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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Change school over flooring? WWYD?


littlekiki

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Hi, I'm new.



I'm a mom to a very young "dancer" and she is completely obsessed. All she ever talks about is ballet. If she isn't practicing, she is watching ballet clips online. I think she's watched Swan Lake on DVD at least a dozen of times start to finish. Her goal in life is to dance on pointe as soon as possible and to be a professional dancer. Well, you get the picture. We're not taking her passion all that seriously since she is only three and like most young children, her interests come and go (we're still hoping that she'd take to soccer or music) but just in case it sticks, I want to make sure that we are at a good studio.



Her current school has been around for 20+ years and it has produced a number of professional dancers. We like this studio very much and feel very at home there but there is one major problem - their floor isn't sprung (and they put girls as young as 9 on pointe but that's for another thread and I don't have to worry about that for now). I've read through past articles about their program and graduates and it seems like some but not all of them suffered serious injuries that required surgery. Of course, I can't be sure that the problems are due to their flooring (and/or being on pointe too young) as injuries are common among ballet dancers but still, it makes me wonder why a studio that has their dancers train for 20+ hours a week would not install sprung floors in their relatively small space. How can they ignore such an important safety issue?



My DD adores her current teacher who is by all means wonderful. DD has also made a couple of good friends. I hate to move her but if she is going to be doing this long-term, I don't want to risk injuries or back problems. Right now for her, it's only a matter of doing pre-ballet for 30 minutes a week so I don't think it's an urgent matter but we have two other studios where we live that have sprung floor.



Am I being overreacting? Should we just ignore the flooring and stay where we are until DD is old enough to start more rigorous training? A part of me thinks I'm being ridiculous given her age but another part of me wants her at a school that is doing what they can to protect their students from injuries as soon as possible.



I am clueless when it comes to ballet so any insights would be much appreciated!

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As you've stated, she's 3. So what we can expect from 3 years olds is that they like to play and dream. Some like to play with things like dolls or blocks, some like to run and twirl, and some like to imitate dance and dancers. I'm not sure I've ever heard of a 3 year old having goals for their life because at 3, that is not what their brain is developed to understand.

 

With that stated, at 3, she is also just entering the world of pre-dance and therefore is fine at any studio that is a safe place for her. At her age, sprung floors is not really a concern because ballet at that age is simply exposure and interaction. You have time to look for a studio that fits your needs while she still enjoys classes for fun. But yes, one of the requirements for a studio later in her years is that there is not a long line of injuries that you know of. Injuries happen but if the list is long enough to warrant concern then that's worth a look elsewhere.

 

Relax and enjoy your toddler. There will be time later for hopes and dreams regarding ballet. Right now, it's time to allow that to simply be a way to play.

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If I would have known what I know now when my daughter was three, I would have changed in a heartbeat. My DD's old school claimed to have alumni who entered college dance programs and danced professionally and such. Now I know their dancers entered low quality programs, and that any professional work done was far, far away from professional ballet. My DD was put on pointe at 9. She danced on linoleum floors. Her school had been around 20+ years. They spun a lovely story of how wonderful they were, but now I know better. When we moved to her pre pro school, she was far behind. She didn't know technique or French terms or anything! For years, I'd been paying unreal amounts of money for ballet only to learn she wasn't receiving a true ballet education! It is my biggest regret in life. She has had to work very, very hard to catch up and make up for years of bad training.

 

Your DD is only three. She may or may not pursue ballet. BUT, you NEVER KNOW. So find a good school now. Don't wait and waste the early years. True ballet training begins at the age of five, so you have two years to find a good school.

 

Questions to ask:

1. Are the floors sprung / marley?

2. Is the school connected to a professional ballet company or an RDA (Regional Dance America) company?

3. What curriculum does the school teach (Vaganova, Cechetti, RAD, etc.)? I would make sure they at least can tell one or a mix. I don't think DD's old school even had a curriculum!

