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Difficulties with home studio after SI


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This is my first post so I totally apologize if I'm doing this incorrectly or am in the wrong place! Please help me correct it if I am!


My husband and I are at our wit's end and don't know where else to turn with this problem: Our DD just returned from a WONDERFUL SI, taught by an instructor who graduated from the Vaganova Academy and also taught at the Vagonova Academy (so is obviously well trained in the technique!). Our DD absolutely LOVED the program and the technique, and was excited to show her instructors what she learned when she came home (her teacher at home uses a semi-Vaganova technique). Our DD has been in tears after every class and is totally confused because her instructor at home is ripping apart everything she learned this summer. In particular, her instructor said that the Vagonova method of turnout is not used anymore because it's "cheating" (to get better leg extension) and will destroy the dancer's hips by the age of 21. She said that "every kinesiologist knows that the Russian method of turnout will permanently damage the dancer's body" so it, and a lot of other things about the Vaganova technique (sorry, I'm not a dancer so I don't understand it all) are not taught or used anymore.


Our DD loved her Russian instructors and wants to go back for their year-round program, but we don't know who's right and who's wrong here. Any help?

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Dancing4Grace, Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers. You'll need to take some time and find your way around the board and its various fora. Take a moment to start a new thread to introduce yourself in the Welcome forum (but do take note of the Stickies on personal information).


I've moved your post to what I think is the appropriate forum for your post. You posted in the Adult Ballet Students' forum about your daughter, which is inappropriate -- you won't get the advice you need there! I've moved it to the appropriate forum "Parents of Dancers under 13." If your daughter is over 13, then let me know & I can move it again.

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Did your dancer have the approval of her school to attend this particular SI? In other words, was it on the approved list?


There are sometimes many issues that may come up in terms of adjustment when a student returns home from an SI. If they are pumped up and excited about their experience and the teacher notes some training issues that they do not agree with that occured, there can be this time of frustration. It takes a little time to muddle through and sometimes to determine what is right. If there are serious issues, it may be time for a conference with the teachers to discuss this outside of class so that while in class your dancer can feel comfortable re-entering the home environment.

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dancing4grace, I am a parent of a 17 year old dancer who has been trained in the "sort of Vaganova" and moved to the "real Vaganova" with teachers who were trained at the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg and were later certified to teach Vaganova. What our teachers have told us is that they were chosen as children according to their facility. Whether or not they had natural turn out of the hips was very important. However, some made it into the training with a bit less than perfect turnout and they were taught to force turnout. Often turning feet out at 180 degrees when the hips could not meet that range of motion. This can cause knee problems and possibly hip problems. Our teachers tell my daughter, who has average turnout, to slightly turn in her standing leg so she can correctly work her working leg. Finding the right turnout muscles is difficult and she never found them until working with these Russian Vaganova teachers. They do not injure their dancers. Now, my daughter has never been forced to "force" her turnout except for a short while she was training with a very "Balanchine style" teacher. She left that teacher because she was being forced to turn out incorrectly. My point I am trying to make is that it is not any one style that can injure dancers. It is individual teachers who don't teach correctly. I would have to say that the teachers my daughter has teach very carefully and insist on very controlled, correct movement. Because of this she has suffered no injuries since beginning to study with them two years ago. I would spend some time researching what the moderators here at Ballet talk have explained about proper turnout and alignment. They are brilliant in their descriptions and explanations. Don't lose heart. Finding the right training is a constant battle for all parents of dancers. What she is going through is all part of the education and many have tread there before her. She will be smarter as a result.

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Dancing for Grace, excellent advice here from other BT'ers. I would also add that it may be time to quietly evaluate where your daughter has been training at home as well, and begin to at least research and consider other training options. Ballet traiing is an art, not a hard science, and there is a great range of quality and lack there of. Sorting out training options requires knowledge and due diligence on your part, and Ballet Talk is a wonderful place to start. Also keep in mind there is not "one" technique, or "one" way to train, and that no training options or ballet academy is without it's problems. You must make the best choice from the quality options that are out there and consider many factors...the training, the cost, the distance, the level of comittment your dancer wants to make, and the sacrifices you can or can not make as a family to accomplish all this. And once all this is done, you must reconcile the fact that training is never perfect, and even the best teacher may not have the chemistry that is right for your DD. Talk to as many KNOWLEDGABLE people as you can, and use the wonderful resources of this board. Try to connect with other well trained and gifted dancers from your general area and their families and see what paths they have taken and what information and resources they can share. You will be the one who will make the determination where your daughter trains, so learn as much as you can...many of us started this journey knowing nothing as well...an uncomfortable position for sure, but a temporary state of affairs. Good luck!

