Jump to content
Ballet Talk for Dancers

Different approach to training?


Recommended Posts

Hi All!

Thought I'd start a new discussion over here in response to a post by one of the parents in the modesty thread.


How do you feel about the fact that many talented DK's are identified at an early age and subsequently put on a different training path than others? (i.e. putting them up in higher levels with older kids, taking on more classes, private lessons, competitions, etc.) Have any of you experienced this? What was the outcome?


:( Here's to the sucess of our new forum! :thumbsup:

Link to comment
  • Administrators

Dancetaxi, I think this is sometimes a necessary thing, however I also like to see it kept well within bounds in terms of how much how soon. I don't believe in child prodigies in ballet, as I think that, even though they may have exceptional ability, too much too soon can be dangerous physically, and also often produces burn out.


That said, those who have the physical facility, along with the passion and focus, need to move along faster than those who do not have this ability. At some point they do need to move to a different track. But the track needs to be age appropriate. I would not put even an exceptionally talented 10 year old in a class with mid to upper teens! However, I would, if possible take the most talented 10-12 year olds, or maybe 9-11 year olds, and create a separate track for them. This can sometimes be done in large schools, but it's pretty hard to do in smaller programs. How this is handled will be different in every school, of course. But I don't want a child doing work that is too difficult for her size and physical development just because she shows a lot of ability and potential. More classes, yes, and some harder things, but still the focus should totally be on quality of training and not quantity, especially not quantity of vocabulary at a very young age. Work on getting a nice clean, well placed double pirouette, not on fouettés until the development of physical strength and technique are at the point where they can be successfully taught without overstressing small bodies! :pinch:

Link to comment

Ms. Leigh, I love your approach; moderate, realistic, sensible. You must be a wonderful teacher.


Since my dd "insipired" this discussion, I would like to clarify that she is by no means a prodigy. She dances with girls 1-3 years older, but they are your everyday twice per week recreational dancers. No triple pirouettes in sight. My older dd (age 11) is still working on clean singles and doubles. I would LOVE if their school had a track for more serious and talented dancers, but this is not available at our school or elsewhere in our area. I think younger dd would be more inspired in such a class. She sometimes doesn't dance as well as she could because she doesn't want to seem like she is showing off.

Link to comment

dancingdaughters in another thread you mentioned the emotional/social implications of being recognized as "talented" at a young age...and I can see that you are implying that your daughter may not always work to what you think is her ability because she doesn't want to show off. I don't doubt that this is something that can happen to a student - but that said, it does make me wonder if your daughter - or anyone else's son or daughter whose parents feel a pang of recognition in this - is in the most beneficial ballet program. As I write this I want to be crystal clear that I am not passing judgement on you or your daughter - how could I as I don't even know you? I'm just reacting to the circumstances you've described. If she really feels she shouldn't do her best because she would be seen as "showing off" then perhaps it may be time for you to talk to her teachers about how to approach this...and see if they agree with your assessment?


In regard to dance taxi's initial post and yours, here's my take on it: if a student (let's keep this thread open to both male and female students of a young age so that we can include parents of boys and girls! :pinch:) is the only student in their school that is recognized as "talented" and if it's obvious that they are is being given extra special attention by their teacher(s) to the point of being doted upon (very few others get corrections, always used to demonstrate, always held up as the image of perfection "if you did it like so and so", etc.) it will most likely cause problems and is probably indicative that it's going to be time to move on. In a case such as I am describing, it is in my opinion the fault is that of the administration's and the teachers' because they are supposed to be wise adults, the teachers, and it's never a good thing to single out anyone to the exclusivity of their peers. In my experience, this kind of singling out of one or several "talented" dancers at this young age is a recipe for potential disaster.


If, on the other hand, a student is indeed talented (as there are probably a good number of youngsters who are deemed "talented") and they are in a program that strives to be even handed in their treatment, recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of all their students and fosters a healthy, nurturing atmosphere, along with good teaching - then the road should be less bumpy - depending upon the personality of the student and the personality of their parent(s). These things all being so would be the kind of atmosphere and program that Victoria Leigh has described. :rolleyes:


One of the important points that has been brought up on a number of threads is that at every step of the way, it must be the child who leads the way. Even if they've been tagged as extremely talented, if they aren't leading, they're being persuaded - and that's surely not a good thing.

Link to comment

I think a lot of the things that smaller schools do to keep talented DKs challenged and moving along is sooo dependent on the people involved -- the teachers, the students, even the fellow parents. We've experienced the "put them in class with older students" strategy: that was a mixed bag. Yes, it brought DD along faster, but it also exposed her to some very unpleasantly competitive personalities, which in turn helped toughen her up a bit. But ultimately I don't think it brought her technique along at the right pace and we've since avoided it. We have also always avoided the "more classes" strategy, though that was urged on us at several points -- but we never got a good reason why when we asked for one. We also declined the pointe classes and YAGP at age 9 "opportunities." I think at this point what we've found to be the best strategy is finding teachers who are able to treat all students in any size class as individuals, who are somehow able to let some kids do double pirouettes, others do singles and still others do halves, and yet give all of them the same amount of attention. Sounds very utopian, I know, but after DD being in 3 different schools now, I can safely say this is the kind of situation she's in now and it's been very positive for both her emotional and physical development. Our best test of what's right for DD has always been to ask "why?" and if the answer doesn't feel or sound right, we've gotten very good at saying "no, thank you."

