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Ballet Talk for Dancers

How far would you drive?

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We left because we moved (husband’s job). I’m not so much saying we’d do it now but just curious what others thought was too long for a commute. Actually I think what made me even consider it was a friend of ours commuted from Long Island into NYC three times a week for her daughter in a different sport but that’s where she got the best training. 

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We had thought about all those questions already. I really was just curious how far is too far ;)

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Hi again BKsmom!  This thread and the thread on posture really resonate with my experience.  The wisdom and generosity of the members of this board have helped with our ballet journey in so many ways. As DD is still quite young, I didn't expect to be able to contribute much at this point, but I am really excited that maybe our experience can help out.

Your DD sounds so similar to mine.  At about 7 and 1/2 years old my DD came to me, proclaimed that she was serious about pursuing a professional ballet career, and that based on the results of the SI auditions of older dancers in her studio, she needed me to find better training as soon as possible.  As I recall, she ended this conversation with "ballet is for the young, I can't lose any more time at XXXX studio."  I am not sure where on the Internet she was exposed to this way of thinking, but at least her unsupervised time on her IPad is spent looking up ballet related material - it could be so much worse!

And yes, 7 and 1/2.

So that is where the ballet journey began.  Shortly after this, with a fair amount of dissent from her father, we began driving 60 miles one way, which included a lot of "city" driving, resulting in about an hour and 45 minutes one-way drive.  Unfortunately, I don't think the training was worth it.  What the experience did do, however, was heighten my sensitivity to the need to become ballet educated in every way possible.  Nothing like all that time in the car to evaluate my decision making.

I shared some of what we have learned in the posture post, but if we had it all to do again, I would skip the long drive and instead focus on foundational issues.  Perhaps with the guidance of a teacher (might require privates) and so, so much research, I have become more knowledgeable about ballet than I ever imagined possible.  As I am definitely not a ballet teacher and had zero ballet exposure until DD showed deep interest in everything ballet, what I post is just the thoughts and experience of a very motivated parent who is willing to support her child until or unless the ballet world rejects her.  For what this is worth, even at age 10 we have a serious Plan B that includes college, and I say this because DD is so serious I felt the need to "negotiate" a Plan B agreement with her early on.

The biggest lesson we have learned is that "practice makes permanent" cuts both ways.  Practicing good foundational technique will serve any ballet student well, whereas "practicing" movements incorrectly also becomes permanent.  DD moved to the new, far away studio and we started the long commute about half through the school year.  The following year, at age 8, the new studio placed DD in a 5 day a week program.  Unfortunately, she received virtually no corrections and no instruction -- she was told to "follow" the older girls.  This turned out to be a terrible turn of events, as she was taking 7 hours of training that was effectively ingraining bad habits like posture, forced turn out, etc.

My husband and I are certain that only by grace did we intervene and begin the program I described in the posture thread.  In the last year and a half, we have seen such tremendous improvement in DD's foundational technique.  We also moved closer to the large City and now she attends a Company affiliated school.  Just yesterday she came home and was so excited that she really felt everything "clicking" -- e.g. her improved posture allows her to access more of her turnout and keeps her from falling out of turns.  The commute is only 25 miles, but on a bad traffic day it can be 90 minutes.  Still, we really think the commute time is worthwhile because we now have so much of a better understanding of the rigors and demands of ballet, but also that some children really do commit to ballet at a young age.  I have canvassed a handful of former principal dancers and they all said they knew at a very early age.  This is not to be mistaken with the idea that so much can and will change over the span of ballet training, including the possibility that DD will change her mind, but we have become comfortable as a family that our efforts are worthwhile.

I guess my final take is if you feel strongly that your DD is serious about ballet, even at 8 I would begin learning everything I could (this board is an excellent place to start) about ballet training.  I do believe that foundational technique training, depending on the child, can start as early as 8, maybe even 7, and that as a parent if you know what to look for in ballet training, you are your child's best ally in pursuing her ballet dreams.  I suspect you are just beginning what, as I glean from the parents who have already traveled this path, is a very long journey that is greatly enhanced by a ballet educated and vigilant parent.  I also suspect that children who pursue the ballet dream are a special group and I have never regretted the ballet related time spent in the car and otherwise (don't get me started on Nutcracker season!).  Even the bad choices have blessed us with subtractive learning and we have settled into and accepted that if we are to support our DD's dreams, an inordinate amount of time and endless frustration are the new and very worthwhile normal :blushing:.  

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BKsmom, thanks for your response. I definitely understanding, living in NYC. The reason I took my dd into the city at such a young age was for a better dance school than what was in our neighborhood. I don’t think she would’ve grown the way she did or gotten into the current 3-letter school she’s in had we not made that choice. (Our 3-letter school auditions start as young as 6-7 years old! When dd was accepted to a pre-pro program, they only chose 10-11 dancers.) 

I’ve also considered making a longer commute for academic school. It’s actually very common in NY. At dd’s current studio, there are kids traveling from all 5 boroughs, upstate, plus nearby states like NJ. I think the kids who live upstate and in Queens, Staten Island, and New Jersey commute the longest. On average I think they’ve said it takes at least 1.5 to 2 hours each way. Some go by car (rather than public transportation) so that makes for a more comfortable commute, while others opt for a long train or bus ride. You really have to see what works & is possible for your family. Personally, I told my dd we are not traveling out-of-state or further than the upper east/west sides for general classes.

I wish you the best!

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