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February 17, 2011 / ballerina2thepointe

Answers for Young Dancers

I am eagerly anticipating the release of my ebook “So, You Want to be a Ballet Dancer?”! I am hoping it will be out by the end of this month or early March. Just adding the final touches… I’m so excited!

There was a wonderful article discussing it in today’s NY Daily News. Here is the link below…

As always, I encourage anyone who has any particular questions, comments, or issues they’d like addressed to post them here on my blog, and I will be happy to respond!


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  1. Denise / Feb 17 2011 7:13 pm

    Wonderful! Thank you, Jennifer. Good to have another post from you and looking forward to your book. ~ Denise

  2. Jacqueline / Mar 6 2012 3:09 am

    Hi, I was just wondering if you could answer me this question: If a ballet dancer wants to become a professional when should she go en pointe? Is 13 too late to start pointe if one wants to become a professional ballerina? I understand that this answer differs on the dancer, but if you could ust give me a genral statement that would be great! Also , when did you start pointe work? So, if you could just answer me these few questions that would be wonderful. I can’t wait to buy your book and reda it by the way, it looks great. Thank you!

    • ballerina2thepointe / Mar 6 2012 4:40 am

      Hi Jaqueline!
      You are correct, the right time to start pointe work depends on one’s progression, strength, and technical abilities, and therefore differs from dancer to dancer. Not to worry, 13 is not too late! The most common age to begin pointe work here in the USA is around 12-13 yrs old. I began (very slowly I might add) at around age twelve and a half.
      I hope you enjoy my book, and please continue to write in with any other questions!
      Best, Jennifer

      • Jacqueline / Mar 7 2012 10:37 pm

        Thank you so much! So cool to hear form a professional ballerina by the way!

  3. Jacqueline / Jun 11 2012 4:24 pm

    Hi, Jennifer. I have one more question(s) for you. First, of all I just started pointe work and it’s going great. I have heard that after only two months of pointe SAB dancers are doing fouettes en pointe. Is this true? Any tips of advice for dancers staring pointe?? And lastly I have a question about extensions. When you were my age (13) what did your extensions (like developpes) look like? Were they at 180 degrees. I am very flexible and have good grand battmants but have poor strength leading to semi-bad developpes so I was wondering how old you were when you got really high extensions and do you have any tips on gettig high developpes? Thank you so much!

  4. flyingflyingstar / Jun 26 2012 7:04 pm

    Hi Ms. Jennifer,

    I am struggling with something and I hope I can get some advices from you. I hope you don’t mind me for not pointing out any school name or specific city here.

    I am almost 15. I started ballet late, but I love it and have been taking ballet classes serious in the past of 2 years. I dance around 8 hours a week. I started pointe in end of last year. I love it. I just LOVE it!

    I know the chance of becoming a professional dancer is quit slim here. I don’t ONLY want to be a professional dancer, in fact, I am really not sure what I want to do in the future. I am very good at painting and I sing in a very good choir. I like my school too, not all the subjects but I think I will miss school if I no longer attend. My mom specifically said that she doesn’t want me to quit the school, but I know many girls in the ballet studio are homeschooling, so they can practice more. I fought with mom for many times before but I gradually started to understand that she does have a reason — putting all my eggs in one basket probably isn’t so wise.

    My question is…

    we recently moved and I auditioned for the preprofessional program at a big name school, but didn’t get in. They have a more general program, like almost every girls can study there. It is not a bad program but in the 5 weeks I’ve spent in this program, I am getting into a habit of competing “weird” things. There was one week we were crazily competing for who can eat less. Couple girls only ate ONE strawberry a day. And, we always talk about who can do more turns, get their legs higher and who accepted by the BEST SI. It is a big name school after all, so I feel if I want to be like a real dancer, I have to compete for those things. I don’t really feel comfortable, but I have been telling myself that I need to “win” all these competition, so I can have a space here. I already started late, I need to work harder.

    There is a local ballet school too. People have been telling me that it has a pretty good reputation, but it is definitely not a big name school. Girls there are happier, in my personal opinion. They don’t have many students go to SAB for summer and all that, but there are more “average” girls and activities — we have ice-cream sometimes and no one talks about quitting the school. In fact, the school doesn’t promote homeschool at all. The class size here is smaller too. It is all pretty nice, except it is really NOT a big name school and it doesn’t have huge building or a theatre inside. But, they want me, they have given me a chance to study with them. The teacher told me that she doesn’t know my future but if I want to dance right now, she will help me to improve everyday.

    I am deeply confused. The big name school makes me feel that if I want to be a real dancer, I have to adopt that environment. I either become stronger after all the competition or I lose and move to another place. The local school makes me feel that if I want, I can choose to be whatever I want. I can even choose I want to dance happily or I want to dance happily and dance very good. If I want to be REALLY good, should I just stay at the big name school? Is there really a RIGHT way to become very good at ballet?

