At ballet competitions, I sometimes I feel like my student’s mother. I feel the same concern, empathy and pride for them when they do well! Ballet teachers wear many hats and one of them is parental guidance for their ballet choices. Success is empowered when there is mutual respect and trust between the teacher, student and parents.
This weekend is the Youth America Grand Prix in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have mentioned before that I have been “on the fence” about ballet competitions for years . I feel a conflict for the basic reason that ballet is an art and difficult to quantify. However, that would presume that all contestants are of the same technical level in each age group. If that were true, we would be judging solely on our artistic bias.
The Dilemma of Ballet Competitions
The dancers are not the same level and there is no criteria for entry in this competition other than the teacher’s discretion. Thus there is a great range of technical skill to judge! The level of pointe work (I only saw females dance today) ranged from intermediate to preprofessional in the 15 year old entrants. There was one girl in the latter category, in my opinion and she was lovely!
To me “lovely” means beautiful technique, expression and musicality. For this age category, I certainly appreciate carriage and épaulement which does not come naturally to young dancers these days . On the other hand, does anyone else feel bad for the girls that really are not ready for this forum?
The audience is sparse with just parents and (yikes!) ballet teachers. The judges are top notch and quickly scribble notes in a 30 second window between variations. I had to look away at times because I could see the tension and fright on these dancer’s faces. They really had a difficult time with demanding variations. So there is the empathetic mother/ballet teacher!
I left the theater after taking pictures with two of our students and perusing the ballet vendors with one thought in my mind.
It was “Work in progress”. “Progress with work”.
With the many distractions and demands that young people face in their lives, it is commendable that there is a venue where they can challenge themselves in the arts.
No solution is perfect. Every year that I coach a student, albeit with hesitation, I come away knowing that they reached for a higher level. I gave my personal best to help and was appreciated. Again, two generations worked together to create artistry.
Progress With Work
I felt satisfied and had a smile on my face because my student(s) took a risk and succeeded beautifully.