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Words of  wisdom and truths
as written by professionals
in the dance world are
sometimes hard to hear
but are always inspiring!


(And What You Can Do About It)
At the Barre with Miss Erin
And Honest Discussion About All things Dance 
Author: Miss Erin

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 nevAt the Barre with Miss Eriner 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 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.

Case in point, a few months ago, my school performed its annual recital.  We are not one of those schools that
spend an entire year on our recital dance.  We prefer instead to focus on barre work, technique, muscle development 
and proper vocabulary.  That being said, all dances were finished in a timely manner utilizing the last few minutes of each class and the students were encouraged to practice at home and were given tools to do so.

Dress rehearsal at the theater is always a stressful thing, especially for the younger dancers with little or no performance experience.  There are costumes, lights, the stage, an audience…it’s very overwhelming.  Well, one of my beginning ballet classes had a complete melt down and forgot most of their dance, which is not an uncommon occurrence.  I automatically put it on the schedule to be run the next day several times before the performance so the students would be more comfortable.
A few minutes later, one of my colleagues came running backstage to tell me that there had been an irate parent screaming in the lobby that she wasn’t sure what she paid for all year when her daughter couldn’t even remember a dance, let alone look graceful doing it.  My colleague told me that she had tried to calm the mother down and tell her that this was common which is why we have dress rehearsal, that we would work on it before the show the next day and they were, after all, only six years old.  It floored me that a mother truly thought that her six year old, with only a one hour class per week, was going to turn into Anna Pavlova and do her dance perfectly the first time she was ever on stage.  Can you imagine how this child felt when she heard what her mother said?

The sad thing is that her daughter is very talented.  She knows how to engage her stomach muscles and align her spine, knows the English definition of all her French ballet terms, knows her knees and toes are supposed to point sideways and her feet are supposed to point every time they leave floor even if she cannot physically do those things consistently yet.   These are all amazing things at six and way more important to her success in the world of ballet than a beginning recital dance.
When I have a mother or father come in concerned about casting or the level in which their child is placed, I go through my explanation to them that our school only has so many levels which means they will inevitably spend several years in several different levels, that everyone has their own skill set and that everyone develops at their own rate.  They ask me why their child’s friend got moved up and their child didn’t.  With questions like this which usually happen right in front of the dancer, you watch the child’s self-esteem and joy of dance diminish as if they did something wrong.

The truth is that if your child has flat feet or if they naturally sickle or he or she has limited rotation from the hip socket, he or she has physical issues to overcome that other children may not. Sometimes certain children take a lot longer to develop large motor skills, musicality, coordination, or have problems picking up and retaining choreography and corrections when compared to their peers.  Does this mean they won’t overcome these things and maybe even eventually surpass their counterparts?  Absolutely not.  It can be a matter of hard work and practice, sure, but it can also be the fact that their brain or body just hasn’t developed in those areas yet.   Sadly, sometimes it never will no matter what they do or how hard they work at it, but it doesn’t mean the child still can’t love dancing.

I have found most young dancers know where they are in the scheme of things even if their parent might not.  This can make the young dancer take their parent’s disappointment very personally and can lead to feelings of inadequacy which ultimately stunts their improvement.  I was in the room one day when a child timidly came up to another teacher and told the teacher that her mother thought it was time for her to move up a level.  The teacher kindly asked the little girl who was about ten, ‘Do you think you’re the best in the class?’  The child looked at the floor and relied ‘No.’ The teacher then asked the child who she thought the best in class was.  The child replied, ‘Susie.’  The teacher smiled and said, ‘That’s right.’  She then asked the child, ‘Where do you think you are in the class?’  The child answered, ‘I’m probably third best.’  The teacher smiled and answered, ‘That’s right again!  You are so smart to know that.  You have been working very hard and I love that, but you still have some work to do, don’t you?  Right now, those other girls are in line ahead of you to get moved up, but that doesn’t mean that can’t change. You know the corrections you’re given in class, keep working on those things.’  Was this a bit harsh?  Maybe, but the parent ultimately put their child and the teacher in this situation.

