Career Development Plan - Ballet Update on Young Dancers

by Jacqueline
(America )

Career Development Plan - Ballet Update on Young Dancer

Hi, Odette. It's Jacqueline again. I know I haven't written to you in a while, but I guess it's because I wanted to first find out how things would take place in ballet. I'm not sure if you remember (this was a few months ago!), but I showed you all of my ballet options for this school year. You told me that if I desired a career in ballet, training at the Joffrey in Chicago would be my best choice. I knew that you were right. I talked to my parents and they couldn't drive me to Chicago. I was stressed and didn't know what to do and I cried the night they told me they wouldn't send me to Joffrey. I felt like my dream were failing. A few days later, my dad took me to Chicago because he was going to some of the stores there and running some errands. I asked him if where we were going, we would be by Randolph street (where Joffrey tower is locates), he told me where we were going, we would be right by there because the Joffrey tower and where we were going would be located right in the heart of Chicago, (the beautiful, tourist-y section that my familly really likes going to!).
My dad took me to Joffrey tower and we even spoke to the Joffrey secretary about classes for me (this was very surprsing for me, and when started asking the secretary about classes for me I thought I was going to faint). My parents agreed that if I got at least a 3.7 GPA at school they would enroll me at Joffrey's youth division where I would take class on Saturdays. I was so happy about this.

I now take ballet and pointe at my current ballet school that I trained at during the summer, where I have been training for a year now. I dance two times a week, each day I dance, I dance for 2 hours. The first hour and fifteen minutes is ballet, and the last 45 mins we do pointe and now that I have been doing pointe for 4.5 months, we are moving away from the barre and do pointe mostly in centre. Being in the second most advanced level, at my ballet school, we are quickly advancing. I have to say, I am without a doubt one of the best dancers in my level. There are 9-12 of us and are ages range from about 11-18 year old. A few dancers from the advanced ballet classes take class with us. In grande allegro we now do grand jete, saut de chat,and entrelace. We also do things like promenades, arabesque penchees, and developpes (my penchees and other extensions are getting a lot higher now, and my penchee is at 160 degrees now and I can now do pretty good at balancing in arabesque penchee in centre). We also do pirouettes ( sadly, I can only do singles right now) and lots and lots of pique turns. I have improved LOADS since my first class in my current level which was at the very beginning of the summer. I went from a shy, semi-insecure dancer who just start in level IV, to a dancer who is very confident and improves every single class. I also currently have a 3.7 GPA and first quarter ends very, very soon for my school (although, it's like that for other schools as well, of course). If I can hold my grades I can train at Joffrey during the weekends, which I am both excited for and kind of scared for, but like everything in life, it will just use some adjusting and hard work.

I am planning my summer intensive auditions for this year. I'm thinking I will be auditioning for these summer programs: Cincinnati Ballet, Carolina Ballet, Ballet Austin,and Atlantas Ballet. The programs I just said I consider to be my "practical" programs. i also think I will audition for a few HIGHLY prestigious summer programs which I think will be Houston Ballet, pacific Northwest Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet just because I think these auditions will allow me to learn in what areas I need to work on and how I can allow myself to grow as a dancer. Although, every program I have listed above is very prestigious, hard to get in, and I will learn a lot from for sure.
So, this is really what has happened with me in ballet lately. I was wondering what advice you can give me? Does it sound like I am doing well as a dancer? What do you think I can do to improve and to better prepare myself for a ballet career, for training at the Joffrey, for summer program auditions, etc. Also, I did not get chosen to be in my small ballet schools, production of the Nutcracker. This was disappointing, but I have been doing so well with ballet and things have looked so positive with my dancing that I knew I couldn't complain too much. I was wondering how you dealt with disappointing in your dancing. Although I'm sure you're an amazing, amazing dancer it seems that even professional dancers have to deal with disappointments in their careers even though they have already made it to their dreams so how do you deal with it now and how how did you deal with it when you were my age (13 years old)?? Thanks in advance Odette, you always help me tremendously!!!!


Reply by Odette
To:- Career Development Plan - Ballet Update on Young Dancer

Hi Jacqueline,
Thank you so much for your update. It is super to hear from you again, and you bring up many memories of my own time as a young ballet dancer. Your assertiveness and enthusiasm for ballet never fails to enlighten me, I am sure you will continue on to great things. You know, as well as being a talented dancer, your own attitude and state of mind is just as important as your dancing ability. Not everyone has this self-driven attitude naturally in them, but I know just by reading your messages that you have it. You are very proactive, passionate and determined which is nearly everything you need to have as a dancer.

I try to think what will help with your pirouettes, even though one of the most greatest teachers said to my class 'it is not the number of turns the panel (in an audition) are looking for'. There is nothing wrong with doing single pirouettes, but if you are trying to practice more then don't change anything about how you approach or prepare for the turn. Keep it simple. Lift up in your body and keep lifting that retire during the turn. It is one of the best feelings when you just keep turning on balance in a pirouette, but it rarely happened to me consistently as I was not much of a natural turner. Keep practicing though, you will grasp it - there's no rush.

One thing I can definitely talk to you about, is disappointment. For sure, I had my fair share of disappointment as a dancer and I soon became aware that mostly every single dancer had it along their career too. No matter how big or small, or how talented you are, there will always be disappointments. Yet you can learn from each one how to handle it, how to cope and how to move on to not let it hold you back.

I am sure that no dancer can put aside the feeling that disappointment brings, because it is disheartening to face anything that you wanted so much and didn't happen. I got very inspired when I began to hear about other dancer's career disappointments and realised it wasn't just me who was feeling let down. I listened how they moved on and onto better things in their journey as a dancer, so that I knew I would too.

There is a ballet dancer, Melissa Hamilton, who is now a soloist with the Royal Ballet becoming a huge success. Yet she was once never looked at as anything special, and even told perhaps she wouldn't make it as a professional ballet dancer. Yet, look at her now!

Also, I know one incredibly talented male ballet dancer who achieved his dream to join Houston Ballet, only to not have his contracted renewed after one season. He joined the National Ballet of Canada, only to be told he was too small. Then, finally, he did not give up after his disappointments and went onto to become a Soloist in a ballet company in Europe.

The main thing with disappointment, is do your best to fight away those feelings that only bring you down. It is a part of life and you have to move on and accept what has happened.

Another memorable teacher once told me how every dancer gets their moment and their chance. It is true that sometimes you won't always get what you want, but there will come a time when you do and it may even be better than what you wanted in the first place. Time will take it's course in your path as a dancer and you have to let it roll.

That is mostly what I have to say this time, but keep in touch - you are doing superb.

Best wishes,

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Jacqueline's Question
by: Orla

I was just reading your reply to Jacqueline's question and you have really inspired me to be MORE determined!! I know exactly well what disappointment feels like ( I am 14 and I have auditioned for 6 ballet programs/courses/shows and I was only accepted into one of them (Regional Youth Ballet's Les Sylphides where I gained a the solo of Aurora). Being accepted into this felt so amazing and pushed me further because up until then I had only felt disalpointment and frustrated (especially as I work so hard in class and stretch outside of class) but you have made me learn to just ignore those dreadful feelings of disappointment and I can carry on and get better!

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