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Evaluating a Ballet Program: Measuring Success

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Victoria Leigh

FlexNPointe, I like your school's performance schedule. It's like ours, no "recital", just Nutcracker performances (lots of them!), and a Spring Concert for the upper division students. The lower division does in-class demonstrations for their parents. In the SI there are performances at the end for the 3 highest levels.

 

We also have a performing group, called Young Dancers of the Washington Ballet, and they are in the top level class during the year. They do quite a few performances in the community during the school year.

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FlexNPointe123

Ya! This year we did 8 Nutcracker performances in 2 different theaters! We usually do only 4 so it was a nice change! We only have 5 levels, so he usually incorporates all of us! That is neat how our studios seem so alike! B)

 

We usually have an end-of-the-year demonstration a week before the 5 week SI starts, but this year instead of the demonstration, we had the Final Exam for level placement and corrections. What I liked about demonstration was that we could just have fun, say good-bye to the seniors, and show the public our stuff! It was free of costs, and a time to have fun! But I like exams too, so I am not complaining!

 

~* :green: Erica :grinning: *~

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Guest lil_dancer

I have some thing to add though, I do agree with your list, but I just wanted to add that sometimes, it dosen't always work out, I come form a small town, and it takes 30min. just to get to my dance studio, I also happen to have unsupportive parents, so, the dance school I go to is the only one I really can go to, There are 2 other studios, but those are major, Dolly Dimple schools, at my school, I get one ballet class a week and for only a hour, but we do a good, 30min-40 min barre with a good teacher, then technique the rest of the class except for close to performances then we use the rest of the time to learn our dance. I wish I could take more, but this is the way it is, so I make up for it by going to good SI's where at these SI's I'm placed in the advanced classes when the only traning I have ever had has been my hour a week ballet classes, I don't know what else I just thought I should add this.

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Guest ddepoalo
FlexNPointe, I like your school's performance schedule. It's like ours, no "recital", just Nutcracker performances (lots of them!), and a Spring Concert for the upper division students. The lower division does in-class demonstrations for their parents.  In the SI there are performances at the end for the 3 highest levels.

I love this concept! When we lived in Birmingham, my daughter attended the Alabama Ballet school and this is what they do there. They call is "Points of Progress" and it was wonderful for dancers and parents. Wes Chapman, Artistic Director, spoke with parents about what each class studied that year and then he introduced them along with their instructors. The girls absolutely loved having Wes there and it was kept simple and stress free.

 

I wonder why more schools don't do this? Is it simply that recitals are such big money makers? Or that most parents want the end of year performance? A combination of both??? :unsure:

 

 

Donna

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Memo

I would love to go without it and do a demonstration for the parents. My parents really seem to want it . Alot of people come in order to check out the school for the following year! (I personally would check out a school by watching class). If I did not do it I think I would loose alot of clients. :unsure:

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pugbee

ddepoalo, i'd like to address your question about why recitals are necessary. I'd like to, that is, but I don't know the answer!!!!!! How I wish we could live without them! I don't know that they are really money-makers... most schools don't charge for tickets, just a "recital fee," which I guess would have to be used to cover all theater costs.

 

But I can tell you this: a school I used to work for did recital only every other year. On the "off" years they just did an in-house parent demonstration like you all have been describing. In those years, enrollment was markedly lower than in recital years. When parents walked in to sign up in August, and found out that they would not get to see little Susie in her costume on stage in May, they quite often walked right back out!!! So I guess I've answered my own question: recitals are necessary because the parents demand them.

 

I don't know a single teacher in this world that wouldn't love to drop recitals and never look back!

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BW

Just an aside here on paying for attending recitals. Daughter's first school had in class demonstrations and the never ending rectial. We had to buy tickets to the recital. I can't remember if we had to pay for any costumes - it's too long ago for me to remember. Second school - parents' observation day and recital. Again we had to pay for tickets to attend recital...Initially no costume fee, but then when the recital pieces became much more involved there was definately a costume charge and rather a hefty one with the thought being that the costumes would not have to be rented if we could generate enough money to make them (long story on that one! :) ). I've since heard that this school no longer has the youngest participate in the recital. Third school: parents' observation day and "Spring Workshop" for the top 4 levels. No costume fee but $35, now $40, I believe ticket to attend. Each of these programs held their recitals/workshop in theatres that had to be rented along with the lighting techs, etc.

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manageitall

Should a good school give at least annual evaluations of the highest levels? I would appreciate if our studio did, but they don't. When asked about how a student is doing, the typical response is "she's doing fine, keep working hard." They also say that we can see our kids dance at the 2 or 3 performances a year, but it is a large studio with very few solos, and I am certainly not a professional judge of ballet. Yes, they are willing to schedule private meetings with parents if requested, but those are extremely informal and vague. Do "good schools" have an official evaluation process?

