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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Excellent Training--What To Look For In A Program?


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As I read through the many excellent discussions, one common theme is finding the best possible school for one's dancing child to ensure he/she receives excellent training. Realizing this is a somewhat subjective area, I am still posing the questions: What exactly constitutes an excellent pre-professional program? How does one actually go about analyzing a program? What are some objective criteria to use when deciding upon a program? My DK has been with a pre-pro program almost since the start of her training. Can her program really be considered a pre-pro program if none of the graduates have found work as a professional dancer (bearing in mind the school is only about 9-10 years old)? Should a program be judged on whether or not students participate in YAGP and NYCDA? What about SIs. Does it matter where the students get accepted or is that more a matter of prestige and bragging rights? Should the AD and/or the instructors have years of professional performance experience? Does performance experience really matter when teaching dance?


I look forward to reading your responses.

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A start would be to take a look at our general guidelines to see if the number of training hours is comparable. We understand that many a strong program does not have this total number, but it is simply a start to questioning if your program is close:


Clara76's Training Guidelines


The thing to remember is by definition, Pre-professional should mean that the training in the program is quality enough that it takes the child from student to professional in ballet if the student brings to the table everything that is needed in addition to that quality training. However, many a school has slapped the label Pre-pro on themselves as a marketing tool. So whether, by definition, that is true is individual, unfortunately.


It is possible for a school of 10 years to already have professional graduates. In fact, DDs school was like that. It was 10 years old when we began attending and had already had several classes of dancers to go on and dance professionally before we got there. Key to that a school that is 10 years old does not necessarily mean that the oldest students in the school are 10-13. If it attracted a student 10 years ago who was already 8, then that student would now be 18. See what I mean? A good team of teachers is a good team of teachers.


A program should not be judged on whether they attend competitions of any sort. That is an extra to training. Also, YAGP entry is one thing. NYCDA is more of a competition jazz thing but some ballet schools might enter to allow their students to practice prior to YAGP. The students should be auditioning for SIs and gaining entrance into some of the top ones. If as a group, they are not, then this might be a red flag. I do note that some schools don't allow their students to audition until a certain point, but in general if they do then they should be being admitted in some regard. Yes, there are some bragging rights to that but there is also some truth to it as well.

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Cluelessballetparent, your questions are all part of the things that constitute a pre-pro program.


The teaching quality is still the top priority, and the quantity of classes also becomes more and more important as the students become teens. The quality of teaching is not just about the teacher being able to give a good class, but also about the ability to communicate, to know and understand the students and have the ability to help them learn and grow and develop into the best dancer they can be. Most of us do not have rooms full of "Balanchine Bodies", and that is by no means the only, or even main, criteria for developing a dancer. Sometimes it can even be a detriment, depending on the dancer's personality, focus, and work ethic. Personally, I love the challenge of working with a student who has the desire, intelligence, commitment, focus, and work ethic, but not the "perfect body". The teacher needs to care, not just give classes. The only students who do not get my total attention are those who are lazy. If they don't work, accept the corrections and really work on them, then I will only go so far in trying. But they are told that up front. My patience wears thin very quickly with lazy, as there is just no place for that in the ballet world.


Turning out dancers who remain in the field, hopefully professonal dancers, but at least those who continue and get accepted in very good college programs and those who maybe go into other dance forms or areas of performing, teaching, creating, etc., is important. Nine or ten years is still a relatively young school, but one would think that from a very good school there might have been some who went on in the field.


I don't think that competitions are necessary, however, I do think that getting accepted and going to good SI programs is very important. If students are in a pre-pro school I would expect most of them to audition, get accepted and go. It not a matter of bragging rights and prestige, it is an important part of their training.


There are excellent teachers who have had a good professional career, and also there excellent teachers who, for various reasons, did not have that career. And of course there are teachers who did or did not have it who are not excellent teachers. I do believe that performing experience, if that experience connects to also being a person who has studied and absorbed all of the technique, the hows, the whys, the whens, the theory, the vocabulary, and has the type of intelligence and ability to transfer it, can be a great asset in teaching, especially for those in the upper levels of training. But, that is also why the SI programs are important.


Just my thoughts early in the day with just the second cup of coffee and also watching Wimbledon! I hope that is helpful. There is a topic on Finding a Good Pre-Pro Program, though. Have you discovered that one yet? I will come back later and see if I can find it, but right now, Wimbledon is taking presidence! :)


Editing to add that I was busy typing, between points, and did not see Momof 3's post come in. Totally agree with her excellent advice!

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