Jennsnoopy

Frustrated with studio, DD on verge of quitting dance all together

4 posts in this topic

My daughter who is 12 is ready to give up dance. After moving from one state to another we tried to find a studio comparable to her old place. We've been at the new studio a bit over a year and are seeing signs that the studio isn't the right fit. DD dance teacher doesn't seem to believe in her and at this point, DD is so upset she wants to stop dance all together. I could go into really personal reasons why I'm frustrated with the studio and why it seems to have chipped away at my DD self esteem but instead I'll list some basics that concern me. I'm sad that my dancer is so disheartened. She's staying until end of year performance because she is in the pieces and made a commitment. Once that's done we are done at the studio. At this point I'm not sure if DD wants to find another place to dance. Just out of curiosity would any of this issues about the current studio concern you: 

1. Nepotism- studio owner's son in high school is their hip hop teacher. Daughter (in her early 20s I think) comes in every summer as an intensive instructor and also runs their evaluation classes for the upcoming years level. She is in the corp of a professional ballet company and that's touted as important. I won't name the company but it's not one of the major ones. This person may be a fine dancer but she is a terrible instructor. I've watched her last year and the intensive there was awful. The studio has an acting class which is sub par. Acting teacher's daughter gets all the large roles.
2. Progression up the ballet levels is unclear. Studio owner says she has curriculum they follow but the advanced class (next level) above DD's level is so far ahead it's impossible to get there. Coincidently, most girls in that level come from other studios so they have learned more difficult technique from other studios. Due to the big discrepancy between levels it's hard to move up. DD is stuck in her level class with some kids who are not as serious and who are not at her level of proficiency. The class is kind of split down the middle1/2 the class at DD skill level and the rest just not very good. But there is no where to go except stay in her level and trudge along.
3. Studio owners selection if a dancer is moved up is unclear. Owner muddies the waters by placing older girls in higher levels so everyone in a level is roughly the same age regardless of skill level and also moves people up sometimes based on the fact that they have had a "rough life". DD is one of the youngest in her current level so no matter how good she gets we feel she would not be put up.
4. In an effort to not engage in static stretching, no stretching is ever done, even after dancers are warmed up. This is fine for the naturally flexible but my DD has lost almost all of her flexibility since being there. She can not do either split anymore and has lost a lot of height in any extension. Stretching is discouraged but the dancers who stretch at home (the advanced level all do) are given harder combinations and more advanced work). I don't care about the splits but DD is very tight and needs more to loosen up to feel better in her skin. No one addresses this.
5. Religious absences are completely forgiven but absences do to other activities (a sport, academic endeavor) are frowned upon. I feel that rule should be consistent.
6. Different rules apply to different dancers. One dancer decided she didn't like the dances she got in one performance and dropped out of that show part way through rehearsals. There were no repercussions in future casting. Another dancer missed mandatory dress rehearsal. No consequences were given and they were given big parts in the spring show. Demoralizing to dancers with strong work ethics that go all the time.
7. Studio owner told me point blank DD's gift is her stage presence and that any studio that said she had dance talent was just taking our money. If the studio owner doesn't believe in DD regarding dance ability, why are we there? And now I'm questioning what previous owners have told me.
8. Curriculum is so slow as they want "excellent technique" however they do not apply that same critical eye to next level up. That class is run differently as they learn lots of combinations and get pushed. There is a clear distinction with how the top level is run and then how everyone else is taught. 
9. "Worship dance" where they give back to the community and dance for vets and at nursing homes is suppose to be dance numbers created for the entire performing group. It's not suppose to be about levels but this year was broken up into the top level and "everyone else"

The studio has 2 hour classes 3 days a week for my DD level. I like that and I don't mind going slow to get technique down. But there needs to be a balance between slow and just trudging along with no clear path forward in this decade. 

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Hi Jennsnoopy!

I'm so sorry your daughter is so discouraged -- we've just been through leaving our "bad fit" for much greener pastures, and I empathize with you both so much. Good for you for knowing when enough is enough, that's a very hard thing, and I really hope this studio hasn't killed your daughter's joy: that would be a crime indeed.

There are so many points in your post that strike a chord, but this is the big one: not being with other dancers who are as motivated is such a huge drain. I believe that was the major motivation for DD9 to change studios -- it was really hard to get the precise corrections she wanted when the teacher (however wonderful) is largely engaged in crowd control. My kid wanted to live, breathe, eat and sleep ballet, but she was perhaps the only one in the entire school who felt that way. There are places where every kid is like that -- maybe that's a question for your daughter: if she were to magically find herself in that kind of environment, would she want to keep dancing? If the answer is yes, then she should try classes everywhere she can -- finding one's people is so important.

It sounds like the studio is not so interested in teaching, but very happy to simply let kids fall where they may. I think that's quite a common thing -- and it's so sad. Given the variety of physical gifts and work ethic, some kids certainly do scream "potential!" louder than others, but every single one can make great gains with hard work and proper corrections. It sounds like your studio isn't holding up their part of the bargain: if they're not evaluating the kids honestly, stretching them properly, casting the right ones, or building discipline or technique... what are they doing? 

Our old studio was like that in some ways -- many teachers would just run the exercises. The kids with natural facility would get things fairly quickly, the ones in the middle would randomly have breakthroughs and the ones at the bottom would just be pushed along. This makes me so angry, because none of the kids -- not even the top ones -- will ever know what they're really made of, or what they could actually accomplish.

All the best to you and your DD! 

 

Edited by DoubtfulGuest
Grammar!

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While some of the specific issues that you list might not bother me (levels, casting, bending rules) if they were handled well, it sounds like they are not handled well at your studio. Some of the issues you describe happen at our studio, especially the differences between the top levels and the levels just below them, the range of abilities within a level, and level placement, but they are handled well at our studio. 

The biggie is that your daughter is unhappy there. I wish you luck in finding a new studio.

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I would not be happy if a teacher for my child's class was in high school. I want my child's teachers to all be adults and be certified. If not, then I would expect reduced tuition fees for having inexperienced, under-qualified instruction. But more than likely, I would find a different studio.

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