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How many hours are enough? and is there a point of diminished returns?


BelaNina

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because she chose dance--more ballet classes, more dance disciplines (flamenco, jazz, modern, tap). By her fifth or sixth grade year, she was dancing every weekday 4-9 p.m. and 9-2 p.m. on Saturdays.

 

 

Dancemaven - Wow! That's 30 hours per week in the 5th and 6th grade! I wonder if that number of hours at such an early age made the difference that going to residential SIs at earlier ages make for those students who don't have that number of hours of dance available to them during the school year.

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LauraGG, ohmygoodness! I didn't do the math on those hours I set out! :P She never danced a 30-hour week straight through (until this year). Those were the hours she was at the studio during those years. I guess I just got used to listing those general hours and didn't think to break them out more specifically. :shrug: I dropped her at 4 (class started at 4:30) and classes ended at 9.

 

In any given year, she had some break between classes on some nights, but not all. Others, she might get done by 8 or 8:30. The Friday evening classes became rehearsals second semester, as did the last two hours on Saturday. The older she got, the less breaks between classes she had and those were usually filled with demonstrating for lower levels as part of her scholarship duties.

 

I'd say that typically, she danced 15-20 hours (excluding rehearsals)--I still haven't done the math, but I used to do it to explain to her teachers at Nutcracker time-- during those years between 5th grade and 9th grade. She usually had around 4-5 ballet technique classes and another 3-4 'adjunct' disciplines, such as modern and jazz consistently, and flamenco or tap for a few years each, with a scattering through the years of character, improv, choreography, and a yoga-based stretch-and-strength. She ranged from 8 individual classes per semester to as many as 11 or 12 individual classes on her class enrollment, but they counted each ballet class and each pointe class individually. I think starting in Level 2, she had four (level) ballet classes per week, and those increased to five at Level 4 (of five levels).

 

So, at the peak: 5 x 1:30 level ballet classes, 4 x 45 min pointe classes, 1 x 1:30 modern class, 1 x 1:30 jazz class, 6 hours rehearsals for ensemble in 2 hour segments over a couple of days, 1 x 1:30 pas/variations class, 1x 1:15 adult ballet class (as extra), 1x 1:30 lower level ballet class (as extra). Scattered through the years, substitute 1 hr tap class, 1 hr flamenco, additional jazz class, (1-2x) 45 minute body conditioning, 1-2 x 1hr-1 1/2 hr lower level class as demonstrator. Some years she could schedule more extra lower level classes than others. She finally found the benefit of working slower.

 

So, I should have been more careful in setting out her total hours schedule. I was always amazed at how many hours she did spend, but rest assured, it was NEVER 30! :clapping: My apologies!

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The post's regarding the number of hours danced per week are really making me think. I'v gone back and read threads about hours danced in this country and in Europe, mainly the UK. My DD's also dance the equivalent of a part time job and have for years. I really wonder why this is necessary and expected here and not on the other side of the pond. Is it because in Europe countries have recognised methods of training that are used in the majority of schools? Does this make training better? No one can deny the brilliance of companies such as the Royal and even many smaller European companies. Do the number of hours really matter or are we just used to it and have developed the mindset that it is needed. Would it be possible to train dancers with just one daily class Monday through Friday and use Saturdays for production rehearsals. That would cut down most schedules by an awful lot.

 

I know that in Europe older dancers, the true pre pro's, also dance more, so the heavier schedule for the focused, older child appears not to be just in the US. I'm wondering if we haven't gone a little nuts here. When does a schedule need to accelerate? I'm wonder if teachers were really good and gave good corrections in a set class, if dancers wouldn't progress more quickly. I know this is what happens with RAD and those dancers are beautiful technically. By the time the advanced exams come along these dancers are solid and can do anything, no tricks involved. Set classes really appear to work yet most US dancers are not trained with them. Could this be what makes the difference? The phrase, 'work smart not long' keeps coming into my head. Lot's of thoughts here. Any opinions or answers!

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no answers, just more questions...

I have been wondering if there is a point at which there limited return on the additional time, in terms of a dancers development.

 

And I also wonder if there is a point in which additional hours actually represent a diminished return - due to schedule overload, fatique, and risk of injury........

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So, I should have been more careful in setting out her total hours schedule. I was always amazed at how many hours she did spend, but rest assured, it was NEVER 30! ohmy.gif My apologies!

