Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ugly Ducklings Turn into Beautiful Swans

I have noticed an interesting phenomena...Ugly Ducklings really do turn into beautiful swans!!!

I was trying to figure out where to begin in digging back into this when I received an IM from my friend telling me that her Gorgeous Daughter just got into a summer program with a scholarship!!!!  Her daughter has been working at this a long time and has not had an easy road!  She is a beautiful girl, but nothing has been a cake walk for her.  She is 19 now and never got into the "premier programs",  she is a "flawed dancer" but, she LOVES it!  So, she has worked her fanny off and each year she has grown exponentially and she is surpassing her peers and I know she is going to make it in some way!  Realistically she will never be "Balanchine's Muse" but she will dance professionally for some company and I can't wait to see her take the stage.  She inspires me!

A dancer with heart is what moves me!  I don't honestly know much about dance.  I love the arts, but I find I am so often "wrong" about what is good or bad.  I honestly love football because I can tell who the winner is, it's objective.  But, for me, a dancer is one that moves me.  I can't count if somebody has done 4 pirouettes or 5 or even more, but I can tell if they aren't in time with the music.  I have enough of an eye for dance to tell who moves me and often I am astonished to find out that he or she is not the one that is the favorite.

We have had an "ugly duckling" at our studio.  I LOVE HER!  She is a delight.  When I first met her, she was this tiny, awkward, little thing and I thought she was the age of my youngest child only to find out that she was the age of my son who is 5 years her senior.  But, even then, she found a special place inside of my heart.  I have watched her get shoved aside for years, and wait for her peers to get cast in roles that she was just too little to have.  Then two years ago, a wonderful thing happened, she started to grow...not a lot, but enough to catch up to her smaller peers.  But, that spunk that she had always had, that drive that had come from chasing the pack because she was so little, it was still there and....

This girl is in demand!  I have watched A-List companies start to fight for her (no fooling, I actually witnessed a little pouting fight between three top name school's AD's).  She is getting scholarships to some of the biggest school's in the world and she still has that killer personality when she goes on stage!  I was talking to my daughter last night about who she thought the funnest dancer to watch was and she said this girl's name!

But, interestingly enough, at our studio, I still think she is seen as a bit of an Ugly Duckling. She has been at our studio for so long and the AD's have had their beautiful swan (who is technically beautiful) that they don't see what has happened to our little Ugly Duckling.  It saddens me to see her still fight for her crumbs.

So, I have been encouraging her mom to get her out there and let her be seen, sometimes I take her with my own ugly rooster; and the companies love her!  I can't tell too much more about it without giving her away.  But, it is a wonderful feeling to see this young woman coming into her own!

The Ugly Duckling will always have a special place in my heart..I love to cheer for them, and I am ecstatic when they succeed.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Shake Your Boom Boom!

I have a tremendous bias when it comes to dance.  Call me a snob, call me whatever you want; but, in the dance world, Ballet is King!!!  I believe that a strong ballet dancer can do almost anything other dancers can do and better.  There are a few exceptions to this rule--Krump, pop and lock, breaking, and tap dance (these are specialty art forms and do not necessarily rely on the traditional dance vocabulary).

Given my prejudice towards ballet, you can imagine my feelings about parents that limit their children's training to commercial (recreational/competition) studios.  I know it is often out of ignorance, but I think that children that are still at commercial studios after the age of 13 face an ever-narrowing window of opportunity when it comes to dance.

Interestingly enough, I think commercial studios blow pure ballet programs out of the water  until age 10 or 11.  If you look at a student that attends a pure ballet program at ages 5 through 9, they are not very advanced in dance.  They typically lack the flexibility, expression and musicality that their similarly aged competition counterparts possess.  This continues up until age 10 and then an interesting transformation seems to take place.  The ballet-focused 10 year old begins to catch up to the competition student, by age 11, they are neck and neck with the 11 year old ballerina being cleaner in execution and the competition dancer being more expressive and musical and certainly possessing the tricks that wow an audience.  But, by age 12 (or 2 years of serious ballet training with a weekly jazz and lyrical class, the ballerina tends to take the lead).  At age 14, the ballerina that performs a lyrical piece is mesmerizing.  She  is technically flawless and somehow it all looks effortless while the prodigy commercial dancer often looks sloppy and seems to be unfinished.

