The journey of a Ballerina is long and filled with years of sweat, perseverance and an unbelievable razor-like focus each and every day.
The journey of the Ballerina’s mother is even longer…..filled with years of driving, waiting, hoping, praying and yes paying, with an unbelievable patience of Job each and every day.
I am on this journey…..my name is Kimberly and I am the mother of a aspiring Ballerina.
This Blog charts my journey.
My personal journey in the world of Ballet started long before I was a mother. As a little girl, like so many little girls, I dreamed of becoming a professional Ballerina, dancing on the stage for all the world to see. I loved all things Ballet; the tights, the leotards, the silk ribbons, the leg warmers, the smell of the studio, the rosin…all of it.
I truly believed I would always be a part of that world……until the day my strict Spanish Ballet teacher Ms D. dashed my dreams forever. On this day she called my mother into the studio and explained to her, as I stood innocently at the barre, that ~ “while Kimberly shows promise and a love for Ballet, she will never make it as a Ballerina….she is just too petite and little”.
Those words changed my dream forever.
In high school I decided that although I would never “be” a Ballerina, I still loved all things Ballet and took classes after school for many years…..just for fun. Even though I would never become a Ballerina, I still loved all things Ballet.
Fast forward to today – I am ironically encompassed in the world of Ballet again. I am now the mother of a 14 year old budding Ballerina. And while I am still enchanted by all things Ballet, being enchanted in no way means I know anything about this road she/we….are traveling.
For years I have followed the curriculum that was thoughtfully planned and set forth by her dance studio. My daughter began in a pre-professional program when she was 8 years old. She started dancing at the age of 5 in the world of competition dance. When she was 8 she realized she really loved ballet most of all and wanted to change to a classical Ballet program.
We allowed her to “try it out”.
She immediately fell in love with the quiet discipline and the strict rules. She fell in love with the large beautiful studios in downtown Minneapolis. Perhaps most of all, she fell in love with the live pianist accompanying each class. Whatever it was, after that very first class, she stated firmly that “from now on I only want to dance Ballet”.
And if she was not completely convinced before, once she performed in her very first Nutcracker – at the amazing State Theater, accompanied live by the Minnesota Orchestra – her heart and soul were completely hooked.
From that day forward the only source of discipline we as parents could wield for misbehaving or showing “sass” was to keep her from ballet. She loved what she was doing and she has never faltered since. In fact, her passion only seems to grow stronger each and every day. And this is often the hardest aspect to navigate……as a parent how to foster this passion and drive while also keeping your child “normal”? How do we keep her life and our lives in balance?
For years as parents it seemed rather easy. We allowed the pre-professional program to help us in this balance. We allowed the program to navigate her journey. The program provided her with a curriculum that did not seem overwhelming….it was thoughtful, professional yet age-appropriate. This was comforting as parents because we did not have to over-think the process or feel doubt that we were either not doing enough or doing too much.
I loved that I did not have to intervene or push her in any direction….the program provided just the right amount of training to keep her progressing appropriately. And this continued year after year….level after level.
It was easy – we drove her to dance, she danced and she loved it. She performed in Nutcracker after Nutcracker – each year getting exciting and different roles. And while it certainly has been time consuming and costly – when I look back on the journey of the past, it really was easy.
Hindsight is always……
Our journey took a distinctly different turn in January of 2013, when my daughter decided she wanted to audition for the some of the big name Summer Intensive ballet training programs.
We had officially entered into The Audition phase of her journey.
“All of my friends and I want to do the auditions in Chicago….all of the mom’s and girls could go together and have a girl’s weekend”
….she knew that those words would convince me. I love girl’s weekends.
And so we went……flying to Chicago.
I was not too concerned. I informed her that we would be doing the auditions” just for the experience”. After all, she was only 13 years old.
Still, I could not go into this experience without understanding more about the process and the programs.
What most of my friends and family know about me is that I am a true “research-aholic”. I love diving in deep…..super deep into subjects that fascinate me. And with my life’s fascination with the world of Ballet, coupled with the fact that my daughter is living in this world – this was a perfect combination for the “research-aholic” side of me.
I now realize that it was at this point that my world would never be the same. It was at this point that I realized that I could no longer cocoon myself in the comfort of her pre-professional program. I realized that once she began the audition process, I would need to help navigate her future.
