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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Adjusting to high school


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I have many and disparate thoughts. So, in no particular order:


-- Please do not believe that the only reason to seek out or attend a top-50 college is prestige. For some kids, they truly are the best fit, just as Harid, SAB, or NBS are the best fit for top-level dancers. That said, absolutely one does not HAVE to attend one of these top schools -- in either academics or ballet -- to achieve a wonderful education.


-- For the parents of younger dancers: it really seems to be true that by the mid-teens, the kids develop a good sense of where they fit in, and what their true ambitions are. This can be a hard time of transition for some, both dancers and parents, as dreams are closed out and new ones developed. But for others, it can be a time of liberation as dreams and ambitions solidify. Oddly enough, this coincides with the time when kids start to take charge of their own lives generally. For a ballet parent, especially, who has been so involved in setting and arranging schedules, it's hard to step back and "follow the child" -- but, oh so rewarding!


-- About AP courses: unless your school requires it, no one HAS to take the AP tests. My DD has taken the test in only a couple of her AP classes. Personally, I don't really see the point, unless one wants to place out of college courses AND is fairly confident of getting a 5 (which is the only grade most colleges will accept). (I also wish AP courses, which have a prescribed curriculum and teach to the test, would go away and be replaced by really good honors level courses.)


-- Back to balancing ballet and academics, and specifically for you RDA members: how will you handle next year's weeklong National Festival? I can't imagine that any of our dancers will be able to take off an entire week. As my (HS senior) DD said last night, "For anyone in my school that amounts to flunking the course; there's no way to make up a week's worth of school work AND keep up with the ongoing work -- especially so close to final exams." I think that this is an example of how ballet schools DISrespect academic work.

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:) As the parent of a 16 yr old DS, who has studied ballet away from home since age 13, I can honestly tell you that with trust, direction and support from parents, guidance and ballet admin, the serious dancer can succeed in high school. My son has always been on early release though, taking one less course during the day and receiving credits for dance, etc. I would have to admit that his marks are probably not as high as if he wasn't dancing, but he is still doing very well (good enough for college/university acceptance should he choose to go that route, which he is not at this time). I find that in order to juggle dance and academics, he has learnt very quickly how to manage his time (or not, in some cases, with the ensuing icky results!). Yes, there have been mistakes, but I believe that all of that is part of growing up. I haven't met any of his high school teachers until this year (Gr 11) as he is now closer to home. It takes great faith on my part to place my trust in him that he will attend class, do the homework, study, etc. AND, dance all afternoon, rehearse, study for ballet exams. It is not an easy life, but one that he has chosen with gusto and so far, much happiness.


He is not taking any AP courses - he's not worried that he is behind his peers in any way. There had to be some "give" in his schedule with such a demanding ballet load each day. These kids can only take so much "pressure" - I know from his phone calls when he is feeling completely overwhelmed with dance and academics. I couldn't imagine heaping more rigourous course work on his shoulders right now. I do applaud those students who can "do it all", but I think it is up to the individual child and their temperament. He also wants to have some type of "regular" teen life outside of dance, which he couldn't do if he had his nose in the books every waking hour. As others have stated, balance in life is important, these kids must be allowed to just hang out at times, relax, enjoy non-dance related actitivities...we, as parents cannot lose sight of the fact that they are only young teens. If certain things don't work out in the end, life will go on and these kids will find happiness elsewhere.


Note to balletbooster - DS is dancing in a Balanchine style number this year - found it very technically challenging and fast - I see it this weekend. Said it was a real brain work-out!

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DancemomCA, I totally agree with you - what works best is very individual and there are, other than totally failing classes, very few choices that completely limit future options. We tell all of our students that first they have to survive high school. The advice about APs we give to students (and we are a very academic school) is that very selective colleges USUALLY want to see about 3 AP classes. Notice all the qualifiers. Our non-AP population gets accepted into schools, some of them very good.

Speaking of APs, as an AP teacher and some one who helps with the teacher AP workshops, may I please correct some mis-information? First of all, a 5 is certainly not needed for college credit, unless you go to Harvard. Duke, NYU, etc give credit for 4 or 5. Most state schools give different amounts of credit for 3,4, or 5. There is no published AP curriculum, merely very broad guidelines that reflect the course content of introductory courses at a variety of colleges, so it is almost impossible to teach to the test, as much of the content changes from year to year - and really boring to try. There is actually less mandated material (unless it was put there by the individual schoolboard) than many public school teachers face in every course. Do you have to take the test to get benefit from AP? That is silly! Many students simply want to try a college level course so they can adapt slowly. AP was developed to help bright kids not be bored in HS, not have to go to college at 15 to not be bored and not have to do repetitive work once they got to college. The exam was to help colleges standardize what the students had learned - sort of like standard ballet exams. Sorry for the diatribe!

And even as an AP teacher I totally agree with a child's decision not to take the exam. That should never be the point of any class.

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Thanks so much everyone for thoughts on all side of the aisle on this subject!! So much food for thought (and am still digesting :-)).


