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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Men's Classes-- When are they necessary?


slhogan

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This link (a sticky in the under 13 forum) explains the ideal hours for solid ballet training:

 

http://dancers.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=54927

 

But, it's oriented towards girls. It explains when pointe work should be added and how many pointe classes a week, but it doesn't mention men's technique classes.

 

At what point should boys be receiving regular men's training and not just the occasional class and SI training? Does it matter? If it does matter, how many classes per week is recommended? How long should the classes be? Does it make a difference if Men's technique is taught by a woman?

 

My DS is 14, and I feel like he's suddenly at a transition age. Almost over night, he seems to be ready to 'take it to the next level'. Every day he's growing taller and stronger. People are starting to notice his dancing. He's receiving generous SI scholarship offers and attention from companies at YAGP. His classes line up with the suggested hours in the sticky above, but he does not have a dedicated mens class right now. His teacher is very good, and she works in men's technique here and there, mainly in variations class. It's also an RAD studio, so he follows the male syllabus during his syllabus class. Is this "here and there" approach adequate? Is there an age when it becomes less adequate?

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In a perfect world, a schedule for men's classes would pretty much mirror that for pointe classes (better yet, boys and girls would have separate classes). But in the real world, many schools have trouble allocating an hour every day (and paying a teacher) for maybe one or two boys to have men's class. So my advice is to get as close to the ideal as you can in your situation, even if that means a teacher works with him for an hour once a week after one of his regular ballet classes. From there, you will want to try to increase it until he is doing an hour of men's class every day after ballet, if possible. The gender of the teacher is not necessarily important right away--the teacher's ability to teach the steps is paramount. As he gets more experienced, a male teacher might be necessary just because women are not usually called upon to do double tours and that sort of thing in ballet.

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Very often, when I've spoken to professional male dancers (or male dancers in a second company), they tell me they left home around age 15 to study at a conservatory or boarded at a company school. The reason they always give for leaving home is that they needed more male training than they were getting at home.

 

It's on my mind right now because recently my son had the opportunity to take a men's class from a gentleman who was a principal for many years and now teaches the company men. He pulled my son and I aside after class and spoke to us about my son coming to train at their school-- a school on the other side of the country. My son loved this men's class and felt like the gentleman explained some aspects of male technique in a way that my son really understood. Suddenly, I began to realize why a boy might leave home if it meant he'd be able to take these sort of classes on a regular basis.

 

Do you have any thoughts on this, Hans?

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Well, I am one of those who left home at age 16. I went to a ballet school in the small town where I lived, and there were two excellent schools about an hour's drive away in the nearest big city, but I got into a "3-letter" school for summer and ended up going there year-round as a resident. Looking back, I would have received perfectly good (probably better) training at either of the schools in the city, but either way I would have had to leave my hometown school. They just didn't offer men's classes or pas de deux.

 

That's not to say that your son has to go to a school across the country--I would recommend looking at options closer to home first, if getting him to a school in, say, a nearby city each day is a possibility. Or maybe consider a residential program that you don't have to fly to. Fortunately, that sort of thing does tend to be more affordable for boys. But I would say that if he wants to be a professional ballet dancer, and if his current school is not going to offer men's classes or pas de deux, he will have to get that training somewhere else.

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  • 1 year later...

SlHogan,

 

I'm bumping this topic up to see what your advice would be now...having come through it.

 

I'm interested because we are wondering when is the right time for our son to go away. He just turned 14 - has two good male instructors (and several females) but he is the only serious male ballet dancer in his studio (there are two others that are more recreational dancers - one Broadway focused).

 

How important is it to dance among other boys? He is going to an SI with lots of other boys this summer - but just wondering how important being around other boys - and men's classes are during the year?

 

Thx.

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DebinCharleston - slhogan is welcome to offer what her experience is, but not advice. Advice was already given by Hans (a well respected teacher and a moderator).

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Men's classes are nice but the reality is that, depending on your geographic location, the quality just isn't going to be there. My son is one of very few boys in the area. Even fewer are male dance teachers who actually know what they are talking about. I made the decision a long time ago that I would rather have an awesome woman dance teacher for my son who really knows her stuff over a mediocre male teacher any day. My son has had opportunities to train with awesome guy teachers during the past summers, but he remains here at home with his female teacher during the school year until I feel he is mature enough to move into a training situation away from home.

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Dinkalina,

 

You are very wise. From what I hear if boys go away too soon - they can have a bad experience.

