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SI's boys and young men have loved


Vision

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Now that my DS is in his first SI experience, I have come to realize that there are many training issues that differ for boys and girls. I'm wondering which programs other boys have loved for their mens classes, partnering classes, inspiring male teachers or dorm life? Any favorites? Just thinking ahead...

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Vision - my son attends the same SI (RWB) each year because as a full-time student it is a mandatory requirement, so I can't really give you reviews of several SIs. This year at age 14, he takes SR. Men's class (10 dancers - most returning) and then Jr. Men's technique class (4 from Sr. Mens plus other returning/new students). He really likes the Sr mens class as he finds it challenging to finally "dance large" as he calls it - grand allegro, double tours, etc. He then partners girls from Level 6 up and that class combines Sr/Jr men so there are probably 16 (??) guys in the class - the boys are assigned a weekly partner - usually matched for height & some experience. Since there are a relatively good number of boys, there are no over-use problems with partnering at this SI. I'm not sure on numbers here - we don't talk numbers too often, just training and teachers.

 

He also has modern class, music class and conditionning class (this happens every second day). He is not involved in the year-end production this year - only Sr and Master and Aspirant level dancers will be used in the productions. (Others - feel free to correct me if I'm wrong). It a three day outdoor performance presented to the public for free.

 

He does not dance in the evening - no classes offered, and he is too tired by the end of day to dance anymore. They have a full range of activities which you sign up for and pay for prior to the SI - the beach, laser-tag, parties, ice-cream runs, bowling, river cruise, etc. Dorms are very secure and attached to the ballet building via skywalk. Boys stay on one floor, girls on the other floors. Diningroom in building.

 

Physio is on-site and readily available and used by him.

 

He has the same teachers for the entire SI - and really likes the Sr. Mens teacher who he finds pushes him. So far, he loves the school and the SI - he likes the fact that there a good number of boys at the school - makes him work harder, feels challenged by the older senior/master male dancers. Likes having the same teachers for the four weeks. Finds all his male teachers inspiring, says that each of them brings something different to each class. However, it is a somewhat competitive atmosphere, it is also a month-long audition for new students (for full-time positions).

 

So far, I have been very pleased with the SI, in terms of training (excellent), security, dorm life and activities.

 

Once you get a few more messages posted, you can get PM privileges, then, if you want further info, I can send it to you.

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DancemomCA--I just want to thank you for your informative response. I am so happy your son has found such a wonderful training experience!

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So far, I am extremely pleased with WH, and very happy my DS and I chose that SI over some big-name SIs he was also accepted to (for example, ABT). He has attended other SIs for the past three years, and for the first time, is thrilled with his experience. He reminds me constantly that he fully intends to return next year and would like to be there year-round in the future.

 

Re: partnering: Mr. Owen informed me personally that he had no plans to do Pas De Deux classes this year, because of the boys' ages (my DS will be 14 in one month, the others are already 14 and 15). He doesn't believe they're physically ready. That's fine with me. My DS has been slightly injured at the last two SIs because they wanted more and either he wasn't strong enough or the girls weren't advanced enough or experienced enough to do their part. (This isn't an issue for us, partly because my DS already has regular beginning partnering training at his home studio (promenades, etc., but NO lifts)).

 

He has a lot of classes at WH--so many he said they're all exhausted by Friday, and they still have Saturday classes to go. He has both an hour and a half technique class and an hour and a half men's class scheduled every day...I believe he's getting more than that from what he's said so I'll find out. He has also had very consistent teachers, predominantly Michael Owen and Sabi Varga, who apparently are highly respected by the boys as well as well-liked. Also, one or two women: Ms. Lucey and someone else, I think. (The last couple days they had Gillian Murphy and Ethan Steifel, and apparently, Mr. Steifel is a very good teacher--lots of corrections, both individual and group, and ran a dynamic class).

 

More later.

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which programs other boys have loved for their mens classes, partnering classes, inspiring male teachers or dorm life? Any favorites? Just thinking ahead...