 

 

:shrug: No worries, Dancemaven. 15 to 20 hours per week in 5th and 6th grade is still quite a bit, but not quite as eye-popping as 30! :D

 

 

Pasdetrois: I am hoping that what you're saying is true - that fewer hours, but high quality hours will be enough. I posted on the "turn out" thread that my dd has been challenged for years with her balance, and not using her turn out muscles, etc. After I posted, I went to watch her class, which I hadn't done in awhile, and I was amazed at the progress she had made. She had quite a good class, which was noticed by her teacher. To me, she looked like a completely different dancer than the last time I seen her dance in class. She has added pointe this semester, and she has added pilates, but her hours have not increased to any great degree. I think her sudden progress can be attributed to the pilates sessions which are focused on her individual needs, and to her teacher's new policy of having the students - with her help - establish goals for themselves, and to keep those goals in mind as they're working in class. That kind of focused attention can do wonders. In fact - that's the whole theory behind my own profession of speech language pathology. Speaking is the most complex motor task any human ever does. A speech pathologist does not ordinarily spend hours and hours per week working with a child who is having articulation problems. No, we establish long term goals, then establish step by step short term goals and work toward helping the child achieve mastery of the skills they need to achieve the goals. Time to work on acquiring new skills is important, but if the goals are established at the appropriate skill level, and the proper amount of attention is focused on those goals, it is the focus that is the more important element in acquiring new skills.

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When I start looking at what some of DD's peers are doing and begin to worry that DD might not be dancing enough (which would seem laughable to those we know who don't dance), I always end up asking myself the very same questions KarenD asked in her last post. I'm only a mom, not a teacher or dancer, but I always have believed more is not always better. I believe we can inadvertently run our children into the ground in our well-meaning attempt to help them achieve more.

 

I feel confident, based on research I've done on this forum, that my DD is getting what she needs with the number of hours she currently dances. It's when I start looking at what others do that I start to feel drawn in to the rat race. I've had to adopt a fairly narrow focus -- watching DD, considering recommendations from her studio director, and listening to my gut. I actually envision the model in my head as a triangle with DD, the studio director, and me at each of the 3 points. No outside interference.

 

I have only recently come to the conclusions that feeling guilty about what I didn't do before, and what I may not be able to afford in the future, is wasted energy. We will work to find and finance the best possible training for DD, without disrupting the entire family, financially or otherwise..... her path will be what is right for her... fueled by whatever recourses we can give her, and her own desires and drive.

What a great piece of wisdom.

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Addressing the issue of set classes brought up earlier, I would say that there are some advantages, but not enough. I do not agree with set classes at all. Repeated classes, like maybe two or three times with the same class, is fine, IMO. That gives them a chance to really learn the exercises and improve them. I always repeat my classes at least once, even with advanced. Sometimes twice with intermediate. But set classes are the same all the time, like for a year, and I find that the dancers then do those particular classes very well indeed, but they are totally lost in a class that is not set, unless they are having an equal number of "free" classes.

 

The set classes also develop an "absolute" way of doing things, like every head and every port de bras is the same with any given step or movement. This does not train them to be versatile and to pick up on other teacher's work. It also limits their ability to pick up choreography quickly. They basically get very "married" to only one way of doing things, and, as we all know, there are many roads that lead to Rome!

 

All of that said, there is a purpose for some set classes, and certainly repeated classes, in the lower levels. But if that kind of work continues too long, then the dancers do not develop the things mentioned above, nor the fluidity of motion needed to make steps and exercises look like dance. It's kind of like starting the young ones in Ballet I with 3rd position and then keeping them there for two or three years. By then, it is very hard to get them to 5th, and there are many, many steps in the center vocabulary that really require a 5th position. Using 3rd is fine in the very, very beginning, but it does not encourage improved rotation and the use of one's maximum rotation, which then creates very sloppy center work.*

 

*In terms of using 3rd, I think that if the students are 7 or 8 years old in Ballet I, then they should start getting to 5th as soon as physically possible. Some schools start them younger than that, and that would be where I would say that 3rd should be used for a little while.

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I have been wondering if there is a point at which there limited return on the additional time, in terms of a dancers development. And I also wonder if there is a point in which additional hours actually represent a diminished return - due to schedule overload, fatique, and risk of injury........

 

I don't know if this is true or not, but I'll pass it on. When my daughter had over-use injuries as a competitive gymnast we went to a pediatric orthopedist (head of the pediatric orthopedic department of a major children's hospital). He claimed the magic number was 12 hours/week in pre-adolescents. He said that whether it was gymnastics, dance, ice-skating, soccer, swimming, or whatever, the patients he saw could usually trace the beginning of the injury to the time they crossed that 12 hour threshold. I know that was true with my daughter.

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My dd has been advised that "less can be more" by her dance teachers. Two summers ago, dd did her school's summer intensive during the days and regular classes at night. She felt fine dancing the eight or nine hours daily (at age 10) and did make a lot of progress. Last summer, however, her teachers advised her to do the daily intensive only and skip the night classes. They felt that she would be less tired that way and less prone to an overuse injury. All of her teachers commented that she progressed even more last summer and that it was the right decision. This summer, she will again only do the daily intensive and will take Pilates a couple of nights a week to supplement.

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interesting info, slhogan. My DD is adolescent rather than preadolescent, my curiosity begs the question "what comments about number of hours would your doctor have to say about adolescents?"

