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Ballet Talk for Dancers

How important is level placement?


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Having decided to leave the old school, a choice Dd and I are very comfortable with, in large part due to all the good advice here on BT4D, we now face the problem of where she should dance. Once we make the step that she should commute into the city, she has a couple of good options and we are having trouble deciding. Even after reading the sticky about choosing schools several times, we are still undecided. Both are considered good schools, both appear to like her, she has liked the teachers and classes at both, however. they are very different in style taught, as well as that at one, she would have a single teacher for technique while at the other different teachers depending on the day. One of the other biggest differences is the level at which she would be placed. In one school she would be placed with girls her age and slightly older, while at the other school, she is the oldest by almost a year - the other girls her age are in the next level up. How much should this weigh in her decision? Does that imply that the school who places her lower is better or just doesn't like her dancing/technique as much? As always, any thoughts to help us make the best decision we can are greatly appreciated. Thanks!


p.s.: Dd is 12.5 and class schedule of both schools is basically the same: 5 days 1.5 technique, and 3 days 1 hour pointe. One school has additional required modern and character classes.

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First of all - all the best as you make a difficult decision!


I have only two suggestions for you. The first one is not to worry too much about what level your dd is placed in - the most important thing truly is that she's at a comfortable level and working on the things she needs to. I know it's easier said than done, but just my thoughts on the matter. Sometimes a dancer actually have more opportunities to shine as the older one in a bunch - you just never know.


Secondly, (I had to scroll back to see how old your dd is) my thoughts are that it would likely be better for her to have just the one teacher for technique at this point in her training. When she's a bit older she'll be able to make better use of the feedback she'll get throughout the week from several teachers: at 12 I think it's best that the message be consistent through the week - best done with only one teacher.


All the best - hope this is somewhat helpful!!



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Which school has the required modern and character classes? The one with the single technique teacher or the one with multiple teachers? Those adjunct classes are very useful to dancers, but at 12, it may be more useful to have a single technique teacher depending on how well-meshed the teaching staff is.


At my DD's home studio, by age 12, they did have multiple ballet teachers. The teachers all taught the same curriculum, were on the same page about which technique they were teaching (mostly :cool2: ), but each had a slightly different approach and demeanor that often worked in the dancers' favor. There was the strict, very disciplined and very technique-oriented teacher who was very hands-on with a very high rate of individual corrections. There was the more gentle, little more artistic-oriented teacher who gave a few individual corrections, but more general ones. And there was the more 'fun' teacher who was a good mixture of the other two. Each had their strengths (and weaknesses), but together presented a well-rounded compliment of instruction.


Have you asked the school where she would be placed below her peers age-wise what they see as holding her back in their system? It could very well be that she is missing some technique component, that is very important to master at that age, and that once focused upon she will be able to catch-up to her age-peers quickly. Once you know what that 'issue' is, you could ask the other school if they see the same issue and if so, how will they address it. If not, then-- :shrug: , you and your dancer will have to evaluate the 'issue' in your own terms.

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I agree with both of the above posts, but I would also like to know if the school placing her lower is doing it for technique or for a difference in style and placement. Also, have you looked at the most advanced dancers at each school? That can often help you to see where the training is going.


My guess as to the difference in the schools is that one, the one with the single teacher and most likely the lower level, teaches a specific method which is different from her previous training and that is probably the reason for the lower placement. I have no problem at all with the lower level or the single teacher, just curious as to the reason. :)

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Thank you for the thoughtful answers. Actually it is the school with the lower placement that has the different teachers and the modern and character.


As best as I can understand from the schools, and Dd also appreciates (which is why she is changing schools), the issue is needing improvement in her technique - although is seems like she will always be improving technique, that is the purpose of being a student :) . The school with the higher level placement and single teacher (AD) feels that he can correct the technique within the higher level class. The other school feels that she needs to be at the lower level to "fix" everything before she advances.


I have a funny feeling that there isn't a bad choice here, but since making this change is already difficult, we are hoping to make the best choice we can. Dd and I really appreciate all the helpful input!

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I would prefer a student at that age to have one teacher but sometimes a school has two teachers that work in tandem with each other. Are there boys and girls in the class? Sometimes a school will have a male and female share a class for that reason, particularly as the students enter their teens. I always like to see a new student in a school start in a lower level at first. He or she can always move up if it is appropriate. Moving back a level never works well. I like the addition of modern and character. What are the two teachers backgrounds? I would ask outright if thought has been taken to the two teachers working together. Will they meet regularly to see that they are on the same page with the class. This would be a question for the principal or AD of the school. Is the AD or principal planning to keep his or her eye on that shared situation? As far as being placed with dancers younger than your daughter is concerned I am not overly negative. When I first went myself to a pre-pro school many, many years ago I was WAY behind. Catching up was a HUGE incentive. I have seen this with a number of students over the years. But in my case and many of my students our hard work luckily translated into quick advancement. Ask what their policies are on moving students up levels. But in the end do not underestimate the importance of establishing a really solid foundation. This often means a student working slower and more methodically than is to their liking for a time.

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