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ggsmith

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Reply with quote  #1 

I'll admit it, I've crossed the line into crazy dance mom territory.

Every year there has been a dividing line for who can audition for certain parts, you know, the good ones, and every year it is the level above DD.  They just keep moving the bar.  (Or barre, I guess, this is a ballet school.)  She moves up to the next level, and the required level goes up.

The AD will be doing original choreography to portray a well known story this spring.

The cast of characters is small, then there is a nice corps group that comes and goes throughout the ballet, usually opening the show with a beautiful intricate piece and performing in interludes between scenes in other productions.

And then there is a group of inanimate objects that come to life at some point in the play (at least I hope they get to move) while cute pre-ballet kids skip around dressed as insects.  This is not part of the original story or any version of the ballet that I have seen and is really a rather odd thing to add to this particular story.  I predicted wedding party extras or maybe forest animals frolicking in the background during the woodland scenes.

This group was chosen strictly by height, and includes girls from 3 different levels.  Although some of the girls have been on pointe for several years, one just got her first pair of pointe shoes this month so it is obviously not a pointe role.  It would bother me a lot less if they'd grouped the dancers by ability and I thought there was a chance they'd get some sort of interesting choreography. 

I'm beyond frustrated with the live scenery roles twice a year while girls only slightly older have been getting multiple performance opportunities and "real" parts throughout the year, every year, for the past three years.  I'd say at least we'll see her face this time but there is no way of knowing what kind of costume they could come up with and what they might end up wearing on top of their heads or holding in front of or around their bodies.  The girls were speculating about costumes in the lobby and I reminded them that there were "x" costumes from a few years ago that they might get to wear.  DD remarked that they wouldn't be able to wear them because they are tutus.  "No one wants to see our legs, Mom."  How sad! She really has beautiful legs and is developing some nice lines.  This is of course a little less true of the girls a few levels below her but they aren't badly trained dancers with bent knees and sickled feet that you'd want to hide.

DD seems to think it is just a matter of time, and eventually she will get her shot at the dancing roles.  I think she is wasting her time and the whole company and school could implode before I get to see her on stage without a latex mask or an ankle-length skirt "dancing" behind the real action.  We are on the road for over an hour on Saturday to and from rehearsals that run 20 -30 minutes.  I'd like her to continue to take class at the school during the week (Saturday class is no longer available to dancers on her level anyway) and join a student performance company a distance away that rehearses on the weekends.  She seems to think I'm trying to ruin "her career" just by taking her over for an audition class and a chat with the director of the student program.

We are talking about a small regional company that no one has heard of, BTW not NYCB.  Also my daughter is 12.

I'd say we've both lost it at this point.  

What do you think?  Butt out (its her life after all) or play the "Mom" card (hey, I'm paying for all this)?

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Mom2Girls

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Reply with quote  #2 
Every year there has been a dividing line for who can audition for certain parts, you know, the good ones, and every year it is the level above DD.  They just keep moving the bar.  (Or barre, I guess, this is a ballet school.)  She moves up to the next level, and the required level goes up.

You know, it could be that they really love the girls in the level above and will just utilize them as much as possible until they grow. It happens, unfortunately.

Our parts always lined up with the level (plus or minus a few from other levels) and dd has been doing the same things for a couple years now, but the girls in the level below who would have had those parts in earlier years? They still don't have them. They like a certain group of girls who are experienced in those parts and aren't tall enough for bigger roles. That said, true dancing roles started for dd and her group by 10.

There is always size. DD12 gets to understudy the pointe roles but they won't give her one because she's still child-size. I saw a picture on our student company's IG account recently where dd was filling in for someone at a stage rehearsal and it hit me how obvious it was that she could absolutely not have actually gotten that role this year because of size...she just stood out too much. Could she have handled it from a technical standpoint? Probably, but I don't know for certain.

