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Concerns about daughter's ballet instruction


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I am posting this for some advice. My daughter is 12 years old and recently attended UBA's intensive on full scholarship. She was asked to attend the year round on a half scholarship, but we declined because I felt she was too young and I wasn't sure about her attending an "all ballet school". I also felt she could get enough instruction from her regular ballet school and would benefit from the performances they hold during the year.

My problem is this: since her return from UBA she feels her teacher is ignoring her. She never asked my daughter about her camp experience and has stopped correcting her or giving her any feedback. I do know from past experiences with other girls going to UBA's summer intensive, that she does not like the style there and has strong negative opinions about year round schools anywhere and at any age.

I'm starting to feel as if maybe I need to "re-think" about where to send my daughter for her training. She is very passionate about dancing and wants very badly to have serious training. My daughter has been told she has natural turnout and beautiful extensions so I feel that if she wants to do this, I would like to give her every opportunity to pursue her dream.

Any advice as to when or if a dancer should attend a year round or is it better to provide private lessons with a dance teacher? How would I go about finding a dance instructor to give private lessons? Any advice would be appreciated.

Edited by rokmiller
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Guest Watermill

We looked into private lessons vs year round ballet school when my daughter's home studio imploded when she was 12. We found that the intensity, expense and lack of ballet-socialization of the private path not to our liking. My wife moved with dd to an excellent year round studio, chaperoning for two years. It was a difficult but exciting adventure. My daughter is now on her own at 15, living with dancers and getting ready for "the life". She has worked hard, earning full tuition scholarships to SAB SI, Suzanne Farrell's SI and her year round studio at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center with Haydee Gutierrez. We did not know if this gamble would pay off, but now with hindsight feel it has. Obviously, splitting the family is not a valid choice for everyone. My wife and I both had careers in the performing arts and are also older, less dependent and fairly stable as a couple. Our son, now 17, though he missed his Mom & sis, was happily so busy with girls, friends, filmmaking and acting (and ocasionally with homework!) that the 8 months away (broken up by long Christmas and Spring visits) went by very quickly. Now he's reaping the benefits of having BOTH parents checking his homework!

Would we have sent our 12 year old daughter to the school by herself? I think we probably would have waited a year. But it would have been a hard year to "lose". Most of the students who stayed at the old home studio definitely lost ground. The problem with serious ballet study is that with every year the competition gets tougher. The tolerance given to a 14 year old with potential and the expectations piled on a 17 year old are quite different. So every year's progress grows increasingly important. If one traveled 10 miles at 14, they must travel 40 miles in their 17th year.

It's refreshing to hear that you want to give your dancer the chance.

Best of luck!



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Rockmiller...let me share a little of our experience with you. Our DD, now 16, came home from SI's the last couple of summers all fired up and ready to continue the momentum gained while away. Immediately Nutcracker auditions began and the local school's focus changed from technique to ticket sales. Our meetings with the school's director always came with ad lib promises of additional private lessons, suggestions for the future, yada, yada, yada. Last January, after another of these meetings, we came to the harsh reality that a year-round residency program was what she needed. We began our quest to find a program that would best suit her and fortunately, through the SI audition process, we found one that she liked and obviously liked her.


When we met with the local school's director to tell her DD was going away, we were given the "tongue lashing" of a lifetime. We were told the program was "no good". We were told that our DD had "lost her fire". We were told she would be back home injured "in no time". During the break between the SI and the start of the residence program, DD continued to take class at the local studio. She was ignored completely. The corrections stopped.


This was an EXTREMELY difficult decision for our family. However, through many sleepless nights, the only real reasons we could come up with for not sending her were purely selfish on our part. She is now there and loving it. She can't imagine how she ever imroved with the level of instruction she was getting locally. While it has been and will continue to be hard on us a family (now bi-coastal), we really regret not doing this sooner.


I'm not sure I could do this at 12, but that is a personal thing. A lot would depend on individual maturity. If you do chose to wait, however, I would consider another school if the option exists. If the director has any clue that you are considering a year-round school, your DD is going to continue to get the "cold shoulder". At 12, it is easy to break a kids self confidence. Merde with you decision making!


As I re-read this, I see that I'm rambling a bit, but I hope that in some way it helps.



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Rokmiller, I see that you're in northern VA so I'm wondering if what you're considering is not an away program for your daughter but rather a program she can attend while still living home.


I can vouch for the Washington Ballet School. Their training is superb and the kids are very friendly. It's not an overly intense program (ala CPYB) for kids your daughter's age but it still provides the very best training for them. The kids also get a chance to dance in the Washington Ballet Company's Nutcracker so they receive great performing experience too.