4. Do they teach the French terms and expect students to know them by the time they are older?

5. What kind of professional careers did their teachers have in the past?

6. What type of productions do they put on? I would avoid a school that is all about recitals with cute costumes every year (or twice a year in my DD's case). I would look for a school that at a minimum puts on the Nutcracker, or is affiliated with a company that puts on the Nutcracker and other ballets.

7. Do their dancers go to (get into) well known summer intensives? Do they go on to dance professionally in ballet companies?

 

I wish I would have known to ask these things when my DD was three! Our current pre pro school doesn't start till five, but I would have had her there if I would have known then what I know now. She may choose something else in the end, but at least you know that you're giving her the best training you can when the foundation is being built. As Momof3Darlings states, she is only three, so you have time, but if she still wants to take ballet when she is five, at least you're now armed with information to make sure you find a quality school for her.

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Welcome, littlekiki! I remember when my DD was 3 and in the Joy of Movement classes. It's such a sweet time for the little ones. But, yes, they can---and do---get hooked at such an early age.

 

My thought at the time was to put my DD in a ballet class because I had enjoyed them when I was little. I knew my alma mater had a community school and I had college friends that recommended the school. So, that's where I enrolled her. In fact, I really put her in her dance class so that she would have other peers to be around, as she was our only (at the time) and was always around adults. When I didn't sign her up for the summer session----thinking we'd hang at the pool----she cried and cried, so I asked the teacher to let us know if a spot opened up. She laughed and told me to bring her on over. DD has not stopped dancing (well, for awhile due to ankle surgeries, but that's another topic). I was lucky that that school just happened to be the best school in the area for training at the time. But it was merely serendipitous that we started there.

 

At any rate, I would agree with Momof3darlings that at age 3, the idea is really to expose the child to dance and let them have fun, without focusing on dance as a potential career. At age 3,---and for many years thereafter---the guiding thought process should be about the child's enjoyment and exposure to many opportunities and activities, not whether she will be a professional dancer or not.

 

The general consensus of our esteemed Teacher-Moderators and Teacher members is that formal ballet training does not actually begin until approximately age 8. Prior to that, the classes are simply 'Joy of Movement' and pre-ballet classes, i.e., general movement classes that help the itty-bitties learn gross movements, light stretching, learn directions, learn group dynamics, learn how to focus a bit, learn how to respond to commands, both verbal and otherwise (claps, e.g.), learn to use space, and develop co-ordination.

 

So, for now, I would agree with Momof3 that the flooring is not likely to cause issues---right now. BUT, if there is a more appropriate school or venue (and I believe you are in a city with a very well-known school), you might want to check into it. At age 3, friendships are easily made (and forgotten), so if she does, in fact, have that ballet bug, it would be easier to move now than to agonize over it later when it is much more difficult emotionally for both her and you.

 

In our Finding a Pre-Pro School Forum (http://dancers.invisionzone.com/index.php?showforum=155) , we have threads arranged alphabetically (first by state, then by area or city) that may help you locate an appropriate school or check out yours.

 

In addition, this Pinned Thread may be useful in helping you evaluate schools as you look: http://dancers.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=2529 It is in reference to year-round residencies, but many of the attributes to look for would also apply to home schools, as well.

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I have to agree with Momof3darlings. At this point, ballet is about having fun, moving and developing an imagination. Enjoy this time in her life because there will be plenty to worry about later if her interest continues.

 

When older DD was three and begging for class, at that time, there were few places who actually had classes for students that age, so I picked one that was close to home, reasonably priced, and developmentally appropriate. It certainly was not a pre-pro ballet school, and I really didn't care about sprung floors, professional graduates, or well-known teachers. At this age, my main concerns were that she was in a safe, nurturing environment and that she was having fun. By five, she was "done" with ballet and dance.

 

Two years later, after seeing Nutcracker, she wanted to go back. At that point, I did look for a better school, and picked the best in the area (within a 15 minute drive). However, she eventually outgrew that school, too, and she was almost twelve when we enrolled her in a well-known pre-pro that has many of the qualities that backstagemom mentions.

