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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Pre-professional Schools - Finding a Good One


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Prism, my "definition" was referring to ballet only. :blink: I believe a serious student of ballet needs to be in a school where the main focus is ballet. Of course, modern, jazz, etc.. are fine to also take, but if the student wants to become a professional ballet dancer, they should attend a school that focuses on ballet. Of course, if the child wants to be a professional tapper, twirler, etc.. then they should attend a school that focuses on that. :wink:

But is it not possible for a school to be preprofessional across several disciplines?

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I don't believe that this is necessarily a fair statement, albeit sometimes true.

 

My school is a small school but I do have the ability to train dancers to a professional level.

ToThePoint, this is why I was careful to say "necessarily" and "may". Also, having the ability and actually doing are two different things in my opinion. Here's a for instance. The school my son is at has a very good ballet teacher who danced professionally for many years. He decided to retire from that world and settle down to one place he could call home. He has the ability to train to the professional level. However, the school's charter is not that of preprofessional. It is to nuture and develop a love of dance but the majority of the way the school is run caters to the "recreational, I love to dance" student balanced with opportunity to perform for those kids who are more serious about considering a professional career in their future. The school in no way claims to prepare them for that choice. And in fact, if this ballet teacher begins to teach to the preprofessional level, the school can (and will because I have witnessed it on several occasions) receive complaints over what I consider to be realistic expectations for anyone who is somewhat serious about dance. He is asked to back-off and lighten up by the director.

 

There will be a couple of kids each year that will go on to further their training after they graduate from high school and will have a lot of catching up to do along with a rude awakening of the level that is required. Should they make it as a professional dancer, the general population is always going to remember that this dancer was trained from the time they could walk at xyz school of dance and will enroll their kids/grandkids there with the misunderstanding that they are a preprofessional school.

 

On the flip side, I DO believe any school, big or small can train to the professional level but only when it is their self-designated mission to do so.

 

So given the two senarios, I don't believe the history of professional dancers is the barometer of whether a school is preprofessional or not. That's what I was trying to point out.

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prism: I'll accept what you are saying. Some schools make misleading statements and a lot of parents don't know any better. A school I worked at advertised that their students had been accepted into SAB when in reality they had only been put on the waiting list. Again, I think at what age they left their home school can be a better gauge.

 

My mission statement directly states that it is my intention to train professional caliber dancers. Ballet reigns supreme at my studio, and my recreational dancers receive the same quality training that my professional prep students due. If they do decide to go to a company's school for finishing, there isn't any unlearning to be done.

 

Due to this, I believe that I have the right to advertise their accomplishments even if they do finish their training somewhere else.

 

But is it not possible for a school to be preprofessional across several disciplines?

 

I believe yes, but appropriate teachers must be hired for each discipline.

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Due to this, I believe that I have the right to advertise their accomplishments even if they do finish their training somewhere else.

Absolutely! you put in the same sweat to provide the dancers with what they would need to continue to grow and progress on to professional dancing. You earned some of that credit. But where I have a problem is when a school receives (not earned) a big part of that recognition by default just because the dancer showed up a few days after school every year but then went on to "real" training after HS graduation.

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But wait a sec..... The student who makes it into the next level of training at another school had to have received a solid foundation to have been accepted. Why shouldn't the original school who trained that particular dancer receive some of the credit? That same student is, I can guarantee, showing up more than just a few times after school at home studio. A more accurate guess would be like 6 days a week.

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If you read the biographies of dancers on a company's website or on the program they almost always mention previous training either by school name or list particular teachers. So even if they "finished" at a particular school, former teachers and training are listed...naturally not from age 5 unless it was some place well known, etc. :wink:

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But wait a sec..... The student who makes it into the next level of training at another school had to have received a solid foundation to have been accepted. Why shouldn't the original school who trained that particular dancer receive some of the credit? That same student is, I can guarantee, showing up more than just a few times after school at home studio. A more accurate guess would be like 6 days a week.

First, would you agree that "basics" and "solid foundation" are entirely different from each other?

 

In an effort to keep this in context, which was trying to identify whether a school is "preprofessional" by it's history of dancers going on to a career in professional dance and my point being that dancers may sometimes be associated with a particular school because they spent so many years there, yet did not receive the preprofessional training there that got them to their goal as professional dancer, let me offer this senario......

 

Little girl starts dance at 3-4yo. Let's call her Suzie. Suzie spends a few years in combination creative movement classes. It starts to become a "lifestyle" because she loves dance. Then she graduates to Level classes and goes to the studio 2-3 days/week after school. Even at 7-8yo, Suzie stands out from all the other dancers. She carries herself like a dancer and has a natural eloquence and flexibility that other girls dream of. Suzie progresses to the next level class but discovers she isn't learning much more than before. Suzie craves more but is getting less. You see, the school Suzie is attending is not a preprofessional school and with the relaxed attitude, classes often start 5-10 minutes late, other dancers wander in to class 5-10 minutes late and it's not a big deal, hair is not up properly and it's not a big deal, oops - a couple girls forgot their class attire today - not a big deal - wear whatever you've got, the classes are moderately technical, the school is teaching to the majority not the exception.