For our spring ballet, dd12 does have several roles--all lots of dancing. One in particular is a fast and challenging piece with dd and 3 other girls. This is the first time a part she was cast in is actually challenging. However, there are also other girls who can be in their teens and still standing around or just acting; these girls are usually either new to our studio (and their technique isn't there yet) or from another studio (and again, their technique isn't what AD wants.)

I think your dd is right--it is a matter of time and she is doing hers right now. I know it can be so frustrating, though. 


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heidi459

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Reply with quote  #3 
I don't know that I have any great advice, I just wanted to pop on & say that you definitely don't strike me as one who is about to fall into the rabbit hole.  Your sense of humor shines through in this post & suggests that you have not lost perspective.  Have no fear [smile]

Other than that, all I can really add is that I am definitely a fan of "mother knows best". Especially when there may be something big on the line (a long term goal like a potential career) & mom is paying the big bucks. It's very natural for kids to not want to rock the boat but, imo anyway, it's an important experience for them to have many times over in their young lives.  BTDT.  So if I were you? I'd keep the conversation going, strongly encourage her to at least explore other options, & if, during the course of that exploration, you find that there are other opportunities that you strongly believe would better serve her needs/goals (even if SHE doesn't see it right now) pull the mom card.  

Like I said.. BTDT.   And have quite a few friends who, now that their dancers are older, wish they'd had the wherewithal to do the same.... back when their dancers were younger & the writing seemed to be on the wall but the thought of change scared the bejeezuz out of everyone.  

Good luck!
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cynmckee

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Reply with quote  #4 
I think oftentimes kids get seen a specific way and it is hard for them to break out of level that they have always been placed.  Sometimes the teachers can only see what they have always seen.  That's when it can be beneficial to move to a place where your child can be seen with a fresh eye  Things are not always greener on the other side of the fence, though...so do your homework.  I would also talk to the current SO and explain your frustrations as calmly as possible.  Good luck!
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tendumom

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Reply with quote  #5 

If I didn't know better, I would think that your dd dances at my dd's former studio. 

She not only faced that phenomenon, but the level below her seemed to get whatever goal she was waiting far sooner.  She was also at a school that did original ballets, complete with dancers as insects, weather, etc. Things that may not have played a significant role at all in the story, but it worked. Those ballets were beautiful. Dd certainly paid her dues in the corps there. 

We are one of those that waited too long to move. I did always try to keep an eye out on whatever else was happening in the dance scene locally, but I remained convinced that the school was the best thing around. I drank the Koolaid and had trouble seeing what was not quite ideal. Admittedly, there were some things that I did see but just didn't think would affect my child. In hindsight, the change should have occurred a year before it actually happened. I think many of us struggle with change, but it really can be worthwhile. I say play the Mom card. It doesn't hurt to investigate. Perhaps, dial it back. Take her to see the other group's performance. You can both see what they really look like.

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diglass

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Reply with quote  #6 
I must agree with Heidi and tendumom. 

This type of thing happened all the time at my daughters studio and we over analyzed everything. The rules were always changing! Then one year we were told that our daughter would be bumped DOWN a class level because she had not attended the SI! (My daughter was probably the most technically advanced dancer in her age group, but very petite, and previously the SO favorite!)That was the end of that!

It never hurts to keep an eye on other options in your area. I agree with at least checking out those other options.  
To add to what the others have suggested. It may be time for a new teacher. Change was not always easy for my child but on several occasions she was like " Mom, I really like the way X teaches. She explains things differently and it just makes more sense!"
A change may open new doors, new inspiration, more opportunities, who knows.

You have to do what is best for your child.  