I had mentioned earlier that my dd will be taking an AP history class next year. Thankfully her school does a good job of screening the kids before allowing anyone to take an AP class (students first have to be recommended by the subject teacher, then at least for the history & english classes, they have to take a brief in-class essay test to show how well they can organize and analyze their thoughts on-the-fly).


Based on her test results, she could handle the material. But what I told her was to take an AP class in those subjects that she really likes. Don't take an AP class just for the sake of taking it -- and esp. if it's not your favorite subject.


Now, as far as how she will do, balancing ballet with school next school year, we will see...

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Thank you for setting me straight about the AP courses. The teachers in my school beef about "having" to teach thus-and-such, or scramble to "cover" material in the last weeks before the test, so I assumed the curriculum was prescribed. I know that my colleagues in the science department would rather be free to design their own courses (this is in one of those wildly academic pre-collegiate private schools, where kids and parents believe they have to take about a gazillion AP courses -- and, of course, since the school offers 2 gazillion AP courses, they may be right, since selective colleges assess how challenging a schedule an applicant took GIVEN the school offerings.).


gogators -- ABSOLUTELY, take those APs in subjects one loves! No need to torture one's self. Education is supposed to be rewarding, not a trial by fire.

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Just a caveat for those who are thinking that many AP's are necessary for admission to an "ivy". Many top tier colleges are beginning to reject AP credits, or accept them but still require the students to take the course anyway. My son's brainiac high school, where he is in 8th/9th currently, is suggesting that students actually take courses at a nearby private college as well as or instead of the AP test, to ensure that the "college of their choice" will accept the credits. And, just as you don't have to take the AP test just because you take the AP course, you similarly don't have to take an AP class to take the test. You just sign up and take it. So, I totally agree with the prior poster - teachers don't teach "to" the AP test. AP classes are just more challenging/interesting for some students.

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Just a caveat for those who are thinking that many AP's are necessary for admission to an "ivy". Many top tier colleges are beginning to reject AP credits, or accept them but still require the students to take the course anyway.


AP tests do not affect admission. Taking AP courses -- or other honors-type courses -- certainly does. We've just been through the admission process, so I speak with some knowledge here. The selective colleges absolutely look to see if the student has challenged herself, and has taken a pretty good proportion of the most difficult courses the school offers.


The admissions process in the selective sphere has gotten increasingly crazy and unpredictable. I will share that our school's college counselor was very worried about my DD's chances at one particular institution, because DD elected to take AP Stats (and AP Spanish and AP Biology) this year instead of calculus; the institution had told her informally that basically they just weren't looking at anyone who had not taken calculus.

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knock knock


...following up on Treefrog's comments, mostly to amplify...I do alumni interviewing for a university, er, in the same league as the one Treefrog knows the most about. I do NOT sit on the admissions committee.


Admissions does seem to have gotten crazily competitive. I sometimes (only half-jokingly) tell people that the best thing to do is to just move to some "underrepresented" part of the country or world. (Trust me, it's a lot easier to get into a selective college coming from Lubbock, TX than from Northern Virginia!)


As an interviewer, I do always ask what the candidate has taken and what the opportunities are, and it is not good if the candidate makes no effort to avail him/herself of the opportunities available at the school. That said, I would put favorable weight in my report on comments from a candidate along the lines of "well, yes, I could have taken all AP/honors/whatever, but I decided to focus my efforts a bit on a few subjects so that I would have time for serious extracurricular activity X. It bothers and saddens me when I see candidates that are clearly taking all possible honors courses out of a "rat race" mentality.


As for college credit, I say: people, what's the rush?


This from Treefrog is so, so true:

-- Please do not believe that the only reason to seek out or attend a top-50 college is prestige. For some kids, they truly are the best fit, just as Harid, SAB, or NBS are the best fit for top-level dancers. That said, absolutely one does not HAVE to attend one of these top schools -- in either academics or ballet -- to achieve a wonderful education.

I work in an area where we hire recent college graduates. There is little or no correlation between prestige of institution and quality of worker (and the work they do in my office is quite demanding).


Please, parents, try to step back from the rat race and remember the big picture: at the end of high school, your dancer should have enough reading, writing, and math skills to function as an adult: to read contracts, write letters, and understand the standard array of financial documents we all deal with. Some dancers may be at that point effortlessly by 9th grade or so. Others will struggle to reach that point by the end of high school. Beyond that criterion, there is plenty of time later to fill in gaps through summer courses, an extra year at community college, or a less prestigious university.

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AP was developed to help bright kids not be bored in HS, not have to go to college at 15 to not be bored and not have to do repetitive work once they got to college.


And here is the problem: As a result of the "no kid left behind" push, high schools are evaluated (by themselves, parents, State Boards, colleges?, etc) based upon the number of AP classes offered, the number of students taking AP classes, and sometimes the number of students taking AP test (but not the results). Therefore, it behooves the high schools to encourage kids to take the AP classes and parents get caught up in encouraging their kids to take the AP classes---even though many of these kids are not the kids for whom the AP classes were designed. If a kid truly belonged in the AP class, it would not be a struggle for that kid to take that classes--and even several more. However, kids for whom the class wasn't designed will find the class more difficult and may struggle to keep up with the extra work or the pace of the class.


