I saw a video somewhere on YouTube of some of the Dance Mom daughters auditioning for New York’s Joffrey Ballet School (not to be confused with the Joffrey Academy, which is the school now associated with the Joffrey Ballet). One girl made it into the school, but I believe she spent a short time there and then went back to competitive dancing. The other one shown on the video was told outright that she was not using her feet properly and needed some basic dance education. That’s a pretty damning criticism, as from day one in classical ballet training, one is taught to mind the foot on the floor.
The point is, these girls are not very well-versed in ballet. They know the names of the steps but that’s about it; other than that, it’s all on-with-the-show gyrating. And that’s okay…for what they’re doing. Apparently it’s more than enough for a Broadway dancing career these days (back in the day, I believe, one needed a firm grounding in classical ballet for that profession).
One differentiation I wish would be clearly made is between competitive dance and artistic dancing. This is why I have so much trouble with the whole YAGP circuit: in a way, it diminishes the years of accomplishment usually needed for those at the top of the ballet profession by rewarding kids for doing tricks instead of rewarding them for their possibilities. In ballet, a kid is usually just that…a kid. He or she will not arrive until age 24 or so. Sometimes not even that soon.
Once in a while, one sees a prodigy. But that is rare, and the burn-out rate is high.
On the other hand, the kids on the competitive dance circuit are all made to look like prodigies, much like (female) gymnasts peak before age 20: there is no soul or art to contend with; it’s all tricks. So as long as one has the physical ability, that’s all one needs.
We really need another name for dancers like this, one that would bring into the public’s mind a firm difference between these kids and the ones with the inner life that may someday bring them to ballet stardom.
Once upon a time, ballet didn’t place so much emphasis on physical prowess. These days the line is blurred between ballet and sport. Ballet students are pushed harder and harder to Olympian levels. And that is not what ballet should be about.
For that, we have competitive dance…and like I said, we need another name for these dancers. A firm line needs to be drawn. These kids are not and will never be ballerinas.