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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Can you please evaluate this schedule?


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Mel Johnson

I believe that big64day is not the primary poster addressed by Treefrog, but here's what we have to work with:


The student under discussion does not want an extensive performing career as a dancer.


The student wishes to teach.


Most students, particularly in local schools, are tracking, de facto, recreationally.


In any field of instruction, having the most highly qualified instructor, even at recreational or rudimentary levels, is desirable. A rising tide lifts all boats.


Although we may sound like we're pushing an elitist agenda (and what's wrong with the best, exactly?), both Ms. Leigh and I, and several others, although I won't write for them, as I don't converse with them as often as I do with Ms. Leigh, feel that we could sum up our opinion with an old Army recruiting slogan, "BE ALL THAT YOU CAN BE!"

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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.


Yes there is a demand for quality teaching at all levels, but you cannot be a quality teacher if you haven't had good training yourself.


While I do agree that it takes so much more than having a professional career in dance to be a good teacher - it does take good training and that was the orginal question... is my daughter getting enough good training to be a good teacher? If you are not going to seek out the very best training for yourself - then you will only be able to teach at the sub standard level that you were taught. And, only because you don't know any better.


Even on a recreational level, any parent would want to feel that they were paying for the best that they could get and if you were to run across that student that could be so much more than recreational... if you haven't been taught to recognize the good from the bad - how, then, would you even be able to tell... and how much damage would you do before you realized it was time to send them on?


Yes Mel - Be all that you can be.

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There's not a darn thing wrong with dancing recreationally, but there is something wrong with teaching recreationally.


You may not know that you really want to have a career in ballet until you're 15 or 16, and by then it's waaaaay too late if you have had bad training. Not to mention the high risk of injuries that comes along with poor teaching....

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If one is not on a pre-professional track, does it automatically mean that she is receiving "poor" training? My daughter's school makes no pretense about training professional ballet dancers. As a matter of fact, there have been plenty of girls who have left this studio for the "Dolly Dinkle" down the road, because of the ballet requirements at the studio. No ballet=no jazz, no modern, etc.


While her time in class may be too little according to the strict standards of pre-professional dancers, can anyone automatically assume that there is a lack of quality? (I am just asking--I'm not offended at the suggestion it might be poor training.) :thumbsup:


My other questions is this: Given the sorry physical state of many of this nation's children and adults, is there a place for an appropriately trained teacher to provide recreational ballet classes? Is it the consensus here that there is no such thing? Again, I am just trying to educate myself. :toot:


I honestly appreciate all of this feedback. She needs to understand that if she is going to offer ballet classes, her older students will require a more experienced and better trained ballet teacher--whom she would have to hire. Younger children are her bigger interest anyway.


Finally, in regard to my daughter's performance experience/aspirations, she actually has considerable performance experience. Only some of it has been ballet--traveling Nutcrackers that hire local children where she was a page, a mouse, and a flower. She has done a tremendous amount of musical theater including multiple equity shows. Every time, the choreographer has commented on her solid technique and good ballet training.


Treefrog's anaolgy got me thinking. Medical school makes you a doctor. All doctors, however, do not provide the same services. One doesn't require a heart surgeon to treat her strep throat. The doctor just needs to know when to pass the patient along.

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Treefrog's anaolgy got me thinking. Medical school makes you a doctor. All doctors, however, do not provide the same services. One doesn't require a heart surgeon to treat her strep throat. The doctor just needs to know when to pass the patient along.


Ah, but you DO want your doctor, specialist or generalist, to have gone to and graduated from an accredited medical school. That's how they learn the limitations of their skill levels and how they actually 'know when to pass the patient along'. Would you want to go to the doctor who only did part of the training, i.e., part of the labs, missed some of the lectures, skipped the rotations, didn't take the internship seriously, etc ? If the med student skips any part of those steps, then the student isn't properly prepared and isn't sufficiently trained so as to even recognize his/her own limitations.


That's what I hear the professional teachers here saying: If you want to be a professional dance teacher, then you must do the full compliment of training---regardless of whether you wish to be the general practitioner (recreational level training) or the specialist (professional level training). There is a minimal amount of exposure to all aspects of professional dance training that one would need to achieve in order to be qualified to teach dance---if one wishes to do it properly. If one hasn't been through all these aspects of training, then the 'teacher' isn't equipped to really know his/her limitations or what is actually required of a student who might want to aspire to the professional realm--so the 'teacher' wouldn't know when to send the student on.


And that minimal amount of exposure is much more than a lot of people might think (or wish) is necessary.




Oh, and please don't misunderstand what the teachers here are saying: Not being on a pre-professional track does NOT automatically mean the dancer is not receiving good training. There are many, many teachers and recreational schools that employ good teachers that provide wonderful training. It is the quantity, not the quality, of training that differs between the recreational dance level and the pre-professional dance level.


But just as "good training for a recreational student" is NOT necessarily the same thing as "good training for a pre-professional student ", "good training for a recreational student" is (as I hear our teachers trying to explain) is NOT the same thing as "good training for students wishing to become teaching professionals".

That viewpoint would be supported by the fact that at the colleges and universities that have performance tracks and pedagogy tracks, the students actually take the very same dance courses. It is the additional classes that differ in their chosen majors, not the amount or level of their dance courses.

