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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Is This The Right School?


Guest Jeanette

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Guest Jeanette

I searched through the posts but could not locate anything precisely tantamount to my current dilemma. My daughter is almost 12 and has been training in ballet since she was 3-years old. She attends a local school (16 hrs weekly) which I feel is very good for our area and I have the utmost respect for the head mistress however the owner of the school is not local and has very limited involvement with the students but makes many of the operational decisions from long distance.

 

It appears all dancers move up to the next level annually with very few ever left back to repeat a level. No matter how many hours they train outside the required 4 hours, they are moved. I have been told by pre-professional schools that my daughter is very good for her age, beautiful turnout, facility and grace however the majority of the girls in her class have not mastered the same skill set. They seem to place them based on age (they recently placed a new girl in her class that had limited training, I assuming because she was the same age). I’m not sure how a student with 8-years of training (she has danced 6 days a week since she was 8) can possibly be at the same level. I would think this would limit what the teacher can do with such a wide variance of skill levels. There is no defined criterion that must be mastered for each level or parent conferences on progress, etc. I prefer she be more challenged; is it better to be in the bottom of a level vs. the top as she seems to thrive more when challenged? She is attending a SI right now where she is one of the youngest students and has commented on how nice it is to have more experienced role models to watch vs. being the one everyone else watches during class.

 

The contemporary director at her school did move her up a few years back and she excelled in her technique once she was given the opportunity to advance. However I don’t know if ballet is different and should progress more slowly. Also how do you approach the teacher without appearing like one of the Moms that think her child is the best or sounding like your challenging the teacher’s judgment? I guess my initial concern came last summer when she auditioned for an SI along with other girls from our school who were in the level above her. However the pre-professional school placed her a level higher than those same girls from our school.

 

I would appreciate any advice on what I should do? I’m quite fond of the local school and there are of course the friends my daughter has made over the years however I'm not real sure it’s the best fit for her. She is a very serous dancer and I want to ensure she’s getting the best training for her skill level.

 

Thanks,

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  • Administrators

Jeanette, I'm sorry, but this does not sound like the school for a possibly talented and serious classical dancer. I suggest a professional school ASAP. Are you located in a part of VA where you can get to either Richmond or DC?

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Guest Jeanette

Ms. Leigh, Thank you for your prompt response. Yes, closer to DC in fact my son is attending Washington this summer and next fall but he's older and I had thought with my daughter being much younger that I would try and keep her local for the next year or so. Your answer was what I expected I was just hoping that maybe I was just being an overprotective mother. The major challenge is the commute, with traffic it can take up to 2 hours one way. However based on your response and experience I think possibly we may need to reassess the situation as she is very serious about a ballet career if possible.

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  • Administrators

Yes, Jeanette, the sooner the better. Retraining is much more difficult than training, and if the training is not good, then it will take retraining, even in a talented child.

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As I read Jeanette's post, she wasn't complaining about poor training or bad habits. She was asking whether it was a good plan for all students to automatically be moved as a group to the next level. She also asked whether it was better for students to be at the bottom of a challenging level or the top of a non-challenging level.

 

Jeanette also mentioned that students at the school are not put through an exam or other objective criteria for promotion.

 

I'm almost certain from her description of the school that Jeanette's daughter goes to the same school as my child (though my child is younger, and I have no idea who Jeanette really is!). It used to be that students were moved rapidly if they were making rapid progress; however, the promotion system seems to have changed. The ballet training there is very, very good, though, and the teachers are very well-qualified.

 

It seems that all Jeanette can do is try to talk to the school's director. Surely the school wouldn't want to lose a talented student.

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  • Administrators

LittleSugarPlum97, it was more than that, although that was certainly a part of it. What really bothered me about the school was that children in the same class take a wide variety of different hours per week, so there is no way the class can progress as a whole, even if they were all equally talented. Her description of the school does not sound like it is a serious classical ballet school. Jeanette, if I'm wrong, please correct me, but reading what you wrote, this does not sound like the right place to me.

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Guest Jeanette

Thank you both for your comments. Yes I believe the ballet teachers are good and qualified, especially the director however I feel they are limited by the established business aspects of the school. I believe she is receiving quality training but it is limited based on these practices. Since she is very serious about dancing professionally one day this concerns me. As I’m not an expert on ballet training I rely on the opinion of such and in the past two years I have been told by a number of professional schools when she auditioned for their SI programs that she is very capable of much more than what she is being exposed to. I’m not told by her current school (ballet side) if she is good, average, etc. they just don’t communicate that type of thing. They also do not seem receptive to parents questioning the placement levels so I’ve seriously started looking into a different school. I do agree with Ms. Leigh’s comments on the hourly item, which has never made sense to me. If someone is investing and training 15+ hours a week how can they possibly be progressing the same as someone taking 5 hours of dance in the same timeframe? With that being said Washington is difficult to do as her academic school hours run until 4:00 PM, is there anywhere where local ballet schools are rated? What I would like to do is switch her to a more serious ballet program for now and move her to Washington if possible in a year or so. I just don’t know how to select a good local school. I have been to a few recently but was not impressed with the technique I witnessed during an observation.

 

Thanks,

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  • Administrators

Jeanette, check WSB's schedule. Some of the classes start at 4:30, but depending on level, there are classes that do not start until later than that. She would need to do an audition class for acceptance and level placement.

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