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Ballet Talk for Dancers

training young boys


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I haven't posted here very often, but I do read many posts. I appreciate the wisdom many of you have shared.


I have a young son who loves ballet very much. He dances at a ballet school associated with a large professional company. I trust the school very much and have never had cause to question their techniques and I'm not questioning them now. I just wonder if this is standard or if anyone else has experienced it. The school has a new male ballet instructor and my son is now in an under 11 boys class. This teacher has told us that you do not teach ballet to boys under 11 because they are too immature mentally and physically (he is very experienced in teaching teenage boy ballet dancers). He says at this age you simply nurture the love of ballet and work on core strength, posture, balance, and flexibility. Then when they are 11 they will have everything in place to begin a serious study of ballet and will learn very quickly because they are ready to learn it. The teacher has a thick accent and it was difficult to completely understand him, but it seemed like he was saying they need to be able to do x amount of skills at the age of 12. If they start at the age of 8 learning these skills then it will take 4 years to learn them. If they start at the age of 11 and have all the background in place then it will only take them 1 year to learn it.


Class is 1 hour long, twice a week. They spend about 35 minutes on strength/posture/balance/coordination exercises, 10 minutes stretching, and 15 minutes jumping and turning. He keeps walking around them with a stick to see if their backs are straight and talks a lot about balance and having their weight distributed correctly. There is no "dancing" and no barre work. They never actually move-- their jumps and turns are in one place. They don't dance across the floor like I see the girls do and they are not going up on demipointe at the barre like the girls do. This school doesn't do recitals so there is no dance that they have to learn or anything. I'm not complaining about the class. My son enjoys it very much and the teacher is well respected. I just find it strange that they are in a "ballet class" yet the teacher says they are too young to even learn ballet. We plan to stay at this school, but if we changed schools or went back to mixed gender classes I imagine my son would be behind the girls in his skill level.


Does anyone have an experience with this approach to training young boys? Again, I'm not complaining. Just curious.


Thanks! Curious Mom

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I've read and heard this to. I think in the US children get more involved classes because that is what the market demands. Here's my experience with this.


DS2 started ballet at 7yo (now 9yo). He's taken classes for 2.5 years and is still in level 1. They tried to move him up to level 2 but he just couldn't pay attention well enough. Ballet is just as much about training the body as the mind.


DS1 started ballet at 11yo (now 13yo). He's taken classes for 1.5 years and is now in level 3 with the 11-13yo girls. The next level has high school students. He has learned everything DS2 has learned an a lot more. The difference though is that DS2 has better posture, placement and trained feet. The older boy is behind the girls in quality but he's progressing very fast and is working hard. Just in listening to the two talk DS1 notices more about what he needs to correct. He can perceive the nuances that the younger one doesn't get.


I think many older boys come to ballet without having enough of the fundamentals, like turnout, placement posture, flexibility and strength. I don't think young boys should be lifting weights but they aught to be able to do pull ups or cross the monkey bars on the playground.

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Hi HereIam. My son is 12, almost 13. He started ballet at age 9 in a class where he was the only boy and the oldest in the class. He did not have trouble focusing or understanding his teacher's corrections between 9 and 11. He progressed just fine, even wound up skipping a couple levels. So he finally got to the point where he was dancing in a class with girls that were mostly a year older with a few the same age as him. These were girls who had been dancing since creative movement class (age 3). One thing we have noticed is that he has always been much smaller than the girls, which hasn't been a huge problem, but has made him feel baby-ish and has resulted in many girls (and teachers) treating him like he is really younger than his age. This came with both benefits and drawbacks. :clapping:


From watching other boys, I do see that most of them do not have the same level of coordination or the flexibility that the girls their age have. Also, it seems like most of the boys have not yet developed enough strength to hold their turnout well. I am talking about boys around 12-14. Many boys are growing fast at this age, and have issues with balance and flexibility.


For my son, I think he was fine starting ballet at 9, and he has progressed very well. I don't think this is, or should be the case for every boy, though. In general, I think starting around 10 or 11 might be best for boys.

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The teacher's method sounds a little like the way the Royal Danish Ballet School handles boys in children's classes. The material is simple, very simple, and then when they hit about 12, the whole thing comes together, and they are allowed to use the barre for the first time. It even sounds a little like the "pre-ballet" classes that private teachers in Russia give before the student goes to audition at a major school. (They don't start there until they're 10, but in both Russia and Denmark, the classes are every day.)

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Boys' development and muscle strength, concentration etc etc is generally (always exceptions!) behind the girls until they start into their mid-teens. At 12/13 I had to keep my boy student back a year, because he was behind the girls in the class he'd been in. He later overtook them and the class above them and when he left the school at 16 to study in a vocational school he was stronger than the senior class of 12th Graders.


Although the RAD syllabi does get the kids moving and dancing before then, when they actually start the vocational exam syllabi (usually at around 11/12) it's almost as if they are starting again from the beginning with very plain straightforward steps that require them to concentrate only on correct technique. In the same way vocational schools use the first year of training to undo bad habits and work on basic technique. Thus it sounds a good method to teach the foundations of correct technique, in the way your son is being trained, as there will be little chance of bad habits creeping in. However, I had a student who was taught that way and although she did have beautiful technique when she was standing still, it took me two years before she learnt to move and dance and she never actually developed any dance quality, so I do have some reservations about the method.

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