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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Technique class vs Rehearsal


mom2

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This is a very difficult post for me to write, so I hope I express myself adequately.

 

This spring my daughter's dance school is launching a pretty ambitious show, with 3 major classical pieces. There have been the typical and expected issues with respect to casting (i.e. some seem to get many roles and major ones at that; others get little), however I don't know that it is EVER possible to please everyone even most of the time in this regard.

 

My query is with respect to technique classes. For the first time that I can recall, classes are being cancelled on a fairly regular basis to make way for rehearsals. This has actually been happening since January (the shows are in May), so it's not just a matter of last minute preparations which I think we can all understand to some degree. The school is considered to be a (pre)professional ballet school, with students on track for careers in dance. At first I was only concerned about the students who are not cast (or who are second cast) as these students now have very little dancing in their day. However, the more I think about it, the more it seems that the most advanced students are also suffering - sure, they are dancing a lot in rehearsals, but they aren't getting any more that one ballet class per day and little to no dedicated pointe classes.

 

What do other people think of this situation? I'm especially curious to see what the teachers will say.... Should I be concerned about this situation? :shrug:

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IF the students were getting a thorough daily class, I would be more accepting, but you have raised some valid concerns (several levels missing classes completely, pointework neglected, etc.). Also, you have raised concern about adminstrative disorganization in allowing for the necessary preparation time, etc. Personally, I am never in favor of cancelling class, especially for young people where this sends the wrong message completely.

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Victoria Leigh

While some of our pointe classes are sometimes given to rehearsals in the month or so before a show, the technique classes are NEVER given up for rehearsals. At least not by the school. When the students are cast in the professional company productions, there are times when they must rehearse with the company at the same time their class is going on. The class still goes on, but those students may have to miss it. This is not an acceptable situation either, IMO. All students need their classes daily, rehearsals or not.

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Just chiming in to say that at daughter's pre-pro, a school that performs a lot, in her 11 years of Nutcrackers and spring shows, technique class was never canceled. Sometimes pointe classes were, as the date drew near for the performance, but never technique classes.

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I danced with a local modern company last year and around performance time, we pretty much stopped having technique classes (mostly Limon classes and the occaisional ballet class). There were a few of us dancers who took ballet classes elsewhere, but a lot of the dancers didn't. There was a huge difference in strength and stamina in the one's taking outside classes against the one's who weren't. There was a difference in body line and foot articulation as well.

 

It was very frustrating to me having to perform there without having the basic technique classes. Our contracts required 3 company classes a week (which I don't think is enough anyway), but it got to where they weren't providing them

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mom2, you're not alone in lacking technique classes at your DD's school in favor of rehearsing.

 

I don't know if it will help in any way, but here's my experience with the same. We have to deal with that exact situation every year, but usually for a much lesser period of time than you describe. However, this year was the worst it has ever been.

 

This year, the spring performance, the only performing experience our ballet school offers, was in mid-March. The AD always creates new choreography--for either a simple story ballet based on a theme or, this year, specific themes for each act. Until this year, when there was one short variation each for two advanced girls, existing classical choreography has never been used. This is because the AD, rightfully in my mind, believes that DKs should only perform what they can do correctly and cleanly. However, making that choice takes time.

 

Rehearsals in most classes didn't start until January, though in two advanced-level classes my older DS takes, they started in November (aaargh!). The DKs got a barre, though usually abbreviated and run fairly quickly. Both my DS's were stressed out by the lack of class, even my young one (age 11) who I would have expected wouldn't care that much. Based on a few comments I've heard from others, my DKs weren't alone in feeling discouraged and I wasn't alone in my disgust (a strong word, I know, but pretty accurate.)

 

To deal with it, I totally stayed away from the school and tried to keep my mouth shut at home other than being supportive. My older DS dealt with it by taking every class near his level to get enough barre and then really "worked" the barre. That usually meant he was there for two technique classes every day, generally 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Then, he would mark in the back of the room or understudy for the pieces in his non-regular classes, just so he could keep moving. When classes began again a couple weeks ago, he said there was a marked decline in stamina and technique in nearly all of the kids. He felt he was in a lot better shape than the others, but felt he suffered by not making progress, which I do not doubt.

 

HOWEVER, there's another side of the coin. The school my DKs attend predominantly serves dabblers in ballet. We live in a very small town in the middle of nowhere, and if the AD and teachers wanted to run separate rehearsals for performance, essentially no one would show up. As it is, less than five kids in the whole school take more than 3 classes per week. It simply wouldn't be pragmatic or feasible for the teachers to do it any other way.

 

Does this sound familiar?? It's not a good situation for serious ballet-minded DKs. mom2, if your DD is already going to the best teachers available in your area, then you're stuck. But if you have an alternative, you should be looking for a different situation. In my mind, there's no point in wasting either your or your DD's time if you have another option. (Given the amount of time wasted, time is money, even for those of us who don't have a lot to spare.) Nor do you want to run the risk of having your DK(s) give up because they become discouraged by their current situation.

