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Mixed Signals


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My 12 year old daughter was in tears for hours last night and she thinks she should quit ballet. The source of her angst seems to be the mixed signals she is getting from the studio.


She is given a great deal of praise, has been told she has nice lines, great musicality and the potential to be a professional. She is usually the student chosen to demonstrate correct technique. She rarely gets a correction because she is considered advanced for her age and the level she is in - which doesn't mean she doesn't need corrections. It just means the other girls are behind and need more attention.


Last year she was told that ability wise she should be dancing two levels above where she is currently placed but because of her "delicate" bone structure, the director felt that for her safety she should only advance with the other girls in her level. This seemed reasonable. We were happy they were thinking of her safety. Then she was given a part in the school production that is reserved for girls two levels above her. It was a hard part with a lot of jumps ( they were particularly concerned about her doing the jumps the higher level required when they said she couldn't skip a level). This summer she was allowed to do the Aurora Wedding variation on pointe - even though she had only been on pointe for 8 months. I was told she did very well and not many students could have pulled it off. I later found out from my daughter's private teacher who saw a video of the performance that this is a very difficult variation and the she was horrifed to find out that they had let her do the variation without teaching her the proper way to do certain things on point.


So it seems as though the whole "safety issue" is just a smokescreen. My daughter is in a level with girls who don't want to be dancers. They goof off and are disrespectful to each other and to adults. My daughter is called "teacher's pet" and "Miss Perfect". They have been know to push her when she is practicing fouttee turns and pirouttes so she falls over. This of course never happens when adults are around. My husband and I have brought this to the attention of the directors twice but they just shrug it off.


My daughter was in tears last night saying that the teachers lie to her and just tell her what they think she wants to hear. She says she must be a terrible dancer but they don't want to hurt her feelings so they make stuff up about her being too delicate to be moved up.


This is the best school in out area. According to the criteria for schools that I have read here, they are doing everything right. offering the right number of classes, not putting girls on pointe too early, etc. She can't go anywhere else. There is nothing better unless we move out of state.


The problem seems to be as far as my daughter is concerned that they are saying one thing and doing something else. And for my daughter, actions speak louder than words. I've tried talking in a diplomatic way to the director but she just tells me dance is subjective and other things have to be considered - all the while telling me what a beautiful job my daughter is doing. And you have to be careful what you say because any hint of criticism tags you as a stage parent there.


So is this common? Is there any way to deal with it? I'd hate for my daughter to stop dancing because of one person but I can't get any straight answers about my daughter's ability. I called San Francisco Ballet to see if they would just evaluate her so she could get an honest answer but they don't do that, neither does the Sacramento Ballet.


I know she is young but it would be helpful if we could get someone to explain to her why she gets praised so lavishly but then gets treated like she isn't actually a good dancer.


I'm sorry this is so long but she is really hurting right now and I want to be able to say or do something productive.


Any thoughts would be appreciated.

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I don't know if I should be answering here, as our moderators and more experienced parents know better...


Is there a school she could go to in another neighboring city? Have you

or your daughter ever observed this happening to any other students?


You said you talked to your child's private teacher - maybe she should just take private lessons, which would remove her from the other girls than she'd only hear one voice instead of many. Could this be an option for you?


Major Mel once told me (in relation to my DD's split's technique) (sorry don't know how to clip quotes and place them on posts yet)


Quote: "and of course, it is very important with a pre-teen, especially to avoid the mixed messages. If you were to try and explain something, and the explanation differed only subtly from the teachers, confusion would be inevitable. She needs single-point refueling here and not input from different sources."


I think this applies here too - she needs to hear one voice and not the chorus of many...Sounds like you trust the private teacher's opinions - what has she said to you?


I'm appalled that the director isn't taking this more seriously - it's dangerous for your daughter to be "pushed" while doing her fouettes or pirouettes, as she can be seriously injured. This is uncalled for and is unacceptable behavior! Dancers need to be respectful of one another and not "playing" in class. By not paying attention, they too risk being injured themselves. IMHO - Maybe your daughter is better off either taking private lessons or going to a neighboring city's school (if that 's an option for you).

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I'm actually surprised that both SFB & Sacramento Ballet wouldn't do an eval. :P Does she audition for Summer Intensives?

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Kandi - I'm so sorry to hear that your dd is going through this confusing and difficult time.


