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Time to Make Decisions for Next Year


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It is that time a year again when I start thinking about next year and I always have the same issues...


First, my daughter dances at a studio where the main focus is not ballet - the ballet teachers are great and talented and I trust them - however most of the kids are taking ballet, jazz, hip hop etc. as an after school activity to have fun. My daughter is only 10 years old, ballet comes very naturally for her but, she does not want to leave the studio - she wants to stay with her friends. I have explained to her that if she truly wants to be the best she can be she needs to go somewhere else. But she is 10 and not a competitive person by nature. And while she says that dancing is the most important thing to her she can't see down the road. She gets lots of attention at her dance studio from friends and teachers so naturally she is very happy. My gut is to let her stay and see if she changes her mind in a year or two, but I worry that she will regret it one day.... But I'm not sure how strongly I should persuade her to leave.


Second, if we do stay at this studio, the ballet classes are 1:15 min long and they will never be 1:30 min - the studio is a business and they can fit in more classes this way. They will offer three or four ballet classes at her level next year- She currently takes two. I would like her to get the best training she can at this studio so if she decides one day to move she will have done her best under the circumstances. How many classes should she take? And would private lessons or more classes help make up for the shorter classes?

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Hello dancindays, welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers :)


I do not believe that private lessons will make up for the shorter classes. Too many things have to get left out to make a class of an hour and 15 minutes do what an hour and a half can do.


Another factor to consider is the quality of the training in ballet. I know you think the teachers are great and you trust them. That is fine, but, I think that I would at least visit a more professional school and watch some classes there to help you really know if the teaching is the same or not. It is certainly possible to have good teachers at a non-professional school, however, it is not the most common thing.


I am not saying that her teachers are not good, but, not being able to see them, I have to question how much real knowledge and background they have when teaching in a school where the focus is not on ballet.


If they really are good, then another year there, at her age, would not be a huge problem. But, if they are not really well qualified, then it will just make it that much harder when she does transfer to a different school. This is because she might be behind for her age group, and also need to "re-learn" a lot of things, which is much harder than learning them correctly in the first place. So, I think you need to do some investigating. :dry:

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Thank you for your response. You have given me some things to think about. I really know very little about ballet. I have based my assessment of the teachers on their resumes and from other parents and of course, as biased as it is, from the owner of the studio. Many of the teachers have reputable backgrounds in that they have danced or taught at professional schools.


I will take your advice and visit a couple of schools but I am wondering if I will be able to tell the difference? I don't really know what I'm looking for. I have never talked with the teachers technically about turnout, rotation etc. I guess I need to be asking more questions and gathering more information. I have to say I find it a little overwhelming.

Edited by dancindays
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dancingdays, best of luck to you in making your decision. I can truly understand your feelings and concerns, and I'm sure there are many on this forum who have been through the same experience. I have a daughter who is nearly 13 and she moved to her current ballet school about 2 years ago. At that time, I felt very much like you do in that I really wasn't certain what I should be looking for in the program and in the teachers.


There is such a wealth of information on this site that will help you to know what you should be looking for (and running away from!). I know there are threads addressing how many hours and what classes students should be taking at various levels. I found it extremely helpful and would suggest you compare these recommendations with what is being offered at the ballet schools you visit. I would also look at the threads regarding recommendations for putting kids on pointe. This will be important for you with a daughter aged 10.


When we were making our decision, we looked at a couple of ballet schools in our region that had very good reputations as serious ballet schools. We ruled one out immediately because they wanted to put my daughter on pointe based only on her age and before they had even seen her (a big red flag for me!). We visited the other school and saw that the teachers had been pros and that the school had turned out many professional dancers (some of which eventually returned to teach). They also offered a home summer intensive program which we liked because my daughter was not ready to go away over the summer for classes.


My daughter had the same issue as yours about leaving her friends from the old studio, many of whom pursued training more focused on jazz, tap, and hip hop. It was also difficult for her because once she started at the ballet school, she was placed in a level she felt was too easy for her, but it was necessary because she needed to perfect the basics and lose some bad habits she had acquired at the old studio (just like the "re-learning" Ms. Leigh mentioned). It was an adjustment, but she progressed very quickly and now is happy for receiving the better training. She knows she can always dance jazz, hip hop, etc. after studying ballet but that it doesn't always work the other way around. She still isn't certain that she wants a pro ballet career, but she's glad to know she has a shot at it given the quality of training she's getting.

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we were also in similar shoes, with very strong ties of loyalty to the old studio. But when it became clear that the ballet instruction there was not adequate, we did begin looking elsewhere.


I don't know if the approach we took would work for you but....


