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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Can you please evaluate this schedule?


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Thank you so much for responding Ms. Leigh! There aren't any classes offered on Fridays - just rehearsal. The dancers are expected to warm up on their own. I see what you are saying about not adding the extra ballet class on Monday because of rehearsal, but should we add another ballet class on another day? I have explored other ballet classes in our area and the norm around here is 1.5 hr. technique and .5 hr. pointe. I feel confident that her training is good. At the Summer Intensives she has attended, the teachers often comment on how strong her technique is and compliment her training. My dd has been comparing notes with dancers from other parts of the country while at her SI and she says that at age 14, they are adding more hours of ballet per week than she is scheduled for this year. She is coming home very motivated and wants to continue building on all that she has accomplished this summer. Thank you again for your time!

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Victoria Leigh

It's really not a matter of the hours as much as it is the quality of her classes. If you know the school and the teachers are good, then trust them in the scheduling for her. I'm really not in favor of back to back technique classes on any day, and feel that one quality class, done at full effort and good focus, is better than two on the same day for a child who is going to school. If she were home schooled, and had one in the a.m. and another in the late afternoon or evening, that would be different.

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Ms. Leigh, I am curious what you think a reasonable schedule is for someone like my DD--who does not want to be a dancer, but rather a dance teacher. Right now, she has three ballet classes a week. They are each 1.5 hours long. The first half of the class (roughly, I honestly don't pay that much attention) is soft shoe. They have barre, center work, etc. I trust her teacher and her training. She has a dance education degree and an MFA. She is very careful about when kids should start, be on pointe, etc. She also has another ballet teacher who is classically trained. Reading on this board has me convinced that this woman is an absolute blessing in such a small town!


Since we live in a very small town (less than 3,000 people) and would have to drive an hour to get to a "proper" ballet school, this is our best option. Of course, if my daughter were more serious about a future career in ballet, I would make the drive and committment.


My DD also takes 1.5 hours of jazz each week and has additional rehearsal time on Sundays. She has attended three different SIs, and while she was not always placed with her same aged peers for classes, she was never told she was unprepared, nor did she feel as though she didn't know what she was doing. She was embarrassed at her first, but....


We have discussed picking up another ballet class at a local college, but I am not sure the drive is worth it.



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Victoria Leigh

big64day, yes, very definite opinions. :yes:


First one becomes a dancer before one even thinks about becoming a teacher. It's quite wonderful to desire to teach, and certainly not all good dancers make good teachers. However, without the same quantity and quality of training that it takes to produce a professional dancer, there is no way you will have a professional teacher. A less well trained dancer, or one with little to no performing experience, will be very limited as a teacher. Pieces of paper do not a dancer or a teacher make. Studying teaching is very important, of course, but without being able to do it, and do it well, I don't think that there is great potential for quality teaching.


Needless to say, there are exceptions to everything, but I really feel strongly that one does not become a teacher by deciding not to dance, but 'just' be a teacher. Nope, sorry, that does not work for me at all.

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Needless to say, there are exceptions to everything, but I really feel strongly that one does not become a teacher by deciding not to dance, but 'just' be a teacher. Nope, sorry, that does not work for me at all.


Maybe what I am saying about not being a dancer isn't what I really mean. She does not have any desire to dance in a company professionally.


She understands that she will need to study for many years, and needs to get the best training possible. She intends to find a good college program that gives teaching certificates for dance (Hope College, Kent State, Columbia College, etc.). She does not want to be a dance major without the other component.


When she has attended her SIs, she has felt adequately prepared, and seems to be getting quality ballet training. I do have concerns, however, that because her school is small, and there are very few ballet students at her level (10 dancers), is she receiving enough class time. Is it enough to have three quality ballet classes at 1.5 hours per week to pursue her ambitions?

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Victoria Leigh

Simple answer...No, it is not enough. Not nearly enough.

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Well, she is adding a modern class this fall. Would picking up two ballet classes at another school be sufficient then?


She is 15. As I said, I do believe that her teacher is well-qualified. She makes no pretense about training students for professional companies, and has sent dancers with those ambitions on to other schools. I don't feel it would be necessary to pull my daugher completely from this school. One teacher has recommended adding the classes at a college that is not too far away. She takes the classes, and took my daughter to see their company perform. The instructor extended an invitation to my daughter to "drop in" to her classes.