Someone has to be at the top of the class and someone has to be at the bottom, that’s the cold reality.  Furthermore, your child might not feel comfortable explaining to you that she’s not the best in the class.  What if she’s working as hard as she can, she loves to dance, but the other kids are simply better than her at this time? Perhaps it’s not the teacher’s actions and words that are stealing your child’s joy for dance and crushing her spirit?  Just some food for thought.

The truth of the matter is very simple.  If I, as a teacher don’t give a dancer a role, it is because others are more capable of doing it at this time.  Would it be a kindness to give a dancer a role at which I know they cannot possibly succeed just because they want it?  Of course not!  If I withhold pointe shoes, it is for safety reasons only.  It is an honor for me as a teacher to tell a child that they are ready to take that next step in their training, but it is also a great responsibility and I take it very seriously, as should every teacher.   If I do not move your child up a level, it is because other dancers are ahead of her technically and/or there are things that need to be accomplished that haven’t yet, period.

All parents want to have the next Misty Copeland or Mikhail Baryshnikov, but the truth is very few young dancers will make an impact on the dance world at large. Remember, your child is still learning many things that will help them through life even if dance is only ever an extracurricular and they are physically unable or disinclined to pursue it professionally.   However, there are some proactive things you as a parent can do to up your child’s success rate:
Have your dancer take as many classes a week as possible as long as your child isn’t overwhelmed or uninterested. 

Have your dancer take as many classes a week as possible as long as your child isn’t overwhelmed or uninterested. 

Have them pursue summer study, preferably away from their home studio when they get older.   

Encourage them to try classes in different genres of dance to help develop skills that are lacking.  For instance, tap is great for developing musicality, jazz and modern are great if your child lacks physical strength or attack, and ballet is best for developing overall technique.  

Ask the teacher for exercises to address your child’s physical weaknesses and do them with them a few times a week.  

Encourage your child to practice things that are challenging for them at home including their choreography. 

Buy your child a notebook where they can write down choreography and corrections for later review. 

Cross train with Pilates, yoga and swimming if they lack core strength, flexibility or stamina prospectively. 

Do not expect your child to get Sugar Plum just because she’s a senior.  Do not expect that your son will always be the best in class just because he is right now.  Do not expect that if she had a solo last year, she will automatically get one this year.  Do not expect him to be in the same level with friends his age.   Do not expect all twelve year old girls will automatically get pointe shoes.

Think before you react to a situation in a negative way and, as difficult as it may seem, try to find the positives in a disappointing situation.  Many times, your child will follow your lead.  Praise your child’s accomplishments, but also try and see your child objectively so you can realistically manage your child’s expectations as well as your own.

From Portland Ballet Blog

1. Dance is hard.
No dancer ever became successful riding on their natural born talents only. Dancers are artists and athletes. The
world of dance today is akin to an extreme sport. Natural ability and talent will only get us so far. Dancers must
work hard and persevere. Dancers give years of their lives plus their sweat, tears and sometimes blood to have the
honor and pleasure of performing on stage.

2. You won’t always get what you want.
We don’t always get the role we wanted, go on pointe when we want, get the job we want, hear the
compliments we want, make the money we want, see companies run the way we want, etc, etc. This teaches us
humility and respect for the process, the art form and the masters we have chosen to teach us. The faster we
accept this, the faster we can get on with being brilliant. We’ll never be 100% sure it will work, but we can always
​be 100% sure doing nothing won’t work.

3. There’s a lot you don’t know.
There is always more a dancer can learn. Even our least favorite teachers, choreographers and directors can teach
​us something. The minute we think we know it all, we stop being a valuable asset.

4. There may not be a tomorrow.
A dancer never knows when their dance career

10. Wear your big girl pants and never be afraid to failwill suddenly vanish: a company folds, career ending injury, car accident, death
…Dance every day as if it is the final performance. Don’t save the joy of dance for the stage. Infuse even your routine classroom exercises with passion!

5. There’s a lot you can’t control.
You can’t control who hires you, who fires you, who likes your work, who doesn't, the politics of being in a company. Don’t waste your talent and energy worrying about things you can’t control. Focus on honing your craft, being the best dancer you can be. Keep an open mind and a positive attitude.

