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Guest samba38

Evaluating a Ballet Program: Measuring Success

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My son attens the Rock, he likes it. Like any program it has it's plus and minus points. It has been a good experience for him so far


If you want more information please email me at gbna@yahoo.com

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Thank you, we will contact you via e-mail.



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Have you looked at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre our DD went to their

SI last & will again this year.

A beautiful school & great learning environment.

DD loves that school.

Also, Princeton Dance & Theatre (Susan Jaffe's school) is doing an

"early release program" & perhaps they could help with arranging

boarding with a host family.

This is where our DKs study year round.

Princeton is about 45 minutes from Philly.

PDT's web site is: www.princetondance.com

PBT's web site is: www.pbt.org

Good luck!

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I thought I would bring this old but eternal thread back up for some fresh air. There've been a number of posts, PMs and emails about this subject of late.


There's some good advice here and it may serve as a jumping off point for some members who are in the early days of thinking about this - or who are in the midst of it now. :blushing::)


P.S. I actually took the liberty of merging two very good threads into one in the hopes that if someone is searching, they'll find what they're looking for a bit more easily. :wink:

Edited by BW

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Thanks, BW!


I'm finally starting to realize that changing schools is ok, her current teacher will be ok, and life will go on for the teacher and the school after we leave.


My twins, who are serious music students, have taken piano since 3rd grade, and about a year ago, I became more and more aware that the teacher they'd had for the last year was inadequate. It took me several months to realize that when we leave, she'll replace my girls, and life will go on. So, that's what I'm facing with switching schools for dd.

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Guest ap's mom

I tried to e-mail you and I guess I do no have access to that through ballet alert. So please e-mail me, as I have some info that might be helpful.

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Molcol, There are quite a few very good pre-professional residency schools. The links BW gave you are terrific. I also suggest that you visit our Summer Intensive Forum. Even though it's about a school's summer program, much of what's contained in those threads can be applied to the year-round. A school's location, facility, dorm possibilities, etc. are all usually the same in the winter (assuming they have a winter program). You can get a general flavor of the school through the summer intensive info.

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Another suggestion I would make is to talk to as many parents of dancers who attend the residency programs you are interested in as possible. I've learned SOOOOOO much from the kind moms on this website who have been willing to tell me about their dancers' experiences at various schools. Both the good and the bad impressions/experiences are important to hear. You can then put them in perspective as they relate to your dancer, your family's values, etc.. So, do a search on the schools you are interested in and contact some of the parents who have posted about their dancers attendance at these programs, as soon as you have enough posts.


I've learned more about various schools from talking to the parents of current and former students than I have from any school visits (although these are important). I've also learned much from ballet teachers who have taught former students from various residency programs. Their insight about the results they saw has also been helpful.


If your dancer attends a school attached to a pro company or if you have access to pro dancers, this is also an excellent source of information. Our local company members are very willing to share their own residency experiences with the student dancers, when asked, and there is nothing like hearing it directly from those who have successfully navigated their way from a residency program to a pro contract!


As you might expect, I've heard conflicting opinions about just about every school we have ever considered, from very reliable and respected sources. But, if you ask around enough and listen with an open mind to everything you hear, you can begin to pull together a pretty accurate picture of life at the various residency programs and determine what you are likely to expect upon graduation.


Having said all of that, I will also state that I don't believe that there is a perfect residency program in existence. They all have their pros and their cons. The key is figuring out which one is most closely aligned with your family's needs. Best of luck! It is a confusing, but very important decision! :)

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Thank you all for the great suggestions and support. This is a very tough decision for our family to make. You always assume that they will leave the nest to go to college at 18, but giving them up early is a hard choice. It helps to know we are not alone. Thank you!

