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Confused! To go all out for dance or not!

(29 Posts)
MaisyMoo123 Tue 21-Jul-15 16:44:21

Hi all - my 9 year old dd loves to dance and has been taking ballet lessons for a few years, and took tap and modern up last year. She is relatively good at it - particularly ballet. She really enjoys all her lessons and lives and breaths it at the moment. I would be quite happy to potter on as we are with weekly lessons for each discipline and this is obviously an option. However, her teacher has contacted us to invite her to join the pre-vocational course that she runs alongside the regular classes. It basically provides a grounding in all disciplines and is aimed at children who have the potential to go on to dance school etc. Obviously we're proud that she's been picked out as good enough to follow this route but I am in two minds about it for a number of reasons - it would be a huge commitment (8.5 hours a week) which would mean she would have to give up every other hobby/interest and at the age of just 9 would not be in a position to realistically try anything else. I'm also not sure when she would do homework, play, be a kid. I obviously don't want to take the opportunity away from her but I equally don't want to narrow her opportunities so much that she misses out on all other things and spends all her time preparing for a career in dance that she's too young to even know if she wants. If anyone has any experience of a similar situation then I would love to hear your views! My head is spinning!

Lonecatwithkitten Tue 21-Jul-15 19:32:39

I think you are pretty much at the stage where if she is good and wants to pursue it you have to go all in. Others will be found the same for activities like swimming etc.
My DD's thing is musical theatre so when you take those rehearsals, tap lessons, singing lessons and other music lessons it comes to over 8.5 hours a week she still has plenty of time to play with her friends, do homework and just hang out.
The only time it is really crazy is show week and I get homework dispensation from school which is backed by her performance licence. Show week is always term time at she has 6, 14 hour days yes she is tired, but talks about it for months afterwards.

dodobookends Tue 21-Jul-15 20:43:08

Do you have other dc's and their activities to consider, and what about the commitment you also would have to make in getting her there, and does it involve costumes/competitions as well? Things like this can sometimes end up dominating the whole family!!

Having said all that, if she is talented and really wants to do it, then maybe give it a go - at least for a term maybe - and see how she gets on.

Or - if she is particularly good at ballet, it might be worth doing additional ballet classes instead and maybe an associate scheme or something like English Youth Ballet as well.

RaspberryLemonPavlova Tue 21-Jul-15 21:09:17

Not ballet, but DS2 is a Chorister. He does between 6 - 13 hours a week, more when there are special services etc. At 9 he fitted in plenty of other activities (still does). Cubs, taekwondo, instruments (plus practice), after school activities .... plus homework and playing with friends. He has a friend who did similar amounts of tennis at that age and also managed plenty of other activities too.

MaisyMoo123 Wed 22-Jul-15 16:16:23

Thanks for your responses. It's interesting that you have managed to fit other activities in around the main commitment your dcs have. I can't see how we would do that. This scheme would involve a different dance class every night of the week and Saturday, which would only leave Sunday's free. Dd is very into her dance and I'm sure she would jump at the chance to do it - BUT, she also keen to try other things - she's very keen to get into sport (athletics in particular) which she hasn't even given a go yet but going down the dance route would rule that out completely and I can't get past the fact that I firmly believe she is too young to be making such definite decisions on potential future careers at the expense of every other opportunity.
There's also the issue that all this would be gearing up for auditions for some kind of vocational school at 16 (if not sooner) and I know for a fact that we won't be in a position to pay the kind of fees that those places ask. I know there are scholarships etc. available but it's competitive enough just to get a place yet, alone a funded one.
I think we probably need to sit down and have a very honest chat with dd about it all. Tricky stuff!

MaisyMoo123 Wed 22-Jul-15 16:20:05

And yes, we have a ds too, who is only 6 at the moment and not really 'into' anything yet - but I am very concerned that going all out on dd's dance will drastically limit what we are able to commit to for him too - both financially and time-wise. Plus, dh and I both work so getting her to and from classes would create logistical issues. These aren't reasons to deny her the opportunity I know, but they have to be factored in.

RaspberryLemonPavlova Wed 22-Jul-15 17:12:42

I don't think you are stopping it from being an option in the future if you don't do it all now.

