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Temporary Transferal to different ballet school?

Guest LizzyA

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I'm looking at options for the upcoming year. DD is in a level where she is expected to start some pointe work next semester. She is 10 so I have decided to take her for an x-ray and medical evaluation with an MD who has strong opinions on this topic before I let this happen. Hopefully the ballet school she is at will respect the MD's opinion and allow her to continue to progress with her level (last evaluation in Spring she had a perfect score on each count) without insisting she goes on pointe. If there is a problem, and they insist she be demoted, then I would like to find another school on a temporary basis until she reaches the age of 12/technical and physical readiness for pointe.


My question is, how detrimental to her ballet training would it be if she went to a different style of teaching (currently Vagnova) and/or school for 3 semesters or so? I do think the current school she is at has the best to offer her in our particular region and would not like to burn bridges entirely. Hopefully they will be reasonable and work with us but I want to know my options ahead of time.



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Lizzy, I think that if her school "demoted" her just because she was not ready for pointe shoes, rather than allowing her to learn the pointe work in soft shoes, that I would want to take her out of there permanently. I don't think they will do that, but if they do, then just move on. If they don't, there is nothing to worry about. Remember, it's quality of the training that is important. If there is another school which is very good and turns out dancers, it doesn't matter the method. It's all about the teaching.

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And so, I shouldn't be overly concerned about the different styles ie going from purely Vagnova to a more American Eclectic and possibly back again to Vagnova shouldn't be a problem if the teaching quality is good?

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Something to consider is how the current school will react to her leaving for a year or two and then returning. Will they hold this against her in some way? Have you seen others do this? Choosing to leave may well be the right thing to do. But, be prepared for it to not be a good idea for her to return. As Ms. Leigh said, if they will not let her do pre-pointe work on flat, then perhaps their philosophy and teaching methods are not what you really want for your child anyway. Start looking around for a school where she could train long term, rather than as a stop-gap measure. But first I think it would be good to see what the current school says if a physician cannot recommend her for pointe work at this time. Perhaps they will surprise you and work with you and no move will be necessary! :cool2:

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Well, I have a response from the school. The issue is being forced sooner than expected since the kids are being asked to go for a pointe shoe fitting this week. When the director was asked about parents who felt their child wasn't ready yet she replied that " if they didn't go then they would be put back into level 2. That's what Level 3 does." Can someone tell me if that is a genuine Vagnova policy?


My daughter isn't the best dancer out there but she is definitely one of the better ones in her class. She was the only student in the school to receive perfect score on every count at her spring evaluation :confidence, posture, turnout, flexibility, strength, jumps, co-ordination, musicality, performance as well as various class learning characteristics (eg. perserverance, focus, learning new combinations quickly etc). She has been dancing for 6 years and has seen many less able peers promoted over her at the request of the parent and never complained ( the argument goes that they don't want a child to feel bored or unchallenged, so on this basis they will consider a parent's request and monitor closely). Recently she has been struggling with issues about her height which usually lumps her in with the younger kids. I think that if I were to stand by and allow her to be put back into 2nd level it would severely damage her love for the art which right now is at a premium (she tells me that when she goes to bed at night all she thinks about is ballet). Actually, she loves ballet so much that she would probably even put up with that but I'm not sure I see the point of paying for her to learn what they have already told her she has mastered perfectly - for another couple of years, potentially.


So, I guess now we will be seeking other dance opportunities. Many, many of the parents at this particular school are angry with the way things have been managed for the past couple of years but each of them also feels chained to the place since it simply does offer the best training in the area (all the instructors have Bolshoi, Kiev, Paris Opera etc in their backgrounds and they have some ballet legends as mentors). So, yes, I would consider her returning in the future and will therefore not burn bridges no matter how upset we feel right now. Wherever we go to locally will not, I think, be as rigorous a training - just possibly safer?


DD is so sad that she can't even cry.


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Lizzy - You are in such a tough situation.


I'm wondering if there is a need for a cost/benefit analysis here. I'm hoping our esteemed teachers here will weigh in on this question: Could it be even more dangerous to send a child of 10 - 11 years old to an inferior school for up to two years just to avoid going en pointe at 10 - which, though I'm fortunate enough to not have had to make this decision myself with my own dd - is admittedly still practiced at many ballet schools around the world, and even some well known schools in our own country. What I mean is, of course, the ideal situation would be that this child would be allowed to progress with her class and go on to level 3 without having to go en pointe with them. Barring that possibility, could it be even more damaging to go to a different school during these important years of development? I'm thinking of all the bad habits that could be ingrained, etc. And putting her back in Level 2 just seems unnecessarily cruel to a child who works so hard, and has done so well in her classes thus far.

