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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Too many hours too fast?


Curandera

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DD is in the middle of taking her first SI. She comes from a recreational school and as we suspected she is woefully behind other students. That's fine, we were expecting that. She has enjoyed her time at her home studio and realizes it is now time to get the education she needs if she wants to make dance her career.

 

She will be auditioning for a pre-pro program soon and we hope she will be accepted. Looking at prior years, I had assumed she would start in a level where the student would be taking classes about 4 days a week. One school, classes are held in the evening Monday through Thursday and at another, the classes are held M, W, F & Sat. Either case has advantages and disadvantages and we have discussed ways to handle either schedule.

 

But another idea has popped into my head. For her age (13), there is a level that meets 6 days a week. I don't think she would be placed in that level because she needs to catch up on her training but just in case that is an option, I wanted to ask the mods and other parents about the pros and cons of this scenario.

 

My main worry is about juggling so much dance and school and friends. The school is a commute and we will already be drastically limiting time from the rest of our lives for this education. I worry she will burn out and be unhappy even if she starts out with the best of intentions.

 

This worry is up against the worry that if she is accepted to the 6 days a week level and opts for the 4 day a week level, she will regret that decision if her dancing doesn't improve as quickly as she hopes. Specifically, I am already looking ahead at next year's SI's placement. I want to take steps to assure she will be better prepared next year. She was placed in the lowest level this year and that's fine because we recognize the lack of training she has received to date. If the same happens next year after a year of working at a pre-professional program because 4 days a week is not enough to get her where she needs to be, I worry she will be devastated.

 

I know I worry too much, but that's my nature.

 

By the way, the classe are spread out. They are M 5-7:30 Technique and Pilates; Tues 5:30-7 Technique; Wed 5:30-8 Technique and Pointe; Thurs 5:30-7 Technique; Fri 5-7:30 Technique and Variations and Sat 11-3 Stretch, Technique, Pointe, Rehearsal.

 

Anyway, what are people's thoughts about 4 days versus 6 days a week for a 13 yo? Is 6 days a week fairly common? I have no one to talk to about any of this. No one at my daughter's recreational dance studio, even the SO, has any experience with pre-professional schools and no one in my family has ever done anything like this. Thank God for BT4Ds!

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Curandera, I think you are worrying before the fact. There is no point in worrying until you find out where she is placed. My guess is that she will be placed with the 4 times a week, and that schedule is not bad at all. She gets tech and pointe, plus Pilates, Variations, and stretch. Very good. Six days is week is generally the top level, or maybe 2 if it's a big school. Since she is at lowest level in SI right now, I would think that the 4 times a week classes are Intermediate, which would be appropriate for 13, especially one coming from a recreational school.

 

So, wait until you see where she is placed before worrying about it! :(

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Ms. Leigh, I'm sure you're right. That makes a lot of sense. I think I always worry too much because my dd does not respond well to surprises. She usually requires time to adjust to things. We have always gone over the best and worst case scenarios and what would be the right responses in every situation from answering where she lives to what is her political affiliation! Nuts, I know. She was home-schooled for a very long time and this was the main way we home-schooled. "What if"....

 

Okay, I'm not going to worry about this one. I feel pretty confident you are right and if she is accepted, she would be put in the 4 times a week level. Whew.

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May I add a parents' perspective? As a mom of 2 DDs I have been through a lot of experiences at this point. And the more I am around the ballet world, the more I realize I don't know a lot! What I have learned over the years is to trust the teachers and yourself. You've already said in your post that there were a lot of obstacles in your way to try and conquer the 6 day a week schedule. To me that says, it's not for you or your family at the moment. Also, I would definitely say that there is absolutely no way the 4 day schedule would be 'not enough'. The teacher and where they place your dancer in the scenario you describe would definitely be in your daughters' best interest and would help her so much more. Trying to give her extra classes to 'catch her up' at her age and from what you described to me may just frustrate her and you and won't help her any more in all probability. And of course you have no idea what classes they will put her in, and I get having to address each scenario so you are prepared. As a parent in this case I understand the necessity to feel like you are doing the right thing! I go through it all the time! :( Of course that's why BT has become such a great help and wealth of knowledge, and a support group for all of us! It's always tough to think we make the right decision; the what ifs are always there. But there are way more paths than one to follow. They could wind up putting her in one level and switching her. You can never know until it happens. But it's been my experience, that if one door closes another one opens. The thing you are doing is trying to make sure you do the right thing and that, in and of itself IS the right thing to do! Trust yourself and the teachers' ability to assess what's best for her. I'm sure you will know if it doesn't feel right.

