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Dancers: Those who are told they "have it and those that don&#3


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Momof3darlings

Curandera--I've found that same sort of implied favortism in every form of dance I or my children have engaged in. Actually, there is usually those thoughts in every activity, it's not simply a ballet thing. I say implied because sometimes it comes from a place of respect for the stronger dancers in an environment instead of the negative type of favortism that we're talking about. But I also think that those favored sometimes don't recognize that they are. So that makes me wonder since your dancer came from the background of the other forms of dance maybe she was favored there and you/she just didn't recognize it and what is happening is that you're seeing a difference now simply because she's making a shift and may not have reached the place of receiving those accolades in ballet.

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That's an interesting theory Momof3Darlings. But the thing is that dd has taken classes with professional dancers, open classes with older dancers, workshops, contemporary dance intensives, college dance classes where she was allowed in, and in all of those situations she was far from the best.

 

So I guess the answer is no, it isn't just because of the shift from big fish/little pond to little fish/big pond. I will say she has received recognition for her growth in ballet.

 

And I do understand the respect given to stronger dancers. But rarely I have seen in all those other dance experiences where a handful of dancers are given so much attention to the detriment of teaching the others in the class as I've seen and heard in ballet. Specifically, I have not seen a teacher stop a jazz class or tap class on a consistent basis to work with one student while the others wait around.

 

Additionally, there are so many other parents and dancers who have commented about this behavior on this forum and I've heard about their experiences from other ballet moms and my daughter from ballet friends, so I don't think I'm alone on this.

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Momof3darlings

Thanks for the clarity. I'm not saying you're alone in this at all. What I'm saying is that from my perspective favor happens in alot of places including competition jazz studios. Now stopping class consistently to work with one student only is an issue, but that would be an issue everywhere it occured. I must say in over 20 years being around ballet studios (several of them) I've never seen it occur to that degree. But then, I wouldn't have my children in a studio/school where it did happen to that degree consistently so that might be the reason. I've found that in our area, the teachers while they still may have favorites do their job and teach the class. Corrections may be "selective" but teaching never was. And that included all the SIs that DD attended as well. You mentioned that you "heard" these things, have you witnessed them also?

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And frankly, we've never seen this "it" behavior anywhere else. There have been favorites, but again, not to the exclusion or limited teaching, correcting and demonstrating to the rest of the class.

 

 

It's not limited to the pre-pro environment. I believe it was worse at the competition school my dd attended before we made the move to the pre-pro. Much worse! I think, at least for the most part, the favored ones in the pre-pro environment tend to be those that are more talented, have more of a natural facility, remember the combinations, apply corrections, etc. And everyone does get corrections. I've asked dd about this several times for various reasons. She has told me that there is invariably one or two who stop getting corrections for a while and it's generally because they have not been applying the corrections they were getting. Everyone has a class or two were they don't get many corrections or where they get more attention than they others. In the competition environment, there were a good number of studio employee children who fell into that group as well as those that were stronger dancers or better performers. There was definitely some favored status when it came to parts, costuming, and in class.

 

I have definitely seen teachers in other genres stop the class and work with one student as well. However, it is generally done in a fashion where everyone is supposed to learn from that!

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I’m sorry I haven’t been very articulate. I am working this through in my head and these posts. I think I’m narrowing my objection down a bit. Here’s the latest variant:

 

In other types of dance, the teacher teaches. Sometimes with a strong dancer, the teacher may work with the dancer on a particularly knotty issue and may use her to demonstrate something she does well. She may also favor her with a plum role.

 

But I am really concerned about teaching in class, not performances. I am in complete agreement that the strongest dancer should get the strongest role for a performance.

 

But the difference between pre-pro ballet and other types of dance classes is that in other classes we have been at, one of the goals of the teacher has been to go back and pull up the weakest dancer in the class or group. Sort of a no one is left behind mentality. If someone is struggling, the teacher will work a bit more with that student, maybe even give some after class pointers. It really doesn’t matter how long that takes.

 

As MelissaGA points out that is not the pattern in pre-pro ballet. Her daughter has told her “that there is invariably one or two who stop getting corrections for a while and it's generally because they have not been applying the corrections they were getting.” I’ve seen this pattern myself and have read it in way too many SI posts to believe it doesn't exist.

 

This is the crux of the problem. This is the difference.

 

In other classes dd has taken, if someone is not applying the corrections, they are helped MORE, not less. The process has been to continue those same corrections over and over so that the weakest dancer is dancing acceptably by recital time or at least is a better dancer then when she started.

