Puberty and Ballet Dancing
The transition from childhood to adulthood affects every aspect of a young persons life. If you are a ballet dancer, puberty usually occurs just as you are making the transition into making a serious commitment to the study of dance. It can be overwhelming with the sudden growth spurts, hormone changes, mood swings and changing proportions in your body. The body that you have trained so diligently suddenly becomes a stranger and responds differently to the demands placed on it. As a ballet dancer it is important to understand what is going on.
Puberty normally starts subtly and then the processes start to speed up. In both girls and boys one centimetre growth spurts have been recorded in as little as a month. In girls puberty normally happens from eleven to fourteen years and in boys about a year later. In girls the ovaries start releasing estrogens and progesterone, and in boys testosterone is released from the testes.
Not everybody will grow at the same rate, and often you will find that the arms and legs get suddenly longer or grow at different rates to the torso, or to each other. This of course will affect your centre of gravity and in turn your balance in your ballet dancing. It can be very frustrating for adolescents, as it can feel as though all your hard work has disappeared and it will be tempting to give up. Even perfect pirouettes and pointe work can become a struggle.
As the bones lengthen, your flexibility will also be sorely tested, as muscles will be out of proportion with the bones. Leg extensions will be lower and plies more difficult, and arms will not want to be held in second for long periods of time.
In girls the hips widen to prepare for child birth, and this will change the angle of the femur (upper leg bone) to the knees. Your new hips will affect your retires, as well as your batterie, and care must be taken as your knees become more prone to injury.
Pubescent children will generally feel less confident, more alone and very emotional, but they are not alone. Hormones coursing through their bodies do affect their your mental state of mind. All teenagers go through puberty, but ballet dancers may feel very discouraged, because their abilities will feel diminished. Accept that your talent has not disappeared, you are just having temporary growing difficulties, and it will pass. Maintain a healthy perspective and it will go a long way to helping you through this trying time in your life.
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