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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Moving from a competition school to a ballet school


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momof3darlings

 

so do you feel like you have to make the choice of serious ballet student OR competitive studio student? i definitley do.

 

my dd this year has developed that love for ballet and wants to puruse it - but because we had already made the competitive studio company comitment (and paid for choreography, costumes, etc) she is finishing the year. we have supplemented on our own the YAGP and she takes (with class card) at a local ballet school one day a week (2hr class, 90 minutes tech +30 pointe).

 

because she not only does the various forms (jazz, lyrical, contemporary, in addition to ballet) she also takes acting, a triple threat class, plus private voice - i feel like it's just crazy to try and do both ballet and competitive/performing arts. we are doing both currently and its just so time consuming. as many competitive studios are in mode right now - the competition season is just begining. we have 4 workshop/competitons coming up, plus an additional competition, and throwing in YAGP, then a play, vocal concert, and end of year recital. oh yeah and academics!

 

i would love to hear how you balance girls at 2 different studios. and also what your thoughts are on doing full time ballet school but supplementing jazz/lyrical and possibly voice at a different studio. and also maybe still attending some conventions of our choosing and/or competing a ballet solo?

 

how does that work with ballet schools? do they have a company? are you invited or do you just ask to do a solo or how does this work?

 

i'm worried that the slower pace might end up turining my dd off after a few months since she is used to nonstop busyness.

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  • Victoria Leigh

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12345--I moved your questions to another thread as we like to keep things tidy around here so I started a new thread so others who have done the same thing can help you as well.

 

If your daughter has a love for ballet and wants to dance ballet, she will have to switch to a school where ballet is the focus. There is no other way around it. There is just not enough ballet in most competition schools to foster a ballet dancer's technical education long term, even if there are good ballet teachers there. Depending on which ballet school you chose, your DD will substitute ballet performances, Summer Intensives, and other ballet related things for the time she has spent in competitions and planning for those. Don't worry. It may seem like she'll be spending less time, but it is likely that she will just trade time for time.

 

Lucky for me, I am not having to do the two studio thing any longer. My oldest is dancing professionally now and not at home any longer so it's just DD2 & 3 who are still dancing. It was a nightmare, but no more a nightmare than those families who have 1 dancing and 1 playing traveling soccer or the like. You do what you have to do so that your children can be themselves and do the things they would each like to do. The only way we found balance was with a wonderful husband who could help transport and a very wonderful group of friends who I could trade time with when things got crazy.

 

You will have to wait until you've made a decision about which school you are going to, to determine what else you can do. There are many dancers who do supplement their jazz at different studios, but at the ballet studio she may be required to take modern as she gets older, then pointe and it may leave less hours than you think are available. Many ballet schools do have companies and perform different ballets during the year.

 

But have no fear, if she continues to work her way up the ballet ladder, she will still have non stop busy-ness. It is two different worlds, but both are all encompassing of your time and devotion. Good luck to you!

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12345, I hope by sharing my experience I can help! I didn't dance as a child, so in selecting a school I was really clueless. When my DD was very young I was happy to send her along to the place where all her friends were going. I lucked out, because fortunately where she ended up attending had pretty decent instruction. She started out with ballet and tap, adding jazz when she was a little older. Eventually she moved up to the competition team level.

 

At about that time, this studio lost a key ballet instructor, and older person who really stressed the fundamentals. One person after another filled that position for short stints at a time; needless to say, continuity of instruction in ballet was quickly lost.

 

Being a competition studio, there was the emphasis on being a "triple threat", so there were opportunities for exposure to developing skils with voice and acting. My DD had the opportunitiy to do solos at competition and did well and thoroughly enjoyed these experiences. But, there was growing concern about not getting the foundation that ballet provides..... and we started "moonlighting" at a local ballet school. DD thrived in those classes, improved in her technique... which ultimately improved her performances with the comp studio. The ballet school is associated with a company, and she had an opportunity for a small part in one of their ballet productions. Doors opened into a whole new world..... we both loved it.

 

After that, we combined attendance at both places.... she took the full number of classes with her level at the ballet school, which by some miracle did not conflict with the tap, jazz and competition rehearsal at the other studio. We did that for two years. It was crazy and wonderful at the same time, but I knew that she would not be able to sustain that forever, as school and homework expectations increased. Also...dollar wise it was not easy either. As time went on, she was more and more committed to her ballet classes.... and although it was difficult telling the comp studio director she wasn't coming back, once that hurdle was crossed my DD had no regrets and has continued to thrive at the ballet school. (Believe me, we both are busy enough!)

 

Looking back, although I wish I hadn't been so clueless - we may have made the complete switch sooner - there have been benefits to being a part of two different worlds for a short time. First, simply knowing what each arena is really like....she was able to understand which was closest to her heart. But she also came away with skills that she might not have developed so much otherwise. Expressiveness and a little acting ability has helped her in some of her ballet roles, for example. But moving on in ballet was the right thing for her.

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Our experience was similar to KarenD's. My DD spent her early years dancing at a competition studio that offered solid ballet, and she was able to manage jazz, tap, hip hop, and lyrical along with ballet because she was still young enough that her ballet requirements were not too intense.

