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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Extra classes


eskimopieo

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I have been investigating options for adding some extra ballet classes for my 12yo recreational dancer. We had considered changing studios (at least temporarily) or taking classes at 2 studios. We just wanted to get her back to where she was taking at least the same number of hours weekly she had been taking at her current studio before they cut back the schedule this year.

 

Our big problem is there is just not a big selection of other studios to choose from. There are maybe 4 other studios in the area that have a reputation of being "good" studios. 1 is too far away to be practical, 2 are larger schools with competition teams, and 1 is a ballet-focused school. We decided to try this one first since she wants more ballet. She tried a lower-level class & came out saying, "OK let's go now" so I knew it wasn't the experience she hoped for. When I started asking about how the class went, I noticed she was beginning to get a teary look & then she burst into tears in the car. She said the teacher wanted perfect turnout & was pushing the feet into place on some of the younger girls. This particular instructor is from Russia, and dd had a lot of trouble understanding her accent and knowing what the teacher wanted her to do. She came out of class feeling like the teacher thought she was a terrible dancer. I know she needs to work on certain issues (like using her turnout) but otherwise she seems to be on a level with other dancers her age in this area. I told her she doesn't have to go there again, because I really don't see the point in driving 45+ minutes 2-3 times a week to a class she doesn't enjoy. Dance class may not always be fun, but I don't want her to hate it!

 

So that leaves us with the other 2 area schools. One seems to have a decent ballet program with students who have gone on to the big name SIs, but I'm very worried about sending her to a place that has such a focus on competitions. The other studio I really know very little about. I'm just very torn on what to do at this point. I don't want her to continue falling behind from the current studio's 1 day/week schedule for her level, but adding classes at her home studio means she would either be taking a class with much younger students (possibly 6-7 yo) or adults.

 

Sorry I'm just rambling on right now. I had really hoped she would like the "ballet" school & this problem would be solved by now! :(

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You know you're own daughter best, but I will say when we switched from a recreational program to a pre-pre program, DD came out of her first class saying "I am the worst one here." However, with correct instruction and a higher standard, she quickly improved and actually was placed a level higher before the year's end.

 

Her issue was also everyone's excellent turn out. Four years later my DD continues to work on her turnout, which is not as good as most, but loves her school.

 

While investigating your other options, you may encourage her to give the other school a try for a couple of weeks to get used to the differences before drawing a conclusion.

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I agree with Shuttleservice. If the ballet focused school offers the classes and type of long term training that your dd might be interested in then it is well worth another try. It also is well worth your time to investigate all of the policies and expectations of any school you move your dd to! I would also look at the reputation of the school in the community and talk to parents of high school age dancers or graduates of the program.

 

I would also talk to your dd about the different teaching and training styles that are offered in ballet. From my dd's experience most of her Russian teachers did not initally come across in class as touchy-feely and positive as some of her American teachers. However once dd got to know these teachers she could see just how much they loved and cared for their students. They have been some of her favorite teachers. I have also observed the expectations change for dancers as they get older and that takes a little bit of time for the kids to get used to at first.

 

Your dd is at an excellent age to make a training transition to another school. It might require a bit of cheerleading from your part to encourage her to try something new and stick it out for a while until she can make an informed decision about the new school. I am not suggesting that you push your dd into something that she doesn't want to do!

 

Does your dd want to be a "recreational" dancer? Does she secretly dream about being a ballet dancer or professional dancer? Would she like to devote more time to dance? At 12 most kids really want and need to belong to a group or have an activity that they can identify with. Perhaps this is part of her frustration.

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She loves dancing, but is pretty set in remaining recreational only. Since she attended a performing arts camp last summer, she is interested in giving acting a try (and I think her secret dreams lean more toward this right now) but she does not want to give up dance at all. In fact, it was her idea to find a way to add to her dance schedule, which I wouldn't have known if I hadn't asked her how she felt about having fewer classes this year.

 

After sleeping on it, I too have been thinking she may need to give the "ballet focused" school another try, perhaps with another teacher. It is a different style for sure...her current studio teaches a sort of mixture of methods (Cecchetti, Vaganova) & the new school is Vaganova based (according to the literature from both places). She did say they seem quite serious at the new place, like they expected everybody to be a professional dancer. I told her they don't expect everybody to be professionals but that they want to give good training to everybody whether they want to be professional or not.

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It does begin to sound as though the new place was such a total departure from what she was used to that she got a little overwhelmed. Giving it another try sounds like a good idea.

 

Something to take into account is how flexible and adaptable your child is in general. Kids who are anxious, shy, withdrawn, set in their ways, socially challenged, self-conscious, etc., will have a harder time in a new situation than kids who are outgoing, gregarious, devil-may-care types. The routines (in the sense of order of exercises) were probably different, the teacher's approach was certainly different, and that can make a kid feel out-of-place.

 

Also, at this age social connections are SO important to girls. She may have felt all alone, or even shut out. That could diminish over time, as the girls at the new studio come to know her and welcome her.

 

Perhaps you and she could discuss it and decide on how many classes to try before making a final decision.

 

At about the same age, my older DD tried out another studio for about 8 weeks. I did feel this was long enough for her to form an impression. She decided not to take any more additional classes there. One issue for her is that she felt they didn't take her very seriously, since she was only dancing "once a week" (in their eyes) and not following the full program (despite the two or three other classes at her home school). Too, she didn't feel comfortable with the differences in training. However, the situation was a little different than yours, because she could get a perfectly reasonable number of classes at her home school.

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Guest balletmom1

I agree with all that's been said, except for 1 detail from this new studio that no one has addressed. Hopefully Victoria and Mel will chime in here.

You mentioned that not only did the teacher expect perfect turnout, but that she was taking girls' feet and putting them in perfect turnout - and you mentioned them as being younger than your daughter.

That to me is a red flag. My daughter visited a new studio once that did that - and came out cring that her knees hurt. Turnout should never be forced from the feet, n'est ce pas?

I guess if I were in your situation and still wanted to give this place a try, I'd call and talk to the director and clarify their philosophy. And perhaps there are other instructors to try.

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I agree with all that's been said, except for 1 detail from this new studio that no one has addressed.  Hopefully Victoria and Mel will chime in here.

You mentioned that not only did the teacher expect perfect turnout, but that she was taking girls' feet and putting them in perfect turnout - and you mentioned them as being younger than your daughter.

I wondered about this also. I knew another teenage girl who had gone to a workshop at this school led by a guest teacher (also Russian she said) and she mentioned the same thing being done in the workshop. Dd said the teacher didn't position her feet and thought maybe it was because she knew we were there for a trial class only. There are other instructors at this school, and I don't know if they force turnout in this way. But I will certainly check to see if this is standard practice.

 

I do know that dd said she was sore in her belly & arms the next day, so she was definitely working some muscles that she hadn't been using in her regular classes.

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  • Administrators

Encouraging maximum rotation is one thing, forcing it is another. If the teacher is working with the students' ability, and showing her how to improve the use of her rotation, this is good. If she is insisting on 180º to the side, no matter what, this is NOT good. :)

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Dd finally opened up a little more on her experience in this class. It seems that the teacher was tapping the arms & legs to remind the girls of the proper placement, and if they didn't correct it she then moved the feet (or arms) into position. So it is not as extreme as she made it sound at first...12yo drama queen! In any case, she is agreeable to trying another class (or several) before giving up on this school completely. Seeing your responses gave her a little perspective, so thanks!

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