A girl from DDs old ballet school (DD stopped dancing a few years ago) has a place at a vocational dance school for sixth form. DDs dance school simply doesn't offer that amount of classes so this girl hasn't done all that. Also another girl was offered a place at the same school for Y7 a couple of years ago on 2 ballet lessons a week, she didn't get the funding so didn't take it up.

DS fits everything in because it is two evenings a week until 7, then all day Sundays. Theoretically alternate but in practice 2 out of 3. Saturdays he has piano and singing lessons. So family life is out of the window, but he was the youngest and we had a family discussion when he started.

taxi4ballet Thu 23-Jul-15 09:43:32

Raspberry is right, she probably doesn't need to commit to such an intensive regime just yet, especially as she is only 9. Too much too soon might not be the best thing. Perhaps she could take one or two extra classes in ballet instead (since that is her favourite) and see how she gets on.

Oliversmumsarmy Thu 23-Jul-15 10:07:45

All things are possible. Dd at 9 was doing around 22 hours of extra curricullum stuff, dance, drama, singing, ice skating, fencing and Ds was doing around a more modest 12 hours per week, drama, singing, dance, fencing, football. It was a case of dropping dd at one of her lessons then driving to the next town to drop ds at his lesson, then back to dd to pick her up and drive her to another town to do another lesson then back to pick ds up then return to dd and pick her up.

Complete madness some of my friends thought but as it has turned out the best thing I could have done for them both. Dd goes to a specialised drama school and ds is heading in a similar direction. Dd has earned over the years enough for a deposit on a small flat and ds is not far behind.

I know there are dc out there who breeze into dance school without having had a single dance lesson but they are very few and far between. I dont know anyone in dds school who didn't go to a range of lessons before going to the school. If dance is where your dds lifetime plan lies then go with it. 8 hours per week doesn't seem like an awful lot of time out of your week. Dd alone did that amount on a Saturday.

teacherwith2kids Thu 23-Jul-15 10:37:11


It's interesting comparing your experience with ours - DD is also 'a dancer' (now 12), but for her the hours grew slowly but inexorably, rather than there being a single big 'jump'.

She started at 5ish, doing 1 hour. By 6, she was doing 4-5. 7.5 hours or so became the norm round about the age of 8. It varies each term, due to specific exams or preparation for different things, but 9.5-10.5 has been her 'normal' level for the last couple of years.

DD is not planning to be a dancer long term. This is the normal amount of dancing for all young dancers of her level in her dance studio. Some people do leave each year for dance schools, but many do not - it is a hobby for them, as it is for DD. The point is that commitment to any 'serious' hobby DOES become much more time consuming as children get older and more advanced - DS, just as a comparison, does 6 hours a week of music, not counting his own practising, and about 4-6 hours of sport, and he's very much 'recreational' level in both.

Both manage completely 'normal' lives as well, as do all the many young people who swim, play netball, play football, do gymnastics etc to a 'more than basic' level. DD plays an instrument, is in her school netball and hockey teams, is very efficient about her homework etc. DS can loaf for England.

I suppose what I am saying is that, while for you it is a big jump, there will be many many children who do this amount of dancing 'normally' without any thought of future vocational training, while keeping up normal lives as well.

teacherwith2kids Thu 23-Jul-15 10:45:46

(The only activity DD had to give up due to dancing was Cubs. She managed for a while - arriving late at Cubs, leaving early, changing from leotard to green jumper and woggle in the blink of an eye before scampering round the corner - but it came to a point where the timetabling of classes wasn't compatible with Cubs any more. Equally, she trialled for county level netball this year, at the request of her school, and that would have meant negotiating for her to miss some dance on occasion ... but perhaps luckily she did not get in.)

Keeptrudging Thu 23-Jul-15 10:59:17

I had this discussion with my DD about gymnastics. She's a great 'all-rounder' and enjoys dance/gymnastics/music, she didn't want to drop anything, and we still had time at home. Classes 6 days a week has a huge impact on family life and I've seen quite a few young, very talented gymnasts walk (run) away from the sport due to doing too much too soon. Unless she has a burning desire to be a professional dancer, or you can negotiate a compromise eg less classes/compacted into less days I would stick with doing a mixture of activities.

