When Your Child’s Abilities Don’t Meet Your Expectations

When Your Child’s Abilities Don’t Meet Your Expectations
(And What You Can Do About It)


Every year at about this time, I find myself having the same discussion with many parents.  Every time casting goes up, every time certain dancers get pointe shoes and others do not, every time level placements come out, I receive the same phone calls from distraught and disgruntled parents.  Their child is mortified and so disappointed.  All his or her friends got better roles, got moved up or got pointe shoes and now he or she is feeling left behind and left out.  Everyone has experienced disappointment and everyone has wanted something very much that they couldn’t yet achieve and it never gets any easier.  What I find after talking more than five minutes with some of these parents is that yes, their child is disappointed, but the parents themselves are sometimes even more so.

I find myself using a line from a dear friend of mine, Diane Cypher, who also owns a studio, ‘I am so sorry your child’s abilities don’t meet your expectations.’  The point being, it is important to celebrate your child’s strengths, but to also be aware of their weaknesses and be realistic with your expectations so your child can be realistic with his or hers.

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10 Secrets to a Successful Dance Audition

GWL_0290-EditThe New Year is not the only thing that’s fast approaching, so is audition season.  Summer programs, college programs and companies alike are making ready to tour throughout the United States and will be looking at some of the best dancers in the country.  How can a dancer stand out amongst the scores of other dancers vying for the same opportunities and positions?  Well, here are some helpful hints as you all venture out on the sometimes scary, sometimes exhilarating, audition trail.

1.  Arrive early. This gives you time to relax and stretch and mentally prepare yourself for the work ahead.  It also gives you a lower number which can increase the chances of you being seen in an audition that can have hundreds of people in it.

2. Dress appropriately and professionally.  Over the years, certain things have changed.  Years ago when you went to a ballet summer program or company audition, it was black leotards only, but now dancers are using colored leotards to stand out. (Beware, some auditioners like this trend and some of the more old fashioned ones do not.  Your best bet might be a black leotard with an interesting back and maybe something in your hair like a yellow flower.)  At Broadway auditions, people recommend ‘dressing the role.’  If it’s a Fosse show you’re going for, you are going to dress a certain way.  The biggest thing is to be neatly dressed: clean tights with no holes or runs, a clean leotard that maybe has a special back to it, ribbons and strings on your shoes tucked in, hair neat, slicked and professional looking, no gaudy jewelry and no finger nail or toe nail polish.

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Lessons Learned From Injury


Dancer : Alexis Krueger
Photo by : Geek With a Lens

It always amazes me to say this, but I’ve been dancing and teaching for over 30 years now.  I teach 24 classes a week.  I teach 9 classes at the University, 4 classes at the Community College, once a week for the local professional modern company and 10 classes a week for the studio I co-own as well as help run the rehearsals and choreograph for our many productions; we just finished mounting our Nutcracker production.  Through all of it, I have never had a major injury.  That is, until about a month and a half ago.

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Bones versus Muscles


Dancer : Maggie Carey
Photo by : Geek With a Lens

As a teacher, I’m always looking at different ways of saying the same thing.  We all know as teachers that what resonates with one dancer might not resonate with another.  Recently, I have been getting tired of finding different ways to talk about what I, in my mind, refer to as the ‘fabulous four’ of dance:  turnout muscles (the external rotators), inner thigh muscles (the adductors), the hamstrings and the abdominal muscles.  If a dancer can master all of these, their body placement, their level of bodily control and therefore their successful execution of ballet or any other form of dance, goes up exponentially. So how do you get your students to understand these complicated and sometimes deeply located muscles and harness their power?  I have been finding it difficult lately, so I decided to switch gears.

A few months ago I was reading an article on teaching that mentioned abstract versus concrete concepts.   That’s when it hit me that for most students, as odd as it might seem to me, muscles might be an abstract concept.  What if I switched gears and talked about bones rather than muscles? Would bone structure be more of a concrete concept to them? I figured it was worth a shot. I found that for many of my students, I was finally seeing those light bulb moments that I’ve been waiting for months to see and, in some cases, years.

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Is There Such a Thing as a Stupid Question?

Being Smart Dancers (and Helping to Create Them)

DCDC_William_Mem-498There are many ways to be a smart dancer, but one of the biggest factors is, surprisingly enough, actually asking fewer questions and making sure the questions you do ask are intelligent ones.

Let me start by saying this article has little to do with my younger students.  The youngest age I teach is six, but even with them, they know that we only ask questions about ballet in ballet class.  I love to hear about their day and what they think and how they feel, but they have to talk to me before or after class.  Every time they raise their hand during class, I ask, ‘Does this have to do with ballet?’  Nine times out of ten, they then put their hand down.  I laugh and tell them to tell me all about it after class.  This article, however, has to do with my students ten years of age and up.

Some teachers and parents today tell children that there is no such thing as a stupid question, but I beg to differ.  I think this type of teaching has weakened children’s deductive reasoning and their ability to critically think and problem solve for themselves. It also has lessened their observation and listening skills, both of which are essential when it comes to picking up movement and choreography.

I love when a student asks questions about a complicated concept like rotators or inner thigh muscles.  I love when they ask me to clarify or reword a correction.  I even love when the younger ones ask me the stories of the great ballets and we have story time while we stretch.  These are all good questions and help them further their body awareness and understanding of their art form.

So what am I talking about when I say stupid questions?  I mean asking the question I just answered when I demonstrated, but they didn’t hear or see because they one, weren’t paying attention, or two, had their hand up in the air thinking about the question they were going to ask instead of listening when I was explaining what I wanted.  I mean asking the same question someone asked a few minutes before, but the student was too busy talking or staring out the window and so didn’t hear the answer.   I mean asking about details when, if they had watched closely during the three plus times I demonstrated the combination, he or she would have known.  I mean asking a question that, if they had thought about it for 60 seconds, the student could have answered for themselves with the information that had already been given to them.

It’s gotten to the point with some students and classes that every time I see their hand up, I have to ask, ‘Have you thought about your question and tried to answer it yourself?’   Nine times out of ten, they think about it, laugh, nod and then put their hand down.  They can figure it out themselves, but they are so used to some teachers and parents doing the thinking for them, that they find it easier to just ask and get the answer rather than to think for themselves.

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