So, these early results produce an interesting conundrum for parents; when is the optimal time to transition from a commercial/recreational program to a ballet program?  I see many parents stick with the commercial focused training too long.  In fact, there is a snobbery that comes from commercial moms to ballet moms.  Can anybody say "irony"?   I hear moms of 7 year olds that are at commercial studios say things like, "oh she is really advanced, she can already do triple pirouettes leading into 3 right leg hold turns into a double illusion followed by a back walkover into a split up into an aerial."

I think to myself, "Wow!  My daughter better get to work."

However, I leave it at a plain "Wow!" and I genuinely mean it.

They then go on to further offer that they think their children would be really bored at a ballet studio.  I have to admit I can understand why.  But, this pomposity will set her child up for failure in the future.

Like ballet moms, commercial moms get sucked into their dance lives and tend to think that sticking with the status quo is the best course of action.  This can spell trouble.  At 10 and even 11,  all of those super duper, shake your boom boom tricks and turns are paying off, but there seems to be a wall that these kids hit and for the most part, they stop improving.  Typically, mom doesn't realize it until it's too late.  Her daughter is still winning trophies and she can now do 6 pirouettes leading into a 5 right leg hold turn into a quadruple illusion followed by a back walkover into a split up into an aerial; so she is improving, but the technique is not coming along, and the artistry seems to start flailing.  The problem is they don't see that the rest of the pack is catching up until they have been passed by and the only dance prospects that remain are those that mean a lifetime of going from audition to audition looking for the next big thing.

This is actually a common problem among a lot of dance moms.  We tend to be very comfortable with our studio and the way things are going and we forget that our studio is  a vacuum  being the best in the class does not mean that they are holding up against their peers at other programs.    This is why I advocate finding a way to benchmark your child's progress.  In the younger ages, competitions either entering or watching are a great way to go about this.  As your children age, the Summer Intensive audition circuit is a wonderful option.

I am not suggesting that there are no successful commercial or ballroom dancers who have not been trained in ballet.  In fact, that is absurd. What I am advocating is that a student who wishes to improve their chances to be a  successful ballroom or commercial dancer would be well-served to supplement their training with a solid ballet education from ages 10-18.  The student that does so, will find that they are well-prepared for a career that starts on So You Think You Can Dance, or Dancing With the Stars and perhaps includes a stop on Broadway.  I think that the child that limits their training to commercial training only without a strong ballet foundation will still work as a dancer but they will be the ones slogging from audition to audition and going from gig to gig without the security of a weekly paycheck--as a parent, this is my nightmare.

For the record, while I believe Ballet is King.  I think that a ballet student that is a strong jazz, lyrical, musical theater, hip hop and tap dancer is more likely to work than a student that focuses exclusively on ballet.  In the corporate world, we refer to this as cross-training, in dance we just call it versatility. Whatever you call it though, the other genres lead to greater musicality, artistry, expression, and rhythm all essential components of a successful ballet dancer.

So, to my ballet mom friends...for all of the times that you have been talked down to because your child isn't able to do 30 pirouettes, remember that a beautifully choreographed dance like a piece of music, uses phrasing and punctuation through movement to convey the story.  A piece that is all pirouettes, leg hold turns, and other tricks is the choreographic equivalent of TYPING IN ALL CAPS.  IT CONVEYS A MESSAGE BUT NOT NECESSARILY ONE THAT FITS THE MUSIC.   However, for most of us while fluidity and technical precision are beautiful, we also love the excitement of a well-placed trick or two or heck even three or four.  Both commercial and pre-professional ballet training seem to create a well-rounded dancer maybe both parties should embrace what the other side has to offer and recognize that crossing over to the "dark side" may be just the ticket to put your dancer over the top when she is looking for a job.

A few videos of prodigy dancers at all ages:

Amazing but still makes me shudder...

