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Ballet for my girls? No thank you

Young girl in a karate pose kickingNow that I am a doting mother of two girls, I would much rather have them participating in some form of martial arts over dancing.

My reasons are not based on avoiding them from developing a ‘princess complex’, I personally think martial arts is more nurturing and better for their self-esteem and discipline.

I have always thought the vision of little girls in their pink tutus practising their pliés or pirouettes is just way too cute. But, the constant attention and focus being paid to body image and ‘perfection’ is just too much, especially for particular personalities.

As a mother, I would rather protect my girls from this unnecessary pressure. I prefer them to focus on an activity that teaches them discipline, self-esteem, respect, involvement and verbal communication.

I find this even more important when I see how sensitive they are. A sport that teaches how to find inner strength is far more suited to them over one that is obsessed with physical beauty.

Like any mother, I think that my daughters are beautiful, and I tell them that every day. At the same time, I want them to learn that there is so much more to oneself than physical beauty, and that it is not to be obsessed over or exploited.

I want them to also find strength from within. The strength that one finds in their intellect, discipline, respect for others and passion in the pursuit of their dreams.

Martial arts aims to teach children how to be well-adjusted, disciplined and hard working.

The recipe for success in martial arts demands the need to work towards a goal, self-esteem, discipline, involvement in class, respect for teachers and students, physical development, coordination and mindfulness. Many of the principles taught in martial arts classes can be applied to life in general. Children are taught the importance of hard work, dedication and discipline in the pursuit of set goals. Perhaps the most valued lessons are self-esteem, confidence and the restraint and courage needed to walk away from hostile situations with dignity.

With such a high prevalence of bullying, depression and anxiety in today’s society, I feel that martial arts has the potential to better equip children with ways to cope and overcome these issues. Martial arts bases itself on drawing strength and resilience to combat hostile people and situations. This is opposed to the world of dance, whereby attention is placed on perfection and beauty, and one is criticised for not fulfilling that preconceived notion of what it really is.

Children need to learn how to stand up to bullying and abuse. They need to be equipped with the right methods of combating such negativity. Fighting fire with fire does not always work, and children should be able to know when it is best to simply walk away. Studying and practising the discipline of martial arts is by no means a free pass to thumping anyone we think is annoying or who we do not get along with.

Of course, both sports promote the social aspect of participation, but I have heard of more girls quitting (or being unhappy with) dancing due to the bullying, negative vibes and unrealistic pressure being put on them. Not only that, but so many have dedication many years to dance with no real prospects eventuating in terms of career and reaching professional status. Whereas, martial arts has welcomed more positive feedback with parents praising how much more disciplined, confident and content their children have become since training.

I just want to point out that I am not trying to criticise anyone who chooses dancing either for themselves or their children. Some people truly are destined for that industry and make it through just fine. And, I applaud those who do enjoy and succeed in the discipline. It is obviously not for everyone – and I do acknowledge that there is a required level of skill, hard work, training, dedication and discipline involved.

I just do not perceive it as the best environment for my children. I feel that they would benefit more from a sport or activity structured and focused much in the same way as martial arts. I can see that they have inherited my ‘sensitivities’, and they need an environment that is more nurturing as opposed to critical.

“I do not think that strength plays that big of a difference. If it is that big of a difference, then the elephant would be the king of the jungles, not the lion” – Anderson Silva

Image credit: andreyfire/123RF Stock Photo

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4 comments so far -

  1. An interesting view point here and rather general. My ex partner ran martial arts studios and I ran ballet studios. From personal experience there was no difference in confidence, self-esteem or respect in the way we operated as adults or teachers or in the way we encouraged our students.

    This article does have a whiff of “advertorial” rather than editorial/article and this article does have typos. There is a lack of credibility here and from a professional position as an ex ballet student and teacher please don’t deny your little ones – girls or boys if they have a desire to express themselves through dance. There are many styles, many wonderful teachers and many opportunities in the world of dance.

    I’d also like to point out this statement – “Of course, both sports promote the social aspect of participation”, a correction needs to be made – dance is an ‘art form’ not a sport.

  2. There are many different kinds of dance schools and the ethics and vibe of each school can vary greatly. I believe you can find all the benefits mentioned in this article through dance. Our dance school on the Northern beaches focusses on fostering healthy happy kids rather than amazing dancers. Kids learn about their bodies and how to care for them. They learn to work in a team. They learn about the power of the mind when dealing with performance nerves. They are taught age appropriate choreography and wear age appropriate costumes. The focus us on fun dance for all abilities. Not all dance schools are the same.

  3. I was an overweight little girl who did ballet from 5-12yrs. In the school I was in, at that level, weight/body shape or size was never mentioned. Not by the teacher or by the other students. We were all just who we were.
    There also weren’t tutus. There was a leotard, tights and ballet shoes. I think in lower levels there was a small wrap skirt and later an elastic around the waist.
    I never felt self conscious because of my size.
    Ballet gave me confidence and good posture, together with fitness.
    I don’t disagree with martial arts but please don’t discount dance because everything you want your daughter to learn from martial arts, she can from ballet. Especially discipline and respect.
    And why does dance have to be about making it in that industry? Can’t it just be fun? And learning? just how many ballet/dance schools and classes have you actually stepped foot inside to know that your perceptions are true?
    Choose whichever sport you like for your child but before you sprout garbage about others at least find out a bit about them first.

    • Hi everyone – as a teacher of dance and someone who has worked in the industry for many years I would like to respond. I agree with all the sentiments expressed by Ana about the benefits of martial arts and if you insert ballet in place of martial arts the sentences would be equally true. The majority of teachers I know would never refer to a child’s size. The majority of boys and girls who dance do so for the joy and the added benefits such as discipline, work ethic, posture, fitness etc. and not necessarily to ensure a career option as an outcome. I never went through my training years thinking I would be working in the industry. I was just a little girl and then a big girl working as hard as I could to be the best that I could in an activity that I loved. I was nurtured and trained well. I would like to think that the 100’s of children I have taught over the years have fond memories of their training – a few who are now working in the industry and the 100’s more who I am proud to say are wonderful, intelligent, smart, respectful adults making their way in the world. Classical ballet and dance in any genre is a wonderful activity for children who are active, those requiring an activity to improve co-ordination, build confidence, have an affinity with music and all the reasons given above to considering martial arts. Find what is best for your child and be a supportive and encouraging parent and find the teacher that brings out the best in your child. I think the most important message behind this discussion is find something for your child to participate in. Get them off the couch and engaged and whatever they do be sure there is time for play and for them to be kids … Happy parenting from a newbie grandma passionate about the dance industry and life!



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