I had similar questions about my dd's abilities relative to others out there in the bigger world of ballet. My dd was not going through a difficult time, but I wanted to know for other reasons. Having my dd go through SI auditions, and having her now at an SI on the east coast has been a great experience for many reasons. One of the things that has happened is that she has gotten very consistent feedback from all the auditions, the audition results, and with the level placement and corrections (and compliments :P ) she's been getting at her SI. All of these other opinions, and all of the feedback has been exactly consistent with what her teachers at her home ballet school have been telling us. If acceptances, and feedback at her SI were vastly different from what we'd been told at her home studio, we'd be having to ask some serious questions about that studio. As it is, I am even more secure that we've made the right decision in putting her in this particular studio up to this point.


In your dd's case, SI audition season is a whole semester away, though. If you could find a teacher that could give you an objective evaluation now, that would be ideal. I know there are a couple of other excellent studios in SF besides SFBS - City Ballet is one, and there is another also. I seem to remember a thread on ballet studios in the SF bay area, and the other was named in that thread. I'll see if I can find the thread, but I have to take off for awhile, and won't be able to get to it until later. In the East Bay there is Contra Costa Ballet School, and Diablo Ballet (I think that's what it's called). Further down the way are studios in Berkeley, San Jose, and Mountain View. And doesn't one of our teachers on BT4D - Gina Ness - teach in Pleasanton? There have to be options for you, and we'll help you find them. :blink:

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What about Anaheim Ballet? If they'll do an eval. that's the very next step I'd take. You (and your dd) need an independent confirmation of exactly what her strengths and weaknesses are. :)

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This summer she was allowed to do the Aurora Wedding variation on pointe - even though she had only been on pointe for 8 months. I was told she did very well and not many students could have pulled it off. I later found out from my daughter's private teacher who saw a video of the performance that this is a very difficult variation and the she was horrifed to find out that they had let her do the variation without teaching her the proper way to do certain things on point.


Is the crux of the matter exemplified by this situation? :) Perhaps some of our wonderful teacher Moderators could comment on how this situation tracks with the level placement issue. Maybe that would help Kandi figure where she needs to start in looking at this concern.

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Well, truthfully, there is no reason for any student under 13 to be doing that variation! :) I don't care how talented they are- it's one tough variation and only a stronger advanced dancer should undertake it.

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Here are some other schools that are in the Bay Area that you can try....maybe one of these schools can give your DD an evaluation...I agree with LauraGG and Clara76 about SI's. DD will be audition for those next term...


If you're in the Nor Cal area...


Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley - San Jose

Mt. View Ballet Company and School - Mt. View

San Ramon Valley Dance Academy - San Ramon

Pacific ballet Academy - Los Altos

Diable ballet - Walnut Creek

Contra Costa Ballet - walnut Creek

Academy of Ballet

Danville Ballet Co. - pre-pro perf. company - Danville

Berkeley Ballet theatre - Berkeley

S.F. Conservatory of Dance

peninsula Ballet Theatre - SaN mateo

City Ballet School


Hope this helps...Hope you're daughter hangs in there, I'm sure this has not been easy for either of you!!!

We're all here for you :)

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What about Anaheim Ballet? If they'll do an eval. that's the very next step I'd take. You (and your dd) need an independent confirmation of exactly what her strengths and weaknesses are. :)



I'm not an under-13 parent (just missed the cutoff), but I do know that Anaheim Ballet has a late SI (July 26-August 15), and part of that is a written evaluation at the end. Perhaps your dd could attend. Moderators, sorry for posting in a non-qualifying zone. It's my first offense. :blushing:

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As for the variation, total agreement with Clara76, it is definitely not for a 12 year old, particularly when the child is talented. Performing variations too early can create some very bad habits that are difficult to break. It is a common variation on the competition route, but the judges absolutely hate to see it done when so young.


Just an opinion, private lessons are not the way too go. All students need to be in daily classes with young dancers of a similar age group and level. It is a big part of the training and preparing for company life. Learning habits are established as well as mechanical and artistically appropriate development in groups. A private once in awhile, to work on a specific issue is fine, but no steady diet. There are threads regarding this topic. Enough said.


Mixed messages from authority figures is not a good idea for young dance students either. Teachers need to be on the same page until a good, solid foundation is established. Basics and foundations are only at the beginning stages in 12 year olds, yes, even the most gifted.


