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Ballet Talk for Dancers

When a "good" school is doing poorly by students...


Rae Moon

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My daughter is seven. She is in level one at a local dance school, one that generally gets very favorable reviews and has produced several dozen professional dancers. She currently takes two 75 minute classes a week with the same teacher. She is the only student in level one who takes twice a week -- level one is one or two classes a week, and the choice is up to the student how many classes to take. Her teacher is very sweet, a pro ballerina herself, although she has only been teaching for two years, I believe. I have been able to figure out that my daughter is clearly "teacher's pet," much to my chagrin :clapping: . (Teacher saying things like, "Don't worry if she is a little late to class, she is the best student, etc.") Luckily, it isn't giving my daughter a big head. I thought that maybe it was because she attended twice a week, and didn't think much more about it.

 

I recently observed class, and frankly, I was horrified. The teacher expects all the girls to have 180 degree turnout. Understandably, most of the girls rolled forward onto their arches. Then the teacher went around and chastised everyone for being on their arches instead of closing down their turnout! She also puts the girls in an extended froggy stretch. It was pretty clear why my daughter is "favorite" ( :clapping: ). She was the only one with sustained attention, who really tried her hardest, who danced on the music and who remembered the (admittedly simple) combinations. But none of the other girls even had a chance! The directions from the teacher were confusing, she doesn't have control of the class, after two months she doesn't know any of the girls names -- to my embarrassment she actually called several girls by my daughter's name!! My daughter knows not to push her turnout, and interestingly she was the only girl who wasn't corrected for having her feet less than 180 degrees.

 

We have already decided that we will have her audition for the "big city" pre-pro school near us come springtime. In the meantime, do I do/say anything about this "sweet" but seemingly incompetent teacher? I am just appalled but not sure what to do next. Thanks for any thoughts.

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If your DD successfully auditions for the pre-pro school, am I to understand you are leaving this school anyway? I would not say anything about this teacher. I doubt that saying anything will bring about real change and is likely to cause bad feelings. The last thing you need is your DD to get poor treatment as a result of this. I think there are good and bad teachers in all areas. My DD has had a variety of teachers; some better than others. It is my sincere hope your DD can avoid injury and learn as much as possible from the lousy teacher.

That's just my humble opinion. Perhaps others on this board have other ideas.

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Thanks for your thoughts. You are correct that she will not be returning. I am hopeful that she will be accepted into the pre-pro school, but even if she is not I think we will move her somewhere closer to home. We currently drive 30min to attend her current studio and it is really not worth the drive IMO after seeing her class.

 

I did briefly talk to the teacher today and ask if my daughter could do the froggy stretch on her back. She seemed surprised but said yes, so that's good. I think I won't say anything else unless my daughter reports that she is being forced into full turnout.

 

I am still interested in other opinions, too. Thanks!

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Rae Moon, as Hillary1 said, I wouldn't say anything to the school about the teacher if I were planning to move my child to another studio anyway. I have done that myself, especially when my issue was not something that would likely be changed anyway, for example, enormous class sizes (which will pay a studio's rent). We just made the change.

 

However, if you would like to find out whether it's the school's policy to force 180-degree turnout in seven year-old students of Ballet 1, or whether this is something that this teacher is doing on her own, you might approach the school's director for information.

 

Usually, when I am not sure about something, I ask about it, stating up front that I am not an expert in the field and want to understand more about it. In your case, I would probably ask questions about ballet turnout and body development, injury risks associated with forced turnout, and what I myself could do to reduce the possibility that my daughter might injure herself.

 

That kind of questioning acknowledges that the school director is the expert, which almost always gains more useful information, and it also lets administration know that the teacher is forcing turnout, if they don't know that already. Most importantly, it would let me know whether the practice is standard or isolated to a single instructor.

 

It seems that a number of people, without much discernment, head into ballet offices to say, "I don't like X, and I want to see an immediate change." Certainly, there are times when that's appropriate, but it can make the rest of us unwilling to ask questions to avoid being perceived as one of the trouble-making stage moms.

 

Of course, Rae Moon, it sounds as though you know much more about ballet training than I did when my eldest dd began taking classes. Another method of questioning might work better for you.

 

On a side note, the skill and focus levels of the students in your dd's Ballet 1 class seem very typical of the age group.

 

Many are there for reasons that have little to do with actual interest in ballet. You have expressed that you're uncomfortable with the idea of your daughter being "favored" in the class, and I can understand that. However, it seems that your dd is providing something important for the other kids in the class. It might be helpful to think of her less as a "teacher's pet" and more as an achievable student model for the skills and behavior required in this discipline at this level.

 

Good luck to you both.

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Thank you deuxballerines, you have given me some good food for thought. It is helpful to me to have a reminder to tone down any potential combativeness if I do decide to go to the director.

Edited by Rae Moon
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