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Problems with dance school


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My DD would like to attend a short summer intensive where she could commute from home, but she is torn because she has waited a long time to feel "good enough" to be asked to do privates with the director.

Edited by Lina
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She claims that resume building by attending name SIs and performing in things like the Nutcracker, Le Corsaire, etc. will not help a dancer get a job. Her strategy is to build a "complete package" that will create a splash when they are eventually sent out into the world.


Lina, the above statement really sends up a red flag for me. I don't like it at all. I also do not like a teacher pushing private lessons as a special privilege, and one has to be "good enough". Nope. None of this works for me. You will be paying out the kazoo for those privates, and if the school is truly a good one, with both quality and quantity of training necessary to train a dancer to a professional level, then the privates are not needed. They should be used primarily for coaching, like for a role or a solo for YAGP or something like that.

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Lina, one question that comes immediately to mind is what is the current school's record of producing professional dancers? Do their students get accepted to top tier SI's or are they securing spots in companies or trainee programs of professional companies? I ask this, because you seem to be focusing on the cost of the training, which does not necessarily mean it is a credible, preprofessional school.


Another question is the age of daughter? What may be an o.k. training situation for a 13 year old may not fit the bill for a 17 year old.


This sounds like a mixed bag to me. It's great to have so much interest expressed by the artistic director and her advice and input could be very valuable to your dancer. Perhaps this short summer intensive in question would not provide the level of training for your DD that another top level program would?


However, for me, a red flag is raised when offers of assistance are tied to so many conditions. You have to be the one to decide how much of the decision making process you are willing to turn over to a dance teacher. IMO, advice and counsel are wonderful, but ultimately decisions need to be made by the dancer and his/her parents based on what is best for all concerned. Good luck, I'm sure other here will have lots of help to offer.

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There are SO many things here that sound unhappy to me. This one person is trying to make your DD a wholly owned subsidiary. Complete control over SIs and decisions to dance with professional company? You'd be putting your DD's future in this one person's hands, and never be able to get feedback from the bigger world. And I don't even want to think about what happens should you ever cross this person -- and it sounds as though she'd be easily crossed.


I'm making some inferences from your stated location, but it's likely your local professional company is the same as mine. I can tell you that dancing in that Nutcracker is a cherished memory for both my children. Whether or not it builds a resume, it's just plain fun and, for some kids, the closest they will EVER get to dancing professionally.


And I'm going to infer that the SI to which you refer is run by this same company. If it is, I can only tell you that the dancers I know who went there last year LOVED it. And that the dancers at our school have loved every guest teacher from the company who has taught at our school. As for the company members not liking the artistic staff: I would look to longevity and tenure in the company. If many dancers have stayed there for a long time, I would infer that they don't dislike the artistic staff.

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Thanks for the advice on this.



Many of the ballet students take privates. They do prepare variations for YAGP, and part of the year they work on technique.

The problem is really where else to go. This school has always had a good focus on technique.

Edited by Lina
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I think the comments that Ms. Leigh provided with regard to "privates" are most informative and worth re-reading, especially because they come from the perspective of a highly regarded and experienced ballet mistress.

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If you wanted to try the AD's plan without limiting this coming summer, there is always the old "oh, we're so excited, but we already paid for this summer's SI, so she WILL be attending it. Hope that's not a problem" - and if the AD knows you haven't paid, there is "Grandma was so excited for her re this SI, that she paid as an early birthday present. Nothing we can do about it." Not a fan of dishonesty, but also not a fan of total control by an AD!

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I would gently ask, with the stipulations being put on your choices as a family regarding your DK's training, what guarantees are they willing to give that following their rules and their rules only will get your dancer a contract when she's 18. If they cannot guarantee a contract (which they cannot) then should not expect you give such exclusivity to your DK's training. You believe in them, that's why you're there. But they must also believe in your judgement regarding your own child as well.


