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balletmomoftwo

Changing Schools; switching programs

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balletmomoftwo

My 13 almost 14 year old just changed studios. She went from one that wasn't a "serious" ballet school to a supposed pre-pro school. It has only been two weeks so I know it's too early to really tell if this school is the right one for her or not. My question is how long should we try the new studio before deciding it is not the one for her? I know every studio is different but they have to feel right for the child. The problem with the new school is that daughter believes she is placed too low and is not being challenged at all. She doesn't think she will get moved up since the director is not asking her class to do anything to set her apart from the rest. Also, in this particular school there are 5 pre-pro levels. Most days the lower three levels take class together. This means that my daughter is taking class along side many 8 and 9 year olds. I have watched these children and these are not prodigys! So except in the rare case, which as I said these children are not, there is no way an 8 or 9 year old has the capabilities of a 13 almost 14 year old. Daughter is feeling very discouraged and frustrated! We're not giving up on new studio yet but I don't want my daughter to become too discouraged. But if daughter stays for the rest of the school year and is not challenged then how much of a backward step has she taken? And I'm not even sure challenged is the right word here - daughter says she feels like she is beginning pointe class again. This studio was supposed to be pre-pro but this combining of levels has me all confused. Has anyone had similar experiences and/or words of wisdom? So sorry for the rambling post! I'm just a mom with no expertise in dance in need of some education in the ways of "serious" ballet studios trying to do the best for her child!

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Victoria Leigh

Okay, balletmomoftwo, I see two problems here. The first is that someone should have explained to your dancer that when you move from a "non-serious" studio to a more professional school there will be a period of time where she will be placed lower because there will be so much remedial work that needs to be done. It's harder to fix built in bad habits than it is to start someone brand new. It's highly likely that her training was lacking in alignment, placement, use of rotation, and knowledge. I'm not saying this is always the case, but, in my experience it is generally the case. I have taken many students totally off pointe for quite a while when they first come to us from the other kind of school.

 

The second problem is that, NO, the levels of 8 and 9 years olds up to 13-14 should NOT be mixed. Therefore one must legitimately question the professionalism of this new school. Is there another one around? If you give us a location, we might be able to help you with where to look for better training.

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balletmomoftwo

Thanks Ms. Leigh! Actually, I should have included in my post that one day a week daughter's level is combined with the higher two levels. Daughter reports that she is not getting any more or less corrections on alignment, rotation, etc. than other dancers one level up. So, I'm not sure if that is indeed the problem here. Also, daughter has taken part-time at another serious studio in the area and was placed (she believes) at an appropriate level at that studio. The problem with that studio was director told daughter he could not offer enough classes at the higher levels mainly for business reasons. He suggested this program and felt that at her age if she was serious at all she needed to be in a "pre-pro" studio no later than by then end of the school year.

 

Daughter says that if she was just in the class with her level she would have no problems with the new studio. It's the combining of the younger(8 and 9 year olds) that has her so discouraged. So I'm glad to hear that you don't think that is appropriate. I don't feel that I can say where we are located since I think that would amount to letting everyone on this board know which studio I am talking about. I can't PM yet and my e-mail has my name in it or I would include it. I don't know if you have any way of contacting me through e-mail but if you do I sure would appreciate any help you could give. Let me also add that you seem to be familiar with this studio I am talking about.

 

I suspect that things will work out at this studio however, I just don't want my daughter to be so discouraged that she loses her passion for dance. And I don't want her getting a negative attitude that would affect her in class!

 

Thanks for any help!

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Victoria Leigh

Balletmomoftwo, I have no idea what studio you are talking about, as your location is just US! :wink: However, I will email you, and if I do know the city or anyone there I will be happy to help you. Sometimes even if I don't know personally, I can find out about the studios through colleagues.

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vagansmom

Balletmomoftwo,

 

A suggestion about email: Since your own email address includes your name and you, smartlly, don't want to post that publicly, get yourself a web-based email address such as that found at hotmail or yahoo. Go to one of their websites and follow the directions for creating a new account. You can give yourself the name "balletmomoftwo@yahoo.com" or some such name and that can be the address you use for ballet-related private discussions till you gain enough posts here for private messaging.

