Are We Ready to Stop Hating on Ballet Yet?

Monday, July 31, 2017


There is something that is really bugging me on the internet. It has become popular to hate on dance, and ballet in particular, with the argument that ballet is not safe for our children to participate in from a body image and sexualizition standpoint.

I have been in ballet starting from the age of 4, mostly took a break in college, and came back after my second child was born. I have enrolled my son in ballet this past year and he will continue into a boys program this year. I have seen a lot of dance schools, styles, teachers, and dancers. Professionals, the professional aspiring, students, and just-dancing-for-fun people.

I cringe when I hear that parents are avoiding letting their children participate in dance because they "want them to have a healthy body image." Especially when the follow up is "do sports instead!" Y'all, sports are not an immunization against negative body image. It may even be worse if parents assume that sports are safe thus they don't need to be looking out for negative body image or a distorted relationship with food or exercise.

Sexism, sexual exploitation, and "competitive thinness" are all very real issues in sports, and even more so for female athletes. Parents assuming soccer or volleyball will be immune to such issues only makes it a better primed environment for exploitation.

I have known a lot of very serious athletes. They also train extremely hard, struggle with the physical and mental demands of their sport, and see the good and the bad in their sport.

The common denominator between the bad experiences is that they happen when parents, and athletes/dancers, sign onto a team, a dance school, a program without doing their own legwork to see if it would be a good fit.

Please do not assume something that was a good fit for your friend will be a good fit for you. Instructors change, coaches change, teammates change. If parents do not take the time to check into the particular class/team their child will be enrolled in, then reality can be wildly different from your expectations.

It is being a smart consumer to check it out before you sign up, but also to check in with the class instructor/coach and your kid as the year progresses. Attend any observation days. Know what goes on in a typical class/practice.
I am not saying be a helicopter parent. Anyone who has ever taught a class with little kids can tell you there is a balance between being involved and being overbearing. I am saying to pay attention.

If your kid wants to take a ballet class and you have never been to the ballet or taken a class yourself, please try and educate yourself about the dance world. If you do not understand what is and is not normal for a class at your child's level, it will be very hard to express your concerns or combat negative situations.

Ultimately parents have to make the right call for their own child, but enough with letting a bad experience taint your perspective of an entire art form.

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On Wednesday I'll have a post on healthy body positivity, my perspective as a adult in ballet without a stereotypical "ballerina body", and navigating puberty in front of a mirror.
Come continue the discussion!




8 comments :

  1. I haven't ever taken ballet, and it's not something we can afford for our kids at this point. So I have no experience with anything. :)

    But-- I can tell when someone has taken ballet. The way they walk, stand, and just generally carry themselves is so graceful and elegant. That poise is beautiful and remains long after someone has stopped dancing. For that reason, I have such admiration for ballet.

    Thanks for offering your experience as a response. Seems like the best conclusion is "be a parent."

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    1. Basically! I kept thinking with the first few anti-ballet for kids articles would eventually result in the parents making better choices and realizing they needed to LOOK at things before jumping in. But no, they just proposed jumping into new things.
      I do wish there was more opportunity for good ballet instruction in rec centers and community programs. Some dance schools are getting better about that, but we have a long way to go.

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  2. We've been very happy doing ballet for 5 years. Then again...we did research ahead if time.

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  3. Really.. I haven't heard online but it is funny since my girls only do Classical Ballet and I think it has help them in so many ways to be more feminine and beauty. Our dance studio only does classical and is very very modest in the costumes for the recitals and in the studio... She has help the girls also see what a beauty they are in the eyes of God. I know that we are very blessed to have this studio in our area. I think that there are some studios that do more of the hip hop , mordern dances that have some outfits on these little girls that I would call soft porn so one does have to be aware but in Ballet I don't think so. I was never a ballet dancer myself, more of a soccer player but that was very hard on my body after 25 years playing that I discourage the girls from playing soccer (as in a team setting) but they all love to dance.

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    1. Not all studios are created equal for sure! I always look for schools that are connected to a company and have particular curriculum style. If they don't have an idea of where a class is going, it's very easy to devolve.

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  4. I loved ballet, and I never felt at all like it caused a negative body image. If anything it made me stronger <3

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    1. If anything I think it made my relationship with my body healthier. I'll tell more of my story on Wednesday!

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