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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Questioning Level Placement Taboo


3tutugirls

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I realize that in most pre-professional ballet schools there is a strict rule about level placement and parents not being able to question their children's levels. However, how common is it that NO students in specific levels are advanced for a new term when there are glaring differences in ability, dedication, and progress being made. Short of switching schools which is NOT an option in the town we live in, what can I do to assure my daughter's progress when she seems to merely be evaluated by age and physical stature (which is petite.) When she takes clases from instructers outside the home school they are often bewildered as to why she is at a level beneath what they expect by how she dances, her abilities and drive.

 

This is becoming a major source of frustration. :yes:

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I am interested in the responses to this question. I have been wondering this myself, but could never have put it into words so elequently. Thank you for posting what I have wanted to for so long, but have been afraid to.

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First, I don't know of any such rule. We certainly did not have that at WSB. I'm too new at Atlanta to know yet. But, if the parents cannot talk openly to the teacher or school director, then there is a problem. Not that the parents thoughts about placement are always right, but they are paying the bills and that certainly gives them the right to at least ask! If the child is ready to move in the parents opinion, it might not be the same opinion from the teacher or director, but the parent certainly has a right to know why. If the school is placing by age or size, then I would question it being a professional school.

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Sadly, the director of our school avoids parental contact. You are not to speak directly, but go thru staff, and perhaps you will be granted a one on one, but that is rare. We know of others reprimanded for speaking out so we are reluctant to talk.

 

In our situation other parents observing class will remark about our child's placement, so we aren't merely stage parents with blinders....based upon the simple "fact" that the parents of other dancers are often the harshest critics.

 

We never thought we'd consider a job relocation based upon ballet training.

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"Not that the parents thoughts about placement are always right, but they are paying the bills and that certainly gives them the right to at least ask!"

 

 

Exactly!! We are not allowed to be advocates for our children! Whether we are right or wrong, we should have an ability to speak without fear or intimidation. It somewhat teaches our children to put up with whatever treatment you receive because you have no alternative but reprisal. Not a good lesson.

 

 

We will see how the next weeks fall out, hopefully an instructor will step forward an initiate movement....though that is doubtful. If not, I will speak to one that knows my child and myself the best and see what help there is if there is agreement as to incorrect placement.

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Short of switching schools which is NOT an option in the town we live in,

This could be part of the problem, the director may be very well aware of this, and has a take it or leave it attitude.

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Thank you for bringing this topic up, it has been an issue at our house too!

DD was recently re-evaluated at a preprofessional school attached to a very large company. She had attended there previously, and there was some thoughts as to trying the commute again after 2 years.

DD was placed back in the level she was in when she left, an actual pre-pointe level. She has been on pointe regularly for a year and a half now, and our home studio artistic director even states she is very strong on pointe.

I do not understand how this school can set a dancer back so far? It was very discouraging for DD! She has very much grown and improved since she left this school! I did call and ask for a phone call to just get an explanation for the evaluation. It is our money and time we put into the lessons/training and commute and we wanted to know what they were thinking when they placed her so low.This was a month ago, no response yet.....

I can say that it was almost an insult to her instructor for the last 2 years, almost like they were saying she has made NO progress since she left them.

Many people were shocked at the placement, including current instructors, and even parents of dancers that DD was with 2 years ago when she left and are placed 2 and 3 levels above where she was placed.

Luckily, the current instructor and artistic director at local studio is fabulous, so we can stay put at least for the next 2 years.

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As a parent, I don't know if I could stay at a school where I could not communicate about my daughter's progress. Please, I don't mean that to sound like a judgment against anyone's decision, it's just that communication is so important to me! We receive written evaluations twice yearly and we can request an appointment with our instructors that can made before or after their daily schedules. When my daughter didn't advance onto pointe last year, her primary instructor took me aside and spent a few minutes telling me that it was a tough decision, but my daughter had some issues she needed to address. I had a lot of confidence in that teacher and holding back my dd was the best decision after all. As it turns out, the whole school was in a sort of holding pattern that year and very few students were moved up. I think the school had become 'top heavy' with a lot of repeats in the upper levels. They ended up restructuring this year and spreading the levels out some.

 

New student placement is often a sore spot in our school. Students who have been on pointe at previous schools or left and returned are seldom placed at the level they would like. The parents seem to take it the hardest. The only time a student is placed at an advanced level seems to be if it is an older student who has had lengthy training at another pre-professional school with a well-known company.

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the director of our school avoids parental contact. You are not to speak directly, but go thru staff, and perhaps you will be granted a one on one, but that is rare.....We never thought we'd consider a job relocation based upon ballet training.

 

I have seen this happen at schools. The reasoning I've heard is that the teachers and staff are busy getting from one class to another or trying to get home after a long day and really shouldn't be pestered during those times, but it's better to make an appointment. It also enables the teachers and staff to "get on the same page" before meeting with the parent. I have seen at schools depending on how the parent handles this situation they may get labled as "one of those parents".

 

"Not that the parents thoughts about placement are always right, but they are paying the bills and that certainly gives them the right to at least ask!"

 

advocates for our children! ....to speak without fear or intimidation.

instructor will step forward an initiate movement....If not, I will speak to one

 

It's vital in this situation that you present yourself as being humble. It sounds like this school needs to know you respect them and their decisions and consider them and not yourself or the other parents as the experts. Don't be yourself. Go carefully.

