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


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Momof3darlings

Thank you Mobadt!!!! So eloquent and amazing post!

 

Curandera--again, no one is saying that someone who experiences this is "wrong or misleading the situation". That's been stated several times within this thread by myself and others. However, what you don't seem to be willing to accept is that there are many, many dancers for whom this is not their experience to the degree you are bringing forth. And if you want us to accept that it happens then you also have to be willing to accept the experience of those who say they have not experienced it to the degree you're speaking of. As I stated, possibly this is because of the environment I chose to accept for DD1s ballet training.

 

I have to take issue with your assessment that this discussion hasn't occured on other dance boards, I went back to a different dance board that I joined when DD2 was first looking to switch to a competition jazz studio to help with some of the questions I needed to ask to choose between 3 well known studios all within a 10 mile radius. I hadn't been on that board in a few years until now, but since we have that part of our DDs lives in common, possibly it's the same board you're speaking of. I went to the one I'm speaking of to put some things in search there. Lo and behold, many, many discussions with titles related to favoritism, self esteem issues, and feelings of inappropriate treatment of students based on the acccolades they might bring to the studio based on competition scores. Some were dealing with that in class and others outside of class issues in the accompanying situations that relate to those type schools. Some were dealing with how selections such as solo selections carried over into favortism in class but they were there. I did not find any where the teachers stopped class to work with one student consistently. (and I find the word consistently an extremely important clarifier in this case) But I did find cases of separation of ability so to speak in the classroom and at the attached conventions and such.

 

Following a very successful SI with lots of attention and positive feedback my DD has since left that school.

I think this pretty much sums it up. There are good and bad teachers everywhere. Individual teachers not collectively grouped teachers. Key is what you do with the situation when you find one that is not a fit for your child's learning style.

 

I do have a question for csmith--do you feel that in your child's case, the teacher would have been correct to continue to give corrections that were not able to be achieved at that time? The flip side of not getting corrections is getting too many to the point that the dancer feels defeated. With a structural issue or injury, that is a fine line for a teacher also.

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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. ...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.

 

DD experienced favoritism at her first pre-pro school. This is a school that boasts about how many professional dancers they have trained and they do have a few that are solely the product of their school although most trained there for limited periods of time. From age 11-13, she was a cherished student and knew she was favored. It was obvious and she felt terrible for those kids who were ignored and yes, it was blatant. At age 14, the school had their own agenda for our dd which included our moving her into their own high school academic program. DD was just fine at our local public high school and was still able to make all of the ballet classes (including the one during the day). The fact was our dd no longer fit the school's business plan. Things changed. She was no longer the favored student. The directors made it clear that she would be left out of casting and other opportunities if she didn't change academic schools. The principal teacher completely ignored her in class. Thankfully, there were 2 teachers who wouldn't play that game and still gave corrections. One of them offered to be her YAGP coach (the principal teacher picked all the favorites). It was miserable. It was so bad that when dd won the junior women's regional division at YAGP, the directors refused to acknowledge her achievement. When she made the final round in NYC, they couldn't even bring themselves to say congratulations. We knew if we didn't change her training, her self-esteem would suffer. We have never understood her need to dance and wouldn't have minded if the experience of being left out caused her to reassess her desire to dance professionally. That didn't happen. She simply has the need to dance so we started coming up with plan A,B, and C. We realized that she needed a better school, one like twelfthnight describes. It's truly unfortunate that these young kids have to go to boarding school to find better training but for us, we found that there was no choice.

 

Reading all of your posts brings back those awful memories of sleepless nights where we felt helpless. The pressure for us to ignore our values was immense. I searched this board to try and find any way other than boarding school for our dd. We fought the idea... hard. For us, Plan B was boarding school. Plan A was to piece together the best training from several local schools and see where that would lead, Plan C was for me to move to NYC with DD for her to attend school there. DD felt that boarding school was Plan A. It was least disruptive to the family, it had continuity and she was focused and a no-nonsense kind of kid. Fortune knocked on her door and she was offered a place at the boarding school of her choice. This school is like the one thwelfthnight describes. She went far away and got the training she wanted and needed. Our sleepless nights changed to worrying about a child living so far from home but she was happy as a clam! This is her journey, it helped her escape that awful favoritism stuff and I hope that by sharing her experience, others will know they are not alone and that there are schools where it's not a part of the school ethos. It may require a change in location to find it though....