 

Okay, I'm back. Had a LOONG conversation with my son...the first substantive conversation we've had!

 

Re: Men's classes and male teachers at WH

My son has had two men's classes a day most days (He's been at the SI for three weeks so far.) The regularly scheduled men's class occurs during his level's pointe class; the other has been held when the girls had their variations class (the boys are 13-15, so maybe this is one reason).

 

The last few days, a couple other things occurred that eliminated variations class for a couple days. As a result, my son asked and was permitted to take another level's jazz class one day and, after developing shin splints, decided to do an extra pilates class the past two days.

 

Men's class teacher's are excellent, according to him. They've enhanced all the boys' technique, fixed long-time problems, and take a strong personal interest in the boys as people, not just young dancers. I've admired Michael Owen myself, for years and years, and he's everything I hoped he'd be and more...as a teacher, a person, everything.

 

Re: partnering... already discussed in previous post above

 

Re: dorm life

It's been verrrry interesting. A simultaneous drama intensive is also ongoing. There are 80 kids in the drama intensive; only 60 in the ballet intensive. A slight majority of the 80 in drama are boys, I believe. My son is with about half of the drama boys in what is generally a girls' dorm; the remaining boys are housed in the regular boys' dorm. The drama kids are the same age as the ballet kids, but I get the impression (maybe wrong, I'll warn you) that the drama kids are much more sexually aware than the ballet boys my son has known in the past. And in talking to two different Deans, I also get the impression that this may be a concern for some parents. Personally, I could care less, and my son is the same. He's made some great friends and is bound and determined to study drama with the same intensity as dance. (I haven't figured out how I'm going to accommodate that desire yet.) Frankly, I feel like we struck gold with this program, but I think that's primarily because it appears that my son is a perfect match for the WH environment. Besides the social interaction (quite dynamic!), my son has run to the theater performances and rehearsals every night after his own rehearsals or seminars. We've always loved the theater and always make an effort to pack in as much theater and dance as we can when we travel, but I have to say my son has learned an enormous amount, especially watching other kids learn to perform plays like God, All in the Timing and Thoreau in Jail.

 

I would think you'd also be curious about "injuries" based on your recent threads. I don't know how the number at WH this year compares to other SIs or even WH's SI in previous years...statistically, one year just isn't that meaningful. However, there are a number of injuries in each level. I posted before about how they are handled (crutches, wheelchairs, visits to hospital, regular therapy sessions, etc.) According to my son, the types of injuries that are occurring—not those that kids arrive with, which should probably not be considered—generally seem to fall in the overuse and accident categories. It includes shin splints, stress fractures in a couple kids who continued dancing on shin splints, a combination double fracture/double sprain in one girl's foot (coming down wrong), soreness, etc. However, the kids are told to SIT. In fact, some of the teachers have told the kids not to interrupt the class to ask if they can sit out or modify an exercise, but to please go ahead and do it. Not working on a injury is strongly emphasized, though work continues around the injury. Also, the teachers all appear to encourage kids to find out how much turnout they have and learn to engage the muscles needed to fully utilize it. Therefore, there is a strong emphasis on daily conditioning of various kinds and Pilates. None of the teachers are "180-degree-at-any-cost" believers and were apparently quite vocal about it at the beginning of the SI.

 

I feel kind of weird about this post. First, I know I sound overly enthusiastic, but I would remind you I don't really know anything firsthand other than it's a good match for my particular kid. Also, I've got this funny feeling that it's like the fabulous vacation spot that would be just be overrun if it ever got out how great it was....

 

Amended titles of staff I talked with; turns out both are Deans.

Edited by werlkj
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werlkj--Thank you so much for your response! I feel like you have given a window into this program, from a boy's point of view, and more so, from your own boy's point of view. It does sound like an excellent program, and a perfect fit for your son's varied interests. As a parent, I can only applaud your success in finding the right fit. We all want that for our children!

