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Guest Gindratt

Questioning of Faculty Behavior

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Victoria Leigh

No Gindratt, not at all a good idea to close this thread! I'm SO sorry that you are feeling badly about posting it, and I know that was not anyone's intention at all. I think everyone is really upset and shocked by this, and they just want to help. Please do not feel that we are blaming you in any way. It is quite clear that this is a situation that got out of control before anyone really recognized what was happening, and the students have been in a very difficult situation. Now that some parents know, they too are in a very difficult situation.

 

Please know that we are all in your corner and really want to assure you that this is definitely NOT the norm, either in a professional school or a professional company!

 

I hope that you will understand that we are all here for you and ready and willing to help in way we can. I fully understand your not wanting to disclose the school, but I also feel that it could be important to others who might be thinking of attending there. I do think that can wait, however. For now, please just do whatever you feel is the best for your daughter, until she graduates. After that, perhaps some of the advice given here will be helpful.

 

Please feel free to email me if there is anything that I can do, either as a teacher at a professional school, or as a Moderator and Administrator of this board.

 

Victoria Leigh

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balletbooster

Gindratt,

I don't think anyone is trying to blame you. Parents who have students in a residency program can well understand how difficult your position is. I think, as I said earlier, that those who have dancers in residency, particularly in their senior year, can well understand the perdicament that you are facing.

 

Because the situation you describe is so aggregious and your daughter's future hangs in the balance, I think everyone that read your post feels a bit of the same helplessness that you are feeling. I'm sure that many would like for you to take a stand and make a stink. I think that most understand how difficult that would be for you and for your daughter.

 

It is a really difficult situation and I think everyone here is quite concerned about the situation you describe. While we do understand your desire for anonymity, your post also cast a shadow of doubt on all schools that might fit into the description you gave and so you are going to see parents who have students at those schools verbalizing some defensiveness about their own dancers' schools.

 

I think that the faculty members on this board would likely agree that this is situation is NOT a typical one for either the professional ballet world or for a residency program.

 

Please don't misread the posts that have been made here. Your situation is one that is very disturbing and it causes all of us to want to do something and sometimes all we can do is talk about what we would like to do. But, you must decide what is right for you and your family. We wish you all the best with a very difficult situation.

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Clara 76

This reminds me of a song that I think would be good for those of us who've been around this board for awhile to see:

 

"Did you ever try to step in my shoes? Have you ever tried to balance that way? Have you ever tried to walk in my shoes? They'll never be quite as soft as they seem..."

 

It's easy for those of us on the outside looking in to make assessments of what she should do, however, none of us could really say what we really would've done, when faced with what their family has been dealing with.

 

All of that aside, please don't think that anyone's trying to place blame on you Gindratt- just expressing their frustration and as Victoria & Balletbooster, their helplessness. We would all like to see justice dealt out swiftly. Unfortunately, that's not the way the world works at times. I do believe that there's a special place in Hedoubletoothpicks for anyone who mistreats children.

 

By all means Gindratt, please vent to us, talk to us, cry to us. And try to understand that everyone here means well, and their intentions and hearts are in the right place. We want to express to you that this situation is far from normal, and we hope your next experiences with the world of ballet will make up for this horror story.

 

Please keep us posted.

Clara 76

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Rhapsody

If this school is a nonprofit organization, there must be a board of directors as well as donors who would probably be very interested to know the goings-on you have described.

 

It sounds truly atrocious both physically and mentally. There are ways to record such incidents. I can think of a few ways of capturing some of this behavior for posterity. Then the evidence could be anonymously submitted to the board with a note saying it will go to the local press if nothing is done about it. In fact there is another idea: the press.

 

Locally our TV newsprogram has a consumer advocate. They do behind the scenes investigating on scams and other consumer problems. If you are paying for these lessons, you are a consumer. There are ways to get people involved and ways to do it anonymously. There is probably at least 1 attorney in your area who would be very willing to help you pro bono.

 

I wish you and your daughter peace.

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Redbookish

Knock, knock - a theatre educator here - can I add a reassurance from the other side of the Atlantic? Here in the UK and in Europe, the kind of behaviour your daughter is being told is 'like the real ballet world' is nowhere near the kind of behaviour that is in any way acceptable in the professional theatre world (including ballet). I work in theatre training, and most of my family work in the professional theatre as dancers, stage managers, and actors, and I know that such treatment that your daughter endures would be completely out of order in the professional world in Europe. Indeed, people who behave like that don't last long, lose contracts, and lose respect of their peers. In the UK, I'd be liable legally for such behaviour - public or private training, it wouldn't matter.