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Victoria Leigh

Some do and some don't. If they don't, they really should at least be very willing to hold meetings with the parents and students.

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vicarious
We also have a performing group, called Young Dancers of the Washington Ballet, and they are in the top level class during the year. They do quite a few performances in the community during the school year.

I like this idea of "Young Dancers". DD is at the same school as Flexnpoint. DD's previous school was much smaller but also very good. While they did not have full productions like current school, they have a powerful small amature company "Youth Ballet" of eight girls that perform repetory pieces in many venues. Some of which are traditional pieces, some are 'in house' correography. The exciting thing was money could be spent on getting rights from The Balanchine trust to do part of a production and do it well without being caught up in producing the whole thing. Also the 'in house' correography is amazing and so is what those teens can do. They're very portable. I'd like very much to see this sort of thing where DD and Flexnpoint are now. The AD is a magnificent correorgrapher. It would be great if this would be available when dd is at an approipriate age and skill for it. Sort of a mini company.

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fendrock

Vicarious, I see you are in Massachusetts -- may I ask where your daughter took class prior to changing schools?

 

The ensemble work at this previous school sounds great!

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vicarious

I suppose I need to update my profile, we're now in Maine. When we were in Mass. DD attended East Street Ballet in Hadley (between Amherst and Northampton). The company is East Street Youth Ballet. DD was in their apprentice company. Ruth and Noble Barker and Charlotte Doyle are wonderful instructors and had it not been such a long commute we'd have stayed. http://www.eaststreetballet.org/ They reorganized as East Street Ballet one year ago and are doing very well. I can't PM but I'd be glad to tell more about it.

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LAF

I see this is an old topic, but I had a question about evaluating a program, so I hope it is appropriate to add it here.

My daughter's studio was highly recommended to us when she decided to focus exclusively on ballet three years ago. It fits a lot of the criteria listed for a pre-professional program. They only teach ballet, no jazz or tap, no competitions, no recitals. Dancers have to take a certain number of class hours per level. My daughter is 14 and takes 10 hours, 3-4 of which are pointe, 1 character, 1 modern, the rest technique plus rehearsals.

My question involves the fact that it appears that students are not individually evaluated for moving up through the levels. Girls are grouped roughly according to how long they have been at the studio. Within each group there are girls who are very serious, come to every class, work hard, and dance all summer and there are some who are less serious. They enjoy dancing but they are equally interested in other things or maybe they're at the age where their interest is waning. But they all stay together in these same groups as they move through the levels.

My daughter felt really frustrated in Sept. when her group all stayed together even though she had danced all summer while most of the girls had not. Even girls in the level above my daughter's will take off the entire summer, but they come back to the same group of girls and in the level they are in. Other parents and even one teacher have said that the school doesn't want to deal with parent complaints about one child getting moved and not another, but the kids who work hard find it frustrating to not have an outside measure of their progress.

All that being said, I do believe that the studio is providing good dance training. My daughter was accepted to WSB's SI last summer. We've talked about focusing and working hard no matter what your level is and I definitely see progress in her dancing but I wonder if it would be better to be surrounded by other dancers as serious as she is? Is this situation common or do other studios do things differently? Thanks in advance for any insight anyone might have.

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lillianna

It sounds as if your daughter is very serious about her dancing but others in her level are not as dedicated. The bottom line is --how good is the training that she is receiving in her level? The number of the level isn't as important as what is taught in each level. Is she getting what she needs? What is the track record of the school. Are lots of dancers getting acceptances into good SIs? If there are not many, your daughter might need a better program. Is there a good pre-pro program near you that you can drive to daily? What is your daughter's desires? Does she want to pursue serious dance training or is she satisfied to have dance classes locally with her friends? It is audition season again. Let your daughter do a couple of auditions. Find out how she feels she has done compared to others in the room. Does she feel like her training has placed her in a good level compared to the training she sees that others have had. Auditions are a good way to measure your school. I'm not talking about whether you are accepted or not, but how you feel your training has prepared you for the audition. My kids have been in auditions where others did not know how to do a particular ballet step that should have been at their level.(Not that their technique wasn't good--but that they had never been taught that ballet step). Some auditions are great master classes complete with corrections. Does your daughter feel like she had learned the correct way to do things that others were receiving corrections.

Changing schools is a big decision. Sometimes it is necessary if your daughter is serious about receiving the best training available.

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tendumom

LAF, lillianna gives excellent advice. The only thing I would add is that by 14, most serious pre-professional dancers are taking technique atleast 5 days a week. A good technique class should not be less than 1-1/2 hr. So thats a minimum of 7-1/2 hours of technique a week. Pointe, modern and other classes should be on top of that training time.

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