 

But in pre-pro ballet, it is the “it” girl that gets the majority of corrections and the attention. The one who doesn’t have the natural ability and takes longer to apply the corrections is left to struggle in silence and isolation.

 

I don’t begrudge the talented girl, but I resent when the girl who needs instruction is being ignored and left to flounder.

 

I wonder if this is because in the olden days, ballet schools fed dancers into their linked dance companies. If a dancer did not look like they would make the transition, any time spent on them was time lost.

 

But circumstances have changed! It is far less the norm for dance companies to rely solely or even a majority of time to recruit dancers from their linked schools. Dancers these days cross continents for starter dance company jobs!

 

And as I’ve stated previously and to general agreement, I think the job type possibilities are much more expansive these days for trained ballet dancers, even in non-dance jobs. Serious ballet training can benefit so many girls and boys without ever having the goal of becoming a professional ballet dancer or being the very best.

 

So why the need to winnow out serious dance students (i.e. those who are committed to trying their best) that don't have "it" and may never get “it” other than it being an ugly remnant of a by-gone era?

 

May I conclude, it is mean-spirited to the dancer and frankly a horrible waste of a parents' money for their child to be ignored because they don't pick up the corrections as quickly as others! Why do people think we send them there?

 

Just want to add, thank goodness, my dd is doing fine. She has experienced this a bit but she is thick-skinned enough and we are nimble enough to take evasive action. But she is equally if not more disturbed when she sees other fellow dancers suffer from this horrible practice. We wish it would change.

 

Sorry I keep adding to this post, but I do have to say that the vast majority of dd's teachers have been wonderful, exciting and nurturing teachers. They will live in our hearts forever!

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With regard to the dancers that "have it" or "don't have it" or are feeling invisible or being ignored, my own DD was one of those for whom some people ignored and others raved. It depended upon the biases and pre-conceived notions about what a dancer should be, or what the educators believed to be the most important factors at a particular age, and whether she got any help to become the best dancer she could be along the way. Because of the discrepancy in attitudes about her by the powers that be, it was difficult to figure out her future beforehand....

 

My own DD, who is going to perform in a world-renowned choreographer's premiere this weekend, would say that in fact, NOT being a chosen one was a blessing in disguise. She had to 1) REALLY figure out why she had to dance (not for any glory, but for herself and to share what she had to say to the world through dance) and 2) work VERY hard all the time (no matter the politics, the unfairness, the naysayers) in order to ultimately achieve her goals.

 

Your post is a gift to those who are in similar circumstances. It is a bit of hope.

 

But I do maintain that although the system is not broken, it is chipped a bit. There is no reason she should have been ignored when she was willing and able to learn. The fact that she had to rely on herself is an admirable accomplishment for her but I daresay a black mark on the system.

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ddsbiggestfan

Maybe I've been in "ballet heaven" with my experiences, but honestly I have not seen what Curandera is describing. Maybe what you describe is common, or even the norm, but I do want to say that there are schools out there that do nothing of the kind.

 

My daughter is also 14 and been at a pre-pro school since she was 4. This school is small and nurturing but definitely pre-pro and ballet focused, and does produce dancers that get into good college programs and companies. I can say that each teacher there works with each and every student to bring out their best. Hard work and improvement are recognized and rewarded, and while all students who are rewarded with important solos in performances are excellent dancers, they don't all have the classic "ballet body."

 

My daughter has recently switched to a company school in our city that has just re-opened. So far our experience there has also been very positive, and she really likes her teachers. However, we've only been there for 2 1/2 weeks and so the jury is really still out. We have kept the door open at our old school if it ends up not being a good fit for her.

 

I hope that you have found a learning environment for your daughter that provides excellent training in an environment that brings out her best. They are out there!

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ballet valet

 

I don’t begrudge the talented girl, but I resent when the girl who needs instruction is being ignored and left to flounder.

 

I wonder if this is because in the olden days, ballet schools fed dancers into their linked dance companies. If a dancer did not look like they would make the transition, any time spent on them was time lost.

 

 

I think the obvious favoritism, which includes the lion's share of corrections, is sometimes associated with teachers who think their own reputation/credentials will be improved and noticed if this dancer receives recognition through competitions or employment. These teachers are hungry to make their name and the general student population is not their focus. Bragging rights become the focus rather than having the whole class improve. The competition among teachers and studios to be credited with training notable dancers is becoming more and more obvious.