Strong 7 year old dancers

Even though they are remarkable at 7, I object to the choreography and costuming.  Truthfully, this is why so many ballet moms are reluctant to put their children in commercial programs.

What I love to see...

Alex Wong, a classically trained ballet dancer shows his versatility!

This makes my heart soar!

Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On Blogging in Anonymity

I feel a little guilty for not revealing my identity.  It is actually uncharacteristic of me to be secretive.  My life has always been an open book.  I will tell you just about anything about my life as long as it doesn't compromise somebody else.  It is because of my desire to protect others that I have made the decision to keep my identity secret.

The ballet world is a small world and sometimes in it we behave badly.  I choose to believe that people's character should not be defined by their worst decisions and weakest moments, but instead by the sum of their actions.  Because of this, I believe that most ballet moms are good people, perhaps at times misguided, but in their entirety, they are good people.

If I put my name on my blog, you would not only know my name, but you would also know the name of the studio that my children attend, the names of my children and additionally, the families that attend our studio.  Some of the stories I share are from conversations that I have and hear in our studio, other stories are from studios that we have been to before, and some are stories from friends whose children go to other studios. Other stories come from characters that I meet along the way.  I believe that by preserving my anonymity, I also protect my friends and their children.

In addition to this concern, I want to protect my own children.  I believe their identity is irrelevant to my opinions and my identity is irrelevant to their training.  I am uncertain though that their school would agree and this is a chance I am unwilling to take.

Lastly, in order to make this blog a success, it is imperative that I am completely honest.  Not only honest in my observations, but also, honest in my own shortcomings and failures.  If I reveal my identity, I fear that I will try to be politically correct.   There is too much political correctness in the ballet world, we tend to sugarcoat things when honesty is needed. It is my experience that not all ballet moms are honest about things concerning their children.  They tend to overstate their children's talents, or understate their goals, they will exaggerate to put their children in the best possible light.  Sometimes it's exaggeration, sometimes it's a lie, and sometimes it's just distorted vision.  Most of the time, it is not malicious but it is detrimental.   If we are to learn from one another, honesty is warranted, but, it is hard to do so when it comes to our children; so, I will stay anonymous, so I can be honest.  I feel like it is a small price to pay.

"I Just Wanna Dance"

My daughter has started to go through pointe shoes more often, and that means that I now try to keep two pair in her bag (new pair and an old pair). This means I spend a lot more time and money in the dance store.  One day, I was talking to a young girl (age 13 or 14)  in the dance store about dancing.  After we had made the usual ballet small talk about where she trained and her favorite type of dancing (ballet), I asked her if she had a particular company in mind where she wanted to dance.  She looked at me quizzically, and said, "I just wanna dance?"

That's it, isn't it?  The reality is that a dancer doesn't care about the company or its location.  They just "wanna dance."  Don't misunderstand, they want to be compensated and they want to work in a community that supports the arts.  But, given the choice between dancing or not they will take dancing any day.

I think it is parents with our real-world concerns that tend to worry about whether they wind up on the stages in Europe, at Lincoln Center, or working in Small-Town North Dakota. In reality, these concerns are kind of silly.  For most kids, they will have a professional career that ends in their mid-twenties.  If it means that they only make $300 a week is that really so bad?  Presumably, they don't have a family to support; and if they are with a smaller company that pays less, they have time to go to college or get a part-time job or both.  So, if they don't make six-figures with profit sharing and pension, is it a big deal if they are happy?

I understand parents that would object to this as a profession if that means that the parents have to support their child.  But, if their child is living independently and this is their passion, then any amount of money they are paid seems like it ought to be worthwhile.

I spend far too much time worrying about my children's career and planning it out.  The truth is my kids are thrilled with the journey.  They celebrate their milestones and improvements every day.  They love every moment that they get with their teachers, they love the time spent with their friends in the studios and they love being able to apply corrections and improve in small increments every day.  They don't care what they are doing in three, five, or fifteen years.  They are happy in the now.  I could learn a lot from them.