6. Information is not true knowledge.
Knowledge comes from experience. You can discuss a task a hundred times, go to 1000 classes, but unless we get out there and perform we will only have a philosophical understanding of dance. Find opportunities to get on stage. You must experience performance firsthand to call yourself a professional dancer.

7. If you want to be successful, prove you are valuable.
The fastest way out of a job is to prove to your employer they don’t need you. Instead, be indispensable. Show up early, know your material, be prepared, keep your opinions to yourself unless they are solicited and above all be willing to work hard.

8. Someone else will always have more than you/be better than you.
Whether it’s jobs or money or roles or trophies, it does not matter. Rather than get caught up in the drama about what others are doing around you, focus on the things you are good at, the things you need to work on and the things that make you happiest as a dancer.

9. You can’t change the past.
Everyone has a past. Everyone has made mistakes, and everyone has glorious moments they want to savor. “Would you keep a chive in your tooth just because you enjoyed last night’s potato?” Boston Common TV Series. Dance is an art form that forces us to concentrate on the present. To be a master at dance we have be in the moment; the minute the mind wanders, injuries happen. If they do, see #12.

10. The only person who can make you happy is you.
Dancing in and of itself cannot make us happy. The root of our happiness comes from our relationship with ourselves, not from how much money we make, what part we were given, what company we dance for, or how many competitions we won. Sure these things can have effects on our mood, but in the long run it’s who we are on the inside that makes us happy.

11. There will always be people who don’t like you.
Dancers are on public display when they perform and especially in this internet world, critics abound. You can’t be everything to everyone. No matter what you do, there will always be someone who thinks differently. So concentrate on doing what you know in your heart is right. What others think and say about you isn’t all that important. What is important is how you feel about yourself.

12. Sometimes you will fail.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, following the best advice, being in the right place at the right time, we still fail. Failure is a part of life. Failure can be the catalyst to some of our greatest growth and learning experiences. If we never failed, we would never value our successes. Be willing to fail. When it happens to you (because it will happen to you), embrace the lesson that comes with the failure.

13. Sometimes you will have to work for free.
Every professional dancer has at one time or another had to work without pay. If you are asked to work for free, be sure that you are really ok with it. There are many good reasons to work for free, and there are just as many reasons not to work for free. Ask yourself if the cause is worthy, if the experience is worth it, if it will bring you joy. Go into the situation fully aware of the financial agreement and don’t expect a hand out later.

14. Repetition is good.
Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result is insane. – If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. If you keep doing the bare minimum of required classes, don’t complain to your teacher when you don’t move up to the next level. If you only give the bare minimum in your company, be happy staying in the corps. If you want to grow beyond your comfort zone, you must push yourself beyond your self-imposed limitations.

15. You will never feel 100% ready.
Nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises. Dancers have to be willing to take risks. From letting go of the ballet barre to balance, to moving around the world to dance with a new company, from trusting a new partner to trying a new form of dance, dancers must have a flexible mind and attitude as well as body. The greatest opportunities in life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means you won’t feel totally comfortable or ready for it.

Keesha Bedford
HuffingtonPost Arts & Culture

1. Treat class, and your every opportunity to dance, as a gift, as a special time for you.

2. Leave your emotional baggage outside. Let class be your chance to think only about you. Let it be your therapy. Let it heal.

3. Listen to every correction given. Try to implement it, even if it wasn't given to you.

4. Take a correction to the nth degree. Your teacher can always pull you back.

5. If you don't understand the correction, ask.

6. A dance class is a lab. Experiment continually. Never do it the same way twice.

7. Even if doing so is outside your comfort zone, stand in the front sometimes. Your teacher is only human. She or he may move students around, but if it seems that you don't want to be seen, you just might not be.

8. Don't worry about her feet, her extension, how many turns he does or her natural alignment. Work with what you have. Celebrate your gifts, while working your damnest to overcome any shortcomings.