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Curandera - at my dd's pre-pro school, new students are placed according to their abilities and not their ages. Students who progress through the levels from a young age are also promoted to levels, or are kept in levels according to their progress and abilities. Thus, there are 13 year olds who are in levels from low-intermediate to advanced, though the two students who took advanced classes at 13 were the only 13 year olds in the history of the school to do so, and they were not permitted to take all the classes in that level. They are both exceptionally talented. Nevertheless, it is common for 13 year olds to be taking classes 5 to 6 days a week in what would be the high intermediate, or advanced intermediate level. And during runs up to performances, it is very common for them to have rehearsals on a 6th day of the week. I am also familiar with schedules of other pre-pro schools, including "big name" schools, and it is not unusual in those schools for 13 year olds to be taking classes 5 days or even 6 days per week.

 

Juggling school, friends, family and homework in addition to a long commute is challenging. We have a very long commute to ballet 5 - 6 days per week, and we have had to make adjustments to how we spend our family time and how dd gets school done. It can be done, but it is very challenging, and requires adjustments from every member of the family, not just the dancer! About 25% of the students at dd's ballet school have long commutes (though only a few of us have an hour or longer each way), and we all get it done. (ETA (after reading Mobadt's excellent post): In retrospect, I did not give enough consideration to what our lives would be like, and how we would accomplish getting dd to ballet 6 days a week before we started commuting to her pre-pro program. When she started, she only went 4 days a week, which was easy, really. Considering the impact of commuting 6 days a week initially would have been a good idea! She ended up at 6 days a week more quickly than I had anticipated, and we really didn't have our lives in place to do it very well initially. I have had to learn to ask for help, dd has had to learn to be both more flexible with her time and more focused, and dh has had to learn to let go of the idea of family dinners together and to be happy with family breakfasts together. :( ).

 

As far as your worries about your dd feeling devastated if scenario A happens over scenario B (or whatever the case may be), I will be honest and say that I think those kinds of parental worries come with the territory of being a ballet parent. What we do know for sure is that if she doesn't try, and if she doesn't get the best training available then it's an absolute that she will never be a professional ballet dancer! The question we do not have an answer to is, if she tries, and she works hard will she succeed? But that question, and the elusive nature of the answer is true for all of us, whether our students have been the top students at their top pre-professional ballet school since the age of 7, or whether our students are late starters with great facility, innate talent, and a strong will to succeed.

 

At my dd's ballet school, students in the intermediate levels and above are permitted to take lower level classes at no extra charge. It is quite common for high intermediate level students to take low-intermediate level classes, as well as intermediate classes at dd's school. My dd came to her ballet school at the age of 12, and taking lower level classes, we see now, has been essential to her development. If this is permissible at your dd's new pre-pro school, I would recommend taking the extra classes, after an adjustment period, of course. Even one lower level class per week can make a significant difference.

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  • 3 weeks later...

As soon as I typed, "Okay, I'm not going to worry about this one." I should have started to worry. :thumbsup:

 

Yay, my dd was accepted to the year round program! Uh oh, they want her to start going 6 days a week! Well, not right away, so that helps.

 

Because of her age and height (13yo, 5'4"), they want her to get to the next level asap, no later than January!

 

Actually, I think this is the best of both worlds. She will have a full 4 months to get use to going to regular school (8th grade) full time (she had been homeschooled up to this January when she started part-time in 7th grade) and going to the city 4 days a week. She will know what adjustments to make to get to the city 6 days a week by January.

 

Luckily, I had at least mentioned the stray thought in my head that this "might happen but probably not" to my dd. So she was somewhat prepared. She did cry. But I think that is actually a good thing. She fully realizes everything she will have to give up to do this - time after school and Saturdays with her friends; not even taking one fun dance class with her old, neighborhood studio, not even one single solo at a local dance competition; no time at the dining room room table to lazily do homework or play around on the internet. And that's just her! How about me!

 

So her decision to do this is with a 100% understanding. We go in with both eyes open. And I know it will be even worse than we can imagine because we do tend to see things in a laughably positive light. But she is determined and our family will support her.

 

Thanks everyone for your words of advice. We will take it and run with it!

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Congratulations!

 

Are there performance opportunities at the new school? Dd quickly found that rehearsing and performing in the full length ballets at her new school made up for not competing. In the end, she quickly figured out that what she really loved about the competition circuit was the chance to dance in front of an audience more than once a year! Hard to leave old dance friends, but there are plenty of new dance friends to be made.