In keeping with the tenets of this board, you don't have to answer that of course!

 

cbcn2, your "less can be more" comment seems to chime with slhogan's, at least for your DD's ages....

 

As for me and mine, we have found ~15 hours a week to be about what all of us (I speak collectively as a family) can handle. From DD's end, she is attending a public high school that is high quality... so course load is constant. She handles it well but...by this time of year we long for school to be out so all she has to do is eat, sleep and dance.

 

From my end, there is the constant carpooling... and I am fortunate to have good partners. Hubby and I work full time to fund both our children's aspirations, We both have some flexiblilty in our jobs and great carpool partners but...

 

But none of us - DD included - could imagine doing more!! (at least during the school year.)

 

so for us, we have figured out our school year max. Whether or not it is what others would advise for a serious ballet student....well, I honor any and all advice. But we are doing the max that we can do, and still maintain a livable life as a family, and not totally stress out DD. She is very capbable of dealling with a big load, and doesn't need me to "protect" her... but on the other hand I am the one who establishes whatever sense of balance occurs in our day to day family life.

 

From my experience, I think the questions of "How much is too much" or "when can less be more" are very viable questions indeed.

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Fifteen hours is good, as long as those hours are pretty evenly spaced over 5 or 6 days, and they are ballet and pointe classes, with maybe one or two hours being jazz or modern. Rehearsals should not count in those hours. It would not be good if she is doing 5 hours 3 days a week. Once in their teens, serious dancers need a daily 90 minute technique class, and a 60 minute pointe class as many at least 3 or 4 of those days.

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KarenD- I echo your thoughts completely. When I read of young students doing 20/25+ hours I wonder how they do it! We have to strike a balance in our house as well and school throws in the biggest factor and the fact DD (freshman) is getting all the hours she possibly can. Her hours seems pale in comparison to others and I worry for her sake it may not be enough- 7.5 technique, 3.5 pointe (including a variation class) and an hour of misc dance forms that rotate in 6 week blocks throughout the year. (jazz, modern, etc.) and that is 6 days per week. Rehearsals can throw in another 3-6 hours per week. How do other dancers manage 4+hours per day and what are they taking for all those hours? Does it become counterproductive to have so many hours as a young teenager? Should they take lower level technique classes to supplement if that is all that is available? I really grapple with these issues and worry that DD will only continue to fall behind her peers despite our best efforts.

 

DD gets up at 5:45 every weekday to make the 6:45 bus. She gets home at 3:30, alittle earlier if I can pick her up. Grab something to eat, relax ( a couple of quick breaths), homework and back out the door for dance. Some days are earlier than others so there is time for homework on the other end, but still when she gets home there is more food, shower and in bed hopefully by 10-10:30. I just don't see how to cram more dance hours in there! I'm going with the quality vs. quantity theory and hoping it works for awhile longer!

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(Yeah! my screen name is working. Thank you!)

 

As my DD got older we discussed constantly with her that as she increased her hours of dance she would need to increase her commitment to disipling herself to get everything done. She is 16 now and dances about 15-18 hours a week not including rehersals. She is a honor student at a very competitve public high school as well. She wants to dance but we require her to keep up her studies as well (she wants to also). That means giving up a lot! She has little time for relaxing or socializing. She has no study hall at school but does study on the bus, at lunch and in the car to and from class as well as before and after dance. Sometime she does get overwhelmed and we re-visit the subject of reducing dance classes. The discussion almost always ends with her wanting to ADD classes. Geeeeeeez! Dancing at the levels talked about on these boards requires the disipline of an Olympic athlete. It is not always easy, so you have to really want it.

 

Our new challange- DD got her driver's license. She and we would like her to drive the 1 hour round trip to and from class herself but then she looses that study time.

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Once in their teens, serious dancers need a daily 90 minute technique class, and a 60 minute pointe class as many at least 3 or 4 of those days.

 

This sounds so reasonable when you break it down this way! Technique class X 6 days = 9 hours, plus pointe class X 4 days = 4 hours. That makes a total of 13 hours of class. Seems within reach.

 

I have never understood how (or why) kids reach totals of 25-30 hours of actual dancing each week, as a regular schedule. And I think talk of these long hours makes perfectly diligent dancers (and their parents) feel like slackers when in reality they are training sensibly and well within the norm.

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I cannot imagine my dd dancing 30 hours a week in regular classes. Her studio does four productions a year and so there have been times when they have danced 26 hours in a week with rehearsals, which is hard, but it would just be for a few weeks. They are doing Swan Lake (tonight opening night), and the rehearsal schedule has been terrible, with everyone dancing 30 hours a week for the last 10 weeks. We could not do this on a regular basis! It has been very challenging and exhausting for the girls to keep grades up and do this kind of schedule. I am so glad to studio closes the week after Spring performance so dd doesn't have any ballet after this weekend to recover!

 

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