Jump to content
Ballet Talk for Dancers to close ×
Ballet Talk for Dancers

Male instructors vs. better organized school


Recommended Posts


I am new to Ballet talk. I have a 10 year-old son that has been dancing for 6 years. We have moved around a lot and have only been living in our current city for 6 months. We found a small relatively new school with 4 male instructors. The majority of them are good teachers and my son likes all of them. He has even learned some variations and started a little pas in their summer intensive. The issue I have with his current school is that they are horribly unorganized (i.e. always changing schedules at the last minute, especially rehearsal schedules, etc. ) and many parents are unhappy with the way things are going. Also, their performances are frankly a bit lacking. However, since it is so rare to have so many positive male role models at a dance school, should I just bite my lip and hope that things get better? Is it worth the stress? Unfortunately there are not too many options in our area except perhaps a large ballet school/company that is currently teaching a bit of a "funky" method that some people in the dance community have been critical of.

I should add that my son is very serious about having a professional ballet career (if only I knew what I want to be when I grow up!! ha ha! ) and we have been told my numerous prestigious people in the dance world that he has everything it takes to go all the way.


I want to make sure I make the right decisions as far as his dancing is concerned. But this current school is making my life a bit miserable.


Thanks for any advice you can offer!



Edited by dancetaxi
Link to comment

I am not able to watch many classes, but the instruction by itself seems pretty good. Even though my son has been dancing for 6 years, I am still a real novice at all things dance related. I am of course leaning towards staying for now, but if all the other problems don't sort themselves out, I fear that the school may cease to exist. It is also a real strain on my family because we drive a good distance to get there and I have two very small children at home as well. With all the constant class and performance schedule changes, short-notice performance requirements, poor parent communication, and now what seems to be an unwillingness on the part of the school director to even have a dialogue with the parents to address the issues at hand, we may be on the move again.

I'm just wondering how valuable male teachers are to a young male dancer so I can get a grip on how much I'm willing to endure.




Link to comment
  • Administrators

I would say leave, if you hadn't said that the other school seems to be offering a "funky" method. Can you be a bit more specific about that? Is the training funky, or only what the professional company is doing in terms of repertoire? Sometimes there is a situation where the training is classical, but the company is not. I think maybe you should observe some classes at the other school, and see for yourself what is being taught. It may or may not be what is the best for your son. Male teachers are good for male students, but not essential, especially in the early years.

Link to comment
I would say leave, if you hadn't said that the other school seems to be offering a "funky" method. Can you be a bit more specific about that?

I say "funky" because it is a funny term that someone else used when trying to classify this school's curriculum. There is actually a thread about this ballet school in regards to the method I refer to. Apparently it is based on classical ballet but progresses at a somewhat slow rate. I believe that this method was developed by the wife of the artistic director. When I made my initial calls to ballet schools before moving here, the person who answered the phone there couldn't even explain it to me. She said something about placing a lot of emphasis on balance and that they use a lot of yoga type techiniques. Now, don't get me wrong, none of this sounded harmful in any way, just a bit off from the norm of what we are used to. My son started out in in a R.A.D. program in Arizona, then when we moved to the Chicago suburbs, he ended up in a Vaganova school.


I do agree with you on the fact that we should at least go check out the other school. The scary thing for me is that I know so little about ballet, I am afraid of moving him to a school that would actually be worse for him than where we are now.

Link to comment

I'm with Ms. Leigh on this one, which is no surprise, as we think a lot alike. Males are not necessarily necessary for male students in the elementary ages. It isn't until the teen years that they really become very, very useful. Which, of course, is not to say that male teachers aren't capable of teaching young students; very many are! But the studio culture which you describe may be detrimental to your son's learning. On the other hand, if he's happy, then maybe the parents are having problems, but the students are okay?! But do check out the other place, too, if you have doubts about this one's longevity.

Link to comment

dancetaxi - my DS (who is now 15) had only female teachers up to the age of 13 at his local studios - this is in Canada with RAD technique. When he moved to a residential school (Vaganova based curriculum) at age 13, his ballet tech class was taught by two females, modern and character were also females. He had a male teacher for conditionning, and a male teacher for limited partnering classes, but that was only for the summer. Now at 15, he has a male teacher for his daily boys ballet class, Sat. mixed class and also has started partnering class every other day with a male teacher. Modern and character classes are taught by females - coaching class is both, depending upon staff schedules.


I'm in agreement with Mel and Ms. Leigh that I don't believe having a female teacher when the boys are younger is in any way detrimental to their training. He did very well with his female teachers. Now that he is older and in a strictly boys class he finds the male teachers stimulating and challenging. It also helps for male teachers to demonstrate jumps and turns. But modern class is taught by females and when observing class I found the boys to still be the most powerful dancers in class.