 

On the other hand, teachers may just find some students more receptive to their corrections. They want their classes to go nicely and it's easier to give more attention to the students who are more responsive. Who doesn't like something wrapped in a Disney bow?

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I don’t begrudge the talented girl, but I resent when the girl who needs instruction is being ignored and left to flounder.

 

I wonder if this is because in the olden days, ballet schools fed dancers into their linked dance companies. If a dancer did not look like they would make the transition, any time spent on them was time lost.

 

 

I think the obvious favoritism, which includes the lion's share of corrections, is sometimes associated with teachers who think their own reputation/credentials will be improved and noticed if this dancer receives recognition through competitions or employment. These teachers are hungry to make their name and the general student population is not their focus. Bragging rights become the focus rather than having the whole class improve. The competition among teachers and studios to be credited with training notable dancers is becoming more and more obvious.

 

On the other hand, teachers may just find some students more receptive to their corrections. They want their classes to go nicely and it's easier to give more attention to the students who are more responsive. Who doesn't like something wrapped in a Disney bow?

 

Interesting observation. I had not thought about the reputation-building argument -- still pretty stinky and just not right.

 

When you say "receptive" are you talking able to comply with the correction? I hope you don't mean the ignored dancers don't want or appreciate corrections.

 

The girls I have seen at the mercy of the "ignore attitude because she can't pick it up fast enough," are not suffering from lack of enthusiasm and desire to please and perfect. That is precisely what is so sad about these situations. They want it just as much as the favored one. They just need more help getting their minds and bodies to comply and need more repetition of corrections or new ways to help them visualize what needs to be pulled, pushed or held.

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I have to say I don't agree that teachers - at least in my personal experience - are ignoring anyone in ballet classes. Do they direct their corrections at students who can actually demonstrate the correction? Perhaps. Do they praise those who actually do focus and try to apply the correction? Maybe. I have heard parents - and students - discuss this dilemma and say they or their dancer are being ignored. But frankly, I can tell you that for every time I have heard this from either the parent or the dancer themselves I cannot agree with them. For example, there was a student - a very serious student - at our studio whose mother would say that she was not happy with the way her dancer was being treated. Yet, every time I witnessed this girl in class (and we do have studios where we can in fact watch classes outside the classroom mostly always) her behavior in class was really not conducive to being taught. She would half heartedly try, not be interested in class, and have a scowl on her face constantly. Her behavior was simply not conducive to being receptive to being taught. And this was a good friend of mine. (I did try repeatedly to objectively explain this to her by the way and she would agree, but not care). I do not say this to imply to anyone on this board that their child has this issue. I just want to point out that on any given day we can look at the same student and see them differently. It is subjective. If their body language communicates to the teacher they are just not interested in learning or paying attention that day, I would think that the teacher would simply recognize this and not attend to them that day. In that same class I have witnessed this same dancer given corrections many times as other students were in the class, and having a 'good day'. Now there was a student in that class that did get corrections and was used as a demonstrator quite a bit. But IMO, for good reason. This student never missed a class, was always focused and always applied the corrections. If she had a day where she was frustrated and couldn't do something, she would only try harder. Is this something that should be ignored?

I think that envy is in the eye of the beholder. Every dancer has a different personality, and will take any opportunity given them and react in a different way. The reaction is subjective. One person sees it as being ignored by the teacher. Another sees it as the teacher simply paying attention to the students that were participating. The dynamic changes for every class, and every new class is an opportunity to start fresh. You will never have every teacher seemingly paying lots of attention to you. There will be those teachers who you care for more than others. It is the same in school - I see no difference. School teachers will help everyone and there are those who don't make any effort in class that will claim they are being ignored and the 'smart' ones are getting all the attention. I feel like my words are so harsh! Yet this is how I see it.

Do students get 'ignored' occasionally? I am sure they do. But sometimes you have to ask yourself if there is just too much being read into any given day's behavior or they are blatantly being ignored because they can't 'perform' that day. Does that happen? I'm sure it does, but IMO not quite that often. I say do not internalize behavior that you 'perceive' a teacher exhibits. Every time you step foot into a class, treat it as a new opportunity to learn. Do not worry about whether the teacher is correcting you or someone else. Pay attention and focus on your own self corrections. I simply believe that if you are there to learn and show this for long enough to a teacher, they will see this and help you. Whether you are going to be a professional or not, it doesn't matter. If they don't do this, then it is a dancer's opportunity to learn from the situation because most likely they will find someone they don't get along with but have to work with in their adult life. It is never too soon to learn how to get something positive out of a not-so-positive situation.

