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Ballet Talk for Dancers

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


BelaNina

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It seems ironic to me that we stress good health habits, good nutrition, and injury prevention to our kids; while at the same time their training requirements and rehearsal schedules sometimes put them in a situation where they barely have enough time to eat or sleep! Allowing a child to achieve their personal best is one thing, but letting our kids grow into high-strung adults is another and I don't believe it will produce an adult who is able to perform at their peak in any endeavor. Even if the pressure is on at the ballet school to do more, I think it is up to us as parents to reassure our kids that they aren't slackers, and that it's even healthy, to assume a reasonable, age-appropriate schedule.

 

Now...if only we could could get the teachers to remember that! :unsure:

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Just to be clear: My DD did not spend anywhere near 30 hours actually dancing in classes during her middle school and high school years. That number came about by a sloppy, less than precise comment on my part referring to the time she spent at her studio during those years. The number of actual dance hours wasn't the focus of my original post, so the actual phrasing I used was more throw away than precise in that regard.

 

The only time DD has approached 30 hours of actual dancing a week has been this year. BUT, she is a high school graduate participating in an intensive training program during her 'gap' year before going off to college. And even now, portions of that hourly time is given over to conditioning and rehearsal time, not class time. Some days, the dancers aren't there the full 9-6 time frame. And they have no classes or rehearsals on either weekend days.

 

She also has no academic responsibilities. (Although she did elect to take a once a week poetry class through a local university's program, but it is not for credit of any kind.)

 

So, please don't let my 'mispeak' send anyone into the realm of craziness. Ms. Leigh, whom we all know definitely knows her stuff, has explained the 'necessary' dance schedule--which is fairly modest in terms of commitment for a serious dancer---or anyone else trying to seriously hone particular skills in any other physical endeavor. How far any of us allow our dancers to go beyond that commitment and get over-extended is on us, not the teachers.

 

My DD filled her schedule to the gills---but with the exception of the required 4 of 5 level ballet classes, her teachers made no demands on her in terms of scheduling. Sure, they recommended a modern or a jazz class as an adjunct class for serious students, but they never required it. That was DD's choice--and my acquiescence.

 

As long as she remained a respectful, disciplined kid, maintained her excellent academic record, and kept out of trouble, I saw nothing wrong with her spending all that time at the dance studio. At least, I knew where she was and what company she was keeping. Dance has always done what I wanted it to: it has consistently kept her off the streets as a teenager! :unsure:

 

DD did not spend all that time at the dance studio to 'keep up with the Joneskovas"; she did it because that was the place she wanted to be. And I had no reason not to agree to it. Other dancers with equal or greater success from our studio did not spend the same amount of time as DD. Some did the required levels and then spent their 'free' time in other adjunct disciplines, such as music lessons.

 

Remember, this thread was split from 'how to avoid the rat race' thread. The number of hours spent at the studio or spent in classes --beyond the necessary amount suggested by Ms. Leigh--is neither a guarantee nor a badge of honor. The additional hours are simply how a particular child chooses to spend their free time, that is, the time left after academic responsibilities and family responsibilities are taken care of.

 

As in everything else, some kids have more 'free time' than others.

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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.

 

 

This is very interesting information, slhogan. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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Dancemaven, I hope you don't think I was targeting you when I made my comments. I really wasn't targeting anyone, I was speaking to the comments that a couple of posters made about kids feeling like "slackers" when they return to what is reasonable. I'm sure there are many dancers that can manage the increased hours and actually choose to do it themselves, and your DD sounds like she's one of them. As you mentioned, age and academic responsibilities all factor in.

 

Perhaps I am speaking more about younger teens who sometimes have difficulty determining how much is too much. Yes, it is absoulutely our job as parents to make sure a balance is maintained, but I also think it is the responsibility of studio directors and teachers to establish rehearsal schedules that don't compromise the child's health and well-being by completely exhausting them. And as I said, I think that as parents we need to reassure our kids that it is OK to put their own sanity first, without the worry that it will be somehow be held against them. Of course, as kids mature, they are much better able to manage this on their own.

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bec2, I was only worried that my 'misspeak' was setting up that ridiculous 30 hr/week as some goal to shoot for or be left feeling like a 'slacker'. :o

 

I agree with you, once the necessary requirements for on-track progression is met, there is absolutely no need for the dancer (or parent) to feel like 'a slacker'. However, we all know that that is exactly the point where the struggle to remain outside of the 'rat race' takes place.

 

I also just wanted to (try to) clarify that sometimes what looks like participation in the 'rat race' isn't always about being caught up in the 'rat race'. In large part, I do think that is determined by the reasons behind the additional class load and whether the dancer or parent feels some pressure (and from whom) to enroll in those additional classes when, if left to themselves, they would spend that free time elsewhere. :) Also, beware those folks who must justify their choices by trying to influence yours away from your preferred path and onto theirs.

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When my daughter had over-use injuries as a competitive gymnast...

 

 

This is very interesting information, slhogan. Thanks for sharing it with us.

 

I'm sorry-- I thought I was on the under 13 board when I posted. I don't know how relevant that was to the population of this board. My apologies!

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I'm wondering whether the reasonable number of hours being discussed is applicable to summer intensive study as well or, is it reasonable to exceed these hour ranges for the 4-6 weeks each summer? TIA

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Typically, the hours devoted to dance at a Summer Intensive per day will exceed the number of hours devoted per day or week in the school year. Hence, the 'intensive' part. :) It is, however, a relatively short span of time--only 4-6 weeks vs the 36 weeks or more during a school year. Same caveat would apply to the intensive rehearsal schedule that is necessary around performance times.

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Thank you Dancemaven. Overuse injuries are a bit mysterious to me- on the one hand the number of hours in your average summer intensive would seem to invite them. Your explanation that the relatively short duration of these programs typically prevents such injuries is reassuring.

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Typically, the hours devoted to dance at a Summer Intensive per day will exceed the number of hours devoted per day or week in the school year. Hence, the 'intensive' part. smile.gif It is, however, a relatively short span of time--only 4-6 weeks vs the 36 weeks or more during a school year. Same caveat would apply to the intensive rehearsal schedule that is necessary around performance times.

 

 

Along with ddm1, I too am feeling reassured about the number of hours dd will be dancing this summer.

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The SI hours also occur earlier in the day, not after a long day of school. At the SI they are focused totally on dance, and do not have all of the other obligations and homework, etc., so those intensive hours are so much more productive than during the school year. Progress from the SI can equal months of progress during the school year. :lol:

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Unfortunately, the "months of progress" gained at a SI can slip away fairly quickly if the home studio doesn't have an intense enough schedule to maintain those gains. This always happened to my dd at her previous studio. It was frustrating, but there was nothing that could be done about it. Around October, she always felt she was close to her level of technique before the SI. There was improvement, but not as much as she would have liked. :lol:

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Victoria, your points are well taken- time spent dancing without the pressures of school activities, homework and having to wake up at the crack of dawn is a welcome blessing. Makes sense that kids would be less likely to injure themselves when well rested and completely focused.

 

To address 2 marzipans practical point (which would seem to apply to most eveyone), what type of schedule during the school year would permit a dancer need to maintain the progress gained during a SI and to continue to improve?

 

Thanks again.

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The minimum will vary from student to student, but the very basic would be a 90-minute technique class, six days a week. Three one-hour pointe classes spread out through that week would also be fairly basic.

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Thank you for clarifying! As with many things ballet, I sometimes feel there are mixed messages about the right path to take- the kids who dance the most are often viewed as the strongest dancers, yet concerns about overuse injuries and diminished returns remain.

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