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Lizzy, are you really sure that the training at that school is the best, or have they convinced you of that? I'm sorry, but I know how some of these people work, and they are thoroughly convinced that they are the best and they manage to convince others of that too. Before I let her get demoted I would definitely investigate other schools. Moving her back does not at all seem like a fair option to me. She should be allowed to remain with her class and learn the pointe work on demi pointe until she is physically ready for pointe work. The rigidity of their system does not seem to me to be the best thing for the child in this case.

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Ms. Leigh,


well, I would say in answer to your question that the faculty is probably outstanding. However the directorship is questionable (and questioned by not just myself). One faculty member is a Varna Gold Medalist and has won on more than one occasion the outstanding teacher award at the YAGP competitions(spelling?) not to mention many other, international, prestigious awards. Even I can see the visible results her teaching has on her students. She has taught my dd's class occasionally and my dd thinks she is wonderful. DD's current and previous year's teacher is a graduate from Bolshoi and has been a principle dancer. Again, she is a phenomenal dancer and has won the hearts and minds of her students who respond to her gentleness and grace with tremendous progress in their own ballet studies. One of the faculty is another Varna medal winner and is also an inspirational dancer/choreographer who has also received offers to be principal dancer in other parts of the country. During the summer, two of the world's great ballet legends came to teach the older girls (these individuals hail from a very famous ballet company and serve as mentors to this particular dance endeavor). The school is fairly small but does well at the regional YAGP competition, receiving a standing ovation for one particularly challenging group piece.


Generally my dd loves her ballet school and would live there if she could! However, she is very wary of one individual there in particular and that person is the one in charge and the one enforcing this policy. Most of the parents recognize how unbelievably fortunate we are to have this talented group of individuals all in one place and how very little it will take for this to dissipate due to poor management. The gold medalist I mentioned was already in tears the other day following a faculty meeting. In fact I was on the verge of getting together with some other parents to explore a way we could have a voice in this enterprise - not as an exercise to assert out parental wills and wreak havoc with the artistic vision but to save the art in our city and this wonderful group of people who have put their own careers on the line to see if this might bear the fruit it has promised.

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LizzyA, my DS is in a Vaganova-based school now and I can tell you that is not how things are done in level 3 at our studio. Pointe is not something that all the girls are ready for at the same time, so they are not put on pointe as a level at our school. Girls that are not ready for pointe are not left in level 2 or moved back. They are in pointe class with the same girls who are starting pointe, but they are not in pointe shoes. They work in their flat shoes, as Ms. Leigh has suggested.


I hope things work out for the best, whatever you decide.

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Lizzy, I understand the fascination with the dazzling credentials of these people, but I do not understand their policy. Not every good school is a good fit for every dancer. Gold medals are great, but they really do not have a lot to do with the ability to know what is best for a 10 year old, in this country, in terms of their training. Winning competitions can also be a very different thing from the process of actually training a child. Preparing advanced dancers for performance, especially competition type performance, can be a very special ability, but just does not guarantee that the training on the lower levels is right for everyone. No school is a right fit for every child, no matter how well known and credentialed the teachers. The direction of the school and the policies regarding the students progress are important too.

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...didn't go then they would be put back into level 2. That's what Level 3 does." Can someone tell me if that is a genuine Vagnova policy?


Yes, this is a genuine Vaganova policy, in a way. However, in Russia, the child would be asked to leave the Vaganova Academy. There would be no level 2 offer.


LizzyA, it sounds as if your school is trying very hard to run itself as a school would be run in Russia. How many days a week does your daughter study ballet? And for how many years has she been studying ballet? Since she is age ten, my guestimate is not very long? A Vaganova program would not start a student in a professional track ballet class until the age of 10. Anything else is pre-ballet and if the student is not studying 6 days a week then pointe is not considered.


My advice, if you are interested to continue with Vaganova training is to get educated on what it is and what it is not. Your school's faculty does seemly have very elite ballet dancers on their faculty, but please ask if any of them have certification to actually be teaching Vaganova? Particularly in the beginner to intermediate levels (age 10-15/16, completion of 1st through 5th year, daily syllabus work), trained teachers are a real asset. In the upper levels 6-9 (ages 16-19) of daily syllabus work, the medal winners/principal dancers may be an asset, but not necessarily.


Go to the library to find Kostrovitskaya's book The School of Classical Ballet or the Bazarova/Mae Book, Alphabet of Classical Dance. The Kostrovitskaya book in particular has a great introduction preceding the brief description of how to do each step. Another book that explains well what "Vaganova" training really is, is the Tarasov book, Ballet Technique for the Male Dancer. Although it is not for training young ladies, it is extremely informative about what good traing is according to the Russians. There is a reason the Russians must study teaching in order to teach in their national schools. One would not have retired or current performers teaching children. They must do a tremendous amount of study to work in those schools.


It sounds like you are doing your best to protect your child from beginning pointe work too soon. It also sounds however that you no longer have faith in your daughter's current school. Follow your heart. Your instincts seem sound.