I guess what I am saying here - probably way too round about! - is I don't believe this is limited to ballet, or dance at all. I think perception is simply subjective everywhere. It's almost never clear cut and almost always subjective. In my 2 DDs experiences, I have never seen a case where they were ever in this situation. My DDs I would not say have it all. They have been told good things by teachers, and always been praised for their hard work. There have been times when they've not been told anything at all and not particularly happy with how a class has gone. But they don't take it personally. They just move on.

Which reminds me - I remember reading even on this board - a few times where a dancer thought they were ignored in an audition class and then wound up with a scholarship. If that doesn't explain what I'm saying - that perception can be wrong - I don't know how else to say it.

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ballet valet

Mobalt, I think your comments are very insightful and realistic. It is easy to just think our lovely child is being picked on or ignored, but the reality is more what you have described in your post.

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TwelfthNight

I have really been enjoying the discussion in this thread and the thread from which this was derived. I appreciate the honesty and I especially appreciate the input from parents of professional dancers. You have been down this road and know the ins and outs and I can't stress how much your posts are appreciated.

 

Curandra, if you had made those statements a year or two ago, I would have whole-heartedly agreed with you. Over the years, my 15 year old daughter has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly and everything in between. There have been frustrations and tears, both for joy and disappointment. My daughter went to the same pre-pro studio for eleven years. This was supposedly a school with a good track record for developing professional dancers. While the director thought they were the fairest person, it was well known in the city and the surrounding areas, that there was extreme favoritism going on at that studio. It always seemed to be the people who were befriending the director or the director's child at the time. When a parent would make an appointment to discuss this, the director would get so defensive that the child would suffer afterwards. My daughter was on both ends of the spectrum at different times. Sometimes what appeared to others as a favorite, but at other times most definitely not. Personally, I think this was a result of the environment the director came from so when they opened their own studio, this same type environment was promoted.

 

The kids were competitive at this studio and this spirit was fostered instead of discouraged. As far as being someone who "had it", our daughter was never encouraged as someone who had it at this studio. It was when she happened to take a class at another studio that she was encouraged and told she definitely "had it" and in the case of summer intensives, with an accompanying scholarship. At her home studio, she was told that maybe she could dance locally, but she would never get a job with a large company. When my daughter would tell the director about any scholarships she received for intensives, it was downplayed that either "that intensive always gives a lot of scholarships" or it would be compared to all the scholarships and acceptances the "favored" girls or boys were receiving.

 

We were also told at one point that corrections were given for a period of time, but if the student did not apply the correction in the time the instructor thought they should, they would stop giving the corrections because they felt that since the student hadn't made the adjustment, they weren't going to waste their time. I'm still not sure how the child would know that the corrections stopped because the issue was finally resolved or the instructor no longer cared. In any case, it did appear as though some kids never received the attention that others in the class did and I always wondered if that lack of attention and lack of parts is what caused them to give up in frustration.

 

We stayed with this studio because in the beginning years, it was the only studio in town. Parents were told they were the only studio in town and if the parent didn't like the way the studio was run, they were more than welcome to leave. We never were told this, but many other parents were and the sad fact is that at the time, it was true, they were the only studio. We then stayed because while there were now more studios in the area, we were told that if our daughter wanted to become a professional, they were the only game in town. Finally after years of stress, tears, heartache, etc., we were introduced to a well known instructor who was willing to give our daughter private lessons. We had known that something was amiss with the instruction our daughter was getting and quite frankly getting disgusted with what we perceived was the ballet world. Things that should have been taught to our daughter's class were not and the instructor even admitted one year that they had not been able to work with my daughter's group enough because of personal projects outside the studio. The projects involved, among othe things, promoting the director's child and the child's classmates. After the first session, this private instructor told us that our daughter definitely had what it took to dance professionally, but there were some things she was behind in because of the previous studio. The advancement in a very short period of time with this private instructor was amazing not only in ability, but confidence. This wonderful instructor related to us that in order to dance professionally, it isn't just having the right body, the gorgeous feet, etc., it took someone who was smart and knew how to apply corrections quickly and learn choreography immediately. It takes somene who is willing to work hard.

