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Ballet in Australia


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I have read some wonderful information on this site, but have been struck by some of the differences between Australia and the US with dance training, so I thought you may be interested to know how things work elsewhere.


Classes run over four terms of 10 weeks (along with school terms) between the beginning of February and mid December, with a two week break between each term. We then have a break of six weeks between mid-December and the end of January.


Due to our 'long' break including Christmas and New Year, we don't have Summer Intensives as such. My dd will be doing a one week Summer school in late January and this is pretty much all there is on offer where we live. All students are accepted to this without having to attend an audition. There appear to be very few opportunities for students to audition for schools due to this. The Australian Ballet holds auditions around the states once a year for places in the external or residential program, but there's not much else for young students that I know of.


There are also very few residential programs for students below university age. In fact, the only one I'm aware of is the Australian Ballet School in Melbourne.


We don't encounter the 'Nut' phenomena!! My daughter's school puts on a different production every second year (Coppelia, Midsummer Night's Dream, The Nutcracker, Giselle etc) and on the alternate years put on a production of various pieces by students of classical ballet, contemporary and jazz.


I've been surprised to read posts here of students aged only 10, 11, 12 doing classes six days a week, sometimes for three or more hours per day. This would be considered very unusual here. My dd is in this age group and does three 1.5 hour a week classes in classical technique, one 1 hour character class and one half an hour long pre-pointe class. These are clustered on three days of the week, so they still have time for other activities, firendships etc, but each year the number of days increases, so that by 15 or so they are attending six days.


Anyway, just thought I'd share some observations and differences that I've noticed.

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Hi, danceintheblood. We lived in Canberra during March, April and May of 2004 and encountered exactly what you describe, and we approved! :pinch: I think it also helps that most Australian parents seem to be pretty hands-off in terms of their kids' activities. They don't get quite as crazed about the least little glimmering of talent in their children as many American parents do.


Our only complaint with the ballet instruction in Australia, though, was the holiday dance school our daughter participated in. It was very frenzied, very crowded and we had to pull her after only a few days because she got an overuse strain almost immediately.


But her training was otherwise quite solid and we loved the two performances of the Australian Ballet that we saw. I was most impressed by the individuality and acting skills of the dancers. Their technique was great, though the corps wasn't quite up to in-synch snuff, but their soloists and principals were really outstanding. Obviously the Australian dance system is one that doesn't squelch whatever it is that makes each dancer unique, and I'm sure that has to do with the slower rate of development.

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Canberra is exactly where we are chauffer!! How did you enjoy your stay? It's true - there is a different approach. There seems to be a philosophy with some in the US that younger is better, but is the child who is spending long hours at 10 still achieving well at 20 - and more importantly, do the still have the love and passion for what they do. I think there is a tendency with some parents to push too hard, too young. I always say to my dd, there's no going back to childhood - once it's gone, it's gone - so enjoy this time of freedom and exploration.

My aunt was a professional ballet dancer and has terribly damaged feet, in part as she was pushed onto pointe and into deamnding technique before her feet were grown and had the strength to cope with the punishing demands that are expected.


Slow and steady wins the race is my philosphy.

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We very much enjoyed our time in Canberra, danceintheblood. There are so many views that I miss from all our driving around, and the kids especially miss Questacon. That is a world-class museum: We enjoyed it way more than even the Powerhouse in Sydney! And we still get weepy at the memory of Woodstock's Steak Diane. That was fair dinkum good stuff.


My DD was at CYBS during our time there. From my research prior to our trip, I know that some in Canberra don't love the place, but we ended up having a very good experience there. And I totally agree with your assessment that a lot of US parents push too hard too young, but my mom (mum :huh: ) pointed out to me upon our return that this may just be a function of living in a country where the population is so huge and competition just becomes so much a part of the culture. And well-meaning parents try to control the unpredictability of their children's future by loading on the training very early. It takes more faith, I've found, to just let go and trust in what will be. And Aussies seem to have that down to a science!