What worries me more than the privates themselves and the extra money they cost, is the fact that they seem to have become a "badge of honor" rather than something you do because you need extra help.

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Unfortunately, the badge of honor for privates is not unique to your school. From experience, might I point out that, once you succumb (though you feel it is to help your child progress, not for perceived status), it becomes very difficult to back away, both emotionally and politically.

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If the AD has so many students advanced beyond their classmates such that they 'need' privates, why doesn't the AD group them together for a new level and have another class? :) Sounds to me that perhaps the leveling structure of the school could use some adjusting.


Rigid control of students is really a big red flag. It is one thing for a school, teacher, AD to expect a child/parent to trust their teaching and judgment when it comes to leveling, progression, and recommendations for when it is time to 'fly the nest' and test some waters (i.e., begin auditioning and attending SIs). It is quite another thing for a school, teacher, AD to exert complete autocratic control over a student's training such as you are describing.


Please don't get me wrong, I ascribe (generally) to the concept that if a child is receiving good quality training at home that there is no real training need to go off to an SI before the age of 14 or so. (It has to do with solidifying the child's technique and decreasing the opportunity for developing 'confused technique'). But that being said, there ARE instances when it is perfectly appropriate for a child to do other SIs than the home school in given circumstances.


The reason, however, that your school is saying "no SIs" strikes me as being based upon autocratic control and not stemming from some philosophical rationale.


I think I would begin checking around for an alternative studio with a more reasonable philosophy of training.

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You're right cheetah. It is very easy to succumb and you don't really do it for the badge of honor but when it is reserved for only a few, it can come with the territory if not handled correctly by the studio administration. Nor is the badge of honor in place at all schools. It is in how they are done, not that they are done. One of the things that is hard to determine is when privates in any given situation go from a belief that a teachers time outside class is sacred (they have family and a life also) and should be rewarded financially (which I do belive) and when a teacher's job is to teach the student and if that involves some one on one if that should be given because they believe in the full education of a student period and they are invested in them.


We were blessed with all but one teacher who did take the time outside of class to help without a price tag attached to it. I am forever grateful. The one we paid, did so at our request one summer. She had just begun offering them at the studio to her students and we needed an SI free summer because of injury rehab. They were invaluable.


There is alot to be learned from privates, however, when looking at an individual studio and whether the Private system is working like it should be. One should look at the students who are not taking the privates maybe because they are not ready or can't afford them or were not asked. What about their education is lacking within the studio, is anything if they don't have the privates? In my opinion, quality education doesn't need the privates although they may be the icing on the cake. What I've fearing from the original poster though is that somehow those without the privates are not getting the best education the school has to offer in the first place.


*edited to add privates to prepare for YAGP are not the type I'm generally talking about. I think that preparation is different than general privates to better a dancer in general.

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Lina, how old is your DD? And what will happen if you turn down the AD's suggestion of privates?


I have a feeling that she has thrown you in between the proverbial rock and hard place.


Finally: where is she getting the time to teach all those privates? Why not just add a class or two to the schedule and benefit everyone?

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Unfortunately, the badge of honor for privates is not unique to your school. From experience, might I point out that, once you succumb (though you feel it is to help your child progress, not for perceived status), it becomes very difficult to back away, both emotionally and politically.



Treefrog, DD has just turned 13. And yes, I feel that we are between a rock and hard place.



I do feel that the training has been good, although there are some worries about the program itself, or we would not have stayed.

Edited by Lina
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I agree with many of the comments above, so I won't repeat them. My idea had been that privates were to help overcome something that could be better targeted one on one outside of class. If that required an extra fee, then fine. But I've seen them digress into something where the instruction being provided is something that really should be done in class. Ultimately they can backfire. If the student can/will pay for the privates, then why bother to provide corrections in class when the teacher can use that time to give corrections to the other students? And yes, Lina, it can be very hard to walk away. We found that to do so brings consequences. I'm not saying that would happen in your case - just be careful.

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