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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Performing opportunities w/in schools


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I'm relatively new to Ballet Alert and have been reading quite a bit on the various threads about upcoming Nutcracker auditions, rehearsals and performances at ballet schools around the country.

 

My 2 dds spent many years in a school that put on annual Nutcracker and spring performances but I believe now that the school was akin to a "Dolly Dinkle." (I didn't realize it at the time.) About 18 months ago, we moved to a fairly new school where there are no such performances and instead either a few in-house studio or outside performance opportunites but on a significantly smaller scale. There appears to be a far greater emphasis on learning ballet for ballet's sake at the new studio rather than prepping for the next Nutcracker or spring performance. I do believe the pre-professional program in the new studio is fairly strong -- my dds have improved SIGNIFICANTLY in 18 months but that could be because we spent too many years at the Dinkle.

 

So now I'm wondering what your thoughts are about young dancers (12-16) studying at a school where there are not a tremendous amount of performing opportunities. Is this OK? Is it a drawback? Should we be concerned? How important is it?

 

Can anyone weigh in on this issue? Thanks!

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It's fine.

 

It depends a lot on how performance is integrated with the education program. Some places go way overboard on performance, even using class time for rehearsal. (Paying for rehearsal, HARRUMPH!) Your present school seems to have a realistic balance between learning and performing. It's difficult, and sometimes causes major agita for teachers trying to find the right way to do it.

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Hi Balletnutter! Welcome to the board! I love it here.

 

My dd has had the same experience as your dds. We were at a smaller studio that would probably be considered a Dolly Dinkle by many people on this board, but to their credit, we had teachers that told us that our dd had to move on if she was going to be serious. They taught her discipline and that you cannot be too sensitive to ctiticism, it shows that a teacher cares, like the time that her very first ballet teacher yelled: "That is a ballet barre, not a monkey bar!"

 

Anyway, because of my dd's small stature and crazy flexibility, she got to show her stuff in performances. Before we left, one of her teachers explained to her that she will probably be taken off the stage for awhile and put back in the box to learn proper technique. That's exactly what happened. Alot of class, just a few performances, Nutcracker and the Spring recital compared to many little performances at different local functions. She was a little dissapointed when she found out that her classmates back home in her old studio were getting Flower parts in their Nutcracker. My dd had to be a party child again for the 4th(?) time.

 

After learning and relearning many things about ballet technique and how her own body works, she is now a trainee and in the youth co. and working even harder than she was before! At the very least, you can be more sure now that your dd is getting better training which equals less injuries, less strain, etc. I'm sure there will be more posts with more information for you. :)

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Hi Balletnutter

 

Sounds like you made the right move for your dd's. While performances are a lot of fun for the girls and do provide experience, they should not come at the expense of teaching proper technique. Your dd's appear to be making good progress at their new school so that speaks for itself. :)

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Welcome Balletnutter!!!! :offtopic:

I say Bravo to your taking the "step" to move to a different studio. The ultimate bottom line is getting proper technique.

I agree with DON HO performance experience is necessaryBUT not at the expense of good training. PLUS rehearsal time is not to be used as class time. Been there, done that. :)

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This is a little bit of a side note, but I wanted to respond to Mel's HARUMPH about paying for rehearsals.

 

Our school does not own its own building; it leases space from two churches (virtually next door to each other) and a neighborhood club (several blocks away, but this studio is used for tap and flamenco -- it's actually kind of nice to have these classes separate from the ballet classes). Rest assured that each studio has properly sprung floors, barres, mirrors, etc., and the space is more-or-less solely occupied by the ballet school.

 

We DO pay for rehearsals (they are called "workshops"), because rehearsals -- which take place outside of class time -- cost the school extra in rent and faculty time. It used to bother me, until it was explained that the school thought it most fair to have the participating students bear the cost, rather than the school population in general. The rationale is that these students in fact get extra training, or, at the very least, extra dancing time.

 

I'm curious to know if anyone else pays for rehearsal time, or what the usual practice is at your school.

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Yes, treefrog, in our SI, the performing level students have a 2 hour daily Repertoire Workshop, which is considered a class. It is included in tuition. They are learning works to perform at the end of the program, but it is also a class in the sense that they learn classic and contemporary repertoire and also have a work created for them. I don't think the problem is paying for this kind of thing, it is paying for classes which are supposed to be technique classes but get turned into rehearsals. When the rehearsals are also a learning and teaching process, and totally separate from classes, I think that is different. It does take studio and faculty time, and that has to be paid for somehow.

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We recently moved our DD from a "Dolly Dinkle" school to a pre-professional school an hour away. The performance opportunities are less at the new school- but quality is better than quantity!

