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Ballet Talk for Dancers
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Evaluating a Ballet Program: Measuring Success

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courtney's mom

Redstorm,

 

We moved from Pleasanton just under 3 years ago. Is the studio your daughter dances at in Dublin?

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Redstorm

No, actually it is in Hayward. It is about a 15 minute car ride. It truly is a great studio. The ages vary but the average age is about 11, 12, 13 for ballet. Almost all are on at least beginning pointe. There are other older girls in the ballet classes. They are required to take ballet because they are part of the advanced tap/jazz group. The jazz class in the afternoon is a bit more full. The afternoon tap class is relatively small. Not all the kids perform in shows. Only the ones who want to and can make rehearsals. She does not turn kids down if they want to perform. As I said...it is a very good studio. I can give you more info if you are interested. You can email/pm me. I would prefer not to give actual names out on the board.

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Justdoit

Thanks Redstorm for the information. I am guessing the number of technique and pointe classes increase with the dancer each year. Has her teacher discussed with you at some point only focusing on ballet including the modern/jazz and departing from the tap? We were told the tap would be counter productive to the ballet training around 10 years of age. If this teacher is getting her students into SIs and into better residential programs, and has former students who are going onto financially viable professional careers, then I too agree it is good advice to be patient.

 

Having come from a good, but semi-large school, we could wait before going onto SIs until our daughter was almost 15. She did, however, leave for a company school residential program the next year at almost 16. Once they leave home, they need to be well-rounded and confident in addition to being self-motivated and self-reliant. The big company schools can be the emotional undoing of many a fine, but too young (to be away from home) dancer. We have witnessed this first-hand.

 

You and your daughter's teacher are wise. Enjoy your daughters remaining years at home with you and don't be swayed by what others think you should be doing for her future. My best to you and your daughter.

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Redstorm

Thanks so much for your support. Being relatively new to ballet, I have had a bit of a hard time not getting caught up in the SI push.

Regarding your question about tap...my daughter hates it, but her teacher says it is good for timing/counting. She only takes one class a week, low level. Her focus is strictly ballet, but her teacher believes in a well rounded dancer.

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Guest fille'smom

:confused: What happened to this thread? I was hoping for some input on my question!

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BW

Fille's mom, I can see it did take off on a bit of a tangent. ;)

 

Your asking a question that is frought with "what if's?" and "We need more information"... Certainly, there are exceptions to any ballet program "rules"... Personally, I am not truly capable of judging whether the technique is better at one place over another...unless it's REALLY obvious... but my daughter can after her years of dancing and being exposed to professional ballet performances.

 

I think it's hard for people, in general, to answer your question without knowing a whole lot more about your two choices - and knowing more about your daughter's abilities, level, goals, etc. I will add that it's awfully helpful to observe more than one class and especially to observe the top level students in class... I'd also be interested in knowing if their students progressed on and how...depending, of course, on your daughter's long range plans and hopes.

 

It would also be very helpful to know the various teachers' backgrounds, the atmosphere in the classes, the school, etc.

 

So many questions!

 

I am sure there are others who will be able to advise you better, than I.

 

If you do a search there is an old thread entitled something along the lines of "How to evaluate a school"... you may already know about it.

 

Keep us posted! :)

 

P.S. I do not believe that if a student is really good that it will impact him or her negatively as to getting accepted into a prestigious SI - if they attend a little studio. But that's just my opinion! ;)

 

True talent and real potential speak much more loudly than a school name.

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Justdoit

Sorry, Fille'sMom. We have found the name of the school has nothing to do with the acceptance into a SI. Level of technique and real dancing ability (musicality, quality of movement, unique presentation, etc.) as it correlates to the dancer's age will however, help to determine scholarship. Certainly many lesser known schools are able to develop good technique, but are not always able to provide opportunities to really dance and apply that technique outside of the classroom. A large number of performances throughout the year and working with outside choreographers contributes immeasurably to the development of this real dancing ability. Frequently we saw at SI auditions and the SIs as well, students who looked great at the bar, with terrific legs, feet, extensions and bodies, but who could not "dance" across the room in center.

 

You have to choose the school carefully according to what your dancer needs now at this point in her training. BW's suggestion is a good one in knowing how to evaluate a school.

 

When it comes to the real auditioning, for a company, it is most important to have good technique and move naturally and effortlessly. Though the resume of a new dancer cannot be expected to have a wealth of roles already performed by choreographers like Petipa, Balanchine, Ashton, etc., I assure you some do. Evenso, once at this level, a job offer can be very narrowly determined by first the technical abilities, with usual first cuts made on technique first. And then the height of a dancer, or the color of their hair and skin (to replace a dancer with similiar features). This is why you can never take what seems to be a "rejection" personally. But, sometimes the AD is looking for that one of a kind dancer, with something special, be it personality, attitude, enthusiasm--a quality that ignites interest.