In the end, there are so many things that are outside of my control, that all of my worry and concern is absurd.  All it does is aggravate my kids, my husband and create a lot of anxiety in me.  Anxiety that is often manifested as CRAZY BALLET MOM my unfortunate alter ego; who behaves badly because of pettiness and jealousy.

If this is a journey, I should it treat it as such, here are my new rules for survival:

1. Figure out the destination.  Do my children want to dance professionally? Is this their extra-curricular until college?  Are they just trying it out to see if they like it?   I haven't asked them recently.

2. Set some benchmarks along the way, must sees and must dos.  What are the things that they want to get out of their dance education?  Ask them the question, if they had to give up dancing tomorrow, next year or in five years what are the things that they would regret not doing.  Put those on their dance "bucket list."

3. Plan the day's journey.  Figure out what you need to do this year to give them the best chance to achieve their destination.  Set those goals and let them work to achieve them.

4. Assess tomorrow's route at the end of today.  Don't worry about what happens next year.  If you have done step 3 then step 4 will take care of itself.  Going too far in the future just confuses the present and keeps everybody from enjoying the journey.

5. Enjoy the journey.  Celebrate the journey.  Enjoy the little milestones, the new roles in Nutcracker, going on pointe, getting to go to a summer intensive.  All of these are significant milestones in a dancers career, celebrate them!

Sometimes it takes another person to give you perspective and cause you to pause and reassess how you do things.  These are blessings in life.  I welcome those opportunities as they teach me a great deal. Who would have thought a chance conversation with a little girl in a dance store, could teach me so much?  Perhaps the moral of the story is "Listen to wisdom, you never know where it might be." or for those of you who didn't need that reminder..."Always buy a spare pair of pointe shoes when you get down to one pair."

Mother Knows Best...Sometimes

I sometimes get a chuckle out of parents who have never danced professionally, who do not know any professional dancers and have no affiliation with the dance world that seem to think they know what is best when it comes to their children's dance education.  I am not referring to matters of career direction or what type of training suits their child (i.e. Vaganova, RAD, Cechetti, or ABT).  What I am referring to is parents who discount the recommended curriculum and attendance requirements but expect the same results as those students that follow the recommendations.

Our studio, like many pre-professional schools, prices its levels at a "package price."  The classes included in the package are pas-de-deux, technique, character, modern, conditioning, etc.    What I notice though is that some parents seem to pick and choose what they think is important.  Commonly thrown out are classes like jazz, character, and contemporary.  These classes are expendable in many parents eyes.  I hear my children's friends say that they don't take those classes because they have...karate, music, gymnastics and in some cases homework.  Do not misunderstand me, I believe that all of those endeavors are important.  My question is how do you make the determination of what is of value and what is not?

I hear parents make the argument for not taking character, for example, that their child does not like character.  Do they let their children skip Math because their child does not like it?

I hear parents say that they don't ask their child to take Modern or jazz because there child wants to be a ballet dancer.  Have parents watched any of the major companies perform?  Do they realize that most classical companies have a contemporary repertoire?  Do they realize that often one of the biggest difficulties that ballet dancers face is breaking down their rigid centers and being able to freely move?  Do they realize that jazz classes typically begin with stretching which ballet classes rarely do.

They argue that conditioning is not necessary because their kid takes 20 hours of technique a week.  Do they know that pilates helps them to find the muscles that are need to properly use that technique and avoid injury.

Parents will say things like..."we don't expect that she is going to be a professional dancer".  I want to say,  "Have you discussed this with your child?  Because it seems unlikely to me, that she wants to spend 12 to 15 hours per week studying something if she is not serious about it."

While I ultimately respect a parent's right to make the decisions that they feel are best for their child, I wonder if they realize that these choices may cost them roles in the future.  Have they explained the consequences of these choices to their child?

I contend that, pre-professional studios like academic schools, put together curriculums that they believe will produce successful dancers.  Something has to give.  If a parent chooses to eliminate elements of their child's academic curriculum, they would not have a leg to stand on if the child was not placed with a top-notch university.  But, yet, they will not hesitate to complain if their child is not given the preferred roles in shows, accepted into the A-list Summer Intensives, or placed with the top companies although they have created their own curriculum. This does not seem to be fair, does it?

