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Ballet Talk for Dancers

In need of some cheering up

jane s

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Just when I was starting to feel better about myself...... this happens:


The principal of my school took me aside after class yesterday & said she was concerned that I wasn't getting "value for money" - whatever that means. She went on to say that basically I was now past the stage where I could be considered for doing exams (in anything - ballet, tap or modern) and that while I was welcome to carry on attending the classes if I still wanted to, I must understand that it would not be with the object of doing exams.


I tried to tell her that I would accept whatever decision was made, but that I just wanted to know in what aspect(s) I was not "good enough". I asked this so that I could know what aspects of my dancing I needed to work on, not because I wanted to start an argument, but she wouldn't even let me get a word in and started on about how under no circumstances was I to start asking "why this, why that" and that she would not have me "bullying" the teachers about it. ???!!!! I wasn't aware I was doing anything of the kind - I had asked my modern teacher whether she thought there was any possibility of my doing the exam or not (a) so I knew whether I needed to buy a new leotard and (b so I wouldn't get my hopes up and then be let down - if the answer was likely to be "no" I wanted to know now, whereas if it was "maybe", I wanted to know what were my dodgy areas to be worked on. At no point did I say anything that could be interpreted as aggressive or bullying - I just asked a question!


In fact, far from badgering teachers to be allowed to do the exam, last time it was ME who said I didn't think I was ready!


Anyway, the principal then said that after the show was over she would be happy for me to go into her ballet class & she could definitely help me with my ballet technique, since that was what I'd said I wanted.


I again tried to explain to her that one of the reasons for wanting to doing exams was for the purposes of feedback, so could she at least give me some of that, and she said that my strong point was remembering the steps. Really - my ONLY one? Was there truly nothing else at all nice she could find to say about my dancing? Even my ballet teacher said my batterie was good the other day!


I guess she just thinks I am seriously deluded and that I still think of myself as 14 instead of 41 (OK, maybe she has a point - but I'd say I feel 24, not 14 :thumbsup: )


So - the reality is that I am too old, inflexible, overweight, and seriously in need of a breast reduction (no, she didn't say the last two things, but she didn't have to) but now I just feel like everyone thinks I'm a freak as well. They probably either see me as a bit of a joke or feel sorry for me.


Of course, I always have the option of quitting the syllabus classes and moving to the adult classes for jazz & tap, but it'd seem pretty tame after what I have been doing. And there is no adult ballet class, otherwise I'd have been in it already.


I suppose I am lucky to have been allowed to get as far as I have - my previous teacher had written me off way before this, and I've proved her wrong - but I don't feel ready to be put out to pasture just yet. I was planning on keeping going 'til I was 45, anyway. Or until I hit the m-word, whichever came first. Now I just don't know.


Sorry, I know this post hasn't been wholly ballet-related (although since she was talking about all of my classes including ballet, it's not off-topic) but I just needed to tell this to people who would understand.



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Not an adult ballet student here, but I have taken quite a few adult classes in my life and I have also taught them with great interest. If my post in inappropriate, just let me know. :thumbsup:


So sorry to hear of your troubles with taking exam classes. It is disappointing to hear that a goal you had set for yourself is still in front of you, but you cannot attain it due to things beyond your control. Could there be a limitation from the examining body? Or is this a decision made by your school? Perhaps you could appeal to the economic side of it all. There may be plenty of adult ballet students who would like to take exams but are unaware of that may be an option. Perhaps you could recommend adult exams, separately from the younger students?


I remember teaching a group of adults, when after having studied ballet for 4 or 5 years on a daily basis, the adults wanted to move on to pointe. At first the administration of the school thought I was nuts to even think of offering such a class but when I came up with a committed list of 10 students, they quickly added the class. It was a great experience for me, as a "new" teacher and the adults were so excited to continue developing in ballet. Try to be proactive rather than thinking that no means no! No just might mean maybe. You may have to take a leave of the pursuit for a few months until a plan can be developed but the study of ballet can indeed be a life long pursuit. Ballet students come in all ages, shapes and sizes. You just need to find the right situation for you. Maybe this is not the best one for you! :shrug: Be proud of all that you have accomplished in ballet. Your courage to push onward is commendable. :thumbsup:

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Hi Vrsfanatic,


Not inappropriate at all, & thanks for posting.


