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Ballet Talk for Dancers

What to look for in a teacher


Quiet

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My DD is only just about to turn 4. But, I am looking around at the web sites of various schools in our area because I'm not so impressed with the older girls at the studio she's at now. So, I'm thinking we should try someplace else if we are to continue with dance.

 

If a teacher has danced professionally does that usually indicate they are good at teaching? Are there good teachers who haven't had much professional experience?

 

I was initially impressed with the woman who runs the school we're at now. I recognized were she'd danced and trained and other places she's taught, but....I'm not sure about this school. Thoughts?

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Hello Quiet, and welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers. :wink:

 

For a child of that age you are looking for a school where they are teaching creative movement for children. Ballet is not taught at that age. From creative movement, they move to pre-ballet. From 4 to 7 years old they should be having a lot of fun, and learning some basic things for coordination, musicality, imagination, and, in the upper age of pre-ballet, some very basic balletic moves and stretches, but with no forcing of rotation and not actual steps from the vocabulary. They can begin to learn how to stand, although they will not have the muscle control to sustain it. They can learn to point their feet. They can learn to move the arms and feel the music, and they can skip, hop and jump.

 

When ready for Ballet I, then it's time to be very sure that you are in a school that can train dancers. Look at the older students, the studios record of placement in companies and top college ballet programs, possibly association with Regional Dance America or students who have been in finals of YAGP. If the studio has what they call an "advanced" class and the students take only 2 ballet classes a week and are on pointe, run don't walk to another studio.

 

A professional performing background is important in terms of being able to train a dancer to company level, however, not all former professionals are good teachers. There are definitely excellent teachers out there who have not danced in a ballet company. So, there is no rule to follow there. Some very fine teachers have been professionals, some have not. But they do have to have an exceptional training background, including training in teaching, if they have not danced. Even those who have performed should have some kind of training that prepares them for teaching.

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Quiet,

I see that you don't have enough posts yet for PM...Where are you in Maryland?

 

My older DD began dance at a studio that I knew would not suit her needs if she chose to continue beyond the creative movement level, but we remained there until DD knew it was time to move on. Depending on where you are located, there are a number of good studios all over MD.

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The problem I see with keeping a child in a school that has a good pre-ballet program but can not support the upper levels, is that the children make friends and it can be very difficult to leave that school when the time comes.

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Not only does the child not want to leave friends, but Mom makes friends and has a carpool worked out, too. Plus then these same friends are upset when you leave, because you are implying there is something wrong with the dance training and they either can't see it or can't leave.

 

If you already know there is a problem in the upper levels and you are the type of parent who does care about it, I would leave sooner rather than later. It's just easier on everyone.

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Hm, good points. I do think this school is good for the pre-ballet level, very small classes, very cognisiant of what is age appropriate to expect for a 3, 4, or 5 year old. The older girls just don't seem to have the technique I had expected. But maybe I'm too picky? I don't know.

 

I do kind of hate to leave because, DD loves it there, and the older girls are really nice kids. I like the other parents too. I was really excited to be involved with this school and then I saw thier dress rehersal and was disappointed.

Edited by Quiet
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Is there any way you could see a rehearsal/recital from another school or maybe let your daughter try a class or summer camp? I was very satisfied with our former studio (because I was clueless) until my daughter went for what I thought would be a fun summer program near my office and refused to go back to her old studio. There was a huge difference and it was obvious even to a 7 year old. If I had found this board then, I would have known there was a problem earlier.

 

Some of our main teachers have had performing careers and taught many places, including NC School of the Arts, but I don't believe they have a formal dance degree. They are wonderful teachers and you can tell when you watch the class. The other teachers have a dance degree and performing experience, and are great teachers, also. I don't know how much a dance degree concentrates on teaching - maybe it depends on which school it's from?

 

I am not much of a judge technically, but just from a parent perspective, I like teachers who can control the class without having to raise their voice and correct all the students, not just the favorites. In fact, hopefully there are no "favorites". I also want the students and the teacher to be enjoying themselves and working hard at the same time. I like to see kids bouncing into a 4 hour Nutcracker rehearsal on Saturday with big smiles on their faces, and coming out still smiling (maybe not bouncing).

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I'm sorry that I had to remove your post, danceatMPCA, but this thread is about what to look for in a teacher, not a place to advertise a school. In fact, we do not allow that on any threads on any of our forums.

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Hm, good points. I do think this school is good for the pre-ballet level, very small classes, very cognisiant of what is age appropriate to expect for a 3, 4, or 5 year old. The older girls just don't seem to have the technique I had expected. But maybe I'm too picky? I don't know.

 

I do kind of hate to leave because, DD loves it there, and the older girls are really nice kids. I like the other parents too. I was really excited to be involved with this school and then I saw thier dress rehersal and was disappointed.

 

You are not being too picky. Trust what you already know about the school, and find another school where your dd will love it and the kids are really nice, and the older kids are well trained. Summer is the perfect time to switch, and at 4 years old, your dd will hardly remember her first pre-ballet classes. My 12 year old dd has made two school switches along the way. Neither were easy emotionally, but both were necessary. Trust yourself!

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I'm sorry that I had to remove your post, danceatMPCA, but this thread is about what to look for in a teacher, not a place to advertise a school. In fact, we do not allow that on any threads on any of our forums.

 

 

I apologize. I remember reading another thread where someone was looking for a school in Maryland, and someone else had posted our school info and it was okay.

 

It won't happen again. :)

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And now in response to the original post -

 

In hiring teachers for over 20 years, I have found that a great performing resume has nothing to do with how good a teacher is with the students. This is especially true for the younger students. It takes a special person to instill the love of dance in the little ones, and that person may never have danced professionally at all.

 

With the more advanced students, sometimes a teacher with a great resume will be able to teach a good master class, but not necessarily know how to train a dancer.

 

If I were looking for a school to train my daughter, I would look at the graduates of the school first and foremost, and then ask about students being accepted to high level summer intensives. I would look for depth in the program, and not just one "star" pupil that made a career, but at least a few graduates every year who are at a level where they receive college scholarships, apprenticeships, etc.

 

I agree with the others - it is much harder to switch schools when children are older and grow attached to a teacher and make friends. Your daughter may never choose to pursue dance, but it is great that you have the knowledge and foresight to give her to opportunity to choose that path with excellent training from the beginning.

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Thanks, danceatMCPA, I have heard of your school. It's a little far for us to commute to at this stage, but I will keep it in mind for when she's older if she's still interested.

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Guest coupe66

Hello Quiet,

 

I am not sure what county you live in here in Maryland, but we also live in MD and have 3 dc who are currently dancing. Let me know if I can help you in your search for studios. We have taken a pretty thorough look at most of the classical studios in our part of the state (Central Md).

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Thanks, danceatMCPA, I have heard of your school. It's a little far for us to commute to at this stage, but I will keep it in mind for when she's older if she's still interested.

 

 

Just so you know, we are moving this summer to northeast Baltimore, which has not been announced on our website yet. I do not know where you are located, but if you are near the city that should be a little closer for you than Harford County.

 

Thank you and good luck in your search. I also know many of the schools in Maryland if you need suggestions closer to where you live.

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