And so the research began. I learned that the two programs that she planned on auditioning for were ranked as two of the most competitive in the nation. I learned that her chances of getting in to either program were slim. I learned that Chicago was a tough city to audition in, as it brought some of the top talent in all of the North and Midwest.
All of this was interesting and helpful – and allowed me to have the “real” discussions with my daughter. I made sure she understood that her audition experience was going to be a great opportunity to practice auditioning and that she was probably too young to go away just yet.
Even in learning and knowing this information – my research did not slow down (after all – I am a “research-aholic”). I began to try to learn as much as I could about ALL of the Summer Intensives (SI’s) throughout the nation.
What made one better than the other? How tough are they to get into? Why did certain SI’s rank in the top 5 in each and every place I researched? What about housing…..meals……travel….cost? And on and on and on…..every answer brought forth more questions.
Then I began researching the audition process itself. I wanted to better understand how a dancer might do their best – what were some of the “tricks” or “tips” to standing out in a sea of amazing talent?
I prepared a survey and sent it out to a dozen or so prestigious Alum from her pre-professional program – all who had gone to some of the top SI’s around the country and world. Their responses were sincere; filled with words of wisdom, and advice. Their thoughtful answers were heartfelt and sometimes raw with emotions surrounding the audition process. The survey was a huge help in better understanding what to expect.
I read forums, I contacted programs and then I realized that I was learning valuable information (and having a blast in the process). So I began sharing what I learned with my friends whose daughter’s were also involved in the audition process. In fact the night before the “big” auditions in Chicago, I read each of the surveys to our little group of ballerinas. I saw their wide eyes and watched as they soaked in the words of wisdom from the dancers they have looked up to and emulated over the years. I truly believe that the surveys gave each of them a boost of confidence for their auditions.
The weekend – while stressful, was a whole lot of fun. Once we were back in Minneapolis, my daughter continued with auditions – auditioning for a total of 6 Summer Intensive programs – from NYC to LA and a few locations in between.
She was hooked and filled with hopes of hearing good news. She was especially hopeful for SAB (School of American Ballet), as it has always been touted as “THE” program to attend if ever given a chance.
And while obsessed with SAB – I had prepared her not to put “all her eggs of hope into one basket”.
Based upon my research, I learned that only about 10-12% of dancers auditioned ever got accepted into SAB. I learned that SAB only accepted 200 out of thousands and thousands dancers who auditioned around the world. I also learned that about 50 of these 200 were boys and that another 30-50 were returning dancers from the year before. Therefore, there were realistically only about 100-125 openings for dancers aged 12-18.
Three days after her SAB audition she received an email informing her that she was…
Tears of surprise and joy welled in my eyes – I couldn’t believe it!!
Proud Mama does not even come close! She had worked so hard for so many years and this was a dream come true for her.
Once the excitement and joy settled down, I realized that I could not imagine letting my baby girl go to NYC for 5 weeks!
At that same moment, I realized that I could not imagine NOT allowing her to have this experience. Especially in light of knowing the statistics…..what if this opportunity never came again?
And so, she traveled to NYC and lived on the 16th floor of the Rose Building in the Lincoln Center Plaza. She danced for 5 weeks in studios where members of the NYCB dance every day throughout the year.
Her life has been changed forever…..
She has officially been bitten by the NYC bug.
She is hooked…..enchanted and more driven than ever before.
And so changes my life forever too.
My role in her life of ballet has taken a new turn. Now, I am not only researching Summer Intensives but all things Ballet.
Her future is NOW, right in front of us. I realize that now is the time to take a role in helping to navigate her best options in the world of Ballet. Now is the time to learn and understand HER best path.
I want to keep a “Big Picture” view of her journey. I want to understand ALL paths available and understand what fits her best…..and then allow her tochoose the path based upon knowledge and education, as well as emotion and passion.
What I am learning in this process is that many parents are on my same journey. I am also learning that many parents do not understand this process any better than I do. And perhaps most of all, I have learned that most parents are not “research-aholics” like me. They do not spend the obsessive amount of time I am spending to learn about this subject.
Which brings me to the purpose behind this Blog and Podcast – I realize that if what I am learning is beneficial to me – then certainly the information is beneficial to other parents and dancers who are on the same journey.
And so I present to you Balancing Pointe ~ a Podcast and Blogging journey toward understanding and sharing the incredible world of Ballet.