MaisyMoo123 Thu 23-Jul-15 15:54:15

It's an interesting debate isn't it - so many different opinions just in the posts received on this so far! You can see my conundrum! My issue is not so much with the hours - she already does 5 hours dance a week, plus extra in exam build up so it's not actually much more than she's doing anyway - plus she does various other activities alongside the dance too. My main concern is around the complete and total focus on one area of interest above everything else, when she is at an age where although she loves to dance, she is very keen to try other things. Going down this route would massively limit the opportunities she'd have to try anything else - and she's only 9. Does that make sense?
There's also the issue that I fundamentally don't know whether she's heading for a career in dance. She might think that's what she wants now but she's just a nine year old girl. Her horizons are very limited and there are so many other options out there that she just doesn't even know about yet!
I also appreciate that others do this much just for fun with no intention of a career in it. That's fine but it's the fact that it'd be limiting her ability to try other things that worries me. There may be something she loves just as much, if not more, but how will she ever find out if she's spent her entire childhood dancing?

teacherwith2kids Thu 23-Jul-15 17:09:40

"she already does 5 hours dance a week, plus extra in exam build up so it's not actually much more than she's doing anyway"

I find this a bit confusing - if you are saying that it isn't too many extra hours, why does it necessarily 'limit opportunities to try anything else' and equate to 'spending all her childhood dancing'?

I would say that DD's dancing has, with the exception of Cubs, limited her very little. If she stopped dancing, she would do more netball, but that is about it. She has learned to swim, represented her schools at pretty much every sport known to man, got excellent SATs results, performed in professional panto for 2 x 8 week runs, learned 2 instruments, has her own chunk of our garden and is a talented artist. Yes, there are evenings when she gets back from school does homework, dances, then sleeps. But equally there are days when she does a whole host of other nrmal pre-tyeen things as well as a dance lesson.

It only restricts her if you choose to let it, really. An hour's dancing after school each night plus a couple on Saturdays leaves lots of time for other stuff if you are disciplined and organised. You may need to find a sports club that trains on a specific night, or swap from out of school to in-school music lessons, or collect her from a sports fixture and whisk her straight to dancing, or organise sports camps at half terms, and yes, those things are stressful especially if you have another child. But the extra couple of hours of dancing a week, in and of itself, does not create a 'dance is the only thing in my life' attitude.

teacherwith2kids Thu 23-Jul-15 18:19:22

Thought some more about this. is it that you are worried by the 'pre-vocational' label to these specific classes? Is it worth talking to the teacher about the route into, and out of, these classes for different children, how many do indeed go on to vocational training etc?

I mean, if each of DD's extra classes had been labelled 'pre-vocational', it might have given us pause too, as that isn't a route DD is expecting to take (although of those young people who dance to 18 in her studios, between 2 and 8 each year do go on to dance training) - but as they just appear as 'the next level of classes' we have never had that 'eeeeek' moment?

taxi4ballet Thu 23-Jul-15 19:29:45

IMHO, at this age it could be best to have at least one or two evenings during the school week free for other things, and one day at the weekend otherwise it can take over your whole life. It did with ours, but I only have a part-time job and the one dc to ferry about!

futureme Thu 23-Jul-15 19:42:34

My daughter does a lot less than some here and is considered an oddity in our school for "doing so much!" Weve umed abd ahed about competitive gymnastics (in the pre squad) butnprobably deciding not to dedicate that many hours to one sport to the exclusion of birthday parties, days out etc...

Weve already found having saturday fairly full has limited days to nat trust properties or just walking locally or picnics etc. I really want to avoid what id see as over programmjng as i think instinctively my daughter and i could lead that way!

taxi4ballet Thu 23-Jul-15 22:03:41

Maisy, I expect you were feeling a bit daunted after the teacher asked your dd to do the pre-vocational course, and that you are thinking it is such a big step, and that what you decide now will affect your dd's whole future.

She doesn't have to do this yet.

Please don't worry about anything. It isn't a 'once-and-forever' decision that you have to make straight away. If she decides to leave that level of commitment for a bit and just enjoy what she is doing now, then that is absolutely fine.

Lots of young dancers know from a very early age that dancing is all they want to do in life; and for others, the realisation doesn't dawn on them until their teens.

There is a current thread on all about over-training and burnout in young dancers, and you may find that an interesting read.