 

For our family the decision basically came down to did we want DD to dance and be a "star" at the local level (with improper training and increased injuries) or train to dance long term (with professional teachers in a professional environment)

 

IMO performing is the icing on the cake. Being involved in performances is an important part of dance but not at the expense of proper technique and training.

 

Sounds like you made the right move. I know we did! :)

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My daughter's school is attached to a professional company. Every student has two guaranteed performance opportunities a year (Nutcracker-with company members, not students, dancing the most difficult roles and Performance Workshop). Students are used in children's roles in other company productions, but this is generally only 5-10 students each season, with the most advanced girls often being given the opportunity to dance corp roles in their last couple of years in the school. Our school does not have a student company and students are not used in the company's educational outreach program.

 

I think this is pretty typical of a "company school". Everyone seems to understand that the emphasis here is NOT on performance, it is on training. Even our workshop is devoid of sets, has minimal costuming, each student dances in only one piece, etc.

 

The result for my daughter has been her desire to work her tail off in class, in hopes that she will be one of the few who gets offered additional performing experience in the company's other productions. She views any performance opportunity she gets with the company as a bonus and a direct result of her hard work and commitment. It has become a great motivator for her. Those performing opportunities mean so much more when they are less frequent and more selective! :) When opportunities to perform do arise, it seems that the students are able to bring all that training together in some really wonderful performances, in spite of the fact that they don't get frequent opportunities to practice their performing skills.

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My dancing daughter's story is not too dissimilar -- her little ballet school spent the entire spring semester doing nothing but preparing for the recital...with the obligate sequined costumes and the loooooong afternoon in the high school auditorium. She liked those performances, but I noticed, at about 8, that her general enthusiasm for dance seemed to be lessening. When I queried her to see if she was "done" with dance, her response was that she wanted more genuine training, and wanted to check out the company school.

 

Similar to other posters, this pre-pro school puts its emphasis on learning, with performances entirely optional. Children's parts in our Nutcracker are gained by audition, and only by students of the pre-pro school. About 1 in 3 kids who audition are selected for the 2 casts, for mice up to toy solider roles (the others, including Marie/Clara, are danced by the company). A few students are selected for other productions as needed, and all students are invited (but not required) to be in the spring performance. All rehearsals for Nut, company productions, or the spring production take place outside of regular classes, and although there is a production fee for spring performance (costume fee, really), that's all the cost beyond tuition.

 

She is thriving in this setting, becoming a much stronger and "realer" dancer. She is excited to go to class and rehearsals, and still dances throughout the house. Performing is still something she loves (and we're in the midst of the I-Have-No-Life-But-As-A-Driver Nutcracker rehearsal season), but there is so much more enthusiasm in her for dance as...dance. She's been excited about how the work is changing her body shape (very proud of those calf muscles!) and is happy to be among other kids who "get it" about dance.

 

msd

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Guest balletmom1

My daughter is part of a community studio (my term for a small, serious school that's NOT dolly dinkle, but not a pre-pro school either). Our experience is fairly similar to MSD. Our Nutcracker has been revived in the last 3-4 years and started very small but is growing. There is a spring perfomance as well. Those are our 2 performance opportunities of the year for the school and they are optional for the dancers. All ballet rehearsals are outside of class (in the spring, modern and jazz have rehearsals during some of their class period, but I think that is more typical of those genres. Jazz adds an extra day in the spring that is just rehearsal and is only required of those girls in the piece) and there is no additional charge for them. We do have a performance fee and some costume fees, but no additional tuition.

 

The oldest girls have gotten some additional performance opportunities in the last 2 years - we have a small resident contemporary ballet/modern company also run by our studio directors/owners. Last year the company received a grant to do lecture/demo for the local public schools and our girls joined them. This fall the oldest girls just participated in a fund raiser and will have an opportunity to perform in November with the company (though doing their own pieces) as the company finally found a local theater willing to produce them (a huge struggle in L.A.). But those are recent.

 

Our studio is looked down upon by other area studios that do more performing, but our emphasis is training - for a hoped for professional career, a college career, or just for the love of dance as its own art/discipline.

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It is amazing the support that I am finding on this board.

 

We are also going through the same situation. My dd fell in love with the school that she attended for her SI. SHE chose to leave her previous school ( a pre-pro school attached to a company) to come to this school on a full time basis, because the training is TOP NOTCH.

 

All her friends at the old school are now preparing for nutcracker and she is not because they do not have many performances (there is no company). There is a workshop at the end of the year, but, as far as I know you must be asked to be in it, so we will see how that goes.

 

To make a long story short, I thought she was going to be terribly dissapointed and is NOT, she is starting to mature in so many ways and realizes that the training is so much more important to her.

 

As a special treat this season we will take her to see City Ballets Nutcracker, if she can't be in one she can see one of the best!!!

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