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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Nutmeg changes: Internet academics 2005


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To add to fendrock

 

I found fault with both worlds, academics and ballet. I remember asking the school to if they have early release and they said no we don’t (although it I heard someone is doing it next year). Rehearsal time conflicts with test. Academics school don’t always see ballet as a serious Career. "Top Name ballet" schools offer classes in conflict with regular school hours. Both teachers are demanding of their time, sometimes without and consideration of the other responsibilities. The fact that parents are able to afford,(or not afford, time off work) put their children in private, residency programs (paid for tutors, get private ballet lesson) they may feel they have a better chance in a competitive career. My daughter wants a regular High School experience; she wants to dance, but also likes being 15. Unless a student is unusual talented, one could raise the notion ballet is for the class of privilege. What keeps me going is to watch her dance, I have faith, her life is in God’s hand, and if she is meant to make this her career she will, if not there will something else good for her.

 

Sorry if i vented alittle, but these are the issue often I have raise internally.

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For me, the dangers go well beyond the lack of viable plan B is dance is a total bust. Even if plan A is wildly successful, we all know that dance careers are short. When the greatest goal is to get a position at all it is hard to worry a whole lot about what will happen when you are 40, but I have 2 examples of people for whom this became a real issue. I will create composites of them, to protect the innocent.

 

Person 1 - fantastically successful - corps famous western ballet company (more annonimity), Soloist same, became clear would never be principal. Teaches a few very prominent ballet schools, but decides this is not the most fulfilling life in the world for self. Now - owns convenience store.

 

Person 2 - similar except stays at one big company entire dance life. Now runs small local ballet school - hates the constant toil and complaints from the parents of the 9 year olds who are sure their little darling is the next Makarova or Nureyev.

 

Neither of these people were especially well educated, and truth be told when dancing was not the way of their future just did not have much in the way of options. Not too many 40 year olds are going to start preparing for the SAT's, let alone try to firm up a shaky highschool education.

 

The bottom line is you need a plan B even if you "make it."

Edited by sarsdad
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Just for what it's worth and not to be argumentative, I actually know a 45 year old divorced woman with 4 children who just completed two years at a community college and is transferring to a 4 year college in the fall. Yes, it has been difficult for her, but I think that she is proof that education is a lifelong endeavour and is not out of the question if one is past one's early twenties. And what a wonderful example she is to her children!

I do realize that high school is different, but people can take many different routes to a good higher education.

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Unless a student is unusual talented, one could raise the notion ballet is for the class of privilege. What keeps me going is to watch her dance, I have faith, her life is in God’s hand, and if she is meant to make this her career she will, if not there will something else good for her.

 

Mirabray, you make some very good points. I also find fault with both the way the academic world and the ballet world operate. Unless you have the money to send your child to a private school that may be more accomodating to a ballet schedule (I don't), or unless you have the very good fortune of being in a public school system that is willing to acknowledge that cookie-cutter education programs don't work for everyone and for every circumstance (once again, I don't), your choices may be limited as to how far your child can take his or her ballet training in your home community.

 

We faced a huge decision in our family a little over a year ago. I'm sorry if this is long-winded, but it may help show that a number of factors went into this parent's decision to homeschool via an internet-based program.

 

My daughter was receiving great teaching at her ballet school, a small school affiliated with a regional professional company. All of the teachers were either current or former professional dancers. At age 16 then, she was in the school's highest level, but they were only able to schedule one 90 minute combination technique/pointe class for five days a week. There were no "extra" classes such as partnering or variations offered--probably because there were simply not enough students. From reading this board, I knew this wasn't enough classes if she were serious about trying for a pro career. Last spring, she was offered a position with the professional company as an apprentice. Truthfully, I looked on it less as any sort of springboard to a "real" professional career as I did a chance to double the number of class hours per week, and gain experience in partnering, variations, and contemporary ballet. We discussed briefly a residential school (there are a couple of very good ones nearby), but in addition to finances, my daughter wasn't interested. She felt the students she knew attending these schools had become somewhat "burned-out" (again, this is only her impression--I don't want to start a riot!) The one catch about the apprentice position was that she would be required to be at the studio by 9 am for company class, followed immediately by rehearsals. For almost three months, I tried talking with various people in guidance and administration at her high school and the local arts high school trying to find a workable solution to this schedule. "Early-bird" (7am) classes, I was informed, were directed at those students who had maybe failed a course and needed to retake it or were on a career-prep work-study track, and were not the honors or AP courses she was used to taking. The few online courses available served the same purpose, plus our state has a written law that credit will only be given for a maximum of five (!) online courses during a student's career. She would be entering the 11th grade, and would very likely exceed this. I asked about tutoring--no answer. I asked if exceptions were ever made--no answer. Some of my emails were never acknowledged at all, or were answered by letting me know that it had been passed on to so-and-so in the district office. My daughter had always been in the very top percentiles on standardized testing, so my husband and I naively and incorrectly assumed our school district, which places so much emphasis on improving the district's scores, would make at least some effort to retain a good student. When they showed no interest in doing this, and could not offer any alternatives, we made the decision to go it alone. We first joined a homeschool organization in our state that oversees all the paperwork from the school year, keeps track of standardized test scores and will keep her permanent records. Then we selected a program, deciding to use the one from the University of Missouri. This past year has been far from perfect for either my daughter or myself as her "teacher", but I keep telling myself that all first year teachers have a difficult time. She still has a little work to finish from this school year, but things have finally begun to really flow smoothly and I feel confident about next year. The study guides for each course are written in a conversational tone, and she does get hand-written corrections back on papers. It is not a perfect solution, and I do not think it would work without some form of parental or other adult involvement on a regular basis. If your child is living elsewhere and goes this route, I would get a copy of their internet course password and check up on their class progress regularly as well as talking with them about the classes.

