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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Time to switch schools?


Sunnydance

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I have learned so much from everyone on this forum/board! Here is my question and background. My DD 8 has been taking ballet/tap since she was 4. This is her 2nd year of Jazz and 1st yr Modern. She loves to dance but in my opinion her last 2 years of ballet have been weak on technique. This is the 1st year with the older experienced ballet mistress and takes 2x week 1.5 hrs. She looks beautiful in class (but I am not ballet trained, others have said so also)

 

DD 8 is very focused in class and always has been, even at 4. DD 8 is tall, very athletic iand n great shape. I have spent months looking into other options for ballet and am willing to drive out of town. I have found The Florida Ballet in Jacksonville, FL. which starts training at 8. We currently live in a small town where I thought she was getting the best training, but now I am wondering after seeing some other 8 yr olds at a workshop in Orlando, FL.

 

DD8 has an audition this weekend for placement at The Florida Ballet in Jacksonville, FL. The online video of classes on youtube look like what a real ballet class should be...

At her current school there are no defined levels, no aditions for placement etc. I want a school where ballet classes have placement. So the teacher is teaching everybody the same thing at the same level. That doesn't seem like too much to ask.

 

question 1 - Am I crazy for looking for a 'serious' ballet school? I want to do anything to help my children achieve their goals.

question 2- How do I know when talking with the new ballet school that they are training properly. I am searching the boards right now for this answer. I am sure it is out there.

 

Thanx for listening, everybody else (including my own parents) think I am crazy/hardcore for trying to find her a better school.

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I can't answer any thoughts about The Florida Ballet; but I think you are *not* crazy for wanting to find a good school for your daughter. It's better to have her in a good school now rather than have to undo years of "not as good" training when she's old enough to know this is her passion. I have no idea if your current school is good or not -- lots of people on this forum know tons more than I do about anything ballet -- but I do know that is if your child wants to learn to dance they should learn correctly from the beginning.

 

If, down the road, DD decides she doesn't want to continue dance, you won't have done her any harm getting her good training. The opposite is not true. Also, and again I'm not the most informed person ever, it seems like eight years old is a good time to make sure she's starting good/serious-but-not-excessive training. Good luck with your decision (I can't even begin to tell you what the right choice here is); but don't let people who don't really get it be the decision makers about this.

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I have the same dilemma. I have a 7yo DD who is showing some talent in her dance classes. She's been in ballet and tap classes since she was 3.5 years old, and this is her 2nd year at the Dolly Dinkle Academy (DDA), a school that was recommended to me by a good friend whose daughter also attends. Yes, this school is definitely a DD -- way too focused on learning routines for recitals/competitions at the expense of technique, no dress or hair code (girls come to class with shoelaces sticking out and hair flowing down their backs), and classes are too short in length for the amount of material that should be covered. Right now DD takes a 45-minute(!) ballet/tap class once a week, and a 45-minute class for her dance team.

 

I've kept her at this school because she's a serious gymnast (she trains 4 hours per week) and her dancing at this point has merely been a way to supplement her gymnastics training. I didn't want her to go to a serious dance school because her gymnastics training was serious enough of an activity. In her dance class, my objective was for her to have fun, dance to popular music, and not be required to attend so many classes so many days a week.

 

In this respect, the DDA has delivered. She can wear anything she wants, she has good friends in the class and in the dance team, and she's having loads of fun.

 

So what's the problem, you ask? More and more, I've come to feel that I'm throwing my money out the door. I mean, this school just does not seem to teach any actual technique. The final straw was the Christmas performance when I got to see the older (middle and high-school aged) students perform. In a word -- they were awful. Awkward, graceless, heavy. Even the smallest and most lithe of the dancers landed her jetés with a thud. They showed no épaulement, no carriage, no turnout, no extension, crooked knees, unpointed toes and wobbly pirouettes. And I know where all that bad form came from—from the faculty, whom week after week I see with my own eyes merely teaching routines without the accompanying (proper) technique.

 

So here's the idea I've begun to toy with. In my area, I have (count 'em) three topnotch ballet schools that consistently produce professional dancers. Their faculties are all ex-pros. They produce Nutcrackers every Christmas (the first sign that a school is a non-DDA). But, as you all know, these types of schools have much more rigorous time requirements than the DDA. And they're a lot more serious too. No dancing to Justin Bieber.