9. There is only one you. You can't work to your fullest potential trying to be someone else.

10. Competition and knowing the strengths of other dancers is healthy, as long it is a motivating force, not a defeating one.

11. Know your history, and learn from the past. Don't dismiss the choreographers and techniques of the past as "old school." That movement was visionary for a reason, and it serves as a foundation for what interests us now.

12. While there may be a few exceptions out there, every teacher has something to offer. Never write anyone off because you don't like her build, style, attire, body decoration or manner.

13. The dance world is maybe two degrees of separation. Always be diligent and respectful. Word about bad behavior moves faster than a Balanchine petit allegro.

14. While your teacher should be respectful, she or he is not there to be your friend, but to make you a better dancer.

15. If you can find teachers whose class speaks to you, and where you are both complimented and thoughtfully corrected, you are very lucky indeed.

16. Believe that pushing through and learning something in that weird, boring or super-challenging class will pay off. In the New Dance Order of America these days, the versatile dancer -- the one with a solid understanding of several techniques -- gets the prize.

17. There will always be bad days. Do not be defined by them.

18. Push yourself. Hard. But acknowledge when you have done all you can, at least for the time being. Sometimes the epiphany, the breakthrough, comes later.

19. Immediate gratification is rare. When it happens it is the result of years of training. The fun and the joy are in the struggle.

20. Keep dance in perspective. Know that you can still be a smart, loving, fantastic person with a great life even if one day you can't buy a decent pirouette.

21. It is never too early to gain a firm grasp on somatic concepts. If you wait too long to develop this beautiful mind, your body might be an unwilling partner.

22. Feats of nature, contortion-esque flexibility, oodles of pirouettes and sky-high jumps are dazzling. But remember that dance is communication. Dance is artistry. Keep in mind the power and potential of small and simple movement.

23. Did I say to treat every chance to dance as a gift?

Relevé Your Life (RYL)
A Dancer's Compass

You know what really grinds my gears? But really! Have you ever been super excited to take class from the choreographer you’ve always wanted to meet and you get all set up in your spot in the crowded room, only to have another girl come in last minute and stand three inches in front of you? Or how about when you’re going across the floor and the dancer in front of you stops moving because they forget the choreography and you end up slamming into them? Or how about if you’re a dance teacher and you just got done explaining something important in the beginning of class, only to have two girls walk in late and you now have to re-explain? I’m sure many, no not many, all of you can relate to some sort of circumstance where you were taking or teaching a class and you grind your teeth at the lack of what-should-be-obvious class etiquette. So we compiled a list of things to remember (and please please do remember!) so that you’re not the one getting the dirty looks. Dance class should be a space in which we all come to let go, release our stress, and be surrounded by great energy, so please keep these simple rules in mind for the betterment of everyone involved:

This should go without saying, but shockingly it isn’t something that is always done. They are there for your benefit. They are taking the time out of their day to teach you and help you grow, so please please show them the utmost respect. If they correct you, take it as a compliment (they are paying attention to you!), don’t get mad or upset, just try your hardest to make the corrections because they are doing it to better your dancing.

Save the gossip for after class! I know you haven’t seen each other in a while and you want to catch up on all the juicy details of this past weekend, but don’t do it in the middle of class! Pay attention to your teacher for the entire duration of the class. You can catch up later I promise.

This is beyond important. Not only does it disrupt class when you are late, but you end up missing important parts of the warmup that are essential for your body. Plus, don’t you want to impress the teacher? Make it a point to not only be on time, but a couple minutes early!

Please! This is something that personally drives me nuts! I know it can be tough when you are in a crowded room and there are dancers everywhere, but respect the space of those around you and don’t come in and stand two inches away from where someone is already standing when there is space further back in the room. If you want the space in the front or in the middle and there’s no room, please revert back to #3.

Speaking of standing in the front and middle… like the title says: if you have not taken a class before, do not stand in the front. Please leave that space for regulars who know the warmup and the way that the class is run. I know you are an amazing dancer and should be seen, but if you are an amazing dancer, you will still be seen. Please wait until you have taken more classes from that choreographer to move your way towards the front.

