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Your Child's Ballet Training


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I would like to ask other parents if there is anything they would change with regard to their child's dance training. My girls are 8 and 10, so we're still just beginning on this little journey. If you could go back and do it again, would you choose a closer studio, or a more professional one, or one with a warmer more nurturing environment? Would you have sent dd or ds to an SI or residency program sooner, later, or not at all? Would you have encouraged more or less home practice, provided music lessons, drama classes, or voice lessons? Would you have looked for a school with more or less performing opportunities? I''m sure their are many variables.


Or would you have tried to steer them away from ballet altogether :shrug: Maybe into sports or music? It turns out both dd's are passionate about ballet; the little one may even have what it takes to become very, very good. I'm not sure that I'm happy about this. :flowers:


I look forward to your comments. Thanks.

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While I have learned such invaluable info from BA, I must tell you that in some ways I am glad that I did not stumble upon this site until my oldest was 12. I also have two DD's. two years apart.


I say that because I let my kids be kids until my oldest, and the one passionate about ballet, finally insisted that I take her more seriously. That meant that the extra classes, the SI's etc really were because she wanted them and she would direct me toward them. They were already playing instruments, not because it would help them in ballet, but because is was something I felt important for their developement. We were in a small town with a small town studio. We were lucky to have it be nurturing, but the training was good, and it was close and convenient. We did not explore outside "serious" studios until later, although as it turns out the training we received was quite good despite not driving far and wide.


I think that at 8 and 10, you do have to let kids be kids. My serious student actually gave it up for a year at 9, and then at 10 cried and realized what a mistake she had made. If I had insisted, she probably would not have the passion and drive that she has now.


If you read my older posts, I was not wild about the idea of contributing toward the training of a potential "ballerina." I have since given in and am very supportive. And my younger daughter is now dancing recreationally, as that was her choice.


Just relax for a little while and enjoy the ride, and let them do a little of the steering. Don't try too hard. And wait for more advice, especially from the teachers and moderators. Of course, the basic early training must be good or there can be problems later.

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Yes, do find them the very best training possible. If they are serious, and show potential, in a couple of years you will need to start thinking about the other things. The only thing I would suggest right now, in addition to finding a really good school, is music.


At this age I would not encourage home practice, as they do not have enough training to know how to work correctly and could build in bad habits. SI's are fine, at home. I would not think about "away" programs until about 13 and a solid Intermediate level. But the professional school is crucial, and let's hope that it is also a nurturing one. Performances are not important at this stage of the game.


I do not encourage residency programs before high school, and then ONLY if there is no where in your area for professional training. If they can get it at home, why go away?


As to steering them in another direction, if they are easily steered, perhaps it would be best. Ballet is very tough, and basically, for those who become professionals, they don't choose it, it chooses them. It's something they have to do. Let them be your guides on that. If it's not something they have to do, then don't push it. Actually, don't push it at all. The amount of work that this art form takes really requires a passion to do it, and if that is there, they will let you know it. :)

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I agree with everyone's comments about letting your child lead you about their ballet training and also about letting them be kids at this age. I must heartily agree with Ms. Leigh's point about getting them the best ballet training available in your area, regardless of whether it is something they may choose to pursue later on. I will add to that, that I think it is also important at this age to find a teacher who can provide excellent training and who can instill in your daughters a lifelong love of dance. I am not talking about a 'cute and cuddly' teacher, but rather one who really loves to teach and who loves to teach this age group (they are not one and the same :) !)


I think this is really important in the early years of training, as a teacher who is too rigid, too stern, too easily frustrated, too harsh, etc. etc. can be a real turn off for even the most ardent of ballet lovers. But, a great teacher, who loves this age of child, knows how to explain things and demonstrate things so that they can grasp the important basic concepts, who can reveal to them the necessity of disciiplined training, without making it oppressive and oh so importantly, help them learn the beauty and the joy that ballet can bring, will give them a gift that will last a lifetime, whether they choose to pursue ballet as a career or not. :)

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dancindaughters -- Everyone's urging you to find a great teacher, so I'll toss in what I've found has been an apt but unexpected clue to greatness in a teacher -- a sense of humor. Maybe it's just me, but the two best teachers my daughter has ever had both possess a genuinely wonderful sense of humor.


Somehow that translates to a great perspective on life and a wonderful sense of how art can and should fit into one's entire life. You have to love what you're doing when it's so physically demanding, and I guess when you do, you laugh more easily. Interestingly, both these teachers have also had the highest profile and longest performing careers out of any teacher my DD has had.