 

My younger DD did not even start ballet until she was older (pre-ballet at 6 and 7) and formal training at 8. For four years, she was also a competitive gymnast, and everyone thought she was just taking class to help her in gymnastics. Fast forward to this summer, when she attended a summer intensive, decided to "retire" from gymnastics and has been cleared for pointe. No one saw that coming! My point is that we often can't predict what our kids will do from one year to the next, so we take it one year at a time and whenever possible, enjoy the ride :) .

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While the floor may not be an issue at age 3, one of the things you might want think about is having her make a transition when she's older. If she is still dancing at age 7 or 8, it might be more difficult for her to leave her friends and teachers she will have known for 4-5 years. If there is another studio in your area that you feel provides more quality training in a safer environment, I would make the move while your DD is young. If your current studio is the best in your area and you would have to make a long commute to another studio that you consider a better fit, you might want to stay put for a while longer. Sometimes that passion doesn't go away. My DD begged for dance lessons at age 3 and has always loved it. Nine years later, I still keep offering up golf and tennis lessons to no avail.

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I wholeheartedly agree that at 3, it's all about the fun and music and movement so no need to switch *but* I also completely agree with the "what if she's been bitten by the ballet bug" sentiments..! At 3 the likelihood of this being her true passion and something she will stick with for life is very small, but it exists. Mine was begging since long before she was allowed (they have to be 3 here) to take ballet and I always thought it would be like princesses etc, something cute she would do for a while and then outgrow at 5 or 6. She's almost 12 now and has been dancing at least 4 days/week for the past few years now, more with rehearsals! ;)

I will definitely say that I am so glad we started at this studio. Unknowingly, we came to the only studio in town that teaches "real" ballet and goes on to follow a pre-pro schedule once actual ballet training begins at age 7/8. I knew nothing about dance and could have just as easily been at a Dolly Dinkle, not realized it until a year or two ago when I really started to become much more interested in the more intricate dealings of ballet (and found this forum).

We didn't have to make a difficult switch but I have read tons of stories here about how hard that can be on the kids (and thus parents!).

So, if I was in your situation and knew there was a better option.... I would make the switch now before it becomes much harder. She may not want to do ballet next year, she may stick with it until she's in high school, she may end up a professional.... you just never know, but it's always worth it to have the best opportunities you can, and that includes starting them out right, right from the start.

 

Basically, exactly what Mama2Mary said but with my own experience mixed in, LOL! ;)

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My DD is 11 and started at our studio just a few weeks after her 4th birthday. it is her home away from home and if I had to switch schools it would be quite upsetting.

 

Just food for thought but if you are already feeling uneasy about the facilities it may be worth it to move now rather than when she is older and more attached!

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Thank you everyone for taking the time to respond to my seemingly “silly” question. Yes, she is only 3 and our aim is definitely not to raise a dancer but to raise a well-adjusted child who feels loved and supported by her parents.

 

So when she insisted on ballet lessons, I too thought it was all about pink tutus and leotards so I signed her up at a school near-by that had a weekday class. They used to take students five and older and when they lowered the age to 3, I don’t think they changed their curriculum to accommodate younger children; although her pre-ballet class is open to 3 year olds, most students are 5 and it’s more ballet than pre-ballet with proper terminology, positions, and steps. It is very difficult for DD to do just about anything right but she loves every second of it.

 

I now see that there are two separate issues here. First, is her current class an appropriate placement for her right now? I think the class is a little too advanced for her but she isn’t disruptive and she adores the teen-age teaching assistant who is as sweet as can be and as I mentioned earlier, the instructor is amazing so yes, we’ll most likely stay put for awhile. Secondly, is this the right school for her long-term? The flooring issue aside, they are one of the two options we have (the 3rd school has 400+ students and that sounds just a little too overwhelming to me). I can’t predict where the current school would be in 5 years, let alone in 10. AD might decide to retire (he’s it as far as teaching goes for serious students) or they might move to a fabulous new location. So I’d worry about that if and when DD crosses that bridge. The other school is relatively new but their pre-ballet class is for 3 to 4 year olds so we might give that a try for a session to see how that goes.

