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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Too little, too late?


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VRS said, in part: there is more to residential/full time training than just more hours of work.


That is certainly true! It is sometimes amazing what a difference it makes to the development of a young dancer when they are in an environment where there are many, many very talented dancers trying very hard to improve themselves!


Oh, and as you surely all have heard, there appears to be some "magic number" ;) of how many hours of quality training is needed to become proficient in something - it is something like 10,000 hours.

Can that be?

Anyway, I was told by some sports-physiologists that it was something like 5,000 - 30,000 repetitions of a movement, before one becomes "really good at it". :) Repetition does seem to be more important than "talent". (if done conscientiously and well)


That said, there are always exceptions; those who never did quite that amount of training and STILL became super dancers.

But, they are true exceptions. :)




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  • Clutterbug


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Repetitions, of course, only work if it is the correct movement. Doesn't do much good to repeat an incorrect or even 'almost' correct movement. Just creates muscles memory for the less than optimum movement . . . . which is where the mantra "quality not quantity" comes in, I guess.

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so right! that is what I meant with, "if done conscientously and well". ;)


It is hard to find really high-quality training in a small. local school which usually does not have the funds to cater to those who really want to do more and do it in that way. -sigh-



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Clutterbug there are a few high school diploma (secondary schooling) granting ballet schools in the US. Probably only a handful but they do exist. Many families here take the path of "at home" schooling or "online" schooling for their young students. There are options in the US other than attending a residency program however I thought it to be very important for the US side of this discussion to understand that things might be different in other countries.


I know quite a few American students who have attended the Royal Ballet School who have had to take online courses because the diploma from RBS is not one that would transfer to the American university system. It is also a concern for our international students. While HARID does grant a high school diploma, our diploma, issued by HARID and recognized by the State of Florida, is not always accepted in other countries. It does not mean that it cannot be converted into a "recognized" diploma for international purposes, just that it will take quite a bit of legwork to get that done and mostlikely more courses to pass. Our diploma however is recognized by all universities in the USA. This situation is actually the norm for many degrees internationally.

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I know quite a bit about the Australian education system & the ballet training there, so I hope this helps to articulate the differences between the Australian & the US systems.


vrs has put very well, from the US perspective, some of those differences. She wrote:

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.


The situation in Australia (I lived there & my sister was at the ABS) -- and the UK mostly -- is that the full-time schools are mostly State-funded and accredited. There are very few of them, and they are highly selective. So if you get into the ABS, or the VCA or WAAPA (or their equivalents such as RBS or ENB school) at secondary school level you are really part of an élite for which selection is dependent on potential & talent, rather than ability to pay. And there is stringent "selecting out" at each year, particularly at the time of the move from training to company.


It seems to me -- and I don't mean to tread on toes, just pointing out differences -- that there are many more full-time/residential vocational training opportunities in the US, but they are all privately run, and not as really stringently selective, because there are more schools, and because there is also a fees situation. I'm NOT saying that full-time facilities in the US take untalented students simply to make money! Just that ABS takes maybe 20 students (I think it was 15 girls in my sister's year). And that is the main (although not the only) national training school in the whole country. Similarly, the RBS in the UK.


So, it may be that it is much more likely that dancers trained in these elite state-funded institutions are better placed to get jobs, because they've already been through highly selective entry processes and subject to "weeding out" each year after that.


So it could be that parents & students could decide that high school qualifications -- after the old School Certificate at year 10 -- could be put off until later. The mind can wait, the body can't!


In Australia and the UK, there is a single internationally recognised school certifications system (Higher School Certificate at the end of high school in Australia, A Levels in the UK), which is fairly standardised nationally. Also -- and this is VERY different in the UK, unfortunately -- it is possible to get into quite élite university courses as a mature student, and for other kinds of training or work experience to be counted towards entry qualifications and degree credits. My mother was full time dance trained, although worked as an actor mainly in the UK, but in her early 50s attended a good university in Australia, starting out with literally no academic qualifications. I think she had to do some sort of entrance test, but she flew through a Drama degree while I was doing my PhD! Although there is the Open University possibility in the UK -- again, they take mature-age students with no academic qualifications at a foundation level, and study is distance learning & part-time.