 

When she was 10, there were internal problems at her studio and she moved on. She enrolled at what is first and foremost a ballet school that happens to be large enough to also host a competition team. It was apparent to us right away that doing ballet at her level along with the competition team was going to be difficult. She understood how important strong ballet training is so she ended up choosing the "ballet track" with one added jazz class per week. It was an adjustment for her at first, but she progressed quickly and was quite happy. Once she went en pointe, we knew she would never have had time to meet the team commitments, and we were very glad she had not tried to "do it all". She has plenty to do with classes, summer intensives, and rehearsals for the company's ballet performance.

 

DD had the time of her life while she was competing. She has great memories along with a slew of ribbons and trophies that she cherishes. She also overcame a great deal of stage fright which was priceless to both of us. But like KarenD's DD, she has no regrets about her decision. She doesn't know yet whether she wants to pursue ballet or another dance form someday, but for now she knows she's getting what she needs by focusing on a strong ballet foundation.

 

And I agree with Momof3darlings that your daughter will be plenty busy as she progresses in ballet!

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12345

 

To answer some of your questions about how ballet studios work, I think you will find that there are all different types of ballet studios. In our area most of the serious ballet studios do have some type of company/student company/performance division as part of the studio. The ones we know of all require an audition and or invitation to join. Most in our area just have older age students, at our studio you must be at least 14 in order to audition. Different studios will do more performing than others as well, you just have to visit and research the schools that are in your area. I think I remember a thread on how to pick a good ballet studio on one of the forums. I know I have read that some studios have jr companies with younger aged dancer, I just don't have any info to help in that area.

 

I don't know any studios where you could ask to do a solo. In fact at our studio there are very few solo opportunities for any of the younger dancers except if they are pretty advanced, there are a few that get small solos in Nutcracker. Until a dancer was in the performance division, they would only have Nutcracker and the year end performance. I would think that your dd would have to be prepared for less performing opportunities than at her competition studio. I think you have to check to see if the studios you are considering would allow you to be at both studios. I know that ours discourages it and is not happy at all if dancers are missing classes for performances and rehearsal at another studio. Once they go on pointe it seems like most studios require dancing 5 or 6 days a week, which makes it really hard to do both. I know at our studio we do have 12 year olds that are in these levels, so you might not be able to do both for very long.

 

I think not performing is the hardest part of switching to a ballet studio from a competition studio. My dd's old studio was more of a recreational one, she was on the dance team that did one competition a year but they performed all the time. I think I have been to every festival or fair that this area does at one point or another! She and a friend switched to her current studio and it just wasn't a good fit for her friend. She was a little older (13 to my dd's 11) and really missed the excitement of performing all the time. She did really well in the ballet classes, but didn't like the strict atmosphere. My dd's studio is basically all ballet. They do have modern and then 1 jazz class and 1 hip hop class. These are all open classes where as the ballet are closed, which means you are assigned a level and can only move up when promoted. You can't take any other level class without permission from the instuctor and audition for higher levels. The teachers are all very nice, but there is no talking, wearing of junk during class, and there was a lot more emphasis on placement with many more corrections. It seemed that my dd did get good enough instruction at her old studio to be put in a level with her current age group but her friend was in the same level and wasn't as happy. She ended up going to one of the top competition studios and is doing very well. She on the high school dance team as well and is very glad she switched back. My dd has loved her new studio and now that she is part of the performance division she has never been busier. So I think it is a very individual choice as to what works.

 

I do know that you will never regret getting better ballet training for your dd, whatever she ultimately decides to do. It's very easy to get back into a competition team after a couple of years of ballet, but is very hard to get into a good ballet school at an older age and be at the same level as the other girls in the school. I wish I had switched my dd at an earlier age!

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12345,

 

My daughter also started at a Dolly Dinkle type of school, but early on decided she was more interested in ballet. Luckily for her, the AD of her current pre-pro school decided to come to her elementary school to look for more students. He told DD (at age 7) that she should be studying at his school. She started immediately (although she continued to dance at the dolly dinkle for 2 years as well) and has never thought about going back to her old school. DD is now 12 and is seriously hoping for a professional career in ballet!! Keep at it!

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I would think that your dd would have to be prepared for less performing opportunities than at her competition studio

 

The philosophy of our ballet school's director differs from that of most competition/performance-based studios. She believes that the bulk of a student's time needs to be spent learning technique and working to improve it, and that if large blocks of time are spent repeatedly rehearsing the same numbers for performances or competitions, valuable learning time is lost. Many of her students comptete at Grand Prix, but I doubt that they spend as much time preparing as dancers from other studios might. She arranges extra performing opportunities for her pre-professional students, but for those dancers who have not reached that level, they perform in a recital and one ballet per year. This director was trained by and became a member of a well-known international ballet company, so I trust her judgement about how much performance time is best at various levels.

 

My DD had to adjust to this change in philosophy, but her excitement over performing was soon replaced by her excitement over many marked improvements in her abilities. I don't say this to upset anyone, but in my humble opinion, the competition world offers dancers quicker rewards, while serious ballet training offers it's rewards over a longer period of time and training. They are both valid paths, just very different.

