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Ballet Talk for Dancers

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


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Mamaya1875, that was a rude awakening to us too. Since a major company has an affiliated school, you think that’s the place to go. But then you get there & learn that most of the older kids come from elsewhere. They claim most of the company trained at the school, when this can mean they only did 1 mandatory year before getting into the studio company. Sometimes I want to ask the older dancers where they came from & put my dd there instead!:lol:

In your case, it’s important to remember that your daughter was doing so well at her other school. Perhaps they taught her all they could & it was time to move on. Moving on to this big-name school can mean that there is more competition. Your dd may be used to being the best or one of the best, but at a competitive school this is no longer the case. I think that can be a good thing because it gives your dd something to work towards. As long as her self-esteem isn’t bothered by this sudden change and she sees the bigger picture. She is still as good as she was at the other school, only now she’s being challenged more. 

If she’s happy and she’s learning/progressing, then I think the biggest mistake would be to go back to the old school. This more-competitive School has already invited her back so they obviously see some potential. Don’t worry about anyone else’s level or Nutcracker placement. Your dd has her own unique journey.

Even if dancers from this school don’t get into the affiliated company, are they hired elsewhere? As long as the school is producing working dancers with clean technique, I’d say give it some more time. It’s great you can meet with staff, even if it’s only for 10 minutes. Definitely bring up your concerns & listen to their feedback before making any decisions.

Personally, I kept my dd in the questionable big-name school even though the learning seems slower than her old school. I learned that they’re “slower” because they’re working on clean technique & taking a safe approach rather than putting a dance en pointe too early for example. If things don’t work out, there is another big-name school that is our back-up plan.

All the best! 

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Mamaya1875 -- 

I'll share that 13 was THE toughest age for my DD.  I am not sure if that's just coincidence or not, but it was -- hands down -- the WORST age for her.  She felt so defeated all year and it took two years for her to feel like she was back where she wanted to be, technique-wise.  So... hugs to you. 

As you think and analyze your DD's path, try to look with super clear eyes at what your DD needs, not just what XYZ school offers.  In other words, it is tempting to look at the reputation of the school and assume that the training is good (because they produce sought after dancers).  And it may be a fact that the training is good -- for the majority of people.  But what you must still decide is whether that training is working for YOUR DD.  This is -- at a minimum -- a yearly assessment, IMO.  Just as the school takes a yearly assessment of their dancers, so must you take a hard look at the school.  Unless your DD is being offered a scholarship (which comes with its own issues), you are paying for the instruction, and you need to make sure you are investing wisely.  

I am not bashing big, reputable schools, by any means.  They earn those reputations.  But the fit has to work for both the school and your DD.  Even assuming your DD graduates from the school, that graduation does not guarantee a job.  Ultimately, if your DD wants to dance professionally, she will have to figure out the training that she needs to do that.

Unfortunately, I do not have a magic formula for you to determine whether or not the fit is right.  I wish I did.  I would have used it on my own DD.  As it was, we talked to different teachers (outside of the school), I read a lot of posts on here, I talked with my DD about what she thought her weaknesses were and what she thought of the school, and how her weaknesses were or were not being addressed.  All in all, it was a 2-3 year process before DD felt ready to leave, but by then she knew why and what she wanted that was different.  And by "process" I mean it was long, repetitive, cyclical conversations we had at least every year, sometimes several times a year, sometimes several times a month.  I do not miss it.

In the end, the deciding factor for my DD was a connection with a particular teacher (at a different school) -- she wanted to train with that teacher because she felt she understood the corrections she was receiving from that teacher.  After taking just a class or two with this teacher, I saw a difference in her dancing and in her passion.  She was "fired up" and excited about ballet after taking class with this particular teacher.  After more soul searching and discussions, we went with her gut feeling and never looked back. 

That's not particularly scientific.  I'm not even sure I can extrapolate any advice for you from our journey.  I'm happy to say that her choice has worked (so far).  But how much was chance/luck and how much was making the "right" decision?  I couldn't tell you. 

I've thought about erasing this whole post, because it feels incredibly depressing to me.  I certainly have no answers.  I don't feel like I'm offering you anything other than the acknowledgment and recognition that it is a hard, hard decision and I wish you and your DD peace and luck on your journey.


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Thank you for writing Eglius!!!   Any insight is of value to me at this point :)    I can tell you were truly thoughtful through the process and that to me is inspiration enough!   Is your daughter dancing professionally now?   I'm grateful to find out 13 yrs old may be one of those years for us too......    And I do agree about the yearly assessment we as a family have to make.  We have a long road ahead of us!

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My DD is a trainee this year at her absolute top, dream company/school.  It's a thrilling and terrifying time --- for both of us.  So, I can offer hope of surviving the year 13 travails, at least.  But I will warn you that the anxious analysis part of the dance parent brain never really goes away... it just changes as they get older. 

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I think we need to be careful about making judgements regarding why parents may choose to remove their child from a studio and whether or not the decisions other parents make for their children are "good" decisions. What may look like an egocentric decision to an outsider may in fact be something else. I think it is safe to say that all of us are considering what is in the best interest of our child when making these decisions. Generally, the parents are the people best equipped to make these decisions since we likely know our children best and can read them better or intuitively sense when something is amiss and when a change may be necessary to ensure either the physical or mental health of the child.

First and foremost, parents need to consider what is best for their child and I think all or very nearly all of us are making our decisions based on these considerations. After the individual child's needs are considered, parents need to approach their decision making with a business mindset because ballet training is a business. I think most parents also consider the business of ballet taking into account: financial concerns, resources required (time involved),  family sacrifice required, cost benefit analysis, ROI, etc.

I appreciate all of you who so freely share your stories to seek support, provide support, and encourage others and I am not trying to discourage anyone and want to acknowledge the generosity extended in the sharing of those stories. However, I do want to point out that at times this thread comes across as rather privileged. I am not trying to put a pin in the balloon but rather just to check in and provide a reminder that ballet is ballet. Ballet is not life and assuming that people are making decisions to change studios based on ego and without intimate knowledge of their situation might be a little presumptuous. I think that perhaps what can look like a decision driven by ego could be a parent trying to protect their child by removing them from an unhealthy situation. If the decision to leave comes during a time when something about the studio or training is not working (which logically, it most often will) for the child or the parent this could very easily be misread as a parent or child making the change because the child is not "the star" of the studio. After all, being the star of the studio is only that and as we have all seen in our journeys, being a star at one studio or school may have zero impact outside of that studio/school. Each age and stage brings different challenges to navigate and choices to make so I think we should be careful about judging what is good (or not) for others.

Listen to your child (verbally and non-verbally) and trust your instincts. Try NOT to listen to the people who think THEY know what is best for your child/family. In my opinion, the people that are certain that they know what is best for you and your family are precisely the people you shouldn't be listening to.


Edited by 5678...
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On 10/24/2017 at 10:47 PM, meatball77 said:

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. 

I couldn't agree more. If the school isn't working for your child at the age/stage they are at now then it might be time to move on.

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On 10/24/2017 at 9:11 PM, AB'sMom said:

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). 

AB'sMom, Bravo! I couldn't agree more!

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