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Just to clarify, I do know favoritism and self-esteem issues happen everywhere.

 

My objection has narrowed to specifically the practice of ignoring some students in class and not giving them corrections because they are taking too long to learn or for any other odd reason really. That is the distinctly odd twist I have found more prevalent in ballet as opposed to other forms of dance in my own personal experience.

 

And thanks Swanchat for sharing your experiences. How horrible! No recognition of making it to the final round of YAGP! Good grief! Glad she found a new dance home.

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My young dancer has cycled through being the shining one and feeling ignored, back and forth many times. She was never Clara or Sugar Plum, for seemingly political reasons, but enjoyed dancing other lead roles at her Pre-Pro school. The school she attended is excellent, but small, and as Curandera describes, the few who aspire to professional careers receive more attention in class than do the ones who attend more recreationally. They are also the ones who are sweating by plies. It always seemed to me like they got out of a class what they put into it.

 

She has always been a very tenacious person... once she sets her mind on something, she doesn't let go. I feel like this will serve her well now at the threshold of her professional career.

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Momof3darlings. Your question is a good one and one that I am not sure I know the answer to. I guess what I would have liked to see is a balance. Somewhere inbetween ignoring her and constantly correcting her might have been effective and postive for their relationship. They had been working together for 3 years full-time. In the end maybe my DD and her teacher just lost their connection.

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Momof3darlings

Thank you csmith for the clarity. That's exactly why I asked the question, the situation you described could have been a no-win situation for a teacher. A good teacher might have asked you or the child how best to handle the situation or might have taken the vibes off the child about what was working and what wasn't. She might have thought she had balance when she didn't really. Key though is that you did what you are supposed to do as a parent and found the environment that appears to now be working for your child! Kudos to you for that!

 

This thread has sort of morphed from discussing "haves and have nots" to discussing classroom/teaching style as it relates to ballet versus other forms of dance. Let's shift back to relating every post to how that affects "have and have nots" and also offering solutions for folks who find themselves stuck even for a short time feeling like a have not.

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TwelfthNight

Momof3darlings, I do wonder though if it comes down to the individual instructor. Speaking strictly of instructors that had professional careers, some are very good at teaching and othes are not. The director my daughter had at her first studio was never trained to teach and their only method of instruction was what they were taught....in the way they were taught. If a student did not understand, it was the child's fault. The instructor stated that they didn't know of any other way of explaining something so it came down to the child just "not having it". They were never taught how to teach. It was also common to hold up one student above the others to try to make the others students competitve enough to want to be better than the current favorite. Not only did this not work as it discouraged the other students, but it also was disadvantageous towards the child held up in that if they were that much better, they should have been moved up to the next level instead of being held back, with the excuse from the director that it was better to be at the top of the class because they got better parts in performances. Again, this director was just acting as they had been taught.

 

On the other hand, we have another very well known instructor that came into teaching after a successful career and realized that in order to instruct, you need to know how to do so. They expanded their education by studying pedagogy. The result is a beloved instructor that produces results. We were told one day that this instructor looks at a student that isn't applying a correction as their fault, not the student's fault. In other words, as an instructor, it is their job to try to find a way in which the child understands the correction. This instructor looks at the situation as this, if the student is not making the necessary correction, as the instructor, it is my job to find the way to explain it to them so they can make it and I just have to adjust my teaching until I find what clicks with the student. Afterall, unless a student is really showing through various means that they do not want to be in class such as not concentrating, the student is there to learn, not be ignored. Working on one or two things until they are corrected keeps the student from being bombarded with corrections, but at the same time, the problems are not ignored.

 

Both instructors on very different ends of the spectrum, but only one really has the success rate. Could it be simply a matter that a lot of studio owners while having successful careers as dancers, aren't really good instructors? Maybe it is just the personality of the teacher that sems to click with the student so it is a matter of finding a studio where the instructor and student understand one another? I don't have the answer to that.

