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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Good Teachers


Topaz

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My girls are only young, but I have read in a few of the threads that even at a young age it is important to have a good teacher and establish good habits and technique.

 

My first question is for a non ballet person like myself, how do I know if a teacher is good and teaching my girls well particularly in the area of technique? I think our teachers are good by that I mean I like them, I can see my girls are developing, they are happy but I don't have a lot to judge our teachers by so they may not be all that good at all I don't really know. Are there some key points I need to look for? Particularly as I really don't understand good or bad technique as I don't have any personal experience.

 

My second question is it normal to be only allowed to view your child's classes once a year? Aside from the end of year concert, I only see them in a class once a year? While I get the whole point of spectators being a distraction, is once a year really enough to see how they are tracking?

 

My last question is, does a good teacher need to have a professional dancing background themselves or doesn't it matter.

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Hi Topaz,

 

It's difficult for a non-dancing parent of a budding little dancer, isn't it! I'll tell you my DD's story in the hope that it helps. She started ballet at our nearest school when she was 3 and a half, and stayed there until she was 7. We moved her for the following reasons:

 

Syllabus - they were studying ISTD ballet and no Character (Russian) dance

Every other year they held a big show, and for that whole year they did no syllabus work, so exams were few and far between and because they concentrated so much on the show work, the teacher would give them all a really hard time pre-exam and say that they had to attend lots of extra lessons, which she charged for, on the basis that they "weren't good enough for the exam". They only held exams once every other year, and the whole class had to take the exam at the same time.

 

Despite this, when DD did take an exam there, she got very good marks, and the young teacher said that she had potential. Eventually we started looking round for other classes for her, and found a Royal Academy of Dance teacher in the next town. What a difference. The new school didn't sacrifice technique and syllabus work for shows (which they do do, but every other year and they only work on the show dance for a term). They hold exam sessions as often as necessary for the children who are ready, so they're not held back. The teacher is strict, disciplined, but also praises where praise is due. They offer private lessons, which DD takes as well as class. DD is now almost 11 and is studying the RAD Intermediate Foundation exam, but because she's little, the teacher won't put her en pointe yet - which is fine by me.

 

I can phone or email the teacher at any time to ask questions. She's honest about DD's physique and ability, gives her exercises to do at home, took the photos for DD's audition applications, is very encouraging that DD attends intensives at other schools in the holidays to gain different experiences, and I completely trust her judgement.

 

DD has come on hugely since we made the move. I think to a certain extent it's gut feeling whether you like the teacher/school or not, but if you check their qualifications, how often they offer exam sessions, what the older girls are doing and how they're coming along, then all that is good to know.

 

And we are allowed to watch class at the end of every term, which seems to be normal here. With regard to whether the teacher has already had a professional career as a dancer - difficult question. If they haven't, it doesn't mean they're not a good teacher - they may have been injured, they may have not had quite the right physique to perform classically, they may have not had the *desire* to perform, but instead to study, and then impart that knowledge to others. If they are teaching girls who have the physique, dedication and talent to go further in dance though, I think it helps if the teacher has had a career beforehand as she'll have a good idea about life in a ballet company and what companies and schools are looking for. But when dealing with young children, I don't think it matters so much; what matters is qualifications, the syllabus, and a solid grounding in good technique.

 

I hope that helps somewhat! Good luck! x

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Topaz, here is a thread that discusses pre-pro schools, and includes a lot about teachers. I think there is another thread somewhere that is even more specifically about finding a good teacher, but I have not found it yet.

 

http://dancers.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=42426

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Please someone correct me if I am wrong, for I am no expert, my only experience from going through the same thing you are with my now 13yo dd.

 

I am sure that there are many other things to look for but if I were to start over one of the main things that I would look for is a teacher who is diligent about making sure the young students know how the movements and positions should FEEL and what muscles they should be using for their turnout. In my opinion there are many things to look for as they get older and want to persue things further and if you want to stay at the same ballet school through the teen years they are things you should look at - but if you would be open to moving them as they get older and express an interest in continuing to persue ballet I would look for that and for a school that follows a syllabus for their ballet instruction. Every ballet student should recieve quality instruction whether an 8yo or an adult beginner. Not all syllabuses require exams, so that is not always something that you can use as a point of judgement. We study Vaganova.