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We left our competition studio just two weeks ago, and I have already noticed marked improvement in my daughter's technique. Even my husband, who I only rarely drag to ballets, can see the difference.

 

It is a huge shift in attitude and approach, both in the teachers and in the students. The competition school seemed like running a race. It was always a rush to memorize a routine, kick your leg higher, etc. The ballet school is more like striving for the best art. It is a thoughtful look at what beauty the girls can bring to every movement.

 

I guess you can tell that we are very happy with the change. I hesitate to say that we wish DD had never gone to a competition school (semi-Dolly Dinkle). If she hadn't, we wouldn't have the appreciation we now have for the ballet school. :)

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Guest dreamofdance

This topic has become especially interesting to me while I am following YAGP results. I've noticed that some winners at regionals attend what would be considered "competition schools." YAGP is obviously a competition, but it is also hugely a "classical ballet" competition. So, my thinking is that some of these "competition schools" are offering at least clean basic technique, but also offer what some classical ballet schools do not - stage presence, flexibility from the other dance forms, the "play to the judges" expressions that only those who have attended competitions can understand and replicate.

 

Those of you who have DK's who've done the competition school route followed by the classical ballet school route, can you comment - do you think the competition school's offered "extras" (as mentioned above) that are not found in classical ballet focused schools. Would it be a good idea for DK's to be exposed to a competition type environment occasionally to complement the classical training? Or, would a competition school conflict with classical training. For example, there is one school in NY whose owner is a former classical ballerina with a big name company. She also has a staff of jazz, hip hop, tap, etc instructors from well-known schools in those types of dance. Those DK's compete in all types of competitions including YAGP. The DK's from that school "clean-up" at YAGP. Should everyone be running to a school like that?

 

*edited to add paragraphs to make post easier to read.

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Those DK's compete in all types of competitions including YAGP. The DK's from that school "clean-up" at YAGP. Should everyone be running to a school like that?

 

Sure, if cleaning up at YAGP is what it's all about. Sorry, but I don't think that is top priority. And, there have been many, many winners there, and in other big competitions, like Prix de Lausanne, who have never been to a competition school.

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Since you seem to be researching dreamofdance, maybe you'll consider looking a bit further and coming back to share with us. What I'd like to know rather than whose kids "win". Is which of the older students with winning names from the competition type schools can you now find listed in corp or apprentice positions in Classical Ballet companies. That is far more important information than just can someone put together a winner in my humble opinion.

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Guest dreamofdance

Momof 3,

That was actually the point I guess I didn't make clear in the first post. If these "competition school kids" can come out on top at YAGP which is supposed to be a classical ballet comp, then what's to think they are not going to be the ones beating out our "classical" kids at SI auditions as well as jobs in the future. Interesting topic to research and when time permits, I think I will look into that.

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It's interesting. I noticed winners regionally from the competition school my dd once attended as well.

 

I don't think one can view all competition schools as being equal. When we were making the switch, we visited other competition schools in our area as well as the ballet schools. The school dd came from required at least 3 classes per competition class. So, if they were taking a competition jazz class, they still needed additional jazz technique classes plus ballet. As they got older, the requirements increased. None of the other competition schools we visited as any where near as much emphasis on technique. In many cases, the "competition" dance class in a genre was the only class they got. That means all these kids do in a jazz class, for ex, is work on that one number all year.

 

That said, at the end of the year performances at dd's former studio, I never once heard of a graduate going on to a ballet company or any other sort of dance company. They all went on to college. Some went to dance or theatre programs, but that's about as far as it went. Granted, this is highly anecdotal, but I thought you might be interested in my limited experience. B)

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Dreamofdance, I can tell you that at the Chicago YAGP regionals, the highest scoring dancers seem to consistently come from ballet schools rather than competition schools.

 

You asked whether a competition school would interere with classical ballet training. If your child is young (8 or 9), then maybe not. If he/she is at or approaching an advanced level, I would say yes, it most likely would interere. I speak from experience when I say I believe it is virtually impossible to follow an excellent ballet program while also preparing for mutliple regional competitons in jazz, tap, etc. There just aren't enough hours in the day. My DD's first school did this successfully, but it was a small studio with dancers no older than 12-13. Once a child approaches the advanced level, the ballet requirements become too intense.

 

If you are worried about well-roundedness, your child can always enroll in a jazz or modern class if one is available to you. I don't believe competition school training is necessary to teach stage presence. This can be addressed within a classical ballet program at the appropriate time.

 

I have found that in competition schools, there is so much pressure to win that the focus can easily shift to "flash" rather than excellent technique. That may be enough to get a child a trophy or title at a competition, but it does take more than that for a dancer to be accepted into a quality SI program, and ultimately get into a company. I also believe that the competition school envirionment tends to breed a desire for instant gratification, and I think the slow progression and discipline of ballet training, with opportunities for solos, etc. being given after a period of "proving yourself", teaches the perserverance that every aspiring dancer will need to successfully navigate the dance world.

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Good points, very well stated, allegra9. B)

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