 

I don't mean to sound like the director at DD's first school was horrible. DD came away with some very valuable things and they are top notch as far as the basics. It simply was that after a certain age, the fit was no longer there.

 

As a side note that might have nothing to do with this conversation whatsoever, the succesful instructor mentioned above told us a story when we marveled at the difference in teaching methods between DD's first studio and theirs. Theirs being much more encouraging and confidence building. As this instructor tells it, when they first started teaching, they were not nice at all. Someone said to them one day, "this ballet is difficult enough, why are you making it that much more difficult by being a jerk?" The instructor thought about it and realized that they were being a jerk because their instructors had been that way, they were just repeating what they had learned. They realized the person who made the comment had a point and they were never nasty in class again.

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So much of the ballet tradition of the past 100+ years has come out of Eastern Europe, where both academics and ballet (and sports too, come to think of it) are taught in that old-school rigid authoritarian style. I think the ethos of many ballet schools across the world has conformed to that model. However, since my daughter first stepped into a creative movement class at a pre-professional studio 20 years, I've watched the tide ever so slowly turn. I know that most of the current teachers at her former pre-pro school teach in a much more modern style, using encouragement more than criticism as a motivator. I expect that will continue to improve in many schools as current professional dancers, influenced by the changes in education in general (where we know that the very best way to motivate anyone is to encourage them), will not adhere to that old style.

 

The only other dance style I'm intimately familiar with is Irish dancing. Because Irish dance has a history of being competition-based, and because Riverdance infused Irish dance studios with far more dancers, competitions (feiseanna), and performance venues, favoritism has always been a large part of the equation in many schools. Compound that with the fact that historically the Irish have always had a pretty rigid, Eastern-European-like educational philosophy and you get quite a few teachers - generally the older ones - who don't believe much in encouragement as their model for getting students motivated. If a student repeatedly doesn't understand a correction, they're ignored in schools that are trying to produce Irish dance world champions. Teachers want their students to succeed, but they also really, truly want to bask in the glory themselves. It's human nature.

 

But just as I've seen a tidal change occurring in the ballet world, I'd say the same has been happening within the Irish dance community. There will always be teachers who have great knowledge about their dance style, but don't have teaching skills in terms of how to motivate students. But I'm very hopeful about what I see in both ballet and Irish dance as the old guard is moving out and newer, better educated teachers are moving in.

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If the classroom/teaching style is causing a dk to feel invisible or if they receive no/little instruction and corrections or less than others; and if this occurs on a consistent basis over a long period of time (think months not days); and if the dk is serious about the training then it's time to start planning to find a place that will supply that training. I saw several dks who really lost a lot of self-esteem because of the favoritism exhibited in dd's first school. One dk even needed counseling. Dance may be important to a child but growing up healthy takes precedence!

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Thank you Twelfth Night for your post above! This is very similar to what we have come to believe---just because you can dance well doesn't mean that you can teach well. And that nastiness/humiliation/being ignored aren't good motivators.

 

Some of DD's teachers had illustrious careers, but never had any major injuries/physical issues that might have led them to understand that one size does not fit all. These teachers also never had any formal training to teach, and so basically they just repeated what they had experienced, and gave up on anyone who just couldn't do things the way they said right away or who didn't have perfect physical facility for ballet from the start. It was almost like, 'you either have it or you don't, and if you don't I won't (or in actual fact, can't) help you get there'.

 

As I have mentioned before in other posts, it wasn't until DD encountered some teachers who identified and specifically addressed an alignment issue that her dancing really took off. We also found that a few private lessons with a physical therapist who also had a career as a dancer helped immensely. DD still has to be attentive to imbalances and her alignment---but now she has the tools to do this (daily PT exercises) and can identify when she needs extra assistance from a physical therapist or chiropractor, etc.

 

Like Twelfth Night, I won't say that the teachers who my DD felt "ignored" her were terrible, however. DD learned a lot from them---among other things, a thick skin--- and over the years she tried to focus on the good they provided-- the trick is to find out and appreciate what those things are, and try to get the help from others (either at SI's, or privates, or a physical therapist), when a road block is encountered.

 

But as Swanchat and Twelfth Night said, sometimes a change of school becomes necessary---a new set of eyes and a different approach can be invaluable. And wouldn't it be great, if indeed the dance world were changing to embrace a more encouraging environment, like Vagansmom suggests? I hope so!

