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Ballet Talk for Dancers

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


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Wow, I stumbled across this thread from over a decade ago because I have a similar dilemma. I wish catdancer kept us informed of her decision, and if she feels she made the right choice.

DD is in a big-name school, but seems to have lost some of the skills she learned prior to coming to this school, including her stretch and flexibility. We know kids in DD's class who didn't make it into the SI, which parents found extremely odd. Shouldn’t their own students be at a certain level? I understand they’re in the younger age group, but it’s not like spots were only given to older dancers. Kids their age from elsewhere were accepted. 

DD's old school was multi-genre with a pre-pro program. Do pre-pro ballet programs in dance schools compare to the standard training at ballet-only schools? I am thinking we were better off there, where DD had more technique classes per week and more performance opportunities, including child roles with the affiliated company. I am also considering another big-name school. My greatest fear is DD losing her spot at the current school. 

Any thoughts/insight on what we should do?

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  • DanceMumNYC


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I think you need to just focus on your own daughter and not what is going on with the younger kids. It may be easy to get into the school at 9. For some kids it may be their first year. Sometimes Summer programs accept young kids who are really advanced because they’ve been doing crazy hours even though that isn’t what the year-round School advocates. At 9 I wouldn’t put a lot of stock into whether or not a kid is accepted into a summer program. At our school we had parents get upset when their 12 year olds didn’t get into the summer program even though they had only been at the studio for a year and a half. If a student makes it into a competitive pre-professional level and still isn’t getting accepted into the summer program then I might get concerned.  

Judging whether a child is losing skills is also tough. Doing less pirouettes may mean doing cleaner pirouettes. Not raising a leg as high may mean raising a leg with better alignment. It’s a tough call. I think if a child is learning and growing and happy, at a school that is capable of producing professional dancers, then that’s what matters. 

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Well, my daughter is one of the younger kids, hence my concern for that age group. Sorry if I wasn’t clear about that. It isn’t easy to get into this 3-letter school by audition no matter how young. There were only about 3 spots open for joining the first level of the year-round program this year. As for the summer program, Dd didn’t audition, but her peers did and didn’t get in. Many of them have been at the school for 3+ years. But like you said, they are still young so time will tell. Dd was growing, learning, and happy at the previous school (with multi-genres), and sometimes I regret pulling her out because they too were capable of producing professional dancers for their company. However, her focus was ballet and the current school also has a better schedule for our commute. Dd is still young and adaptable, so she loves the current school as well. I’m just concerned about her growth here. Thanks for the insight regarding cleaner technique. I hadn’t looked at it that way, and truly hope that’s what’s happening.  

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I think most of us are in the same boat at one time or another—wondering if we’re in the right place and doing the right thing. My daughter is thriving right now, but not everyone in her school is as happy as we are. Does the method of training fit some kids better than others? Would some kids progress more quickly regardless of training style? Do kids have periods of growth followed by a plateau? It’s so hard to know. I have to remind myself that my daughter is only in middle school. She has time. As long as she is learning and progressing and being challenged (and staying healthy) she is happy. (We’ve known a few kids who did really intense training when they were young and most ended up sidelined by injuries for a while by the time they were 12). 

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I don't think there are many (or any) schools out there that are truly the best at teaching all levels of dancer, the time and attention that a young dancer needs often can't be given in schools where that time and attention is focused on kids who are almost company ready.  It's also a statistics game, the chances that the six year old who starts class at fancyballetschool actually being one of the few in the country that will have the innate talent and drive to be on the top are small.  Good teachers can mold students but no teacher can create a masterpiece from every student or even most students.

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8 hours ago, meatball77 said:

  Good teachers can mold students but no teacher can create a masterpiece from every student or even most students.

meatball77, I think this is very astitute and well-stated. :clapping:

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Dancemum,   I wouldn't worry about if the school is affiliated with a company or not , if you look at the bio's of company dancers for any given company, they come from everywhere, not just company affiliated  schools and if you look closely , you will see the number of dancers that go directly into the companies is very small.   Go where the training will be best for your child , which can take some time and switching of schools to figure out.  and i love what meatball77 said !!!

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AB’sMom, thanks for raising those questions. It is really something to think about. 

Meatball77, I also love and agree with that last quote!

ballet1310, I’m not too concerned with company-affiliated schools, however that was my way of saying I know they produce company-ready dancers, as many from the company came from the school. I agree that this is a trial and error process. I would like to find a home school that Dd can grow with. If we do make any changes, I would like for them to take place while she’s still young so she can once again have that experience of really growing with a school. We shall see.

thanks everyone for your advice and insight! 



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23 minutes ago, DanceMumNYC said:

would like to find a home school that Dd can grow with. If we do make any changes, I would like for them to take place while she’s still young so she can once again have that experience of really growing with a school

I had hoped for the same- twice in fact! But the truth is that dd's needs and goals changed and grew with her and the schools changed to some degree... or perhaps it was that we changed as dd got older and were able to see certain things more clearly. I don't know. I do know that as I got older and maybe a little wiser, my opinion on finding a ballet school that dd could grow with throughout her years at home changed. I now realize that there's a right place for the right time in their development as a dancer. 

