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Friendships at a ballet studio

Published: November 30, 2013 | Last Updated: January 31, 2014 By | Reply Continue Reading
Thirteen can be a tough age, especially among ballet dancers.



My daughter is a ballet dancer. She started at a new studio 18 months ago and over the first year, made five friends. One of the five girls was kind of snobbish, aloof, and exclusionary from the beginning. Others were nice. They included my daughter in all their events, but it always (felt to me at least) that my daughter was kind of the

During their Halloween performance, these girls (including my daughter) were goofing off a little too much in the locker rooms. In addition, the girl that was aloof all the time went back and forth from ignoring our daughter to apologizing. This happened three times over one week and our daughter was exasperated.

The night before the last performance, we sat our daughter down and had a talk with her:

  • Act appropriately and professionally.
  • The girl friends are not really pulling you up…but down. The drama is pulling your head out of the “game”. To us, it seemed like maybe these girls were not being true friends.
  • We stated that two of the girls in the group might have gotten solo roles, but the whole group goofs off too much. The creative director probably wasn’t taking any of them very seriously.

Unfortunately, our daughter (who has always spoken the truth) told the girls what we had said the night before. Two of the girls’ moms were “manning” the locker room the next morning.

Long story short? Those girls not only got mad…they stopped talking to our daughter. The moms stopped talking to me. The girls gossiped about our daughter at the studio. Currently, there isn’t one girl at the ballet studio who will even look at our daughter.

I have apologized (via text because no one will talk to me) profusely. I can’t think of anything else to do. It’s a horrific situation…with no conceivable solution. My daughter is now afraid to walk in the door everyday because the girls laugh at her and talk behind her back.

She is 13 years old, and she is a good dancer under contract at the studio every day for three hours. It’s not an easy thing to just leave the studio because she’s at such an advanced level. 🙁 I hope you get this because my daughter and I are hurting.

Signed, Anne


Dear Anne,

I can tell how much you love your daughter and how concerned you are. Most of your instincts are spot on.

The world of dance is a tough environment for even the strongest of kids. Thirteen is such a hard age, too, even under the most ideal circumstances.  Your daughter is in a tough spot, yet one that is probably temporary in intensity, although similar patterns might continue thought her dance years, since competition becomes greater, not less intense as dancers come of age. While watching your daughter in pain has to be very difficult, this isn’t an issue you can “fix” for her.

At thirteen, your daughter has entered a period of her social and emotional development where she’s learning to deal with friendships in a more independent sense. She’ll share less detail with you and want more privacy. All this is developmentally appropriate and shows that you’ve done a good job encouraging her while not interfering with that important process in her growth.

If your daughter wants to stay with dance, this is a tremendous opportunity for her to grow strong and confident. This might be a good opportunity to discuss with your daughter what she wants from dance. Does she have such passion that it will help her rise above the locker room backbiting? Does dancing bring her more joy than sorrow? If so, help her focus on her love for the art, and toward making friends outside the studio. You may also want to remind her to be cautious about being too provocative (only if you think she has been) in such a competitive setting.

Parents can be very supportive by mentoring and modeling friendship skills. For example, you can advise your daughter to greet the other girls as she normally would, and prepare her by role-playing for how she might react if they ignore her (including remaining friendly and continuing to act confident). She can only control how she behaves, not how others react. If they see her being affected by their behavior, it will continue. Practice kindness.

If you have examples how you handled difficult coworkers, share them with her. Remind her of her true friends from school or the neighborhood and encourage her to plan activities with them. Help her concentrate on her love of dance. As much as you can, try to separate your hurt from hers as you are her soft place to fall and she needs your strength.

If this becomes a bullying situation, talk to the adults who run the program. Wishing the best to you and your daughter.

Amy Feld*

*Amy Feld, PhD, MSW has trained and worked as a child psychologist.

**No information provided here or elsewhere on this blog is intended as medical advice. The blog focuses on everyday friendship problems.

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Category: Child and adolescent friendships, Helping children deal with friendship problems

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