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Taking Natural Ability Into Account


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#1 ballerinomom

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 02:33 PM

My DS is almost 11 and takes classes at a very good recreational program. It is a set program with classes 3 days a week (2 technique, 1 character). I am anticipating serious scheduling issues next year and it would be really helpful if he could take 2 instead of 3 classes per week next year (he is not ready to give up other important activities just yet). He is a quick learner and we have been told he has a lot of natural ability. While there is a wide variety of ability in my DS's classes, they are all on the same track with the same number of hours/days per week of classes. I understand ballet training is incremental and takes many years of training, but within that progression is there room for tweaking to account for the faster learners, at least in these early years? Does it have to be one schedule for everyone at a particular level? I don't want to approach the school to ask for a reduced schedule, if the experts on this site think it is a terrible idea!

#2 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 02:41 PM

Many schools do it, but that doesn't make it right or a good idea. As a teacher, it makes me totally crazy, because you have 3 times a week students learning and improving faster than those who only take two, no matter their "natural ability". The material learned has to then be repeated and re-taught to those who were not there when the class learned it. It is not fair to the 3 times a week students or the ones who only come 2 times. Sorry, but I thoroughly appreciate your school wishing to maintain the level of the class.

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#3 ballerinomom

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 05:09 PM

I appreciate your perspective, Victoria Leigh. In my experience thus far at this school, the 2nd technique class of the week seems to be primarily a repeat of the first. My theory is that because my DS picks up things so quickly, his correctly executed repetitions of the exercise in class #1 result in the same end product as another student who takes two classes to get it right. But maybe it doesn't work that way.

#4 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 06:02 PM

Talk to his teachers, ballerinomom. Your perpective and theirs just might be totally different.

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LIFE ISN'T ABOUT WAITING FOR THE STORM TO PASS...
...IT'S LEARNING HOW TO DANCE IN THE RAIN! [Unknown]


#5 buzzandmoo

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 06:05 PM

My 11 year old DD has been attending a pre-pro school for the last three years. When she started at 8 it was 2 days a week, the next year three days, this year four days and next year six days. For a long time I defended her time spent in the studio to other moms who had DK's in less ballet but seemingly at the same level. That is until my DD did a workshop with those girls who were supposedly at the same level. The difference was extraordinary! My DD was no prodigy. In fact she has had less "years" in dance than those girls but many, many more hours of repetitive technique. It is just like practicing an instrument; repetition begets brilliance.

#6 ballerinomom

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 07:47 PM

I am just trying to understand how this works. I can understand how repetition is beneficial, but doesn't this have to be repetition of the movement done correctly to be truly beneficial? If child A quickly learns the movement in the first class and Child B needs an extra class to get it right, don't they end up in the same place? Do "gifted" DKs really need the same amount of training as other kids to meet the same curriculum achievements or is this simply a more practical way to run a school? Using Buzzandmoos story, what if her daughter was a prodigy? Would she have needed all those classes?

#7 buzzandmoo

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 08:35 PM

Ummm.....the answer to your last question would be yes. 10 and 11 year olds can not be principal dancers or soloists or even corps in any ballet company. If ballet is your goal even the most "gifted" CHILD needs hours of practice, and growth and maturity. Now if we are talking Hollywood, Broadway or television I guess all you would really need is a good head shot and an agent. :nixweiss: Since my DD has no interest in becoming the next Shirley Temple or Olsen twin, I guess I will be driving her to "all those classes".

Good luck with your DS!

#8 myrrha

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 08:47 PM

Although I am no expert in this, I am just a parent of a ballet dancer, it is to my understanding the more repetitive practice they get, the better they get, even practicing seemingly simple moves that they have learned to do already. My 10 yo DD just did a trial class at a pre pro school where she will be doing a SI, there were much older students taking that class even though they were at a higher level just to get more practice with the more basic moves. My DD's school allows dancers to do less classes than they say is required for that level. My DD level requires 3 days a week but the instructor does allow some students to go only once or twice a week. I notice that the instructor has to spend more time with those students and it holds up the rest of the class progression particularly when it comes to the class learning their dances for the recitals. But, my DD's school spends way too much class time teaching dances for performances rather than teaching technique, but that's a whole other story. Being said, I am looking for another school for my DD, one where all the students have to take the required amount of classes.

#9 MelissaGA

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 08:55 PM

If I may interject...

Studies have shown that so-called music prodigies spend many more hours practicing that those who are merely good (I recall reading about this in Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers"). If you watch the recent movie, "First Position," you will see plenty of prodigies. What they all have in common is many, many hours in the studio.

