For Parents
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As a dance parent, you know that dance training can get expensive—and classes are only one piece of the pie. Factor in a pandemic, and an economy that has consistently seen about a million Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits each week, and the financial burden can be entirely overwhelming.

Whether a member of your household has lost income, or your dancer's training and performing is just adding up, what are your options? And should you involve your child in talks about money?

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For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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For Parents
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Even in a normal year, the college application and admission process can be fraught for both your dancer and you as their parent.

But add in all the distanced, virtual and remote complications caused by COVID-19, and the process becomes even more strained. Because while your dancer may be stressing about video auditions, you are also likely stressing about your child leaving your nest and heading to a city or campus you've never actually visited. How can you be sure a particular program is a fit?

Dance Teacher spoke with a university dance department director, an admissions officer and a high school guidance counselor to provide some tips for tackling college decisions—all from afar.

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For Parents
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As adults, we know the pitfalls of social media: the screen-time addiction, the misinformation, the bullying, the predators. So when your tween comes to you with a request for a dance-focused Instagram account, it's natural to initially be opposed. But completely prohibiting its use is not realistic in our increasingly digital world. "It's the social norm these days," says Danielle Zar, a licensed professional counselor who specializes in parent education. "Not letting your teen or tween on social media can affect their peer relationships."

So how can you give your dancer some autonomy, but also ensure her social-media usage is safe and healthy? Here, Zar and dance dad Chad Hatala—who monitors daughters Taylor and Reese Hatala's verified accounts with a cumulative following of nearly 1.8 million—offer their advice. The key? Finding what works for your family, because it's not one-size-fits-all.

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For Parents
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Continuing dance classes virtually during the pandemic is important for a child's sense of community and physical and emotional health. But it's understandable for them to be increasingly frustrated by learning via screens. (It's also understandable for those lucky students who've gone back to in-person classes to be frustrated by necessary social-distancing and mask-wearing procedures in the studio.) Zoom fatigue, the lack of peer energy during classes and grief over canceled events can be disheartening, and may even lead to some dancers reaching a breaking point.

So what do you do when your child suddenly wants to quit dance? We asked licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Christina Donaldson, an advisory panel member of Youth Protection Advocates in Dance who works with adolescent dancers, for her advice.


1. Ask questions without problem solving.

"Find a time to talk when you know you won't be interrupted," says Donaldson, admitting that sounds easier said than done these days. "There's an incredible load on parents right now, and you likely don't have a lot of bandwidth. But scheduling this special time with your child will make a difference."

When you do talk, approach the discussion with curiosity. "I encourage parents to not problem solve or poke holes in their kid's arguments. Just ask, 'What is it that makes you not want to dance?' 'How long have you been thinking you don't want to dance?'" Some kids will respond with a flurry of "I don't know"s, which can be frustrating. But persistence is key. Try: "What is it about dance you no longer like?" "Have you felt this way before we went on Zoom?" "Is this new?" "What do you imagine you'd rather be doing?"

"Lots of times, kids feel that parents asking questions means they're going to be criticized," says Donaldson. "You want to ask questions in a way that makes clear there's no judgment and no expectations." She stresses the importance of a calm, curious tone.

2. Make improvements or changes.

From your initial dialogue, you may learn that your child still loves dancing, but an element of home-based training isn't working for her. "Maybe she doesn't have the right floor for tap classes or he needs a better ballet barre," Donaldson says.

If it's an issue of burnout over the same routine, try switching things up instead of quitting altogether. Your child may be interested in experimenting with a new style or taking virtual classes from master teachers outside your regular studio. The hope is that, together with your dancer, you'll figure out a way to make dancing fun again.

3. Watch out for any red flags.

In some cases, a child's sudden urge to quit may point to a potential cause for concern—a deeper issue that should be addressed by a mental health professional. Notice if your child is more easily frustrated and angry, extra broody or sad, anxious, unable to self soothe, or especially if you see a change in eating habits. If there's anything that makes you raise an eyebrow, follow your instincts and seek help.

"A big concern, on an extreme end," says Donaldson, "would be an eating disorder or self-harm brought on by anxiety. Instead of constantly looking at themselves in a mirror, now they're on Zoom and seeing themselves through the lens of a computer screen."

4. Enforce physical activity.

If your child is simply not finding any joy from dance right now, allow them the space to take a break—with an understanding that they must find another physical activity to do instead. "Movement produces endorphins that help with mental well-being," says Donaldson. "We need to keep their bodies moving, especially as there's so much sitting involved with virtual learning."

Donaldson notes that scheduling physical activity will be especially important in areas with seasonal change. "I'm in California, so kids here can play outside all year long," she says. "But on the East Coast or in the north, that's going to be challenging with the weather."

5. Keep the dance door open.

Quitting may come with its own sadness and grief, Donaldson says, and it's important to honor those feelings, while letting your child know that "dance will always be there for them if they want to come back." Bottom line: Don't let classes become a source of stress or resentment just for the sake of sticking it out. Instead, foster a lifelong love of the arts by allowing your child to try new things. "You may find that your child returns to dance with even more certainty once they've explored other options," says Donaldson.

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