Unless you are 85 years old, you should not be leaning on the barre. Body language is everything and when you do this, you come across to the teacher as lazy and disrespectful. I know you’re tired and it’s conveniently there for you to lean against, but come on, you’re a dancer! If you are able to grand jete across the floor, I think you can handle standing up straight on your own two feet without assistance.

The most obvious of them all! I know…you’re all saying, I already do that…everyone knows this rule. But low and behold, it’s still happening when I take classes, so obviously not everyone is remembering to actually do it. Please make it a point to double-check before going into class because there is nothing more disruptive than a cell phone ringing in the middle of a teacher trying to explain choreography.

I know that this gets tougher if the room is crowded, but make it an effort when you are standing and looking in the mirror, to not only find your own window, but to make sure that you are not blocking someone else’s in the meantime. This is part of #4. Be aware. Shift around so that all dancers are able to see themselves in the mirror.

When doing choreography, and especially across-the-floor, if you don’t remember part of the choreo, at least keep moving so that you don’t create a traffic jam. Please do not stop! It’s ok to forget a couple counts, it happens to all of us, and you may want to freeze up, but remember – part of being aware of your space is knowing that if everyone is moving together, one person stopping will create a pile-up on the dance floor.

If you are in the middle of doing a routine and your hair falls out, leave it. If you shirt starts to ride up while dancing, who cares, wait ’til you are done. Please don’t fix yourself in the middle of dancing! Just wait until you are done doing the routine or done with going across the floor to fix anything you feel may be out of place. It’s crazy the amount of times I see this done in the middle of choreography. Unless it’s choreographed for you to tug on your shirt, don’t do it!

This is a two-part rule. If you are being taught choreography and don’t understand part of it, please wait until the teacher is done teaching that section and asks if you have questions. Many times your question will be answered by the time your teacher is done going over that section. If you stop their teaching to ask, it can be disruptive… just let them finish and then ask. The other half of this is rule is: if you don’t understand a section and the teacher asks if there are any questions, PLEASE do ask at that time! When the teacher asks if there are questions and the room is completely silent, they assume you know what you are doing and move forward. It becomes frustrating to them when the room is silent but then right afterwards, dancers were clearly confused about a certain part. So please don’t be afraid to speak up! Chances are someone else had the same question.

I hope this helped some of you out there. Like I said, these all should be obvious, but they are things that are still occurring every day in dance classes everywhere. I’m sure you can relate to some, if not all of them, whether you are a student or teacher and if you are a teacher, please feel free to share with your students! Dance class should be a fun and positive environment, so let’s keep it that way! Make sure to have respect for not only the teacher, but your fellow dancers. Leave comments below if you can relate or if you have any other rules of dance etiquette that we forgot!

Keep On Dancin’

By Alison Feeney-Hart BBC News

Lauren Cuthbertson is a principal ballerina for the Royal Ballet, and patron to the National Youth Ballet.

She was made a principal of the Royal Ballet in 2008 when she was just 24 years old. She is currently performing The Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House and this week made it into 2014's Who's Who.

Below are her top ten tips on how to succeed as a ballerina.

1. Never look back
I was originally sent off to ballet lessons as a child to calm me down a little bit. I started doing ballet after school with quite a strict teacher. I think it first dawned on me that I wanted to be a ballerina when I read about Margot Fonteyn as a child. I was always saying, "Mummy I want to be Margot the second!"

I didn't start because I loved the colour pink or anything, it really was just meant to be an after-school activity, but I absolutely adored it and I've never, ever looked back. I never doubted, never questioned, just always strived to be a ballerina.

2. Work like a dog
I remember being 11 years old and thinking I was going to be some Prima Ballerina in a couple of years, like in the good old days.

The reality was later shaken in to me: I was going to have to work like a dog for about eight years until I even, maybe, possibly got a job in a ballet company, somewhere in the world. The reality is very different to what people think.

3. Practice and use imagery
Practice is just so important. But also, I discovered the art of imagery, which for me has been a huge tool. It means I can see the finished product of what I want to be in my head. It's really helped me, because of course there are only so many hours you can put your body through before you break.