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Thank you all for your wonderful advice and assistance! I was quite upset last night when I wrote that inquiry because we had just been publicly humiliated at a parent meeting at our studio for some of the "bad" (our teacher's word) things our DD learned at her SI (primarily the turnout issue was discussed in front of everyone, along with derogatory comments about Russian training). I appreciate everyone's support and advice, and I especially appreciate the wealth of information available at BTFD. I will spend more time here, learning everything I can! Thank you!

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Dancing4grace- sorry to hear about your experience at your studio. I know from personal experience how this can feel as my DD experienced something similar as well. All the above advice is wonderful but may I add that you may want to ask to speak with her teacher in private and point out how it felt and the impact her words have your daughter. The comments made by my DD's primary teacher cut her deep since she had been dancing for her for a very long time. I felt I had to give her the chance to see she might have misspoken or at least had the discussions in private, if not just for my DD then for others. After that, make the decision about seeking other places to dance. Sometimes people just do not see what a huge impact their words have, especially on young dancers or even realize they way they said it was hurtful. It will also help clear the air if you decide to move on.

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Is it an option for her to take year round from the Russian instructor?


Sometimes finding the style and class that really SPEAK to you makes all the difference in the world.

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Welcome, Dancing4Grace. I think you will find this network of parents, students, teachers, etc. an invaluable resource in finding your way as the parent of a dancer in this crazy environment. Your post raises concerns and angers me in so many ways, as a mother, a dancer and a dance teacher, it is hard to pick a starting point.


First, I think it is important to note the importance of professionalism in choosing a teacher. In a country that does not mandate certification for independent studios teaching young children, it is important as a parent that you investigate and evaluate the credentials of those individuals teaching your children. Not every great teacher has been formally schooled in pedagogy (the teaching of young children), however most former professional dancers (namely soloists and principals) have absorbed quite a bit from attending classes and academies that enabled them to achieve their high level of distinction. Those teachers who have not experienced a professional ballet or dance career, should have an education in teaching dance to children from an accredited or well-known dance program. These individuals are well-schooled in dealing with young minds, bodies and personalities, and would NEVER discuss other students' faults in front of ANYONE but the parent and the student involved, and would ALWAYS do so in a very constructive manner. Run, don't walk, away from a teacher who practices this type of abusive behavior.


Secondly, most teachers are VERY protective over the method they teach, and do not welcome any changes to their students based on someone else's work. This is just the reality of the dance world. Like previous posts have stated, one method is adamantly opposed to something that another method embraces wholeheartedly. In light of these differences, it is important to evaluate your daughter individually. That is, have a trusted teacher (perhaps one at the SI) look at her anatomy and judge her natural potential for turnout, flexibility, foot work, posture and coordination. Between 9 and 11, flexibility, turnout, and feet can dramatically change, and careful stretching can lead to a greater degree of turnout, and increased flexibility in muscles and feet. This requires a knowledgeable teacher, one well versed in anatomy and young children, and not an amateur. A child naturally possessing the desireable body type, would do very well in a Russian class, so long as they have a firm foundation in ballet stance. After 7 years of RAD(a very safe method of training for any body type), my DD had a strong foundation in posture and stance, well held 180 degree turnout from the hips, and a high degree of flexibility that she had worked on safely. I transferred her from a studio that practiced the abusive behavior you are currently experiencing, to a Russian studio, and she has thrived. I was told by the new teacher, that the old teacher should be jailed for what they did to her.


I find that the best way for handling the SI issue with a teacher, is to privately consult with he/she prior to the summer program and discuss the reasons your DD is attending (challenging environment, i.e., a room full of students who will challenge her, a new network of dance friends from all over), and how you respect the home studio's methods, and how your daughter will expand her experience and learn how to work with other teachers, an important skill for a dancer dealing with different directors. Once she returns home, she will continue to respect her teacher and her teacher's philosophy.


Lastly, keep in mind that your daughter is at a very sensitive age in developing as a young woman, and her perception of self is being formed. The harsh reality, is that most students of dance will not become professional dancers, but at a very minimum, they should develop a lifelong love of movement, enjoy their bodies, and build self confidence and pride as young women. These are my opinions and experiences, however, I hope they are helpful.

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