 

I've attempted to list the pros/cons of transferring DD to one of the "serious" schools:

 

PROS:

1. Better instruction.

2. Higher quality performances.

 

CONS:

1. More serious (less fun?) environment.

2. More expensive.

3. More rigorous training (harder on the body).

4. Greater time commitment.

 

So if I just play the numbers, I should just let DD stay put at the DDA, right? Count also the fact that DD has declared, "Mommy, I love dance team!" loudly and proudly to me. That's worth about three points there. But what about the poor (or more like "nonexistent") dance technique she's learning and will continue to learn as she gets older? What about all this focus on competing vs. performing?

 

Ah, it's times like these when I feel like a Tiger Mama. It's a classic dowhatsbest v. dowhatsfun dilemma? Anyone have any opinions for me? (At this point, DD's focus continues to be gymnastics, but who knows how long that will last?) Thanks everyone.

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Very well stated, HuckleberryDawg! :giveup:

 

Yes I agree. That one item said it all for me and our family.....about the 'undo bad training'.

 

We are going to the audition this weekend, I have watched their videos online, and now I will see how my daughter reacts.

Will keep you posted and Thank you also for the link as I read all comments/discussions about pre pro schools, and levels/placements etc.

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Playgrounders, the better her ballet training, the better she can be at everything else. Bad ballet is a total waste of money, and there is no reason that a good school cannot also be fun. I doubt that at 7 the schedule would be too intense for her, even at the pre-pro schools.

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playgrounders

 

I love this place since so many of us share the same concerns.

My opinion- if her main love/focus is on gymnastics right now, then it does sound like you are wasting your money on the school since she is not learning any technique. and Yes, the junior/senior dancers at any school are a good way to judge where your DD's training is headed - in the right direction or the wrong direction?!

 

At our school the seniors are amazing in everything they do! ballet,tap,jazz,modern.

But the senior ballet instructor is no longer at this school and that is also what had me thinking of finding another ballet school for my DD.

 

My DD8 had to choose last year between gymnastics and dance. It happens around this age for most as the gymnastics coach wanted her on the competition team which is 3x week, and her dance last year was 3x per week. She had no problem choosing as she is passionate about dance.

 

She does a drop in class 2x week at the same gym where they focus on tumbling as DD8 wants her back handspring, so I let her do that most weeks.

 

It is tough decisions, and there are many discussion around her about what the child wants versus what is best for the whole family. Why don't you let her watch one of the real ballet school classes so she can see for herself.

 

Just like you I hate wasting money on poor training, but also think about the wasted time!

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Bad ballet is a total waste of money, and there is no reason that a good school cannot also be fun.

 

I'll certainly second that, although I've nowhere near the credibility of Ms. Leigh. Here's a line of questioning that might help you with your decision. Would you pay for bad gymnastics training? Would it be enough for you if she had friends there, or would you be more worried that she might become injured? Would you pay for bad piano or guitar lessons? Why or why not?

 

I have some friends with dks at Dinkles, and that's a personal decision that may work well for their families. There are two things Dinkle parents often tell me. One is that their kids are having such a great time, and they'd not have that much fun anywhere else. Fine for them. A Dinkle dance studio functions as a thematic organized activity. It is not, however, good ballet training. Both of my dds love their friends and classes at their pre-pro studio, and so fun and quality training are not mutually exclusive.

 

The second thing I hear is about the well-rounded nature of the studio: tap on Monday, ballet on Tuesday, jazz on Wednesday, lyrical on Thursday, and hip-hop on Friday with competitions on the weekends. Look at all of the styles in evidence of the well-roundedness. However, none of those usually receive enough treatment for proficiency at a Dinkle. Classical ballet training makes the other stuff easier.

 

A friend of my dd is going through some of the effects of having been at a Dinkle into her early teens. She began auditioning for "serious" summer programs, and while she has natural abilities, she was taking audition classes with dancers with true pre-pro training, and she didn't feel good about her own abilities in comparison. It is far easier to switch training early than to do so in the teen years when admission to desirable programs can be quite competitive, and not in the sense of "competition" as Dinkles use it.

 

There are, however, tons of kids for whom a Dinkle fulfills their needs, kids who never want to pursue anything more than playing at dance. That's okay. But it is what it is.