Link to comment
I don't want a child doing work that is too difficult for her size and physical development just because she shows a lot of ability and potential.


DD is in this situation and though she scored very well on her exam she will not be advancing to the next level so that she can "Continue to improve your strength in order to take advantage of your good natural abilities."


We knew this was coming. It's been obvious that her muscularity isn't keeping pace with her abilities. We see it as parents, her teachers have commented on it for years, and other parents have noticed. After the exam a veteran Mom said to me "If she doesn't advance it'll be because of strength. The extra time will do her good." We knew this from the get-go, but it was nice to hear from "a third party."


It's not just strength either. I can't clarify it any more than to say her body lacks the maturity.


This discussion is very timely for us. Eventhough I didn't think dd would be moved up, I know I could have been tempted to cop an attitude about her not being moved. I feel like my convictions and my confidence in her instructors has been fortified.

Link to comment
  • Administrators

The way children grow physically is so different with each child, and I'm glad to hear that the teachers are taking that into consideration, vicarious! :thumbsup:

Link to comment

chauffeur hit the nail on the head with this one, in suggesting that finding the right teachers is the key to surviving the younger years for a dancer with 'potential'. :)


The school director at my daughter's home school (former pro who graduated from one of the top residencies and attended another very famous one on full scholarship) really saved us in more ways than one! :thumbsup: Her firm, but caring approach in dealing with students who are working well ahead of their contemporaries has proven to be wise beyond words over and over again. :thumbsup:


Both she and the artistic director of the pro company attached to the school are very good at finding ways to challenge the most talented of their students, in ways that are very age appropriate. Sometimes, it is being given a student or walk-on part with the pro company that allows the student to get up close to the pros and peek into their world. Sometimes it has been to take a class with a younger level, focusing on doing things absolutely right, since the difficulty of the combinations is reduced. Other times, it has been to give a few private classes to work on an element that needs additional work (reminding the student that they too have lots left to learn). And, always finding corrections for everyone in the class, indicating that even the most advanced are far from perfect!


At one point, a disappointing Nuts casting for a couple of dancers who really were better technically than those cast in the role, was met with the logic that if they danced that role at their age, there would be no parts left for them to conquer in their high school years. Over and over she has taken the long view, pointing out that doing something early does not really mean that much in the long run. What matters most she has often advised, is 'being there' for the long run.


I never saw or heard her give disparaging looks or penalize young dancers in any way when their other extracurricular activities caused conflicts or required some special consideration at ballet. She seemed to understand the needs of the pre-teen dancer and know that most of them would not advance to the intermediate and advanced levels. She once provided counsel against going to a certain SI, because of several experiences she had with former students and burn out at this particular program, in spite of the superior training that the program offered, in her opinion. One time she told me that very often it is the MOST talented and the MOST gifted physically who do not make the transition from pre-teen to teenager without finding other interests that lure them away from ballet. From experience, she knows that most of the children who come to the school, regardless of their abilities, will not stay through highschool and a very small number will actually make the jump to a pro career. Her commitment to providing each student with slow, high quality training has made her very beloved. :lol:


I tip my hat to teachers who have this mindset and are willing to lovingly 'rein in' both parents and students, helping to ensure that they are healthy, well adjusted and anxious to move to the next stage in their ballet training, at every milestone along the way. :thumbsup:

Link to comment

I would like to say that my dds ballet teachers are doing their very best to make sure that each child is challenged appropriately. Each child receives corrections, and no one is singled out as an example. Sometimes the teachers "stretch" the kids with difficult combinations, sometimes they focus on the details that can always be improved upon. However, younger dd stands out just for being younger. Overall, the other kids have been very friendly. Some of the KIDS lavish dd with praise and attention, which makes her uncomfortable. She was offered a chance to perform a bit of her own "choreography", but declined when another student told her this would make her "a show-off". I don't know if this attitude is influencing her day-to-day training or not. I believe the "climate" of the class is not ideal in that there isn't a great work ethic. This is specific to this particular level, and not the school as a whole. I have spoken to the teachers about this, and they agree, but cannot offer a solution.


Yes, BW, it has been brought up a number of times that the child must be leading.

A good reminder for sure, but if your comments were directed at me, please realize that I am NOT pushing my girls to dance. It may not be clear from some of my other posts, but they really do love it. I'm just seeking the best, happiest situation for younger dd. :thumbsup:

Link to comment

Dd's studio has a separate stream for young dancers with ability, aged about 7 - 12, but they do make it very clear to parents that this "talent" is about physical facility which they have been lucky enough to be born with and the term talent has never been used as far as I know. They are offered greater challenges in class but up to age 11 don't attend for more than two technique classes per week.

Dd is now in a vocational stream with girls one to two years older. When she was offered the vocational program, the AD said that she had had the ability to move into this one year earlier, but leaving it another year meant the age difference wasn't so great, and it gave her time to mature emotionally, to cope with more classes and a more challenging program. I thought this was a wise approach.

Link to comment

Just a quick reply here to you, dancingdaughters: No, I was not directing my last observation towards you or your situation, as I tried to make clear in my first paragraph.


This is one of the most difficult aspects of participating discussion forum - trying to be clear in posting as well as in our reading. :shrug::sweating:


Now back to the regularly scheduled discussion train started by dancetaxi! :thumbsup:

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...