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To leave or not to leave "big name" school.


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I am facing a difficult decision for my dd and so I am throwing this question out there for anyone with advice/experience.


My daughter just turned 13 and has been attending a very prestigious ballet school affiliated with a ballet company for the past 3 years. She started at this school when she was 10 and since she only had one year of ballet previous, they placed her in the beginner children's level, where most of the children are only 8 years old. Over the past 3 years I have watched, listened and learned alot.. maybe too much. It seems that the curriculum at this school for the younger children is slow, very very slow. Since my daughter is 2 years older than her classmates, she looks beautiful when compared to them, however, and here is the big problem... she is very much behind her peer group when she is evaluated outside of this well-known school. She has done well at her current school and the very little feedback that I receive is always positive. She has been asked to return for the next level in the fall.


If you look at the older students at this school, and those asked to be in the company, you will notice that almost none of them came from the beginner children's classes. The procedure this school seems to follow is that the children are weeded out year after year and the older kids are brought in from audition tours and summer programs, some of them attending only 1 year before joining the company. The children play a large role in filling the children's roles in the company ballets. My daughter did not get selected for any this year because as I have been told, she's "too tall." (she's not tall for her age by the way, remember she is being compared to children 2 and 3 years younger than she is.) They have not even started her on pointe yet. If she stays this year, she will have about 15 minutes of pointe after each ballet class. She took a pointe class last summer locally and the instructor said she was strong and very ready and able and should be on pointe.



I have talked with other parents from the school, many of whom are chosing to leave the school next fall. Their reasons for leaving are as I have iterated above... the lack of curriculum, communication and long-term goals for the children in the school. My dd loves it at this school and she feels proud to be a student there. However, if she is not progressing as she is capable of progessing, and is not gaining vocabulary and pointe training, then maybe it's time to look elsewhere. I will be honest and say that it is a very difficult decision to leave this "big name" school, as we have also heard rumors to the effect of once you leave, they will never take you back. However, I would rather leave as my choice and not have them make that choice for me one or two years down the line, when she is 14 or 15 and is very behind her peer group. I'm sorry if it sounds like I am rambling and I apologize for the length of this message, but I am very confused about what to do next. My dd is at an SI right now and has been placed in a low level class, with again, no pointe. This was disappointing since I was hoping she could progress at a more rapid pace than she does during the regular school year.


If anyone has any suggestions or similar experiences, I would appreciate any input. Like I said, it is a tough choice and I'm not sure what we shoud do. Thanks for allowing me to vent my frustrations. :ermm:

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  • DanceMumNYC


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Arrange a meeting with the school and express your concerns! If your daughter has time in her schedule ask about her taking some additional classes at a lower level. This will help to build the base she needs a little faster. All professional school programs are slow and methodical and different students progress at different rates. If she is happy in the school try and work it out rather than moving her. Good luck!

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Parents, this is a Young Dancers forum. Input from Young Dancers ONLY, or the three moderators! I'm moving this to Cross Talk.

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You might try seeing if the school will allow your daughter to take one (or more) class a week at the next level up. If she does well, they might have her progress faster.

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  • Administrators

Actually, I think this belongs in Parents of 13+. I would prefer that it be answered by parents and teachers, not by students.


Catdancer, I think talking to the AD is a good start. Find out what they think of her potential, and why they are not moving her forward by now. At the same time, I would check out other schools, IF there are any other pre-professional schools in the area. There are quite a number of them in NJ, but I'm sure it depends on where you are in NJ, and how far you are willing to travel.

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Catlover, You wrote that your daughter is in level D5 at CPYB, that's not a low level at all! That's great for a 13 year old. My daughter also started a little later at a big prof school being the oldest in her class. She is now almost 14 and right in the middle of the pack age and ability wise. They told me she would be with her age group as the younger ones repeated levels, etc, and they were right.

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And do remember that they are NOT going to put her in a pointe division at her SI, if she has not yet begun studying pointe at home. SIs are for polishing and honing skills, rather than beginning important work like pointe. When all the fundamentals she is learning in technique are firmly in place, the transition to pointe is usually a very easy one and progress is quick. So, taking the time to be really ready for pointe work is always wise.


I think the suggestions you have received about approaching the school and asking your questions are really the best advice. You can't make a decision such as this without voicing your concerns directly to those who are making the decisions and seeing what they have to say. I know it is intimidating in a prestigious school, such as you describe. But, your questions are valid and should be addressed in a positive manner by the faculty.


The fact that they did ask her back indicates that they have not written her off at this point. In a school such as this, there are always many waiting to take a spot, so when the faculty feels that the student will not progress further, they will usually not prolong their attendance at the school and make room for a student they see as having greater potential. So, she has been given another year to continue her progress. Now would be a good time to ask where they see her in another year or in two years, based upon her progress thus far. Best of luck with it! :ermm:

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Georgia - You're confusing me with Catdancer who started this thread. You're correct, my daughter is at CPYB this summer in level D5. We're really happy with her placement and she's delighted with the overall program. We have no issues with our year-round school.


Just wanted to clear this up before it went much further.

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Thanks for all of the responses. I have already had a meeting with her 3 teachers from her ballet school (sorry I left that out of my original post.) They are very vague and non-committal, as I hear they are with all who meet with them. They tell me that everything is fine and that she is where she should be. The only guarantee that they can offer is that she will be moved up next year, but after that they don't offer predictions and/or promises. However, let me also say that I have had this conversation with them at the end of each of the past three years, and each time, I have to remind them of my dd's age, and each time they seem surprised to learn that she is the oldest in the class. So that doesn't give me a warm, fuzzy feeling that they retain my concerns much past the meeting. I agree that it is a good sign that they are keeping her there, especially since she isn't being cast in the children's roles. And yes, there are many dancers willing and able to take her place. That is the reason I am having such a tough time with this decision. But why then do I hear from everyone (ballet people) outside of her ballet school, some who are very familiar with her school, that she and others from her level are so behind?