You may find such teachers in a small, one-studio program. You may find them in a big professional school. There's just no telling. But don't be afraid to talk to these potential teachers and figure out what kind of people they are. And trust your instincts! With the teachers who haven't been great, there was always a niggling little doubt about some tiny bit of emotional extremism that surfaced at the first meeting and eventually blossomed into a full-blown problem a year or two later. That isn't to say that some of these less delightful teachers can't be decent at ballet instruction, but they won't inspire and they won't become mentors.


With one of these great teachers, though, as I was setting up a first visit to her studio on the phone, she gave me directions and finished it off by saying (imagine a lilting pan-European accent here): "...and if you pass such-and-such a restaurant on this road, then you will know that you have gone too far, so then you must turn in and have a nice lunch." We have not been disappointed once by this woman.

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It is not always best to avoid making mistakes; you can learn a lot from them. We are coming to the realization that it is not enough to have great teachers if the school is not good. Still, even if we leave this school (can't do anything in the middle of Nutcracker), I don't know if we would have been better off by not learning this lesson. If nothing else, if dd ends up teaching or running a school someday, she will know how NOT to run a school.

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My own experience is that schools that offer serious training often have difficulties in letting "kids just be kids."


This type of training is just not compatible with the lifestyle of most children.


Children vary so much that what is correct for one child would be absolutely the wrong thing for another, even in the same family. Some children would thrive from the very start in a strict and demanding atmosphere provided by a school, whereas another child might be better starting off in a less demanding school and only switch to a more serious program if she/he eventually showed an interest in doing so, as well as having above average ability.


My advice would be to visit all the schools in your area and ask many questions, and then decide, given your children, which program is best for them.

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It's clear by reading this thread that our experiences shape our view on where we are today. I, too would say trust your instincts. However, this doesn't mean you have to RUN if you don't have good feelings. It just means be wary, be tuned in, and be ready if you do need to make a change.


We are in a small town, and had a workable situation for many years. I would not call it ideal, but it worked. After a while we were forced into a transition. We hoped it would work, but when it did not we started commuting. Two years ago, I would in no way have considered this. However, the experiences in the interim allowed me to get to the point(e) mentally where driving is an acceptable alternative. I would now refer to dd's dance situation as ideal. The teachers are demanding, supportive, constructive, motivating, nurturing....the list just goes on. We may not have realized the true worth of this school if we had not had the experiences in the past - good and bad.


So, draw on the knowledge available here, but don't be afraid to make a mistake.



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The two things I would change in hind sight (and we don't have much since dd is only 12) envolve less pushing. When dd was tiny (3-5) instructional tapes were fine and they filled a void when classes were not affordable. Boy were they a mistake once dd started taking class. Not only did they conflict with the style of training (not good at all for a young dancer), it also created stress between us. She simply would not do the Ilona Vera tape! (go figure) Much better has been the videos of ballet productions. When I've not said a word, she'll put on her slippers and try to copy. If I try to coerce, forget it. Also, big thing, I would get alot more music. DD has trashed the cds she has. She loves Lisa Harris's music and that's what she'll get for Christmas this year.


What has worked for at home is having a wide open space or one where furniture can be shifted easily. With access to the TV and a cd player. This wasn't announced as "the dance space" just incorporated in my regular decorating.


The most influential thing at home has been costumes, costumes, costumes. She still loves dressing up. She made a watercolor costume (she said it was for Vivaldi's Four Seasons) for art class a couple of weeks ago and did a full barre, before class, in the family room with Lisa Harris playing and wearing the costume.



I agree with balletbooster and chauffer on teachers for young ones loving the age and having a good sense of humor. DDs favorite teacher was this way. DD has said she hopes to emulate this teacher when she becomes a teacher.


For sanity's sake I have permantly put jell, hairspray, hairpins, hairnets and elastics on my grocery shopping list.


Also if you think of taking the deep plunge of moving to where a good school is, make sure DH or yourself has a job there first. We get Daddy home only on the weekends. Beats him being in Iraq I remind myself often.

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dancindaughters, long before my DD started taking dance classes we went to see professional ballet performances. Every year we would fly to Seattle and see PNB’s Nutcracker and at least one other ballet. She loved everything about the performances. For weeks she would talk about the dancers, the costumes, the orchestra in the pit, the stage and sets, the curtains, the gift shop…….. I think those experiences strongly influenced her love of ballet.

