The Ups And Downs Of Parenting A Ballet Student

Classical Variation Tutu in peach with shimmering gold embellishments

When it comes to youth ballet, we can’t help but focus on the dancers, their performances, and their amazing costumes. They are trained to be in the limelight and we enjoy keeping them that way. However, there is someone hiding in the shadows of that spotlight that could use a little exposure and appreciation every once in a while. Who is that person? It’s the ever faithful dance parent.

Being the parent of a ballet student isn’t always simple and easy. There is more to it  than being a shuttle service, bag packer and appointment reminder. If a child has been studying dance with any kind of passion and commitment, a parent may have inner concerns or thoughts about the whole ballet-as-a-serious-option-for-my-child thing.

Some Real Dilemmas That Dance Parents Face

Although ballet is incredibly beautiful and uplifting, there are some very practical issues that dance parents may think about:

  • Who Is Going To Pay For All This? Those pointe shoes cost how much?!
  • Will My Child Really Be Able To Earn A Living As A Ballet Dancer?
  • Is This Ballet Thing Going To Make His Or Her School Grades Go Down?
  • How Will I Deal With Seeing My Child Rejected Or Disappointed?
  • How Will I Fit In My Child’s Training Schedule With My Full-time Work Schedule?

Ballet Training Requires An Endless Supply Of Accessories

Dance ShoesLet’s say you have a three-year-old that is signed up and ready to start toddler ballet class.  You purchase what you think are the basics. Leotard, check. Cute little slippers, check. Tights, check. You get home and realize you need to buy pink thread and sewing needles. Then the teacher calls and says your little one will need a dance bag, leg warmers, ballet sweater, practice tutu and a lock for her locker.

The older she gets, the more she costs. Classes, summer intensives, a personal barre and mirror for her bedroom, stage makeup, new pointe shoes every month, custom costumes, toe pads, arch stretchers, exercise bands, music CD’s, hair pins, and all the sewing accessories needed for ribbons and elastics. It’s no wonder that winning a scholarship can be quite a financial blessing.

Preparing My Child For A Viable Career

Thinking Woman
Can my child really make it as a ballet dancer?

Some parents of a very practical character truly wonder if they should encourage a child to seek out a career as a dancer. Unlike other careers, ballet comes with an earlier retirement. There are no guarantees whatsoever that a child will rise to the top of the ladder with a reputable company. It’s a long, hard climb. It means staking the future  based on physical capabilities that may or may not last.

Sometimes, a parent will float along with the idea until the child gets closer to graduating high school. Then, there can be a sudden change of heart when real fear sets in about their future. It’s a huge emotional challenge to wonder if you should keep supporting your child on a maybe.

Parental Involvement Starts Early When You Have A Serious Ballet Student In The Family

Child's Classical TutuClassical ballet has a magical vortex. It inspires the hearts and minds of the smallest children. I don’t think there will ever come a time when young girls don’t wish to play the role of someone pretty and princess-like. Even toddlers have ballerina dreams.

If they can stand on two legs and follow simple directions, there is a school that will take them. Unlike other activities, a parent can find themselves involved in the dance world when their child is barely out of nappies. If the child shows serious intent, the parent is looking at years and years of involvement.

Juggling School And Barre Work

Being a serious student of the dance means daily practice. School teachers expect homework assignments to be completed on time. Ballet instructors expect their students to go home and learn their exercises. It can be really hard to study for a test at school and practice for a recital at the same time. Parents worry whether their child is taking on too much.

The Unfair World Of Auditions And Competitions

Although ballet auditions and competitions can teach a young person about graceful sportsmanship, parents can suffer the same quiet pangs of disappointment when their child doesn’t receive a coveted role or award. It’s just human nature to hope the best outcome for your child. You may find yourself wondering about a judge’s decision or wrinkling your brow at a possible cheating competitor. Your natural protective instinct could flare up now and then.

Parenting Burnout And Stress

Bath Tub Woman
Let’s see…..Bobby has football practice Wednesday night and Saturday afternoon. Dexter has piano lessons Thursday night and Sunday afternoon. Rose has ballet class Monday afternoon and Saturday morning, Arabella has gymnastics Friday afternoon……

I’ve often thought it should be the dance Mom or Dad that would appreciate an after-class massage and soothing hot bath more than the dance student themselves. There is so much work and coordination involved in running a household, working a job, and transporting children to and from their activities.