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molcol, as a parent of a dancer in a residence program I would say that it is very important to do all of your research, investigation and questioning before your dancer auditions for a full-time program. Once the desision is made and your child is accepted you are really handing over over virtually all control of your child's life to an institution whose purpose is to produce a product at the end that is marketable and viable in today's world. Hopefully these kids will come out with all the other attributes that you feel are important but the bottom line will always be

that the outward appearance and apparent abilities are what counts most.

Your child's experience at a professional school will depend a great deal on how successful they are in relation to others because, like everywhere else in ballet, only a small number will realistically have a career in ballet. It takes a very strong child to be able to handle inequities and disapointments far away from supportive parents and in such close quarters with other children who may be more successful. As well, circumstances are always changing with dancers coming and going every year which also can change the perception of your dancer's successfulness.

Besides the ballet aspect, things like school education and socialization are pretty much out of your control. As a parent, you should always be able to voice your concerns but you must do so understanding that most of your information is second or third hand from your child and that you do not have the same amount of ability to involve yourself in your child's life. You have to rely on staff who are employees of the ballet school and your child to deal with the vast majority of issues and unless there is a huge problem or issue you really are best to stay out of things.

Lastly, once you do take the plunge, I think it would be virtually impossible to make the decision to pull the plug. That will be either in the school's hands or your child's. Once they enter such an all-encompassing, high intensity training enviornment it is not easy to leave. They are surrounded by equally intense, focused and passionate friends, teachers, residence staff and in our case professional company dancers that inspire them.

I am probably coming across as being fairly guarded about the issue of residence schools but it really is such an individual experience that can change dramatically very quickly. Your child can phone long distance home one evening and be on the world because of a single, simple comment from a company member and can phone another time and be in the depths of despair because of an equally small negative experience or comment. Mostly you just listen and wait and see how everything is going by the next phone call.You, as a parent are pretty much on the back up team and may only be called in to be involved on very rare occasions. (I am watching lots of hockey and I can identify with the back-up goalies-important but really they don't do much on a daily basis!)

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Thank you, mmded, for your excellent albeit sobering post. A lot to think about there.


They are surrounded by equally intense, focused and passionate friends, teachers, residence staff and in our case professional company dancers that inspire them.


I would imagine that this is exactly what every serious DK would like, but are they prepared and ready to deal with everything else that comes with it?


Your child's experience at a professional school will depend a great deal on how successful they are in relation to others because, like everywhere else in ballet, only a small number will realistically have a career in ballet. It takes a very strong child to be able to handle inequities and disapointments far away from supportive parents and in such close quarters with other children who may be more successful.


Mmded, did you learn about all this as you went along (the hard way), or did the staff at your DD's school give you good information to help you prepare for the changes that both DD and the family ultimately faced?

Maybe this is another one of those leaps of faith that Major Mel sometimes mentions?

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I hope I am not sounding negative but getting into a full time residence is not the prize at the end of the rainbow for DK's, but only an opportunity to train more intensely with others that have the same goals. One of the best things about a residential program is the ability to train and rehearse without any travel time or juggling of different programs. Academic school, meals and anything else that still goes on such as orthodontic appointments etc. are all scheduled around ballet classes. For my dancer that has made things simpler and less harried (for me as well).

Parents are provided with a residence handbook which includes suggested reading for long distance parenting as well as a ballet school handbook. Both the dancer and the parent are required to read both and sign to that effect. As well, there are health forms, questionnaires about limits for your child on such things as dating, smoking (NOT encouraged), allowed visitor information etc. Each year the same amount of information must be filled in and returned. At the beginning of the summer audition there are tours and a parent meeting that are quite beneficial to go to if possible.

In our case we really did not have to do much to prepare our dancer to go, because she is very independent and has nevered wavered from wanting to pursue ballet as a career if possible.

With all this, it is still very much a learn-as you-go process that changes all the time. The dancers are strongly encouraged to talk to staff about issues and problems first before phoning home. The first time that I phoned about a concern and was told that my dancer should be approaching them and not me was difficult for me as a parent who had always been very involved with my kids. (too much so probably). It it perfectly logical that, from a time perpective alone, it is much easier to deal with only with the dancer and not the parent as well but that is hard for both the parent and child. I have learned that I must try not to react to every upset and issue and that I must remember to remind my DD that she has to work things out on her own or with the residence staff, who are always available and who are aware of everything going on and not just one dancer's perspective.

