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private lessons - Why would they be banned?


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Lots of different perspectives here. Studio space, time, different or contrary instruction.... I see these as valid reasons for a studio to "ban" privates. I don't understand the equity part... just me, I guess. Each family must determine the resources they can commit to extra curricular activities. I would definitely have a serious problem if someone tried to tell me how to spend my money on my child ... because not everyone in the studio could do the same.

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  • Victoria Leigh


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.....would go hand-in-hand with Ms. Leigh's long-repeated opinion that privates should only be necessary for specific issues, not a general course of learning


I tend to agree with this. We started privates to prepare for an SI, as DD was weak in areas that the SI school seems to emphasize (we were a little surprised she was accepted). The instructor we went to was absolutely fabulous and faithful in developing a curriculum to address the areas we had requested. However, she is so wonderful, that now we are reluctant to give her up! She comes into every lesson with a plan to address something specific, and she is able to break corrections down into very small, specific things. In all the years that DD's been taking ballet, I've never heard any of her instructors be able to break down their corrections so precisely, but I understand that's more difficult when you're trying to watch 15 dancers instead of focusing on just one. The instructor is so warm and supporting, and DD has made a notable progression under her tutelage, thus we decided to try to continue semi-regular privates for as long as we can.

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DD has used privates to zone in on corrections she learned/ heard in class and for a solo piece. in our studio Privates are not used much, mostly for solos for auditions etc. I have heard many studios prefer to keep the learning / playing field equal.


In my personal opinion this is what privates are for, for a dancer, including my DD, they must be able to make corrections for themselves.

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In my dd's pre/pro, there is what is called an early conference which happens a little earlier than a normal conference. Generally the bottom third of every level get called for an early conference. It is generally held to inform a dk's parents of an issue that might prevent their dk from being asked back or continuing at the school.


This is usually the impetus for people seeking the "contraband" private as they want an assessment or intervention to figure out if it something they can turnaround for their dk.


In this school, dk's that are more self-directed and focused tend to do better, as they apply corrections after only being told once maybe twice. If it takes longer to apply corrections the instructor will stop correcting as frequently or move on. So these dk's are likely the ones to get the early conference and thus benefit from one on one privates. There are more "touches" and thus they benefit.


If the self-directed dk, is also ultra competitive and taking privates they are unstoppable, however this could be dangerous to the class/level as a whole. Why? My own opinion is that the working premise is that each dk is getting the same instruction, and that no one is taking outside instruction. Therefore everyone should be theoretically very close in ability and skill. If someone is taking outside classes and is now really excelling in class and moving quickly ahead they are in effective enhancing their performance which in my view could be dangerous for other kids in the class trying to keep up, hurting their confidence as they ask the question why is it that they can do this so much better than I. It can also hurt them as they can injure themselves trying to keep up. It isn't as drastic as taking steroids in professional sports, but it basically has the same upside/downside.


In our school dk's are certainly more even in abilities and skills than most schools so it makes it not is so much a stretch for this to occur. Of course the outlier is when someone new comes from outside, but everyone in the class can understand why it they might be doing better.


My dd doesn't do privates, but we learned that at least half and maybe up to 60% do. Ceecee, made a good point. You spend on privates to keep up the pace with the dk's who can do well without them. At the same time you should be aware as a parent that other kids doing privates can hurt your dk's confidence or result in injury if they assume that everyone is getting the same level of instruction.

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Yes, there have been so many good points made here!


I also completely agree with the person who mentioned that in the professional world one really seldom gets the sorts of corrections one does during school, and if one has "relied" on private lessons to get an "edge", then one is potentially lacking this skill later on.


There has also been mentioned the possibility of injury, which is very real and quite common for growing bodies doing full loads of physical work, not to mention the additional stress of academic studies, which also require a great deal of discipline and concentration. So, sometimes added private lessons could be "the last straw" leading to such an injury.


I can understand a parent wanting desperately to give their child a "head start", or in some way try to assure that she/he "makes it".

In a school and later a company the dancer works very closely with many others. There is rivalry, but usually it is not cut-throat and it makes life much better if one can get along well with everyone. Sometimes this is indeed easier if it does not appear as if someone has been given (due to parental financial superiority or whatever) a "better chance" than someone else. It is hard enough that the "playing field" is not really level when it comes to so many other factors. :)


Just my thoughts. Trying to sort through this in my mind, too.



