The Next Level

Ana was so excited when we bought her first pair of pointe shoes.

Ballerina’s don’t start pointe work until they have reached a certain level of strength and bone development in their feet. After 10 years of dance training Ana has started at last, and is ablaze with excitement! I’m glad she is starting now, avoiding the extra risk of injury associated with starting to go on pointe too early.

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My cousin Durdica Ludvik with Stane Leben, c. 1949

Ana comes from a line of artists and art lovers. My cousin (once removed), Durdica Ludvik, made a career as a Prima ballerina in the former Yugoslavia. My dad grew up with her and said she was always dancing. We were just in Croatia this past summer but, sadly, didn’t get to see her. I would love for Ana to meet her and can just picture us at her place looking through old photos from her successful career.

Growing up my parents had a strong creative influence on my brother and me.  My mom designed and sewed beautiful clothes and I remember her taking Jazz dance and oil painting classes. My dad played the trumpet, sang, and painted when he was in the military. At home he loved to make mixed-tapes on his reel-to-reel. We would lay down on the floor of our living room, close our eyes, and just listen.

My brother and I both took music lessons. He became a killer guitar player but it didn’t  stick for me. I am more of a music fan. I took dance at many points in my life and eventually chose to become a visual artist. I continuously work on it, with several projects on the go at any one time. Jack plays guitar, welds, and builds beautiful furniture of wood.

My parents are still consistently making stuff and improving the world around them, coming up with creative solutions for any problems they (or we) run into. Ana has always been surrounded by creators and problem solvers. I hope it will inspire her to become a resilient person who can solve any problem that comes her way.

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Durdica Ludvik with Stane Leben in Man in Front of a Mirror, 1963

Ana used to dance just for fun, she’d hardly ever practice or talk about music or dance at home. Now things are different, especially with dance, where she practices at her own will. I love seeing her go over choreography or repertoire. She talks about dance with so much energy, more engaged than ever! I think about what changed. Is the pointe shoes? Closer dance friends? More classes? Is it more fun at a higher level?

Ana is in competitive dance at a studio just 5 minutes from home. She started in their recreational program but once we saw the difference between recreational and competitive training we switched to Ultimate Dance‘s competitive program.  It’s what she wanted and we felt it would develop her further, too. She was ready to work harder and already had a team mindset.

Just tryin’ ’em on after hand-sewing ribbons and elastics.

I often think what it would be like if she put all those hours into training in classical ballet instead. What other opportunities might that provide her for the future? Would there be a difference? The thing is that she is really happy where she is now, so why change? If I just offer options to inspire and educate her she can later make informed decisions about what comes after competitive dance.  The young lady is driven and I believe that she will easily commit to developing the things she loves to reach the highest level she can.

Ana’s stitch work.

It’s easy to picture what we want our kids to become. But projecting my vision of who she should be isn’t going to work for anyone. When I zoom out I know that, above all, I want Ana to be inspired in her work and to not be dependent on anyone else. This will only happen if she follows her dreams and puts in the work at her own will. She has to love it enough that when she flops, she wants to work on it some more, then do it again but better.

Being honest about what drives and fulfills our children allows us to support their development in the most positive way. What a feeling it is to give that to our kids and for them to get that kind of backing and trust. No matter what level they reach, it’s fulfilling to see our children happily engaged in a healthy activity. If they can take the skills they learn and run with them, the sky’s the limit. It may look different than we imagined or than the way anyone else has ever done it. But that makes them a pioneer! I will always support her interests in learning and will continue to encourage her to keep on truckin’ without pushing her toward my vision, so she can build her own.

Keep on truckin


4 Replies to “The Next Level”

  1. That’s great I am happy that she is doing so well. We almost always go for the competitive vs recreational programs, whether athletics or the arts, after the beginner period. It forces someone to choose whether or not they have a real interest rather than a fleeting interest. It usually also encourages some early failure, which eventually leads to growth. Then there is a chance this activity can become a passion with increased interest, industry, and initiative.

    I also realized from this post and one of the other ones that Ana is only about 3 years away from a solo trip to Europe! Just like her Mom!


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