In my opinion, I believe the school itself would be more important at this stage, as several others have stated. The last-minute arrangements that you have described would drive me crazy, especially with two younger children at home and your driving distance. I would definitely look at the other school, or any others in your area - make an appt to observe classes, teachers, etc. Your son is still young and would probably adapt quite quickly to a change of school if necessary. (From experience, we left a school that was making us miserable and DS felt right at home at the new school in about two weeks). :D

Link to comment

My son also had female teachers until he was about 12. Once in a while there would be a male, but not usually. Then around age 12 it was about half female, half male. I think I know the school you speak of with the funky method. I have heard that the school is changing some of its curriculum, but don't have any details . I would think it is worthwhile to go look and have your son take a class. He is still young, but probably has an idea of how a ballet class should run. Let him check one out and then discuss with him his impressions. One trial class does not mean you have to make the change right away. It never hurts to keep your options open.

Link to comment

How exactly are the performances lacking?


Is your son happy with the training and atmosphere? Does he want to move? I'd got with the kids instincts here. Most of the committed ballet boys I've met know exactly what they want or need even at a very young age.

Link to comment

Might I add that variations and pas de deux at 10 years old might be a bit premature for a growing boys frame?


I find it difficult to find male variations that fit even a boy in his teens.



Link to comment

Well, to be brutally honest, the performances are about what you'd expect from a small ballet school that is really just starting out. They also do not advertise much, so the attendance is low as well. :)


As far as the Variations and Pas classes added in the summer intensive, it was all very low key and the variations were toned down considerably. The variation I remember him learning was a version of Bluebird from Sleeping Beauty. He was actually quite excited about it. The partnering he was learning contained no lifting and he was lucky enough to be partnered with a girl who was well balanced and centered, so it was not physically difficult for him at all.


But all this strife at his current school has caused me to call the other school today and make arrangements for him to take a class. According to the director, the "funky" method is not working for them anymore, (at least in the lower levels) and they are attempting to phase it out in favor of more tradtitonal methods. Although I was told that they still do go very slowly. So we'll have to see exactly how slowly they go and where they place him. Perhaps it will be a blessing in disguise and help him slow down and really work on the little things. He had really been pushed up into some high levels at previous studios, and I wonder if that was a mistake. I just hope he doesn't get bored and discouraged. :rolleyes:


Thank you to everyone who responded and I still welcome any additional thoughts! :innocent:

Link to comment

dancetaxi - regarding moving slowly through technique, that is OK too. After my son's SI he was put into a mixed level class at 13 for the school year, initially he felt that he really belonged up in Level 4 with the other boys. However, he actually did need that one full year of nothing but technique, there was no partnering, no performances, except for year-end. He worked like a dog on all the "little things" and bigger things like proper rotation, better extension etc. He didn't find it boring, but was discouraged in the beginning, although once he realized that he DID need to be there for that year, he decided to soak up all he could every class. He was determined to be moved up a level at year-end.


Just the other day, he told me that he was so glad to have had that initial "slow" year - he feels more confident this year. And he has just started partnering at 15 on a regular basis - they are not physically ready until then and even now he complains about sore shoulders and back (and this with really limited lifting). I guess what I'm trying to say the long way around, is that often boys get pushed up into more advanced levels without proper training because often they are the ONLY boy or one of a few at the school. And it really doesn't benefit the boy in any way whatsoever. If the school and training is reputable and they are serious about ballet, then they shouldn't push the boy ahead until he is technically ready.


Is your son going to take a class at the new school?? He is still young and has many years of dance ahead of him if he decides dance is what he wants to do. I also agree with LCMtech - I think boys know what they need - I'm sure he will give you his impressions of the new class right away! Keep us posted.

Link to comment

He is going to take the class at the other school on Monday. I was going to try and wait his current school out until the end of the Spring, but if things are already this bad, why wait? The director is teaching the class that my son will take and will have a chance to evaluate him and see where he belongs.


I am trying to have an open mind and am thinking that backing things up a bit wouldn't be all bad. I think you are absolutely right about boys being pushed along. My son was the only boy at his last Vaganova school. The directors adored him and really took him under their wings. They have twin sons that both dance, and I was told that my son reminded them of one of them. But, they pushed him up at age 8 with 10-11 year-olds who were starting pre-pointe. He had no trouble keeping up, but was a bit wobbly in plies, etc, probably because of the difference in turnout from his RAD curriculum from before. They really expected a lot from him and I think they forgot that he was just a little boy and sometimes couldn't handle all the pressure. It was nice for him to have a lot of attention, but I think all the constant corrections got to him and he started to get frustrated and upset. He started to not want to go to ballet class, which had never happened since he was 4!


Since we have been at the new school, he has slowed down a bit which has worked out fine, but as I said the performance requirements and the manic, contantly changing rehearsal schedule (and now crazy casting changes) are just too much for us. He does LOVE to perform and I initially thought it was a good thing, but now I see that he just needs to be somewhere that will just concentrate on his training and of course do the yearly Nut and Spring Workshop. I'm sure all those performances will come in due time!


I'll keep everyone posted! Wish us luck! :sweating:

Edited by dancetaxi
Link to comment

I think that you're taking a prudent step, and my good wishes follow you in the search for a quality dance education for your son. :)

Link to comment

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...