 

Thank you again for sharing your experiences and giving me much needed advice and perspective. I never imagined I’d be a ballet mom and it feels strange to be one and looking at the tuition schedule for advanced students makes me want to run while we can. I’ll get used to it eventually, I’m sure. For now, I’ll happily watch DD fall asleep to the same ballet bedtime story every night; it involves her becoming a real ballerina and dancing the role of Plum Sugar Fairy.

Edited by littlekiki
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I think you are taking this waaaay too seriously. My eldest dd is 15 and is a serious dancer. She has attended prestigious Summer Programs and performed next to famous dancers. She strted ballet at 9. When she was three she was really into garbage trucks and playing "sick doll", And making cookies, and eating them. That did not make me a "truck mom" or the mom of a doctor, or anything. There was no need to start researching med schools or cooking classes. She also took tap, played soccer, took drawing classes, etc. You will drive yourself crazy if you take their every interest this seriously.

 

She is 3! Really I think your best bet is to go to the place closest to your home that has a class for 3 year olds. Buy her the cheapest ballet shoes and the cutest leo and let it be. She may be into watching that ballet video another 2000 times, or she may start yammering for a dragon video next. There's no way to tell, and it's nuts to take a three year olds whims super seriously.

 

Sorry for the rant, and I mean no disrespect, but I have heard conversations in lobbies that made me cringe and I can see where this is going. :-)

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Lemlemish :clapping: !! As a counterpoint but also in agreement, when my DD was three, she hated "anything girly" and probably would have had a tantrum if I even suggested ballet! LOL Her only goal in life was to become a "kittycat dentist" How she managed to not have holes in her hands from the numerous times she pried open our cat's mouths I'll never know! Now her entire focus is ballet. Me?, I'm hoping for a vet dental specialist! LOL I hear the specialists can do really well! :P

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I agree that it is premature to make too much of a 3yr old's love of tutus and dance. However my DD is only 11 and has stated that she wants to be a professional ballerina. Technically I am premature posting here as well... at 11 what kid really knows what they want to be when they grow up? But this is a great forum for learning and asking questions and learning about what is coming next and what to expect IF my child stays on her current path.

 

While I am premature in learning about dance colleges and auditions and finishing school and PE requirements from my school district and about juggling school work and dance etc etc etc...with out this forum I would be completely in the dark. I never danced nor do I know any dancers.

 

I would hate for a parent to feel that they are not welcome to ask questions here. This has been a wonderful resource for me and I hope it will be for littlekiki and all the other parents of an aspiring 3 yr old ballerina.

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Im with Noodles. The purpose of this board is to help with ballet related questions, which the question was. She received some good advice- namely that many little girls DO continue their love for ballet, and switching to a studio with proper floors (and everything else) is easier sooner than later.

 

Some if the other replies have been (in my opinion) exclusionary and uncalled for.

 

I cant think of another kid at dds studio who hasnt been dancing since 2 or 3. Not one. She is very much the odd duck picking it up at 11. I imagine any current parent of a 11 + year old dancer would say they wish they knew then all they knew now. Which is what makes this board so great!

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Moderator's Hat on: I don't think anyone was being disrespectful or intended to be. The OP asked for advice and she has received it. I think if the replies are read with the view that no offense was intended, one will see some humor and tongue-in-cheek in some of the replies. Please do not send this thread off-course by discussing the discussion. :wink:

 

Parent's Hat on: The child is 3 years old. Their whims, wishes, and aspirations change, sometimes daily, sometimes after they have explored subject thoroughly or until some else 'shiny' catches their eye. Sometimes some whims, wishes, and aspirations become lifetime interests, lots more times---not.

 

The advice, various viewpoints, and perspectives have all been useful and offered in friendship and humor. Please accept them as offered, accept them or discard them, but please do not look for offense. :)

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