In most classic stories, we root for the underdog. Ballet is no exception. We love hearing
about dancers overcoming impossible odds,
about the ones with bad feet and zero turnout
rising to the top, about stepdaughter Cinderella slipping on those glittering pointe shoes
and outshining everyone at the ball.
It’s harder to gain sympathy when you’re
a prodigy or class favorite—a dancer who was
born with a seemingly perfect body, who gets
into all the summer intensives and who is always cast in leading roles. But with incredible
gifts come particular challenges. Prodigies can
sometimes feel awkward owning their talent
while staying gracious among their peers, and
may lose their sense of self in the pursuit of
excellence. Dancers of this caliber often either
ride on their talent or burn out early. Finding
balance, both socially and physically, will best
prepare you for professional life.
BALANCING HUMILITY WITH PRIDE
Whether you’re training with dancers who
are older than you or you’re simply a school’s
pride student, being singled out for your talent
can be a dif;cult social experience. “Being a
student could be lonely sometimes, whether
I was being moved up to to a new class or to
a new school or taking private lessons,” says
American Ballet Theatre soloist Skylar Brandt.
“It’s important to have camaraderie with others. It certainly makes class a lot more fun and
relaxed.” Find friends who will celebrate your
successes, and also support you when you’re
having a tough time.
The dif;culty lies in being humble, with-
out being so reserved that you hold yourself
back. Francine Kessler Lavac, co-associate
artistic director and teacher at Westside
School of Ballet in Santa Monica, Califor-
nia, says she’s had to help students who are
embarrassed by their talent, and others who
like to brag. “I tell kids that it’s okay to be
fabulous, it’s okay to be the best,” she says.
“Don’t feel guilty. Never apologize for your
I always liked standing in the back. And I
gift. But you can’t be entitled just because
For Brandt, something as small as where
you stand during class or what group you
dance in across the ;oor can send a message
to your peers. “There’s a subtle way to go
about your work where you are staying at
the top of your game without being obvious.
think something like that helps others feel less
threatened.” Lavac seconds not standing front
and center: “When you’re good, it’s obvious.
You will be seen.”
WORKING TOO HARD?
OR HARDLY WORKING?
Prodigies can often fall into one of two traps.
“I’ve seen it in a lot of students: The kids
who have it all can get stagnant,” says Central
Pennsylvania Youth Ballet’s Simon Ball. It
can be easy for these dancers to coast and Ros
during training years
BY KRISTIN SCHWAB
“Being a prodigy, it’s
almost like you’re alone
with this talent, and who
are you without it?”
—FRANCINE KESSLER LAVAC