Suzy Talks 2 Parentstalk parents

Suzy Miller knows the job scene. As an award-winning choreographer, educator, videographer, and dance-mom, she’s dealt with every aspect of the dance profession. Here, she draws on real experience as she addresses questions brought up by parents.

Dear Suzy,

My 16 year-old daughter started dancing at 14 and is absolutely passionate about it. But she's frustrated because she started so much later than her friends. She feels like she'll never catch up with their technique, and is so hard on herself. She never feels good enough. She says she isn't even a "real" dancer. What's your perspective on this? - Laura P.

Suzy's Response:

Laura, I love this topic, because I didn’t begin training till I was 19. (That sounds like a fetus to me now, but in the dance world that’s like waiting till you have your AARP card.)

Most professional dancers begin dancing between the ages of 3 and 9. But there definitely are exceptions. The magnificent Misty Copeland didn't start training till she was 13. Multiple principal dancers from the Royal Ballet, ABT, and Paris Opera ballet began at ages 14, 15, and 16. The amazing SYTYCD star Philip Ch'Beeb started at 15. Edward Villella, one of the world’s premiere male dancers, didn’t start till he was 19. Royal Ballet dancer Diarmaid O'Meara began at age 22!

It's never too late to start training as a dancer, but how much and how hard you train depends on your goals. I was a hippie chick guitar-player till I discovered dance, and suddenly knew what I wanted for the rest of my life. So, at 19, I took 3 classes a day, 6 days a week for 2 years before I could finally hold my head high in intermediate classes. I wanted a pro career, and nothing could stop me. What are your daughter's goals? Is dance her social playtime, her personal heaven, her competitive sport, her career goal? Her desires need to dictate her pathway from here. Dancers have to decide why they're dancing, and if it's for a certain goal, strategize how to get there. What she needs to do to "get there" depends on where there is.

Whatever her reasons for dancing are, the main thing she needs to do is give it time. So here's what I say to her:

Sweetie. Don’t waste energy feeling like you’re not a dancer; know that just by going to class, you are becoming a dancer. Don't measure yourself against others; keep your eyes on the prize and know that each step is getting you to the dancer you want to become. As often as not, students who go on to become incredible dancers are the ones who had to work extra hard for it.

So dance, baby dance --- life is short and unpredictable. Cut loose, be fearless, and eat dessert first.


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