 

I count my lucky stars that we have 3 very good male instructors (and 2 very good female instructors) in the area. I just wish there were more boy students....but for now, he is very sought after for productions which makes his head swell :-)

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DS switched from his local school to full-time training at Houston Ballet when he was 15-- about a year-and-a-half after I made the original post. For him personally, he feels that being in a dedicated men's program has been essential to his development as a dancer. He has told me a few times that he wishes he had made the switch one year earlier (about the time I made the original post above), but he feels like his local studio had been fine up to that point. Regardless, he is very happy with training at a large company-affiliated academy, and he intends to continue his training there until he is ready to audition for companies in a few years.

 

However, we're fortunate to live in the Houston Metro area, so HB was easily available to him. Had we not lived near a major dance school, then he would be in a residency program this year.

 

I know what you mean about how being sought for productions can make a boy's head swell! DS often felt that way in his local studio. One of the things he likes about his current school is that he is *not* special-- he's just of average age and average ability in his Level 7 men's group, and Level 7 is the bottom-of-the-totem pole in regards to the company. He has the men in Level 8 (the academy's highest level), HB2, and Company showing him every day that he still has a LOT to learn and perfect. He is not highly sought after-- he has to work his hardest to get noticed and he's appreciative for the small roles he's received. DS says that spending hours every day with male dancers that are better than him has really motivated him, and it makes him work harder than he ever worked before.

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SlHogan,

 

This has been the best advice I've gotten.....and very timely.

 

Our son got accepted into a residence program yesterday (UNCSA). We were here to do SI auditions, we did a tour of the school, the audition was the next day and he got an on the spot acceptance. He met a lot of the male dancers in the hallway and really enjoyed being around other talented boys in the Next Gen audition - and again today for the Houston SI audition I'm sure (the boys here seem to all want to go to Houston this summer, btw...:-)

 

We've been told from a male instructor in our area that if he gets a full scholarship for a good residence program - to consider it, but that he will be fine for the next year (until he is a sophmore) to stay at home but that the MOST important thing, even beyond instructors, is to be around other boys that are at the same or greater level than he is (which is very much in line with what your son says). Our son has none at his home studio. Now we have to weigh the offers along with his maturity level to make a decision - but as I tell myself - there is always next year, and it's not going to screw things up if we wait a year. This same instructor calls our son a prodigy - best he's seen in his 25 years dancing at companies and teaching which puts a lot of pressure on us to make the right decisions......but not a bad problem to have I guess.

 

Oh - and maybe our son will meet yours at Houston (if he does well in the audition today and his big head doesn't hit the wall :-)

 

Deb

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DebinCharleston,

 

For what it's worth here is our experience:

 

Maturity and success in academics were factors we had to consider when deciding when to allow our dancer to leave home. His early training was at a school attached to a company that had a boy's class and a male instructor, also some good female instructors. He moved on from there for another school that was less performance based and more technique driven. The downside then was our dancer was more often than not, the only boy his age at the home studio. He had an amazing male teacher (and an amazing female teacher), but no men's class. He was taught well, given many partnering opportunities, male variations, etc. But there is nothing that can compare to being in a class of 10-20 amazing young men, all dancing because they want to be there.

 

Our dancer went away to his dream school SI and was offered a full-time position at their residential program at age 15. The main teacher of the men's program spoke with DS and I and I voiced my concerns leaving him there at that time, especially with academics. The teacher told me it would be best if DS stayed there dance-wise, but he would "give" our dancer one more year back home but then he needed to come and stay. To be honest, at the time I was wondering how much was "real" and how much was "sales." Well, the year rolled round and the teacher did not forget, called our dancer and asked if he had accomplished all the academics to satisfy Mom's requirements. DS had and let me tell you that was a long hard year academically and dance-wise. He returned for the SI, did the year round audition and is there now.

 

From 10 years of sitting in dance school lobbies, questioning every male dancer we met who would put up with me asking about what their parents did, and from all my reading here, I knew I was making the right choice for our family. We are not raising a dancer, we are raising a young man who happens to dance. (I am ever so grateful to the original poster who said that.)

 

Academically it would not have been good for DS to go away at 15. Maturity-wise it was much better for that last year at home, the opportunity to go grocery shopping, cooking, doing more laundry, trying to be more independent budgeting time for schoolwork...having one more set of holidays....sniff, sniff... :crying:

 

But after almost a year away, I can see that DS's residential teacher was not kidding about the benefits of being at that school's men's program for the extra year. DS has had to work harder than he knew he could. DS's home teacher was always an amazing teacher but he was not very encouraging when we let him know our dancer was leaving. It was very hard emotionally.

 

We live in a city where there is a school attached to a company and a couple legitimate pre-pro schools (their student dancers have had varied degrees of success). But there is no "Men's Program." There is not anything that is like a true men's program. So...our DS is where he should be for now. Hard on Mom, but it's easier knowing he was as prepared as he could be for the unique life of a young dancer away from home.