Now if I could just figure out a cheaper way to supply my children with the Nutrigrain cereal and Milo drink mix that they love so much! They don't make them here in the US. We ordered it for them for Christmas, and the postage cost more than the products!


say hi to the roos for us!

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i have found this thread an interesting read. i am an australian ballet teacher, and have been an avid fan of this board for years. at times, i get concerned about the big disparity, between 'the way things are done' in the two countries - purely from the point of view that australian students and parents, looking for sound advice, may become quite confused by what they read here.


i have the utmost respect for the board moderators here, and yet at the same time i know that what they 'advise' as the norm, or as the ideal, at various ages and so on - is just soooooooooo far from what is considered the norm, or the ideal, in australia.


for this reason, about 5 years ago, i started an australian discussion board, linked to the website of the australian institute of classical dance (AICD).. but it was not supported adequately to sustain it. and in particular it was not supported by australians! - most of the regular correspondents were american. so- after almost 2 years, i think - that lapsed. i just thought you might like to be filled in, about that...


despite the different approaches to training, both countries manage to produce spectacular dancers....so there has to be something to be said for both approaches! and any advice given here is always 'good' advice - regardless of whether it really suits our culture. so much can be learned, here. nice to 'meet' you, both (ex)canberra parents. :angry:

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Hi Grace - it's certainly a shame that the Australian board wasn't supported well enough to make it viable, but I agree, the moderators do have good advise and despite some of our differences, many of our personal experiences as parents of young dancers will be similar. I have certainly discovered some very interesting posts here and am enjoying having contact with other parents, teachers, students etc.


Let's face it - teaching methods differ all over the world and also differ from one ballet school to the next, but, all indeed produce some outstanding dancers.


Chauffer, my dd is at National Capital and I can't speak highly enough of their methods in teaching my gorgeous girl. If I know of anyone travelling to the states I'll keep you in mind and get them to bring over some Milo and Nutrigrain!

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I'm not really sure there are drastic differences, at least in the approach of schools and teachers, with a few possible exceptions :devil: Most, perhaps all, of the teachers here are not into highly intensive training for the younger students. It's the parents who seem to be getting more and more into that. At a certain point, generally somewhere around 12 or 13, when they start pointe work, it is time to get serious enough to increase the classes. For instance, I don't believe in students going on pointe if they are not studying at least 3 times a week, with hour and a half classes. That is not exactly intensive, IMO.


However, once the student reaches the upper division of a good school, they will be studying daily. I think this is totally essential if one expects to be a professional dancer. If not, fine, they can take a less intensive and less advanced program.


I would be the last one to encourage children under 12 to devote their entire lives to this, even though that is the way it is done in some countries. It doesn't seem to fit in with the culture and lifestyle here any more than it does in Australia. What I am seeing now, at least through the forums on this board, is that some parents are seriously into pushing their children at a very young age. Our advice is usually to back off and let them be children. When I speak of daily training, and technique plus pointe classes, I'm talking about the "on track" students at the upper Int. and Adv. levels, and they are generally at least 14.

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Thanks for the input Ms Leigh. I agree that the push often seems to come from the parents. It can be very difficult as a parent to temper our enthusiasm, particulalry when we have a child who is showing signs of ability at that 'pre-serious' level, between around 10 and 13.


I have also seen children who are very competitive - who are pushing their parents to put pressure on their teachers to allow them to move up a level, put them onto pointe because another student has been put on pointe etc.


My own dd will be doing six hours of classes a week over three days this year (she turns 12 in June). While she is the youngest student moving into vocational training, she also shows great maturity in her personal goal setting, focus and in constantly challenging herself. I have chatted to her about the pushy parent syndrome and asked, that if she believes I am becoming a pushy parent, tell me and I'll back off. (she assures me that I am a source of encouragement and have not stepped over the line yet!) Dancing requires such personal passion and dedication - I want to be there to encourage, but I don't want to become a 'diva parent' and don't want to live my dreams through her. I feel that I need to be vigilant in watching my own behaviour.