 

Good luck!

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balletmomoftwo

Thanks for the excellent suggestion! I will do that. In the meantime - Ms. Leigh was kind enough to email me so that I could get in touch with her. I really do appreciate all the help that everyone on this board seems willing to give. It's so tough not being knowledgeable in this arena and trying to do what is best for your child. Thanks again!

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DancesInHerSleep

I'm not sure where to begin this post. My DD's studio (which is the officiial studio for the local regional company) made a lot of changes for this year. I knew to expect some "growing pains" with the new changes, but I was clearly NOT as prepared as I thought.

 

The studio decided to offer two tracks. A pre-pro track and a recreational track. The problem is that they called the different tracks "performing" and "non-performing". This seems to have caused a bit of a stigma. No one wants to be in the "non-performing" track for fear they won't be cast in any of the regional company's productions.

 

The levels were also condensed. Each level used to be two years long. So, while my DD was in Ballet II Level 2 last year, she was supposed to move into Ballet III Level 1 this year. However, there is no longer a level 1 and a level 2. This means that she's in a class with girls who were an entire year ahead of her technically (the girls who would have gone on to Ballet III level 2). Another level, Ballet IV was taken out completely, so students go straight to the Intermediate level.

 

The school ONLY tells students which level they were given permission to enroll in. It's completely up to student and parent as to which track to enroll in. The difference in the tracks involves the required number of classes to attend, the duration of the class (60 minutes vs 75 or 90 mins), and whether electives are required or are truly electives (jazz, pilates, pointe).

 

Hypothetically these changes seemed as though they could work. But I'm not so sure anymore.

 

Ok, so here's the problem:

 

Very few want to be enrolled in the non-performing track. Example: the intermediate level had 18 in the performing, and 2 in non-performing. The school decided to MAKE all of them performing, and split the group up according to age and ability because the teacher couldn't teach to that many kids. Hurray!

 

My DD's level has 15 performing and 3-5 non-performing. Some of the students in her level were moved up from Ballet II because that level was too crowded!! So now we have students with a range of 3-4 year difference in technical ability all in the same class.

 

My DD, and many others are complaining. My DD's level is too easy for her right now because the class is being taught to the lowest ability in the class. If the class were taught to the highest ability, then I'd be be worried about injuries. In no way do I believe my daughter is ready to move up to the next level, which would be intermediate. I simply want her level to be taught the way it should be taught. Girls in her class range in age from 7-12. The 12 year-old is not "slow" neither is the 7 year-old a prodigy. The problem is that the younger girls are not emotionally mature enough to be placed in the level with these other girls. Some of them are "high fiving" each other after they perform a certain combination etc., almost as if they just scored a soccer goal. They're chatting, playing with hair, making faces in the mirror etc.

 

Girls in the intermediate level are starting to "talk" about a particular girl who is in their class because "her parents donated a lot of money to the school". Now, whether this rumor is true or false, is not the issue to me. The issue is the fact that the this girl does not belong in the class, because she doesn't know the technique required to be in that level, and it's obvious. This particular girl is in the age-range as the other girls in her class, but only started dancing a year and a half ago. The rumor comes alive based on the girls non-ability.

 

I feel like the school should have limited the class sizes, and put DKs on a waiting list if their level and preferred track was too full. Instead they just keep accepting kids into the performing track. My DD has already had girls missing classes for birthday parties and soccer games etc. The non-performing track was supposed to be for girls who weren't going to make ballet their priority, but still wanted to dance.

 

I've talked with other parents, some of whom have already talked to the director. Classes only started two weeks ago, so I'm trying to give the director time to iron out all of the problems, but I'm not sure how much longer I can wait. I've talked to my DD about changing to the other pre-pro school in town, but she doesn't want to. Her friends are at this school, and this school is where most of the performing opportunites come from. Ugh.

 

I'm actually considering putting my DD in the non-performing track because she'll get more attention! The classes however, are only 60 minutes long and twice a week. And then there's the "stigma" of being non-performing.

 

How long should I sit back and wait patiently for changes to be put in place to correct the problems the new schedule/policies have created. I know the director is aware of the problems. One teacher has already told me they've had meetings and memos have been circulated.