As far as the examining body goes, there are no actual rules against adults taking exams, in fact they specifically say there is "no upper age limit" for the levels I am in.


What they do say for ballet (though not for modern or tap) is that adults may not enter in the same group as children, which in effect means that since I am the only adult, I would have to go in on my own, & the school will not allow me to do that.


But the real issue, the way she explained it, is that in the marking criteria they do not make any allowances for age, so that if I did the exams I would have to be every bit as technically good & flexible as the 12-15 -year-olds in my classes, which patently obviously I am not. And as the grades go up, technical proficiency etc counts for more marks, as well as the work being much harder.


She says I have now reached my natural limits due to the physical constraints of my body (having been an adult near-beginner in my twenties).


I am NOT disagreeing with her opinion - on the contrary, I'm sure she knows exactly what she is talking about - I suppose I just want to be able to make the distinction between those things I can still improve upon and those which I will simply never be able to do. That is what I mean by "feedback".


If our studios only had mirrors, I probably wouldn't need to be asking, as I would be able to see things for myself, but one doesn't have them at all and we only use them in the other for particular exercises.


The thing I am the most upset about is the way that she seemed to expect me to react like a 5-year-old having a tantrum instead of being able to discuss things in a mature and sensible manner.


It is true that my natural reaction on being told I will never be able to do something is to try harder, rather than give up, but I would rather direct my energies at the things I can change rather than those I can't. And I need the teachers' input to be able to make that distinction. How is that "bullying" them? I really don't get it.....

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Jane, group hug. now.


Honestly, this school has not been treating you well for so long, and everytime you post I'm almost scared to read because they seem to be so... well, not nice. There are many many women older than yourself who have done ballet exams, etc... and been successful.


What you need, really, is a good school with teacher that care about TEACHING, not about exams alone. A school that won't just move you into a class because it's convenient, but rather because it's a class that's appropriate for your level, and works on things that you need to focus on. A teacher that actually understands the importance of comment, feedback, and corrections.


I say this having knowledge of all you've been through with this school... I know how hard it is to find a dance school, let alone a GOOD dance school, in many parts of the UK. But the truth is, we all are deserving of one, regardless of our levels, the age we started at, the age we are now, etc.


I feel like staging a revolution right now, running around with a flag demanding our 'rights' as dancers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Now, if we could only get that, as well as some good dancewear/shoe suppliers and fitters..........



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Thanks Ami!


The chance of doing the modern & tap exams was what was making me stay where I am, so now that has been taken away from me, I suppose there is really nothing to keep me there any more......


If only I could find what I am looking for! Honestly, I have researched all the other schools in my area as you know, and the classes are either too advanced, at the wrong time or too short!


For instance - one local school (with a good reputation) is advertising on its website a Grade 6 RAD class lasting half an hour - seriously!!! And no, it's not a misprint in the timings - it actually says (30 mins) after the class name. 40-45 minutes seems to be the most common length.


At least my current classes are for an hour - the easier levels are much better for me and I was actually enjoying them until now.


I suppose I shall go tomorrow in the absence of an alternative - I am not going to let her see I am upset (unless of course she is reading this, in which case hopefully she will be able to understand better where I am coming from! :-) I have always been better at expressing myself in writing than face to face.)


I wish I could get to the RAD - their classes sound really good. If only the new Silverlink station at Shepherds' Bush would open, I would be able to get there on a Thursday - does anyone in London know when this is likely to be?


Also, I am trying to change my day job to one nearer to where I live, which would then give me better options as I would be able to get to earlier classes. I'll let you know if that happens - I am applying for one at the moment.