I think what you are doing now is wise, keeping your eyes and ears open and staying open to change if needed to find a place that will be a good fit for her as a "second home" over the years. 

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I probably dont have alot to offer to the main question being posed (DS was never with a company affiliated studio in his younger years) but I would like to comment on the idea of 'growing with a school'. DS (now 18) has had varied experiences with studios over 8 years- he attended 5 before starting in a full time program this year (company affiliated). He had the good, the bad, the great and the ugly. I don't think that staying even at the 'best' would have worked for him. His needs changed and the studio knew that. We continue to have an excellent relationship with them (not so much with the others for various reasons other than us). My experience is that seeking to stay with a studio for the duration is highly unlikely to work or even be a good idea. I think that this sets up a difficult situation- feeling that you have failed to achieve an illusion. I can pretty much guarantee that putting much weight on that idea will complicate decision making in the future. It is definitely hard to leave most schools due to relationships and expectations -  dont make it harder.

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Thank you, Melissa and Thyme.

I guess it’s a nice thought to have right now, but Dd has already shown me that her needs change as the years go by. It definitely is hard leaving studios after having spent several years there, but we must always do what’s best for our kids, even if that means changing their environment from time to time!  

Thanks for the advice. 

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At the same time....

Just be careful about "studio hopping" (not that you are, DanceMumNYC). 

From a parent perspective only (not a dance teacher or any experience in dance profession), the training of a dancer takes a long, long time.... a decade at a minimum.  And I know there were times I was extremely unhappy and worried about my DD's progress at her school (heck, I came on this board and questioned our choices at least twice that I remember).  Looking back on that time with a calmer perspective, the time period of 11-14 yo is a really tough age for dancers.  Growth spurts do weird things to their bodies and brains, and add a whole new variable into the mix of "is this school a good fit." 

During the 11-14 years of age, we did things for her training that her studio did not agree with, but which I felt necessary for her growth (mentally, physically and ballet-ically).  But I also understand that a dance teacher and the student could be frustrated with constantly having to "start over" or "reinforce" the training they need.  The time it takes for the fundamentals to sink in is enormous and spans over a long period of time (i.e. this YEAR they focus on turn-out; this YEAR they focus on alignment), and changing schools/training could set that learning back.  I'm not saying all that learning isn't occurring all the time, it is.  But I think focus and emphasis can change from school to school and from year to year.  And I'm not saying the child can't "catch up" -- they can.  I'm also NOT saying change is bad.  It's not. 

It's just a very, very complicated analysis that should be done carefully and with a great deal of thought and attention, which it sounds as if you are putting in DanceMumNYC.  And I would be doubly careful of change during the 11-14 year old mark.  You know your child best, but the professionals know the dance education best.  You have to find a balance between the two, and that is tricky. 



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Here here Eligus. Inspite of my previous post, I agree with the difficulty associated with changing studios. I hope I didn't sound like a 'studio hopper'. At least one of our changes was due to moving house. As you say, it is often a difficult and often emotional decision.

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Oh, Thyme, I did not mean to imply at all that you were a "studio hopper."  From what I know on this board from your posts, you sound very careful, deliberate, and caring; as do most of the parents who find this Board and ask these types of questions.

I just felt an obligation to make sure the gravity of the decision to change studios was emphasized. 

I remember -- very clearly -- my frustration and desire to leave my DD's studio. But I am grateful to some of the advice I received here (and through family members) that advised me to step back, breathe, and make sure that "change" is a measured, careful decision.  Sometimes, the emotions can be strong and overwhelming, and I deeply believe that the decision to change training should be carefully considered.  That careful consideration can be difficult to achieve when emotions (and fear and worry) are running high.  A parent's perspective, while valuable, is only one perspective.  Looking back, I realize now that I did not understand a lot of the training decisions that were made with regard to my DD.  That is NOT to say that I now -- suddenly -- agree with all of them (or what I understand of them now).  But I will say that I am very glad that before I made decisions, I came here, vented my anger and frustration, received some measured advice and empathy, and went back and re-looked at the situation several times. 

That is all I wanted to caution... not to let frustration, anger, fear or worry "push" the decision-making.  After all, some of those emotions don't disappear at the next studio... they follow you around until you realize it may not be the "studio" that you are grappling with... it might be fear, worry, frustration and anger with the "unknowns" of the ballet world (and even society and teen development) in general.  My heart goes out to any parent navigating this journey.  I am grateful that I feel as if I am through the worst of it (for me personally) and now the majority of that pressure rests with my DD as she embarks on her career decisions.


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Victoria Leigh

Thank you, Eligus. That was such well stated and valuable advice. :clapping:

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