Thankyou for providing such a wonderful site for we parents to become better informed, well-advised and to share our experiences.

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I miss the Australian Board too! I quite enjoyed messages from around the world that would pop up!


I know I've discussed the differences in training before - possibly even on that board. I find that where I live (in Canada), students are either dancing quite minimally or almost too much at the local studios. There is a lot of RAD here, so we have that in common with Australia, but from what I can tell the proportion of students going for the solo seal is probably much greater down under. We have very few places that seem to offer serious training in ballet, and even these seem to be quite different in approach from what I've read about in the US. (Here I'm talking about the more well-known schools such as the NBS). From one perspective students move very slowly in the first 2-3 years (say ages 11-13), with a very strong emphasis on technique, strength, and placement. I've read so much about students in other parts of the world working on some pretty major skills or "tricks" at these young ages - you wouldn't see this at a school like NBS. Anyway, I digress - this is supposed to be a thread about Australia!



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Hi m2 - yes, my dd's school definitely spends much time on correct technique, strength and placement in these ages and I'm glad of it. Ballet is so demanding on the body, the foundations need to be strong and care needs to be taken of their still-growing young bodies. My dd is at a school where RAD isn't used. Students have ongoing assessment with bi-yearly written reports and interviews. An independent assessor is brought in for end of year evaluations and this information is included in the end-of-year report.


I am really enjoying sharing experiences and thoughts with others pertaining to ballet through the board and hope to develop some good long distance friendships over time. Please feel free to digress!

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I have chatted to her about the pushy parent syndrome and asked, that if she believes I am becoming a pushy parent, tell me and I'll back off. (she assures me that I am a source of encouragement and have not stepped over the line yet!) Dancing requires such personal passion and dedication - I want to be there to encourage, but I don't want to become a 'diva parent' and don't want to live my dreams through her. I feel that I need to be vigilant in watching my own behaviour.


Danceintheblood, I so much appreciate what you said here. Sometimes I think there is a fine line between "encouraging" and "pushing" and I often need to check myself or reevaluate what I say to my dd to make sure I haven't stepped over that line. I don't want dd to look back with any regrets and wish I would have done more to help and guide her, but I don't want her to look back and say that it was really Mom's journey.


I think we read about kids who are winning competitions, kids who dance countless hours and who are going off to SI's from a very young age and I think that a fear enters in that says we have to keep up with all that or else our kids won't make it. I constantly fight those thoughts and remind myself to trust dd's teachers and there will be a time for all the SI's and countless hours but right now she's only 11.

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Hi LadyR. Yes, it's a difficult line to straddle at times isn't it? Thankfully my dd and I have total trust in her teachers to know that she will be moved forward as she is ready. I think it is sometimes a little difficult for her, as she has, to quote her principal teacher "enormous potential and a physical aptitute beyond her years". She has been gifted with a natural body for ballet, very flexible and natural (and developed) turnout of 180 degrees and a natural high arch. She is able to to controllled leg lifts (I know this isn't the correct terminology!) to 120 degrees, well above her fellow students and has good control over double pirouettes (managing a triple in her evaluation!).


Because she loves to be challenged, she wants to move forward and learn more complicated movements. The head of her school has explained very well to her, that focussing on correct placement and developing strength will give her a solid foundation for everything ahead and she accepts this beautifully. That said, her teachers also allow her to add in a little something extra in some exercises so that she can push a little further where she has the ability. She is very excited about doing pre-pointe work this year and moving into the vocational program. Her enthusiasm, as she pirouettes endlessly around the house and spontansouly arabesques (my poor walls!) is infectious!

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Thanks LadyR. All the best to your dd also.


I must sound dreadful sometimes as I rabbit on about how wonderfull my darling dd is - but this is the only place I can talk about her where others understand why I'm so proud! :D


But ballet aside, she is a truly lovely girl, happy every day of the year, kind and considerate, sweet and affectionate - and these are the qualities that will take her through life whatever she does. Best stop before I make a fool of myself!! :D

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