 

Congratulations on all the successes your son is experiencing!! Best wishes for the journey!

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Tentative,

 

I'm so glad you posted. I'm going through a case of severe sniffles this morning. :sweating:

 

We had a weekend at UNCSA with SI auditions and checking out the campus. He had the opportunity to dance with good male dancers for the first time and he loved it and was very motivated by it. I know that it's the right direction but I'm not ready. I think he might be - but I'm not! I can't believe I'm saying that since he is your typical mouthy teenage boy that thinks I know nothing - but we have bonded over dance and I'm sad.

 

I can see him thriving at a residential school - he has 3 sisters at home within 20 months of age from him - and he needs to be around other boys. So - I told him the decision is his to make. I don't think it will make or break him to go this year but I know that if he doesn't go this year - then next year is inevitable. (I didn't think this would be this hard - sniffle). The other reason why it makes sense is that my husband can't drive (he has a brain injury) so it's a lot of pressure for me to drive him and his other siblings to their various activities and work. (I'm not doing a great job of it).

 

How far away is your son? The closest residential school for us is 4.5 hours (I drove it last night) - next closest is 7 hours (with host family and outside school - not a one stop shop but a fabulous instructor) and then 8 hours away. Is your son close? How important is that?

 

Deb

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Deb,

 

I bet UNCSA was amazing. We actually know a few (older) successful dancers who came out of that program. Sounds like he will have some exciting choices after the SI whirlwind. Lots of research to do and it sounds like you are both doing that!!

 

Having DS leave was a huge adjustment but it has gotten easier...a little bit, anyway. I dropped him back after his break and only blubbed once and only for a couple seconds in the grocery-store we stopped at to stock up his tiny pantry. There still are moments, though...

 

But we've fallen into a routine at home and he's good about keeping us aware of what's up. Understand about "bonding over dance." DS and I always talked dance. I was a dance lover before children. He was always good with me watching him. He's my child that likes to talk so he will call me at odd times and we will dissect variations, professionals, companies. His sibling is also a dancer...but does not want to discuss. At all. DS will call his dad when I'm not home at they will talk "guy stuff" so that's cool.

 

How difficult being the solo driver in the family! I'm sure you are doing a fine job. Driving a dancer can be a full-time job, so if his being at a residential program eases your mileage or being pulled in too many directions that will be a good thing, especially if you know he is happy. I've had more one on one with my other dancer this year...an unexpected plus. We do NOT talk about dance, but there have been some other moments that I have been grateful for.

 

Is he close? NO. DS is 2-4 hours by plane and 12-14 hours by car. Hmmmm...."How important is that?" I am truly, truly envious of slhogan's proximity to HBA's men's program. Jealous, jealous, green-eye'd monster jealous. :green: But it's been worth it. We could never have provided the experiences he's had this year. He could have had different ones, but not these. Academically it is not a "one stop shop" but well monitored and we were prepared for that. It was a case of the "roots and wings" theory. We had given the roots, the wings just came a little faster than we originally planned.

 

Just take it one breath at a time.

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Tentative,

 

How did things go at your home studio when your son left?

 

We are going through some heartburn right now. For the first few days, we didn't tell his AD about his acceptance to the program - the last boy that went away was put through some fairly emotional stuff at the hands of the AD (to the point that his mother no longer talks to him - bad blood) - she didn't tell the AD because she knew that was likely. I decided to be honest and tell his AD and ask him for his advice - we are very grateful for what he has done for our son over the past year.

 

Well - instead of talking to us, he took our son aside last night and told him that he doesn't think he has the confidence in his dancing yet to go away and that UNCSA isn't a well-respected dance program. He did this without including us in the conversation which I wasn't happy about.

 

After being overjoyed about his acceptance to a full-time program, our son was so confused last night - he said that he didn't want to go and asked me my opinion. I told him that it's his decision but that we should get some other opinions about his readiness and the program. On Saturday a well-respected [...] men's program director in the U.S. told us after seeing our son that it's important that he dance around other boys [....] We are going to talk to him more to clarify this as it's an important decision. Last night I told my son that I would call UNCSA and put the application on hold and he said not to do that and that he wanted to go shadow a student at UNCSA but he doesn't want to tell his AD.

 

I know that when I saw our son around other accomplished boys this weekend - I have never seen him happier or dancing with so much joy and focus. My gut tells me that it's important as much as my heart would love him to stay at home. And my gut also tells me that his AD is not ready to let him go but would love others perspective on how things went with their AD when they left for a full-time program.

 

I am going to call the small company in our state to see if our son could somehow dance with their male dancers somehow.....maybe that is the compromise for the next year?

 

Deb

Edited by GTLS Designs
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