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I don't believe in such as thing as a "natural limit" in dance. Dance can develop for a lifetime. Flexibility isn't everything either. But it's true, if you want to know where you stand, you have to be judged by the same standards as everyone else.


Figure Skating has gone to a lot of effort to define what is and is not expected for adult exams vs. child exams. Look at the USFSA website if you're curious.

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How far are you from London? There are adult beginners classes at a variety of times/locations, thus it might be worth traveling to London once a week for a proper class rather than having a 30 min class (ouch, I have never seen an advertising for a 30 min class - sounds scary).

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Is it possible that the 30 minute class is for syllabus-only work? I'm unfamiliar with classes in the UK, but was trained in the RAD system for a couple of years as a teen. We'd do 30 minute classes AFTER a regular technique class specifically to drill for the exam. I also remember training without mirrors in these exam-prep classes. Our regular free format classes were always 1 1/2 hours in front of a mirror.


I get the impression that a lot of UK schools teach ONLY for the exam, and not treat the exam as work IN CONJUCTION WITH regular class work. This is unfortunate.


I believe that an adult can indeed progress physically. Sure...the body stiffens up and becomes trickier to work with perhaps...but a good teacher who takes adults seriously and is willing to help, and a good open-minded work ethic on the part of the student can work wonders.


Even a young teenager with all the talent in the world will not progress much in a half-hour format if that's all they're getting. Don't beat yourself up over it....


As an aside...As adults, i think we're used to approaching problems by obtaining feedback (as in a job review), and trying to logically apply that feedback to what we're doing. Ballet training can sometimes be like this, but is often MUCH more vague. Sometimes, getting ALL the details is confusing and can cause a dancer to stiffen up and become afraid to move. I know this has happened to me as an analytical adult studying ballet. Knowledge about one's work is good, but it often needs to be doled out in a logical sequence....ie...one can't work on B and C until A is under control. A good teacher will know just how much feedback to give at what point in the development of a dancer. I prefer to think in much more simple terms about my work now, and I think it's helped me progress faster than knowing every minute detail of what I'm doing.


Sorry if this makes no sense :(


Good luck!

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jane - great sympathy to you.But I wonder why you feel the need to do exams at all? you say they're a way of geting feedback, but you also say your teacher complimented you on your batterie (something I can safely say will never be said to me!)


But I do think that one of things that we need to get used to as adult recreational-but-serious dancers is that we don't necessarily have that formal framework of exams to demonstrate what we know or can do. We do it for our own enjoyment and satisfaction. We should (in an ideal world that doesn't really exist!!!) not need other people's validation.


So is it possible for you to think what you say above


"The chance of doing the modern & tap exams was what was making me stay where I am, so now that has been taken away from me, I suppose there is really nothing to keep me there any more......"


that comment that you feel something's been "taken away" from you really concerns me. Dance because you want to!!!

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I was just wondering (if I have understood all the ins and outs of this thread) whether the principal's logic might be the following: there is a group of (presumably) girls who are working together towards an exam. It is upon the success of these students that their possible careers in dance rests, and the school's reputation also rests. They have a relatively uniform standard and the teacher can target her teaching accurately for the needs of this group. In this way, she will be able to give them the best directed teaching which is finely tuned towards this goal and to their abilities. But then there is one very different student in the class, who she also has to help prepare for the exam. This will dilute the teachers' attention, require exercises to be run at two levels, etc. However, it is just not possible to ignore one student, and pretend that she is not there - a teacher cant help taking everybody into account. Maybe the principal feels that it would be better not having a spread of ability in the class. After all, as has been pointed out many times, ballet is not a democracy, is not fair, etc. Just wondering.



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Jane, I was just looking at the title of this thread again, and wanted to say:


You're never too old!!!! :P


I wanted to shout that really, but that would be rude.


I dance (when I don't have this @^%& broken arm) in one quite advanced class where I'm the youngest of the regulars, and I'm 48.