 

This is not something we entered into without a lot of thoughtful deliberation. If things don't go as hoped for with ballet, my daughter is resourceful enough and mature enough that I feel there will still be a world of possibilities out there.

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I can certainly see that being offered an apprentice position at a professional company at 15 or 16 would definitely tip the scales toward making the choice to make ballet the "top priority" over schooling decisions. That would definitely be a sign that this dancer has a very real chance to realize her dream and worth the "cost". In addition, Balletmom's approach to the academic side of things does not seem to "compromise" the academic side. It is just the best approach possible under those circumstances and in light of the very real potential for success at a professional career. (Merde to your daughter!)

 

I'm most curious about those young high schoolers that do choose a residency program all the while acknowledging that the offered academic opportunities are a compromise in the academic sense AND do NOT have anything but blind faith, ambition, and great passion to hang their potential for professional employment on. (Let's even take out of the equation those residency programs that everyone would agree does not compromise on the rigors of the academic side. I'm talking pure book-learnin', not the social or high school memories aspects. Some of that we can do without!)

 

I know of a principal dancer from a major company who went to residency school at the age of 13, obviously showed great promise, had a 12-year career (which may not yet be over), but has had an injury and is now trying to decide where to go from here. Listening to her talk, she seems very discouraged about her lack of college preparation, much less an actual college degree. She seems to have a bitterness about her path, chosen when she was so very young, even though she reached the most sought after goal.

 

These are the things I'm having a hard time reconciling.

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Keep in mind that many dancers are not well suited to standard classroom teaching to begin with. I wish my mother had allowed me to do more course work independently or at home, but as a teacher she thought class interation was essential. I don't think it was. It may have even held me back.

 

Every family will need to make this decision for themselves and every family wants their child to be successful. But ballet IS a sacrifice that a dancer MUST make because they NEED to dance. A normal high school experience is not possible. Going to Harvard and having a ballet career is NOT possible. Having a ballet career and going to Harvard afterwards is possible but it takes another sacrifice.

 

There is a well known ballet master for a well known ballet company who went to a very well known school and had a career at a very well known company. After his career he went to Brown University and graduated cum lauda and Phi Beta Kappa. It is possible. But the dancer can't just sit and complain about it, they have to DO something.

 

Many dancers who go to college have to do sometime time at a community or junior college first and then transfer. There are many non-dancers who go this route as well.

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I agree with many points, and disagree with others. Regular HS is not right for everyone, and even if my daughter did not dance, other options would be considered. Probably that would be a private school ($18k+/yr), but I have found that they are even less flexible than the public HS. It so much depends upon the kid, the school, etc. Even with our highly touted public HS, so much time seems to be wasted. Daughter can get much more done efficiently by cyberschooling. Our state has charter cyberschools, so there are teachers on the other end. Yes, there won't be classroom discussion, but families discussing other important issues (like world events after reading the NY Times etc) may be just as important. Honor and AP classes are offered. I sure hope this route doesn't interfere with the plan B that will be the route of most. I think if the SAT scores (and I HATE the power these tests have over students and universities) are good, that may be proof positive that there is a brain in there too.

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Absolutely.

 

Classroom discussion in high school is overrated by people who haven't been in a high school classroom in a while. There are many on-line courses now that have moderated "classroom" discussions that seem just as useful and possibly more stimulating than what happens in a typical high school class.

 

My concern is that parents will sabotage their student's dance future becasue they are concerned about the college they will get into later. I have seen this happen more than once. It's frustrating to those of us who recognize the talent in the student and the disappointment at not getting support from their parents.

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Thank you LMC for expressing my thoughts that I, all day long, have been trying to come up with on the subject. My DD (14.5) sounds a lot like you, in the "independent-student" mode.

