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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Pre-professional Schools - Finding a Good One


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Since many of us do not have access to a true pre-pro track of training (at least in the earlier years), I think it's up to the parent to do as much homework as possible in choosing a school, to educate theirself (this board and these type discussions are invaluable), and to keep their ears (and mind) open to the opinions of objective outsiders. My daughter's school has a blend of recreational and students with pro aspirations, but the teachers at the upper levels have stated that they attempt to teach to the highest level students in the class, and, from observation, they do expect even the more recreational students to strive for their individual best. These teachers are passionate about ballet, have, or have had, professional careers and are serious about teaching. Do I wish there were enough pre-pro students to have a separate program just for them? Of course! Do I think the students who only dance because they love to, but realistically know they will never be a professional, detract in any way from the classes my daughter is in? Of course not! Yet, I realize that a true pre-pro program would be able to offer more classes and more opportunities. Do I wish my daughter would be able to spend the next couple of years at a "finishing school", for both the more intense training schedule and the greater variety of classes available (such as partnering) as well as the exposure to the larger ballet world? Yes, but unfortunately, other considerations (family and financial) prevent us from moving in this direction.

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Since many of us do not have access to a true pre-pro track of training (at least in the earlier years), I think it's up to the parent to do as much homework as possible in choosing a school, to educate theirself (this board and these type discussions are invaluable), and to keep their ears (and mind) open to the opinions of objective outsiders.

For many parents (well, at least for me), we know nothing of "pre-pro" in the early years. Our kids started dance as just one more after-school activity, just like soccer or baseball or scouts. If we hadn't moved to another state after dd's first year of dance, she might still be at the same studio, taking class once or twice a week & I would be none the wiser. I realize now that first studio was competition-focused and emphasized lyrical & jazz over ballet, but I only came to that knowledge after finding this board. Their dancers certainly put on a great show... surely that meant they were getting good training, right? :rolleyes:

 

Thank you so much, BT for educating me! :angry:

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I just object to the occasional undercurrents in these threads that presume there is necessarily less professionalism in the TEACHERS in these others settings.

h-m-m-m.... I guess I missed threads that insinuate teachers in these settings are any less professional (at least by their own doing). In the original subject of trying to define or identifty schools that are pre-professional (or not) at least two criteria were suggested - a history of dancers that go on to a professional dance career and schools that employ professional dance teachers (ex professional dancers and not). I don't agree that either one of these characteristics makes a school a preprofessional school and went on to describe schools that could contain these characteristics but were obviously not preprofessional schools for a whole lot of other charactistics also exhibited. if you asked, they would honestly tell you they are not - their goals are of another nature (although they do usually have a couple students go on to professional dance careers and yes, do employ professional teachers). The day to day operations of such a school "COULD" be a lot different than what one would expect from a preprofessional school although others "COULD" operate as if it were preprofessional although don't commit to considering themselves as such. There really are both types out there as is indicated by others here speaking to their experiences. What the ratio of each is.... who knows. As for the professional teachers at each of these types of nonpreprofessional schools, like I mentioned in an earlier post

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/she is asked to back-off and lighten up by the director.

So again I reiterate, it's not the teacher who is being any less professional just because they are employed by a non-preprofessional school. It's the school's directive. When Mrs. X comes in, check book in hand, and wants to know why Mary misses half the class all the time just because her hair is not in a bun and is being sent back out to fix it, it takes a VERY professional teacher to accept being told they need to be less concerned about whether or not all students have their hair in a bun, or to wait until all the kids get into the studio before starting class, or to pardon the kids that forgot their dance clothes at thier academic school that day. etc, etc, etc.

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I guess to me, prism, what you describe is more simply categorized as a mess! I think the arts on any level has a certain standard, ethic, expected courtesies - otherwise - it's just a mess. I had two different band teachers in high school. Mr. Robb bribed us to come to marching band practice with pizza parties. Everyone was late, everyone talked, he was a mess, we were a mess. Mr. Williams (poor man) followed him. By about the third band rehearsal, when the bell sounded, (to complete class change) the baton went down, everyone was seated, a tuning scale began - and it was not a mess. I think, actually there were about three pre-professionals in that public school room, and a couple more who could have been but did not want to be. But we were all studying a discipline in a disciplined fashion. That thing you keep describing is not recreational, it's not non-pre-pro - it's just a freakin' mess. You don't have to do too much studying to walk away from it! :rolleyes::D:wink: (I think I am just in an argumentative mood anyhow!)

 

But actually, I do think that part of the reason, and in the long run, the joy, in studying a performing art (just like participating in a sport), is mastering the discipline of it - the focus, concentration, respect, cooperation, response, give and take of an ensemble, practice, accomplishment. I don't know why a parent would want to pay for mush, regardless of the child's aspirations.