In short, if your child would like a high level, professional career in ballet, the situation does not sound as if it is, at this time on sound footing. You may have to send your daughter to an SI or have her audition for a variety of SIs next winter to see where she falls on the scale of acceptances. She is young and needs solid training, but sending her to a Residency program is not for every family. Maybe you could try to call SFB and just ask for an audition for their fall program. Your child does not have to go if she is accepted, but an acceptance would at least give you an idea if she is what their professional program deems talented.

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Thank you for your support. It means a lot to be able to get advice from parents who have been there.


The nearest city with a good school is in San Francisco but we are almost three hours away and can't afford the gas or to move there.


She has not auditioned for SIs because she is only 12 and I really feel that that's too young. Her studio recommends that they not audition until they are 14. But it might be worthwhile just for the feedback. But if she were to be accepted at one I would have a hard time telling her that she can't go.


Her private teacher doesn't understand what is going on either. She believes that my daughter's school offers the best training in the area and suggests we just put blinders on and tells my daughter to use her time in class to correct all the small details which my daughter does. She knows there is value in going slow but the disparity between her technical ability and the ability of the other students is commented on not only by other parents but by other teachers. And of course there are the behavior issues. I wish they wouldn't say those things - especially in front of my daughter because it only confuses her more. her private teacher has told me that my daughter needs to take classes at a studio because she needs to be able to dance with other girls. I think she is correct.


And yes this has happened to other girls. Its sad because they are barely acknowledged but they win scholarships and two girls were invited to stay on after their SI at the San Francisco Ballet. The school lost half of its advance students because there is tendency to concentrate on one or two students and ignore the rest. The problem of course is not that my daughter is not acknowledge. Teachers go out of their way to tell her what a great job she does.


So I think the problem is that the feedback is all positive. My husband and I are aways told how amazing she is but unlike other girls who have been moved out of their levels based on ability, she hasn't been and no one can or will tell us what she needs to work on.


I will have to think on this some more. She is only 12 and maybe there are things going on that the teachers don't want to tell us because they are afraid she will quit - of course she is about to do that anyway. Maybe it will all blow over. My daughter is an optimist at heart but she says just when she starts believing the teachers something happens to slap her down. I know one of the teachers doesn't like the fact that she gets so much attention. He seems to fell she needs to be taken down a peg so she doesn't get a swelled head. That would never happen. My daughter is truly happy for other girls when they do soemthing well or get promoted above her. She's always the first to congratulate them and is always complimenting other girls on their lines or if they get a step that has been giving them trouble.


Anyway, thank you for your suggestions. I am sure that things will work out for the best one way or another.

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hi Kandi,

I don't know if this perspective will help or not, or if this is at all a part of the situation or your daughter's teachers' reasoning. but in case it may be relevant....


When my daughter was your daughter's age, she was grouped with girls plus or minus one year difference from her age. And I was constantly told by other parents that they felt, ability wise, my DD deserved to be moved to the next level up. DD sometimes felt frustrated, because she wanted to learn more and advance, but mostly she just focused on working hard and doing her best.


This was in a small school so the actual number of levels was limited. The next level up had a broader age range. Her instructor did not want to move her into that group because she did not feel that mixing a preteen with teenagers 2 to 4 years older was such a good idea. I didn't totally understand her perspective at the time. Now, having had the experience of seeing some of the dynamics that can go on with teenagers, I have to say I have a better appreciation for her judgement.


We later moved on to a larger school that was better able to place her in a level appropriate for both her age and ability.

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I don't know your location but there are excellent schools in Marin, Sacramento and Modesto that would give you an appraisal of your daughter and they would do it kindly, with sensitivity and most importantly with honesty. In due respect to San Francisco Ballet they are not the only school of excellence in that area. I would willingly post the names and locations on the site, if I were permitted to do that. Unfortunately you can not PM yet. I have experience of the schools and immense respect for the teachers in each facility. They host teachers are from the Royal Ballet, Canadian National and Joffrey. I would most certainly want to know where my DD actually stands. Twelve is no longer really young in ballet. An appraisal is an excellent idea!

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Oh - I'd forgotten about Marin - good suggestion, Pasdetrois!


Clara - if Kandi is anywhere near Sacramento, she must be 600 miles from Anaheim! :) California is a huge state.

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There are some great schools in the Sacramento area and would definitely be willing to evaluate your daughter. The school my DD's currently go to had evaluate and place due to past experience. It's a small but excellent school. The bigger schools or schools connected to companies aren't the only schools with excellent pre-pro programs. It's just a matter of where Kandi lives. :)

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