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Ballet in a small town


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I found this quote on an old thread when I was searching for some ideas on how to make sure my daughter gets the best training she can get in a small town:

Most dancers do not get into companies at 16, and most do not have to leave home to get training unless they live in a small town where there is no good training.

We live in a VERY small town, where the local dance school's "ballet" classes are offered once a week by a teacher who seems to think ballet & lyrical are the same. The "advanced" level gets to do pointe too! I think we can all agree that this is NOT good training.


Even as a newbie mom a few years ago, I guessed that dd needed something better than what was offered locally, so we began driving her to the nearest big town. However, even in the big town, there is not much of an emphasis on ballet in most dance schools. Probably 2/3 of the local dance schools focus on competitions. There are two other schools that claim to be "pre-pro" ballet schools, but even they have only 5-6 hours of ballet weekly (technique + pointe) at the highest levels. I have heard that these schools, and other non-competition schools in the area, have or will soon be cutting back or combining classes. (The competition studios, of course, are booming.)


The fact is, there is no ballet or non-competition school that we know of less than 3 hours away that offers anything more than this.


My dd is not dreaming of a career with ABT or NYCB, at least not that she's hinted to me. :) But I know that many of her dancing friends would like to go on to companies or college programs. Can these dreams come true for small-town dancers stuck with a less-than-ideal schedule? How can these dancers make the most of their limited class time?

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They do what you did. Start looking afield. Be willing to travel. Find a better place to study. When I was 14, I was already getting on the bus to get to NYC on Saturdays (alone) to take class supplementing my already sufficient schedule. But I wanted more. That was a 60-mile schlep.

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Eskimopieo, we were where you are. We are from a small town. Luckily for my DD there were teachers there that helped her convince me that she had to leave. Even though we were already driving to other studios in outside towns and cities, one a 2 hour trip each way, DD insisted that it was not enough. We now live 300 miles away from dad and brothers for her training. She considers her real training to have started when she was 13. It was a very hard decision to make and took a year of researching and choosing where to go that would best serve my DD's situation at the time. Now DD is preparing herself (and me) for leaving again. She has her eye on some pre-pro boarding schools that she will be auditioning for in the Fall and Winter season.


If your DD's dance training is not adequate, IMO, you have to make the decision to find good training well before she is 16. By 16, you are well past the age of "potential".


Good luck, this is hard for people in this similar situation.

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We drive an hour each way to get a better opportunity. However, there are a couple of young ladies at our studio who come only on Saturday for Company class (just for exposure) and then have a private with one of our instructors. They drive 3 hours and spend the weekend to supplement what they are getting at home. Not the best scenario, but definitely one choice. These same young ladies come to our studio SI (a good one) for the summer to catch up some.


As well, before we made the move where we are now, we split our time between two studios to get the right combination of classes for DD. I know that going away or sending them away works for some, for us, it would not have worked so we looked to "Create a Studio". After that completely wore us all out, we decided to just drive the hour every day. We didn't do recitals at our other studios, just took classes and kept our performances at the studio we called HOME.


How can these dancers make the most of their limited class time?


I would also encourage venturing out as much as possible. Summer Intensives, open classes at a Professional school nearby (even once a month just for exposure to other dancers and styles). But even more than the number of classes they are getting I would look at the quality of the classes that they take. You can take 4-5 classes a week that are poor classes and that won't help either. The key is finding good classes!


Good luck! It is always tough.



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I guess from my perspective for right now I cannot imagine that my dancer will not want to audition for professional companies at the end of high school. There will be many things that I cannot control that may prevent her from being successful such as height, body proportion, wrong look, money in the budget to hire inexperienced dancers just starting out, etc. The only thing I can do is get her the best possible training that she wants to do and that we can financially manage. In our case that was to allow her to move away when she was entering grade eight to train at a full time professional boarding school. When she starts auditioning, if we get to that point I want to know that she will enter an audition convinced that shehas been trained to the best of her abilities and will be able to keep up with anyone on a technical level. The rest will be up to the fates and her. My dancer has said on occasion that she wishes she had left home earlier because that would have given her at least one more year of high level training that she had previously thought she was getting locally. The training in our case was extremely good at home but the classes have to accomodate different levels of ability and commitment so there was a different intensity level than what she is dancing at now. It is certainly not for everyone and indeed may not be right for my daughter at some point but we never look beyond the next evaluation with certainty and we make sure that she is getting the best education possibe under the circumstances.

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I am relocating with dd (she just turned 15) in the fall so she can get the training she needs. It is one of the most difficult decisions we've ever had to make, but we have definitely run out of options at home. We probably should have gone a year sooner, but it was my oldest daughter's senior year and we weren't willing to make that sacrifice. Thankfully, I have a very supportive husband, but it will still be a very difficult transition. Some days I wake up and think, "O.K., I can handle anything for one year." Other days I wake up and think I've lost my mind. We are looking at it as a one year deal. If dd still has professional aspirations at that time, we'll look into a boarding situation.

