Jump to content
Ballet Talk for Dancers

How to talk to my daughter's dance teacher??


Recommended Posts

My 13yo dd is a serious dancer in a "Company" at a local pre-pro school. The school she attends has not produced a professional dancer in several years, so my concern is that she will not get the level of training needed to enter a career in dance because of the politics at the school. She has strong technique and artistic ability, however, the AD/Ballet Mistress at her school believes in casting based on seniority, not ability. I know that politics exist everywhere, but my concern is how to talk to the AD about what my daughter needs in order to have a future in dance. I've been told by several professionals and former professionals that she has the ability for a dance future with the right training. I am looking at other options for ballet schools in the area, but I am limited in the funds I can spend and how far I can travel due to work constraints. I plan to sit down with the AD and talk about my daughter's future, but I feel like she'll just be telling me what I want to hear. Can anyone help me with the type of questions I should I be asking the AD about how she will prepare her for the future?

Link to comment

First, are there issues besides casting with seniority in the school? From what you've written it sounds like that is the only thing you think is missing in her training. While performing is important, it is the process of working toward a performance and the development of stage time and what that teaches that is helpful. Not necessarily required. Most dancers will spend their first years in corp, so knowing how to do that well and understanding that may be more important than whether or not they get solo roles. Students in company schools do not always have the ability to have featured roles either because those go to the professionals and they seem to do just fine without that featured performancing time.


In the conversation, I would simply make a list of things to ask. Focusing more on your daughter and if she has the potential and how that potential can be fostered within the school. Not that you feel the school may not get her there. If you feel that the training is not strong enough then certainly that is reason enough to begin looking at alternative solutions.

Link to comment

Momof3, thank you for the reply. I guess my post did sound like I'm mostly concerned with the casting, but I was really just giving that as an example of the political environment she's in right now. The Company she is in is very small, so each of the girls usually get corp roles and some type of featured role. I'm not so concerned about which roles she gets as I am about whether she is being prepared for a future in dance. Since I didn't grow up in the dance world, I'm not familiar with what I should expect from her teachers. Neither my DD or I get any feedback on what she needs to work on. Is that typical? She said she does get a few corrections in class, but she's expected to stand at the back because she's one of the youngest, so she doesn't really get observed as often. I may be making something out of nothing. I guess that's why I'm asking. I'd like to know whether her teachers think she has a future and what their plan is to try to get her there. I just think it's strange to get no feedback whatsoever regarding her ability. I send her to school and she gets feedback all the time. Shouldn't the same be true for dance?


Confused.... :thumbsup:

Link to comment

Are there no written evaluations or conferences? If not, perhaps a conference is in order. Even when my daughter attended a competition jazz/tap emphasis school, we received a brief written evaluation yearly.


As a parent, I know that my daughter does her best (at least mentally) when she has a few goals in mind to work on. It may be engaging her arms, pulling up more in turns, etc. We do get annual feedback in the form of either a thorough written evaluation or a conference. Whether written or oral, she always gets a nice list of what she should be working on next. Dd also checks in with her main teacher an additional once or twice a year, generally after has mastered her last set of goals consistently.


I noticed you also mentioned that the school has not produced a professional dancer in a few years. Are the current upper level dancers accepted to national level summer intensives? Do some get scholarships? I realize the latter may not be publicized, but the information usually at least gets around by word of mouth.

Link to comment

Thanks Frog-I better understand your question now. It does sound like a conference may be in order and Melissa has given you a good starting point for discussion.

Link to comment
Neither my DD or I get any feedback on what she needs to work on. Is that typical?


No, that's no typical in a reputable, "pre-professional" level school.


She said she does get a few corrections in class, but she's expected to stand at the back because she's one of the youngest, so she doesn't really get observed as often.


This bothers me more than anything else you've described. I know someone else has posted on barre locations based on seniority, but having to stand in the back because of age?? If she is in a class appropriate for her level, her age should not matter, and although I'm not a teacher, NO student should be relegated to the back of the room for any reason, let alone age. In fact, smaller dancers should be in front so that the teacher can see them. If they can't be seen, then how can the teacher possibly correct something they may be doing wrong?


If this is a pre-professional school that is not placing students into professional dance careers, then my question is: pre-professional what? Like the definition of "Company" discussed on another topic, I think the definition of "pre-professional" needs to be more clearly defined.