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Bonbonmama

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Reply with quote  #7 
Another "BTDT" here.... The constantly "moving barre" can be sooo frustrating for both dancers and parents. When you know full well that every previous year Level C was allowed to take the special master classes and other perks until, you guessed it, your child is now finally in Level C.... Happened with a few things at DDs previous studio. Add to that the fact that my DD (like Mom2girls) was very petite, so she was "stuck" in more childlike roles for much longer than her same ability but more mature looking friends.
At some point, I totally get it. There are perhaps years where the girls of certain levels aren't quite up to par with the previous year's. It can happen. If you then have a new crop of very talented girls heading up behind, then it becomes very easy to feel as if the entire level is being ignored and almost discarded...
In our case we ended up changing studios for a multitude of reasons. DDs current studio does seem to value her more but even so there is always a certain hierarchy. Last year she was in the middle of her level, this year she is clearly one of the top dancers in her level and casting in everything reflects that. I'm anticipating that if she moves up to the next level next year, she will be back to the middle/lower group and have to work her way up to the top tier again. [smile]
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melissa745

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Reply with quote  #8 
This happened in a local theatre group here in town.

We found a new one. One that chooses based on talent instead of how old they are.

And it's so much better. No, my DD may not get the part she wants, but she watches rehearsals and realizes that it is because the other kid is so much more talented and it gives her something to strive for.
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Annaliesey

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Reply with quote  #9 
I'd say you need to give her a gentle but firm shove in the right direction [smile]

It doesn't sound like it clashes or conflicts with too much at the existing studio whereas there are more available on the weekends at the other studio. I think it's worth trying it out at least and this is what I've been encouraging my 11yr old dd to do .... at least try things out, then compare and decide.  

For what it's worth, I hate the whole height thing and have a problem with kids working hard and training in a dance genre only for taller dancers to get more opportunities. Drives me nuts. I can understand when it's auditioning or working for a professional dance company but not when it's a training facility with a training purpose. I believe it's the training and talent that should be showcased, and not, a professional performance where choreo might be based around height. 

Why shouldn't short people dance up a level or have the same challenges? I'm sure the audience at a dance school show would rather see a show that properly showcases progress and development rather than the same height woodland animals or insects [smile]

And what's the comment about legs all about? That seems quite negative whether it's to do with body lines or body image? 
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JojosDanceMom

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Reply with quote  #10 
I think there are all sorts of reasons why this type of thing happens.  Typically with ballet performances it's all about who fits the costume.  Maybe the level above just fit the costumes for those roles longer than usual so they held onto those parts longer.  But you also have to consider the levels above them.  If those levels weren't letting go of their parts yet, then the level above your DD wouldn't either, hence your DD's level not moving up.

A good example of that was my DD's class at the ballet school where she used to dance.  There was a combination of things going on, her class was pretty advance in their training as compared to the classes behind them, but there was also a big age gap between her class and the class above her.  So there may have been a couple of girls closer to DD's class's age, but most of them graduated 3-4 years before her.  Because her class was more advanced, combined with the lack of older dancers, DD's class, at 12 and 13 years old, where given parts typically reserved for the 16+ age group.  I'm sure the class behind them got bumped up to fill those parts DD's class would typically hold, but they probably anticipated progressing out of those parts in the normal 1-2 dance seasons.  This wasn't the case, though, because there was really no place else for DD's class to go.  They got catapulted to the highest parts a student could have, but rather than having those parts for only their junior and senior years of high school (which was the norm), they held them from 8th or 9th grade through their senior year of high school.  Which meant the level below them held their parts for much longer than normal as well.  I'm sure they probably felt frustrated that they were not getting moved up... but it was really only because the older girls had no place else to go.
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ggsmith