 

Do not, do not, speak with an instructor on the side. It will be seen as an "in and around" like our kids try to do between us parents.

 

Short of switching schools which is NOT an option in the town we live in,

This could be part of the problem, the director may be very well aware of this, and has a take it or leave it attitude.

 

This is a dilema. Audition for other schools this January. Pay the extra money to have an audition video shot at the school and casually mention the programs your DDs may be sending them to. Particualarly those that have year-round programs as well.

 

You may or may not have to relocate. I wonder though, if it is a small town, if you might put your house on the market for some astronomical price, if the mere presence of the for sale sign might prompt a change. Playing that sort of game can get old and stressfull and perhaps a move might be better.

 

As one who's moved for a DK's training I can tell you there's a lot you need to consider before doing that.

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Just to provide a positive perspective to this situation...

 

We have also been in this dilemma, not happy with placement, other parents as surprised as we were, and poor communication from the school directors. So we are looking to leave this particular situation. Dd has also been placed by age at an SI (Vaganova style does this routinely).

 

Dd is currently at an SI where she was apparently placed by NOT being from a big name prepro school attached to a big company. This is at a school she is seriously considering going to in the fall. In fact, during the placement class, the class was broken into groups after barre (mainly by school) and she was never given the chance to show what she could do in the open part of the class. Obviously Dd was really upset with the lower level placement.... However, after the first day of classes, Dd is ecstatic. As one of the strongest in the class, Dd is receiving lots of attention, and feels she is really making a good impression. Furthermore she feels that this gives her a chance to really focus and perfect all her basics. She now feels that it is benefiting her that she is not in the level that she really should be in as she doesn't have to compete for the attention.

 

Granted that this is not for year round placement, but sometimes these things can have a silver lining. :P

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Dd has also been placed by age at an SI (Vaganova style does this routinely)

As one of the strongest in the class, Dd is receiving lots of attention..., and really focus and perfect all her basics.

 

I agree with the positives you've stated. I've seen the same situation,iluv..., played out so many times. Placement by age works with Vaganova because the class is taught to the highest students rather than the average or lowest. I have seen some flexibility in with ages though. Other students are expected to keep up with the "pacer". That top student may be being held back some (even a year), but like you said that gives the student an opportunity to refine. That top student does receive more corrections because they are the example for the class. The other students are watching them as well as the teacher. Vaganova can seem like slow progression to some, but it's slow and deliberate. It's all in the details.

 

It sounds like 3tutu- is more concerned with communication than level.

 

My own dd was in the situation Iluv... describes but in a year round situation. It was hard not to get whipped up when so many other parents and dancers were saying "I can't believe she didn't get moved up. yadda yadda." I took a wait and see approach and trusted the teachers. It was the teachers that determined the student's level. I'm glad I held my tongue, it saved me from looking foolish. A year later she was moved up and she had learned so much. She got the school award for Greatest Achievement that year.

 

It's very easy to get caught up in the energy of the other parents. Only you can discern if there is a problem with the director, or with "group conciousness" of the parents, or some of both. I'd try to figure that out first before I made any decisions.

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Thank you for all your responses and insight.

 

She definitely receives alot of added attention and corrections and is often singled out. However, its hard to progress if you aren't challenged in classes, but perfecting only, without adding new skills.

 

I think we'd be OK dealing with the level situation if we were ever given feedback from the administration/teachers. Lack of communication is a huge problem at the upper and lower levels.

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Poor communication is unacceptable and yet it is something that is encountered unfortunately. In our experience and observation feedback is given and conferences may be requested but once the information has been received and the questions answered it is best to move forward. We have also observed that people who think that they have met with irreconcilable differences have found another school. Personally I think this should be the last resort as in most situations things never reach a level of irreconcilability. Usually personalities come into play when this happens and rather than agreeing to disagree, some people choose to hold fast to the disagreement.

 

I think that students should certainly feel challenged and parents should also be able to ask questions and have them answered. It would be frustrating to be in an environment where there is little to no communication. I think that I would call, email, write a letter delivered by post, and if unanswered I would move on for the sake of answering to my child's request for more challenging work. I would give the school every chance to reconcile things first, however. Depending on the age and readiness of the student, other family circumstances, availability of other professional training within a reasonable range of home, looking into a residency may be an option.

 

I think it is crucial to establish that the student is truly lacking a challenge. Sometimes they think they are ready for more when in actuality they still need to work on fundamental technique and physical strength.

 

I hope things work out for you.

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However, its hard to progress if you aren't challenged in classes, but perfecting only, without adding new skills.

 

I completely disagree with this comment. In ballet it is often much more beneficial to refine technique to perfection before learning new skills. And if there is a particularly pressing issue that has not been addressed yet like placement or turn-out, the placement is in fact essential. In the long run, the student makes faster progress later and experiences less injuries brought on by trying things too fast before the foundation is properly laid and strength and stamina are properly built.

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I understand about strenghth, etc., however when one child in a group dances thru the summer and others at her current level take 3 months off, there is a serious difference in abilities that have developed and grown. When one leaves off in June and returns in Sept., there is definite loss, while the other student continues to gain and creates a larger gap in abilities that becomes quite obvious, yet she is stuck where she was placed in May for the coming Fall, based on age, as girls that were at least 2 years older, having only started ballet training, attending once or twice a week, were moved up to a higher level based soley on age.

 

We'll just go status quo for awhile and see how things work out because no matter what, she lives for Ballet and would take as many classes a week as possible....

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