The pool-water blue Ford Tempo arrived every evening to pick me up from ballet. I remember very few days when I did not approach that passenger side door ready to burst. Burst with tears. Burst with excitement. On fire with frustration. Euphoric. Or wilted from despair. Luckily, we had a 40-minute drive home, and we used every second of that stretch of time to talk through the ever-changing details in the life of this dancer wanna-be.
Skip ahead … ahem! … 26 years. The Ford Tempo lives in some junkyard by now, but my rather blah-beige Hyundai Sonata arrives every evening to pick up my little one from ballet. As she approaches the car, I see on her face what kind of evening she has had. I am appreciative of the clue she gives me just nano seconds prior to climbing in the car. I prepare myself. Ready to listen. Whether the news is good or bad. Positive. Negative. Or anything and everything in-between.
Not sure I ever afforded my mom that nano-second facial clue before I climbed in her car, but what I do know is that my mom felt, and I mean felt, every emotion that I came home with. How? Because now as a mom myself, I feel it.
I’m still new to navigating the highs and lows of parenting a ballet student. I admit it. Even though I personally lived the ballet life — as both a student and a professional dancer — somehow, that seemed easier. I want to teach my child how to navigate the windy road of dance training the best I possibly can.
Fueling the Fire [Blog]
Remembering back there were always a handful of hot topics that arose from a single day at the studio — issues as fiery as hot lava and ash streaming from an active volcano. Ones that could literally make or break my day. Level placement. Casting decisions. Audition outcomes. Contract offers (or not).
When it does not go your way, are you prepared?
What about you, mom and dad? How can you prepare ahead of time to help your dancer who comes home feeling devastated?
Well, maybe I can help you look forward with a few of those hot volcanic topics, which seem, quite frankly, to not have changed much over the years.
Looking forward when level placement doesn’t go your way
You have been held back only to repeat that same ‘ol level you pushed through last year. A hard pill to swallow. You had hope for quicker progress and now you are becoming quite impatient with your situation. Your teacher doesn’t have some cockamamie, personal vendetta against you. So don’t even go there. It is all personal — they actually have YOUR best interest in mind.
When a dancer is held back, the decision is made to benefit you, to increase your strength. More repetition of the steps at your level is what is needed for you and your training at this moment. Did you know that every professional dancer returns to the barre every single day, just as you do? And what do they do? They work repeatedly on their steps — yes, even the basic plies and tendus, trying to perfect and fine-tune their technique. See, you are not alone. Shake off the initial shock and hurt. Pony up to the barre and work your darndest. Before you know it, I bet you will be top of your class and ready to tackle that next level.
Looking forward when casting, auditions and contracts don’t go your way
Casting decisions. Audition plans. Contract offers. Each one feels like a potentially life-altering decision, doesn’t it? And they are made for you by other people. Nothing stressful about that! Not getting what you hoped for hurts. Yet every student, and every professional dancer I might add, encounters disappointment. The key I have learned is to not define success or failure by getting or not getting something. Learning from why I did or did not achieve what I wanted and putting my feelings to work as a source of energy to excel are what propel me on a path to success.
Didn’t get “the” role or contract? Broaden your horizons. Were you cast in another part? One you can work to be your best at? Maybe you did not receive a part at all. Well, then. Remain in class continuing to practice every step to your best ability. Strengthen. Improve. Challenge yourself. The added time you gain in class hours while not in rehearsals allows you to perfect your technique further. Now, that is a plus.
If you didn’t fit the need for a particular company at this time, keep looking forward. What are your other audition options? Your goal, of course, is a job, a contract. Turn your frown upside down and go get it. You can! There is something out there for you.
Mom and Dad, can we talk?
It’s our turn, parents. How do we help our children weather storms in a world where every child seemingly gets a trophy? Or in our rather upside-down world in which teachers in some schools are even banned from using red ink because it is considered “mean” or “hurtful.”
I vote for teaching resiliency. Disappointments exist. Learning how to deal with them, now that is a skill that I want to teach my child to develop.
So when disappointment hits, it all begins with our reaction. We want to protect. We feel anger. But refrain from any name-calling or bad-mouthing. Our child is watching. What better gift than when we model appropriate behavior.
Acknowledge their hurt. Share relatable stories letting them know you recognize and grasp their emotions. Vent! Allowing your child to voice their emotion is not only important but therapeutic. Let them know that even though they worked hard, it doesn’t always result in a desired outcome. Yes, that proverbial roller coaster of life: When it takes a dip, it’s building momentum to soar. And they will, too — by continuing to work even harder. Praise your child. Let them know that it is the hard work they put in that you are proud of. The outcome? Well, it’s the outcome.
Now end with a smooch and a big squeeze … just not when their friends are watching. *Wink*