 

Both of these programs sound wonderful and I am very greatful for your thoughtful and extensive replies. It can be difficult to learn about the world of dance for boys. I do hope that you are not sorry, werlkj, for sharing this information. Maybe more boys will audition as a result, but perhaps that will only strengthen the program? I look forward to having my son read these posts. I'm sure they will inspire him!

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I have heard that ABT NY has a wonderful program for boys, but that it is very exhausting. It sounds like an appropriate place for an older teenager, and maybe not for the younger ones. Does anyone have any first hand knowledge about this? Thanks in advance, Terri

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I am a parent of a girl who has attended ABT-NY. You are right that this intensive is for the older dancer, primarily because of the lack of living arrangements/supervision. Your child will be on his own in the city unless you intend to chaperone.

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Guest PAmom
I have heard that ABT NY has a wonderful program for boys, but that it is very exhausting.  It sounds like an appropriate place for an older teenager, and maybe not for the younger ones.  Does anyone have any first hand knowledge about this? Thanks in advance, Terri

If you have not yet taken the time to read the topic on the Summer Intensive Board, please check out American Ballet Theatre (NYC). The posts specifically by myself (PAmom), Miss, tango49, and ajg are all from the perspective of parents of male ballet dancers. Many of the posts are bits of information on how last year's program at ABT NYC ran.

 

There is a big difference comparing this year to last because there is no dorm as a housing option. My son attended ABT NYC before they offered a dorm and last year opted not to live in the dorm. Because of the difficulty in finding housing for young male ballet dancers in NYC, I would not suggest this program for young teens. Young ladies (13 +) have more housing options in all women's facilities. Poor housing options was why he did not attend the NYC location until he was 16 turning 17.

 

The program itself is as intense as many others. It is 6 weeks in length. One concern is that all levels, ladies and gentlemen, get partnering. I am not certain that the younger (12 -14) less experienced dancers (red/yellow levels) are given level appropriate partnering. This is a concern if you have a young son that is not developing early physical strength and control because he will be paired with young ladies who are also not strong enough for partnering and most likely have never had any training at their year round schools on how to properly hold themselves. Gentlemen are usually utilized for basic partnering at their year round schools long before the young ladies are.

 

It is an exhausting SI for the gentlemen. My son had a difficult time getting a half of an hour for lunch without having to miss some of a class he was supposed to have been in. This was because of the way they scheduled the men's classes, the ladies did not have this problem. All he wanted to do in the history classes was lie down and take a nap. He would frequently find himself crashing from exhaustion at the end of the day (rehearsals ran at least until 7), too tired to get something to eat without first napping. With all of the above, I will say that he loved ABT NYC above any other programs he had attended. Those included CPYB, PNB, and ABT OC, all of which he enjoyed.

 

t

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PAmom, you're a goddess. You said

One concern is that all levels, ladies and gentlemen, get partnering. I am not certain that the younger (12 -14) less experienced dancers (red/yellow levels) are given level appropriate partnering. This is a concern if you have a young son that is not developing early physical strength and control because he will be paired with young ladies who are also not strong enough for partnering and most likely have never had any training at their year round schools on how to properly hold themselves.

 

If you mean what I think you mean, the word "appropriate" being the key for 12-14 year olds, particularly boys without a lot of "early physical strength and control" and "young ladies who are also not strong enough" and "most likely have never had any training", I think you're right on, and I think you've done the very best job so far on this board at saying it concisely.

 

I firmly believe that parents' interest in finding SIs with partnering needs to be tempered with an understanding that the most critical thing is how an SI chooses to conduct that training and whether their teaching philosophy is appropriate for your son and their potential partners. (Oh, and to forestall one comment on this: Yes, teachers generally know a lot more about training than parents, but some parents really are clued in enough to know their kids capabilities and needs. Oh, and one more thing: SIs plan and schedule those partnering classes long before they ever see the kids, and when they do see them, I'm going to guess that the teachers are like most people--loathe to abandon all their plans and go to the effort of creating a new one.)

