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Overwhelmed at SI


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I didn't want to post this under the SI forum for two reasons 1) I think it would get more responses here 2) I think this is more of an age and general dance issue than a SI issue. However, if I am making a mistake, please feel free to move this thread to the appropriate spot.


My dd just turned 12 last May and is attending her home school's SI. It is a popular SI and is 5 wks in length with the girls dancing from 10-5 with an hour break. This past week she has just been in tears and is literally counting down the days until the end. I am really surprised at this turn of events because this is the kid who loves to go to class, every class, never misses, and is bored to death when class is out.


She says she knew it would be work but she's not having as much fun as she thought. She has a guest 'jazz' teacher and she thinks his routines are too suggestive. She doesn't like having barre twice daily. She had a girl-related accident on the first day of SI, and it's scheduled to return next week and she's VERY anxious about that type of thing. She also found out her two favorite teachers (and their styles) are not returning next school year. Her list goes on, and she's usually not a complainy girl.


I think the biggest issue is the other girls she's placed with. Being a first year pointe student, she was supposed to have a separate SI program with her classmates, but enrollment didn't allow for that this year. Therefore, these girls were invited to the regular SI and placed in the lower level. Most of the other girls are from recreational or competition type schools, or at least, from schools with a different set of etiquette. When a teacher stops to make a correction or repeat the choreography, a few girls roll their eyes or make the OMG comment. A few won't try pointe work if they think they can't do it. Some feign injuries in one class only to show up to the next one. Other catty behavior is going on during breaks. My dd usually just avoids such things, and I usually don't see it at our school to that degree. I wonder if she's just overwhelmed by the negativity on top of being tired. Last week she had a class with a higher level and she said it was so nice because all the girls were so serious and in a good mood.


So now, she's getting a bit turned off to ballet and SI's in general. She says she definitely doesn't want to dance in a ballet company if they do barre all day. ;) While she does enjoy ballet (one barre a day is enough for her), I think her main interest lies in modern, tap, and Broadway style of jazz. She's a smooth mover, muscular, a good jumper, not a good turner. :innocent: What should I do with her at this point? Just keep giving her hugs? I can pep talk her through the SI and she's determined to finish. She's looking forward to next year (so far, we haven't received evals or placement). Do modern/"jazz" students stay with ballet schools until their mid-teens before they switch?

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What week is this of your SI? The reason I ask is that the answers on how to deal with it might be different if it's early on or if it's the homestretch when they are mentally tired and grumpy as a rule because whether they've enjoyed themselves or not, they're tired.


Some of what you're describing sounds like she may just not like the intensive part of summer dancing. Meaning she's okay with dancing 3 hours in the evening but make it 8 hours and suddenly it isn't all it's cracked up to be. Also sounds like she has a doozy of a group in her level. The fact that the older level was more serious is a testament to that. So it could also just be that her group frustrates her and she isn't able to focus on herself rather than let the atmosphere control her feelings.


Many of the things you've described like the: cutting one class yet taking another, immature behavior, etc. do in fact happen at SI's, all of them. You just don't notice it as much at home because there will be reasonable excuses you can "buy" (I had to do my homework first, I had a meeting at school, I have a project due, my mom's car wouldn't start....while real reasons to miss class you can notice a pattern when the same class is missed alot at the home school and the teachers usually catch it quicker) or you dismiss that dancer as the studio trouble maker and just stay away. The older you get, the easier it is to deal with those types of situations though and not see that behavior as ruining your good time.


Encourage her that every SI is different and every level within an SI is different. It's possible she had a comfort level within her school that she expected to see in her SI. Even though that SI is her home school, it's like having a house full of company. While you enjoy your company, the same comfort level you have within your own house just isn't there.

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My DD had a similiar experience last summer although it does not sound like it was as intense. At the beginning of the SI (away from home) she was hanging out with a group of students. As the first week went by these kids started to break dorm rules, be mean to others and generally were not taking the SI experience seriously. They were there for "camp" and my daughter was there for training. She withdrew herself from the group as gently as she could as she did not want to become the brunt of their meaness. The problem now was she had no "group" She found herself eating alone and spending down time alone. I advised her to find one other student who she felt was similiarly minded and starting asking her if she could join her for lunch. movie etc... This worked out and by the start of the third week she was part of this new girl's smaller and more focused group., The first two weeks were hard but the last three were fabulous!!!!

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SI's are not make it or break it. Just pull her out. It's not big deal if she doesn't complete it. Or, just take a break for a few days and see if she changes her mind. Only problem with this is if there is a performance. If there isn't a performance, then just skip out. Teachers make a HUGE difference. My DD will dance all day, every day, but . . . if there is a teacher she doesn't like, then she will literally tear up over that class, even though she hasn't been 13 for several years. Life is too short and dance too beautiful to be unhappy.


Side note - this is why my DD did a week of the home SI each year but then went somewhere different for the summers. Didn't want any negative feelings about the school she had to attend 9 months out of the year!

