I want to be a professional dancer, but my parents won't listen. They either don't think I can do it (contrary to what my teachers have said) or they won't let me take the necessary steps to become a professional. Please help. —Audrey
I remember having a similar experience with my parents. A dance career is not only unusual, it's short and can be financially unstable. My mom and dad couldn't understand why I wanted to put off college to embark on a profession that could end with one false slip, and where I'd have to collect unemployment benefits during layoff periods. They were proud of my accomplishments at my studio, but pursuing a career sounded incredibly risky.
Eventually I was able to convince them to let me give ballet a shot. My advice is to educate your parents about the profession as much as possible; the more they know, the less scary a career will seem. Have them read dance articles and books with you, and ask to set up a family meeting with your teacher. Talk about the incredible rewards a stage career can offer: touring the world, working with famous choreographers, collaborating with musicians and artists, and being part of a city's cultural fabric.
As for college, your parents may think that a dance degree is useless, or worry you'll never go back to school if you audition for companies instead. But dancers take lots of different paths—some double major, some go to college after their stage careers are over, and some dance professionally and study part-time (like I did). Remind your parents that your training has given you remarkable life skills: self-discipline, a strong work ethic and perseverance. Every dancer I know has been able to successfully transition after their performance career ended.
Be open to making compromises, too. For instance, my parents wouldn't allow me to train away from home or alter my academic schedule. (Luckily, I lived close enough to rigorous training and was able to make it work.) I also agreed to register at a college in case my auditions didn't pan out. Hopefully, with enough communication, you and your family will be able to see eye to eye.
Have a question? Send it to Pointe editor in chief and former dancer Amy Brandt at firstname.lastname@example.org.