 

I do understand how you feel shocked at the development of the situation, and I think your intention to try to do something after your daughter graduates is wise in the circumstances. We've all been there in one way or another, when behaviour creeps incrementally & sometimes imperceptibly from bearable (although not ideal) to shocking. And I know how it feels to be unable to extricate yourself from such a situation. Your daughter must be an extraordinary young woman, and I wish her and your family all the best!

Kate

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mom2

Gindratt - Please, PLEASE don't feel badly about posting here - this is the kind of information that people really need to hear about! It's hard enough having a child in a residency program or other serious training without worrying about all the things that you have mentioned in your post!

 

We have lived through a much milder version of your story and that was bad enough. No chairs or water bottles being thrown, but I think my daughter could relate to just about everything else...I'll have to ask if items WERE ever tossed! It's so hard to know what to do, as once you are in the middle of something it's difficult to think of leaving friends and starting anew somewhere else. Last year we toyed with bringing my daughter home midway through the year, but that would have compromised academic credits as well - so not an easy situation, but she made it through the end of the school year and my heart ached most of the time. This year she had to start all over at a new dance school and new academic school as a high school senior - not easy either...in the end I think she will be stronger. If she were in the same situation as yours - only a few months to go until graduation - I'm sure she would have stayed.

 

In our particular situation, I learned very late into the game that office staff and Board members were also the recipients of some choice verbiage. I could never quite figure out why this was allowed to continue, but somehow it did.

 

Big hugs to you and your dd Gindgratt - here in my house we can certainly relate.

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BW

Gindratt, I'm sorry I went to bed so early. Please do not pull back from the board and the help you may be able to get here. Rhapsody's made some interesting suggestions as to how you and your group of concerned parents might well go about revealing that the "emperor has no clothes"...

 

I think that one's first reaction to reading about the situation you've described is shock and outrage - then it's almost a defensive reaction sometimes - where we parents might say to ourselves: "How could this happen?! I'd be in there in a flash and heads would roll!" or similar emotional reactions. It's a good and healthy sign to be upset by abusive behavior - but you don't need my arm chair psychology here, I'm sure.

 

Any who are reading this thread who've experienced anything remotely like this - be it in ballet or non ballet life, knows in their hearts how things do start incrementally...and for the person that is intimately involved (the student victims in this case) there is denial among other things. There's plenty of literature on the nature of abusive relationships. The fact that your daughter has not been living at home adds just another layer of separation - as you've so clearly outlined in your most recent post. The last thing we want you to feel is "guilty" - we're not here to judge but we are here to help in any ways that we can, as others have already tried to reassure you - and to help you to empower yourself, your whole family and the other families involved - and, yes, even the people in the school who are victims, as well.

 

Please don't cut yourself off from the ideas and very likely real help that you might be able to tap through this discussion board. Take it from me, your cause is our cause and we're here for you.

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vrsfanatic

Gindratt, does your residency/arts school have a harassment policy in place? If so, there should be a reporting system to use. Hopefully there would be a non-ballet person on that commitee. Put your concerns in writing, send them to the Board president, the Artistic Director, the Executive Director (often the money person will know nothing about ballet but they do understand the financial ramifications of this terrible situation). If the school in question is a member of NASD, report it to that governing board. It is unfortunate however perhaps nothing will be done until it is understood on the Board level. Often there are ways to shield this type of behavior from those who are not in/around the studios daily.

 

Please do not give up. This behavior is not acceptable. It needs to be ended. Your concerns are warranted and justified.

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BAT

I'm pretty new to this board and, with a 13 year old DD, pretty inexperienced in the world of preprofessional dance. I know I can't fully appreciate all the complex and very complicated reasons for staying in such an abusive program.

 

I know that Gindratt's daughter must have worked very very hard to get to where she is, and no one wants to see her dreams destroyed by troubled and vindictive people. But I'd say, get her out. Now.

 

I think empowering all kids to do something in the face of abuse is a very important lesson, and I worry that the message sent by supporting a decision to stay put and 'see it through' is a potentially dangerous one.

 

It's hard for me to imagine that getting her out of the present situation, and pressing the issue with the school and the dance community would leave her without prospects. I hope I'm not naive.

 

What a terrible thing to have happen.

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Guest Gindratt

Thank you to all those who have written and no, I'm not going away. We're mulling all this over and will take a lot of the advice you've all shared. I read some of your comments on phone to daughter last night. That was reassuring for her. She said a visiting ex-student who was in a company had already informed them that company was a piece of cake after the school, so good news there.

 

At this point we seem to have more questions than answers. The Exec. Dir. is new, not a ballet person, seems to have the deer in the headlights look most of the time. Doesn't instill confidence. Faculty are as intimidating to parents as kids. Board seems scattered and unapproachable for the most part. They certainly don't meet/greet/communicate with kids or parents (who are they?).