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Your daughter is still very young. It is possible that the length and intensity of a 5-week intensive is still a bit too much for her. That does not mean that by next summer, she will not be begging for more time at the barre or a teacher who really focuses on the nuances of tendus or other tedious, but necessary, aspects of serious ballet training.


When my daughter was 12 (her birthday falls at the beginning of summer), she did two short SIs, rather than one long one. She had already attended 2 week programs the two previous summers. So, by age 13, she was more than ready for a full 5-week program. There is a big jump in maturity that can affect many aspects of coping with an SI that occurs around the time girls reach the teen years. So, she may just need another year before she is fully equipped for this length/type of program.


As for modern/jazz students, the very best have a strong foundation in ballet. Most pre-pros associated with a company will offer modern classes and often jazz as well, to students when they reach the middle school or HS age group. My suggestion would be for her to continue training at a solid pre-pro school for as long as she can, supplementing with classes in other disciplines. Bad habits are easy to form and hard to break. This is less likely to happen if the student is studying under the watchful eye of a classically trained teacher. The reason many who are not interested in classical ballet leave pre-pro schools is usually not because they don't want the ballet training, but because they do not want to commit to the daily classes and other obligations that the pre-pro requires as they get older. Larger pre-pro schools will have a pre-pro and recreational track for students who fall into this category.


As my daughter has been exposed more frequently to modern and jazz work in her older teen years, she has been told numerous times by choreographers that the ballet training she has received really sets her apart from the dancers who trained at schools where ballet was an after thought, even when their modern and/or jazz training has been strong.

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Today is the middle of the SI; the middle of week 3. She has this Sat off, a full week next week (wk 4), and then the last Thurs and Fri (wk 5) are rehearsal/performance days. She went home early the first day after placement classes, and missed a day after a late night sleepover at a friend's house and woke up sick to her stomach. She's been a trooper, but has been waking up with anxiety and stomachaches. I think I'll see if she can finish this week out and skip next Monday; then she'll have a 3 day weekend. I think Monday is class with the jazz teacher she doesn't care for and her anticipated..ahem...monthly visit day.


Momof3, I think you hit the nail on the head. She's not enjoying dancing all day like she thought she would. I think it's because instead of having a few negative students that are easily avoided, her and her friends feel like a minority in a wave of negative summer campers. She has met a few serious boarding students that she likes and that seem to stay away from all the drama themselves. Of course, some of her buddies that she takes class with year round are there, too. I think fatigue and PMS have her defenses down. I hesitate to pull her out at this point because she's learning a piece from Giselle Act I for the performance that she's really excited about, it's her first performance on pointe, she loves another variation from Paquita a teacher has been teaching them, and the stretching is doing her a lot of good. I think I'm just to give her lots of hugs, pump her up with good, healthy food, and keep putting her to bed early.




balletbooster, I agree with the 5wk intensity. In hindsight, I think it is too much, but I think she wants to stick it out, too. We were talking about it last night, being such a long program, and she said, "Yeah, next year I'm only doing 4 weeks!" I don't know why I thought that was so funny...I guess I wondered why one week would make such a difference!


If she gets promoted this summer, she was supposed to have modern next year. However, we have learned that the school has stopped the modern instruction and the tap teacher is leaving as well. In place of modern, character will be taught. My dd took the teacher's trial class during extended session and loved it, so maybe there's hope for some fun! She was extremely disappointed about losing her anticipated modern class.


Thank you for the additional info about training in modern and jazz work.

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Character class is a lot of fun and quite different from ballet! Perhaps you can find a good jazz class for her to take at another studio in the fall, if you can work it around her ballet schedule. I understand the desire to have fun in class and I do think that classes outside classical ballet give students a chance to 'let their hair down' (both literally and figuratively :innocent: ). They provide a needed outlet for students and they also help them prepare for the pro ballet world, which now includes a great deal of modern and jazz work in most companies' repetoires.

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Yes, then I think your daughter is also at "Hump week". Much like Wednesday is "hump day" and the week before school is out for Christmas seems like an eternity before it's actually here, so is the feeling amongst many students about SI time. Mid-SI no matter how long the SI is tends to be the frustration point. The dancers usually break down, get past it and then when you pick them up don't want to leave. You're left wondering why things changed.


But Balletbooster has also keyed in on something. Not every dancer that young goes away for that long. DD did 3 week programs until 14 and then 5 week programs after that. Because of our short summer and year-round school schedule we never ventured into 6 weeks except for her post graduation year. Especially if this is her first program it may have been too much too soon if she isn't used to "being away" for that long for other camps.

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She's never gone literally gone away before, except last year she took the train with her older sister to visit my mom for 10 days.


Her previous dance 'camps' were 2-3 jr intensives where the girls had 3 classes in the morning and then did acting and crafts in the afternoon. These were also at her home studio, 5 days for 2 or 3 weeks. It was much, much different than this scenario. I guess we thought there would be a much higher comfort zone since it was her home studio and she was a day student. In reality, I anticipated more of our students attending our own SI, but many girls of the same age/ability simply didn't attend any summer program. Many of the parents cited gas prices and commuting difficulties as contributing factors to not attending.