My child is that less naturally talented child, child A in your example. But, as time has gone by, you would never know that. I have watched her catch up to and surpass some of those very talented "naturals" with less drive and, frankly, a lower rate of attendance.

#10 Cuckoomamma

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 09:02 PM

I'm certainly no expert, but the difference even one more class makes per week is astounding, nevermind if there are even more than one added. I remember at the beginning of this year my dd's teacher told her that she was finally doing a correct tendu. My dd is at the top of her school in her age group. What is an acceptable tendu at 7 looks very different at 8, 9, etc. So, while your ds may have better technique than his peers, it won't compare to someone of his ability with more training. Ballet is very individualistic and the beautiful thing is that one is really making improvements based upon one's own development of technique.

There's also the whole aspect of strength that comes with repetition. Muscles need to be used in order to be strengthened.

I think the answer to your question also depends on if you're measuring your ds' ideal progress in terms of his own potential or those of his current peers.

#11 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 09:11 PM

Some excellent responses from the parents here, ballerinomom. They are so right. Ballet is a long, slow process, and only those with not only the talent, but the drive and the passion make it. From two classes a week they move to 3, then 4, then 5 or 6 and they are practically living at the studio. That's the way it works if one wants to become a really good dancer. It's not going to happen without the training, no matter how much natural ability there is.

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#12 bunheadmama

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 09:56 PM

It's really the same principle with ANY discipline - music, art, sports, ballet... if you are going to excel, it takes hours and hours of repetition of basics, no matter how good you are. I grew up a violinist, and then majored in music in college. The hours upon hours you spend in the practice room are primarily on perfecting and refining basics. Because EVERYTHING is built on the foundation of basics. You never get to a place where drilling basics becomes unnecessary, and I'm sure the same is true with ballet or any discipline at which you want to become great.

#13 ballerinomom

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 10:08 PM

cuckoomama: Right now I am just trying to keep my head above water with all of his activities! I don't really know how to measure his potential and I am not there yet. He has other serious interests that he is developing at the same time and I just want to buy him a year or two before taking the plunge into one of these activities. I am pretty happy with his level of training. I just wanted to know if people think a boy with a good natural ability could stay at level taking fewer classes. As for other boys his age who have been training much harder, the only place I can look for comparisons is on Youtube and those kids tend to be in the competetive YAGP world with all of the big tricks. Many of them have a long and varied competitive dance background - acro, jazz lyrical etc. My DS is not that type at all. He does not have this background, is not particularly competitive and is interested in the artistry more than the big leaps and spins. So I look but I don't really compare. Of course, I do realize that more training would be good for him, but I am hoping to coast for a few years on a lighter schedule and see what unfolds. I have been led to believe I have some extra time because he is a boy.

buzzandmo and others: I am sorry I left this impression - I am not trying to produce a Hollywood star or
find a quick route to success for my DS. I just want to buy some time for him without having too much
impact on his future. And I used the gifted analogy for the purpose of making a point - I didn't mean to
imply I was talking about my DS! I was thinking about how academic schools approach giftedness when I raised this point - thinking it might be helpful to the discussion, which in essence is about accomodating different learning speeds and styles.

#14 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 10:32 PM

Does he want to really become good at dance, or at something else? You don't become really good at anything if you don't devote the needed time and energy to doing it. If he coasts for a few years doing a little of this and a little of that he is not going to be very good at anything. There comes a time when some choices need to be made. This does NOT mean he needs to give up everything else. For the coming year he might need to give up one thing. What does he want to do? Does he have a real passion for any of the things he is doing? Is there anything he would rather be doing than something else?

It seems to me that he is very fortunate to be in a school that has 3 classes a week for his level. It would be a shame for him not to take advantage of that IF dance is something he really enjoys and wants to do well.

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#15 ballerinomom

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 11:35 PM

I appreciate your tenacity Victoria Leigh and I am listening. My son does say that ballet is his first choice but I wonder if one of the other activities would overtake if allowed to flourish a bit. He shows very good potential in the other activities and gets very enthusiastic in the moment. As for ballet, he felt at home in the ballet studio from the first day, has asked me to seek out opportunities for him, and has never complained about going, but he is not as wildly passionate as the girls in his class and certainly did not spend his first years dreaming of being a ballet dancer. So it is kind of hard for me to tell if this is The One. Anyway, for the coming year ballet will continue to be king around here. Even if I were to negotiate one fewer ballet class during the year, he is still doing weeks of SI this summer and likely again next year, so he is getting quite a bit of training. As well, he has weekly one hour classes in jazz and modern through another program during the school year. As for your advice to give up one thing next year, we talked about this recently and he has decided to drop his weekly music lesson. But that still leaves his schedule packed.