 

So, certainly a smaller, less known school or single teacher, can do the job when it comes to learning the right technique to get into both a good SI and a company. Something else we've learned along the way is that each dancer has something unique to convey inside each of them--this is the "art" part of ballet discipline. When the artist/dancer is mixed with the mechanics of ballet, it creates something more to look at then technically perfected steps. This is a huge part of what is looked for at a company audition. Everyone wants to discover the next Fonteyn or Nureyev.

 

Sorry to have diverged from the original thread and hope this is a better response to your original question.

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Guest balletmama

I would add that a small school may be truly excellent for a young teen, but many of them have trouble offering enough classes for a dancer age 15 and up. By that time, or certainly by 16, the line between those who are dancing on a pre-pro level (whether or not they actually aspire to company life) and those who are doing an after-school activity becomes more pronounced. Those in the former group can be frustrated if they don't get a chance to take class and perform with others like themselves. Of course, there are small studios around the country with excellent training and serious discipline, and these attract some amazing young dancers and teachers. Just keep your eyes open as your daughter gets older and be sure she continues to get what she needs and wants.

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syr

I would emphatically say that you want the best instruction possible if your child is hoping to be a professional. I think that once they step into an audition situation, what the student does is 1000 times more important than the name of their teacher or what studio they came from. I say this in the context of your question about getting into SI's and year round programs. My daugther entered this SI/year round world from a no-name studio, and am always struck, when I have chatted with her friends at various programs, about all the little towns and little studios they have hailed from.

 

Go with your gut, after observing and inquiring about quality of teaching, and any tangibles or intangibles that are important to you or your student. Really, the hardest thing for us parents, is to actually make an educated evaluation about quality, and what will best suit our student, until we are well down the road. But if you feel confident that a studio that appeals very much to you offers quality on par or superior to another with a name, go for it with confidence.

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BalletNutter

A question resulting from information in another thread ... are the "markers" of which SIs the students attend and the number of professional dancers coming out of a school the predominant mechanisms by which you measure a ballet school's success?

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BW

One would have to think that where the graduates of said program ended up would have to indicate that the training was good at "said" program. But BalletNutter, I know you know that everyone and their mother/brother/sister/aunts and uncles....etc., may well jump in here and say "But so and so was only at such and such school for two years or one year or three years..." :wacko: which, of course, is true much of the time... No one is a blank slate unless their first ballet class began at the very same school they graduate from, right?

 

I'm sure you'll get some more helpful answers later this evening. :)

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citibob

In order to measure a school's success, it seems you first need to know its stated objectives. And those do vary among ballet schools.

 

Some schools have the goal of producing a certain number of professional dancers every year. Others have the goal of training every student who enrolls to the best of that student's abilities. Obviously, success must be measured differently for the two schools.

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busymomof5

Maybe a school should be measured by the student's stated objectives. Even then, until a dance student progresses through more and more chanllenging levels of dance education, they themselves may change their objectives. Some want a recreational school, some want a school that will prepare them for a profession in dance.

 

For example, we know a dance student who, at 13, was sure she wanted to dance for a career. She had attended a recreational dance school but changed schools in order to get the technique instruction she really needed. She then attended well-known summer intensives for two summers. Just before her ninth grade year, she decided that dance was too demanding, and opted for a serious social life to complement a serious academic life. That was a fine choice, but her objectives had changed. The dance instruction she received had been fine for her.

 

Then there is the serious dancer who remains serious even into high school. (This where I really try to communicate some relevance to the topic!) If the dancer is serious and has been getting good, objective observations from teachers in her school or summer intensives and has been encouraged to dance professionally, then the dancer has to decide where to get the most for her precious time and her parents precious money. It seems that, at this point, despite good training at a local school, the dancer must consider whether or not to seek out a "proven" dance program.

 

Now, there is more to this decision than getting good instruction, it seems to me. It has been my observation that well-known schools of dance do network among the dance companies. On application, resumes, etc, the name of that well-known school is recognized. And the ballet world is small enough that many companies have met the teachers in the most well-known schools, and therefore know what kind of training they have most likely received. Maybe Ms. Leigh or Major Mel can comment on that. This doesn't mean that local schools can't train good dancers. But, in contrast to what Watermill has said, a very large percentage of the dancer bios I have seem on the company websites have listed dancer upon dancer who attended these well-known schools for at least one or two years.

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fendrock

If, by success, you mean the number of students going on to professional careers, well known schools like SAB (San Francisco also comes to mind) have the odds in their favor.

 

Because of their reputation, they have a huge number of applicants for a very few positions. Thus, they can choose the best, who, of course, are also the most likely to succeed no matter where they train.

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