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A professional teacher will teach ballet in a professional manner, no matter where she teaches it. If she is teaching in a recreational or competition school, it will be an uphill battle all the way, however, if she caves and allows a lack of discipline in the ballet classes, then she is not upholding the standards of ballet. While she may work for someone else, whose main interest is the mom with check in hand, if she cannot enforce the discipline, there is no art happening, and no professional teacher will accept that. She will teach it right or not at all. I would rather work at McDonalds than try to teach ballet in a place where there is no respect or love of the art, and where the professional teacher is not respected enough to be allowed to bring that art to this place in an acceptable fashion.

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Not quite sure I understand why, prism, you're reiterating your points. I didn't find syr's comments to be contradictory in nature. However, I will say that the teacher in your scenario with Mrs. X seems less "VERY" professional than very concerned about keeping her job and following the school's policies of bowing to the pressures of the parents. :rolleyes:

 

Really, I like to believe that everyone here knows that generalizations are just that. :wink:

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Not quite sure I understand why, prism, you're reiterating your points.

Sorry BW, can I blame it on a whopping headache? It seemed as though my earlier comments were misunderstood to mean the teachers were unprofessional which is not the message I was trying to convey. :wink:

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While she may work for someone else, whose main interest is the mom with check in hand, if she cannot enforce the discipline, there is no art happening, and no professional teacher will accept that. She will teach it right or not at all.

Perhaps "accept" was a poor choice of words which gives more of an impression of permanency. Maybe "endure" momentarily? Would a professional teacher finding themselves in that position believe that they might be able to change things and stick around long enough to give it their best effort in that direction? After a reasonable amount of time, I can't imagine a professional teacher accepting that this is the way it is and staying. This raises another question. In some professions, it is common to have a contractual agreement for services for X amount of time. Is this true in the professional dance teacher arena and a reason a teacher may have to endure a directive to uphold the standards of the school rather than the standards of ballet until they can move on? Just curious.

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This raises another question. In some professions, it is common to have a contractual agreement for services for X amount of time. Is this true in the professional dance teacher arena and a reason a teacher may have to endure a directive to uphold the standards of the school rather than the standards of ballet until they can move on? Just curious.

 

 

Some professional ballet schools do offer contracts to the teaching faculty while others do not. The length of the contract and amount of the salaries are different in each school. Many schools still pay on a per class basis, but that does not make for leaving your job or doing it in an unprofessional manner any easier. Generally people who have grown up in ballet (and by this I mean those of us who have studied ballet beginning at young ages, for example at the age of 8-10 in the US) are very disciplined and dedicated people to the art form. There is no money in this business for a teacher, so generally speaking those of us who do it for a long period of time are in it for the love of it. Many ballet teachers are considered freelance or part timers with no to few benefits.

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Prism, you bring up some interesting questions. Let me give you my experience in perhaps just what you are talking about i.e. pre-professional, profession etc.

 

Yes, I had a professional dance career only a few years due to injury. I currently teach at what I consider a semi-pre-professional school. What does that mean? Well, we have in our highest levels students that aspire to a professional career or college. We also have students (younger) that haven't made up their mind in which direction to head. I feel all students should get as professional training as I can give. Some will go one and others will not. But that happens at the professional level schools too. I totally agree with Ms. Leigh's post. I will not accept the wrong attire, hair tights, leotards etc. in my class and my students know it. Do I send them out you bet. I feel I owe them and their parents the education of learning what is correct and acceptable. I encourage my students to attend SI's depending on their age and maturity. When they go away I feel comfortable knowing they represent their home studio well.

 

To take my students to a higher level I formed a youth company and we are performing members of Regional Dance America. The company is evaluated each year and must maintain a high level of technical training. If not our level can be reduced and asked to leave. Each year the companies gather together to put on 3 days of master classes(with well known professionals) and performances. Again, an educational experience in the relm of professional dance.

 

As for the mothers with the check book, money does make the world go around and in order for us to teach the bills must be paid. However, with over 750 students we try very hard to run the studio in the most professional manner possible. We are dedicated to dance education and to give our students the best possible instruction.

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2dance, your school sounds a lot like the one my daughter attends. The policies regarding proper attire (both in class and on the street), hair, tardiness, etc. are clearly stated on the registration form, and even the youngest students are expected to follow them. I have never heard of a parent complaining about these policies, but I'm sure if they did complain, they would be asked to go elsewhere. In fact, this discipline is one of the things the parents I know appreciate most about the school.

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2dance,

 

Our school is an RDA school. This will be dd's first year to go to Festival. She is very excited about it.

 

The school puts forth a degree of professionalism that is wonderful.

 

mc

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I used to teach at a recreational school that had "advanced" students taking ballet 2-3 times/week. However, professional standards of dress, hair, &c were certainly kept. It was not easy to accomplish much technically with the students with so few classes, but the expectation was that even though the students would probably not become professionals, certain standards were part of the art form at any level.

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Mini Cooper,

 

Your dd will love festival! I grew up in a RDA company and still have very fond memories! The festivals always have fabulous teachers! We will have Elaine Bauer(PNB), Karen Brown(Kansas City), John Magnus and Judy Rice (Joffery). We always have a great and inspiring time!

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