I didn't know if Ms. Leigh, a long-term BA moderator, would feel it appropriate to urge you online to consider Washington's program since she is a teacher (well-respected) there. So I'm doing it for her :blink:

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Thank you, Jacki! I was wondering also why someone who is local would consider going to a residential program when there are very viable alternatives right here! :blink:

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Rokmiller...I am a very strong advovate of the UBA. Our daughter entered the program one month after her 12th birthday and also on full scholarship. She did struggle for the first several months but that was primarily because she was placed one level above the normal entry level. It took those several months to gain the strength that the other older dancers in the class had from their year(s) in the program. Once that was overcome and she settled in socially, things went quite well.


Regarding your daughter being offered a full ride...I can say with confidence that if Madam V offered her that scholarship, she has been evaluated at a very high level. Our thought on sending her away at age twelve was that if she did have a gift, it would be selfish beyond words to stand in her way. If she were not so gifted as we were led to believe, she would have at least enjoyed training second to none.


We lived at that time in Yorktown, VA and when we dropped her off at school for the first time, we told her that if she ever wanted to give it up for any reason to give us a call and we would be there to get her in a matter of hours...she is now 21 and has yet to call.


She spent four years at the Kirov Academy, two years at the John Cranko school in Stuttgart and is now dancing with the Stuttgart Ballet. Her leaving KAB after four years has nothing to do with the artistic or educational aspect of the KAB but is another story for another time.


The experience of most young children attending the UBA is very positive and in most cases, there is a very strong bond formed among the kids. The support they give each other is rather extraordinary to watch.


Finally, I would pass on that the opportunity for a young girl to have learned classical solos and PDDs under the tutelage of the late Mr Morozov, Madam V, Madam Sizova, et al is the experience of a lifetime. I have always likened it to my father telling me when I was 12 that he was terribly sorry but that he was going to have send me to live and train with the New York Yankees until I was able to make it on my own....lol. Please don't throw me in the briar patch dad!!


If she has the fire and if they offer a full ride, I would send her (as we did) in a heartbeat. We are ever so glad we will never have to look back and say to ourselves, "what if...?"


Best of luck ...Doug.

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Ms Leigh and vagansmom...if they live that close to DC, they could send her to either Washington Ballet or UBA and live at home. Not to encourage either way, but the total experience of day students vs boarders is significantly different. The important thing in my mind is that if she is gifted enough to be offered a scholarship at that level, she does deserve the best training she can get whether it be from UBA, Washington Ballet or any other highly rated program.



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Thanks to everyone for all the replies. It's nice to know others have been through this same experience. I do feel my daughter is getting the cold shoulder from her teacher and need to find a way for her to develop her natural talent.


I would LOVE to send her to Washington Ballet, but we are about an hour (drive time) from D.C. and I would have to quit my job to commute her to and from dance. Unfortunately, that isn't an option right now. UBA residency program is a compromise because it would keep our daughter in the area and she could come home on the weekends.


Since we have already turned UBA down this year, we are seriously looking at options to overcome the treatment she is getting right now at her school and prepare for the summer intensives and next fall's residency program.


Does anyone have experience finding or working with a private instructor?

We see this as a possible short term solution. Thanks.

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rokmiller-You might want to call UBA and explain that you have reconsidered your decision. There might be a way that your dd could start later this fall or in January.

It never hurts to ask!


I would also contact UBA and Washington to see if there is anyone else in your area that commutes there for class that you could carpool with for the fall. Or find an older student or adult to drive your dd to class this year.


Best of luck to you and your dd!

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rokmiller, we have some experience with using a private instructor in a transitional way. My DD is as young as yours, and when we left a program in Jan. 2003, we transferred her to another school for most of her classes, but also retained a private instructor we had discovered for one class a week. This woman has an outstanding professional background, a contagious joie d'vivre but no desire to run a full-service training program. My daughter responded so strongly to her that we felt we had to somehow keep her in the mix, and to this day, we continue to and she has become a real mentor to both my daughter and to us, her parents.


I would say, based on my experience, that if you have a private teacher whom you feel your DD can trust and maybe even regard as a role model, then at this age, that can be a real positive and would outweigh any socialization issues. Certainly it has been a very positive experience for us.

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We have a lot of students who commute from Northern Virginia and parts of Maryland which are an hour or more away from DC. Many are involved in car pools. There are no guarantees, but it is sometimes possible to find ways to do this without quitting a job! :blink:

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Not sure whether we have any at the moment, but we certainly have had in the past, chatwidow. I know we have people from Rockville and Gaithersburg, La Plata, and even Baltimore and Annapolis. From Virginia they come from Fairfax, McClean, Manassas, and lots of other places I don't even know about!

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It's a possibility, but I have no idea when. So far just a hope, I think.

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