 

Suzie's concientious Mom starts to notice that Suzie needs more challenge. Her research for another studio within a reasonable distance comes up empty. She looks for other ways to supplement her training but she's still too young for most SI's away from home. She attends a local, no audition, short SI and learns more technically than she has in two years. She also discovers she is lost when it comes to the terminology because the studio has only touched on the very basics. She moves on to level III at school and again finds there is barely any noticable difference is what she is learning. She begins to read a lot on her own to learn more about styles and terminology to be better prepared for a grandeur SI. Her Mom continues to pursue supplemental training opportunities. Time marches on - Level IV, V classes, pre-pointe, pointe, no partnering except at SI's. Suzie stays at this studio through the years because it's the only choice in her area, to get the studio time, and the yearly performance opportunities. She becomes very self-directed, challenging herself and drawing on what she has learned from outside supplemental training to continually push herself. Yes, she is good enough to make it into the next level of training at another school, but where did she acquire the solid foundation? Not to discredit her home studio entirely because they did play an important role as well. They were there in the first place. Without them, she may have never realized her love and skill as a dancer. They recognized her potential and encouraged her to follow that path, providing whatever guidance they could for her to seek higher level training over the years. They put her in the spotlight as the model student and extra parts in performances in an effort to maintain her enthusiasm for dance. Yes, they deserve a lot of credit for that - it is as important as the technical training itself. But for getting her to the technical level of preprofessional?? No. She learned more technically in one 4-6wk SI than she learned in 3-4 years at her home studio.

 

Fast forward a few years. Suzie is working as a professional dancer in a major production which is televised nationally. Grandparents on the other side of the country who helped pay for all those years of dance classes see it and think "all those years at xyz school finally paid off". They tell all their friends. Grandparents in the south - same. Meanwhile back at the ranch in her hometown, her school friends have also grown up and have kids of their own. They remember all those years through school that Suzie went to the studio while they went to their afterschool activity. They see where Suzie is today and think her success is attributed solely to the studio she spent all those years at after school. They will enroll their kids with the idea that they will be trained for a potential career in professional dance. they will tell their friends who will enroll their kids. And every year there will be another Suzie story that will perpetuate the notion that the studio turns out a history of professional dancers. The studio will have earned a reputation of preprofessional, not because they were trying to but because human nature causes people to often conclude what they want to without always knowing all the facts.

 

So now that I've managed to continue the off topic state of this thread, I'll suggest we move over to the other thread that was recently started to continue this discussion? :D:wink:

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I believe the scenerio you have described would be unlikely in the field of ballet. More the norm is the dancer that receives very good training in their home school but attends a "finishing" school (for lack of a better term) their jr. & sr. year for the contacts they receive into the ballet community. A prime example would be the program my daughter attends. We are in a very rural area but have access to a non-profit arts center that has excellent instructors. There have been dancers that have gone on to professional ballet careers directly from the program, some that go on to careers after going through college (such as one that recently graduated from the Fordham U./Alvin Ailey program & is now with Alvin Ailey II), & our AD's daughter went to Pittsburgh/Schenley's program her Sr. year & is now with Joffrey. In these instances, I believe the home school should (& does) receive credit for base training. This is not uncommon in the ballet community for students to go polish their skills for a year or two at a higher ranked school but should not take away from the home training where they received a solid foundation in the first place. And I believe without a solid technical foundation, the student would not be able to acheive admittance into a higher ranked school in the first place. It would be unusual for a student to be able to acheive the proper ballet technique by themselves, akin to an athelete trying to obtain an Olympic level without coaching.

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A reaction to prism's post - What has bothered me about this discussion about professionalism, etc. that is now crossing several threads is exactly the assumptions in Prisms example. In my personal and my daughter's experience, there are so many examples of professionals teaching, who are also teaching professionals (i.e. they really know how to teach in addition to their professional artistic background) who, perhaps for no other reason than not living with the population density, teach in what I will call "community based settings." If they were to teach to only students who wish to be on a pre-professional track of ballet, or voice, etc. - they would have only two students a year - OR the other students would be stressed and joyless if they managed to stick it out.

 

But these are people who require class to start on time, who do not allow hair to hang out or talking when there should be silence. They know how to teach and inspire. And perhaps even more challenging - they can inspire a class with mixed potential and goals. They teach correct technique. The students who have the potential and desire can move on; the others can be proud and can lace all they have learned into whatever life they choose. I have seeen this is acting, in dance, in voice, with instrumentalists. I just object to the occasional undercurrents in these threads that presume there is necessarily less professionalism in the TEACHERS in these others settings.

 

On the other hand, I was never sent to the kind of school you describe, nor my daughter - although I know they exist and have had the poor fortune to have attended a performance or two. I just think we should be careful of the broad brush.

