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bleg for advice August 28, 2008

Posted by Madeline in Uncategorized.

So, it’s not really fair of me to neglect you all for so long, and then when I give you some attention, it’s only because I need something. Sorry for that.

Really what I need is a friendly ear: it’s about H. Regular readers know she is my sixth-grade daughter, and that she has been dancing since she was 4. In fact, dance has been a regular topic for my posting here. I could link back to the many instances of recital-anxiety I’ve had, running to buy bobby pins and convertible tights at the last minute, learning how to sew ribbons and elastic into pointe shoes, and spending grocery money on tuition and gas to get her to classes.

As a non-dancer myself, but as her mom, I understand that she has a good deal of raw talent and have also watched her devote enormous time and energy to her training. 

When we moved last month, she had to switch studios. She was thrilled with finding new friends and continuing to dance; we found a local dance school and signed her up (and I spent all my grocery money again) on their summer intensive program.

Which she promptly hated. She came home pretty much every day wanting out of it. Their instructional style was far different from what she was used to, and they seemed to have a strict policy on everything (mostly prohibitions: no water bottles in the studio, no underwear under their tights, no smiling–OK, they could smile, but pretty much no one did, especially the instructors). 

B and I convinced her to remain in the intensive and were certain that once she got into the groove of the studio and made some friends, that she would settle down and fall in love with her pas du chas once again.

As the summer wore on, things did not get better. She told me tales of being humiliated by the instructor because she had learned and performed steps slightly differently than they taught them. If she left the studio for a drink of water (no bottles, remember), she was chastised. The biggest problem involved the instructor, a man, telling her (very publicly) that she was not allowed to wear underwear under ANY circumstances. (The seam of one’s underwear is often visible through the tights, as leotards tend to be higher-cut than most underwear). And when I consulted with the directors of the studio about this policy, they confirmed. No underwear, ever.

They expect my 12-year-old daughter to wear a tampon, or to sit out of lessons (which I would be paying for regardless)? The directors nodded. Yes, they did. 

This sealed the deal for me. I felt as though this was a ridiculous– outrageous, even — policy. Plus, the public humiliation was unnecessary; couldn’t the instructor pull her aside and make her aware of the “no underwear” rule more gently?

So, because H is so like me, a bad experience with something can often turn us off for good. School started this week and she’s started playing field hockey and has informed us that she really isn’t interested in dancing anymore. I’ve talked her into taking one class a week, if only to keep her connected a little, but she refuses to attend the odious no-underwear school, so I’m going to have to shop around a little to find her another studio. Plus, I’ll have two grandmothers to deal with, both of whom will be devastated if H does not continue her pre-professional program.

I’ll be honest and say that part of me feels a little relief with this. The cost of pre-professional programs, which involve 5-day a week training, is equal to that of a decent car payment. Then there’s the driving, and the costume costs, and the constant there’s-a-run-in-my-tights-can-you-stop-and-get-me-a-new-pair. And I have a whole slew of cousins, and my youngest sister as well, who danced their entire K-12 lives and then went off to college to never don a toe-tapping shoe again (as far as I know). At the other spectrum, though, is another good friend whose daughters danced their whole lives growing up and who now pretty much own and run their own dance school, something that H often talked about doing herself. 

The short of it is: what do I do as a mom? How hard to I press for her to remain the “serious athlete” that she was? And the field hockey thing could be serious, but she’s coming late to that proverbial game, whereas with dance she’d be effectively throwing away 8 years of studying and training. I think she likes field hockey because the coach is good. She is encouraging and kind — she nurtures the girls, just like H’s old dance instructors did.



1. Becca - August 28, 2008

OH MY GOSH!! You are right on about moving her. What a ridiculous policy and attitude. I don’t have any advice, but maybe doing field hockey plus a dance class a week is a good move right now. Good luck!

2. canuck_grad - August 29, 2008

The no underwear rule is ridiculous, but the no water bottle rule just seems unsafe. Especially if they’re chastising them for leaving the studio for drinks – don’t they want to encourage them to stay hydrated?

3. bbmom - August 29, 2008

Try to relax and breathe. I don’t believe that time off will change her direction that much, unless it wasn’t the right direction in the first place. Some focus on a different physical activity (and time spent with persons in another “field”) can only round out her skills and add some “seasoning” to her life experience. Although the Russian consciousness of total devotion to a single activity makes for great Olympic athletes, Hannah’s inclination toward dance instructor/performer will not be deterred by adding hockey to the mix. Use your money for groceries this year.