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My dd is only 11, and so far has had pretty decent training. The problem is that I think she just isn't going to be getting ENOUGH training here in the coming years unless she starts taking class at more than 1 school. Right now she claims to have no professional aspirations, which is certainly OK by me, but I worry that as much as she loves dance she could change her mind about that at age 16 or 17 when it may be too late. Good grief! :shrug: It's such a fine line between supportive parent & pushy mom, isn't it?


What about those who don't have the option of boarding school or living away from the family? I'm thinking of one of dd's friends in particular who has big dreams for the future but simply no room in the family budget for anything so grand. :)

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Then I'm afraid that will have to remain a dream denied. :)

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eskimopieo, if you don't allow yourself to worry about your own daughter and let her be your guide, you will not become a pushy mother. Let her be the driver...if and when she decides she wants more, you can deal with the decisions then.


As for the others you mention, I'm afraid Mel is right. Unless someone can get the correct training it doesn't matter how talented they are because the reality is that there are many very talented dancers out there and they are, for whatever reasons, able to get the proper training that they need. Sad to say, but this is reality. :D However, if someone is really super they are often awarded scholarships - so that could be their dream ticket. :wink:

Edited by BW
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Then I'm afraid that will have to remain a dream denied. 


I think the same could be said about kids who decide at a relatively late age that they DO want a professional career. If the drive isn't there earlier, they won't get the training.


Eskimopieo, your dilemma sounds so familiar. Even though I have lots more opportunities available, the underlying question was the same: Should my daughter have more classes? Should she go to a "better" studio? And I think BW has it right: don't sweat it until your daughter asks for more. MOST of our kids will not have professional careers, and so the focus should be on having fun NOW. By having fun, I don't mean to slight the rich reward that comes from serious training, or to suggest that kids with less than pre-pro bodies or desires should all head off to competition schools and jazz classes. But, I do wonder if our ambitions have gotten warped by the expectations for dancers who are training seriously and who DO have a legitimate shot at the Show. Perhaps a couple of classes a week are perfectly fine for most dancers.

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Also - add the "are they driven?" factor. (NOt to be confused with "are you driving?")


It is all a really really big deal - the training, the environment, the living away from home. If is is something they merely "want" or that YOU think would benefit the student, it's not worth considering. That undeterrable drive should be palpable.


And certainly that can't be imposed on an 11 year old, in case they develop it five years later. (I know that is not quite at all what you are saying, E).


I Do believe that quality is always important in any study in any discipline - even if the intensity required for professional preparation is not desired or indicated. Whatever you learn, you should learn right!


The S.I's can be a very good testing ground. My daughter was the first from her studio to venture out, and she came back Zowee! this is my life; this is what I want! Two other girls followed the next year; one promptly veered seriously into modern (continuing her ballet classes as well); the other acknowledged: not for me! continued classes but took a turn toward voice training, musical theater and academics.


For the honest self-evaluator (student) the S.I. can give them a sense if they are in the game, and if their local training is sufficient to keep them there.

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Eskimopieo, I understand your dilemma, we live in an area that has only mediocre ballet and even the studio she attends (1.75 hours away) is not a professional training program. Since there seems to be a number of students in your area that want better training would it be possible to hire a teacher to come on alternating weekends (Thursday through Sunday) giving master classes? How to find this teacher is another problem and one I can’t answer. Good Luck! :green:

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Let her be the driver...if and when she decides she wants more, you can deal with the decisions then.
I Do believe that quality is always important in any study in any discipline - even if the intensity required for professional preparation is not desired or indicated. Whatever you learn, you should learn right!


The S.I's can be a very good testing ground. My daughter was the first from her studio to venture out, and she came back Zowee!

Actually, she was also the first from her studio to audition for an SI & was accepted. She was thrilled but opted not to go this summer & is instead attending a local performing arts daycamp where she can dance & paint & sing & act. She has already said she wants to audition again next year, but I think she's a bit hesitant to come right out & ask for more dance. Maybe she believes the cost is a problem, maybe she thinks the other kids will think she's turning into a ballet snob, maybe she's just not sure if dance is as important to her now as it was last year. These middle school years are tough to navigate with lots more going on outside the studio than she's dealt with before. Sometimes it's hard to figure out what she's thinking without asking outright, and if I do ask I'm just as likely to get the rolled eyes & big sigh as the answer! :)

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Sounds like she is content. At least not to funnel herself into a ballet mindset. At that point, I'd think as mom you'd just step back and let her guide the way.


But at the very least, to ease your mind, you should talk to her and see what she thinks. At our house, we have a couple of mid summer chats with all our children, to determine what their real plans and desires are for the next year before we as parents sign on the dotted line. It allows us to throw out some ideas, with time for them to think on them and then come back with a plan.


no ballet or non-competition school that we know of less than 3 hours away that offers anything more than this


There are several moms in your state on this board. They may be able to help you with studios that are known for ballet closer to your area that you might not know of.



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