In this overachieving atmosphere, the AP classes are being misused and their purpose is being obscured.

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I was at the library yesterday and while perusing the shelves a book title screamed out at me" STRESSED-OUT GIRLS" by Roni Cohen-Sandler, Ph.D. Well, talk about a reality check for me, this book was a wonderful read!! It just discusses the increase in societal competitiveness and the effect this may have on some girls and how parents may unintentionally miss cues of stress girls are exhibiting or place unrealistic expectations on their children.

I probably would never have picked it up if not for this thread! This was a wonderful read for me, I saw myself in the book. It was a wonderful book and not only did it name the problems but also there were some solid solutions at the end of it.

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Wannadance, I am going to look for that book at my library - thanks for the heads up!

Dancemaven, I agree that there are some kids whose placement in the AP classes is very stressful. The classes can have another purpose than just serving the gifted, though, IF all involved understand and support that purpose. They can help students bridge the gap between standard hs courses and college courses. Those students may gain enough to be able to then do well at the next level. Will they have a "good" grade in the course? Probably not. Should they sit the exam? Probably not. May the school force them to? That is very possible. For many schools, you are right that they use number sitting the exam, not results as criteria. (A truly bizarre case in point- the public performing arts magnet that I pulled my daughter out of required her and many other freshmen in 1st year bio to sit the AP Bio exam, lots of 1s and a few 2s, but the numbers taking exams are high enough that Newsweek ranked it in the top 100 public schools in the US. Sad, huh?)

On a positive note, we are seeing more parents actually asking first "is this too much for my child?" and sometimes deciding on an easier schedule. Of course, we still have the opposite too.

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In our area, all schools offer AP, few offer IB. The result being that the bright kids start funnelling toward the IB schools starting in early grade school. You have to test into the school and the program. 90% plus of the school have nothing to do with this level of education. They do benefit from the level of teaching and therefor the school has a very good reputaion. AP and IB classes are not taken simply because you want to but because you are recommended for them, first by being in the program and then by the recommendation of the counceller. So, for us, it really is a system that is quite well monitored. We hit the top whatever % of high schools in the country, that report came out this week, we are the top school in the state and that was achieved because of the few at the top testing well and taking all the advanced classes. Some kids are just driven, they know what they are getting into when they apply to this high school, kids come from all over the place, some traveling way out of their home areas. I'm glad there are all the checks and balances, pushing a child too much is probably as bad as not realizing they are bored senseless!

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All I can say to this is Woohoo for state universities!

My DD has many wonderful talents, most of which are not academic. However, I am as certain as any parent of a 14 year old can be, that she will get into a college that will serve her well. And she will go on to be a productive, and how I most dearly hope, a happy adult.

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My DD is required by her current studio to attend RDA next year, because she is a Company Meember. She will be a Freshman in High School and I agree missing a week of school is too much. We have had to rethink our values over this last year. She is an exceptional student and her teachers tell me how bright she is academically. She is also a very talented dancer. Entering high school is a turning point and we need to make some decisions. I have already stepped in and adjusted her high school schedule for next year. She hasn't experienced high school and ballet commitments at the same time and I want her to make an easy adjustment. Her counselor at school wants her to take a more rigorous schedule. I emphatically told him, "no". I want her to learn to balance academics and dance, because really a career in ballet for 20 or more years happens for very few dancers. She needs to be well educated just in case she doesn't make it as a dancer. I really want her have her dream, but I don't want her to give up her academic strengths for an unrealized dream. My concern about DD's education, as well as other issues, at her current pre-pro studio, have made me decide to move her to another studio affiliated with a professional company.

I like the idea of sending her to class, leaving class and then just having a demonstration performance at the end of each term. No RDA, and endless rehearsals two evenings a week and weekends. The new studio also offers performance oppurtunities for students taking classes. They audition for the "Nutcracker" and are invited to perofrm in other professional performances. I hope my concerns over time constraints and academics do not hurt DD's Ballet training

I'm worried because the new studio has just opened verses her old school which has an established record of excellent training (soon to be her old studio). Although other problems have arisen recently, I believe the training is still excellent. How do you know what to do with a 14 year old? We need time as a family, as a student, a professional-working mom and just for our health. At what point do you say enough!! Do you allow Ballet training to interfere with your very existence. Or do you say a talented student can succeed with good training and balance. And at what age do you realize it is only a dream? I have been told that she is very talented. Other companies and schools recognize it. She turned 14 in March. She is attending SFBS SI for the 2nd time and has attended ABT OC as well. And one ohter Company's SI for 2 summers. Shouldn't she have already been scholarshipped if she were going to go somewhere with Ballet? I have a child to raise, not a dream.


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Here is a thread that addresses your issue about scholarships and career potential:




It is a good idea to do a search before posting about such things, because often there is an existing thread that you can read through and if necessary, add on to! :grinning:


(I've sent you two emails about other posts, that have not been answered. Please take a moment to check your email and respond. :grinning: )

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