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DD is too tall for the childrens' roles and not enough technique for the older dancers' parts, so she will not be in the Nutcracker this year.

 

We don't mind because, I know this is awful, we have never been to a Nutcracker's performance! Sshhh. My dd went to the Lyric Opera and saw "Carmen" at age 7, "Cosi Fan Tutte" at age 8 and "The Barber of Seville" at age 9. She has seen Alvin Ailey II, Joffrey's Cinderella and done a lot of other cool things.

 

But, we've never seen Nutcracker. A shameful thing for a ballet dancer and mom, I know. So we are looking forward to being audience members, applaud her fellow dancer students and plan which roles she wants to audition for next year.

 

We hope she picks her technique up fast enough to be included in the Spring Repretory.

 

But we are just glad she's on the right path now.

 

As far as competing... there is the YAGP. Maybe in 3 or 4 years? :thumbsup:

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Curandera, as someone who went through the same thing I can tell you that you will be up to the full time committment faster than you know so your worrying is not for nothing. Plan for the 6 day schedule now but as everyone said you can be assured that any good pre-professional school will be conservative with the initial placement. I have even heard of ballet schools who will take students off of pointe initially in order to retrain them properly. If this happens to your DD do not be sad you should be thrilled that they school is so diligent in making sure she is where she needs to be strength wise. Quite often competition schools are very quick to put girls on pointe before they are ready and they do not spend nearly enough time strengthening once they are on pointe.

 

All of that said if, as MelissaGA mentions, there are also performance opportunities associated with the new ballet school then your four day a week class committment will fast become a lot more than that! During rehearsal periods my DD will easily spend an extra 2 days a week at the studio. We have commuted an hour each way for the past 6 years now. It has been very difficult and she has not been able to participate in school sports, missed parties, and lost a lot of friends who did not understand along the way. But those who did understand are proud and cherished friends and in her final years of school she has many wonderful schoolmates who have supported her (of which a lot seem to be boys lol) and met so many fantastic and diverse friends through ballet at SI's and through the guest performers and teachers who have come to her ballet studio and student company. You will not regret this decision.

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Congratulations to your daughter, Curandera! And welcome to the crazy world of commuting to pre-pro ballet school. As you go along, you'll find ways to help her have some semblance of a life outside of ballet. My dd has been going 5 - 6 days a week (depending upon rehearsal schedule), but we've just found out that her hours will be increasing by quite a bit this coming year. She'll be going 6 days a week all the time, and will be at the studio more than twice as long most days that she's there, which means she'll have even less time at home for school work, social life, and family time (this goes for both of us, actually, since we commute over an hour each way!), so we're in the processing of adjusting again. Just when you think you've got it all figured out... :sweating: .

 

I think it's great that your dd will have 4 days a week the first semester in order to adjust to school in addition to ballet, and to adjust to the commute. That sounds just right. :thumbsup:

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Congrats Curandera! DD (now a professional dancer) and I were watching "Dance Moms" at the same time in our different cities and texting, and as one child was whining about six days a week being too much and wanting to go to the mall and the parents were agonizing over what to do, DD texted "that's why I don't want my eventual children to dance. They would ask to go to the mall and I would be like, GET IN THAT STUDIO NOW!" So, apparently, if they want to be dancers, they will just dance every day and not consider other options!

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Thanks for the words of support everybody! We are very excited.

 

Now that she is home after the 5 week summer intensive at the ballet school, there is still 3 weeks left of the home studio's 6 week summer intensive. She decided she wanted to take the last 3 weeks, even before she found out about being accepted to the ballet school for the year-round program because she finds it hard to go a single week without dance. Plus, it isn't an intensive. It is just classes.

 

Of course, compared to the boot camp she just went through, two back to back classes of Ballet followed by Lyrical seemed like a relaxing day at the beach. She told me after it felt good to just relax into Lyrical, not worry about technique every second and just dance to the music.

 

But, she said, she is glad she is taking these 3 weeks because it makes her even more convinced that she wants to go to ballet school. The 5 week summer dance intensive at the ballet school was incredibly hard, but she learned so much. Her home studio is a recreational studio and the girls talk a lot. She loves a lot of it, but there is so much that it made her angry. "Why are these girls complaining about dancing in a dance class?! What an incredible waste of time!"

 

I'm sure these memories will help when times get rough.

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