 

I know there's a way to fix/stop this, just struggling with all the emotions, trying to buy a little time for daughter's sake, both dance-wise, academically and socially. I'm glad to hear that most places have moved away from this. Thanks again to those teachers who have taken the time to write. I am so impressed that there are teachers who care, even to a stranger. We haven't seen this in a very long time.

 

To those who are worried about the name of this school, it is to you I feel the most regret that I started this and can only say that I don't know if any of their faculty reads this group, personally I doubt that they care enough to make the effort, but my daughter does not need their wrath if they made a lucky guess when we're in the home stretch. I apologize to you all. You all sound a lot wiser than we evidently were. It did creep up on us and at first we were second-guessing ourselves, are we making a mountain out of a molehill, are we overreacting, etc. I understand why you would wonder if we could be sour grapes parents or overreacting and we have tried so hard to keep checks and balances on ourselves with these issues. Abuse and manipulation are a funny thing, it makes you start to doubt your own judgement.

 

So, we won't give up, feel a lot more like right is on our side and the senior class parents will have to try to make a difference. Lack of communication between parents has probably kept this going as it has. It's so easy to just walk away and say we're out, don't want to mess up chances for companies, all kinds of excuses and that's what they are, just excuses. Four years ago I would never have thought we would be where we are now.

 

BW, thank you so much for all your communication. You and Victoria sound like the best! I'll keep you posted a little further down the road when we see our direction in this.

Edited by Gindratt

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Babsaroo

Gindratt,

 

I'm so glad that you're not backing away from the boards. I think we all sense your concern and want to help in any way possible.

 

As members have written so well, this is a complex situation with a myriad of issues...help, encouragement and empowerment are needed, not making anyone feel guilty.

 

You have the support of many, please come back often and I hope the best for this situation. OK, I'm actually having some devilish thoughts of revenge for the abusive instructors...but that's another post.

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Guest prokofiev

Gindratt-

 

I just wanted to say - don't blame yourselves as parents! My parents sent me to an arts school (as a musician) that we'd chosen together; they met with faculty and my primary studio teacher, we toured the school, etc., after a positive summer experience. The school was in fact very good, and the teacher had come well-recommended by people my parents knew and respected. Well - all I can say is that abuse and manipulation does make you question your own judgment. After three years of sexual abuse from my teacher I finally spoke up to another student ("Does Mr. X ever do this to you?") and found out that many other girls suffered the same thing. I told my parents and they felt much, much worse than I, I'm sure! I never thought I'd have put up with it (it seems surreal to me now, in fact), but he had a way of twisting everything and instilling fear so that all of us were powerless to stand up for ourselves. The spiral of "you're worthless" and "I can ruin your future" is so painfully real to me I nearly cried reading your posts. :)

 

Together we found other girls who had left the studio in silence, built a case and filed suit. It took a lot of tears and guts, and I didn't want to do it(!!!!!!!) (I just wanted to crawl in a hole and make it go away!) but now I'm glad I spared other girls the same fate! It turns out he had done the same in another school and that my school had hired him KNOWING THIS but mandating that he always teach in presence of another student... :grinning:

 

At any rate, it brought us all closer together and fifteen years later my parents are reasonably certain that I don't hold them responsible (I don't, of course!! but that doesn't assuage their feelings). And I did go pro, and my life did go on, with a reasonable degree of success and positive healing.

 

I'm sure my situation is much more drastic, but you're not alone, and I still hesitate to say his name out loud, just because of the years of fear.

 

My best wishes for you all.

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BW

prokofiev, thank you so much for sharing your personal account - the bad, the ugly and the ultimately very good. Your's and your classmates' story is an inspiration to all. :) In taking the time to explain the whole process including the many layers of it all, you've done us a great service.

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thedriver

Gindratt - Thank you for posting about your DD’s experience. I admire your daughter’s determination and courage. You both are in my prayers.

Others have given you sound advice. I would like to add, be very cautious about approaching the board of directors. My experience in the past is that board members are frequently friends or associates of the administration. Unfortunately, they view their loyalty not to the organization they serve but to the administration. Board members who butt-heads with the administration usually don’t last long.

Good Luck and all the best to your DD.

 

prokofiev - I’d also like to thank you for sharing your experience. It makes my blood boil to think of your despicable teacher.

 

OK, I'm actually having some devilish thoughts of revenge for the abusive instructors...but that's another post.

me too!!

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vrsfanatic

If the Board is set up correctly and professionally they will not have the contact with the faculty that you have described. The Board members should understand the financial implications of the concerns, particularly if it is a public school.

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