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Oh, you don't need to shout; here, let me do it:




(brash Colonials!) :)

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Hello Jane,


Not a lot of advice here, but--


I'm a mid-40's dancer...came back to it along with my dds in my earlier 40's...


I saw the title of your post and wanted to say, "Too old for what?" So I guess I just wanted to cheer you up about that...You're not too old to dance, or to make progress in your dancing, or to find joy in it.


I don't know how to advise you about your school or finding another, but I'm sending best wishes your way.


Desert Lily

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Thanks for all the replies (this is the first time I have been online since Friday).


Feeling a little better now since the principal hasn't been there for this weekend 's classes (v unusual for her - she usually watches them all!) and I could focus on what I was doing instead of what she was thinking. The ballet class was good and I was able to work on my glissades - we even used the mirrors so I could see what I was doing, & the teacher said "good" again because I was doing all the plies in the right places.


Lampwick, you are spot on with your last paragraph - you have neatly explained why I needed to go down to an easier ballet class. In the Advanced we were being told to work on D & E, let alone A, B & C, which is why I was losing what technique I had.


The 30-min class on that website did not appear to directly follow another ballet class. And yes, an awful lot of UK schools do seem to just teach to the syllabus, apart from when they are rehearsing for shows, in which case everything else usually goes right out the window altogether.


Redbookish, you asked why I care about exams. The reason is that the exam is the yardstick telling me whether I have mastered the work or not. Either I am good enough to pass the exam or I am not. One or other of those statements must be true. If I am good enough, there is no valid reason why I shouldn't have my piece of paper to prove it. And if I am not, then I have not yet mastered the work and am not ready to move up a grade. And my being an adult or not shouldn't make any difference to that.


So now that I have been told I am not good enough, all I want to know is which of the criteria I would be likely to fail in, if I did take it. And I can't understand what is wrong with asking that.


Incidentally, following the above logic, I should still be in Grade 2 in ballet (adults aren't allowed to take Grade 1) although I am pretty sure I would pass if I took that exam now, I just don't have the option to do so.


Jim, in ballet, what you say may be very valid (certainly it was absolutely true in the advanced class I used to be in). It may also be true in Modern, but in Tap there are two late starters in the class who have not done any exams, and if anyone needs to be treated differently it is them. However, that teacher does not discriminate between exam candidates and others, she "teaches" everybody. In ballet, the exam candidates get most of the attention. That is another valid reason for wanting to do an exam - if I said "I'm going to do the exam & I'm paying you to make sure I pass it" I would have to get attention, wouldn't I?!


And only a very few of the students are ever likely to have a career in dance - but as for the school's reputation, there you have it! Our school is one of the ones that boasts "100% pass rates" and so you see there is absolutely no way they would risk entering anyone who had even a 1% chance of failing!


In fact, the exam pass mark is 40% but in ballet they never enter anyone who gets less than about 55%. Which surely means that all the kids falling into the probable 40-55% bracket are also denied the opportunity to take the exam. (In fact she did hint that I was not the only person she would be giving "the talk" to. I am wondering if one of the others may have given her a hard time, or one of the parents, and that may have been why she was short with me? I know if I was a parent I would fight far harder for my kid than I would for myself!)



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Hi: I have read all these posts and it just hurts my heart that you had to go through "the talk" at all. I don't trust this Principal at all to know what she is talking about based upon this report. I suspect she has not passed 40 and discovered she can still walk and chew gum at the same time yet either.

I am about to be 46, suffer from all sorts of ailments, and lack of physical facility that suggest to some less determined sorts that I have no business in class at all, and I just got my first bit of real encouragement after a year and a half back in class, in the form of one of my teachers telling me she could see me advancing.

"They say it couldn't be done" Ha!

One more 10 class card please....

I may not be at your level by a long shot, Batterie...hahahaha... not this year, but this business about physical limitations is something no one can say for sure. Don't let it stop you whether you change studios or not.

I am expecting snow to hinder or cancel my class tonight so before it hits I am off to the warm water pool at the "Y" to do my own private class, just in clase.



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