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An Agony Aunt talks ballet
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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed May 03, 2000 1:23 pm ]
Post subject:  An Agony Aunt talks ballet

The Washington Post 'Agony Aunt' addresses a parent's concerns about their talented ballet danceing daughter. Comments?<P> <A HREF="" TARGET=_blank></A> <BR>

Author:  grace [ Wed May 03, 2000 5:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: An Agony Aunt talks ballet

WOAH!<P>i wonder, firstly, whether anyone who writes for the washington post might have something to say to educate this columnist???<P>thanks for this, stuart - though i must say i feel more like writing direct to the columnist, than just discussing it here! Image<P>BTW, there's a printer-friendly version in case you need to quote bits of her article in your post here - maybe we can send the columnist THIS THREAD, people, so get your pens out, and start expressing yourself! Image<BR><p>[This message has been edited by grace (edited May 05, 2000).]

Author:  Michael Montgomery [ Wed May 03, 2000 5:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: An Agony Aunt talks ballet

This person is sick and should get a life (sounds like her daughter is trying desperately hard to get just that!)<P>Honestly - "I think too much ballet is unhealthy and a form of child abuse".<BR>What is this? Informed? Intelligent?<BR>The most rampantly ignorant and irresponsible piece of dance journalism I've seen printed.<P>Go for the jugular Grace, she shouldn't be allowed to get away with it! <BR> <P><p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited May 03, 2000).]

Author:  grace [ Thu May 04, 2000 9:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: An Agony Aunt talks ballet

OK, here goes (big intake of breath...). <P>after my initial knee-jerk reaction, like yours Michael, and like Intuviel's at Ballet Talk, i have to say that i have a lot of sympathy for this lady's point of view...<P>BUT - whether or not her advice applies in THIS particular student's case, DEPENDS ENTIRELY on whether the dance student has genuine professional potential, which NONE OF US (especially the columnist) is in any position to assess.<P>being dancers, around here, we see it from the point of view of the dancer, knowing the realities of the dancer's life...<P>in case anyone, including the columnist, can't be bothered getting to the end of my tirade, i would like to draw your attention to a quote from ann woolliams, ballet master teacher, who said "the body won't wait".<P>in other words, training for the dance profession simply HAS to be when you are young. the body HAS to be trained when it's maleable, and when the energy is there.<P>the brain CAN be trained later (if one HAS to make a choice) - but these days, responsible teachers DON'T sacrifice one element of a dance student's life for the other. <P>the intelligent well-educated dancer makes a better company team-member and a finer creative or performing artist.<P>so, from THAT perspective, here are Excerpts and my comments:-<BR>_____________________________________________<P>The article is titled "Moderating a Young Dancer's Life", by Marguerite Kelly, Wednesday, May 3, 2000 , for The Washington Post.<BR>_____________________________________________<P>"An intense single-minded pursuit can suck the air right out of a child's life."<P>- i suppose that may be possible, but what about the JOY that comes with pursuing a passion?<P>"Such intensive ballet must also be putting serious financial pressure on the rest of you and it must require a lot of driving. A child<BR>shouldn't put her family through so many hoops unless she is very good and very committed."<P>this is the crux of it. SHE MAY BE!!!<P>what then, ms. kelly? fact is, it DOES put a family thru hoops (financially, time-wise, etc) to pursue ANY activity which is as demanding as preparation for a dance career.<P>as a teacher i see this, and advise moderate balance in these student's family lives. i think it's regrettable when other aspects of social life, for example, are lost - but there are only so many hours in a day, and, these days, we all prioritise (any) career preparation very highly in young people.<P>re "Call the head of the best and biggest ballet school in your area " -HA! the biggest is not necessarily the best - in fact i will be so bold as to say that MY school, which is tiny, and is by far the smallest school in the area, is the best (IF one seeks a career in ballet) - that's not bragging, it's a fact! Image (if you want other things, then it's NOT "the best".) a school can be small for many reasons, including the teacher's desire to work with only the best pupils! (other factors apply in my case).<P>"cancel any performances between September and June" - in other words, all year, except during (northern) summer holidays! <P>obviously the reason here is to prioritise schoolwork. therefore the underlying assumption must be that schoolwork is more important, i.e. that schoolwork will provide this girls' career, whereas in fact (who knows?) she MAY be hopeless at school, and really good at ballet!<P>the columnist is assuming too much.<P>"few high school ballet dancers are ever invited to join a professional company.": this is true - but she MAY be one of these few.<P>"This training hasn't been a waste, however" - no indeed. <P>there are studies which show that the highly motivated dance student with professional aspirations learns a self-discipline, work ethic and team commitment which serves them well in all areas, for the rest of their lives, and also that the physical activity of dance offsets the mental activity of academic subjects to the benefit of achievement in both areas.<P>"She can go back to a more strenuous schedule when she finishes high school" and "She will decide what to do when she's grown" : <P>if you deny her the chance to train seriously in dance, AT THIS AGE, it will be TOO LATE when she finishes high school, and when as an adult she is 'allowed' to decide what she wants to do, a dance career will be out of the question.<P>if she is one of us who absolutely HAS to dance, this ruins her life.<P>sure, this is an emotional statement - but that's how it feels. most people in dance are absolutely DRIVEN to be there, in whatever capacity. the rewards simply aren't there financially or otherwise, it's a real gut-level NEED to express oneself this way...suppressing such an instinct is harsh and has lifelong effects.<P>"I think too much ballet is unhealthy" - too much of ANYTHING is unhealthy - but HOW MUCH is too much? DEPENDS - on the student (as above).<BR>_____________________________________________<P>OK guys, i may have disappointed you by being the voice of reason, if you want to say more, feel free - and ms. kelly's email is Image<P>yes, this IS the longest post i have ever made! Image<BR>