A very important part of my day is my phone conversations with my dancer but they are much more about how things are going and how she is dealing with everything than my trying to figure out how I can help. I can offer advice if asked but I have to rely on her and the staff to manage her life on a daily basis.

Although I seem to be talking a lot about issues and problems, I must say that all the kids do extremely well and for the most part they are having an amazing experience that they would not trade for anything. I find I get more phone calls when things are not going well than the other way around so I worry and wait anxiously for the next call when almost always the worry or concern is long gone and things are amazing again.

Besides the training they are learning time management skills, and interpersonal skill that are far beyond their years because they are each others' support. Everyone has a bad day or a bad class and the others are there to cheer him or her up, to encourage and to support. They, for the most part, learn to move on quickly and remain focused on their reason for being there, ballet.

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Mmded, thank you again for your answer and do not think that you are sounding negative. I think that you are helping us be realistic. Like your dd, mine thinks that she wants an intense atmosphere that a professional program like your dd's offers, but I fear that she is not considering the whole of the experience and doesn't even want to hear of the negative aspects that she may encounter. I feel that if I do not try to at least inform her of all the different aspects of it, she will be at a greater disadvantage than if she were better prepared. What else do we mothers do with DKs that have no fear of forging ahead but worry and try to deflect some of the hard knocks along the way. :yes:

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I made up a list of what NOT to look for in a dance school. (I went to a dolly dinkle school a few years ago....) Two things I got off the Web, but most of it is by me. This is important for parents who are considering a dance school for their child. Here goes:


If the teachers constantly mispronounce names of steps, go somewhere else. (The dolly dinkle teacher (name withheld) constantly did this. She pronounced glissade like "glee side," saute like "saw tay," assemble like "ay som blay," etc.)


As someone else mentioned, if they can't converse intelligently about a

ballet syllabus (Vaganova, RAD, etc.), go somewhere else.


If they spend practically all of class time working on a recital dance (yes - the whole class time with no barre or center work), go somewhere else. (Note: not all recitals are terrible; you just can't spend all of class time working on the routines. The limit should be 15 minutes. I know of 2 schools who only spend 10-15 minutes of class time working on their dances, and the results are fabulous.)


If there are any students on pointe who should not be on pointe at all, go somewhere else.


If no one follows a dress code (exception being adult classes - I've heard professional schools do not have a dress code for non-pro adult students), go somewhere else.


If many of the teachers are only teenagers, go somewhere else. (That is not to say "avoid all teachers who are under 40," as there are lots of terrific twentysomething teachers. In fact, I have one who's about 27 and she is THE best teacher I've had so far!)


If the instructor has no control over young students being rambunctious, go somewhere else.


If the students and instructors don't use French ballet terminology, go somewhere else.


If any of the ballet classes are NOT at least an hour and a half or even an hour and a quarter, go somewhere else.


If they put on birthday parties for kids, pizza parties, or any other nondance kids’ activities, go somewhere else.


If they have tons of stuff posted about competitions, go somewhere else. (THIS is really the number one way to tell if it's a dolly dinkle school)


If the criteria for starting pointe work is merely age (i.e. all 12-year olds are allowed to take the class), go somewhere else.


If school sells their own 'generic' (i.e. cheap and ill-fitting) shoes and expects all students to use these, go somewhere else.


If teacher insists that elastics be sewn somewhere near the box of pointe shoes, along with enough ribbon to circle the earth three times, go somewhere else.

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Mel Johnson

Not bad, although beginning and grade-school age classes can be an hour and be appropriate as a level of activity. Once you hit the teens, though, it really requires the time you've mentioned.

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