 

She does BOTH on-line courses to get ahead of the game, so if she HAS the opportunity to dance in her late teens, she will be ready and will have graduated, AND attends a school 2.5 hours a day to get her core course work, in the presence of teachers and other motivated students. (her choice, not mine) I know this is not a scenario that most will have access to, and we feel very fortunate. She can take AP classes if she wants, and if the desire wains, or injury prevails, or if she doesn't want to dance, there's ALWAYS a college that will take her, but it might not be Yale!! That's the trade-off. I know many a PHD'er without work these days, and did they ever get to do what they REALLY wanted? Most did not, and are realizing it in unemployment lines.

 

I want DD to do what she REALLY wants, dance or not. She's the type that will probably join the peace-corps or something anyway, but dance WILL make her a fiercer competitor when she decides what it is she truly desires. Right now, it's dance, dance, dance. Not Yale, Harvard, or Princeton.

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knock knock

 

Once again, a view from "the other side". I didn't do serious h.s. dancing, and did go to prestigious institutions for college and graduate school (no tradeoff--just the way it was for me). I am now an alumni interviewer of candidates for admission to my undergraduate alma mater.

 

When considering what kind of high school education should be "acceptable" for a serious dance student, IMO the goal should be to have enough formal education to be ready for college, when and if it occurs, and to manage independent living.

 

At a bare minimum, this means being able to read and comprehend (e.g., a contract, performance reviews), write clearly and correctly, and have enough understanding of math and statistics to manage personal finances. These skills will be needed in or out of the dance world.

 

In terms of number of classes, I'd describe the above as math through pre-calculus, English as needed, a year each of biology, chemistry, and physics, and, ideally, a couple of years of foreign language.

 

Some dks reach the level I describe above effortlessly and perhaps well before 12th grade; others will need more time and effort. Similarly, some can easily reach this level with independent study and others can't. It's the job of the parents to try to gauge where the DK falls in this regard.

 

_Beyond_ that minimum standard, though, in the long run I don't see much point in stressing over how many AP classes can be fit in. College, whether elite or otherwise, is very much what you make of it.

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Since this board was founded with the serious students in mind, and since we feel that most of the people who spend time on this board are parents of serious students, it is no surprise that the posts generally tend towards the search for the ways to get the best possible training and to support their dancing students' endeavors in this field. No one is unconcerned about the academic education of their children.

 

While there are parents of very young students who may tend to jump the gun a bit in terms of their zealous dedication, most are very practical and wise people who are seeking ways to help them achieve their goals and still get the education they need. There is no one answer to any of these discussions, and there have been some wonderful insights here in terms of the parents' awareness of the values of different means of achieving the same goals. What works for some children does not necessarily work for others. Online or home schooling programs do not work for all, nor do normal high school programs work for all. Willingness to explore what works best for one's own child is what makes the difference.

 

All of that said, I think it is somewhat obvious that I come down on the side of the training of a talented student with the total commitment to dance as a top priority. That is not discounting the need for a good education. But, to paraphrase what l2daisygirl said, if they don't end up qualifying for Yale or Harvard, that is not the end of their educational and Plan B opportunities. If they go to college at 30 or 40 instead of 18, that is not a crime. College will always be there, a career in ballet will not. Again, this theory is not for all, but it is a somewhat important area of consideration for any parent with a talented and driven dancer.

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We were posting at the same time, koshka! Very well written post. :shrug:

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We have homeschooled our kids for most of their academic lives. The dance question of time/dance/academics never entered my mind until about 10th grade. I want to encourage my son's possible career in dance, but we have always operated with a plan b, and c. It was my job to provide the basic academics needed to apply to colleges, his job to dance and complete the schoolwork. While I will say he does not have Harvard SAT's he has gotten quite reasonable scores within the range that his older brother received. I think the kids that would go to college if they could not dance will learn enough to get there and those that don't, never really had the ambition for higher education anyway. It is hard to find time--but if the kids are taught to learn and educate themselves, it will work out. Those college atheletes also had grueling schedules in high school and many of them manage to balance sport and education. I just don't think anyone gives 100% to the part of life they are not passionate about.

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I've been thinking more about this thread today and just came on to see there've been a number of new posts from several different perspectives. Everyone has made good points.

 

Having read the descriptions of several poster's children's high school situations, and remembering one year of boredom extraordinaire at a local public high school I attended for one year, I am reminded once again that many people across the USA are not privy to really a really good education. Taking this into consideration along with the individual needs of each student really does make any stereotypes unfair.

 

In a perfect world every ballet student would be able to attend an excellent academic school that geared itself towards their demanding ballet schedules. These schools do exist but, I'm afraid they're few and far between.

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quite reasonable scores

OK, tsavoie, I'm ratting you out, babe. DS got something that was way more than "quite reasonable," people. That's something to go :party::hyper: and :D about.

 

(it's still modesty when someone else does the bragging :sweating: )

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