would echo the advice above - no barre at home.  Ballet trainiing is done under the supervision of a teacher.  Even knowledgable/professional  dancers take a class with a teacher.  This includes stretching and trying to duplicate at home what he did in class.. 

 

It is not possible for us to see ourselves in three dimensions and it is not possible for us to know without being constantly shown and corrected how to "place" and align the body within those dimensions.  The body easily learns incorrectly and then one is faced with the more arduous task of unlearning what is not correct.

 

Part of the learning process for the dancer - is patiently working on the building blocks which eventually come together as a whole.  That doesn't mean he/she can't enjoy putting on some music and simply moving around to it - freely - having fun.  

 

At 9 yrs old, it is important that he learn these building blocks which constitute the structure of dance - but also continue to simply enjoy moving. 

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I was thinking of this thread on my way home from the school pick up tonight, when my own 9 year old son was working out which year's Olympics he would be representing Great Britain at hockey in! Of course he probably never will, but nevertheless I shall be shivering on the sidelines at death o'clock this weekend, and many weekends to come. And when all said and done, the 2024 British Olympic team will be made up of someone's sons won't it? If we don't let them try, we will never know, and whatever the outcome, there is a great deal to be learned and enjoyed on the way. Every time I go to hockey though, I vow never to moan about ballet again. It may cost a fortune and take up vast amounts of time, but at least I can still feel my hands and feet at the end of DD's dance lessons! (Scuttles off to ebay in search of thermal undies....)

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Hello csmith and welcome to the Forum. I hope you don`t mind but can I just advise you to exercise[if you`ll excuse the pun] caution about getting your son a ballet barre to practise at home? Practising at home,by oneself,without a teacher guiding your every position can result in a dancer [of any level] developing bad habits,regardless of whether they are standing in front of a mirror or not. Practise at home is fine for simple stretching,floor exercises,but i would be very careful about allowing him to practise unsupervised. If you go to You Tube and watch Royal Ballet Live,the daily class that was filmed,you will notice that experienced professional dancers ,many of them Principals,still receive corrections from their instructor. Might I suggest asking your son`s teacher for some stretching exercises that she thinks would be safe for your son to do unsupervised? Although she might not recommend doing any form at all until he gains more experience and becomes more aware of his body and placings/correct alignment etc. This might take some years of training first. I would advise you speak to his teacher before buying it.

Thanks for all your advice I wouldn't even have considered that he shouldn't practice at home looks like I've got as much to learn as he does! Lol!!

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My DD (age 11, three classes a week, RAD Grade 3 but going into IF next year) is certainly expected to practise at home, especially coming up to exams. She does mostly stretching for flexibility, calf raises, Theraband work on her feet to strengthen them. But also daily arabesques on demi-pointe and holding releve on demi-pointe in fifth to build strength. And her competition solos rely on practice at home as they're only worked on for her 30-minute weekly private lesson. Of course they need to be careful, and I keep an eye on her alignment and technique, but I think it is perhaps over-cautious to say they shouldn't practise at home. I also borrow our church hall to allow her more space sometimes. They have no time to experiment in class really!

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Sure, thequays – I don't know that I could ever justify the expense of a barre at home anyway! But my DD does simple pliés and tendus to warm up (using a fireguard for support). I know we all want to help cssmith, and it is still early days for her DS, but I thought saying 'no practice at home' seemed a little drastic?

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I think there are now quite a few boys only workshops/master classes etc.

 

Ballet theatre UK for example ......based in Hinckley ......have only today advertised on Facebook for a special class for boys in February 2015 unfortunately that one is for post 14 year olds but I'm sure there are others around for younger pupils too.

 

There are of course the Associate classes run by some of the bigger schools such as the Royal Ballet and Elmhurst etc. You audition for these in your own area and then if chosen attend the class run nearest to where you live.....eg they are not all in London!!!

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Sure, thequays – I don't know that I could ever justify the expense of a barre at home anyway! But my DD does simple pliés and tendus to warm up (using a fireguard for support). I know we all want to help cssmith, and it is still early days for her DS, but I thought saying 'no practice at home' seemed a little drastic?

 

 

There is no such thing as a simple plié or tendu.  Both are very important, difficult to do well,  and basic to the structure of ballet. The dancer will study these elements every day he/she dances and will still be learning to do them well on the last day they dance.

 

Balanchine often said tendu was the most difficult and important of all the ballet vocabulary.  

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There is no such thing as a simple plié or tendu.  Both are very important, difficult to do well,  and basic to the structure of ballet. The dancer will study these elements every day he/she dances and will still be learning to do them well on the last day they dance.

 

Balanchine often said tendu was the most difficult and important of all the ballet vocabulary.  

Quite agree with you, Anjuli. But DD's private lesson teacher (who trains RAD examiners)  was telling me only last week that parents need to think of ballet as they would if their child was learning a musical instrument; that regular practice in the basics (equivalent to scales and arpeggios) is vital for progress. Her complaint was that kids just turn up to class and do nothing in between. So I guess we are aiming for a happy balance between no practice and too much/risky practice?