Link to comment

Thanks for your comments Melissa and cakers. We have never had any written evaluations or conferences given to us by the school/teachers, so that is something I will ask for when I meet with the AD. Cakers, the back of the classroom thing has really bothered me too. That should change if they move more girls into the Company this fall. I'm glad I asked these questions because it sounds like my concerns might be valid.

Link to comment

FrogEnPointe, I our area, not having evaluations is very typical. My daughter's studio is well known for producing professional dancers. That said, as a parent, one is always welcome to schedule a conference with the instructor to discuss their child's development. It could be that for your daughter's age, she is doing perfectly fine so the instructor doesn't feel the need to come to you to address any issues. Is it possible for you to schedule a meeting with your daughter's instructor to discuss your concerns?


As far as the classroom placement, I have seen this done when there is a mixed level class. In this case, respect is given to those students that are in the level above who are usually older, which is appropriate. In DD's studio, respect is given to the class directly above because they have earned that respect. Maybe this is what your daughter's instructor is alluding to when she places your daughter in the back. If the instructor is good, they will be able to see all the students to give any corrections whether they are in the back or front and whether they are short or tall.


As far as the casting goes, it can be frustrating to have older students cast in roles that we think our children should be getting. If this is a concern, I would discuss this with your daughter's instructor. In any case, if she is serious about a career in dance, roles that she has now really do not matter. It is the day in and day out training that is important. Being placed in a core role is actually good because rare is the dancer that starts out as a soloist. My daughter's instructor likes to say that everyone has to "do their time" so this just might be the time for your daughter to "do her time" before she gets the roles the older dancers get.

Link to comment
As far as the classroom placement, I have seen this done when there is a mixed level class. In this case, respect is given to those students that are in the level above who are usually older, which is appropriate.


I'm sorry, but I really do not see why students in a level above deserve more respect. Plus age and level do not always correspond. You can have younger students in an advanced level, and older students in a lower level. All students should be treated respectfully and assuming that all parents are paying the same class fees, the students should all get the same level of attention. I have observed many mixed level classes, and a good teacher will segregate them according to level for center and/or across the floor work, (and give slightly different combinations) but all get the same amount of time at the front of the class. I tend to notice mixed level classes mainly during summer sessions, or special classes, but I would not be crazy about them on a permanent ongoing basis.

Link to comment

I took what TwelfthNight wrote to mean that the higher level dancers were accorded a place in front as a sign of respect from the lower level dancers, not less deserving of respect from the teacher. I agree with her, especially having seen a lower level, less able dancer push herself to the front of the class even when the teacher laid out how the lines should be formed (too many times to count). It doesn't help the lower level dancers to have someone in the front line who cannot serve as a role model (in ability to execute the step(s) as well as behavior in this case). I also recognize that once lines are formed, good teachers will rotate the lines through so everyone has a chance to be right in front. Also, in this case, I feel that the teacher should have told the pushy dancer where she was supposed to stand. (This particular teacher, while a very nice person, avoids any kind of confrontation at all costs.)


And since I have moved this further off-topic... :blink: At this studio, DD did not receive regular, written evaluations, although we could request a conference about her progress.

Link to comment

Thank you Twinkle Mom. Yes, that is exactly what I meant.:blink:


cakers, as has been explained to the kids by DD's instructor, in the professional world, the more senior dancers are awarded respect by those who are newer. DD's instructor has told the kids that if you were to try something like Twinkle Mom mentioned in a professional setting, you wouldn't get very far. When a dancer is new to a class, they are taking a company class but aren't in the company, or they are are in the corp, they should always wait to see where the soloists or company members, if they aren't in the company, want to be at the barre and then take their place. As I said, a good instructor will give every person taking the class respect and the same level of attention. The respect comes from the newer dancer towards the more senior member. DD's instructor believes in preparing the kids for a professional career and teaching them the proper way to act in various settings is part of that preparation.


As Twinkle Mom said, even in the mixed classes the lines are rotated so everyone has the opportunity to be in front. It is serves to help the younger dancers by having the older dancers in front to serve as a guide. Maturity is another facet of a dancer and even though as a parent we might perceive that our younger child is better than the older dancer, the older dancer might have more maturity in their steps and in their behaviour.


There aren't a lot of mixed classes at my daughter's studio, but when you have a smaller studio, it does happen. That is where having a really good instructor comes into play. They can take the different levels and give combinations that are level appropriate if necessary.


Twinkle Mom we have seen the same thing occur at DD's studio. Thankfully, DD's instructor won't put up with that type of behaviour from the kids. Now the moms, that is another story, lol.

Link to comment

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...