So decisions about entering full-time training might be quite different in Australia, but maybe only so if you are accepted into one of the élite state-funded institutions.

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Thank you Redbookish for laying that out so clearly- yes that is exactly my understanding of our Australian system with one exception. Recently there are many studios setting up government approved full time study programs for 15-16yo DK who do distance study and dance during the day. they receive diplomas of dance which we are told they can use to enter university. It was probably easier to judge when only the elite programs such as the ones you mentioned were available. Now there are many privately run ones which are hard to judge. Not so many as the US appears to have but still a busy little industry- I think they often only have 10-12 students at a time.


while we are chatting....What do you think about WAAPA where students have to have their HSC in order to enter? Is it too late to work professionally if you have delayed it until you are 20? I havent been able to get my head around how that fits in given everything I am told about 'getting out there as soon as you can' but as a mother I much prefer that idea!

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I've been taught by two teachers who went through WAAPA- one had a career in ballet until she had a career ending injury, the other danced for many years with Sydney Dance Company. They are both great teachers.


oops, just realised I can't post here, maybe a moderator can delete this?

Edited by wembley
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that is great to know wembley (replying before you get deleted!)- so that suggests that there is future for the late comers :clapping:

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Victoria Leigh

I'm going to leave Wembley's post, because I think perhaps it is helpful here.

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You brought up the idea that increasing the hours for a teen could possibly put the student at a substantially greater risk of injury. I wanted to add our experience with this. My dd went away to a residential placement to become a "Ballet trainee" in a 25 hr/week training program, not connected to a company, at 15 years old because we live in a rural area and we were spending more time driving than she was dancing. In all honesty, dd was dancing more than the 25 hrs/week at her residential program (probably more like 35 hours weekly) because she also danced quite a bit in a different style of dance on many evenings and weekends. But it was the daily heavy pointe work, more hours of ballet, and repertory classes often on pointe as well, that brought out the symptoms of her Os Trigonum Syndrome as well as FHL and Achilles issues. Maybe these issues would have shown themselves sooner or later, but increasing the hours and intensity of her dance definitely led my dd to experience some major physical problems. Prior to her time at the residency, when she was dancing 20 hours weekly and driving 20 plus hours, she never had experienced an injury of any kind.


Maybe it was good that we discovered dd's ankle issues as a younger teen rather than when she went off to college, or maybe if she had continued in her pre-pro program for several more years she would have developed the proper strength which would have prevented the injuries; I don't know. But I guess my overall message is that it is not just quantity of dance that counts. If you can get access to excellent quality of dance in lesser amounts of hours, I think that is a great way to go, at least in terms of injury prevention.



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Thank you very much for all the helpful responses, especially vrsfanatic and Redbookish for explaining the differences in the education systems and to dacsmom for your experience with increased hours and injury. All much food for thought.

I have started to look at other options and will ask lots of questions. Thanks to the forums I have more understanding of the issues we need to consider. I have had Redbookish's quote "The mind can wait, the body can't!" replaying in my head. :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Clutterbug - hopefully I can give a little assistance. My dd was in a very similar position to yours at 14 (although, while having academic ability, was barely passing at school as she wanted was to dance!). She is now 19.


Dd was in a studio in Canberra which had very good training of around 15 hours per week. She had a wonderful facility and wanted to pursue dance as a career. She definitely stood out at her studio, and auditioned unsuccessfully for the ABS a couple of times. As you say, the students receiving places at the ABS were often in a higher level of training. We looked into full-time training, but this meant dd needed to move interstate. Just as a run-down of ballet schools we have looked at:


Government funded or private schools accredited as Registered Training Organisations: QDSE, McDonalds College (Sydney), Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School (Melbourne), ABS, Conservatoire of Ballet (Christine Walsh - Melbourne).


Non-accredited private studios offering full-time training (we looked mainly in Sydney as it was closest to home): Tanya Pearson Classical Coaching Academy, Conlan College, Allegria, Prudence Bowen, Academy Ballet. There are many more than this across Australia.


