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Ballet Talk for Dancers

By what age does she need to commit to ballet to have a chance?

Dance mom of K and J

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Hello, everyone. I am looking for advice for my 11 year-old 5th grade dd. She has been dancing since she was 5 and has always loved ballet best of all. We left the school she had been at for 5 years as it was clearly a recreational school and we did not feel that my dd was getting all that she needed there. She is currently splitting her time between 2 schools - school 1 is more of a traditional dance school with a competition team and a year-end recital. My dd just found out she is getting a comp team invite for next year, which is one of the reasons she chose this school - she had been on comp at our previous studio and had enjoyed it and our new studio's comp team is very good. She is taking ballet, jazz, and lyrical at this studio. She is also taking 2 ballet classes at studio 2 because it is more of a traditional ballet school and ballet is really her passion. She performed in the Nutcracker there recently and loved it and she started on pointe a few weeks ago which is going well so far. Her ballet teacher at school 1 had encourage dd to audition for summer dance intensives. She was accepted into the Rock School's SI and we are sending her there for 2 weeks this summer.


Sooo, here is my question. My dd claims she wants to be a ballerina and dance professionally some day. In the same breath, she is excited about being on a comp team again next year and loves jazz as well. If being a ballerina is her ultimate goal, at what age is she going to need to committ to ballet full-time? I am trying to be careful not to push her in one direction since she is still so young but I also want to give her whatever opportunities I can to succeed. Both schools she is at have good reputations. I would love to send her to the Rock School year-round but it is a little too far to take her there daily and we cannot afford the boarding program there. They do have a branch of the Rock School in West Chester that might be doable for us and something I am considering for her if she does decide to train for ballet full-time. Does anyone else have a dd straddling 2 different dance worlds? How would you handle this situation?

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I'd like to tack on a question. At what age (give or take) should they be taking ballet 6 days a week if they're serious about ballet post-high school? And how many hours would that be, not counting rehearssals? Two hours a day? More?


Thanks for letting me add this on. I've been thinking about it, and the "ten thousand hours" hypothesis, lately.

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I'll try to give some general guidelines:

Age 9- at least 2 ballet-only classes of at least 1.25 hours in length per week; other dance genres like Tap or Improv could be perfectly acceptable as an add-on, as are rehearsals/classes for a performing group

Age 10- at least 3 ballet-only classes of at least 1.50 hours in length per week; other dance genres like Tap or Improv could be perfectly acceptable as an add-on, as are rehearsals/classes for a performing group, and some sort of floor exercise class

Age 11- at least 4 ballet-only classes of at least 1.50 hours in length per week; other dance genres like Tap or Improv could be perfectly acceptable as an add-on, as are rehearsals/classes for a performing group


Age 12- typically this is the approximate age for beginning pointework, so a typical schedule would be similar to age 11, but with an extra pointe-only class of approximately .5- .75 hours following a ballet-only technique class at least once per week, hopefully twice


Age 13- at least 4-5 ballet-only classes of at least 1.5-1.75 hours each, followed by pointe class at least 2-3 times; other dance genres appropriate for these levels are: Character, Jazz, Modern, Ballroom, Rep and Variations, Pilates or Floor barre/other exercise


Age 14/15- at least 5-6 ballet-only classes of at least 1.5-1.75 hours each, immediately followed by pointework classes at least 4 times per week. other dance genres appropriate for these levels are: Character, Jazz, Modern, Ballroom, Rep and Variations, Pilates or Floor barre/other exercise


Age 16/17- at least 6 ballet-only classes of at least 1.5-1.75 hours in length, followed immediately by pointework classes. Other dance genres appropriate for these levels are: Character, Jazz, Modern, Ballroom, Rep and Variations, Pilates or Floor barre/other exercise, and Partnering


As far as when a dancer must make a decision, it typically happens around 12, when they begin pointework. If they start to feel they are behind others in some way, or simply decide they really want to pursue ballet, they typically do so around 12 or 13.

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My fifth grade dd is also straddling two dance schools at the moment, because of her love for ballet. Reading your post, Dance mom of K and J, I felt like I could have written it myself. My daughter is in her second year with the two schools, and fortunately for her, the schedules have not overlapped. She has managed to dance both competitively with her one school in lyrical and jazz, while taking three classes of ballet a week at a reputable ballet school. As she progresses, though, my assumption is that the schedules WILL eventually overlap, and then the tough decision will have to be made about her commitment to ballet. Since she is only ten years old, she changes her mind daily about whether she wants to just dance ballet or, in her words, "dance them all, Mom"! Although financially it is a bit of a strain, it is so hard to force a decision on a ten year old about commitment, especially when it is clear from the smile on her face that she loves it all. My decision was to wait until the decision HAS to be made, and, yes, I realize that I am being wishy washy. But, I think that sending your daughter to a summer intensive at a school that she MAY go to full time in the future is a wonderful idea, and that you are giving her wonderful opportunities already for her to succeed. Good luck to you and your daughter this summer!