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Prism's scenario was exactly my dd's scenario, except that her teachers in her home studio DID tell us that she needed to leave. The "serious" students who want to become professional dancers are far and few between in the rural areas, so therefore, if your dd is one of the few, they are the ones that have to go out there and find a school that serves that yen.

 

We do give her home studio credit for having given the "basics" and the discovery of her love of dance, but her studio now is the one that taught her correct technique and basically has taken her farther than she ever would have if we had stayed at her home studio. She left when she was 12. By the time she is 16, she will leave this studio and move on to a "finishing school" if all goes by dd's plans. So no, I do not think that Prism's scenario is at all not likely, especially here in the Inland West.

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I'm just going to reply here, as here is where the discussion is, but maybe the moderators can move the entire discussion.

I have a hard time deciding if my daughters are at a studio like Prism described, or one like Syr describes. I think my daughters ballet teachers are very good, and certainly "professional" themselves, but there just aren't enough talented or interested kids to run a true professional school! The important thing is that the teachers do pass the kids along to a more serious school when the time is right. I can see how difficult this must be for them, though, as talented students draw so much positive attention to the studio and must also be a pleasure to teach.

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(Just a note to say that I have split this topic off from the "Different 'styles" at SI's" thread, in order to keep that one on track and allow this one to continue.) :D

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dancingdaughters has it exactly right for many fine schools that are in a locale that does not provide enough students who are at or aspiring to the professional level.

 

For these schools, they offer excellent training, from instructors who have extensive professional experience in most cases. What they cannot offer at the highest levels, is that push that is needed to get the students from student to professional. This is often due to lack of contacts within the larger ballet world, isolated locale or because the company associated with the school prefers that the grads stay and dance with the local company.

 

So, those students who want to give the larger ballet world a try, are really left with only two options:

1. Attend an SI that selects students for their trainee and apprentice programs and HOPE that they get an offer. However, if they wait to do this until the summer before senior year and it doesn't work out, then they are left with no time to transfer to a boarding school to get the necessary finishing/contacts to get a contract by the time they graduate high school.

 

2. Attend a boarding program for their last couple of years that does provide lots of exposure to larger companies, visiting ADs who set works on the students and see them work, numerous SIs that come to the school for their auditions who also can use that opportunity to see students working in their home setting, contacts with ADs from many companies who know the track record of the school and are willing to gamble on a student from the school based on prior experience with other grads, etc. etc.

 

When the student does finally get that coveted contract, it is so very often the result of both schools providing very important aspects of the student's training. There are many wonderful boarding schools that do not even begin until highschool. The solid foundation provided by fine home schools is so important.

 

And, I do agree with dancingdaughters, I think it takes a very mature and wonderful teacher to push their most promising students out the door when they reach those final years. It is a big decision for the dancers and their families and it means leaving all that is known and comfortable about their home school. For the teacher, it means losing a student that they can rely on for peformances and as a leader in classes, as well as the loss of a potential "home grown" dancer to the small pro company to which the school may be attached. I really appreciate the unselfish nature that so many teachers/school directors in small, local schools have toward their students. I think that sending them on to another school for finishing is a really, really hard thing to do in most of these cases.

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syr made my point about the term "professional" when used to describe a school. She exactly described a couple of our local schools. Using the term “professional” to describe company or “finishing” schools leaves out many schools that provide excellent training for a few dedicated students. There are probably a lot of great teachers out there who would love to have a different type of school, but can’t. It doesn’t hinder them from providing professional training to those students that want it. I simply think it’s too bad that judgments are made about schools based on the term "professional". As Syr said, “I just think we should be careful of the broad brush.”

 

syr’s full description of this was

In my personal and my daughter's experience, there are so many examples of professionals teaching, who are also teaching professionals (i.e. they really know how to teach in addition to their professional artistic background) who, perhaps for no other reason than not living with the population density, teach in what I will call "community based settings." If they were to teach to only students who wish to be on a pre-professional track of ballet, or voice, etc. - they would have only two students a year - OR the other students would be stressed and joyless if they managed to stick it out.

But these are people who require class to start on time, who do not allow hair to hang out or talking when there should be silence. They know how to teach and inspire. And perhaps even more challenging - they can inspire a class with mixed potential and goals. They teach correct technique. The students who have the potential and desire can move on; the others can be proud and can lace all they have learned into whatever life they choose.

 

My son’s teachers are fully capable of coaching at a very high level, and I know each one has actually done that in the time I’ve lived here. However, it’s few and far between for them. And in the three schools I’ve talked about (on another thread), the total number of students who want to pursue dance is no more than a handful.

 

I tried to start another thread about using the term “professional” to serve ballet better, because of my concern about it. It awards credibility to a school when it’s used, but its absence can hurt a terrific teacher and program. I just wish we could change how it is used or be a lot more careful about using it.

 

Oh....I completely agree with syr and cricket about the suzie scenario — nothing’s impossible, but that scenario is darn close. I can’t imagine that could ever happen and probably never has. There’s just no substitute for good teachers; they are an absolute requirement for success.

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