    My mom said I need to choose to be at the place where I will be happy. But, if I want to be a good dancer, shouldn’t there be a sacrifice? My mom’s life view is that I need to be happy…it is not I don’t understand her, but I also don’t want to be second or always lose either. Can we please discuss about this?! Thank you so much very!!

    • ballerina2thepointe / Jul 7 2012 12:56 am

      Dear flyingflyingstar,
      Thank you so much for writing in. I apologize for taking a while to respond, but your letter struck me emotionally, and I wanted to think about your situation thoroughly before responding. I also wanted to further discuss the issues with some other professionals before giving you my advice. Thank you for your patience.
      First, I want to say that in this case, Mother definitely knows best – I agree that you should choose the school where you will be happiest. It makes no difference if a school has a wonderful reputation, a big name, and sends girls to prestigious Summer Intensives – if YOU are unhappy there, YOU will not succeed. Everyone is diffrerent and will reach their full potential and thrive in different ways. You must identify and choose the path that feels right for YOU.
      Secondly, to answer your question – NO, there is NO specific RIGHT way to become very good at ballet or to become a professional ballet dancer. The only things that ARE consistently necessary and tend to be found in the greatest dancers are: some amount of talent, true love and passion for the art, tremendous dedication, and a very disciplined work ethic. Attending classes at a “big-name” school DOES NOT necessarily guarantee that you will be great, nor does it guarantee that you will become a professional. I know several professional dancers who never attended “big-name” schools, and if they did, it was just for a S.I. or two. As a matter of fact, I grew up taking ballet lessons at an especially small school in my neighborhood in Queens. My teacher was wonderful, and she brought in many guest teachers to give classes as well. She was very nurturing, paid close attention to all of her students, and gave us many performing opportunities. When I turned 16 and graduated from High School (by the way, I was not home schooled either), she suggested that since I really wanted to be a professional, that I audition for SAB. She felt that at SAB I would have more exposure to the Balanchine style, and more opportunities to be seen by company directors etc. It was also good for me to be exposed to girls who were my age and dancing at a higher level. At my school I was “The big fish in a very small pond”. At SAB I was just a guppie in an enormous ocean. I attended classes there for only one year – then I accepted an apprenticeship with the Miami City Ballet. Though SAB definitely supplemented and enhanced my training in many ways, I didn’t spend very long there so I don’t feel they are ultimately responsible for making me the dancer that I became. I believe that training under my original teacher for 9 yrs, and Edward Villella for the last 18 yrs has sculpted me into the ballerina that I am today.
      Like you, being suddenly sumerged into that new intense and competitive environment was hard for me, and I too was faced with daily pressure to do unhealthy things and to compete in unhealthy ways. Thank goodness though, because I had such a strong and stable upbrining, and wonderful prior training, I knew that taking part in those crazy activities would only cause me harm. I successfully steered clear of them all. It takes tremendous character and strength to say “no” to peer pressure – but it sounds to me like you are a very head-strong, insightful, mature and determined young lady. You seem to know very well that succumbing to these pressures is not OK. I commend you for that!
      Please don’t feel that you have to adapt to a negative and potentially dangerous environment to succeed as a dancer. YOU DON’T! What you do need to succeed is the strength and intelligence to handle these situations wisely and make decisions that are best for YOU. In becoming a dancer, there will always be a certain amount of sacrifice – that just comes along with the territory. Sacrificing your health, well-being, happiness, sanity, and integrity, however are certainly NOT requirements for the job. Never let anyone tell you that they are. Emotional well-being is just as important as physical well-being; trust me, you’ll need to keep both in tact to continue improving and to hopefully become a professional (if that is ultimately what you decide you want to do).
      A certain amount of normalcy and balance in your life is both healthy and good, in my opinion. There is nothing wrong with indulging in the occasional ice-cream cone, or going to a “normal” school, or having non-dancer friends. These are all natural parts of growing up, and it is natural for you to have the desire to participate in such activities! Some young dancers choose to make tremendous sacrifices in every aspect of their lives early on, some don’t. Everyone is different. Neither one or the other is “correct” or “necessary” per se. These are very individual decisions, and can either lead to great success or tremendous regret – depends on the person. I can not say what is right for you or best for you, but it sounds to me that you are very comfortable talking with your mom and teachers and I encourage you to continue doing so to identify what the best path for you is.
      I hope this was helpful, and please do write in with any other questions or concerns. You name and other specifics are NOT necessary, and I completely understand you wanting to maintain anonymity. I thank you again for your letter, and for turning to me for help. I’m quite sure there are many other young dancers who are experiencing similar situations and will identify with your concerns. I am sure they will appreciate reading our correspondence.
      Do look for my book “So, You Want to be a Ballet Dancer?” which is currently for sale in electronic format on and (links to purchase can be found here on my blog). It is full of stories about my bumpy road to a professional career, as well as advice, hints and tips for young dancers like you. The hard copy edition will be published and released next Spring. It has added and updated information, and it directly confronts and discusses several of the issues that you have brought up.

      Much luck and Keep on Dancing!!!
      Best wishes,

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