Author:  Azlan [ Thu May 04, 2000 10:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: An Agony Aunt talks ballet

Wait till you guys see the movie Center Stage about ballet students...

Author:  trina [ Fri May 05, 2000 2:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: An Agony Aunt talks ballet

I am going to respond quickly to this--as I have to go teach my own ballet classes!..I guess the bottom line is two-fold:<P>-does this student dancer have the potential/talent to pursue ballet as a career?-seeking second and third opinions about the dancer from established professional teachers should be sought on this, as opinions vary<P>-does this student have the hunger/desire to be a professional dancer (ballet, I assume).this is critically important..if they do, all the sacrifice and demands will be "worth it". Or do they want to have dance as a recreational activity..this is a VERY important distinction...and one that should be made, ultimately, I must emphasize, by the dancer herself<P>The naked truth guys, is that if someone wants to be ballet dancer, you are going to lead a relatively sheltered, "un-balanced" existence..that's just the reality..the demands are there. I'm not saying unhealthy, just very demanding. You can always go to college, get your degree and have other careers later. Or go into other areas of dance: modern, musical theatre, teaching, whatever.<P>[This message has been edited by trina (edited May 05, 2000).]<p>[This message has been edited by trina (edited May 05, 2000).]

Author:  grace [ Fri May 05, 2000 4:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: An Agony Aunt talks ballet

i agree with that, trina.<P>i'd like to add, though, that many many pursuits -maybe even MOST or ALL demanding pursuits- ARE 'sheltered' (from other aspects of life) or 'unbalanced' in one way or another...<P>we just have to make our choices in life...and as you say, each individual needs to make their OWN.

Author:  grace [ Sat May 06, 2000 4:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: An Agony Aunt talks ballet

just for the record, i have emailed this thread to the columnist, marguerite kelly.<P>so if anyone else wants to speak up, better get in quick if you want her to see your views...<P>over at ballet talk, someone called samba has mentioned knowing this lady, and offers some insights into her perspective, and her usual thorough researching of a topic, etc. interesting - you may want to check it out.

Author:  Intuviel [ Sun May 07, 2000 10:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: An Agony Aunt talks ballet