Dd successfully auditioned for Tanya Pearson's and started there at 16 after completing Year 10. The average age of the full-time students was 15 to 16 with a few that were 14 and a couple who were only 13. There was definitely a huge difference between the standard of students at her former school and those at TPCCA and it brought it home to us that this was the level required as these were the students you would be competing against at every level, for training places, scholarship opportunities and ultimately for jobs.


For dd, continuing academic education wasn't an option we followed, but there were many girls at TPCCA that were doing distance education. We chose not to pursue this as dd was barely putting any effort in and we decided that if she didn;t make it in ballet, or changed her direction, educaiton was going to be available to her at any time she chooses to pursue it. Full-time training definitely made a big impact on dd's dance development. She ultimately left TPCCA after 18 months (another story) and moved to Academy Ballet where she is now training with Vicki Attard (former ABS principal) in a pre-professional program and has made incredible progress. Vicki's full-time program runs for fewer hours than some full-time programs but the training is much more intense than many with a maximum of only 12 students, and for much of this year there have been only four, so it has been very personalised coaching. I adore Vicki and dd has been going extremely well in her program.


I think in Australia these days it is very difficult for students at a recreational school to compete with students in a full-time program. If I were in Qld I would absolutely go to Prudence Bowen if possible. I have seen some really beautiful, highly talented dancers come out of there in the past few years who have also won some very major scholarships. She takes fewer students than some full-time schools but my impression is that her students are really nurtured and they are definitely very well trained. But that's just what I would do for my particular daughter.


Dd recently auditioned for and was accepted into Joffrey's trainee program and has a few more auditions coming up plus audition DVD's to send out. She also got a role on Dance Academy as a company dancer. In December she is competing in the Genee and is excited about that. Full-time training was definitely the right option for her although it hasn't all been smooth sailing. Moving away from home was a big adjustment and dealing with injuries and some other issues has definitely tested her resilience. But she has not once regretted it and is happy every day that she is doing what she loves. What more could I ask for? (well, except a bigger bank balance to pay for it all!!)


I hope this has been helpful

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Thanks danceintheblood for taking the time to give us so much information. Sounds like your DD is really setting the place on fire! Please tell her that we are all basking in her success :clapping: Gives our DK hope for their own paths. I particularly appreciate the detail you have given about Sydney schools. My 13yo DS may be lookiing at full time study himself in a few years so it is great to read your experience. Thanks again

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  • 1 month later...

Hello, I thought I should update everyone on what has been happening and ask for yet more valued opinions from all the wonderful BT parents! DD decided she wanted to have some options and look at full time schools. We asked her present teacher and came away with a list of 3. DD spent a usual day at each school with the present full time students being assessed. I received feedback from the director of the school on DD and each one offered her a place. She has only just auditioned for the state school run program and we will not hear the outcome for 2 weeks.

The other 3 schools would all require DD to complete her last 2 years of high school by distance education which I'm not enthusiastic about but if it is the only way she will get the ballet training she needs then so be it.

I am having a difficult time getting my head around the different programs as they are all different. I have read the recipe for ballet and when it says ballet-only classes followed immediately by pointe work does this mean that there can not be a 15 minute tea break (or even lunch) in-between? An open class or classical class is a "ballet-only" class? However a syllabus class is not? What is a technique class?!

The one place that my DD feels more drawn to has a very small group and only one teacher. DD says she finds it confusing when she has lots of different teachers and they all tell her different things (occasionally conflicting). At present she has 4 ballet teachers. I think the teaching at all the schools is very good, does it matter if she only has one teacher or is it preferable to have several teachers (some of whom would be male)?

The other factor is the other students. DD is a very visual learner and seems to respond best to teaching when some or all of the other students are at a higher level than she is. Should we be taking this into consideration? My gut feeling says yes but I would welcome the input from the gurus on the forum!

The private schools all offer more performance opportunities than the state run school. DD has not done much performance and we feel that is an area in which she needs more opportunities and training. Is this important?

The plus side for any of the schools is that DD can remain at home for little while longer which has been quite a relief and also means less cost.

Dascmom you will be pleased to know I quizzed all the schools about injuries, prevention and management.

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  • 6 months later...
Guest Blossoming ballerina

This has been a very interesting and informative thread. I have a dd 15 who is doing 14 hours a week at the moment.

Looking at the ACB (australian conservatoire of ballet)

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