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MiamiCity Ballet with Edward Villella,and Orlando Ballet with Fernando Bujones-two super experiences for boys!

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PK, you said:

  MiamiCity Ballet with Edward Villella,and Orlando Ballet with Fernando Bujones-two super experiences for boys!

 

Care to elaborate? Do you have a son that has attended both of these? I have a son and so I'm interested in any input/impressions that your son has. Like vision, I'm interested too. Our plans for next year aren't set in stone; anything could happen. (And thanks so much for asking, vision. Nice to get feedback while everyone is thinking about it, and the sooner the better.)

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My sons have attended:

- Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp - both boys attended this program and my 15 year old is there now (he has never gone anywhere else). Both boys particiapted in the BLFAC International tour - 3 weeks of traveling, performing in small towns and staying with host families. A great experience! Jefferson Baum, who runs this program, pays a little extra attention to the boys and he attracts some big name dancers (I just watched John Gardner give a challenging and interesting class which his wife Amanda McKerrow took). BLFAC has just added another new studio so they have very nice facilities. The program is part of an Arts Camp and students live in cabins so you have to like camp life. It is short - just under 4 weeks. Although it is not a big name SI, it is a hidden gem of a program with a very caring staff.

- SAB - my older son attended this program when he was 15. It was not a great match for him - not enough classes and he did not like the style that was taught. But, he loved NYC and made friends with some very nice boys (including PAMom's fantastic son). I do think this was not such a bad place for him at that time as he was growing a lot.

- PNB - my older son went to PNB when he was 16. Unfortunately he developed Osgood Schlatters in the first week and had to cut back on his dancing until the last week. He did like this program but felt that he was not fully able to appreciate this SI.

- ABT NYC - my older son attended last year when he was 17. PAMom did a very good job describing it. My son loved ABT and felt it was the best program he had attended up until that point. But he was also gaining strength and beginning to really use what was being taught.

 

All of these programs had/have separate classes for men and partnering. SAB, PNB and ABT attract some very talented young men which I think is important for an older dancer. I also see a big difference in what each of my boys gets out of a program as they grow. As they get stronger they really "dig in" and are able to gain more from a program.

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Guest PAmom
- SAB - my older son attended this program when he was 15. It was not a great match for him - not enough classes and he did not like the style that was taught. But, he loved NYC and made friends with some very nice boys (including PAMom's fantastic son). I do think this was not such a bad place for him at that time as he was growing a lot.

 

SAB!

I forgot to mention SAB but the fact that I DID forget it might exclude it from the list of SI's that my son "loved." I am not sure whom I would recommend this SI to. Older fellows can be bored with only getting a few classes a day even thought the technique can be challenging. Younger fellows can misuse their extra time since they have so few classes, even if you set restrictions on where they can wander during their off time.

 

I guess I would suggest this SI to any gentleman who:

 

1. wanted to learn Balanchine technique.

2. wanted to be considered for SAB winter term (does not always mean you wish to be a NYCB dancer).

3. was a responsible, focused individual who knew how to act appropriately with idle time.

4. had the financial resources to fill their extra time with all of the extra activities and shows that can be had in NYC for a price.

5. was not restricted by any SAB scholarship limit and was really excited to also dance in @ Steps or Broadway Dance Center.

 

My son did make some great friends (ajg's son among them) the summer he was there but had a difficult time adapting mid-term when they changed his level. Although he felt the level move was much needed (it was the only time in his life he asked an instructor what it would take to get into the next level) friendships and a pecking order had already been established. It was hard to start establishing where he belonged in class all over again, 2 1/2 weeks into the program. His goal was to be invited to stay for winter term. In retrospect, the competition at that SI was very palpable.

 

t

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Thank you PAmom and ajg for your insightful comments. My DS is years away from ABT or SAB or Miami City Ballet etc., but this information is so very helpful for future planning. Hopefully the dance journey will still be underway at that time!

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