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Importance of Method?


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We have very few quality ballet schools in our area. My son attends a school that uses the Balanchine method, there is another school in town that uses the Russian method (Vaganova?) but the school has been very unstable lately. There is a third school that doesn't really use any specific method as far as I can tell. Unfortunately, there are no RAD method schools within driving distance. Will this negatively affect my son who is almost 9 if we end up having to move and he is then able to attend a RAD school? Just how different are the methods? Are we talking about having to learn to adjust a few things here and there or are we talking about going back to square one?


On a side note, my son is finding that he really wishes we had a RAD school nearby. We just went to see Billy Elliot and he is very frustrated that all he is doing is plies and tendu, piques, and barely starting pirouettes. He understands that he needs to master the basics before he can move on to more advanced moves but is frustrated that no one can tell him when that will be. I have to agree with him. It seems very arbitrary. With RAD it seems like we would at least have some kind of guideline as to what he needs to accomplish. Right now we feel like one day the instructor just randomly decides to move kids up to the next age group but they seem to be doing the same things just with older kids. Is that similar in RAD? My son looks out on YouTube at these really young boys at ballet competitions and doesn't understand how they can do all that at such a young age when no one at his current school appears to be taught those things until they are in their early or mid teens. Are we missing something?

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In all methods, a plié is a plié is a plié, and all methods will cover all "steps" in Classical Ballet, but there are subtle differences. In arm positions for example, the position with both arms above () is called both 3rd position and 5th position, depending upon the method.


It is generally best for a dancer to be trained in one method in their early training, and then be exposed to other methods and styles later once the foundation has been built.


Balanchine is considered a style, not a method, by the way. A method is a carefully thought out plan of training that encompasses a beak down of all "steps" in Classical Ballet, a break down of every little nuance, a stair-step way of increasing the understanding students have and considers the best way, how much, and how often to give work before moving forward. Repetition is considered part and parcel of any method, but ultimately, the method is in the hands of a teacher. So a good teacher in the hand is worth 2 in the brush.....or something like that :grinning:


At any rate, Balanchine is mistakenly called a method often, though the man wrote no syllabus, created no curriculum, nor did he teach children how to dance. He was a choreographer and his work with professional dancers was and maybe is to this day, unparalleled. BUT, the end result of his preferences for a certain type of dancer to be able to dance his lightening-quick choreography required professional dancers to develop a way to handle the work that would not be considered correct technically. One example is the encouragement for students to never allow their feet to work correctly when landing a jump. It is both aesthetically jarring and can cause achilles tendon injuries.


Be that as it may, the bottom line is that the training is the most important ingredient.


Now, because of his young age, I think you are fine in keeping him wherever he wants to be for awhile- at least a few years. If you end up moving and if the relocation takes you to a RAD school, and if he is still interested in Classical Ballet, then there may or may not be some things that he needs to review. It's really too nebulous at this point to determine. What I can tell you is that you will want to keep his interest up in dance, which can be a difficult thing for a young man in today's world.


Be sure he gets to see world-class men dancing, whether by taking him to see visiting company performances in your area, or renting videos. Be sure that his teacher is good and can keep his attention. If he is interested in good ballet competitions (YAGP, and as he gets older- NYIBC or USAIBC), then ask his teacher if he is ready technically to take on some of the variations.


My personal opinion is that the Pre-Comp level could be eliminated, and I would be happy, but that is my personal opinion. At any rate, let him know that many of the kids he is seeing are studying ballet every single day (always have 1 full day of rest) for several hours at a time, and may also come from different environments where dancers are auditioned into a program.


If he has loads of natural talent and facility, then there's no reason why he couldn't work towards one.

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I second all those motions.


It's really not about the method, it's the teaching, and the teacher that really produces the dancer.

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As the parent of a boy who is studying at a school that teaches Vaganova I admit it can be frustrating to see boys your age doing great things and you are still stuck with the basics. However, they are not pushed to do something before they are ready and as my son's instructor says "If you do it all when you are 13-14 what do you have to work towards?" A good point was made in that many of those boys dance 6 hours a day in a residential setting or are home-schooled. Training varies, by school, teacher and the level of the kids in the class. My son had 1 hour of partnering for approximately 2/3 of the year (started this year).and then went to an SI where he was the youngest boy out of 13, ( he had just turned 16) had relative little partnering experience (and what he did have was with girls a few years younger than him) and was now dancing with girls his size and age. It was an eye-opener for him and his most difficult class. However he persevered, came through and learned some things he can bring home with him. When he was talking about it I told him there was no way that 1 hour a week could compare to 1 hour/day for several years.

If it was me I would not have your son compete this year since he is only 9, but would take him to the regionals and let him see what kids his age are doing. You also have to remember when seeing the routines that even though someone can do several pirouettes, turns, etc. and they look fancy it doesn't mean they are doing them with the proper technique. Also it would give you a good idea as to what is appropriate for you son at his age. But there, the teacher is the best judge of that, because thely know his strengths and weaknesses. It is always inspiring to see what kids can do when challanged. But as I believe another poster said, there is a night and day difference between regionals and final in NYC. Some of the kids who compete there are absolutely amazing.

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  • 5 months later...

