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newbie trying to make a decision!


slhogan

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Hello! I am very glad I came across this board and I hope someone can give me some insight. Sorry if this message is long. I just wanted to give you background.

My 7 year old son took an intro to ballet at his school for PE and loved it. The dance teacher who taught him said he picked it up quickly and wanted him to come dance at her studio Nutcracker performance. So, he was at the dance studio 2-3 times a week last semester practicing his role (party scene and soldier fighting a mouse). He loved it! After the performance he ran to me backstage, eyes wide open, face glowing, and exclaimed "That was more fun than Six Flags!!!"

He is really into ballet now. He's been watching ballet DVDs, listening to Swan Lake when he goes to sleep at night, and is spinning and jumping all over the house. His friends think it's a little weird, but they haven't given him too hard a time. He's telling everyone he wants to be a professional ballet dancer when he grows up.

The dance instructor invited my son and two other boys she recruited from his school for the Nutcracker to join her young performance company at her studio. The class is audition only for the girls and they have all been dancing 3 years or so. They meet twice a week-- one day for choreography and one day for techinique. They go to competitions or have charity show performances about every 6 weeks.

My son was SO excited to join and he just finished his first week there. And, now I'm concerned. The technique class is not a beginner class and my son looked so lost. He enjoyed it, but he wasn't receiving any instruction on the basics. He was just copying what everyone else was doing and he wasn't receiving good correction for doing it wrong. They were practicing all these spins and leaps and yelling out all these French words that he doesn't know the meaning of. Plus, they were all older than him (mainly 3rd and 4th graders whereas he's a 1st grader).

I'm worried that the teacher just wants him in the class to have boys in her routines and that he isn't going to receive a good foundation in the basics. I went and spoke to the owner of another studio; he's a former professional dancer and his studio is recommended by the Houston Ballet for people on our side of Houston. In a nutshell he explained the importance of good instruction on the basics (starting in level 1 rather than "picking it up" in an advanced class) and said that the studio we're in is fine for recreation but not if he has serious dancing goals. When I asked him what he thought about my son finishing up the year with this performance company and switching to his studio if he's still interested in ballet next year, he said that was fine except that some kids get hooked on the excitement of frequent competitions/performances and then find traditional lessons boring. Plus, he said my son would be doing more advanced moves at this recreational studio and would almost certainly need to go back to the basics at his studio and he worried that my son might not like to go "backwards" this way.

Okay, this is getting long. Thanks for bearing with me. This really helps just getting it out of my brain.

Okay... so now I'm thinking of moving my son to this more serious studio before he gets any further with this performance company thing. My son did like the studio director we met and claims he likes the idea of more serious training since he says he wants to audition for the Houston Ballet Academy in a couple of years. But, he will be the only boy in his class there and he says he refuses to be in a class with only girls. He wants to stay at the performance company studio because there are two other boys there.

So now I'm trying to figure out what is the best route for a young beginner boy-- being in a studio that gives him a strong foundation and will help him reach his long term goals or being in a studio where he can be with other boys and do partnering (which he loves). I'm actually starting to feel pretty stressed out by the desision and I do have to decide by next week and make a commitment to one studio or another.

If any of you made it through the end of this long message-- can you offer me any ideas? I would appreciate it very much!

Edited by slhogan
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Hi, Laura, and welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers. :)

 

First step is, don't stress out. Remember, he's only seven, and ideas change over time. He can continue in a recreational track for a couple more years, and probably be all right, if he doesn't try to do double cabrioles or something and get all tied up in his own legs!

 

Second, continue to show him other classes, other schools, so that he gets the idea of how classes tend to be balanced in this part of the world. Royal Ballet School (UK), a couple of years ago, sent out a press release announcing that for the first time in its history, it had as many boys as girls taking classes.

 

Videos can help. I think he's a bit young for Billy Elliot, but he can certainly understand what goes on in The Children of Theatre Street. The ABT "Born to Be Wild" for PBS could be helpful, but it also could reinforce his idea (with which I agree) that it's a good thing to have two or more boys per class!

 

Meantime, work very low-key to try to convince him over the next few years that he needs to go to a vocational-track program if he's going to set his sights on Houston Ballet! Slow and steady. Don't force it as an issue, he'll resist.

