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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Need Advice


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Hi,

 

I'm not sure what to do about this situation. One of my daughter's teachers is in her 80s. She is somewhat old school and believes in manipulating bodies into better alignment. This isn't a problem when she is gentle and careful but lately things have been a little odd. For the past few weeks she has put my daughter in a very strange arabesque. She wants her to get her leg behind her which I understand but she pushes the leg so far over that it is beyond what would be considered a good line. Then she tells her to keep her shoulder down and pushes it really far down. The line is not good but she tells the class that this is a beautiful arabesque. My daughter's private teacher thinks she is over correcting my daughter to get her to do it correctly. But the teacher really hasn't explained what my daughter is doing incorrectly and my daughter has tried to find a happy medium between what she has been doing in other classes and what this teacher seems to want but even that isn't good enough and she gets pushed into this odd awkward position. BTW, she is praised for her line in other classes.

 

Other things that are odd. The teacher forgets combinations and the girls in the class have to remind her what combination she just gave and some girls including my daughter have been yelled at for doing the wrong step when they were just told to do the opposite or for using the wrong arms when they were told to do something different. Last week the girls were giggling because in the stretch class she teaches she went to an empty space on the barre (next to a mirror) and started telling the empty space to turn out more. I'm guessing she saw a reflection in the mirror and was talking to that?

 

The worst part is that on Thursday she decided to use my daughter to demonstrate a panche on pointe. My daughter has been on pointe for only a year. The entire class has been en pointe for only a year, a fact the teacher ascertained before using my daughter to demonstrate. This was done with my daughter at the barre holding on with one hand. First she put my daughter in the odd arabesque, then turned my daughter's standing leg out past what my daughter is capable of (she seems to think my daughter is perfectly turned out because she can do the splits) and then raised her working leg up past 90 degrees to show a proper panche (all the while telling the girls that they have been on pointe long enough to be able to get their legs higher.

 

When my daughter got out of class the hip of the standing leg really hurt. We've iced it and used Motrin but it stilll hurts. I'm sure she has strained a muscle somewhere and we will be taking her to a doctor on Monday. She has never had an injury before this class. I'm guessing this had to do with being turned out more than she is capable of and then bending her over on it.

 

I am concerned that dd might be hurt again. I'm also concerned for the other girls. The teacher is the mother of the artistic director and owner and she has always had an excellent reputation but things are getting weird.

 

And as a side note, any criticism of her mother falls on deaf ears. The girls are considered whiners and the parents "just have to trust the teachers". In fact the AD has watched the class and done nothing. During one class taught by the AD, one of the girls did something exactly the way she had been told to by the AD's mother. She was corrected for it and asked shy she did it that way and the girl told her she had learned it in the AD's mother's class. The Ad said her mother doesn't teach that way and there is no way she would have learned it in that class. I think there may be some denial going on?

 

How do I approach this? If I take her out of the class she won't be allowed to take pointe classes with other teachers. If I take her out of the school, she loses access to some very knowledgeable teachers. Talking to the other teachers doesn't seem to be an option because they just laugh and say that's just the way she is or that my daughter must have misinterpreted. I don't think she can misinterpret being manipulated into a position and being told to stay there because it looks nice.

 

I'm really not sure what to do. Am I right to be concerned? Is this normal and my daughter is hurt because she doesn't have enough turnout? I would take her to another studio but the other studios use teenagers to teach or don't offer more than a one hour technique class.

 

Advice or commiseration would be helpful.

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I am sorry you feel cornered in this situation. With aging parents myself, it is a tough situation to be in and there are daily things that you have to decipher if they are just the way of an 80+ year old or if they indicate a true problem. Sometimes in dealing with my own situation there are things my sister sees and brings to my attention for me to validate and I never see them. Vice versa also. Then there are the things we both see and are concerned about.

 

It is important in this case, with the teacher having family as staff that you choose the battle you really feel you need to fight first. You will likely not be able to fight both at once. It sounds like the AD has been made aware and at least has the issue in the back of his/her mind or what he saw in class that day was dismissed.