The ballet school in the area that was associated with a small regional company had a summer program. She had to attend a regular class to be evaluated for level placement, and was put into a class where all the girls were a year younger than her. But it was a nice group of kids who welcomed her and she had fun with them. She loved performing in the end of summer ballet, and was invited to audition for Nutcracker.


And then I had a brainstorm. I talked to the staff at the ballet school, was very open with them about our intention to continue with the other studio, at least for now, but could she take technique classes there. They were very receptive to this and identified a class - with the kids from the summer - that fit into her schedule. She also received a nice part in the Nutcracker and so had rehearsals as well. Then she ended up doing the spring ballet. It made for a hectic school year but she had a blast. She was still having fun with the old gang but forming new friendships at the ballet school.


She did the following summer program, and the next year, took the full complement of classes with her group at the ballet school. This meant cutting back with the classes at the old studio. By the end of the year she was pretty much ready to let go of the old place. There were some kids she missed seeing less often, but overall she was very happy with the choice.


hope that helps!

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My daughter, like Karen's, made the switch after attending a summer program. However, it was at the audition that she learned what she was missing. You may not be able to tell the difference in the training, but your daughter probably will.

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Reading the original post...


I am wondering should you even consider making a change for next year and why. It sounds to me, personally, that your 10 yr old is very happy in the school she is in, it seems as though she is enjoying her friends, her teachers and classes. However if the training IS found to be sub par- then that is a completely different situation as Ms. Leigh addressed. Are there some professional schools near that you could go to and watch some classes- so you could learn a bit more about what is and what is correct? then if DD expresses interest in exploring some other schools and their training, then by all means you could bring her to some auditions and see what she feels about it.


In our situation it was my DD who wanted more... more classes, better training, more intensity. I learned more about training, and got alot of feedback, and it helped a great deal.

I am not sure if this (DD wanting more) or what exactly is the indicator of whether or not a child wants to change schools, or dance at a higher intensity; however, if your daughter seems happy to me that is the key.

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I fervently agree with Small Slipper.


It is very, very important to listen to the thoughts and feelings of the child in this situation. I have an acquaintance who, at present, is going through this exact situation and although it is tempting for her to pull her child from her current school in order to provide higher quality training, the child is adamant about wanting to remain where she is because of how much she values her social ties at the school. This child's parents have presented her with the information and a trial class elsewhere in order to encourage her to make educated choices however they are yielding to her wish to simply be with her friends. They wish more than anything that she would change her mind but they have also viewed it as a reality check for themselves and have seen that this endeavor and interest belongs to their daughter and not to them. They have had to step back and resist the temptation to charge in and pull their daughter away especially when they (the parents) have questioned level placement, casting, etc. I have had several conversations about all of this with them in order to continue to encourage them to follow their daughter's lead and yet have also stated that they should continue to provide her with the facts that should she decide that she would like to study dance in a professional school with more intensity then that should certainly take place by the time she is 12 years old.


Some children would like to simply dance for the fun of it and others want to dance for the fun of it with the future in mind. Going to a professional school becomes important in order to ensure quality training, however a 10 year old still has another year or so to decide whether changing schools is of interest to them. Perhaps for now it is more important to let her enjoy the more social aspects of it and see where her thoughts are as far as more intensity of training is concerned in another year.

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We found ourselves in exactly the same position when my DD was 10(she's now 12). She was dancing in a competition-style dance program from age 4 onwards. The school was VERY strong in jazz and lyrical, and strong in what we came to realize was "competition-style" ballet--big leaps, turns, dramatic/expressive style but without the strong underlying technique. She also, however, had always taken extra classical ballet classes elsewhere since age 7, at first recommended by a guest ballet teacher at that studio, but also totally enjoyed by DD as long as she could still stay with her familiar and friendly studio as well. By age 10, when she continued to have a passion and strong potential for ballet, we had the discussion with her re possibly switching to a more classical ballet-focused program. DD, however, wasn't ready to leave her long-time friends, and was enjoying successful experiences on the competition team. My husband and I didn't want to push her and perhaps make her regret down the line a mainly parental decision to leave the studio and thus leave her friends. We home school, so her circle of friends at dance was also her main social network so we understood the importance of her keeping that important social link. We thus continued doing the dual studio routine, of keeping her there, but supplementing her ballet with extra classes at a strong ballet program.