 

What is reasonable? I want to give the school time to do what's best and what's right for the kids. The director doesn't need a mob of parents attacking her for changes she thought would be in their best interest (or at least I hope that's why she did this), but this is rediculous. Classes only started two weeks ago....how long before I should be dancing on her desk?

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Mel Johnson

I wouldn't give it much longer. Two weeks, tops. You're distressed now, and second-hand information isn't helping you. I wonder why the teacher decided to make a "recreational" track so low-key? Hour classes twice a week aren't enough to sustain growth at all.

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Victoria Leigh

Yes, I agree, give it another two weeks. Whenever there is a change of direction, there will be some changes in the program, and possibly some confusion and mistakes in the beginning. So, give her the time to work things out. If it doesn't happen, then descend or just leave for the other school.

 

I'm most concerned about the mixed ages and levels. There is no way a 7 year old should be in a class with 10-11-12 year olds. The material is not the same, not even close. This makes no sense at all. And classes should not be taught to the lowest level students, ever, IMO. The idea of holding back pointe level, or pre-pointe level students and giving them classes suited to the level of a 7 year old, which would be Ballet I, is appalling. If this does not change, then I would strongly suggest removing her from this school.

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Treefrog

I feel your pain! Hopefully, the AD will get things sorted out. By now it must be plentifully apparent that this new arrangement isn't working.

 

Our studio is having level problems too. Basically, they decided to freeze nearly everyone at their last-year's level. In effect, they are redefining the levels to be more advanced than they were previously. Most kids are staying with their same cohort.

 

The problem, of course, is when parents take it upon themselves to decide that since little Susie has been in Level X for two years already, she should be in Level X+1 this year. This is the first week of classes, and all those difficulties are still being ironed out.

 

Then, there is the problem that one level -- the second-to-highest one -- has suffered lots of attrition over the years and only has four or five kids in it. To the AD's credit, she is trying hard NOT to lump levels together, but of course it is hard to find studio time for everyone. Two levels down, about 25-30 kids showed up for the first class!

 

I guess my point is that the first week of classes always seems like an adventure -- sometimes a misadventure. I usually trust that the AD will do the best she can, given the resources she has. I hope this is the case with your studio, too, but if not, do not hesitate to speak to the AD. Calmly, of course.

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Guest dancer04

Knock Knock....not a parent, but a student with a similiar situation.

 

I am nineteen years old and a college student dancing with the University which I have had all of my ballet training. I now take ballet classes each day for school and classes each day in the evenings with my "studio" persay. After our performance in May there were many students that quit from the Pointe 1 and Pointe 2 class.SO many quit that there were not enough students to hold 2 separate levels. These two levels combined. It still seems to work out quite well becuase she teaches to both levels. The Pointe 2 class does arabesque turns where the pointe 1 class doesn't turn. We do fouettes and the Pointe 1 does continuous turns out of fifth. Our instructor modifies the combination to suit both levels accordingly. There are also a few girls in pre-pointe that take a couple of our classes as an extra class and a class to challenge them. We still only have about 10-12 students in the class. As a student I don't mind mixing levels like this, but then again all of the dancers are between 13-16 years old with the exception of 2 of us who are both 19, but we only take these classes as supplemental classes to our normal schedule.

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Guest centerstage333222

Oh no.. I understand what you're going through. My daughter was very frustrated last year, because there were little girls in what would normally be an advanced jazz and lyrical class for her age group. And these girls were in no way, advanced or in her age group. The teacher not only had to make the class easier, but she had to slow everything down to teach them how to do things. Unfourtnately, there was nothing we could do. :wub: When recital time came around, the dance came out pretty well, the little girls just got small parts and easy things to do. But it was still very frustrating for the girls. I wish I knew what to tell you, but I don't. You could try talking to the studio director and see if there is anything she could possibly do for your daughter and the girls at her level and in her age group/range. HTH!

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DancesInHerSleep

:wink:

 

I want to yell and scream and jump up and down on the director's desk! NOW!