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thank you for your response. I feel that you have come close to understanding this specific situation and I appreciate your feed back as to how the Vaganova training relates to it all. Much of the time I have felt that the Vaganova concept is draped in some kind of impenetrable mystery that non-initiates will never be allowed to probe!


My dd started with the usual creative movement at age 4, and a whole host of pre-, beginners etc. at another pre-pro. school that no longer exists. She spent 2 years at level 2 while she and her classmates transferred to their current school and began a new 8 year program as opposed to the former 7 year program she was previously in. Currently she dances 4 days a week, 1.5 hours per class and 1 hour of additional Historical Dance (not to mention numerous rehearsals on top of that). This summer she danced 8 hours pd, 5 days pw for 4 weeks (although her classes were varied). The teacher in question studied at a Vaganova School in St. Petersburg and is a certified Vaganova Instructor. You are correct in your assumption that the other instructors do not necessarily have ballet pedagogy training to the same extent, if at all.


Loss of faith has primarily occured with regard to organizational matters rather than artistic quality. Right now they have something embryonic and potentially wonderful and many of us cannot bare to watch it slowly fail because of inexperience in certain areas.


In terms of this specific issue - I know I will have the faithless/trustless thing thrown in my face. But, I'm the first to admit that I know very little about ballet. I can't tell if there is some magic component the folks in Russia know that would belie the seemingly logical, medical concerns that many in the States have about premature pointe work (for instance, I was told not to worry about dd's flat feet since Pavlova apparently had 'horrible' feet and that her teacher's former professor in Russia knew the latest ways to address this particular problem). All I know is that, as a parent, unless someone can present me with solid, scientific research on the topic it is my duty to my child to err on the side of caution and wait a couple more years or so before she proceeds. I can't help if that is interpreted as insulting and faithless. That's where my conscience is at with this. Leaps of faith are reserved for myself, not my dependents.

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Trust your instincts LizzyA! :D My daughter, up until the year she turned thirteen, was in a RAD syllabus ballet school which was very careful and cautious when it came to putting children on pointe. Dancers advanced to the next level only when they were ready and were allowed to start pointe only after an evaluation by all of the teachers and a conference by said teachers followed by a meeting with the dancer and parent. After all of that, the kids who got the go ahead were introduced with only a few minutes at a time at the barre emphasizing proper technique. Twelve was the standard age to be in a class that would be evaluated for pointe.

My daughter, at eighteen, is currently in her final year at a post graduate program in Europe with Russian Vaganova teachers doing hours of pointe a day. Just before her eighteenth birthday she rehearsed and actually danced a corps swan in Swan Lake with the company affiliated with her school. No one has ever said to her "If only you had started pointe earlier!"

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So, am I interpreting this correctly? It sounds like the consensus is that the "cost" is so great going en pointe at 10 years old, that even if instruction in other areas of technique, artistry, etc. actually is inferior at other accessible schools it is preferrable to go to an inferior school, rather than staying put and going en pointe with the class. I'm just going by the fact that Lizzy has already stated that she thinks the other schools that are accessible to her family really are inferior. I'm in full agreement that 10 is too young to go en pointe, and had I been in Lizzy's situation, I would be asking the same questions, and likely making the same decision. I'm just wondering if that is the trade off in all cases like this. :ermm:


Am I asking the wrong question? An inappropriate question? I'm really not trying to be difficult or obtuse, just trying to see where the line is drawn in this kind of case. Again, I'm imagining a child of 10 being put en point at the current school with restraint and excellent instruction with regard to technique, vs. a school that may wait until a child is 12 to put her en pointe, but in the meantime is not teaching proper alignment, rotation, placement, etc. if this is what Lizzy means by saying that the other schools aren't as good as the current school. Clear as mud? :D I don't think I'm expressing myself very well, but can't think of how else to ask my question.

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So, am I interpreting this correctly? It sounds like the consensus is that the "cost" is so great going en pointe at 10 years old, that even if instruction in other areas of technique, artistry, etc. actually is inferior at other accessible schools it is preferrable to go to an inferior school, rather than staying put and going en pointe with the class.


No, I don't think anyone said that.


Many, many fine teachers are of the opinion that 10 is not too young to start pointe for some children. I think the problem Lizzy has relates to her daughter, who she has mentioned has flat feet and other physical issues (I'm sorry I don't remember exactly what they were), and to the fact that the school seems to move students to levels that start pointe without regard to individual readiness (correct me if I am wrong). Since you mentioned that you know little of ballet training, I would suggest that it would be best to air your concerns only in regards to your own daughter's well-being, without dragging in other parents or other issues such as the lack of organization, etc. I do appreciate your concerns and admire your determination to do what is best for your child, and wish you well in whatever you decide.

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