 

An aside: To forestall any suggestions that I should talk to the AD, it's not even a remote possibility. Any comments of any kind are perceived to be personal criticism. The result is the DKs pay a penalty in class, not in any overt way, but through a kind of ostracism, a dearth of attention. We know this happens based on previous experience and the experiences of others. I think mom2 and others need to think about possible repercussions before saying anything. For those of you who may be appalled, I don't think our situation, or mom2's for that matter, is that unusual. Some people have a great experience with their DK's schools. Many others don't, particularly in more rural areas of the world, but the DKs generally survive just fine. My kids have learned to mind their own business, not expect utopian situations and develop creative ways on their own to make the best of a situation. They'll be the better and wiser for it.

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My studio is facing similar changes to the ones described by Mom2. We have new directors who have big plans for the school. These changes involve a lot more rehearsals for the Spring Recital in May. We also started rehearsing in January, but only on Saturdays for 2-5 hours depending on the students' levels etc.. (My 10-year-old has about 3 hours a week). Now we are starting 3-4 hour rehearsals every Friday and Saturday until the show.

 

While rehearsal is now starting to cut into some class time, they are doing a couple things you might suggest to your AD. They are offering technique classes for combined levels before rehearsal, and letting people make up classes in lower levels on other days. This helps the serious students who are worried about getting behind.

 

We are feeling the strain and frustration though. You can't miss more than 1 rehearsal or you get taken out of the performance, so my poor 3-year-old son could have his birthday party until there was a break in the rehearsal schedule! The family can't go anywhere on the weekends, and my daughter is missing friends' parties etc... It is really hard! I feel for the rest of you! :D

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Situations, ADs, parents, etc, are different, but sometimes it DOES help to talk over the problem. Last fall, Nutcracker rehearsals got scheduled smack dab on top of the advanced modern class -- affecting most of the kids in the class. When we discussed our concerns, the rehearsal got moved off 15 minutes -- so kids could get in the first hour of the modern class -- and dancers were offered the make-up classes of their choice. Not ideal, but I appreciated the response and the effort to make things good.

 

Werlkj, can you point out (diplomatically, of course) that if kids/families aren't interested in attending separate rehearsals, maybe they are not all that interested in putting on a show? When we do a separate performance (not the spring recital, but something like Nutcracker or Alice in Wonderland), only the dancers who are interested in performing sign up. Rehearsals are separately scheduled, and paid for in a separate "Workshop fee".

 

I don't know about you, but when I pay someone to teach my kid ballet, I want them to actually teach ballet.

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treefrog, you said I could possibly point out

that if kids/families aren't interested in attending separate rehearsals, maybe they are not all that interested in putting on a show?

I suppose you didn't mean to be funny, but most of the kids and parents at our studio are interested primarily in the show, nothing else. That boring, dull, bi-weekly ballet class is simply a necessary evil that's required for the DKs to be on stage in a ballet costume (though some parents are pained that the costumes designed by our AD are incredibly simple and tasteful, instead of their idea of what their child should be wearing...but that's another topic!). Without a show, I'm guessing most would quit or go elsewhere. I think the school's reputation as being good offers some snob value and tides the parents over, though there are always those few who leave for schools where they get to wear fancier costumes and/or perform more often. The show is particularly important for a small handful who worry that their dks aren't successful at anything, which is quite a legitimate reason in my mind and I don't mean to sound at all critical. I actually think those parents would support separate classes and rehearsals.

 

A major reason the show occurs is the AD believes that ballet is a performing art. I agree. Also, the AD wants it herself, to show what the school is doing and what has been accomplished. The numerous motivations for her desire could be interpreted many ways, but it is not a bad thing, in itself.

 

Thanks, treefrog, for your kind suggestions. You and others on this board are always very supportive and sweet to others. But I'm not offering my comments on this board to complain. I'm merely sharing my experiences so others don't feel alone in theirs. I've gotten some consolation from others and am just trying to offer some in return. Oh, one more thing that struck me as funny, though you would have no way of knowing...one doesn't "point things out" to our AD. She's very, very prickley. Also, for several reasons, again all legitimate in my mind, she isn't interested in being at the studio any more than she already is. So the sacrifice of class for rehearsal is just something we'd probably have to accept anyway.

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Hi--

 

I have similar concerns. We have had a rehearsal schedule in place from January for a mid May performance. The parts are still not cast. We have had two classes eliminated from the schedule (partnering/pilates and variations) which I have paid for. We were also charged a fee to perform in this workshop.

 

The school is new, and I know operating on a shoestring, but it seems to me that this approach is not fair to the students, performing or not. The teachers are wonderful and extremely well regarded in the ballet world. I don't want to give the impression that I'm not supportive, so how can I voice my concerns?