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Reply with quote  #11 
In our case its an AD whose dream has come true.  She's built the adult professional company enough so that there are paid professionals for all the "starring" roles and enough company, apprentice, and trainee dancers to fill the minor roles on down to the corps.  The kids are just filler at this point, with the parents filling in the seats at the performances.  The thing is, the director is creating original choreography.  She changes some of the Nutcracker choreography each year, and the spring ballet is either completely new or a reproduction of one of her originals.  Most of DD's fellow inanimate objects were cast in a role for Nutcracker that was re-choreographed this year.  It went from an entry-level pointe role to a non-dancing role.  The girls literally walked about on stage in slippers and eventually stood in place and did simple arm movements, much to their embarrassment.  I wish I were exaggerating.  Most of them have been in pointe class for 2 years.  I wasn't surprised that some of the girls did not return to the studio in January, but the AD seems oblivious.  I expect a similar dance for the inanimate objects this spring.  There really is no reason the AD can't group the students by skill and have them perform a dance using the skills they've mastered in class, or give the students a separate performance opportunity where they get to actually dance.  Regarding the "legs" comment:  DD noticed that the costumes keep getting longer.  Her costume in the spring was ankle length.  The girls in that Nutcracker dance wore ankle-length dresses and walked through "clouds" generated by a fog machine.  They could have worn combat boots and no one in the audience would have been able to tell.

On a positive note:  DD is enthusiastic about attending a workshop at ballet school on the other side of the state during spring break.  We just heard about it from another dance family.  Perhaps I can get her to be open-minded about the local options...

It is always wonderful to get feedback from other parents who've BTDT.  My thanks to you all for your input!
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JojosDanceMom

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Reply with quote  #12 
I think, when the ballet school is associated with a professional company, the spots that the dancers from the school take are always like this. One of the coveted roles for the 9-12/13 year olds in the Nutcracker at the ballet schools DD attended was a party girl. It's the young girls attending the party scene in the first act. While there is some basic dancing... lots of tendus.... most of it is character a role. The only parts on pointe for the dancers from the school are Clara, Clara's friends (there were two of them) and the Suger Plum Fairy's attendants (there were 6 of them). These parts were reserved for the junior company (16-18 year olds) who have been on pointe for 4 or more years. Everything else, from Sugar Plum to the corps was company members. Occasionally one or two Lucy seniors will also be allowed to join the corps in snow and/or flowers, but this was not common.
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ggsmith

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Reply with quote  #13 
The irony is that when DD started taking classes at the ballet school one of the draws was the performance opportunities.  At 8 going on 9 she had at minimum 5 separate events she could take part in, and her dances were more demanding then than they are now at 12.  Certain children were also invited to perform for tea parties and community events like the Great American Teach In.  I guess I am just slow to accept the changes.
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Mittenmom3

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Reply with quote  #14 
Another btdt and I did pull the mom card and strongly encouraged dd14 to really think long and hard if she wanted to continue on at the ballet studio knowing that its 15-20 hours per week in the studio for rehearsals, classes, etc. and she STILL might not move up to the corps roles. She wisely decided, without much nudging from me, that she can still dance at a high level, get her ballet/pointe classes and have time left over to do other things. We did end up changing studios. Dd does not regret it and her skills are really improving.

At our last studio, dd14s group normally had 3+ solid, interesting dance numbers per ballet. Ample stage time. Last year, nutcracker was fine and her group even had a dance en pointe. The spring ballet, however, something went awry. Not really sure what happened, but dd's group was inexplicably "demoted" to 2 dances, 1 being 1.5 minutes long and in character shoes. They danced less than 10 minutes in a 2 hour long ballet. The remainder of the time, they stood on stage, in the background, moving an arm, did a bit of acting and that's it. The groups above and below had 3-5 real dances. The girls were devastated; us parents furious. Never did receive any explanation. Ironically, the same thing is happening to the same group level for this years spring ballet. Perhaps it happened in other years too, but dd wasn't in that group so I wasn't aware.

I could understand this if it were a professional or even pre professional company, but it is not. There is one paid professional dancer that plays the male leads. All 64 other dancers are students, aged 8-18. IMO, there was no good reason to single that group out. They're all good, solid intermediate dancers. For some reason, the AD tends to ignore them or doesn't like the dances they typically would have.

Anyway, all this to say that I completely support paying your dues in dance, but the arbitrary moving target or barre is too frustrating for me or dd to endure. I also think exploring other options can't hurt! [smile]
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