My 10 year old son is in grade 3 ballet at a RAD school. Trying to find out the importance of method was what brought me to discover this fabulous site. I would love to hear more opinions on the differences btw the 3 major methods and if boys have been held back in future advancements due to the method they were trained in. I grew up watching the Royal Winnipeg ballet - their school uses the Cecchetti method, it seems many schools follow the RAD method, and now we have discovered the only dance school in the town my husband might be transferred to teaches the Vaganova method. Sometimes it seems a bit silly to be worrying of such things at when my son is only 10, but he loves ballet and has been excelling.

Looking forward to more opinions and information!

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  • Administrators

Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers, 4harder. :)


As we have said, it's not the method it's the teaching. All of the methods are fine, depending on how they are taught. Look more at the record of the school, the success of their students, the seriousness of the program, etc., than which method they use. Check out as many schools as you can. Watch classes. Watch performances. There are many roads that lead to Rome, and your job is to find the best one that is available to you!

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I'd also just like to add the importance of "open classes" within a school that teaches a set curriculum. I have 2 dds one age 13 in RAD advanced foundation, the other 7 and in RAD grade 3. While it is very important to have those basics in technique set by having the curriculum classes, my girls would both loose their minds without having the opportunity for open classes so that they don't get bored. It can get tedious doing the same work over and over particularly to the same music.

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  • Administrators

You are very right, 12345. It is very important for dancers in a strict syllabus type program, like RAD especially, to have open classes. The syllabus classes are extremely repititious, and the dancers can become quite proficient at the material that is in those classes, but they need experience with more material and other ways of putting things together and different music, especially after they pass the basic levels.

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That's right! Those "free classes" are an important part of the RAD syllabus.

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Thank you for the welcoming and for your replies. We live in a small city - pop 35,000 so classes are limited, but that said we are very happy with our school. This year there was no choices of open classes in ballet, but he also takes jazz. Last year he took ballet, jazz, and hip hop. He has a lot of fun in his jazz class. Our school is also involved in local competitions (which from what I have read on here some people are not all for), but these competitions do give him a chance to break up the repetition of the RAD classes while they learn their routines, and give him some stage time - which he loves.

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To piggyback on this topic...I am not sure that the method is that important, but the consistency of delivery of that method and the qualifications of the instructors that claim to teach that method are imperative. I can speak from experience that the results can be really detrimental when a child is taught by say a Vaganova teacher one day, RAD the next, French the next and then offered the Balanchine style on another day. CONSISTENCY in the formative years is essential for results. In my humble opinion this is one of the challenges of the new ABT curriculum, I have seen some schools try to implement but their particular training paradigm limits their ability to properly follow the methods and if the child is getting a different teacher each day, it makes it particular challenging.


As far as YAGP and other ballet competitions, I think for a young boy they are actually a great opportunity to train. In most schools it seems that a boy is often the only one in a class full of girls. While a plie' is the same for males and females, their are differences in how the male dancer carries himself. I have seen far too many young boys who have trained exclusively with girls and been trained by women only to dance "flowery". However, the opportunity that YAGP and other competitions provide for the young male dancer is the chance to learn a male variation and have the opportunity in a one-on-one session with a coach to focus on cultivating the power and strength that is needed to become a successful male dancer. Additionally, since many boys are inherently competitive and their fathers are too, it offers the focused young male a somewhat objective measurement of their skill and provides them with a goal to work towards. Often times, the father who is indifferent to his son's dancing will crawl on the "bandwagon" with the tangible reward of a trophy or at least a place in an awards ceremony. In my opinion, these are the benefits of the pre-competitive stage of YAGP competitions. As the young male dancer matures, he has the opportunity to go away to summer programs and train with other young men his age and learn in a all-male class but that is typically a luxury that is not afforded to most 9-11 year olds. So, with YAGP they get the opportunity to learn they are not the only boy in ballet, that there is room to grow as a dancer and they are perhaps kept interested during a challenging time.

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Guest coupe66

I would like to say as well that while there may be a place for competitions in the ballet world, hopefully artistry, not competition, will remain the true end goal of ballet. Competitions can provide a shorter term training goal for a younger dancer to focus on and they can be a lot of fun to watch, but it worries me personally that more and more attention is being centered on competitions these days, which are so subjective and as another poster above mentioned, do not always showcase dancers using the proper form and technique. We are currently involved with YAGP Pre-Competitive level for one of our dk's, and the training process itself has been a very good experience for this particular dancer. But again, as someone also already mentioned, many if not all of even the Pre-Comp kids have been dancing for many years already and dancing many hours per week. And then the training for the competition itself can last many months or even the full year prior to the actual competition, so the variations are very well rehearsed.


I also wanted to add that my own son, who began training in classical ballet late, attended a small, local school where he he was able to get a good beginning in ballet. Several months later, he transitioned on to a Vaganova based pre-professional school where his progress has been nothing short of amazing. Now, he is a teenager, and teens will tend to make a bit faster progress than younger kids because they are stronger, etc., but I just want to encourage you that if you have the right training for your ds, he will make progress and will achieve his goals. Perhaps sitting down with his teacher and identifying some goals in the short term may be helpful in letting him have something to work towards and then feel a sense of achievement when he has reached that goal.

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