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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Decisions, decisions...


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I would really like to be a ballet teacher. But I'm behind on my technique (only RAD Intermediate level, with a lot of bad habits that need fixing I think :wink:) but my previous teacher (who emigrated) tole me she thinks I have the ability to become a teacher, provided I can catch up and I work hard. She was talking specifically in terms of the RAD teacher's programme though, that being the context of the discussion.


Anyway, I am trying to decide the best method of training for me right now...whether it be the RAD programme or a university programme. I don't have a lot of options in terms of training (i.e. can't find classes 6 days a week). I finish university at the end of this year but the RAD programme only starts again in 2012, so I have next year to work on catching up technique. These are my options for 2011:


Option A: Part-time/Full-time work plus ballet training OR honours degree, part-time work and ballet training


Possible schedule (this being all the classes I could take at my new studio):

Monday: 90 minute Adults RAD Intermediate Foundation/non-syllabus (depending on week) class with 15-30 minutes beginner pointe included

Tuesday: 75 minute RAD Intermediate class; 75 minute RAD Advanced 1 class (both possibly including pointe work)

Wednesday: 90 minute Adults RAD Intermediate/non-syllabus class with possible pointe work (beginner-ish level)

Thursday: 75 minute RAD Advanced 1 class; 90 minute RAD Advanced 2 class (a level above where I will be, but required by studio to try); could also do additional 75 minute RAD Intermediate class

Saturday: 60 minutes body conditioning

Sunday: 60-90 minute private lesson - RAD Adv Foundation


I know the above is a massive mish-mash of various classes, but that is the maximum I can do at that studio, in conjunction with pilates/conditioning classes and cross-training at my health club.



- I can afford this (pretty much) and this is a BIG ONE

- I can work (another big one)

- It is close by

- I can possibly still do my graduate studies (for "Plan B")

- Very small classes, individual attention

- Specific RAD training (could also be a con, though)

- One performance a year

- Very experienced RAD teachers

- Able to take numerous lower level classes to work on my difficulties/bad habits (I will be taking my RAD Intermediate in 3 weeks, so when this timetable applies, I would be in the Adv 1 class)

- Already accepted into this studio and classes



- Mostly RAD syllabus classes, not non-syllabus ones

- No separate pointe classes, classes too short

- No pas de deux, no repertoire, no different dance genres



Please bear in mind that other topics, like anatomy, music, teaching etc would be covered during my RAD teacher training in 2012 and 2013; 2011 will be a "gap" year in this case where I catch up technique.



Option B: University dance programme (3-4 years)


Sample second semester, 1st year, schedule:


8h30- 10h30 Ballet and repertoire

10h30 - 12h00 Jazz dancing

12h00 - 13h00 History

14h30 - 17h00 Stagework




8h00 - 9h00 Make up

9h20 - 10h30 Contemporary

10h30 - 12h00 Music

12h00 - 13h30 Ballet

14h00 - 15h00 Dance teaching

15h00 - 16h00 Tap



8h00 - 9h00 Anatomy

9h20 - 10h30 Contemporary

10h30 -12h00 African dancing

12h00 - 13h00 Pointe work

13h30 - 14h30 Composition

15h00 - 16h00 Dance teaching



9h00 - 10h30 Ballet

10h30 - 12h00 Body conditioning

12h30 - 13h30 Stagework

14h00 - 15h00 History



8h30 - 10h30 Ballet

10h30 - 11h30 Pas de duex

11h30 - 12h30 African dancing

12h30 - 13h30 Creative movement

14h00 - 15h00 Performance class


(I assume the ballet technique classes include some pointe...???)



- More training, not RAD specific, range of things taught

- Experienced teachers

- Other dancers specifically focused on a career in dance



- Not sure AT ALL how I might afford this

- Not able to work (at all, owing to commute especially)

- Minimum 2 hours commuting each day, including expensive petrol, tolls. No viable public transport system up and running yet (although hopefully the trains will be up in the next 2 years).

- Not accepted into this programme yet, haven't auditioned yet

- Have yet to fully investigate this programme (in terms of visiting etc; have only spoken to someone in the programme) although planning to in the near future

- Larger classes, less concentration on ballet specifically



That's just all I can think of for the time-being, need to run to university right now. I know it may seem silly, but syllabus training in my country is really big - most parents who are looking for recreational training for their children (recreational training being my aim) will look for RAD or Cecchetti schools and teachers. Having a degree from a university, without the ensuing RAD qualification, might not be a viable option for me, and it is unlikely I will be able to afford to do both the university programme and then the RAD programme.

The commute, expense and lack of ability to work may be dealbreakers for me on the university programme. I'm not sure a student loan would be a wise option (if banks give student loans to dance majors...?) and there are no scholarships/bursaries available unless you are really talented, which I am not.



Input from both RAD and non-RAD teachers, adults etc would be appreciated!

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A few thoughts:

Teaching is a gift, and a huge responsibility. Teaching is some part of who you are as an individual, or it is not. Being a teacher is similar to being a dancer in that you have to have all of the qualities that a professional dancer has, and then some. You must always be in awe and be aware of the position you are in, and the influence you have over young lives. When people say teaching is a calling, that sums it up nicely. It is not a profession that offers much financially at all, but it is totally worth what you must give.