 

I would suggest you document the things you feel are of issue into two categories. One is student safety which would include the things that happened to your daughter and her pain afterward, and the other list things that are a nuisance yet show a pattern of things to question. Hopefully one of our teachers will weigh in on if what was asked of your child was out of range. I cannot answer that. In addition, hopefully the nuisance list is actually longer than the safety list, it will be the one that will point out a pattern that might indicate dementia, etc. Noting dates, frequency, reactions will help the administration see if there is a pattern that is happening when they are not there. It is also important to decipher things such as: was she was talking to a perceived person in the mirror that was not there, or if she in fact has some vision loss and did see a hazy person with the same haze she sees the actual dancers at the barre, but in her mind hasn't been seeing anyone clear enough to know if the mirrored image was another class member or not.

 

I would also take some time to discuss what happens to some older people and will likely happen to you or someone you love such as grandmother, in your daughter's lifetime with her. Too many times, we don't discuss this issue and then our kids are left with the giggles when they see it because they do not understand what is normal aging and what is not. Understanding that the frustration the teacher feels when not remembering a combination might be put off on the kids, but it is actually frustration with herself that is of issue may make the students a little less frustrated.

 

Engage your DD in helping with the list as an individual and not as a teen group member and then work within your own school to make the situation the best it can be for all involved. Your doctor visit on Monday will help you with knowing if your daughter was actually hurt in class or just sore from overwork in class. Going forward with concern for the teacher rather than concern for the class may get a longer conversation about the issue at hand.

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Commiseration here in full measure. I don't know what you can do about the situation, as the AD is naturally going to be loth to correct her own mother. Bless the old lady for keeping the fire alive for so long, but things certainly do sound like they've taken a turn somewhat round the bend for teaching methodology. Talking to other teachers may not be of much help. I can hear it now: "Aw, she's not so bad. When I was a student, I had one old bat who used to hold conversations with Tsar Nicholas II in the classroom!"

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Short term memory worsens with age. I'll bet this teacher remembers her days as a student, though! Also, the teacher may need an eye exam. Poor vision could explain some of what is going on. Then again, it could be senility, which may explain the AD's denial.

 

If your child has been hurt by this teacher, you must take action. Let the AD know, perhaps a doctor's letter would help.

 

Letting the AD know is tricky, I know. Be compassionate. Stress the safety issue. If the school will do nothing, you have to leave before your child is badly hurt.

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Kandi, how worrying for you and distressing for your daughter. I do hope you can get this sorted out in a way that doesn't hurt either of you or the poor lady too much - dementia immediately sprang to my mind, too, Momof3darlings. Major Mel, you cracked me up with the "Nicholas II" comment, so much so that my kitten ran away into another room! :D

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Before this goes any further, I do want to stress that there are NORMAL physiologic changes that occur in advancing age which could produce the distressing issues with this teacher. These changes may or may not preclude actual dementia.

 

How many of you have "lost" your keys in plain sight?

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First, of all I don't think we are dealing with dementia or senility. My grandmother is the same age as the teacher and very healthy for her age, but she has issues with hearing, sight and memory also. In this case, I'm of the opinion that the teacher's depth perception is off which would account for her pushing my daughter's right gesture leg over her left buttock in arabesque and putting some of the girls arms in over corrected positions. She wears glasses for reading but she is kind of vain and doesn't wear them for class. I did enjoy the comment about Tsar Nicholas. If only it were that simple :>

 

On the other hand. We went to the doctor today. The good news is her hip hasn't popped out of place and the growth plates haven't been injured ( my daughter is still growing, she's 12). The bad news is that there is soft tissue damage and it doesn't look like an over use injury because she had no symtoms at all before the class. The doctor is of the opinion that there would have been some precursor; ie.. soreness in the morning when she got up, popping or clunking noises in the hip or at least some achyness after classes, none of which occured. There wasn't any of that so she's pretty sure that what the teacher did pulled a muscle or some ligaments. Apparently if you turn the leg out too much while on point and then push someone over, there is a lot of shearing force. My daughter will not be able to dance for at least a month. She probably will not be able to participate in The Nutcracker this winter.

 

She will see an orthopedist this week to get a better ideal of the damage. She may have to have an MRI and she starts physical therapy next week. Thank goodness for insurance

 

At this point I am very uncertain as to what to do and I am very upset. My daughter is, of course, in tears because she can't dance. Her doctor is of the opinion that if she is careful things will heal up and she won't develop a chronic injury but I don't want her back into a situation where, through no fault of her own, she can get injured again.

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Kandi, so sorry to hear that your daughter was hurt. How disappointing for her to have to take time away from dance. I hope her recovery goes well. What a difficult situation for you both.