 

I will mention that dd started out at a "dolly Dinkle" type dance school and we moved her as soon as she started complaining that the girls were not as serious as she was about the ballet - at age 9. This school did not provide proper ballet instruction as far as muscle usage and proper placement. But we LOVED our little Dolly Dinkle school. It is not somewhere that I would choose now that I have more knowledge, but dd did learn the language of ballet and MOST inportantly and most valuable to her was that she learned to LOVE to dance there, from a loving and supportive teacher who recognized her passion and supported our decision to move her to a ballet school when that time came.

 

We have had to move our daughter twice. We have moved her as she has out grown the school where she was studying. By following her lead and searching for information as I need it to make informed decisions, I have found that we haven't made a mis-step yet. But I would have never started dd where she is now as it is an hour drive from our home. But as she became more and more dedicated the drive got longer and longer. The information that you will find here is absolutely indespensible. I know it was for us!

 

editted to add: I just realized that this it the under 13 thread, not 13 and under (oops). Sorry. But I will leave it in case the mods find my experience worthy of staying.

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Thank you Ms Leigh for the link it is interesting reading and I think I have picked up some key points. I did search for old threads before I posted this one but couldn't find anything. I am not familiar with the concept of pre pro schools here as I am not sure how you really become a professional in Australia. I assume you just stick with your home studio and are put forward for auditions with the ballet companies which have their own schools??? I would of thought pre pro schools must exist but it is mostly RAD here.

 

This is a long way off for us anyway and really at the moment my girls are doing dance just because they love it. Therefore it may not go any further than that. But it would be nice to know if they are being taught well so that they may have options in the future if they want to take the professional route.

 

Ms Leigh what are your thoughts on veiwing classes, is once a year plus the concert really enough. I don't want to be an overbearing parent and be hanging around like a bad smell every week or anything like that but should the classes be a bit more open, is that important in selecting a school.

 

Thank you overspent and lorrainegd for sharing your stories, they were interesting to read, i greatly appreciate your posts :yes:

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So Topaz, is there actually no viewing window or door cut-out that you could watch thru? We are never allowed in class at all, but of the different schools, some have small 1-way glass windows, 12x12 squares of glass windows cut into the doors, or full glass doors. One studio even has closed circuit televisions in the lobby for each studio. One other studio has glass doors but asks that you not view at the door longer than 5 minutes per class. You can sit far back from it and see in, but they don't want you fogging the glass more than 5 mins, so to speak. And the girls are corrected if they look to the door. I would think more viewing would be appropriate using one of these methods, or having you in class once per semester if there is no passive viewing mechanism. I'm sure the instructors feel it's distracting, but if you are not at a super serious school, why would they get upset over one distraction a semester is my thought.

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No Emily's Mom nothing like that just a solid door, there is no way to have a quick peek. Without veiwing the classes periodically it is difficult to know if the teaching is good or not or if you should be encouraging your child to take up a different activity.

Edited by Topaz
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Most of the places where I teach, and have taught in the past, had parent observation weeks at least twice a year. I think it is important, and I don't mind those weeks at all. The parents need and have a right to see what they are paying for, and how their child is progressing.

 

I don't know much about the system in Australia, in terms of professional level training, but I would guess that there are good schools and not such good schools there, just like everywhere else. It really doesn't matter what method of training is taught, it is HOW it is taught that matters. Pre-professional training requires both exceptional quality teaching and the quantity of hours necessary to train a dancer.

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Thank you Ms Leigh. I think twice a year plus the concert would be fair enough and would be very happy with that. I would like to broach the subject but am worried they will think I am being pushy. I do try to keep my nose out of the teaching as I am not the expert but I would love to see what my dds are learning a bit more often. I am going to see how this year goes for my dds. There are a few things I don't like about this current school like the 2 teachers even though I don't have any personal issues with either. But what I do like about this school is it is small, my girls are very happy and they have produced some very good dancers in the past.

 

I don't really understand the professional system here either, I guess I don't have to worry about that just now. Australia does produce some great dancers and the Australia Ballet Company is amazing so something good must be going on :)

 

Hope you don't mind me asking a zillion questions, I am one of those people that likes to research and be well informed :thumbsup: I am so glad I found this forum as it has opened my eyes to many things I didn't know.

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No problem with the questions, Topaz. That's why we are here! :)

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