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  • 7 months later...

just a little nudge back up for some daylight!



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Obviously you care about your children very much. Aren't we all lucky to have a resource like BA to learn from?!


So my reply is -- follow your children's lead. I've seen dancer children bent, pulled and pushed. If this is for them, truly, it needs to come from them. They are the ones putting in the hours, doing the work, feeling the pain (emotionally and physically), and learning the ropes that we as parents can only sit on the side lines and watch. My daughter is your typical type A ballerina -- self driven to near breaking sometimes. As her mother, I find my job is often reminding her of the big picture (a B in school is OK if you tried your best...dancing in the corps is such an important thing for your training (even if you didn't get a solo role yet again)...you're still young and learning...you don't know yet where this all will take you... The last thing she needs from me is any more pressure. She puts enough on herself, and the training she is undertaking/dance lifestyle provides enough of that for her! My suggestions: Love them, support them, nurture them. The rest will take its course in terms of finding the best studio/teachers/SIs/etc. The best dancer is one who loves and believes in themselves and is emotionally and physically healthy.

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So the best advice is to follow the child's lead. Seek quality training, and a nurturing environment, but ultimately allow the dancer to choose their own path.

I think someone commented that what is right for one child may not be right for another, even in the same family, and I am finding this to be true in our family. Older dd is so focussed and driven (and has been for about 4 years). Younger dd loves to dance, but wants to try other activities as well. Ironically, she is the more gifted. We are still trying to figure out what she wants, and sometimes I don't think she knows. I'm trying to find a school that will fit both their needs (or two schools with compatible schedules).

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It's funny to see this thread bumped up as I was thinking of starting one with the same name - but was still thinking of what my answer would be. Here's some odds and ends -


We have small living room (and budget), but all my kids had some interest in piano at some time - I think I would have found a way to fit one in the house, and lost the couch or something.


When my daughter was at residencies, I would have found a way to visit her during long stretches away from home. Easier said than done, as we were trying to keep a lid on the debt level, but I think it is important have a chance to gab and deliver some hugs in person ...


I would have been more militant sooner about a housing situation that went sour (through a home stay program) .... Or figured something else out from the get-go, though lord knows what!


If we had magically known "the right match" school for her, I would have put her there first - and yes, I definitely would have been one with structured academics (which she DID have through her junior year) -- but I don't know how we would have known without trial and error.


I would have tried to be less shy about talking to away-from-home teachers --- although I still don't know much what we had to talk about, as daughter seemed to handle that end of it!


My daughter, I would say, though, is pretty strong on the "no-regrets" stance! She pulled the best out of every SI and residency she attended, maintained good friends and contacts from all, and when I lament what a lame mother I was to have left her a little too long with a pretty crazy lady (above mentioned homestay) - she says "hey - I have some great stories!" :innocent:


Now here it the fantasy part ....


I would have worked less than full time while my kids were growing up.

I would have had my middle aged patience during my child rearing years.

I would have figured our the art of raising a boy (her brother) faster!

I would have worried less.


I will probably think of some other things.


We DID luck into the best situation available locally, with friends and teachers who have stayed loyal and true to her and vica verca ever since - so no regrets about the pre-residency years.

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DD is 14, almost 15, and going away this summer, as she has since age 10. The first two years, to a small, nearby program where I could visit each weekend, or even bring her home, and just for two weeks at a time, was great. She still goes back to that program for a week at the beginning of each summer to see friends! What I would have done, in hindsight, was move her earlier than 12 to a pre-professional school, since she was begging for more and more and more classes per week, and move her to a really good school younger than 14, since she was dancing 5 days a week anyway. It's hard to leave the familiar, but she has learned so much and enjoyed it so much more since changing schools. I also would have done before, what I finally did this year, which was drive her friends to performances, and buy their tickets. That way, they understand what she does and why. After doing this for 10+ kids three shows in a row, five of her high school teachers and 40 of her friends spontaneously attended a performance 1 1/2 hours away. Now that they know ballet is not boring or scary, they love to go! What I did do right - wow - by luck rather than design, was have her try many activities, swim team for 2 years, piano for 3, cheerleading and tumbling for 5, jazz competitions for 6, basketball for 2, softball for 1, before high school. She got to try everything to make sure that ballet was for her, and doesn't feel like she "missed out" on anything.

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