My daughter, 14, is a very talented dancer. She has been learning Odissi for seven years and now wants to pursue it professionally. However, my husband and I would like her to study further, and probably acquire a degree that will help her be more financially secure. She’s just a child, and doesn’t understand what’s good for her. Please tell me how to handle this.
You are right in wanting her to have some other qualification or training too, but perhaps you need to communicate this to her differently. Avoid dismissing her ambitions, or repeatedly telling her how impractical it is to pursue dance full-time, and how this will mean she has no security, stable future, etc. This is what most parents do, as most of us have huge fears and have heard plenty of stories about “the starving life of the artist” and such like!
Free your mind: Don’t discourage your child from dancing
So, the important thing is to not pooh-pooh the idea of her pursuing dance professionally. However, explain to her that studies will help increase her exposure, and ensure that she can later also speak or write about dance, teach or hold lecture-demonstrations, etc, alongside her pure artistic pursuit. For this end, it would be a great help to have an “add-on” education in perhaps sociology, fine arts, art history, music studies…there are so many related subjects. All of it will go towards making her a better performer, and a true spokesperson for her art form and the culture it comes from—that is what you can tell her.
If possible, introduce her to an ethnographer or ethnomusicologist, or a performing artist who also holds lec-dems, or writes on the subject.
Perhaps you can enlist the aid of her dance teacher, too, in explaining to your daughter that her studies and her pursuit of her art form can go hand in hand.
In this way, you can subtly open a few windows to the world of art and its many demands and layers. Your daughter will make the connection that abandoning studies and focusing only on dance will cut her off from the ability to research and expand on her love for the art.
However, in your anxiety about her financial future, avoid insisting that she consider doing something totally unrelated—like banking, finance, science or some such. This will only put her off, as she is currently so deeply into dance.
Also, do remember that at this age, and right up to the age of 20, young people change a lot and their priorities and perspectives alter. The best thing for you to communicate to her would be that there is a world of opportunities out there, and she is free to choose, change her mind, rethink what she wants to do. But she doesn’t need to close her options by neglecting her studies.
You, too, need to feel assured that if you can convince her to acquire some qualification in a related field, along with learning Odissi, she is bound to have all kinds of avenues open to her in the cultural and performing art spheres. Once she understands that you are not undermining her love for dance, but only guiding her to stay with her studies, she will cease to see them as opposing forces.
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