My DD's teacher explained that dropping in meant that she could take the class, but would not be a student of the school so to speak. I took that to mean that she would not be invited to audtion for their performances, etc.


Adding these classes would give her five ballet classes--three at 1.5 hours and two at 2 hours, one modern (1 hour--I think) and one jazz at 1.5 hours per week.


I am just wanting to do what is best for her. To be honest, I thought she was on a fine track until I started reading things here. Then I began to wonder if there is enough time in class. :yes:

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Unless your daughter just wants to dance for recreation's sake, and NOT teach, the schedule you are describing would be fine if she is happy with it. I'm sure the teacher's are good, but one needs the proper quantity along with the quality.


Now, if she only desires to teach Creative Movement to 4 and 5 yr. olds, she needs a college degree in Chidhood development, or dance education with a focus on youngsters, or some equivalent.


If she wishes to teach children older than that, she needs to be in a pro-track program where she is taking a 1.5 hour ballet technique class every day for 6 days a week, pointe classes at least 3 days after the technique classes, Rep and Variations, and one other supplementary class (Modern or Jazz), as well as rehearsals.


That's just the way it is...


So bottom line is that just picking up 2 extra classes without the pro-track focus will still not be enough. Perhaps she wants to re-think her career goals. There are many other ways to be involved in ballet without having to endure the demands of the pro-track schedule.

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I think my daughter wants to teach children to dance for recreational sake--to love the art form and receive some basic, but quality training. She intends to get an additional endorsement to teach either early childhood or special education.


One particular area of interest for her is providing ballet classes for special needs children. She had an encounter with a 13 year old girl who has Down's Syndrome who had to quit, because she "couldn't keep up."


I am feeling a bit embarrassed. :dry: Maybe she is going to have to rethink her ambitions and plans. I don't mean to seem so niave. We have known for some time that she could never go off and audition for a major company, and am disheartened to hear this. :yes:

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Victoria Leigh

big64day, please don't be disheartened. You have to realize that this whole board is about professional level ballet. The teacher/moderators, including me, are professionals, and the standards we set for things are very high. We have all seen the results of students who have had less than professional quality training, and it can be very sad indeed. If they decide to go for it seriously, and they have had years of recreational training, when they go to a "real" ballet school they are so far behind that it is very discouraging. It becomes a huge uphill battle to get to a decent level for their age. The early training is SO critical!


I'm sure your daughter wants to learn to become a very good teacher, and probably most of the teachers around the country feel the same way. But, if they have not had professional level training, they are very limited in what they can do. If they know that, and send them on, fine. But many don't know it, and don't send them on when they are talented and serious.


There are no laws governing teachers of ballet in this country. It is a huge problem, and one with no real solution in sight. But anyone with the money can find a space and open a studio. And way too many parents have no knowledge and send their kids to the closest place.


My suggestion, if your daughter really does not want to go the professional track route, would be for her to specialize in creative movement and pre-ballet, which is an art all in itself. Many, many very fine ballet teachers cannot do this kind of thing at all. It takes a special kind of person to handle 3,4,5 year olds and create classes that are both valid and fun for them. It is also a very good job opportunity, as these teachers are rare! :P

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Mel Johnson

Since your daughter has identified an interest in special needs children, then this could be the gateway to an actual career in Dance Therapy. This is not physical therapy for dancers, but an actual mental/intellectual health discipline in medicine. Down's Syndrome clients are often helped by working with a therapist who has a thorough understanding of both dance and the medical aspects of their personal makeup. Long time in school, but a very well-paying job, once you start to work.

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I'm sorry, big64day- I really didn't mean to sound so gruff. I should have explained things better and I apologize for upsetting you if I did. But I agree with Miss Leigh very strongly, and I suppose I allowed my passion to get the best of me.


I also think that there is a niche for dance teachers of special ed students, and as Miss Leigh explained, there is a real need for talented creative movement instructors.


