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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Good training at "home": staying at home schools


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Thanks Ms. Leigh.


DD s mature and she often surprises me with her insights (and I always find supporting evidence here!!). I think if we approach this with what I have learned through my research here and use her instinct and experience to fill-in the gaps (the ifs and the maybes) than we'll do OK. WHat a stress ful process for mom.


What ever decision we make - it doesn't have to be permanent. :yes: So my head says - tell that to my mom-based emotions!

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  • lorrainegd


RDA contains schools with very varying degrees of training to my mom's eye. My kiddos attended an excellent school and participated in the RDA festivals each year. The festivals provided classes for the few days each year and each evening of the festival, there were performances. Watching the performances it seemed apparant that all of the schools were not on equal footing. Many of them had a very modern focus compared to more classical ballet. If you have the opportunity to attend year-end performances of schools you are considering and also the chance to attend a few classes, that should be helpful. A serious 12 year old should be having daily ballet classes at least 5 or 6 days per week.

The value of small vs large probably depends upon your daughter's comfort level. There is something to be said for smaller classes with more individual attention. But there is also something to be said for a larger class where the dancers can see others and aspire to improve to be as solid as her peers.

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Totally off the RDA conversation here, but, I truly believe it's not all in a name! I know there are those who have already written on this thread who have stated the same. First of all, my DD's never wanted to go away, especially my elder dancer. They felt they were well trained at home. For years my DD's trained at a very, very small school with the most brilliant teacher in town. We have a company school very close by but the truth is that the best school in town, producing dancers who ended up in companies such as Houston, Washington, New York City Ballet, Hubbard Street and more was most definitely the smallest in town. We've had students leave to study in NY and Houston and many other locations but their ground work was put down in a small town America school.


I read of many a parent up rooting themselves for the dancer to follow a dream and I admire the commitment for doing so, but, sometimes the glare of the big name can lure you away from brilliance in your own back yard. Then how will you feel when your local girl is dancing in a strange town which is not the home town crowd and the dancer who stayed at home, which I know can feel like Russian Roulette, gets the company contract in the 'local' company. We have seen this happen and we have seen the parents weep, the truth is we all want our children with us. There is something to be said for 'home'.


Sorry, I know this post is not 'scientific' and most finitely emotive but it's my observation and how I feel. My DD's would rather dance in their home state that even ABT and that is a quote from them! It's definitely putting all of your eggs into one basket but in truth, every dancer has to do this at sometime or another. It's how and why schools such as Houston, SAB and Washington get the creme de la creme of the country leaving home at 15 or 16 to study at residency programs. We chose a different route and only time will tell is we were right or wrong.

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I'm answering your questions as a been-there-done-that parent whose daughter is dancing professionally, although not (it was her decision - she turned down ballet apprenticeships) in ballet, but in a ballet-dancer-filled contemporary company. She'll also soon be touring as a feature dancer/choreographer with a musical theater. She's a good example of someone who's used her excellent ballet training to go outside the narrow field of ballet for her professional career. She couldn't have done it without the training.


Is it sufficient that students are being accepted to major SIs? It depends on the age. For dancers your daughter's age, 12, it's all about potential. Major SI's will take younger students whose training may not be great (although it certainly has to be decent enough) based on their potential talent. Once a dancer is 16+, then it's really based on technique and training. So if older dancers from your daughter's school are being accepted to what we call major SI's, then they probably are getting very good training.


Should we be looking for girls to be moving from the school into dance companies? Absolutely, if you intend to keep your daughter in the school through high school graduation. However, there are many excellent schools that lay the groundwork for the larger pre-professional schools. SAB itself, for example, often takes older dancers who received the bulk of their training from their home studio. Many such smaller schools like to consider themselves as feeders to the larger programs. And they are very, very good at it.


into year-round programs? That's usually based on potential also, not necessarily training.


into college dance programs? It depends on which college program and what field of dance the student is going into. There are some terrific college dance programs that allow dancers the possibility of getting into companies later on, and many others that don't unless the dancer supplements their training.

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How does a parent who knows nothing about dance know which programs are considered "major" programs? Are they any of the programs on the list in the SI forum?


How does one know which college programs are the ones that will "allow dancers the possibility of getting into companies later on"?


I've done so much reading on this forum and what I've concluded is that every SI has proponents. Every college has proponents.


I'm really confused. We made the decision based on finances that DD would stay at home at least one more year and had planned to try out big name school. We have a ballet with a major name as artistic director (he used to be at Houston) in our city, but the general consensus around here is the associated school isn't very good. Some smaller schools in the area are considered much better by all the parents I know. And the only dance jprofessional I know are affiliated with other schools. What to do, whose opinion to trust?

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Mods - move this to a new thread if you see fit...


In an effort to save money on gas given the insane prices I am trying to think outside the box with planning training/classes for my dd for the fall and I wanted an opinion (or many as I am likely to get). She currently dances at a vaganova based school that is 20 minutes from our house. She has reached the point where we feel she is not getting enough training there - the girls aren't serious, class doesn't start on time. The training isn't neccessarily BAD but the structure is not there. Every decent school is at least a 45 minute drive away adn between the price of gas, the budget already blown and 2 younger brothers who we don;t want to spend their childhood inthe car, well we are stuck between a rock & a hard place.


