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What constitutes a pre-pro school?

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The discussion here is 'pre-pro' schools in a specific area! What constitutes a pre-pro school? My DD's went to an excellent school but some years ago the teacher told me that she'd taken my DD's as far as she could and we needed to move on which is a hard thing to do when your at the best school in town. We felt the quality excellent, pre-pro if you will. So, I ask, what is pre-pro? Obviously the level of training and the type of classes offered and required but to me it's much more than that. It's opportunity and directives and when I think of true pre-pro I think of the really big school like the Royal or SAB. They appear to place most or all their dancers in companies. Can a new school with quite understandably no history of job placements really be considered pre-pro. Are we being a bit liberal with this phrase?

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  • Victoria Leigh


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Pasdetrois--I have moved your post here and started a new thread since your question was not specifically about "finding a pre-pro school in UTAH" where the original thread was. Carry on..........

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Possibly, but it's really about the quality of the training. If the training is at the professional level, whether the school is large or small or somewhere in between, should not matter. The major difference would be that ultimately the student may need to spend a year or two in the more "connected" school, for lack of a better word. But, this is totally assuming that the quality of the teaching is up to the level of that in a larger and more connected school.


One of the major differences would be when a very talented student, with excellent professional potential, reasches a level that is well beyond that of other students in the school. In a small school, the student may need to move on eventually, just in order to be working in classes geared for her/his abilities.

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I don't think I have this whole training thing figured out...even after several years but one thing I have learned the quality of the faculty is at the top of the list of important things to consider. Even at the "well-connected" schools, their students are successful at finding employment because the training rendered by the faculty turns out dancers who are well prepared for jobs in ballet companies. The name alone doesn't do it. It might get a dancer in the door from increased exposure to hiring companies but it's the training that will get (and keep) the job.


Even if things have been going well at a pre-pro, make sure to monitor who is on faculty. At dd's past school, several key teachers have moved on and it's important to know the qualifications and teaching abilities of newly hired faculty and those still remaining. If faculty changes and training stays on track, then great; if training suffers, it's time to move on. The tough thing for those of us who aren't dancers is knowing how the quality of training is affected. There doesn't seem to be a magic formula for making a great ballet teacher. Even with that handicap, I could always sense when I was watching a truly inspirational teacher or when the teacher was just ordinary or worse, demeaning.

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Just my opinion but I think someone having had a career as a professional dancer does not always make one a good teacher.

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This is one of my favorite beefs with the term "pre-professional". It is so vague that it subsumes everything for dancers before they're paid for their work, even the Dinkles. You'll notice that I don't use it very much, if at all. I prefer the term "vocational".

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No, sgmca, having been a professional dancer does not automatically make one a good teacher. However, professional experience, combined with training for teaching, the ability to communicate, intelligence and the ability to think with some logic and not blindly accept everything from the past, and an interest and care for the young dancers coming up can indeed make a very fine teacher. :) The professional experience is, however, an integral and important part of it, in terms of training one to the professional level. Totally essential? Possibly not, but I think it is the rare teacher who can take it to that level without that experience.


What I find, generally, with teachers who have not danced professionally, is a lack of ability to teach beyond the steps and exercises. They may do everything very correctly, and it is not what they do that is the problem, but what is lacking in the work they do. This usually involves transitions, articulation, épaulement, and often port de bras, plus the ability to really move. Musicality is often missing, but not always. There is a look to a student and a look to a dancer, and the ability to get them to that point, by someone who has not done that, is rare. However, it is possible!

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Just quickly, I would like to say kudos to the school you're at for realizing their limitations, and advising you beyond what they offer.


It is a rare teacher/school that will do so. Obviously they care about their students very much to do so.


In my teaching experience with other schools, I (and the school) have had to do so as well. It was not that we did not have the ability to produce top level dancers, we did not just have the time/resources at that time. The dancer had progressed exceptionally beyond the levels that the small school had, and there weren't enough classes to fill the bill. Financially it was not feasible for just one student at the time.


Thank goodness the director knew what was best for her and let her go.


On the other subject....


Big names and professional experience IMHO do not mean anything,,, The ability to dance, and the ability to teach are two separate things. Do you need to have trained to a high level, absolutely. But there are amazing teachers out there without the big names. :)

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Big names and professional experience IMHO do not mean anything,,, The ability to dance, and the ability to teach are two separate things. Do you need to have trained to a high level, absolutely. But there are amazing teachers out there without the big names. :lol:


That's what is so hard for all of us non-dancing parents. There is no set formula for good teaching. I've been privileged to observe a class by Violette Verdy who is sheer inspiration and she is a legend and a great teacher, then I've peeked in on another legend's class and it seemed completely off the wall whacky. I've seen great, good and bad classes from ex-professionals who weren't big names but had good experience and I've seen one teacher from a known but smaller company who seemed intent on humiliating and demeaning the students in the name of being tough. There are teachers whose very presence commands respect and they are tough but have the best interests of the dks at heart and have a kind spirit to the toughness. DD thrives under them even though they make her cry sometimes.


