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Find a pre-professional school now or stay local (daughter 4)


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This is my first post. My daughter is 4 and loves ballet. She watches full-length ballets at home, loves to go to the theater and seems to love everything she knows so far about ballet. We did a mom and me class at age 2 and now she is in pre-dance.


Right now we are at a school which is well known in our community. The focus of the first half of the dance season is the Nutcracker. The second half of the season is competitive dance. I am not sure if we want her to do the competitive dance at all. I realize that as of now, nothing that she has been doing has been true ballet. She is learning to love and appreciate the art of ballet and learning to move her body to music. As she learns though, I want to make sure she has the proper training to allow her to grow in dance if she chooses to continue with ballet. There is a true pre-professional school about 30 minutes away that I have heard wonderful things about. They are part of Regional Dance America and the director is wonderful and has met with us to show us the school. The classes there are more strict and the main focus is on technique at an age appropriate level. There is no competetive team but I know there will be better ballet training in the long run.


I guess I am concerned that if we stay too long at the local studio, we will have a difficult time switching when the time comes or that she will be too far behind. I am afraid of her learning her basics improperly. I am afraid of becoming too attached to people at the studio (which we already are) and not be able to leave. If we go, I am concerned about severing ties in the local community and maybe even that my daughter will not love the new school like she loves this one. I am afraid of her being a little fish in a big pond. I dread the drive and maybe it will feel like we are pushing too hard. She loves to dance where she is. Who knows if she will love the other school. If we go though, she will be learning properly from the beginning and she might be too young to remember the transition.


Does it really matter where they begin?

Edited by runninmamaof2
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  • Administrators

It matters when they are old enough to learn "real" ballet. I think you have a few years to comfortably stay where you are. Yes, the early basics are important, but not the things they learn at 4 and 5, and sometimes not even 6 or 7. When she gets to that stage, if she is still in love with ballet, then you might think about making the move. She will have to want ballet enough to leave her school, which is not easy, but it's really quite amazing how fast they adjust to a new school once they are there and making new friends and dancing more.


And dancing in the Nutcracker every single year should not be a part of the criteria. It's all about the training first. Yes, performing is good, and growing up in the various parts of the Nutcracker is a positive thing. But it should not take precedence over the training.


I really think you can relax about all of this right now, though. :)

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If she is having fun and you don't have to drive too far, then you don't even have to think about what they are "learning" at 4. She is 4. Let her dance around with scarves and don't think about what her goals in dance might be. She will not be too far behind if you wait until she is 6 or 7, and who knows, maybe at that point she will be more interested in soccer or trumpet or whatever. I do think that you are pushing her too hard if you are concerned about jr company training when she is only 4.


As a side note- my own oldest child had some fairly bad early training until age 9 when she auditioned for and got accepted into a pre-pro school. It has not been a problem, and she is now almost 14 and doing just fine.

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I started my daughter in a school that sounds similar to the one in your town. They did a Nutcracker in alternate years and there were competition teams. It was clear to me that even at a young age, those that participated in the competition teams got better training. Still, at a young age, it gave dd a chance to sample everything. She got a taste of tap, ballet, modern, hip-hop, musical theater, broadway jazz, contemporary jazz etc. By the time she was 8, she knew that she wanted to concentrate on ballet. We ended up moving her to a pre-pro ballet school at 9.


Hindsight is 20/20, of course. I think she would have benefitted from moving to the pre-pro ballet school a year earlier. But, that's all. We probably should have moved her at 8. Any earlier would not have been a benefit IMHO. The transition was not terribly difficult. She quickly found that she was mainly with dancers who cared about ballet as much as she did and made friends very quickly! At the competition school, other dancers would groan when it was time for ballet. She could not wait.You will also find that you will make new connections when the time comes. It's OK. We also found, over the years, that a few people from the old school followed us here in search of better ballet training. She takes class everyday with a dancer she danced with at 4!


And that's something else to consider. At 4, she's not dancing daily. At 14, she will be. You'll make even closer connections with people when you are with them daily!