We have definitely learned a lot about SI's! Driving time to the studio tacks on an extra two hours to her day; the longer you study ballet, the higher you are likely to place and thus the more serious your classmates will also be; they aren't kidding when they call it an "Intensive!"; and that which does not kill you only makes you stronger! :thumbsup: Oh, and perhaps some 12yo students should seriously think about 2, 3, and 4 week programs before attempting 5 wk programs!


I will keep you posted!

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It's the beginning of week 4 and she's taking today off as a 'mental health day'. The SI is going better and I think she's just buckling down and settling in for the homestretch. She's been showing me some variations over the weekend, so all must be well!


She received her eval in the mail and was not promoted to Level 4. She spent 2 years in Level 2 and now will spend two years in Level 3. She's 12 and there are 7 levels total before jr company/trainee. From what I understand, the majority of her class will repeat Level 3, so this is likely not a 'big deal' in the grand scheme of things, correct? Her teacher always says she has potential, but needs more strength (core) and flexibility.


My dd is now using this SI to really stretch through and is adding 10-15 min of Pilates in the evening to correct her abs/pelvic alignment. What she would like to do is ask for a placement audition for Level 4 when the new students audition during registration week. Is this standard for school that do not have exams and could she have improved that much since mid-May to overcome a teacher's recommendations? I know, I'm asking you to use your magic mirror, right?! It's hard enough to contact our teachers during the school year, but next to impossible during SI with hectic schedules.

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My DD, also age 12 is away at an SI for 5 weeks. She attended her home studio for 5 or 6 week programs for the last 4 summers as a commuter, but this is her first time dorming and 6 hours from home. She has never been away from home longer than overnight. Mid last week (3rd week of the program) she was complaining that she might be developing allergies because her eyes kept tearing up. She also said that she missed us terribly and felt a little homesick. I asked her if she wanted to stay at the SI and she said definitely yes. It's a big name SI and she feels that it's the experience of a lifetime.


Week 4 and all is fine. Can barely keep her on the phone long enough to tell her I love her. Must be the age. At 12 she is still a child but wants so much to be treated as an adult.

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The SI is going better and I think she's just buckling down and settling in for the homestretch....


From what I understand, the majority of her class will repeat Level 3, so this is likely not a 'big deal' in the grand scheme of things, correct? Her teacher always says she has potential, but needs more strength (core) and flexibility.


Is this standard for school that do not have exams and could she have improved that much since mid-May to overcome a teacher's recommendations?


I'm glad to hear the SI is going better for her. It sounded more like emotional fatigue rather than physical. It sounds like she was disappointed with some things but has decided to rise above it. Good for her! Perhaps a different SI might be better next year. She sounds like a serious student.


As far as levels it sounds right that a 12 year old would be in level 3. At 16 she would presumably be in level 7. Even if that were delayed a bit it could still work out that she would be in the highest level her last year of school. Staying in a level for more than one year really isn't a big deal.This happened to my dd then she skipped a level later on. Leveling is very subjective and flexible anyway.


As far as core strength and flexibility, you will be so amazed at how her body will change just in terms of ballet as the hormones fully kick in. Will that have happened enough since her eval? Probably not, but it won't be long, particularly if she's working at it.


DD's school stopped putting next term's level on the evaluations in May. I think one reason is because of the changes that may take place over the summer. Some students may have learned a lot over the summer and others may not have done any classes over the summer. Plus new students will arrive in the fall and that will change the demographics. So they put students in levels at the beginning of the fall and move some up in January at the end of the first term.


Ultimately it doesn't matter what level the student is in as long as you, the parent, can trust that the teachers are teaching your child what she needs to learn at this point in their training. Trust, not the number, that's what's important.

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Laura, I think I know which SI you are talking about and I understand how you daughter is feeling. That is one of the reasons we decided against going there this year. It is a wonderful SI, but after hearing how intense it is, we decided to wait until DD was older. We do have a couple of girls from DD's studio who are attending the same SI this year including the daughter of one of the instructors at DD's studio. They are really sweet, but I wouldn't know how to have your daughter meet them to maybe make her time better.


There were a couple of girls last year, who are a couple of years older than DD, that attended the same SI last year. They were separated because each needed a different area to work on than the others. It was a difficult time for them at first, but they persevered and at the end enjoyed themselves and met new people. However, they said it is really intense and the kids really need to be used to going away for that length of time and dancing that many days a week for that long to really enjoy it.




Oops! I just read further and saw that your daughter is enjoying it better. That's great:)

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It's over!!!


All in all, the SI turned out very well. My dd said she was glad she did it. I saw some tremendous gains in her strength, and she learned a lot about getting along in the world. She did find some girls that she really enjoyed being around, and had her first performance en pointe! :lol:


Thanks to those who offered encouragement and advice, and I hope that I can do the same for someone down the road who finds themselves in a similar position.


Now...no ballet for 2-3 weeks!

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That's great LauraR! It's so nice that you can see her strength improving too, it makes it all worth it! Enjoy your 2 weeks of down time!

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