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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Too little, too late?


Clutterbug

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I have searched through the forums and gleaned lots of information but am struggling with translating it to our situation as we are in Australia. DD is 14 and is focused on a career in dance.

We have tried to keep her grounded and her options open rather than having the focus solely on dance to the exclusion of everything else. She is still doing very well academically and plays a musical instrument to a high standard. So far so good. This year necessitated a change of dance school and academic school and although her dance schedule is not ideal it seems to be working at the moment. She is dancing around 14 hours a week, 10 of which is ballet.

We have been told by many that she has the perfect physique for ballet (at the moment one said!) and her ballet teachers have commented on her drive, determination and strong work ethic.

This year her aim was to gain a place in a pre-professional ballet program. She could then still live at home and also complete her high school certification for further education. However she recently spent four days in Melbourne at the final auditions for a full time place at the Australian Ballet School and loved it. She was very upset when she was not offered a place. Almost all of the other short listed candidates in her age group were studying ballet full time and studying by distance education. We are now wondering if DD can afford to keep on the slow steady minimum number of hours path when she will be continually up against kids who are training full time.

After reading the many posts I realize that the quality of the training is more important than the quantity but that there is a necessary minimum number of hours per week. I am just wondering if DD is leaving it all too late by just planning on doing the minimum, even if the quality is very good. The QDSE pre-professional ballet program that DD wishes to audition for has 3.75 hours of dance a day, Mon-Friday. 2 hours of which is ballet technique, then 1.75 hours x 3 days pointe and or variations and 1.75 x 1 day each of contemporary and jazz. QDSE has been running a pre-professional dance program for 30 years but the ballet stream (which is linked to Queensland Ballet Company) only started in 2011. Many students have gone on to dance professionally and students this year have been offered places at The English National Ballet School and The Joffrey School.

So we are now considering whether DD should audition for a full time ballet place elsewhere.

I had thought (perhaps naively) that DD could delay the full time path until she had finished school when she will have just turned 17, but it its all looking less feasible. All her teachers have commented this year how much she has improved in a short space of time. I think it is a combination of having finished her major growth spurt, almost doubling the number of hours dance and being challenged and extended. It does however make me wonder how far she could go if she were to train full time.

I would be very grateful for any suggestions and comments. Thank you

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Victoria Leigh

Waiting is not a great idea, Clutterbug. I cannot tell you which school she should attend, but it is very important that she is in the best program that she can get to. It sounds like she has ability, and with the passion and work ethic, could stand a chance on a career path, but my thoughts are that she needs to get on that path immediately.

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Clutterbug it does sound as if you have a gifted daughter in need of more time and quality training. Yes, "get on with it". If there is nothing nearby she will have to find a residential program sooner rather than later. The teenage years are too important.

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iceberg*lover

We just very recently come to this decision ourselves. My dd is 14, and like yours is blessed with a perfect physique and natural facility, but has been training at a "dolly dinkle" studio. She could live at home and train at a nearby pre-pro studio about 15 hrs a week, or move away, do a shortened academic day and train 25+ hrs a week. We are sending her away because she needs the intensive training.

 

It is so hard to make these decisions, but I really feel we need to support her in her dream.

Edited by iceberg*lover
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ballet valet

I have a question regarding this, when you look at the best pre-pro programs (US) the upper levels (7/8) have an early schedule but they still are only dancing 3-4 hours a day. Isn't this pretty much the same as most local pre-pro programs for a 14 year old that do an afternoon 4-8 pm program? The scheduling of these upper levels in the daytime is so the ballet schools can fit their younger levels into the evening. Until they are trainees (over 16), I don't think they are training 'full time' which I would take to mean 6+ hours a day.

 

I know there is a question in there somewhere. :)

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iceberg*lover

I edited my post, Kristine to change full-time to 25+ hrs a week. I use the term "full time" when explaining her schedule to non-dance people. Sorry!

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ballet valet

Are there really programs for 14-15 year-olds that are 25 hours a week of class? It seems like everything I have looked at have 16-20 hours at the most, not including rehearsals.

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ddsbiggestfan

Kristine - you said exactly what I was thinking. The upper levels of both the her current pre-pro, and the company school we are considering for my DD14 require 15 hours of classes, 6 times a week (this includes partnering, modern, jazz, etc with 10-12 of those hours being technique & pointe). Do residential programs offer such a significantly longer day that it would make a big difference to send her there? We happen to be in an urban area where we are blessed with many options, so I know it is different for many people, but in our case wouldn't the local pre-pro options be good enough for an aspiring dancer?