I freely admit that I cannot teach those baby levels....it makes me feel a bit like Carabosse!!! :o:P

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Big 64 day, I can understand your situation as being a parent. I recently moved my daughter to a new studio because I did not feel she was getting the best training. The "new" studio is about 15 miles further from my house than the old studion; however, I believe that in the long run my daughter will benefit from it. The bottom line is that your daughter needs to do some soul searching and find her true passion. As a parent and former dancer, I would want my child taking dance from a professionally trained teacher with credentials. Not somone who is teaching dance that has no foundation. If your daughter wants to teach professionally, more often than not, she will have to dance professionally (even with a small company) to be hired by a reputable ballet company. As Mr. Johnson said, she could do dance therapy for Downs Syndrome children. This could be her outlet. Tell her to not limit herself to a specific area because she may change her mind in the future and her career ambitions take her down another path. This happened to myself in my career as well. If she loves dance tell her to work hard at it. She could always go to a college and double major or minor in dance. Her possiblities are endless! You may need to drive to a bigger school if she is serious about her career ambitions to make sure that all of her needs are being met. This is why my DD changed schools this year. I saw a big difference already with her taking SI at her "new" studio. Good luck!

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This may sound blunt (and most of my posts are :o ) but say you have a child who has a particular interest in Math. They really love Math... so you go and seek a teacher who will take them to the next level and their qualifications are... "well - I just loved Math so much in high school so, I took a lot of Math cuz I wanted to teach it." Yup - you want to send your child to that teacher...


Now - It's true that many many dancers who have had successful careers in dance are NOT good teachers, but I don't think you are going to find a good ballet teacher who hasn't had a career in dance first. It's noble to want to teach what you love - but, you are doing your students a terrible disservice if you ONLY take them as far as you can - admit that you have limitations and then send them off to be finished by someone else and then, THAT teacher must FIRST fix all the bad habits YOU taught because you didn't know any better. Or better yet - my personal pet peeve - the teacher who will NEVER admit their limitations - who encourage their students - tell them they will have professional careers - only for them to find that they are not equiped with the technical skills to succeed in the dance world. How sad.


I work for a ballet company with a associated school. Every day we see students wanting to switch to our studio - dancers who were the "top dog" at their studios - only to then be completely taken aback and demoralized when they find they won't even make it into a class where there are dancers much better than them who are years younger.


If your daughter has a career as a dance teacher in mind - please, please, get her the best training possible - as if her idea was to be a professional. The special ed component may be what sets her apart in the future and just may allow her to create her own special niche in the dance marketplace.


Sadly, there are many many dance teachers out there that have no business teaching, yet, they are convinced they are good at it and they convince their students and their parents as well. You and your daughter do not sound like the type of people who would be happy with duping your future students. If you were that type of person, you wouldn't be spending so much time reading this board and taking the advice seriously. I applaud you for taking the time to do some research and helping your dancing daughter seek her path in life. Good luck to the both of you.

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Dissenting opinion here (you expected something else from me? :o ).


Yes, prospective ballet teachers should have the best training available to them, and yes, they should attain a high level of proficiency themselves. However ... I completely disagree that a professional career -- or attainment of that level of dancing -- is absolutely necessary to teach. Yes, it would be necessary in a pre-pro school. What about in the huge array of quality neighborhood studios, whose students never aspire beyond a recreational level?


What a teacher needs to be able to do is to discern the correct technique in others and understand how to convey that information to his/her students. A teacher also needs to know how to:


-- motivate students

-- maintain discipline

-- keep the class on track and flowing at an appropriate pace

-- identify and teach to a variety of individual strengths and weaknesses

-- instill a love of dance and appropriate musicality and flow

-- recognize talent and ambition that is beyond his or her capability to nurture, and encourage those students to move to a more appropriate setting


What you are suggesting is akin to demanding that research scientists teach every elementary school class. Not only is that not necessary, it's not even necessarily good educational practice. Research scientists have no expertise or familiarity with pedagogy or child development. (And let me tell you, I know whereof I speak. I have a PhD in Biology with an extremely prestigious academic pedigree. My experience provides good background for teaching the 10-year-olds, but it's not necessary. I could have done what I do almost as well straight out of college. What I have had to learn on the fly is all the pedagogy. I wish I had been better prepared that way when I started.)


This board focuses on a particular population: elite dancers. That's a tiny, tiny fraction of the dancing population! Everyone agrees there's a huge need for quality teaching at all levels. I hate to see us discouraging big64day and her daughter when we don't know anything at all about the daughter's ability, talents, or skills.

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