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Victoria Leigh

A good and well qualified teacher of classical ballet will teach ballet the same way to all students, no matter what their focus. The expectations will be different, but not the quality of the teaching. Therefore, a teacher for a recreational school needs to be just as good as a teacher for a professional school, IMO. I simply do not believe that the quality of training should be less for a non-professional student than it is for a pro-track student. Nor should the quantiity be less for someone wanting to be a teacher, no matter where they are going to teach.


Would you want your child to have a lesser quality piano teacher just because she/he is not planning to be a concert pianist? Although the original question is about quantity, I find it hard to totally separate the two when it comes to anyone wanting to go into the profession in any way.


I wish there was a "huge array of quality neighborhood studios". While I'm sure there are some, I think they are very few and far between. The main reason for this is that qualified teachers do not wish to teach in a school where the main focus is not ballet and the students generally only take it because they have to, and they take one or two hours a week. It is very discouraging to teach in that atmosphere.


And, I do not think we are discouraging big64day and/or her daughter. We are giving her the facts as we believe them, and also suggesting some alternatives if she wishes to choose another path.


Treefrog, I know you disagree with the principal purposes of this board, and would like it to be more geared "for all dancers" and not only the "elite". Well, if serious, pro track ballet dancers are elite, so be it. I happen to believe very strongly that everyone studying ballet should have the most qualified teaching possible. Otherwise it is a waste of time, energy and money. These are the dancers we are here for. There are plenty of other boards out there for everyone. We have always stated our position quite clearly, and that is not going to change. We've been through this before.

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Exactly!! Well said, Dancemaven!!! :toot:


For some reason, when I posted this reply, I didn't see Miss Leigh's reply to which I am also applauding!!!

Edited by Clara 76
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Mel Johnson

Add to this discussion a pragmatic factor: If a student wishes to become a teacher, and not teach the more advanced classes, that's fine. But, having studied for a long time and made a lot of contacts, "networking", then there will be that much more talent for him/her to draw upon when s/he wants to open a school as owner/principal, and teach the primaries and/or special needs her/himself as a specialist, leaving higher grades for those who wish to teach them. There's an art to each of those areas, too! You can build quite a faculty the more you've been around!

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One doesn't require a heart surgeon to treat her strep throat


But you wouldn't go to a heart surgeon if your daughter had strep throat. But you would still go to a trained doctor. What I think big64, is that for whatever interests that a child has (as a child) that you expose them to the best teachers and instruction that you can for your dollar and circumstance. Not because anyone is thinking life's path when they enroll in that activity, but if they should choose a life's path in that area that they are prepared for it. It appears your DD has chosen a life's path and therefore should immerse herself into the best ways to reach her goals until such a time that she chooses another path.


What I would hope is that for your daughter, you would want her to become the best teacher she could be just as you would want her to have the best teacher she could have in math or science. Certainly one can teach somewhere with less, but we're talking about a student striving to become a teacher not one for whom teaching falls into her lap in later years. With good training both as a young student then in college later or as a professional dancer later, it will be her choice in what environment she teaches in (recreational or pre-professional, college, etc.) instead of the choice being made for her. There is a difference in "working with" children and "teaching" children.

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Mel Johnson

Rule #1 of doctor selection: Never go to a surgeon for a cold.


"A cold, you say? Nothing easier; I just cut off your nose!"


When what you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. :angry:


And a similar selection process goes for selecting a ballet school.

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concerned parent

My 14 yr old DD has been dancing in recreational programs. This past year she started taking supplemental classes at a different school that is ballet only, follows a syllabus based on Chechetti/RAD, does not use class time for rehearsals, etc.

While the teacher and the program at her recreational school have a very good local reputation, there is a distinct difference in the way the way the programs are taught.

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Check out the CPYB website. They used to have an article on how Marcia Dale Weary found her way to teaching. She really wanted to dance professionally, didn't get the training needed and then spent several years studying with the best before returning home to teach. And what a teacher: Ashley Bouder, Tina LeBlanc, Vanessa Zahorian, Carrie Imler, Noelani Pantastico and many many more have come out of her dance studio. I believe what your daughter wants is possible without becoming a professional dancer as long as she gets the best training possible.

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I have been looking at the schedules of different residents programs (like Harid) and have found that many of them have the beginner residents (probably between the ages of 13-14) taking 5 - 8 hours of pointe (including variations and pas) and 7 - 9 hours of ballet technique each day.


My child is at a quality studio. The training is excellent. However, they are nowhere near these hours - even for the late high school dancers. Our dancers are top notch up until about 16 years old. They are oohed and ahhed over wherever they go - SERBA, etc. Then, around the age of 16, it seems they sort of decline...or plateaux. I think they have the ABILITY to be as good as the rest, but for some reason - they aren't reaching that level in late high school. Is is likely because they are not getting enough hours of training? I think they have ballet and pointe four days per week (1.5 hours technique, 1 hour pointe) even at the very top level. If they want to pick up extra classes, there are lower level classes available, but few take them.

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taking 5 - 8 hours of pointe (including variations and pas) and 7 - 9 hours of ballet technique each day.


Each day? I think we all must assume this to be a typo or mis-information.

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Victoria Leigh

homeschoolingthem, there is no way of knowing why the level plateaus around 16 at your school, however, the 4 days a week certainly could be the reason. Most advanced level dancers dance 6 days a week, and the upper Int. level, in a pro track program, will need that, or at a minimum, 5 days, to get to the advanced level!


( I think you meant per week in the hours listed in your post. The younger students at the resident programs are not beginner dancers, at Harid or most resident schools. They are students with quite a lot of training, as well as a lot of ability and potential.)

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