It's not unlike evaluating faculty in schools but the unfamiliarity of ballet makes it scarier when we are trying to make sure we are providing the best training possible. It's a scary thing to move your dk to another school especially when many times, it requires that the dk move out of their home to a residency program. In order to feel comfortable about decisions to change schools, it is absolutely necessary to get a feel for the faculty. Wouldn't it be great if there were some magical listing of teachers and objective measurements of teaching abilities?

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My dd thinks that some teachers are brilliant technicians and some are inspirational coaches. It's when you can combine the two that you have a master teacher. Almost impossible to find.

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It is an unfortunate truth but we do not have a way of assessing teachers through exam work, either theirs or the children's. We have no syllabus with exams attached to measure anything. Ballet on a good day is subjective but without a syllabus as a guideline it is I believe even more subjective. Teachers appear to come from all directions on how a step should be done. I hear about it from my kids depending on the training philisophy of the teacher in question. By a certain age this is not a problem but for a younger student it can be a mine field. If there were a general norm for how all steps are executed would it be any easier to determine a 'good' teacher? Or is it that I look toward Europe with an unnecessary degree of envy!


Ms. Leigh, I agree to a degree that a professional career helps make a teacher with more to offer. Ironically one of the best young teachers I'v ever come across was a young woman who was a breathtaking dancer but whose personal facility was not suitable for a company, therefor, no professional career. What she imparted in class was positively magical. No name, no accolades behind the name just a brilliant teacher. So, how do you find these rare gems of teachers that come without a fanfare or a companies backing or big money to build the physically impressive school.


A agree that we have been very lucky to have a teacher who valued the student more than her personal ego. Looking back I know she was found by sheer luck even though I'd done my homework. Yes, I believe she gave training at a pre-pro level but it would never be recognized as such by anyone trying to build an impressive resume.

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The rare gems do exist, Pasdetrois, but I think that they are exactly that...rare. It's like the rare dancer who captivates everyone without having the "ideal" facility expected of classical dancers today. There is something special about that dancer, or about that teacher, that can transcend the norm. When you find that, treasure it! :o

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I feel that a pre pro school is a school that offers instruction only to children with professional potential and facility. I school that requires an audition to attend and where dancers are assessed out annually if they do not make the grade. But in America catch phrases are so popular that everyone wants to call themselves a pre pro school. Teachers who have the ability to take young dancers "to term" but who teach everyone who walks in the door want to be called pre pro as well. (rather than merely saying they do have some pre pro dancers in their program) and also hope that unknowing parents will think dancers that are not pre pro level are because they have no real frame of reference.

I feel that the term is exploited and overused. But for a talented young dancers receiving expert instruction, adequate amount of classes (and I mean only adequate because in my opinion a child going to a regular mainstream high school cannot receive enough instruction in that environment once they reach a certain level) who does not want to leave home for a pre pro program a talented teacher can probably do the job. But I think a ballet school that calls themselves a pre pro school when they instruct everyone who will pay for the lessons is misrepresenting themselves. Then again if they have a pre pro program (sectioned off from the rest of the school) they may be able to legitimately name it as said.

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Memo, there is a real sting to what you say. The sting is there because it resonates with truth and that hurts quite a bit. Sadly, I believe most schools have to take the recreational student in order to pay the rent. Even the big company schools have large lower schools with many a child capable of only recreational ballet. They don't appear to separate the potential professional dancers until later in the upper levels. Anyone who has attended the Houston summer program knows of the audition that mainly the level 7 and 8's take for acceptance as year round students. The youngest of those from outside the Houston area is about 15. How many of these schools have residency programs for 12 year olds? Russia and Ukraine have such schools and the Royal has White Lodge but is there a school in this country?


So, yes Memo I believe that what you say is true. Pre-pro is a catch phrase and in truth a true pre-pro probably is a school that teaches only dancers with professional potential. I do believe there are excellent teachers tucked away in small towns as well as large who produce pre-pro dancers. I also believe that company dancers are created by these teachers, maybe it's a harder way to finally make it on stage but sadly few can afford residency programs. All training in the old Soviet block was paid by the government. Today, in the UK, the Royal has an adjusted fee scale dependent on the dancers family income. They also award scholarships and more often grants and so these programs are available to the poor as well as the rich. Ballet being valued in this way is amazing. I looked up their whole process when we seriously thought of auditioning there. Why not try for the top! For the average American it isn't a possibility but it was a lovely dream for a short while. You have to be British to be eligible for any financial breaks. Maybe we should all move to England, the language is almost the same as ours!

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