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TinyBun

Choosing the right ballet school?

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TinyBun

Hi all, I hope this is the right place for this question. DD is currently 9 years old and she is dancing at a very intense competitive studio. Like many of you here I figured coming September should be about time for us to cut down the crazy hours to just focus on ballet (and school!) There are 3 ballet schools I'm interested in, each have its pros and cons:

1. Artistic director graduated from Vaganova Academy, two 1.5 hour and one 1 hour ballet class a week, two performances and ballet exams a year, rehearsals are on a seperate day, no mention of pointe yet

2. Artistic director graduated Bolshoi Ballet Academy, class is 1 hour and the number of class is up to me, two performances a year, don't believe in exam/competition, levels are based on ability instead of age, same goes for pointe readiness, rehearsals are on a seperate day

3. Artistic director graduated from Vaganova Choreographic institute, 1 performance a year, three 1 hour ballet class, 1 character and 1 pointe class a week, yes as crazy as it sounds they want to put DD en pointe without any assessment, rehearse during class time

While you might think I should run as far away as possible from school #3, an interesting fact is that every year they do quite well at YAGP and other well known competitions, am I reading too much into their comp result? With me being a stalker on various dance forum, I've learnt the harm to let a child start pointe training in an early age. I don't know if it matters to the development of DD's feet, but DD is very tiny for her age to the point her bone age is younger than her actual age. The school didn't directly answer how long do the students actually spend in pointe shoes. They just said they all start soft. And the reason why a lot of schools wait out to let a child go en pointe is that because they don't know the proper way to train them. They claimed that there've never been any injuries in their school, take it with a grain of salt. Should I bother to ask if we can hold off a year to start pointe class or is that a huge red flag? All 3 schools have a good amount of graduates that became professional ballet dancer. My gut tells me school #2 is the way to go, part of the reason being one of the teacher there also teaches at DD's comp studio and I know our SO sends kids there. Only thing that pulls me back is knowing DD won't be able to compete at that school, ever. Even though I don't think she is at that level by any means, I guess I still like to keep the option open. Sorry for such long post, let me know your thought especially if there's anything I should know when looking at ballet school. Thank you:)

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dancemaven

School #3:   Stay far, far, FAR away!  

Yes, everything (and I mean everything!) you noted about it is a huge red flag.  Yes, you are reading too much into the competition results. YAGP is neither necessary for training nor an indicator of school’s worth.  Some schools focus on YAGP year-round and there are politics in YAGP (gasp!) .

Look for good solid, slow-boil training.  Ballet is an art form, not a competitive endeavor. 

As for the other two schools, I will leave it up to our esteemed Teach-Moderators to comment.  In the meantime, I would suggest that you take a look at the General Age Appropriate Training Guidelines they have prepared for us. Those are pinned in each of the Parent forums (and others):   

http://dancers.invisionzone.com/topic/54927-general-age-appropriate-training-guidelines/

 

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AB'sMom

I would agree that option 3 sounds terrible. Personally I’d scratch it off my list as soon as I found out about their attitude toward pointe. 

Everyone is going to have different things that they think are important. We started looking at different options for my daughter when she was 9 and made the switch at 10. One of the things I looked for at that age was 90 minute classes. I also liked that the school had a set schedule. My daughter would have added every ballet class possible if she had been able to choose her own schedule. For me it was important not to get caught up in the more-is-better mindset. 

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BalletFamily

#3 is a horror show.  I am willing to bet that those students who do well at competitions and etc are a small percentage of those students put on pointe too early.  The thing to contemplate isn't how many older students are great but how many students dropped out.

As for the other two, the only way to know is to try them.  Pretty much every place lets you take a sample class (most require one for placement anyway).  Many of these are free.  If you're still not sure after trying both places, see if you can pay for a sample month at each, starting with the one you want to be on top.

 

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TinyBun

Thank you everyone for your respond. #3 was a true disappointment. They have the nicest studio that I love and I've read nothing but good reviews on various forums. This is another lesson not to read too much into online reviews. Also I didn't even get to talk to the AD, just her untrained non dancer husband.  