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3girls, I don't want to seem facetious, but good luck. I think you should definitely say something about paying for the cancelled classes. You could get all kinds of responses. For example, it could very well be that the directors had it in their mind to discontinue those classes all along and just never made it clear. Or maybe they only realized that those times were the best when they began juggling times for rehearsals. Not telling you could just be an oversight on their part. Or they're planning on refunding the money only if you ask. Who knows?! Just based on general life experience, I think it's possible you many never know.

 

I do know that running a school is nowhere near as easy as it sounds. It's not like it's mandatory to attend, as the public school system is, and because it is considered an extra activity by most parents, it's difficult for teachers to get anything coordinated at all, much less rehearsals.

 

I FEEL for you though. Very frustrating and somewhat irritating, isn't it.

 

I'm unfamiliar with some of the situations I hear about, particularly the "parts not cast" comments from others. What's the deal? If the school is a serious preprofessional school, I suppose it's to be expected. But if most, if not all, of the students are just recreational dancers and aren't planning and training to dance professionally, I don't get it.

 

I have to admit I like our school's practice of one piece for every class, with the most advanced students getting parts to showcase their particular abilities. For example, even if a girl's only ability is a decent arabesque, or a nice port de bras, she gets to show it off for a few counts somewhere. Perhaps developing specific choreography that utilizes the specific students' strengths for every class is more than a lot of teachers can handle, but even if each class only does one three-minute piece, it's still forty minutes of dancing, without breaks between pieces, or an intermission. If some classes do longer or more pieces, and some advanced students do a variation or two, the performance becomes much longer. At our school, only the graduating seniors are guaranteed a solo, and even then, the part is carefully choreographed to showcase their particular strengths and hide their weaknesses.

 

At the same time, I can now see why my DKs' school doesn't have separate rehearsals. They'd need one for nearly every class. It simply wouldn't work--not enough time, too many logistics. Hmmm. There is clearly more than one philosophy used by schools for putting on shows.

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Glad I could give you a :huepfen: , even unwittingly.

 

Clearly, there are worlds out there I never even imagined!

 

As it happens, werlkj, our kids do rehearse in class for the spring recital. This is a one-dance-per-class deal, and they spend maybe 15 minutes at the end of each class learning the dance. But it's nothing like replacing an entire class!

 

3girls, I too feel your pain. Perhaps you will find out that the scheduling glitsch was just that, a glitsch. (That's what happened in our case; until this year, that time slot had always been free for rehearsals, and our AD just forgot she had slotted in a new class this year.) Like yours, our studio is relatively new and still growing. I think it is particularly important at this stage in the studio's life to let the directors know what their customers will and will not accept. Our administrators were quite taken aback when I first brought up the question of rebates. I think they assumed we were a happy little community and we'd all pitch in and do what was needed. But, they did reconsider, so I guess my arguments about people needing to get what they pay for made sense.

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Thank you all for your posts; it's so interesting to read what others are dealing with. From our end, dd is already at a residency program so from my point of view we have, as a family, made considerable consessions. Until recently, as I said, this wasn't an issue...perhaps it had been with others in the past, I'm just not aware of it. My daughter does still get at least one technique class/day (6 days/week); this is in the middle of the day. She would not be able to attend the next level up or down as these classes are either offered concurrently to her own, or while she has academic classes (that is, on the weekdays). What is missing are the extra technique classes after school, the pointe (other than in rehearsals), and things like pdd, spanish and so forth. So, I guess from reading everyone else's posts....it could be worse.

 

Thanks again for all your responses!

 

 

m2

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Guest enjoyingtheride
My query is with respect to technique classes.  For the first time that I can recall, classes are being cancelled on a fairly regular basis to make way for rehearsals. This has actually been happening since January (the shows are in May), so it's not just a matter of last minute preparations which I think we can all understand to some degree.  The school is considered to be a (pre)professional ballet school, with students on track for careers in dance.  At first I was only concerned about the students who are not cast (or who are second cast) as these students now have very little dancing in their day.  However, the more I think about it, the more it seems that the most advanced students are also suffering - sure, they are dancing a lot in rehearsals, but they aren't getting any more that one ballet class per day and little to no dedicated pointe classes.

 

What do other people think of this situation?  I'm especially curious to see what the teachers will say.... Should I be concerned about this situation? :blink:

It is the experience at our school that classes are still held for those students who weren't cast in shows. The smaller numbers of bodies in the instruction levels left who can take class and loss of a room or two to rehearsals might also mean that teaching levels combine for class. The students who are cast in several parts, while unhappy that they are shorted in the technical classes, nevertheless have those roles. There are some opportunities to take classes in lower levels to substitute for those being missed.

 

Those who aren't in the casts are naturally disappointed and somehow, so just being able to take all their scheduled classes doesn't quite help compensate for not being in the show, or for having a smaller role.

 

I do notice that those students cast in some shows do a lot of sitting around and waiting for their turns, and feel that that is a waste of their time.

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