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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Appropriate amount of classes and environment?


GAmom

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My daughter is 10 1/2 and has been taking classes at a small school for 5 years. The school follows an RAD syllabus, and my daughter is very happy with the classes, which is taught by the only ballet instructor, who is amazing with the girls. She will be taking her Grade IV exam in a few weeks. She has been taking the grade above her in addition to her level class for the past three years. Here is her schedule right now, excluding rehearsals for spring show:

mon.- ballet grade VI 1 hour, 15min

Tues. - assistant in ballet grade I, Ballet grade IV 1 hour, 15min, (hour break) then Beginning pointe, 45min

Thurs.- modern 1 hour, 30 minutes

Friday - RAD coaching grade IV 45 min and RAD coaching grade VI 45 min (these classes will end when the exam is over in March)

 

My first question: Is this an adequate amount of technique? If so, when would the amount need to be increased and by how much?

My daughter hopes to dance professionally one day, and is very dedicated. She attended a summer intensive last year, and will be attending another one this year, since her ballet school is closed during the summer. Her teacher tells me that RAD will give her a good foundation, but that eventually she will need to move on to a pre/pro school. At what age does this move become imperative?

 

My second question is in regards to environment: When my daughter attended her first SI last year, it was an eye opening experience for her to be around other girls who are as passionate about dance as she is. This is really her only complaint at her home school. There's only 1 or 2 others (they are older) that are as serious as she is. The majority of the dancers are taking classes as enrichment, and don't give up their other sports and activities so they often miss class to go to the movies or for sporting events. My daughter and one other (out of about 50 students in the whole program) are the only ones who have attended an SI. I'm sure there are plenty of kids who aren't serious students at any given program, but it's hard for my daughter to not have anyone to share her passion and drive with. How important is it to be in an environment where there are at least some of the students who are working towards this similar goal?

 

Thank for you reading,

GAmom

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  • Administrators

The sooner the better, IMO, GAmom. You might start looking for something for next year.

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Ms. Leigh,

Thank you for your quick response. Was your advice because the amount of classes is inadequate or not being in an environment with other students who share a common goal or a combination? The reason I am asking is her ballet teacher is very accommodating and would allow my daughter to take additional classes; however, the classes would much higher grades as she is taking everything offered for her age. She enjoys the performance opportunities twice a year, and because the school isn't affiliated with a professional company, all the roles, including the leads are filled by the students which is exciting for her. Obviously I wouldn't have posed the question if I didn't have concerns, so I do appreciate your honest feedback and will have to sit down with my daughter to look at our options.

Thank you,

GAmom

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  • Administrators

Just due to the atmosphere. At some point she will need to be with other dancers who are also serious. Also, ultimately there will probably not be enough classes for her at a school with only one teacher, although right now, at 10 years old, that seems fine.

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  • 3 weeks later...

This year my 11 yo DD is starting to have a greater understanding of ballet. Lots of "Ah hah" moments. This summer she will be attending both Chautauqua's & Walnut Hill's SI. We are looking to move her out of her competition school and into a ballet school for next year. She has been dancing pointe for 1 year now. What would the appropriate amount of class time for ballet & pointe be for someone that will turn 12 in December?

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Mary, that would depend of her level, which would have to be determined by the school she will attend. Her training at a competition school might mean that would have less hours due to a lower level in a classical school, but no way to know that until she does a placement audition. The fact that she was accepted at Chautauqua and Walnut Hill is a good sign, however. I would hope that she could have at least 4 technique and 2 dedicated pointe classes per week, but that is without seeing her and knowing her facility and technique at this point in time. At only 11, there is really no huge rush to have her doing massive numbers of hours. Even 3 technique per week and 1 or 2 point would not be unusual for that age. (I don't even put them on pointe until at least 11.5, and usually older.)

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In response to GAmom, My daughter is 14. She is also very serious about dance. This will be her third summer attending a SI. She is one of about 5 serious dancers at her school. Many of the others enjoy it but know that they will not persue a career in dance. She will be changing to a larger dance school next year that has a more extensive program for advanced dancers. In the mean time, she stays in touch with many of the girls she has become friends with at intensives. She feels they" get " her and her passion for dance in a way that her non-dance friends cannot. She makes at point of purposefully not paying attention to who is at class, and what other things girls at her current studio are doing, as she feels it makes her less focused. Missing out on other activities is never fun, but she knows it is worth it.

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My most serious DD is 16, but I do have an 8 year old DD, so I hope it's OK to post even though this experience deals with our older DD. If not, please feel free to delete...

 

GAmom, quite some time ago, one of my older DD's teachers and I were discussing residential programs and I said I would not consider it for her. He asked me very directly, "Why not?" He had gone away at age 10 (trained in former Soviet Union) and so I thought that was why he was in favor of it. But what he said next surprised me at the time. "There is something about being with other kids all the time who are as passionate about ballet as you are. It is good to be around people like that if you are serious." I had never thought of that, but I see now, through our various experiences since then, that he is absolutely correct. Unfortunately, we have not been at that studio this past year, due to a move. And because of our circumstances, we are at the place now where we are very much hoping that DD will get into the residential program she is auditioning for this summer. I wish we had heeded his advice sooner...

 

I'm not saying that you need to consider a residential program, esp. at your DD's age, because hopefully you have good options near where you live. I am just saying that I believe there is a very strong case for having serious ballet students among other serious ballet students. It has been our experience - having been in that environment and out of it - that it is very beneficial and inspiring. Hopefully, you have something close to home for now.

 

I also think it is very significant that the teacher herself told you that your DD would eventually need to move on to a pre-pro school. Kudos to her for her honesty and for caring that much for your DD.

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I would love to get some input on dd's schedule. She is 12 and has been on pointe for approx 2 yrs but not in center. On the barre only which is fine with me. This is in a ballet only VERY small school. She gets tons of individual attention and a good mix of qualified teachers. Her level consists of 9-10 girls ranging in age from 12-15. Being very small, there are a few concerns but the AD is limited in space and is doing great with what she has. Students from this school have been accepted to great SIs like ABT NY, SFB, Lines, PNB and Pittsburgh. There is 1 level higher than my DD at the moment.

4- 1 1/2hour technique classes (all on flat except 1 barre section on pointe once per week)

1- 45 min pointe class (all on barre and not after a tech class)

2- 1 1/2 hour modern classes

1- 1 hour pilates

1- 1 hour stretch

 

rehearsals as needed for nutcracker and spring performance. Thank you so much for your input. We are just trying to navigate these ballet waters.

Edited by idontdance
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  • Administrators

It's okay for now, but I think there should be more dedicated pointe classes next year, following technique classes. Is she doing an SI this summer?

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She is going to Lines this summer. (I know that won't help the pointe issue), and hopefully another one locally. Thank you for your quick response. I was thinking that the pointe would become an issue as she got older.

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