From my understanding school #1 is the only school out of the three that provides more than hour long class for DD's age, along with a set schedule. Problem with it is other than the 3 ballet class, there is a 1 hour jazz class which I believe would be way too easy for DD's level. (DD took a few classes over there last summer) It would be great if they let me skip the jazz class and we will supplement a jazz or contemporary class at our current studio. And if they don't let me do that, we will just have to go with school #2.

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DanceDaddy

I'm going to play devil's advocate. Would #3, let you wait for a year en pointe? But, also, think of your DD. Would she be the only one in class without pointe shoes. Our current studio, is pushing pointe at 10. We have already said no and let several classmates parents know that our DD will not be en pointe in the fall.

Thankfully there isn't a YAGP push in our area. That said, there was a certain dance festival that the Sr company members at our studio have performed at in the past. They weren't accepted this year. I've started to question the training and prep. Side note - I'm not blaming the girls.

As far as #1 being 1.5 hours, how much of that is stretching and conditioning. Unfortunately, my DD gets like no stretching and conditioning in her hour class.  So could you ask about that? Is it possible for her to move to the higher level jazz/contemporary class? My dd jumping to an intermediate class was a challenge, but one that she has loved.

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dancemaven

Whether #3 let you wait a year for pointe or not, the whole scenario is a red flag. Stay far away, I’d say. 

A 1.5 hour ballet class is not typically made up primarily of stretching and conditioning.  There are a progression of skills and technique building barre exercises that take time to go through properly before reaching center.  At a certain pointe in training, less class time means some of those exercises have to be left out.  

A good studio will place a student where she needs to be training-wise, which is based on skill level, muscle development, and other factors.  Sometimes, even in jazz (or contemporary), that may means going slower to develop strong base skills that may have been glossed over in competition studios. 

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DanceDaddy

question for dancemaven (and any others)... in the recommended classes posts, it is recommended for a 10 year old to have 1 hour and 15 minute classes 3x per week. How much of that should be conditioning/stretching?

I've heard a school near us that the first month or so is probably 75% conditioning/stretching and then it changes to about 25% March.

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ballet1310

Dance daddy , that sounds a little strange - are they calling that a ballet class? 

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DanceDaddy

I'm giving second hand information and not what I have witnessed. From I I've been told is there is A LOT of conditioning early.

But, part of this IS ballet. Like going up on releve for 8 counts, down for 8 counts, etc.

 

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TinyBun

Now that you mention it, none of the schools have talked about stretch & conditioning class. The studio we're now at have a 1 hour stretch class, one 1.5 hour and two 1 hour long ballet class a week. 

I got back from school #1 today and just as I thought, they only accept "full time students" meaning no chance of skipping jazz. Another question is would character count as a ballet class or an extra? And what is the appropriate age to start doing character?

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ballet1310

Dance daddy - I guess my question is, is the class called "ballet" .  If so ballet is technique, even at an early age  - perhaps they have a separate "stretch and conditioning class" ?       I know there are lots of threads by teachers in these forums that talk about what is needed at what age - check those out -    These days it seems parents want to do more, more, more but those of us that have been doing this for a long time know that has its issues.....    I don't know anything about competition schools, if you'rs is one than they might have all kinds of extra stretch classes etc 

Tinybun - character is fine early and some pre-pros don't even have it by the later teen years.

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DanceDaddy

Well, we're not there yet! But, who knows what future holds. Where we are at has no stretch and conditioning!

don't know in Tinybun's case if the 1 hour and 30 minute class might be some stretch and condition.

 

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AB'sMom

Our school refers to the one hour weekly class as Body Conditioning. The teachers tend to be former ballet dancers who are now Pilates instructors. There is a small span of ages in each level, but both Body Conditioning and Character start around age 10. 

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Desiderata

TinyBun, based on your descriptions, I'd vote for school #1.  At age 9, I like the structure being offered, the length and amount of classes given per week, the fact that rehearsals are kept separate from technique classes, and that they're not even talking about pointe yet.  Just ask when/how they'll consider pointe for your daughter.  Hopefully it will be on a case-by-case basis when the dancer is ready.  Sounds like competition might be acceptable there some time in the future too, and I do think there are some good aspects to ballet competitions as long as not too much focus or emphasis is placed on them.  Good luck with your decision, I know how hard it is trying to make the right choices for our dancing kids!

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