As she got just a little older, she herself began to feel frustrated that her home studio didn't offer more than an hour of ballet twice weekly (at age 10!), and that the competitions seemed to reward the jazz, tap, and lyrical numbers despite noticing that, by her eyes, the underlying correct technique wasn't there. What finally got her to feel comfortable and initiate the move to a true classical ballet school, was a summer intensive experience at CPYB at age 11. There, she experienced for the first time a comraderie of girls with a similar focus and passion for ballet and was totally immersed in a true classical ballet experience for an extended period of time. There, she was challenged, encouraged, and thrived on the intensity and thrill of finding others with the same totally-encompassing love of ballet. Her whole perspective had shifted all on its own. After that summer experience, she took a deep breath and made the decision to totally stop at her home studio (and forfeited a year that would probably have garnished her many high competition awards and solos), and switch to a studio with a strong classical ballet/more preprofessional background.

She hasn't looked back since. She still keeps in contact with her friends from her old studio via emails, phone calls, and sleep-overs, but also has made some wonderful new friends as well, who share a similar passion and focus for ballet. She is now dancing 13 hours a week of classical ballet and looking forward to a summer of Chautauqua and a life filled with dance. We are glad we waited for her to finally make the decision on her own, and I would recommend that if your DD is not yet ready to make that total transition, then definitely encourage her to supplement her ballet with classes at a more classical studio and venture out for some summer intensive experiences. Her outlook may never be the same again!

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I think that Maclan has offered a fantastic in-depth perspective from that of her child which is an appropriate follow-up to the pressures that parents can feel about encouraging their child along towards stronger training.


Maclan, it sounds like you found a balance which worked well for your DD!

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It's so interesting that many of us had similar experiences with our daughters changing studios: that once they tried classes/programs that taught ballet at a more professional level than they had experienced before, they were the ones who decided it was time to move. My dd made the move almost 3 years ago at almost 9 years old. I had to talk her into even trying the new classes, because she did not want to change studios. She was in a different situation, though, in that even though she loved ballet, loved her ballet teacher, and loved the kids in her ballet classes - she didn't like her classes, and would often sit out half the time with a tummy ache, or a "hurt ankle" (ailments which would miraculously cure themselves an hour later once jazz class started!). In my daughter's case, I told her that if ballet was making her sick, or hurt she'd have to quit ballet, or she could try ballet at a different studio.


Once she had had a class or two of high quality ballet training at the new ballet school, she never sat out a class again (except on the rare occassion of being truly sick, or truly injured), and she has never looked back. In fact, she takes one jazz class a week at her old studio still, and the ballet class she would have been in had she stayed has class in the same studio right before jazz. She can see the less than adequate technique being taught in that class, and she is so glad she made the move when she did.


ETA: I also had my dd try the new classes in the summer. It was a great way to get her feet wet in the new school without breaking with the old school first, or making a big commitment to the new school.

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Thanks everyone for sharing your experiences with me.


I may be naive but I don't think at least up to this point that her ballet classes are lacking in quality. I do wish she was at a school where ballet was the primary focus but she loves her current school and I am grateful for that. My main concern is that it is just not possible to teach a proper ballet class in 1:15 minutes. Thus, even if I'm correct about the teachers, in the next year or so the classes will not be adequate.


If she stays at her current school, I will probably sign her up for three classes next year. However, I am still going to check out a couple of other schools and just try and gather information at this point.

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dancindays, only you will know what is right for your daughter and your family (because sometimes its easy to forget that a DK is attached to this larger thing called a family!). We are all glad to offer our experiences as we can empathize with the concern!

The two of you wil find your way. I hope you continue to share your experiences with us on BTFD!

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dancindays, you have yourself in the same position that we faced three years ago. My daughter had been with the same dance school since she was 6 (now almost 16). She danced almost every day and was in the Performing Company and studied every kind of dance possible. All of her classes were only 1 hour long. Her studio was considered a "recreational studio" as they had only classes starting after school. She loved the school and her teachers. One day one of the ballet teachers pulled me aside and said that she felt that my daughter should look into a "more serious ballet school" as it was her opinion that she had potential. I took her advice and spoke with my daughter about making a change. It was clearly stated "no, I am not ready to leave yet". I accepted her decision and she stayed. I did however enroll her in the summer school at a professional ballet school for a summer to see if she liked it. It was on the first day she watched an older student practice that she looked at me and said "this is where I want to be". She started there that September and has since told me numerous times, "why didn't I make the mover sooner". She wasn't ready to make the move and now she wishes that she would have as she feels that the training that she had lacked what she is getting now and would be in a better situation now if she had made the move sooner. There was a lot of "catch-up" to do and now it is paying off! I wish you every success with your daughter's decision and I hope that she will be as happy as my daughter if she makes the change.

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Can you enroll in the summer programs at a professional ballet school or do you have to audition? I'm assuming auditions are over at this point, but I would sign her up for a class or two over the summer. Her school does not offer classes during the summer so I'm sure she would be willing to go someplace new for the summer.

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