Dance is a comprehensive education.   To have professional desires with a recreational approach to training is reckless.  Before a parent independently designs their own curriculum for their child's education, I would encourage them to discuss the matter with all parties who have a vested interest in their child's success in dance--the child and the studio directors.

If the studio has a comprehensive training plan supported by a comprehensive tuition structure, chances are the studio feels that the classes they are offering have value.  After all, they aren't getting paid extra money for the extra hours of training they are offering; but, they may believe that some classes are more expendable than others given your child's needs.  In some cases, it might be preferable for the child to forego technique before giving up modern.  That is only an assessment that in most cases the child's teachers are prepared to make.

As parents, we are too close to the situation and generally speaking, lack the knowledge and insight into dance training that would be required to make this assessment.  We tend to see things in black and white, but there are often shades of gray.  Make sure that you understand the subtleties in shading before you forge ahead.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Meet Mother Superior

As I mentioned before, I am convinced that there are ballet mom archetypes.  In my last posting, You Are So Lucky You Have a Boy. I mentioned the Boy Ballet Mom.  Today, I wanted to introduce Mother Superior.

You can identify Mother Superior in her environment by her smug attitude concerning her child.  It is a given (in her mind) that her child will be the star of the level.  Mother Superior believes that her darling should have the best roles, the bulk of the teacher's attention, and that the traditional rules concerning such things as pointe work and level placement simply do not apply for the child of Mother Superior.

Other talented children, who may be extended special privileges because they too are talented, are seen as threats to Mother Superior.  She will stop at nothing to ensure that her child is the most privileged one in the studio.  On the surface, this may not seem like a problem.   After all, she is only jeopardizing her own child's training with her unrelenting demands and expectations.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  Because Mother Superior is so vocal (often in a passive aggressive way), she can jeopardize other children's opportunities.

Let me give you an our studio, we have a rule of thumb that children are not put on pointe until the age 11.   However, we have a child who is age 10, she is strong, has regular attendance and looks like she is 16.  I suspect that if the teacher were able to make decisions on candidates for pointe work solely based on an individual basis, that she would make an exception to her rule that students be 11.  However, because Mother Superior has a tendency to stir up trouble when she senses a slight to her child this 10 year old will have to wait as Mother Superior's child is a tiny 10.

Another common symptom of "Mother Superioritis" is offering unsolicited assessments of your child's abilities.  Mother Superior will not hesitate to "lovingly" put down your child and suggest that they are perhaps not strong enough to have the same privileges that her child has.  If she does extend a compliment, it is generally in tandem with her child.   Seeing your child succeed has been known to cause a massive flare-up of this terrible condition for which there is no inoculation.

Some friends of mine encountered the wrath of Mother Superior when it came to their young daughter who was accelerated  beyond the normal levels.  Mother Superior had a daughter who was 17 and was preparing for what Mother Superior hoped would be a professional career.  Unfortunately, while very talented at an early age, Mother Superior's daughter had suffered the wrath of Mother Nature and a plague of hormonal changes.  After puberty, the young woman was plump and had lost a lot of the facility she had once possessed.

Mother Superior's daughter had grown up landing the plum roles and it was a foregone conclusion that she would be Sugar Plum Fairy in the upcoming production of The Nutcracker.  However, this exceptional 14 year old arrived and blew away the Artistic Director.  She was not only technically gifted but she was also aesthetically more pleasing.  Additionally, as a thin 14 year old, it was much easier for the Cavalier to partner her than the older heavier young lady.  So, roles went up and Mother Superior saw the casting.  She EXPLODED and began a course of destruction that may have rivaled Sherman's March to the Sea.

Nobody was safe from her wrath, they were either forced to listen incessantly about THE betrayal or she was aggressively sabotaging the younger girl by spreading rumors about her and her family.  It was horrible.  It was sad and did some damage to the young 14 year old who found it difficult to comprehend how people could be so cruel.  Unfortunately, for the 14 year old, it took a while for the other mothers to realize what was going on.  Initially, they believed the stories and lies this woman fabricated.  But, as it normally does, the truth won out.