Here are my thoughts on the subject (they're fairly similar to Grace's) from my original post over on Ballet Alert (if anyone cares to read them Image). I also sent this in the form of a letter to Ms. Kelly, and I await her response.<P>As a fifteen~year~old girl who spends a great deal of time at the ballet studio myself...<P>I'm thinking of writing a letter to Ms. Kelly. After I read that article, I was so mad I could hardly see straight. For one thing, having teenagers spend 20 hours a week at a ballet studio is hardly comparable to raping or beating the child. Besides, if her daughter didn't want to be a dancer, she'd<BR>quit. Obviously, the girl enjoys the lessons and wants to be there. Therefore, I really cannot see how the teacher is "abusing" the child simply by setting standards for ballet technique at her school. <P>Of course ballet dancers have to start very young and practice a great deal to make it. So do cellists, concert pianists, and opera singers. Are piano teachers to be considered "child abusers," too? It seems that if Ms. Kelly had her way, there would be very little in the way of the fine performing arts in<BR>the world (I say "fine performing arts" to distinguish opera and ballet from musical theatre, et cetera). <P>As for Ms. Kelly's statement that her daughter "is missing out on too many activities, too many friendships, and too much sleep," well, not only do I find the activities my school has to offer uninteresting (I do not enjoy chess, and running hurts my knees) but I have plenty of friends at ballet. I make many more friends each summer, many of whom I keep in contact, though they live far away. I could fill a house with the friends I have. Granted, some dancers are shy, and loners, but many of<BR>them like it that way and would be loners whether they danced or not. Ballet gives them a non~intimidating way to express themselves. And sleep!? My younger sister does absolutely no activities besides go to school and maybe a friend's house or a school dance in the evening, and she has so much homework that she is up until at least 11:30 each night, and usually later. And she's just 13. It's going to get worse. We go to a New York City public school. Now, my sister is extremely<BR>gifted academically, and is taking some challenging classes. But they all fit into her school schedule (nothing extracurricular) and her classmates all have the same problem. She's more in danger of burning out than I am, IMO. I am fortunate in that I only go to school in the mornings (8 am~12 pm) and dance the rest of the day. My ballet school is extremely rigourous in what it requires of students (besides ballet, we have classes in music~~piano lessons and singing~~choreography, history of dancing, theory, and dance notation~~Stepanov system) but I am often in bed before my sister. <P>Ms. Kelly suggests that parents of dancers make sure their children get enough rest and make good grades. That's fine. I sleep 8 hours a night and have a 4.0 GPA. That's much better than most so~called "normal" kids at my school. And some children just don't learn as quickly as others, and their grades wouldn't be good no matter what they did. If parents are worried about their children's<BR>grades, they should probably have their learning skills evaluated first, rather than automatically cut back their extracurricular activities (if they participate in any). Ms. Kelly also tells parents to "cancel any performances between September and June, even if she has to drop back a level. This decision will seem harsh to your daughter, but it's better for her to have a more balanced life now than to pursue a career she thinks she may want later, particularly since few high school ballet dancers are ever invited to join a professional company." I can say with certainty that if a dancer has to drop back a level in her dancing, there is absolutely no way she will ever be invited to join a professional dance company, whereas if she gives it 100%, there is at least a chance. I can understand how too many performances would not necessarily be good for a child. But I can't think of a single ballet studio that would drop a child a level back simply because their parents wouldn't let them perform more than twice a year. And frankly, most ballet dancers I know are extremely balanced people, much more so<BR>than other children, because ballet dancers have direction and discipline and focus. Other kids take drugs, go to clubs, drink, and/or become pregnant, but ballet dancers know what they want in life and they will not do a thing that could possibly get in the way of that vision. The ones who do don't make it. <P>"The training hasn't been a waste, however. She can go back to a more strenuous schedule when she finishes high school or go into modern dance, jazz, tap, musicals, or folk dancing later." <P>Please. By the end of high school, it will be far too late. If you don't join a company by age 18, you're pretty much out of the ballet world. And after one has done nothing but ballet, it is extremely difficult to train one's body to do jazz or modern dancing. Tap is even worse because the weight must be on<BR>the heels, and a ballet dancer's entire life consists of standing with her weight placed forward. And musicals? What if she can't sing? <P>"She will decide what to do when she's grown, but you decide what she can do right now."<P>All right. There are many, many dancers out there who have gone through ballet school with the possibility that they could become professional, and then decided that it was not for them and dropped out. They made the right decision for them, and I applaud that. But without giving ballet everything, they never even would have had the slightest chance of success. And most of them do<BR>not regret the years they spent as dancers, hoping to someday become professional. In fact, dancing is usually an extremely difficult thing to give up, even when it becomes clear that one is not going to make it. <P>And finally...<P>Why is it that when boys spend their lives on the football field or on the basketball court, they're considered normal, healthy people, but when a girl starts spending too much time at the ballet studio because she is progresssing well, it's "child abuse?" The chances that a boy will become a professional football or baseball player are just as slim as those that a girl will become a professional ballerina. <P>------------------<BR>~Intuviel~

Author:  Azlan [ Sun May 07, 2000 7:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: An Agony Aunt talks ballet

Intuviel, you are incredibly insightful for a someone of your age. Thanks for sharing this with us. I really do appreciate your intelligent thoughts.

Author:  Michael Montgomery [ Sun May 07, 2000 7:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: An Agony Aunt talks ballet

That was directly from the horses mouth, Intuvial; thank you for your candid and balanced observations.<BR>I hope you pass THAT one on to Marguerite Kelly, Grace!

Author:  grace [ Mon May 08, 2000 5:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: An Agony Aunt talks ballet

excuse me, but which one of you two is the horse?...

Author:  Maggie [ Mon May 08, 2000 9:34 am ]
Post subject:  Re: An Agony Aunt talks ballet

Intuviel, that's excellent. Sic'em. Sic Dame Blandine on her, too, and Dame Blandine's horse.<BR>Maggie

Author:  grace [ Mon May 08, 2000 9:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: An Agony Aunt talks ballet

speaking of whom, the august lady appears to have moved "Invalid URL" etc....does anyone know of her new abode? i DO hope it's befitting her station in life...

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Mon May 08, 2000 9:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: An Agony Aunt talks ballet

Here is the new URL:<BR> <A HREF="" TARGET=_blank></A> <P>It was given in the 'Fun Stuff' topic. You know, that one near the top, where you're a Moderator!

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