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Momof3darlings
Dance may be important to a child but growing up healthy takes precedence!

:huepfen::flowers::clapping: :clapping: :clapping: :clapping: <-----swanchat!

 

Absolutely individual, Twelfth Night! And absolutely not limited to the ballet classroom as recent members posting have discussed. I'll admit to taking issue with anything that globalizes a grouping: Ballet, teachers....ahem, parents. :shhh:

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DD got frustrated because of lack of corrections from one teacher, but I'm not sure that had much to do with her personal level of 'have-it-ness' at the time. She was simultaneously receiving a lot of attention and corrections from another teacher at the exact same period. Other students who ranged across the ability spectrum had made similar comments regarding this teacher. And despite the fact that, yes, there was a prodigy in dd's class at that time who did get the bulk of the attention from this teacher, at the same time, this teacher had great affection for dd (and actually, all her students -in fact, her attention to one "ugly, forgotten duckling" in another level was very noticeable) and even pushed for her to be split cast as Clara (with the prodigy) even though it was her 3rd year in that role and probably time for her to move on to quieter roles in the corps.

 

I do think the teacher's approach had a lot to do with personality and her distinct teaching style. She once talked about not continuing to give corrections to a student, not because she had given up on that student, but because the student needed some more space to grow to the place where the corrections could be applied. DD's current teacher (both hail from the same general old-school European/Russian training background) is a more communicative personality, and as such, isn't shy about giving corrections generously to all comers. But I think she too has her limits if a student is consistently ignoring things she tells them? Last year, dd was noted by this teacher for not only assimilating her own corrections, but for applying those that were directed towards other students. I was told that she was the first student in the school's history to have corrected all the issues that were brought up in her winter exam, by the spring examination. So one student basically went from frustrated by too few corrections, and therefore too few opportunities to understand how to progress, to a student praised for her ability to absorb and apply corrections in the space of a year.

 

Yes, I suppose you could call her somewhat of a teacher's pet in her small-school ballet world (both of them), both in terms of attention and casting. But does that correlate with her level of 'have-it-ness'? I'm not so sure, if we're talking about ultimate employability in a classical ballet company. I do think, in her particular case, it has been definitely been more about the intersection of personalities - both hers and her individual teachers. And nor do I believe the results would have been the same had she been in one of the bigger, more selective schools. And some who have come to her school from those big schools often seem to have positively transformed their own experiences, also. But the point is, there are just so many variables to all this, that it is hard to identify one overriding principal to cover them, other than, change the variables, and change your child's experiences.

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My daughter was injured for a while this summer during her SI and had to sit out. She said one of the teachers had the students who were sitting out offer corrections to the students in the class. My daughter said she learned so much from that experience and one of the things she noticed was how many students were not trying their hardest and seemed bored. She said they were wasting their parents' money. I think that experience and the training at the SI had some impact because since she has been back and attending a variety of classes at different studios, she is getting a lot of of attention. I think it may have something to do with how hard she is working.

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balletgirl22sk

My oldest daughter who danced professionally for 8 years in ballet companies, was told by the principal of a huge pre pro school that her turnout wasn't good enough to be a ballet dancer when she was about 12. Then when she was a senior in high school at a different, smaller school, her teacher/ owner of the studio said that she was too short and her arms and legs were too short to ever dance professionally. She proved them wrong.

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That is wonderfully hopeful story balletgirl22sk. Thank you for sharing.

 

But it does bring it back the question as to why?

 

Why would a teacher tell an 12 year old girl that her turnout isn't good enough to be a ballet dancer?! Did the teacher tell her she needed to work on the muscles to improve her turn out and how to do it? Did she tell her her turn-out could not be changed? Did she say anything else or just leave her hanging?

 

I can see a teacher tell a 17/18 year old that it will be difficult to dance professionally if she does have smaller than normal height and appendages. But why use the word "never"? She sure was wrong on that one.

 

I think providing dancers realistic assessments of future employment are a difficult but a helpful part of being a trained professional. But there is a difference between telling someone the odds and basically telling them they shouldn't bother.

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