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Parents & Teachers > Ask A Teacher > General Dance FAQ

 

 

Q: My daughter is 12 years old. She is currently in her ninth year of dance. She is a very focused and serious child and of course, wants to go on pointe shoes. Her teacher said she has been ready for two years and as soon as I decide, she will put her on them. How do I really know if she is ready?

A: I applaud your concern for your daughter's readiness to be on pointe. Her teacher is absolutely correct however. By age 10 or 11, usually the ossification and bone formation can support pointe work. The heel bones are generally well-developed which will help the arch structure. Posture, strength, and having a good foot position is also important in order to be ready for pointe work. Usually, it is good to have at least two years of solid, regular ballet training before attempting pointe. Also, one must be trim, have good posture, and a sufficient arch in order to stand on pointe. It is important to have a strong demi-toe action before going on pointe. It is worth waiting the extra time because it will make the transition from demi-toe to full pointe much easier. If all sounds right- yes- go out and get those shoes!! Sincerely, Kathryn Sullivan

Q: If I start dancing later in life, will I have a chance at becoming a professional ballet dancer?

A:Starting ballet at a late age can put you at a disadvantage but an early start is not always the most important factor in making a professional ballet dancer. Natural flexibility, appropriate body proportion, muscle tone and coordination are probably more important. And these we have little control over. Keep working hard and make sure that you enjoy the work. When your teacher feels you are ready try a few auditions to gauge yourself in the current competition. Even if you don't become a professional, ballet can have many benefits for your life and bring you great joy. Best wishes, Bart Cook

Q: I was wondering what it's like being a professional ballerina. What things did you have to give up to attain your goal and how hard was your venture to get into a ballet company? What was a daily day like for you?!

A: Being a professional ballerina is certainly an unusual occupation. It is total commitment to a difficult art form. The days are long, lasting from 10:30am to 10:30pm and have very little free time for other things. However, the rewards and experiences, I feel, are very worthwhile. You do sacrifice certain things, like a big social life and time with your family, but if you can adjust yourself to the demands of such a career, you will find these things working out in the long run. I was so lucky to be chosen by George Balanchine to join New York City Ballet right out of School of American Ballet, so in a way, I never had to audition. I think one really has to be prepared to audition mentally, emotionally, and physically. Just like at the Olympics, a dancer needs support from teachers, friends, and family to succeed at this difficult lifestyle. Wishing you happy dancing, Maria Calegari

Q: How can I find a good studio in my area?

A: Look in the local phone book for dance studios in your town. Call and ask some questions and go there for yourself to observe. Look for a studio whose teachers have a certificate from Dance Masters of America or Dance Educators. It will indicate that they have undergone a training on teaching techniques in dance. If you are interested in the competition scene, look for a studio that has a strong dance team. This usually acts as an incentive for the students to work hard. Also, find a setting and environment where you are comfortable; a location, style, and approach that is right for you. If you are into dance for fun (and that's fine!) you may pick a different school then one that has professional standards for its students. Find a studio that is good for your needs. Sincerely, Kathryn Sullivan

Q: I have trouble centering my turns in point and ballet class. What can I do to help this problem?

A: Having a "center" on turns involves several issues. You must have your body centered on the standing leg- that is, to find the body's natural plumb line or center of gravity- in order to have a good turning axis. It is also essential to set up a solid preparation position for your turns where the weight is primarily on the front leg, for ease in getting up on releve. Keep a consistent spot; start and finish with the same spot. You are in class with dancers who have danced longer than you, so please don't compare yourself! Continue to work on those turns with patience. Sincerely, Kathryn Sullivan

Q: I was just wondering what is the correct body type to be a ballerina? Every person that I have seen in ballet has long legs, is very thin and tall. Is this the way you should look if you are in ballet?

A: The optimum ballet proportion, yes, is the long-limbed, thin dancer around 5'1" - 5'6". Actually it is not ideal to be too tall for partnering purposes. What gives the illusion of height is the small head proportion and long legs. Yes, this is the ideal picture but this alone does not guarantee that one can dance. A good technique is also needed. Certain companies prefer the ideal body-type; others are more flexible to type. Personally, I would rather see a not-so-perfect body but a dancer that has clean technique, musicality, and personality on stage! Kathryn Sullivan

Q: What kind of steps should I take to eat well and keep my strength up? (general nutrition)

A: Getting strength and stamina requires a lot of effort and discipline. Be very conscious of what you are fueling your body with. Have a good breakfast before school, a moderate lunch and a healthy after-school snack. Always keep yourself hydrated- drink plenty of water. It is a good idea to keep energy bars on hand and pace yourself wisely. Sincerely, Kathryn Sullivan

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