Even one child that has scheduled extra-curricular activities during the week can be a challenge to keep up with. Imagine having four kids each with different things to do and different places to be every week. Our poor, exhausted Bubblebath Mum is still multi-tasking as she soaks.

The Joys Of Being The Parent Of A Ballet Student

On a positive note, being the parent of a ballet student can be an incredible thrill. Here are just a few of the great things that happen for parents when their children are immersed in the world of ballet training:

They Ride Along With Their Child On The Path To Self-Mastery

Every little milestone that a child reaches is important to a loving parent. From taking their first steps to learning to read and write, raising a child is like watching a tree grow. Sometimes we can help with the growth process and sometimes we can’t. When a child takes ballet classes, they have to take control of their own bodies. Nobody can do it for them.  They quickly learn self-mastery.

Focusing On The Beauty And Potential Of Their Offspring

Pale blue classical ballet ensembleOne of the most beautiful aspects about dance parenting is being able to see your child in a whole new light. Instead of getting frustrated by their imperfections, you get to bask in the feeling that your offspring have potential for greatness. You gave birth to this amazing child; a talented, creative being of soulful expression.

They are not like regular kids. They are special. They have the ability to tap into their inner world and communicate in ways that most of the world cannot. Your child is an artist; a creator and dreamer.

They may or may not be introverted, but they are connected to a solid core of strength that will serve them well in their lives.

Getting Up Close With Theatrical Functions

One of the perks of having a child in the dance world is getting an off-hand education about the world of the performing arts in general. You get to learn about theatrical rehearsals and productions. You learn about music and composers. You see how costumes and stage makeup create character roles. You may even get to go backstage or into areas that are off-limits to the general public.

Experiencing Both Pride And Relief

When you think about all of the unsavory activities that a young person could get involved with, it should be a relief that your child is busy with ballet training. When other parents are complaining about their juvenile delinquent teenagers, you can feel proud that your teen is focused on dance classes and other positive things. They are expending their natural energy reserves doing something beautiful for the world and themselves.

Mingling With An Elite Group Of People

Royal Blue Classical TutuBallet parents never have to feel alone or unsupported. There are so many different people to meet and get to know. You will meet other students and their parents. You will come in contact with dance professionals like instructors, costume makers, photographers, choreographers, piano players and many more. You belong to a specialized, elite group of people who have made the theatre their world. That’s exciting!

It can be a positive social environment for both dance students and their parents to meet other people who understand their world. It’s hard to explain to non-ballet people that pointe shoes are not made of wood or that strange-looking big, round carry cases don’t contain artificial Christmas trees, but tutus.

Seeing Their Child Look Like Royalty

This has to be one of the best things that a ballet parent can experience; seeing their child look like a star on a stage; a royal one at that. How special it is to watch little Susie change her ponytail into an elegant bun topped with a shimmering tiara. How lovely to see her exchange her old, faded jeans and t-shirt for an elegant crystal embedded tutu. Her young feet are transformed into works of art when they go from flip-flops to pink satin pointe shoes. Her stage makeup gives a glimpse of the beautiful young lady she is becoming.

Experiencing The Positive Energy Of Youthful Exuberance Again

Professional Tutu In PinkOh..to be young and full of zest again! Our precious ballet children remind us of the good old days when we too were able to do the splits, reach the ceiling with our toes and bend, flex and stretch without a bit of struggle.

Having this youthful energy around us keeps us on our toes ( no pun intended) and gives us plenty of excuses to get out and about doing fun things. Although some parents take the whole dance thing too far when they live vicariously through their kids, having a ballet student in the family helps take the focus off the mundane, boring things of life.

It’s hard to worry about dishes in the sink when your child is getting ready to perform in tonight’s YAGP competition. At best, with some Tchaikovsky music floating through the house, you may find yourself dancing at the sink on demi-pointe.

Ballet parents, we honor you. You have faith. You are lovingly supporting the dreams of your child.  Without  your time, patience, and commitment, the world of youth ballet couldn’t go on. To every ballet Mum or Dad out there, we thank you sincerely.

 

Image Credits:

Top photo Classical Variation Tutu Peach &Gold by © Michael Pitts Photography @ http://www.m-photo.co.uk/ * Dance Shoes, Pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain * Thinking Woman, Pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain *  Bath Tub Woman, Public Domain Free, https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

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