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Guest coupe66

My dd, was very similar to your dd at age 3/4. Now, at almost 12, she is still in love with ballet and dances at a pre-pro school. I, too, began to worry about the kinds of things that you have been worrying about when my dd was younger. In hindsight, I wish I had not, because it caused me a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety. In my humble opinion, I would read as much as possible in order to learn all about ballet and the larger ballet world. You can learn a lot just reading the posts here, both the newer threads as well as the archives. And read about everything, not just those things that pertain to you right now. Read about summer intensives, pre-pro schools, companies and traineeships. Everything. Ballet is a wonderful art, but there is a lot of hard work, time, often travel (and expense!) involved, with no guaranteed outcome, even for those children who are identified as "talented" and who live and breathe dance.


As Ms. Leigh suggested, when your dd is a bit older, maybe 7 or so, if she still loves ballet and wants to pursue it more seriously, that would be the time to start looking at pre-pro schools. That way, by the time she is around 8 or so, you have had the time to research and hopefully visit the schools to see which would be a good match for your dd and your family. When you get to ballet at the pre-pro level, it often becomes a commitment that will influence your entire family as a whole, so whatever decisions are made regarding a pre-pro school should be made in light of what you, as a family, can commit to. In the meantime, let her dance, dream about being a ballerina, and have fun :)

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Thank you for all of the great input! I am so happy to have found this forum. There is so much to learn!

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Honestly, I have a child who is in a pre pro (DD) and a child (neice ) in a rec school. Both are 7. Both LOVE ballet.


My DD 7 dances 5.5 hours a week, 2 of ballet tech, 2 were ballet company. She is doing Grade One Cecchetti exam this year. She just finished Nutcracker in which she did 6 dances. (12 dances in 2 performances). She was at the studio everynight last week getting pics done, rehersing, doing a tv spot.


My niece 7 is still, very appropriately, dancing with scarves and jumping over teddy bears. She does the 45 minutes class a week.


So, honestly, there is a fairly large difference between the two streams of ballet. However, my niece isnt ready for the pre pro stream and it would detract from her enjoyment of dance should she have to add another 5 hours a week and intensives and exams. She just wants to dance right now. My DD, same age, would have been unable to enjoy the rec stream. Next year I;m assuming niece will look at moving to a higher level if she wishes to. IF not next year, then the year after.


It really depends so much on the dancer and what she enjoys. At 4, really, she is still very much pre ballet. Let her enjoy that stage. ITs possible that, like my neice, she wont enjoy the pre pro as much as the rec ballet. As time goes on you will know.

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  • 11 months later...

Well guess what . . . After all the struggles to decide, we made the decision to leave the competition/blend school and move to the pre-professional program in the area and we are so so happy. We have now made our home at the new school and my daughter was even able to participate in the Nutcracker. The level of talent is evident in their advanced students. Some of them have contracts lined up after they leave the school while some of them decide to go on to college. I am very impressed by the level of professionalism, the age appropriate classes, and the kindness of her new teachers. She has made new friends and because we love the program so much, neither of us complain about the drive.


What have I learned from this? Even if it is painful to make a transition, it is important to trust your gut instinct.

Edited by runninmamaof2
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Contracts "lined up"? Wow- for ballet companies?


Glad things worked out for you and your dd!!

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My DD is now 11 almost 12. She left her rec. school at the age of 9 after being there for 7 years. She made the move when she was ready to study more seriously. It didn't matter to her at that point to leave all her old studio friends and begin at a much more structured and classical training system. She was ready, so I listened and moved her at that time. Just listen to your child, and follow your motherly heart. :) Good luck!

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Competition programs have a very different atmosphere than a ballet school. I'm glad that you and she are both happy with the choice.

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  • 2 months later...

Runninmama...I'm almost positive the my daughter dances at your old school (Detroit area?) I'm at the point with my daughter that you were. It has definitely become a "Dance Moms" atmosphere.

Do you love your new school and if so would you recommend it to others?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Contracts "lined up"? Wow- for ballet companies?


Glad things worked out for you and your dd!!

OOOOHHHH Sorry for not responding in such a long while. Yes there are a few girls that get contracts with ballet companies. It is not strictly a ballet school but it is what we can do for now and we love it there.
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