 

One thing that strikes me as significant is that you are noticing the weak performances, and the lack of proficiency is bothering you. (Look around you at the other parents who think it's precious. You will see a difference between you and the others.) However, generally, the level of proficiency at a school's senior level is exactly what your daughter can aspire to if she stays in such a program.

 

Good luck, and remember...if you move to pre-pro and it's not working for your child, you can still move back.

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I would second the idea that a school that teaches proper technique can also be fun. She will probably feel more accomplished, and at 7 or 8, it is not going to be the intensity or pressure of someone in the higher ranks! At least you can give her a good class, and as she gets older and the training may take more commitment and the stakes higher, she can decide if she wants to continue.

 

I understand because my DD has been a gymnast as well, and in gymnastics the amount of hours are a lot at a younger age versus many other activities. However, ballet greatly enhances gymnastics training, and my DD loves dance and has never complained because a school was "more serious". I would find that most kids who are even motivated a little would prefer an environment where there is structure and where they can grow and accomplish things.

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3childrendance, was the workshop a ballet workshop or not and what type of studio did they come from? When I compare what my 7 year old is doing at her pre professional school vs. other studios, it can appear that other girls her age do more but I find that her ballet school has a different focus. She still rarely touches the barre and I've seen youtube videos where three year olds do exercises at the barre. Also, not a whole lot of turning....and some of those competition videos on youtube have me amazed at what those 7 year old girls can do! But I looked to see how the older girls danced at local studios and I like what I saw at our studio! Good luck finding the best place for your daughter that works well with your family!

 

Can you give the ballet school a trial run? The commute may prove to be too much. I would want the best possible training for my dd...thankfully the ballet studio is only 15 min. away for us.

 

playgrounders, I think a preprofessional ballet studio can be just as much fun. My dd LOVES going!

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Guest coupe66

Wanted to say that age 8 was when we switched our dd to a serious, pre-professional studio and I am so glad we did. She has grown incredibley and made such progress. She loves the more serious, challenging environment. I was recentley able to view some clips of the Nutcracker that her old dance school did this past December, and the difference between what she is learning at the pre-pro school vs. what it seems that her former class mates are doing was striking. Now, the drive to the pre-pro studio is 3x what it was to the old studio, and the hours spent there are of course considerably more, but it has been worth it for us. If we are going to spend time and money for dd to study ballet, she might as well do it the right way :thumbsup:

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we met with the director at the pre pro school yesterday who said my DD8 would not start out at the lowest level, but the level right above beginner. She was honest abt DD abil.ities or lack thereof and stated she was fit and ready for ballet. She said they could correct any current problem areas.

 

I loved the school and could see her future there. Now I have to decide on-

1. Do I pull her out of existing ballet or wait until the summer when they have summer classes for age level.

She will still perform at her old school in tap/jazz/modern and company performances at the end of year recital.

 

The drive is 1 hour away frm home, mostly interstate thank goodness..but it is doable.

 

If she stays at remaining school for ballet I am paying for bad ballet for the next 4 months, 2xweek. And do I really want to see her on stage doing that?

 

 

I am waiting to talk with the admin person about cost. Then I can map it out for my hubby and we can decide with input from her.

 

Honestly, it sucks that my rose colored glasses have been taken off.

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{{{ 3childrendance }}} It's better that the rose colored glasses came off than if they didn't. I don't envy you the drive; but it sounds like your visit to the pre-pro school was really positive. Good luck with deciding when to make the change.

 

If it were me (and I'm not married to this, so if more rational thoughts chip in here go with them!); but if your daughter has been in a class that is working on recital choreography, it might be a good idea to let her see that through to the end. If it's more of an individual piece where others aren't depending on her attendance/presence then leave earlier. I would just have a difficult time pulling my DS out of a school if he had already committed to a recital with his class. We are in a school we like so we don't have to choose; but if a few more months won't kill her (Mrs. Leigh? Clara76? Major Mel?) then I would honor a commitment if there is one.

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3childrendance,

Can you do both for a short time period? Leave her at her old school so she may be in the recital, but start classes now at the pre-pro school even once a week? This might help with a transition.

As I read your post, I am understanding she will stay at the old school for tap/jazz, etc. so she WILL be in the recital.

Sorry for my confusion. Schools all function a bit differently.

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