For Parents

Help! I'm a Dance Parent, and My Teen Wants to Quit Dance

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Q: My teen says she wants to quit dance, but I'm not so sure she should. She's very talented, and I think she's just tired. Plus, we've paid for the semester and recital. Help!

A: You're right to question if your dancer is experiencing burnout or a true lack of interest. Christy Curtis, owner of the Raleigh-based CC & Co Dance Complex, says burnout tends to follow a schedule: Dancers begin each semester with enthusiasm, but by midterms they're dragging. In January, students are hyped to be back in class, but by early spring, another lull. Burnout tends to disappear in May—students perk up when recital season approaches.

Curtis advises parents to follow these steps to get to the root of the problem.

  • Schedule a time to speak with your dancer's teachers. If you're noticing your teen not wanting to go to class, chances are a teacher has also noticed a change. Disinterested dancers don't progress at the same rate as they once did—but that doesn't mean your dancer has to completely hang up her slippers.
  • Discern why quitting seems to be her answer. There's a big difference between a student truly not loving dance and a student wanting to focus more on academics or high school extracurriculars. Sometimes, a switch in discipline can help—dropping ballet and opting for hip hop—or a switch in class days, dancing with different students, can improve morale. Directors should be willing to help make adjustments that keep your dancer engaged and happy.
  • If your dancer isn't breaking a commitment to fellow dance company members, or if it's early enough in the season, time off may be a last resort. Offer her the chance to walk away—for now. In this period, a dancer may find she misses classes and is more connected when she wants to return.
  • Above all, says Curtis, it's crucial not to pressure a dancer into staying, no matter how talented she may be. Ultimately more important than being the best—and miserable—is retaining a lifelong appreciation for dance and the arts.
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