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I think the practice is important to be done with the right coaching, We are not ballet experts and if I had been teaching my son how to Plie, I dread to think of the result! even if it was just letting him practice.

 

So our DS went to more classes. We did lots of research - including lots of help from on this site - and gradually adding to the classes.

 

but he did ballet, tap and modern from early on and I think that variety has benefited him now.

 

There are a number of associate classes and summer schools available. Audition for those and if he does have it, he will get picked up (and you will also build friendships that will last years). Remember though, that there are a number of children who do associate classes that never go to vocational school as well. Things change over time as you will see on many threads on this forum. Getting onto some boys only classes is essential though.

 

It should all be about enjoyment. if your son is enjoying dance, then that is great. It should not be about what he might do in the future, but whether he is enjoying it now.

The analogy I always and often use is with football.

 

Our sons can't all play like David Beckham - although they might. They can't all play for Barcelona- although they might. But in the meantime, HUGE numbers of boys/men play football every week and love playing it without playing at that level. If they are a potential Beckham, then they do get picked up at the football equivalent of associate schemes, and the training needed is provided.

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Please also take your son to see live Ballet and dance performances. You can also get him dvds and there is a wealth on you tube but a live performance is I think best.

 

It staggers me how many dance students just dont make the effort to go even if the opportunities arise. I do of realise that sometimes where you live is a factor.

 

Dont worry too much about whether he has potential, the very fact that he loves it is a great starting point for following all the advice already give.

 

Be aware though that if he does get serious it can all become a bit of a rollercoaster so enjoy being at ground level for now and get him to a Theatre. Maybe a trip to a Ballet for Christmas?

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I'm not sure husband took him to class last week and came home saying his exam is in December and as my husbands not one for details he was rather vague! I shall find out more when I take him! He's only just started and hasn't done any previously so I am assuming grade 1!

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I think that with most children they can be recognised as talented but it's never going to be clear whether they MIGHT have what it takes to dance professionally until they try for places at vocational schools/competitive associate schemes/competitive summer schools/youth ballet companies. Even then it's not a given that they have what it takes as of course they can be assessed out of vocational schools and associate schemes and gaining a place on a competitive summer school or in a youth ballet could be a one-off.

 

Obviously a child can be considered the most talented in their dance school but may not be one of the most talented in their area. A child may be very talented but lacking in the confidence to show that off in auditions; sometimes that resolves itself with experience and increasing determination. Those children who are happy to push themselves forward, often those who are seasoned performers in festivals, may do better in some auditions than the talented but shy children, even though they may be equally talented.

 

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that I don't think it is usually clear to anyone whether a child definitely has what it takes to dance professionally because there are so many unknowns in terms of their talent in comparison to the rest of the world rather than their dance school or festival circuit, in terms of their eventual adult height, physical facility and body shape (and avoidance of major injury) and in terms of their continuing determination and motivation. For some children lack of resources or parental support in their pursuing dance as a profession will be a deciding factor. For others they may be equally passionate about and gifted in music or sport or academic studies and decide to pursue these instead of dance.

 

At 9 I would try not to worry about what the future holds for your son - if he dreams of a career in ballet then let him take every possible opportunity to further his training - and just enjoy his dancing and the enjoyment it brings him. If he is dances professionally, that is wonderful - but if he doesn't then quality dance training is never wasted and teaches so many life lessons along with leaving him with wonderful memories.

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I think that's a great summary, Legseleven. The only thing I would add is that when 'justifying' this business, I compare it with having a child who is talented in a musical instrument, perhaps piano. You wouldn't say 'Oh, they probably won't be a concert pianist so we won't bother to take things further.' You'd say 'Let's support them to go as far as they can, for as long as they need us.' That's our approach anyway!

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Some children may show a great deal of talent from a young aged and are seen as the ones to watch. However quite often these children can peak in their teens. You can have the child who always seemed to be in the background, picked last for shows not doing so well at festivals blossoming at around 15/16 years of age. I have seen this happen time and time again. Children should be encouraged in whatever they are doing but as parents we need to be careful that it doesnt take over the childs life.

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I am not a big fan of festivals. I think they have a place for stage experience and I know most kids love them, but I dont believe they should be taken as any marker of talent one way or another. Dances naturally play to a students strengths depending on the skill and dedication of the teacher. Children develop at such varying rates that often what looks like talent, is just strength, that another child has not yet developed. When that strength comes in you have a completely different dancer. You can clearly see some lovely dancers in festivals but you just have to sit tight, and wait. Even getting into vocational school at 16 is no guarantee - ok the odds are looking a bit better but calmness, a level head, hard work and a whole heap of luck are required to even get you to that first professional audition.

 

I have always told my son he has potential, I can't say more than that and I have never ever told him he's wonderful or brilliant. I sometimes feel sorry for him that I can't say those things especially when I hear other mothers praising their children to the hilt. But I believe I would be doing him a disservice. The better he gets, the more potential I see, how that potential develops, what he does with it, only time will tell.

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