4. deloosemoose - August 29, 2008

Poor H. That is appalling. It sounds like they’re far more concerned with their “product”, rather than with the dancers as individuals – individuals who have human needs/functions. I agree with Canuck about the water issue. That CANNOT be safe.
My advice for what it’s worth: Find a different studio where there is an emphasis on the dancer growing and improving while actually having “fun”. I can’t imagine H. giving up dance after all her hard work. She is SO talented.

5. Derek - August 29, 2008

I’d can the Draconian studio. Those are terrible rules–capricious and unkind.

And I’d be receptive to H.’s interests in trying out other sports. We’ve gone round and round with Ph. about his dabbling all along. I even coached his basketball teams for four years, eventually taking two teams because I refused to cut sixth graders at the same time facing pressure from certain parents to produce a more competitive team–before he gave it up. Ph. has played soccer for thirteen years, and it has served him well through high school, but it remains uncertain whether that will be the end of the road. I mean that rather than ever throwing years of sports activity away, it’s more a matter of seeing whatever he does (even for one year before switching to something else: bowling, swimming, track, whatever) as developmentally appropriate. If not for some college, he’ll continue to play recreationally, maybe coach or ref, and certainly enjoy every minute of it. In hindsight, I am now convinced that flexible (supportive, encouraging, of course) is better than driven when it comes to sports before high school (maybe even college).

6. susansinclair - August 29, 2008

I have to believe that one year off from dance–after this many years of intensive training–will not derail H. if in fact it turns out that dance is what she wants. Dance is a more and more diverse field these days–many different sorts of dancers doing many different kinds of dance and with many different kinds of training. (And if what you’re worried about is whether she’ll hate you in a few years for letting her quit, um, I think she’ll find *something* to hate you for as a teenager regardless, right? Oh. Sorry. Not helpful.)

7. bbmom - August 29, 2008

Note to all re sssnclr: If H is anything like her mother was, Mad will not have a problem. The boys will be a different story, however.

8. Kristen - August 29, 2008

She’s not throwing away 8 years; she’s moving on to something else. If you find a school with a better sense of decorum and training (I can’t even find the words to describe how awful that place sounds), then she may well wish to return to dancing. If that studio is all there is, then it may be time for field hockey…or whatever. It sounds like H. is finding inspiration in the leaders, rather than, perhaps, the sport itself. And that’s not a terrible thing either.

9. Madeline - August 29, 2008

Writing about this actually made me feel worlds better, and hearing what some of you have had in terms of similar experience is very reassuring.

I think we’ve found a good replacement studio…I’m waiting for a call back now to ask if they allow underwear. I’ll keep y’all posted.

10. tyra - August 30, 2008

It sounds to me like you and she are doing the right combination of things–scaling back on something that used to be fun but isn’t fun right now, to see if it gets fun again, and trying something new at the same time. It’s a nice bonus that the something new is taught by someone who’s caring and enthusiastic–it’s a good lesson that what we like about things has a lot more contributing factors than just the “thing” itself.

If she finds her way back to dancing, in a studio that suits her, that’ll be terrific. If she finds she likes some other sport better instead, her years have certainly not been *wasted*; she’s spent them developing physical agility & strength that will stick with her (along with an enjoyment of physical activity/performance, itself great things to have), learning dedication & confidence (& how to make mom run to the store), becoming all graceful & fabulous–all good gains whether she keeps up the specifics or not.

all of which you know, you know. 🙂

11. Madeline - August 30, 2008

tyra and everyone: I know I know what you’re all telling me–it’s just incredibly nice to hear from a bunch of smart people. I have awesome readers/friends.

12. J - September 9, 2008

It’s your’s and H’s decision and it sounds like a hard one. It is hard to say if she will be sorry for it later in life. I think finding a different studio is what is needed. Field hockey is a fun thing to be able to do also but have her try at least one class somewhere else. No one said life was fair and there are many things I would of done differently in my life if I new then what I know now. I guess that is just part of life and makes us who we are. So have I been phylisophical enough for you? Dang it, why does life have to have so many choices and decisions! They definitely get harder when the kids get older. Take care, love ya all and miss you.,

13. bbmom - September 23, 2008

time for a new post!! I looked at that other thing a few times, but I’m not in that loop so it’s meaningless for me. Write something! ; ]

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