Sometimes my Mum will think I'm just quietly watching something on the television, and that's how it looks, but really, I'm not watching the television at all… I'm rehearsing in my head and might be doing three run-throughs of Romeo and Juliet!

4. Don't get too obsessed with body shape
Body shape is really important. Some dancers will always look like the perfect ballerina, even from a young age, but bodies grow and change at different times. I work really hard in the studio but I also love swimming; not only is it an all-over body work-out, but it's so good for your joints and muscles too.

When I can, I do some yoga. I have a bit of shoulder trouble, so sometimes I can't do all that 'downward dog' stuff. But there is nothing quite like pulling on those pink tights and whacking through a three-hour ballet. I'm not going to lie, that is the thing that is going to get you the most in shape.

5. Be a tough nut
I think you have to be a bit of a tough nut to make it. You won't get anywhere unless you really understand the importance of criticism. Teachers give it in different ways - as a student you need to always remember that they are just trying to make you better.

Ultimately, whether they are a bit strict or a bit harsh is kind of irrelevant, what they are telling you is probably of some use. But it can be hard to accept if you are being shouted at.

I had one Russian coach who I absolutely adored and I still miss him today - he was just such a taskmaster. He would really put me through my paces and say, "Again! No! Again! Do again! Right now! Tidy! Again! Open! Higher! Again, again, again!" He just wanted me to be the best that I could be.

6. Eat whatever makes you feel good and don't drink on school nights
I hate the expression, "watch what you eat." For me, it's more about feeling good. I want to feel good when I wake up in the morning, still feel good at four o'clock in the afternoon and I want to feel great when I'm on stage at night.

Obviously you want to remain lean and in shape, but ultimately you've got to do the job, and after all those rehearsals, you want to do it as best you can. Of course we are allowed chocolates, even before a performance. Sometimes you just need sugar to get you through and if you are going to get that from a bag of Maltesers and a can of Coke, then so be it.

7. Get up close and personal
You do get pretty close to the people that you are dancing with. I do still get a little bit shy, even now. In Romeo and Juliet, when you first rehearse the kiss with someone, I still get embarrassed. But before you know it you are "pashing" all over the place.

I remember one boyfriend saying, "His hands were everywhere when he was lifting you Lauren", and I'd never thought of it like that. When it happens I'm not thinking, "Ooo, there's a guy touching my inner thigh." It's more, "How do I look in this lift?"

8. Have a struggle
Your technically best years match your emotional ones. When you go through disastrous times you really draw on your inner strength, and your emotions are so much more heightened.

For me, the technical side of ballet is just the pallet that we work with. I love doing the ballerina thing, of course I do, but I feel like I'm starting to give more to my performances and, I believe, that is because of everything I've been through.

I think the next two or three years will be my personal peak, just because of the amount of time I've had off due to illness and injury. I'd like to think that I could do this until I am 40, but I genuinely don't know what I want to do later on in my career.

9. Accept that being successful means making sacrifices
Yes I've had to make sacrifices. But then everyone has to sacrifice something if they really want to do something successfully. So it feels completely natural for me to make sacrifices, but sometimes my friends look at me like I'm some kind of alien.

It can be quite lonely. Sometimes you can feel isolated because you are the only one in your group of friends that really understands what you need to do to get to the next level, so that can be quite tricky. I'm not able to go to endless parties or anything like that, but my good friends, who I can count on one hand, totally understand and support me.

10. Wear your big girl pants and never be afraid to fail

There are so many things I would like to say to a younger me. I'd like to say that you need to be really realistic. You need to really suck it up, put on your "big girl pants", be brave, learn to listen to criticism and listen to the truth.

When I was younger, there were so many things that I didn't achieve, that I wanted to. There were competitions I didn't get into, grades I didn't make - and I remember those moments like they were yesterday.

But learning from those experiences, that's when I really turned up the volume. I used that sadness - almost anger - and disappointment with myself to strive towards the next level. So don't be scared of failure. If you are meant to succeed you'll rise above that. Just keep going and it will make you stronger.