The challenge with Mother Superior is, she is a competitive person.  She sees everything as a race and that there can be only one winner.  She does not understand that there is enough room in the dance world for all talent.  She prods and pushes her own child, she will not hesitate to challenge the teacher on her child's placement and she forgets her place with administration and other parents.  She perches herself and her child above others and asserts that her child is the standard.  Perhaps, the biggest problem, because her child is talented, she is involved; and she is generally likable--so, she can get in the head of the most secure of mothers and plant ideas that spur jealousy, hurt and resentment.  The other mothers will then see favoritism where there is none and believe that the studio shares Mother Superior's opinions about who does and does not have "it." The reality is...the studio knows that many students can have "it" and that "it" can take a while to emerge.  They do not tell students or parents that their child is the next Tiler Peck, Gillian Murphy or Maria Koetchekova, but this mother will claim that they did.  It makes it hard for teachers to sing the praises of Mother Superior's child, because she will inevitably expect something in addition, a bigger role, a new level placement, private lessons, you name it...they are entitled.

The Studio World can be a jungle.  There is all sorts of wildlife out there.  The trick is to learn how to identify the various species of Ballet Mom, know if they are poisonous or not and navigate safely through to your destination.  It is a tricky thing to do, but it can be done.  If you listen closely, you can identify the call of each archetype, "The Boy Ballet Mom", "Mother Superior", "Mama Bear", "Miss Clueless", "The Social Climber", "The Ballet Dad","The Pleaser", "The Penny Pincher", "The Super Volunteer" "Everybody's Best Friend" "Mrs. Not Good Enough",  "Miss Money Bags" and the "Is This Over Yet?"  The truth is for most of us, a little bit of each archetype exists in us.  The challenging part is keeping these personalities calm and in check so that we are able to be a voice of reason for our children and teach them how to keep perspective as they navigate this tough world.

You Are So Lucky You Have A Boy!

Mothers of boys who dance know this statement all too well.  I wonder if they all feel the same pain.  Having a boy who chooses to dance ballet is no picnic in the park, yet most people I encounter assume that it is.  People often assume that if a boy can point his foot he will be taking the stages of The Met; that choirs of angels will sing, that the seas will part and the male dancer can have his pick of whatever he desires in the dance world.  I don't honestly think that people believe this when they pause for a moment to think, but yet to Moms of Boys, it seems like everybody thinks this way.

It is a hard road taken to be a boy who dances.  If you are straight, you must defend your sexuality, if you are gay, you are "outed" perhaps before you are ready.  People make assumptions about you based on your chosen passion.  We have friends that are often surprised that my son is a car junkie, and when he mentions his girlfriend, you often hear an audible sigh of relief.  My father, and father-in-law have never watched my son dance.  In fact, I have taken home Nutcracker videos and they will excuse themselves from the room (my daughter is in it as well).  It hurts.  I don't even think they realize that they are being rude and that they are sending a very harsh message to both my son and me, but they are.  Our "enlightened and cultured" friends say subtle things like, "Well, good for him for knowing who he is."  or the classic, "What do you call a male dancer, anyway?"  As mothers, we are supposed to politely take this and pretend that we don't understand the subtext.  Most of us do.

My son has been bullied by straight kids, and sexually harassed by gay kids.  He has often found himself apologizing that he prefers women and he works hard to embrace his friends who are gay.  It is a weird road.

That is just the tip of the iceberg for a male dancer and actually it is not the worst part.  What might surprise you is the pressure to succeed that is put on a male dancer.  Because it is so difficult to choose this path, few boys enter into training without having some kind of professional aspirations.  Parents who allow their children to dance often develop expectations that their sons will make it because the odds seem more favorable.  There may be some truth to that, but the reality is that it is not nearly as easy as most people would assume.