Thank you for your post with the guidelines of how much dance the girls should be receiving at their ages, it is really very helpful in determining if my dd is following a good path, Clara 76.

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Thank you - it is helpful to see it all laid out like this and give me a general sense of what the training ought to look like.

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Thanks, Clara 76, your list confirms what we have noticed while looking at schools that produce great dancers. We are in a city that does not offer a program anywhere near that level of intensity and have had to come up w/ our own "program" combining traditional training and supplementing classes at another location and privates. Thast being said, the advantange of a system in place that has been proven with instructors that are all on the same page with one agenda is what produces a great dancer. (if the one agenda is training dancers and not revenue to offset other expenses)


Dd went for what we dubbed a Winter Intensive for a week at another school out of state and got over a months worth of training compared to what she would have received dancing the local syllabus. The very,very, sad part is that there are plenty of above average dancers that think they are on track b/c they do not know any better.


Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and his 10,000 hrs really does get your brain in a tissy when you think of just how early dancers expected to be a "professional" in the ballet world. Then there is the topic of quality of training and not just quanitiy. Oodles and oodles of hours of a bad training is all together another topic.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you Clara76 that was an extremely helpful outline.

I too have a DD 9 1/2 that loves her 3 day week 1.5 hrs of ballet at the pre pro school, but also takes tap/jazz at studio 2, and musical theatre at studio 3. I know she will have to give up the other schools eventually.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I wanted to add that I have a son who was also dancing at two schools - one a comp school and one a pre-pro ballet school. Luckily we only had to deal with this issue for a year. He decided fairly quickly that he wanted to be a ballet dancer and knew he would need to focus on ballet. But it would have been possible for him to continue taking other forms of dance at the comp studio. The way he ended up dropping the comp studio was that the more classes he started to take at the pre-pro school, the more aware he became of proper technique and he started to get very bothered by the lack of technique he saw at the competitions, in general - not only at his comp school. Eventually he decided on his own that it would no longer be in his best interest to continue to dance at a school whose first concern was not teaching proper technique - regardless of the form of dance. Luckily, right after making this decision our pre-pro school added jazz, tap, and modern which are taught by teachers who are both professionals in their field and who have years of teaching experience. As with ballet, the goal in teaching these forms of dance at our pre-pro studio is in learning proper technique. As the students at our school get older and more advanced they are able to take one or more of these classes as a required elective to become well-rounded dancers.


There are several other students at my son's pre-pro school who have similar stories. In short, I guess what I'm saying is that if your child really wants to be a ballet dancer they will probably figure it out on their own. My son also loved the other forms of dance he was taking but then suddenly it was no longer an issue and ballet took over! But he has has friends who went the other route and decided that they love the competition life and feel like they get as much ballet as they need at their comp school.

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  • 3 months later...

Thank you as well Clara76 for the helpful outline and thank you dancingjet for linking this for me to read.


I have a question about the guidline list... If you take 2 ballet classes one after the other (2 hours total) does that count for being over an hour of training if the studio I am at does not offer classes longer then an hour? My dd will be taking a B3 level class, then right afterward a B2 twice a week, so 4 hours of ballet in 4 classes, 2 days apart. I know from reading that that is a red flag not having a class as long as the recommended class time. May I ask as a uneducated (but learning) ballet parent, why is it such a red flag? Watching I see them doing mostly barre, not much stretching, then across the floor and the hour is over.


Another question if I can--- is there a standard class size to look for and how often should she be corrected by the instructor?

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  • Administrators

One hour classes are standard for the first two years of training, not counting pre-ballet. After that, by 9 or 10 they need longer classes, and hopefully 3 x a week, especially by 10, when they would be in a pre-pointe level. While two classes back to back are better than just one, it's not the same as three 1.5 hour classes a week at their own level, with the material they need to be working on.


As far as corrections go, that will vary greatly from class to class, and there is no numerical standard for how many corrections one should get. That is totally dependent on the teacher, the number of students, and how much correction is needed on any given day. They do need to be reminded by the teacher, however, that ALL corrections are for them. Every student needs to pay attention to every correction, whether it is directed to them or not.

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  • 10 months later...

Is there a big difference in pre-pro if you have a 14 year old take 4 classes per week vs. 6 per week which is recommended at our school?

Is it because of material that is covered or because of the physical aspect and strength?

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  • Administrators

Well, if the class meets 6 times, and someone is only taking 4 times, then they are missing both material and the physical aspects that those who take all 6 will increase at a faster rate.

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