What feels lke the most viable option right now, especally since dd has expressed a wish to stay w/Vaganova, is to combine classes from 2 schools. One is her current school. The other is PA Academy of Ballet with the Whites which I haev heard wonderful things about. There is a good relationship between the 2 schools. Our school sends students to their summer program and John White helped write our current syllabus and trains our teachers. I feel like this would allow dd to get 4-5 days of dance in, step up her training and I wouldn't have to drive far quite so often - and my boys could stll do their sports.


OK - so hit me with the pros and cons here. And if it seems reasonable or if I am just desperate for an answer to my dillema. And I am thinking that I approach the AD at the current school adn tell her the plan and keep t all on the up & up. Good idea or bad?

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There is no easy answer here. A reality of getting a job in todays ballet world is you need to be a physical fit for the company you audition for. In a way, that's one good reason for the slightly older teen to audition for a company affiliated school, ie. SAB, Houston, PNB. Companies do hire a percentange of their dancers from within their own schools. So, it's one reason to leave even a good home town school and head to a residential/company school situation. To catch an AD's eye is almost a fairytale concept but it does happen for a very lucky few.


Being good is no longer good enough. If a company school wants you and scholarships you, you may not have a foot in the door but you could have a toe. They don't appear to offer training to dancers who don't fit their style or physical requirements. It's another truth that of the two or maybe three kids from their school they offer contracts to in a year the rest hit the audition circuit along with everyone else hoping for a job.


I know I sound pessimistic but my own DD's know all too well that as much as they want ballet, ballet may not want them. Giving up home life for a company schools year round training is a lot to give up but there are some realities, as stated above that can be considered perks that make it worth while .

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Let your DD take a class at each school, including her current one, and you observe the class.


First look at the other students. Be sure not to just watch your DD. You'll be surprised at how you can instinctively see which classes have better trained students. You won't be able to say why they are better but you instinctively know whats more pleasing to the eye. Ballet was not developed for the tecnique the tecnique evolved to make ballet more beautiful to the eye.


Next listen to the corrections in the classes for all the students not just your dd. The ones with the more detailed corrects are the better schools. They should have hands on corrections. Corrections like "look in the mirror, can you see the difference in they way your doing that?" or "that's right, can you feel the difference." I quess what I'm saying is less monkey see monky do corrections, and more looking, feeling and hands on corrections. Also listen for corrections about expression, those may not happen even in a very good class but if they do thats a good sign.


The opinions of others will be helpful but I think trying the schools out is important. Don't focus as much on the facility, the resumes ect. The corrections are what the training is really about.

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  • 2 weeks later...

OMG - so it clicked in my head today - the answer to how do you know what is good training. We were at a trial class today - I was watching, dd dancing - and I was truly TRULY impressed with the training. We have gone to classes and I have watched the dancers and watched the teachers and been looking for signs of the quality of instrustion, but today I have to say that the instruction was SO good that I felt no need to even look at the dancers. I have watched classes at a lot of schools, even major pre-pro schools, but I have never felt like I have seen instruction like this. The teachers were very specific, looking at EVERY dancer. Hands on adjustments as well as making sure the girls feel what it is when it's right. And with every combination. I watched younger and older classes. The younger istructor was very clear about which muscle the girls should be using, making sure they felt the muscle when she aided them. The older level instructor also addressed expression as well as technique and the combination - executing one while maintaining the other. Very VERY good.


We will be continuing with the rest of our dance school appts and trial classes, but WOW I really felt like we found something special. I don't mind driving the distance so much if that's the instruction we can expect. :grinning:

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That sounds really good, Lorraine. :yes: Now it will be interesting to see how the others compare with this one. Interesting how you just know it's right when you see it, isn't it? (At least if you have watched a lot of classes, then you will know.)

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  • 2 weeks later...

So we had our last trial class yesterday in our search for a new school...and in my dd's eyes we saved the best for last. It just really clicked for her. She had so much FUN she said. I haven't heard her describe dance class as fun in so long. And she just glowed abou tit all. Well I guess there is no question where I will be driving her. It's definately not the most desirable of the choice of 45 minute drives but it will be worth it if she has that much joy again.


And the placement audition portion went well also. They placed dd at th etop level before the prepro level, which the AD said would be a challenge for her, but she feels dd would take to it quickly (she's basically right on that line between the levels)...we are thrilled about the chaalenge since her old studio id reluctant to move her ahead and she has always been at the top of the class.


And I had another lightbulb moment in understanding my dd. The combinations that they were giving yesterday made my head spin they were so long and complicated. But after talking to my dd, I come to realize that that is one of the things that she loved so much about it! I think that she likes that it challenges not only her body, but also her mind! She commented that they can't do that at her current studio because the rest of the class just can't remember combinations like that. I just had always thought of her being technically/physically challenged - having a class that challenges her memory and her ability to pick up combinations never even crossed my mind.


I feel good abou this new school - it's a smaller local school with out a professional company affiliation, but I know that it has a wonderful reputation, and not just a local reputation but a wide spread one. I think it will be worth the drive...

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Sounds good!!!!!! I'm so glad that your dd is happy!!!! :shrug: That is a wonderful thing...... :yes:

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The school has been complimented by residency programs, one even sending students to the small school when they feel thay are not quiet ready for their program.


I am in Maryland also. Can you reveal the name of this school?

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