Whether you are male or female, there is competition at the elite levels.  There are a limited number of jobs and lots of talented individuals who want those jobs.  Acceptance into the nation's top training programs are not absolute and placement in a company is elusive for men as well as women.  But, if a woman fails to get a job, people understandingly brush it off because they understand it is a competitive world.  If a man fails to get a job, people sometimes look at him differently and think of him as a failure.

When boys are younger, it is hard for mothers to celebrate their son's accomplishments.  When a mom says, "Fred was just accepted into Royal Ballet School on a full scholarship!"  People politely say, "Congratulations!"  but they almost always follow it with a dismissive, "You are so lucky that you have a boy!"  As if Royal Ballet just gives scholarships to anybody, and that hard work and talent had nothing to do with it.   For the record, Royal Ballet is extremely competitive and they do not hand out scholarships to anybody.  I know of extremely talented young men that have not been accepted to Royal or School of American Ballet or ABTII or HBII or other similar programs.

Another reason that having a boy is not so easy, Boy Ballet Moms are Often Nut Jobs!!!! You hear about crazy diva, ballerina moms.  Wait until you meet a boy ballet mom.  Important note, not all boy moms are crazy, but when they are crazy, it is an entirely different level of insanity.  Crazy boy moms assume that the world rises and sets on their sons; because of their son, they often take a Queen Bee role in the studio.  They pontificate about how things should be done and they throw their weight around like an A-list movie star on the set.  The crazy boy mom rarely possesses humility about her son and will brag constantly about how incredible he is.  They become a pseudo manager for their child and  make everybody feel, studio directors included, as if the rest of the studio exists to serve them.  They expect their son's needs to trump all  others.  When they feel as if they are not getting their due, things can become ugly.  They pout, they play games, they threaten to walk before a big production, and they will sabotage those that they believe are a threat.  It is a sad phenomenon and I have seen it in a number of studios with a number of mothers.  Perhaps saddest of all, this entitlement trickles over to the son and he becomes a diva in the studio and often is socially isolated.  Furthermore, when he goes out into the dance world, he is surprised to find that the world does not revolve around him.

I believe this "craziness" arises for a few reasons here are three.  First, overzealous studio directors become excited when a boy comes through the door.  They become invested in a boy very quickly and may be a little generous with the flattery in order to encourage the family to keep the young man involved.  The Artistic Director will give him spotlight roles at an early age to keep boys interested and this enables the sense of entitlement.

Secondly, because most boys start dancing later in life (after 10 or 11), a boy who has gotten a head start (ages 4, 5, 6 or 7) will often see early on successes from external benchmarks that are disproportionate to their female counterparts.  This will lead to a parent thinking that their child is extremely talented and they may be, (but at the age the pool of talent is still limited).

Next, Boy Ballet Moms have to become protective of their babies from the onset.  As mothers, we all protect our children, but as I said in the beginning of this article, boys who choose to dance need a little extra help. People are often cruel and as moms we will often become fiercely defensive of them.  As our boys get older, this is a behavior that becomes hard to dismiss.  We continue to look out for them and when somebody hurts them we move in for the kill.  It's hard for us to compartmentalize.

I am proud of my son and I am glad that he dances and my heart soars when I see him point his feet  and move across the floor; but, I take nothing for granted.  I don't assume that because he is male that he is entitled to anything more than his female counterparts.  I expect that his successes will come from hard work and perhaps a little luck.  But, I bristle when people suggest that this road is "easy" for him because he is a male.  It is different, I will give you that, but it is not easy.  He hates it when strangers find out he dances, he says they treat him weird and he has to work extra hard to establish his personality free from stereotypes.  When he earns a scholarship or a major role, it is expected and dismissed.  When he meets another boy in a studio, he has to be cautious in his friendship, he has been burned by the crazy mom that is threatened by him and the entitled young man.  It's a lonely road and one that I did not choose for my son (because like my father, I thought that this is not what boys do) but I am so glad he took it.  My life is richer, my friendships are deeper and my relationship with my son is tighter than most; so,...I am lucky that I have a boy, but not in the way that people assume but because he has taught me so much about life and love.