Your Body

Dealing With Problem Parents

If you’re like any of us, you’ve probably had a blowout with your mom in the dressing room over a ripped costume, or you’ve yelled at your dad for arriving late to a competition and missing your solo. Your teen years are tough enough—the last thing you need is a pesky parent to add to the stress. “My mom always complains about having to help at competitions and about the other studio moms,” says Bri, 13, from Sayreville, NJ. “My parents make remarks about extra classes and summer intensives. They don’t like paying for them or taking me there.” Whether your parents are totally overbearing or just don’t care about your dance career, we’ve got some feud-free solutions.

“I don’t care how tired you are, get onstage. Do you really want to blow this? This trophy is important to us…er…you.” —The Pushy Parent

The problem: You adore dancing but worry that your parents love it (and the medals) more. Remember Maureen’s overbearing mother in Center Stage? She was constantly harassing her daughter about why her leaps weren’t high enough and telling her who she should be partnered with. Maureen finally grew so exhausted from the pressure that she developed an eating disorder and quit dancing.

How to deal: Talk to—don’t yell at—your parents. “Tell your mom and dad, ‘I appreciate your involvement. You obviously care a lot about this, but I’m getting to the age where I need to figure this stuff out by myself. You have to trust me now,’” advises sports and dance psychologist Dr. Harlene Goldschmidt, PhD. Thank your parents for their support, but ask them gently to back off.

“I can’t believe Cindy’s kid got the lead; did you see how awful she looks? Those pirouettes are pathetic! And I heard Debbie’s daughter gained 12 pounds over the summer!” —The Gossiper

The problem: Your mom (or dad) drops you off at the studio for class but instead of leaving, she sticks around—to gossip. So while you’re sweating your way through across-the-floor combinations, she’s giving other studio moms the rundown on who doesn’t look so hot and who isn’t solo-worthy. Not only is she running her mouth about trivial matters that don’t affect either of you, it’s embarrassing and makes you look bad.

How to deal: Your mom’s gossiping is distracting you from perfecting your port de bras, so let her know that her presence is taking your focus away from your dancing. “Say that you need space to work,” Dr. Goldschmidt explains, “and that her presence and her gossiping are complicating things for you.”

“Good luck at your competition this weekend, sweetie. Can you get a ride with Chelsea’s dad? I’m busy.” —The Uninvolved Parent

The problem: Your parents have no problem shelling out dough for classes and costumes, but when it comes to showing up for recitals and competitions, their attendance is subpar. Maybe mom and dad are working overtime to pay for additional ballet classes, or you’ve got siblings who need attention as well. Alternately, your parents may show up for the events, but sit in the audience reading the newspaper or talking on their cell phones.

How to deal: There are lots of reasons why your parents may not be 100 percent behind you, so think of some possibilities before approaching them. Are they going through a divorce? Is there a new baby in the family? Do they understand just how meaningful dance is to you? And on a purely logistical level, are you telling them when your performances are, or do you just assume they know?

First, let your parents know how much you appreciate what they are doing for you. Dr. Goldschmidt advises pinpointing a special upcoming event and telling them how important it is to you that they come. “Say, ‘I know you can’t make it to every recital, but this date (write it down!) is when all the parents come and bring flowers. I know you’re stressed, but it would mean the world to me if you came.’” The reality is that sometimes parents just don’t get it. “Explain how important dancing is to you,” Dr. Goldschmidt says. “Instead of talking down to them, educate them.”

“You want to take how many classes this year? And try out for the competition team? No way.” —The Unsupportive Parent

The problem: Whether your parents don’t want to pay for classes or don’t support your dance dreams in general, not having them cheer you on can be a huge blow. Your mom and dad might be against your desire to dance, but it’s also possible that the problem is deeper—they may not have the financial resources to support such an expensive dream ($130 for a costume is a lot!) or may be working multiple jobs, which doesn’t leave them much free time to attend recitals.

How to deal: Don’t yell or give your parents the silent treatment. Instead, put your feelings into words. Explain why you want to try out and how it would better your life if you made the team. You also have to be willing to compromise with mom and dad (groan, we know). If your parents are sick of driving you to class and worry that with additional activities it’ll mean more driving (and more gas!) for them, strike up a deal—if they drive you to class, you’ll get a ride home with a friend. Talk to your studio owner about becoming a teacher’s assistant in exchange for a tuition break and, if you can, get a weekend job so you can help pay for classes.

Dr. Goldschmidt’s Bottom Line: “It takes a while to find the right words to have a mature dialogue with your parents. It’s like choreographing! You find the steps that are right for you, then you make a performance for someone else.”

Dance News
Photo by Jayme Thornton

Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.

Keep reading... Show less

Leap! National Dance Competition offers dancers of all skill levels an opportunity to showcase their talents in an event where the focus is on fun and competing is just a bonus!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer

Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
The School at Jacob's Pillow's contemporary program auditions (photo by Karli Cadel, courtesy Jacob's Pillow)

Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.

Keep reading... Show less

When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.

In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.

The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."

Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Leah Morrison in Trisha Brown's If You Couldn't See Me, in which the soloist never faces the audience (photo by Julia Cervantes, courtesy Trisha Brown Dance Company)

Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.

She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.

Keep reading... Show less
Blankenbuehler (far left) with the rest of the "Hamilton" creative team scontent-iad3-1.cdninstagram.com

So book your tickets to Tulsa already, people!

Keep reading... Show less
Your Body
Amanda LaCount showing off her skills (screenshot via YouTube)

There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.

Keep reading... Show less
Watch This
Angela Sterling, courtesy PNB

Mark your calendars, bunheads! On Monday, January 29th, at 2:45 PM (EST)/11:45 AM (PST), Pacific Northwest Ballet will be streaming a live rehearsal of Act II of Kent Stowell's Swan Lake.

Keep reading... Show less
Watch This
Tavaris Jones dancing with the Cleveland Cavaliers' Scream Team hip-hop crew

We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)

So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Want to Be on Our Cover?

covermodelsearch-image

Video

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Sponsored