Building a successful dancer is time consuming, frustrating, expensive, rewarding, exhilarating and fantastic. I often hear parents saying “I don’t think he/she going to be a professional dancer” I’d like to remind everyone that for ballet schools that admit students without an audition, about 2% of the student population may go into the field. So if our only reason to teach ballet is to make professional ballet dancers we are probably going to end up frustrated. That being said my belief is that EVERYONE deserves to be taught how to dance properly and be respected in their pursuit of excellence. Understanding and respecting the process can shape a young persons life and give them a strength in life that cannot be replaced by anything else.
When it comes to building young dancers this is where the pas de trois (or trio) comes into play. First comes the dancer, who has to have a passion for it, want to be there, want to work hard and want to be the best they can be. Ballet is a very difficult, demanding and sometimes painful pass time so if you don’t enjoy being there it can be agony for everyone! The desire to be consistent, to face failure and disappointment and to find the joy in the performance is key to a successful dancer. Dancers need to be intelligent and have good common sense. They need to believe in themselves and have the ability to bounce back and face their fears.
The teachers job is to first supply the correct information by making sure they are knowledgeable, and are using safe practice. The important thing for them is to make sure that they are working with integrity. This means not exploiting dancers with natural talent and having the foresight to bringing them forth slowly and carefully while respecting their muscular skeletal structure. They need to slowly encourage dancers to believe that if they work consistently they can achieve great progress and excel. They need to demand a lot of the dancers, enforce good technique, be tough to please and always tell the truth. Ballet teachers are the keepers of delayed gratification which in this society can be so confusing to the young person as they do not get to practice it very often. Its an important skill to learn and ballet is the perfect vehicle.
Then comes the parents. They often have the toughest job and the best job. They must deal with the fallout, and get to bask in the glory! The parent’s job to to choose the right program (which is often easier said than done), transport, drop off, pickup, drop off and pick up again. Trust the teachers, bite their tongue and believe. They have to know when to hold em and know when to fold em, when to push and when to back off. Then pay the bill again. Other helpful skills include, basic sewing, (elastic and satin are often involved), fundraising, foraging (usually through the lost and found) beading, gluing. Its important to know basic first aid and which medications do not mix with others, where to find a good reflexologist, chiropractor or masseuse and when its ok to say get up and do it and when to know its time to go home.
My best advice for parents is to stay out of what is going on in the class room and deal with what goes on before and after. Let the teacher and the student deal with the class and the casting and the rehearsal and you tend to the other important elements. Are they on time, prepared, fed, hydrated, relaxed, organized. Do they have correct attire, yes the correct fit of the shoes is VERY important, we are dancing remember. OH and the part about not thinking he or she is going to be a professional dancer………….don’t be so sure!