MaisyMoo123 Fri 24-Jul-15 10:36:22

Thanks again for your responses. Teacherwith2kids - although 8.5hrs per week is not a huge amount more than she's doing anyway it's the fact that the commitment would be much more "formal" and it would just be the tip of the iceberg. Once on the programme hours ramp up each year to the point where they're doing 17+ hours at 13 (plus extra for exam coaching, shows etc). I need to think about this in terms of long term commitment because I know it's hard to get off this roller-coaster once you're on it. I'm just trying to be realistic about it.
It's so intetesting to read all your opinions. I know many children commit to things like this at this age and I can see how life can still carry on around it. I'm just not convinced I'm ready to commit to the long-term implications just yet. Not when dd still has so many other interests she wants to explore.

MaisyMoo123 Fri 24-Jul-15 10:42:10

Thanks Taxi - I'll have a look at the balletcoforum thread. I can't help thinking she can up the intensity of training in a year or twos time if she's still keen and showing potential. Taking some time to explore other interests before making such a commitment to one thing seems to make sense to me. She's only 9!!!

Keeptrudging Fri 24-Jul-15 11:00:44

Also, unless the studio is just round the corner and classes are all right after school, it affects things like family mealtimes etc. There are a few days a week where DD has to have a light snack/meal right after school, then the same again after training as she can't train on a full stomach & training takes up most of the evening. There are times she is eating a sandwich in the car as it's the only way to juggle 2 different activities. This is ok because we have activity - free days where we eat normally. Also, as DD gets older, classes get later (early evening rather than after school, as the younger pupils get earlier times).

teacherwith2kids Fri 24-Jul-15 11:22:26

Thanks for clarifying, Maisymoo - that makes much more sense now you have mentioned the ramping up and the formality!

DD's dance school is very formal for everyone (we found it by accident, when we moved from a small village, where DD started dance classes in the village hall!) but I can see that if there are, in effect two 'pathways' through the school, transferring from one to the other with very different expectations would be a big decision.

In the ballet world, though, 9 is a couple of years from the 'most places available' point of entry to vocational schools (age 11), and the career is brutally short, so I can see why the decision has to be taken at an early age.

balletgirlmum Fri 24-Jul-15 12:49:56

That sounds quite a lot at age 9

My dd entered full time vocational dance school at age 11 (year 7). The range of previous experience was wide.

In hindsight Dds once a week ballet class & once a month Assocuates (plus tap & modern) wasn't enough. She should have been doing at least two ballet classes a week.

Dsncing every singke day at age 9 is a lot & children at that age need to have other interests too. Ds tells me there are a couple of children at her school who are leaving or are unhappy because they felt pushed unto dancing or once they got on the treadmill found it difficult to get off/say no

It's great that extra classes are offered to children who show potential but I don't think it should be a set programme. If they are going a couple of high quality ballet classes a week they would probsbly benefit more from going to a different Associate type scheme.

At age 13 ds now does 2x 60 minute & 4 x 90 minute ballet classes per week plus tap & modern twice a week & pilates/creative etc which is obviously a lot but it's a choice she has made.

balletgirlmum Fri 24-Jul-15 12:53:42

Sorry if that's confusing. Auto correct keeps changing dd (dancing daughter on balletco) to ds (my son doesn't dance)

Do read the over training thread. Whilst the UK has some catching up to do (dd wanted to go to vicationsl school at age 16 but realised that the hiurs required to get to that level wern't available locally) I don't think we need to try & compete with done ofvthe ridiculous hours for example some kids in America do)

MaisyMoo123 Sun 26-Jul-15 12:26:53

Really intetesting to read all your views on this. Thank you.

Balletgirlmum - is the class schedule you give for your dd what she is doing at vocational school - hours are similar to the programme my dd has been invited to join. The course is intended to be an alternative to vocational school but obviously building up to auditioning at for that at 16.

We are having to be very realistic about this - we're in no way badly off but realistically won't be able to run to the fees of vocational school at 16. That's a very serious issue to factor in as if we set dd off on this path then the expextation will be that that's her goal. I know there are scholarships available but I'm also aware how competitive that is, in an already competitive world.

Ultimately, dd is the kind if girl who throws herself into most things she tries - dance is the first hobby she discovered and it's grown from there but there are others that she is keen to pursue too. She would cram her week full to the brim with activities if she could. She would absolutely jump at the chance of taking up this course, I'm sure she would. But, at the same time she would also jump at the chance to try a host of other things and I'm not sure we're quite ready to jump onto the dance roller-coaster because I know how hard it is to get off once it starts.

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