 

We have since left the first studio and now our daughter is in a pre-professional training program dancing around 25-30 hours per week. At this new facility, everyone is treated fairly. They are family. Everyone is corrected. As you mentioned above, the dancer who is not applying the corrections, is given the most, not ignored. Anyone who works hard and wants to learn gets the chance. This is a program where the director is willing to make the necessary phone calls to professional friends to help a student that wants a professional career. They have a plan for each student and they want them all to succeed. Of course this is a training program, but even in the basic classes for the younger kids, they give attention to them all. The directors came from a different background and again I wonder if it is that background that makes the difference. So, in our experience, not all studios are like the studios you mentioned. A parent just has to search and find what is the best for their child and for their own sanity. Yes, there are still the "old school" places that breed favoritism and competition, but there are also studios out there that are not like that.

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TwelfthNight, I really enjoyed reading your post. I am so happy your daughter found a teacher who was willing to teach and a school that has the right stuff!

 

I do want to make clear that I do not believe all ballet schools have this "culling the herd" mentality. It is not like that at our new school and even at the school we left, it was only one teacher who had this nasty habit. But this has only happened to us and have only witnessed this happening to other dancers at a pre-pro ballet school and not at other dance studios or class situations she has been in.

 

So it isn't that all ballet schools have this problem, but rather this problem seems to occur mostly in ballet schools.

 

For comparison sake, I also go to another dance forum for general dancers and I have not seen this scenario played out in those posts. Favoritism? Yes. Ignoring, leaving a weaker dancer in limbo because it is taking them longer to apply the corrections? No.

 

I also did a google search on "being ignored in ballet class," and there were a lot of hits and from many different forums and sources and spanning over many, many years. I did try googling just "being ignored in dance class" without the word "ballet" to see if there were instances of this happening in dance classes in a non-ballet classroom, but it collected a lot of non-relevant hits. Although, I did not have time to sort through all of them.

 

I think that in other dance type classes, the teacher is expected to teach everyone and no one accepts the idea that they are allowed to just give up on the slower ones. I had never heard of this idea until we got to the pre-pro ballet world.

 

 

I do think this does happen, I've seen it - ballet teachers ignoring and stop correcting some students that do not have the "it" factor. And some teachers are doing this even when the dancer desperately wants to learn and is not displaying off-putting body language. Instead, the student is struggling to learn the combination, the technique or whatever it is that favorites pick up quickly and naturally and that they need extra help learning. They are falling behind and are not getting help from their teacher.

 

I don't think it is helpful or fair to advise a student to just go to class head held high and work through it. Especially when the child is being held back or losing confidence because they see no way to improve on their own. That is vastly different from being ignored by a teacher but still learning enough to move onward. It is ridiculous and cruel that a student is told they don't have "it" and at the same time is not being instructed on how to get "it."

 

And of course, there is the major fact that parents are paying for their children to be taught. That is a big difference between learning to take being ignored at an audition, a company or work environment and a school!

 

Reading the many threads here at a Ballet forum, Parents of Dancers under 13, Parents of Dancers over 13; Dancers 13-16; Dancers 17+, SIs, etc., the experiences are similar if not exactly the same and are repeated over and over again. And again, there were many hits to the google search "being ignored in ballet class."

 

We/they can't all be reading too much into it. It can't all be because the dancer or teacher was just having a bad day. At least some of us, one of us, must be accurately reading the situation free from or in spite of jealousy or parental blinders.

 

I do understand that many have not encountered this situation in their personal experiences, but that does not mean it isn't happening. I find it hard to believe that every single person who claims this has happened is wrong or misreading the situation -- that there is no basis in reality for this fairly common complaint.

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By the way, if the concern of some teachers is that young dancers must learn that in the professional world, they will not have their hand held in learning combinations or techniques, I think that is fine. They should be warned that if their goal is to dance professionally someday, their problem in learning whatever quickly could result in not auditioning well or not getting a paying job as a dancer.

 

But that is far different from not being taught or left adrift during a dance class because they are taking too long or lacking natural talent.

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I have to agree with Curandera. I know with my DD who has a hyperextended back that she could not (and not for the lack of trying, focus or attitude) make the corrections that the teacher was giving to her. It seems her teacher just gave up on her and the corrections stopped despite knowing how much my DD struggled with it and wanted to improve upon it. With some outside training - private classes and private reformer pilates classes we are seeing improvement. It is however not an overnight fix. Following a very successful SI with lots of attention and positive feedback my DD has since left that school.

 

I believe dancers are ignored. Some wrongly - those struggling but unwillingly to give up. Some not - I'm sure it is frustrating for teachers to give the same simple correction over and over and the student seemingly ignoring it.

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