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May 28, 2011 / ballerina2thepointe

For the Record

It has recently been brought to my attention here on my blog that my book “So, You Want to be a Ballet Dancer?” has generated some negative responses on a reputable ballet discussion site, and I have been asked kindly to respond. I read the review and the accusations for myself, and after much consideration and some re-reading of my book’s text, I have decided that a response is indeed in order.

I would first like to state, for the record, that I wrote this book with the utmost concern and best intentions at heart for ALL ballet students – regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, or affluence. I most certainly DO NOT believe that these things have anything to do with determining whether or not a child should or should not study ballet, nor do they determine if he or she will be successful.

I did not come from an especially “affluent” family myself, and I never felt that was an issue one way or another. Did I have to work hard to earn scholarships? Yes. Did I have to harden and re-harden the same pair of pointe shoes to make them last? Also, yes. Did I have to recycle tights to use as warmers? Again, yes….hence the tips on how to do these things in the book! I neglected to give advice on scholarships, because they vary tremendously from school to school; perhaps I took it for granted that people know these programs are available. In retrospect, I think I should have mentioned it. It is irresponsible, and just plain incorrect  though to allow kids and parents (at least in the USA) to believe that ballet is an inexpensive  hobby. It absolutely can be VERY costly, taking into consideration lessons and shoes for a serious student (nevermind costumes for recitals – an entirely different monster!). Does that mean that only the rich can pursue it? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Teachers are oftentimes willing to give scholarships to talented kids, as most of us in the ballet world know. As for the shoes, they cost what they cost – I can’t change that, but I did open up honestly about all of the methods that I’ve used in the past to prolong their lifespan, as well as the method that I use now. As I also state, it takes time and experimenting to find out which method works best for each individual.

Now, for the issue of race. I honestly can not find anywhere in the book’s text where I make any mention of the makeup and tools being for light-skinned girls only. All of the makeup listed is essential for ALL dancers, regardless of skin color. I clearly mentioned you’ll need TWO types of foundation – one skin color (which of course will vary with the color of one’s own skin), and white. I explain that the white is primarily for ballets such as Giselle and Swan Lake – most professional companies WILL request that the dancers pancake their skin a light coat of white for the look of the character; as in the case of Giselle, the look of being dead. As other professionals could tell you, this holds true for dancers of any skin color. All of the other makeup essentials listed are generic and staple items in any and every dancer’s kit. I also mentioned not to get sunburned – not because dark skin is any less appealing, but because (as I clearly state) the red undertone of burned skin in combination with light makeup gives off a purplish hue under blue toned stage lighting.

The last issue I will address is that of the chapter on nutrition. I did not credit or specifically quote a nutritionist, though I am now beginning to think that maybe I should have. The information that I provided is specifically listed as a “Tip” as is any other “Tip” in the book. These may not work for everybody. It is, however, warranted information that I  received for myself from a consultation with a nutritionist  while I was in ballet school (SAB) years ago, and have adhered to over the years under the guidance of licensed sports/dance authorities.  I was repeatedly told in school that I need to lose a few pounds, but like many others – I didn’t know how. I just knew that I didn’t want to go down the anorexic or bullemic routes that I watched quite a few fellow classmates go down. My problem? Like many other students, I was eating the wrong foods! I specifically state that dancer’s should create a healthy “EATING” plan, not a “DIET” plan for their goals under the advice and supervision of a professional nutritionist or doctor. I am neither of these, nor do I pretend to be. The “Sample Menu” is merely an example of what I and colleagues of mine may eat during a typical working day.

I hope that those who have issue, and those have responded to the negative criticism will read this and keep it in mind. I also hope that those who haven’t read the book will read it for themselves and form their own opinions. All I ask is that it be read carefully, without personal interpretation of what I may be insinuating. I encourage parents to read it alongside their children, as they would any other “advice” book or magazine column, and see that the tips given are heeded in a responsible way.  Please do not forget, that I have written this partially as a memoir, and it is primarily based on my own experiences. I am open and honest about that fact. I encourage all students to pursue ballet, if that is what they love. Can they all be professionals? Sadly, no. I think though, that I expressed in the book how beautiful my career has been, and how grateful I am to have had all of the opportunities that I did. It is most definitely a career that I would recommend to anyone who loves it and thinks they have what it takes to be a professional.

4 Comments

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  1. Lix / May 28 2011 10:22 pm

    Jennifer, although I do not think you needed to respond to these alleged issues, I am glad you did. You were very honest in your answers like you are when you dance. Please keep encouraging the great new generation of dancer.

  2. yobe / Sep 13 2012 4:12 am

    An amazing person, and I can’t wait to read the book! Will pick up a copy reallll soon! 🙂

    Yobe

  3. Kim / Jul 22 2013 9:05 pm

    As a parent of an aspiring ballerina I enjoyed your book very much. Your responses were perfect and your book came across to me exactly as it should: your advice based on your experience, which is what I completely expected from it to begin with. I wish more professional ballerinas woudl write books like yours.

    • ballerina2thepointe / Jul 23 2013 5:55 am

      Thanks Kim! So glad you enjoyed it. Please tell your daughter to feel free to write to me here on the blog if she has any further questions after reading the book. I’d be happy to answer them! All the best to you both!

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