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TwelfthNight

Kristine, in our area, yes there are. At the school where my daughter trains, they have a day program and in this program she is dancing five and a half to six hours per day, six days per week with the option of taking more classes in the evening if she chooses to do so. Obviously we do not do this as there would be no way for her to complete her schoolwork and we feel the day hours are enough at her age. The ages in her class range from 14-16. Even the large training program that is close to us has the kids dance six hours per day once the children are in the trainee program. During rehearsal times, the hours increase. Ages in this program range from 13-19. Neither of these programs are residential programs.

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ballet valet

After researching some well known US programs, I found that the hours of class work is actually:

Kirov - 16.5/week

SAB - 17.5

Nutmeg - 16

San Francisco Ballet - 17

Harid - 12 classes (15+ hrs?)

 

So, without rehearsals, they are not necessarily getting any more class time than a local pre-pro.

 

I sometimes get the feeling that we are so enamored with the idea of 'going away to residential program' that parents and dancers aren't looking at all the facts. If you could add a few weekly ballet/pointe privates with a great teacher, you could make your own residential quality program and it would certainly cost a lot less than the up to $42,000 pricetag of some programs!

 

TwelfthNight: I would love to know which program your DD is at! Also, I haven't really seen programs that actually take 14-15 year-olds in their trainee programs. I am looking for the norm rather than the exception.

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TwelfthNight

Lol, Kristine, I will PM you with the information. It is a fabulous program and a real gem. We are very blessed to have found it.

 

I think there is also a difference between a trainee with a company and a trainee in a training program. The trainee program that is close to us is not connected to a company although they are very well known for having students that win prestigious competitions and are accepted into schools around the world and into professional company programs. So, for them, the norm is 13-19. As you stated, I'm not sure you would see this with a training program that is with a company. The school our daughter was at previously stressed that if the kids aren't getting accepted into training programs at 15, they won't make it. We are finding out that mindset is not true and most training programs through companies want their trainees, etc. to have finished high school and be at least 17, preferrably older.

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Thank you for all the comments. I knew this was going to be complicated which is why I put off posting for so long! Perhaps I didn't make myself very clear :( or maybe that it depends so much upon the individual dancer and other factors. ddsbiggest fan asked "Do residential programs offer such a significantly longer day that it would make a big difference to send her there?" which sums up what I would like to know. Does more hours dancing automatically translate to a "better" dancer, more technically proficient etc? Or does this increase the risk of injury (for a teenager) and may also mean that their academic achievement suffers? Is the 18.75 hours dance (15.5 ballet) offered by QDSE not enough? By comparison the Australian Ballet school students take 24 hours of dance a week.

Our preference is for DD to finish high school with a qualification that would allow her entrance to further education and also to be able to stay at home :)

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We are wrestling with this same dilemma Clutterbug! Exactly. I am going to be very interested in what members have to say. We have reached the point of admitting to ourselves that receiving your grade 12 certificate when you are 17 is not the most important thing though. I am pretty sure all Australian universities have alternate pathways for people who dont do their HSC at the usual age or who get a low grade due to 'life events'. My main interest is that my DS does his year 10 and stays at home. I dont want him leaving when he is 14. We have few options for full time study in our town and we are giving serious consideration to a move (ballet being only one reason) to a larger centre- yours! Having full time study on our doorstep could mean that we follow that track but not quite yet.

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At HARID, our students work on ballet related courses from 12:40-6:00, 5 days a week and 1.5 hours on Saturdays. There is definitely at least 21.5 hours of physical dance activities on a weekly basis. As for how much is too much depends on the preparatory work done for each student. Without significant preparatory work, students can suffer many unnecessary injuries. There is no recipe.

 

That being said, there is more to residential/full time training than just more hours of work.

 

Clutterbug we do not have this problem of qualifications for further education in the US that you are confronted by in Australia in this case, but also many European countries unless a family decides to send a student to a ballet school that is not recognized as an official degree granting educational organization. Most ballet schools in the US do not issue diplomas that are recognized by our government or individual States as a certificate that qualifies the student for much of anything. A student in the US needs a high school diploma that is recognized and accredited by an individual State to continue onward with their academic education. Most ballet schools cannot provide this. It is up to each individual family to make choices about what path to follow, what steps to take.

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Thank you vrsfanatic for explaining this!

'Most ballet schools in the US do not issue diplomas that are recognized by our government or individual States as a certificate that qualifies the student for much of anything. A student in the US needs a high school diploma that is recognized and accredited by an individual State to continue onward with their academic education.'

 

That helps me make sense of some of the conversations. The Australian schools are not allowed to offer full time study to students under 17 years without having a government accredited program that includes some form of diploma. At least that is my understanding (correct me if I am wrong Australians) because kids are to leave school before 17 (at least in my state). Most universities also accept students without a high school certificate as they offer bridging courses from which they apply to degree programs. There are many ways to get into university here, not just the conventional high school certificate path at 17 years old.

 

Anyways thanks again for explaining that detail to us down under.

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