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My DS is now 14. He started at a recreational school in Dallas because he wanted to take jazz. They did recitals and he loved them. It was fun and glitzy and he liked to get dressed up. (Of course, he's pretty apalled now when he watches the videos - especially becuase he thought he was "good.") He switched to a more "classical" school when we returned to the East Coast and now focuses on ballet. He was 10 and a half when we moved and was placed in a higher level class than he should've been. We thought it would be good - that he would enjoy the challenge. He, however, was smart enough to know that he didn't have the basics and finally started going to lower level classes on his own. Fun was what got my DS hooked. And he didn't learn any bad habits - he did receive the basics in ballet. He was able to make the switch to a more serious studio when the time came. The biggest problem was having him placed too high - that was a lost year. To defend the studio, they also put him in a higher level so he would be with another boy. Fortunately DS was able to know when to move down - when the faster paced classes were working against him. He's doing fine now. I can't imagine him at 8 - when he started - being successful and happy at his current studio. The structure and discipline just wasn't right. People ask if his younger brother will take dance - he's almost 7. Perhaps, but not at DS' studio. After a few days it would be really boring and he would quit. Every boy is different, but DS - and is brothers - need the adrenalin that 60 to 90 minutes of standing at the bar just doesn't seem to provide!

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I appreciate your replies! I'm glad to have found a sympathetic ear and I've learned a LOT from reading past posts.

I think we found our solution. Over the weekend we visited another studio about 30 minutes from our house (yes, I know many of you travel much farther than this, but where we live it seems there is a studio on every corner so 30 minutes seems excessive). I think this new studio will be the right fit for him. 1. She believes in a firm foundation in the basics 2. She seems to regard my son as a dancer in his own right rather than just a male asset to her girl dancers 3. Most importantly to my son, there will be another 7 year boy in his class-- a friend of his was also introduced to ballet through their involvement in the Nutcracker.

I didn't consider this studio as an option initially because of it's distance from our house. But, it looks like its advantages outweigh the commute.

I think it will work out well. The studio has a good reputation and the director wants to personally teach him and this other boy (rather than have her associates teach them). My son likes her too-- especially when she got down on his level, looked him in the eye, and said that she believes him when he says he wants to become a professional ballet dancer and that she will help him do it.

So, I'm done stressing-- except for the fact that I now have to tell his current teacher that we are dropping out of her company (and she'll have to redo her choreography!)

It's funny, but I really don't think I would be putting as much thought into all this if he was a girl. I'd just put him in the local school and not give it any more thought. Somehow, a ballet-loving boy seems special and I want to protect him and nurture him in this.

One thing I've learned from all this-- Boy dancers seem to be a hot commodity in dance studios. I think I need to be well educated and aware of motives to keep him protected.

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Hi Laura,

 

I can appreciate your concerns. My son began tap dancing at age 7. He wanted to be the next Gene Kelly. After a couple of years of doing tap, he wanted to do jazz and was informed that he would have to take ballet. He said no way. But he really wanted jazz so he took the ballet in a a Dolly Dingle studio that had the combo classes in tap, ballet and jazz. We enrolled him in a couple of weeks of a lSI about 20 miles from our home. He loved it. Decided that instead of Gene Kelly, he wanted to be the next Barishnikov. We enrolled him in ballet there for the fall term and he continued at the Dolly Dingle school. Like your son, because of his age (10) and the fact that there were 2 other 10 year old boys, he was placed too high. He worked very hard but struggled. He never got discouraged. He is now 16 and in the most advanced level and dances 7 days a week. He goes to SI every summer and has really blossomed. But he still takes elementary level classes and intermediate classes during the week. When I asked him why he said it was for two reasons: 1. There were not enough Advanced classes for him to dance 3 hours every day so taking a 90 minute Elementary or Intermediate class gave him the extra time to build stamina. 2. Because he started in Level 3 (Now called Intermediate 1 by our new AD), he said there are basic things he could improve upon so he takes the lower level classes as well. And he still dances at the Dolly Dingle studio for tap and lyrical ballet. If your ds really wants it, he will find a way to make it work whatever you decide but if at 7 my son was doing ballet and could have moved to a lower level I would have saved him some of the struggle.

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