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I am so sorry to hear about your daughter's injury. Thankfully, kids are very elastic, and I am sure that she will come through this fine, but it must be very tough for you and your daughter.

 

That being said, faced with the doc's opinion that the injury was likely caused by improper correction, and you have limited choices for other studios, I think you have to discuss this with the AD before your daughter returns. There is no need to approach it as a dementia issue, or age/decline issue on the part of the teacher, for, who really knows what is going on with the teacher? This is an issue of safety and your daughter's (and other's) health. You may be surprised and the AD may be more receptive than you think. Good luck.

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I think you need to take exactly what you've shared here directly to the AD. To have your DD out for a month due to a physical manipulation by a teacher is a big red flag. The AD needs to know it. I'm so sorry for your DD to have to go through this. :wacko:

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Just an update:

 

My daughter saw the orthopedist today. He's not sure what's happening other than she can't flex or turn out her hip without a lot of pain. Her range of motion on that leg is about half of what it was before the injury. He thinks there are three different things that could be causing her pain. He has ordered a bone scan. He says she could have a stress fracture, there could be fluid in her hips or it could be a ligament sprain. He is certain it isn't a muscle strain however.

 

My daughter is scared. She knows the bone scan is just being injected with iodine and being scanned but another girl at the studio had one and they found a stress fracture. The girl was in a cast for a long time and couldn't dance for three months. The girls also said the injection was painful. My daughter is afraid of needles as it is and didn't need to hear that.

 

No luck in getting the AD to consider that the teacher might be even partially responsible for the injury. I didn't think there would be but we tried.

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I am so sorry to hear this news. Lets hope it is just a ligament strain. It seems hard to believe that it is a stress fracture, but I suppose it is possible.

 

I would leave that dance studio, if at all possible.

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Kandi, I am also sorry and concerned for your daughter. I would truly consider finding another dance school if your daughter's AD will not listen to you. The AD is too emotionally involved to take any responsibility for considering the possibility that your daughter may have suffered an injury due to how she was manipulated by her teacher - the AD's mother as you pointed out. We have past experience with this in that my DD's first ballet school was operated by a mother and her daughter, and when we saw a similar attachment which hindered their professionalism we felt that we had no other option than to leave the school. My daughter was developing tendonitis and the AD (the daughter) did NOT want to discuss it at all (my daughter had two of her classes per week with the AD's mother). As soon as my DD began training at another school and was corrected on things that were being overlooked, her symptoms went away.

 

We chose to leave carefully and quietly, and we never looked back.

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Dear Kandi, I'm so sorry your DD has to deal with this. I think I would agree that perhaps it is time to find another studio under the circumstances---unless you are happy with that one and can avoid this particular teacher.

 

As for the bone scan, my non-dd had one when they suspected a stress fracture in her lower back. The scan itself was painless and actually, quite relaxing. She did get a bit cold in the room, but they gave her a warmed blanket and she was just fine. Even let her choose the music. The injection really wasn't a problem either. As I recall, she had the injection then we came back after a little while for the actual scan.

 

Although the scan did show a 'hot spot' in the area of her pain, it did not show a stress fracture. At the time, we were relieved. Three months out of her sport seemed like a very long time. However, in retrospect, we would have preferred the stress fracture. At least they would have known what the injury was and there would have been a finite time line with a full recovery at the end. As it turned out, hers was a nebulous injury that plagued her pretty constantly for the next two years while we tried every rehab suggested until she finally found the doctor who understood the injury and treated it once and for all.

 

Now I don't tell the course of my daughter's injury to suggest that's what's ahead for your DD. I just wanted to let you know that even if it is a stress fracture, the known diagnosis and the finite recovery time should be looked upon as something good---not something interminably long. :) Sometimes ligament strains, although sounding less severe than a stress fracture, can actually take longer to heal completely and their recovery can be more fickle.

 

Best wishes for a speedy recovery--and a definitive diagnosis.

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I would pull my daughter out of the class and demand a refund. If the AD did not cooperate and show compassion and concern, I would completely pull out of the studio. Period. This is my daughter's health I'm talking about, not her dance career. Which is more important? Your AD could also be afraid of a lawsuit and would never admit any responsibility. Don't even try to get her to. Just tell her the way things are going to be from here out. If she doesn't give you the refund, then get a lawyer involved in that aspect.

 

How is your daughter now? When is the bone scan scheduled?

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