I have heard that most of the kids who do advance at this school take outside classes (You aren't allowed to take classes in another level at her school), and besides, with having to cart her into another state for her main classes, I really can't fit in outside classes. And in my opionion, I shouldn't have to. Just the fact that the majority of the kids do take outside classes would lead one to believe that there is a need to supplement what they are getting. That's not an outrageous deduction to make is it, I don't know, maybe I'm wrong?


If there is anyone out there who knows of someone who has jumped ship from a big name school and either regretted it or was happy they made that decision, I would love to hear from you.


P.S. Georgia, my daughter is in level B5 at CPYB and except for not being able to do pointe, she seems very happy with the level of instruction so far.


P.S. Balletbooster, I know of at least one girl who was put into the pointe class who had not started pointe yet. However, from the way they describe the pointe class it does seem like it is geared for those who already know what they're doing. And yes you are right, it is intimidating at her year round ballet school, but I do a pretty good job of looking past that and voicing my concerns. Thank you for your input, I do appreciate any piece of potentially valuable advice.


P.S. Victoria Leigh, are you allowed to make suggestions about reputable schools in New Jersey that I might look into?


Thanks to all for your input and Happy July 4th!

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  • Administrators

Catdancer, you are just a few posts away from becoming a full member. At that time you will have private message privileges. I would prefer that you PM me and tell me where you are and what is available within a reasonable commuting distance. :cool2:

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My dds left a big name school a few years ago and went to a smaller pre pro school. The classes were a lot smaller- more attention. The director had lots of good contacts in the ballet world. Unfortunately, she closed her school last year so 2 of my 3 dds went back to the big name school. My oldest dd graduated when the school closed and she has been a trainee at a mid sized pro co. for 2 years.

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catdancer -


I have a feeling which "big name school" you are referring to in your post. If it's the one I think it is, we've had experience with it. There are so many variables that go into a top school keeping a dancer all the way into their late teens. Sometimes, a child just does not progress as quickly as his/her peers. My child is one of the them. That does not mean they will never have a dance career. Yes, this school has great prestige, but I think the main thing is that for now, your daughter is happy and progressing, even if it's not as quickly as you think she should. It is possible that if you leave, she won't be accepted back. However, if you have good reasons for leaving, don't let it worry you. My dd is now 18, and I realize that there is no way to rush this ballet process. Some dancers who are put on pointe too early regret it later because of injuries. Maybe you should give it another year, and then consider how you and your daughter feel next spring when she is evaluated again. In the mean time, try to talk again to the faculty. When you get enough posts, please PM me. Good luck with everything.



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Catdancer - If I am guessing right... your dd studies at a BIG three letter school in a BIG city next to your state, right?


OK - so - If I am right, I would like to address some of your concerns. My dd has some experience with this school. From everything I have seen at this particular school - the dancers who get into the company are dancers who are taken into the school in their late teens after having received fairly decent training elsewhere. I have talked with several Mom's who have dancers there who do exactly as you described - they go outside the school for extra classes in order to move forward with their technique. One Mom told me that they didn't really think much of her daughter until she started taking class "down the street" and then, after about 6 months of that - they were falling all over her.


I think you are right about not being able to go back if you leave. (actually, I don't think it... I know it) And - why should you have to remind them of her age? She's their student, right? Shouldn't they be aware of that? hmmm...


This particular school, with it's big name, has quite a bit of prestige and their ability to place their dancers into companies is really high. There is something to be said for that. However, the fact that these dancers must go elsewhere for a decent ballet class is quite telling. I think that they should be upfront with you - honest and fair when you ask for their opinion. Don't let the fact that it has three well know letters keep you from doing what's best for your dd.

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I am sure I know now which school your daughter goes to. And so it is easy for me to answer part of your question regarding pointe.


First of all, unless policies have changed within the last 4 years, students at this school typically do not begin pointework until age 12, only rarely do exceptionally advanced 11 year olds go en pointe.


Secondly, even when girls begin pointe, they progress more slowly than the typical ballet school. This is partly to prevent injuries and partly because a student really doesn't need a lot of pointework that early in her dance career.


Sadly, the reason why so many ballet schools even allow 9 or 10 year olds to begin pointework is financial pressure. If the teachers don't put students en pointe, the parents take the children to another studio that will. Your ballet school does not need to succumb to that sort of pressure, because of obvious reasons.


To touch lightly on a different area, you mentioned that the school's company sometimes hires those who come into the school later in their teens, over those who have been their own students since childhood. That is true.


There is no guaranteed ESCALATOR RIDE from the bottom of any school into a company anywhere in the USA or abroad to my knowledge. Those who are lucky to get on the escalator have an advantage to those not on it, but even they need to keep up the hard work and keep in shape. The jobs are few in this world and the competition is tough.


If you are going to take additional classes elsewhere, take non-ballet classes to learn new styles and get other performance experience. One recent hire had years of jazz and broadway dance experience (from a different school) which gave her the edge in performing and showmanship.


Lastly, forget about those who are leaving. Most who leave NEVER tell the real reasons for the move away and are usually so negative about the school that they only pollute the air for those staying to breathe. Also, forget about what the "average" 14-15 year old is doing. Is there an average? I don't think so. Some of your "ramblings" may be just a natural response from a frustated dance parent. You said that your daughter loves the school. Do her a favor and give her another year; it won't be a wasted year.

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