 

Since my last post in this thread, the 12 year-old in my DD's class turned 13 and was moved to the intermediate level where she now also takes a Pointe I class. Please keep in mind that this is an entire hour of pointe and not just the last 15 minutes of a technique class to get her or any of the other girls "ready" for a regular pointe class. This girl's mom told me that the teacher thought she had matured over the summer and is more focused and can now handle the intermediate class. Funny, my DD came out of class and told me that this particular girl announced it was her birthday. When the teacher asked her how old she was, and the girl said "13", the teacher "looked shocked" and said she had no idea, and though she was only 10 MAYBE 11. My DD then told me that the girl was being moved up a level (because she was too old to be in Ballet III), before I had even spoken to her mom.

 

The class is now up to 16 students and class is in one of the two small studios(except on Fridays), which in my opinion is too small for that number of students.

 

After reading the responses on this thread, and talking to my husband, we decided to give it the recommended "two weeks", which by the way was up last Friday. On that day after talking with several other frustrated moms, we thought it best to have one spokesperson and request a meeting where we can all voice our concerns and questions. Our meeting was granted!! We were told notices had been mailed out. No notice ever came....

 

Yesterday my DD came out of class with a flyer of the meeting scheduled for Oct 11th. To my dismay, the flyer is from the president and managing director of the school's youth ballet, and is meant to discuss "What the youth ballet is all about."!!

 

There's even a warning letting us know that neither the school's director, nor any of her staff will be attending the meeting! It goes on to state that while they won't be able to answer any specific technique questions, they can tell us where to find cheap pointe shoes. I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone.

 

This is absolutely crazy. I'm not playing nice anymore. I'm going to confront her, and I am in no mood to be nice.

 

I do want some feedback from the board. These are the concerns I plan on bringing up to her. Please tell me I have the right to ask these questions and voice these concerns: (If not let me down gently, I've had a bad day.)

 

1. I'd like to see the school's syllabus, or at least know what the criteria is for moving a child into the next level. Then I want to know if all the girls moved up from Ballet II because of overcrowding meet that criteria.

 

2. I want to know what is going to happen to a 7 or 8 year-old who will not be ready for an intermediate level next year? How many years are they going to keep her in that level, and what happens when she complains next year that she isn't learning anything new?

 

3. I want to know what the school's policy is regarding going on pointe, i.e. age, technique required etc. When my DD first enrolled I was told no one under the age of 12 would be allowed on pointe. Recently with the changes at the school, we were told no one under the age of 11, however there is at least one 10 year-old who I know for a fact is on pointe right now, and another who has been on pointe since the beginning of summer, and she only turned 11 last month. These aren't rumors, I know this to be fact.

 

4. What is the maximum class size?

 

5. Why is a 16 year-old listed as a teacher on the rehearsal schedule for Nutcracker??

 

6. Lastly, I want them to explain to me exactly why I should keep my DD at their school and not take her elsewhere. What are they offering (besides performance opportunities) that I can't get at the other school?

 

As a final note, I'll add that the 7 year-old, who by the way turned 8, is having trouble in class. She cries, and won't participate. She often sits in the back of the room or in the corner if it's not occupied. If she does stand up, she stays in the back of the class and tries to hide. I've seen this little girl when she was in class with kids her own age, in an SI environment with a new teacher and girls she didn't know, and on stage. Although quiet she was never so timid. My mother's instinct tells me she's overwhelmed.

 

Other than that it appears most of the high-fiving, and face making (into the mirror) is at a minimum. As a whole the class seems well behaved.

 

Most of the advanced girls (last count all but two) have left the school and now attend the other pre-pro school that opened last November...the one my DD attended for the summer. And, I know of two other girls in my DD's level who plan on leaving the school after Nutcracker.

 

Oh.....(sorry I keep thinking of more things) Last Thursday, one of the girls in my DD's class wasn't feeling well, and had been crying before entering the studio. The first thing her teacher said was "What's wrong, are you leaving the school?"

 

Seems to me, they know what's lurking around the corner.

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fendrock

I think it is very important to state your case only in regard to your concerns for your own daughter.

 

But... it also sounds like it might be time to cut your losses and move on to the other school...

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Victoria Leigh

Sorry, but I think that addressing those issues is futile. Just take her out and move on.

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