I can tell you that taking out loans for this career would not be financially feasible, because I doubt that in a whole lifetime, a teacher would make enough to afford paying them back. Many teachers have a spouse who supports them or else they would not be able to teach as a profession.


For myself, even as a child I had the inclination to break movement down for myself, and then to help others with what I had learned was almost as necessary as breathing. All of my experiences as a dancer including being coached for roles, performing on stage, and all of the details that a dancer experiences, shaped who I am as a teacher. On top of all of the experience, there is also classroom learning that must be done and it is helpful if you have a curious mind. I think that an innate drive to learn is an important part of being a teacher.


If all of that fits you, and you are prepared to live very frugally, then choose the option that interests you the most, and that you can afford the cost, energy, time, and effort. And never stop learning!

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Take this with a grain of salt, since I'm not a dance instructor, nor do I live in your country. I think Option A is better:

1. You can afford it. This is a big one.

2. You will be certified in RAD which is important in your country.

3. It is shorter and you can work. You will be able to get out there and start teaching sooner.

4. Once you start teaching you would be able to probably take classes at a discount (or free?) at the studio in some other disciplines.

5. The university program is 3-4 more years, plus you can't work. You would be at a disadvantage in whatever your "day" job is if you needed to go back to it after this program before you found enough work teaching. You would spend more time learning in this program but do they have any kind of teaching apprenticeship or internships to get you experience? If not then it is 4 more years of being a student and you should start teaching as soon as you can in my opinion. I teach other subjects and you need a mastery of the subject, but you also need to learn how to deal with people and how to handle children (if you are going to teach children) and this isn't something you learn in books.

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Thank you for your input.


Clara - I have been told I'm a natural teacher (although the context was not specifically ballet related). All the other career options I'm looking into involve teaching in some capacity. I already work as a tutor for young and teenage children (although I understand this is different than working in a classroom/ballet context) and I enjoy it. I feel very privileged to be a part of these kids' lives. One of the reasons why I don't want to do the university dance programme is that it would result in me having to give up my tutoring job which a.) pays the bills, but b.) is something I enjoy. I've learnt how these children learn and think and I'd like to continue working with them, and others, for at least another year (until one of my students finishes high school and another gets through her first year at high school). This job has taught me so much about teaching and about how children learn and how it may be necessary to adapt one's approach to help specific children.


I am also someone who loves to learn. I love understanding things. When I find pictures or ways of explaining things in ballet I think would be helpful for teaching, I immediately "bookmark" them in my head or in a notebook. Some of the pictures in Eliza Gaynor Minden's book "The Ballet Companion", for example, have helped me to truly understand movements (e.g. the series of pictures showing each part of a pas de chat).


I have to get off to university now, but will come and respond to your thoughts, Luceroblanco, when I have a moment later.

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And about the student loans, Clara - that would not be something I would be willing to consider for a dance teaching qualification. Fortunately, I am already married and my husband earns relatively well (for his age and experience) so hopefully we will be able to manage on his salary and a dance teacher's salary.



Thank you for your thoughts, Luceroblanco. You bring up many valid thoughts and they are all things I have been considering and thinking about. The value in the RAD programme also lies in the fact that one is observing teaching for the first year and then teaching under supervision (by the teacher you have been observing) for the second year. So you get into the practical part of teaching quite quickly and with a lot of help. As I know many of the student teachers who are currently studying the RAD teacher's programme, I am getting to see a lot of the pro's and con's of the programme.



I spoke to my (current, before changing studios at the end of the month) teacher, who has known me and taught me for two years. Her opinion was that she feels that the university dance programme would not be a good option for me because: a.) it's not specific enough in terms of teaching b.) I am not looking for a performing career c.) the commute, especially after late night rehearsals, would be very tiring, not to mention expensive, and possibly dangerous at night d.) being married and at my age, a full-day programme that will often run with late rehearsals is not necessarily practical, especially financially as I won't be able to work and e.) she agrees that it will be essential for me to get the RAD qualification in addition to the university programme and f.) in her personal opinion, I will not enjoy a lot of the performing because of the long hours and because I will have to perform in styles I am not comfortable with at times (e.g. African dancing).


The university programme is appealing to me because I get to dance in non-syllabus classes, I get to take anatomy, history, make-up, stagework, pas de deux and repertoire. I can, however, study anatomy, history, make up and stagework (to a certain degree) on my own or somewhere else, especially as my husband's aunt used to teach dance history and contemporary dance at this university, so I can borrow some of her books and materials.

As for pas de deux and repertoire...I don't think much can help in terms of my longing to be good enough to and to be able to participate in things like corps parts of ballets. Ballet studios here do not tend to perform actual ballets or pieces from actual ballets because they generally don't have enough students (especially boys) at an adequate level to be able to. Teachers tend to choreograph things for the studio performances, and oftentimes they are contemporary ballet. Youth companies will not accept me because I am over 18 (although I suppose I could beg and plead...?) and usually not advanced enough. I can't help but wish at times that I had not given up ballet between ages 12 and 20 and that I had lived in a city where good training and student companies were available.



My application for the university programme needs to be sent in tomorrow in order to get it in in time for the deadline... :D

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