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I don't necessarily agree with the thought that if everyone is getting the same instruction and the same corrections, they will all progress at the same rate.


Some are natural turners. Some are natural leapers. Students will also grow and mature at different rates. The physical and mental growth and maturity will affect their progress.


Of course, the taking privates to get ahead is another ball of wax entirely. But who is to say that one's motivation is get ahead when the motivation may very well be to just be the best one can be. Isn't the goal of every dancer?


Privates are not banned where my dd dances nor are they common place. There simply is not enough time for the instructors or the teachers. Still, the rare times when dd has taken a private, it has benefited both her and the entire class. Generally, what ever it is that she worked on in her private lesson, whatever the magic cure was, ends up being shared by the teacher and taught to the entire class.

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I guess it's important to remember that not everyone lives in a major metropolitan area with a state-of-the-art ballet school and a bevy of other kids to fill a structured leveled class system. I don't live in Miami or Houston or Seattle or NYC or Boston. . . not even close.


In our area there are simply not enough serious dancers to support the kind of programs that you are talking about. Even the most "advanced" dancers only want to take class 3-4 times per week. In order for my DD to get a really basic # of classes (as in an hour technique 5 times per week) we have to add privates. .. and it is expensive. And my dd is too young for a residential program.


Also, I have to say that I bristle a bit at the thought that a student's "getting too good" might endanger the others and that private lessons are the only way for this to happen? What if a student practices at home or in the studio and gets better? And bruising confidence of others by taking private lessons? Would not a student who is simply more talented than the others just as easily do this and is this somehow the talented dancer's fault because everyone doesn't have this?


Just not my view of how excellence unfolds. . .certainly does not happen by a dancer keeping his talent, skill, and drive "in check."


However, I do believe that the intense private lessons, the overlearning of YAGP variations, and other "tricks" may absolutely inflate the egos of dancers who really are not company ready and think that they are. It may be easy to confuse opportunities, paid for my willing parents, with true talent and skill.

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Some of the discussion here about privates being an "unfair advantage" reminds me of back in the day when I was playing softball in a local rec league. Our team had pretty much dominated the league for a few years, and someone on another team once remarked to us: "yeah, but you guys only win because you practice!" :3dnod:


Like learningdance commented, we do not all have access to state of the art facilities and world famous teachers. We send our kids to SI's and privates so that they can keep up with the kids getting trained at pre-pro schools affiliated with major companies.

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Many good points... There seems to be a thread running through some of the comments that privates are not fair to those who cannot afford them or don't have access to them, therefore they should not be available to anyone. Kids are not made equal. Like someone said... some are natural turners, jumpers or have natural flexibility or musicality. Seems to me that holding a child back just so they can stay with the group is just wrong.

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I don't see the issue that someone will get better because of time put in as someone several posts up mentioned. Certainly time, with talent will make you better but time is not the end all be all. Neither is a private situation, it can be the reverse of a good thing when a child can't handle those things so greatly pointed for 30 minutes or 1 hour as deficiencies. I see it more as what can happen within a school IF privates become the barometer by which anything is measured. It can become icky. An example, is a nice school who began offering privates. First, you had to be invited to have them. Then the teacher/owner saw how much money she could make by encouraging more to take them. So everyone had one reason or another they needed to take them. Then casting became less about who deserved it, but who put in the most time. This because those who didn't take privates were considered "not as serious" and only "serious" students got lead part.


I would think that most schools who ban privates would be doing so because of the conflict of teaching style and method that might be used. Nothing like taking privates from a well regarded teacher who forces turnout during those privates, or uses a different style of teaching which creates problems in the students of which port de bra is correct, or where the leg is supposed to be in arabesque. Little things that can affect training.


I'm not going to tell any parent not to do what they think is best. But what I will say is that simply because you're not in a big area with well known teachers does not mean that your instruction will not take you from point a to b. This from one whose DD did not attend a big school even though there was one nearby and who can count many, many other dancers she and I know who followed the same path without the extra pressure of privates and YAGP. They are in companies large and small all over the US. Good instruction is good instruction.

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I don't know which way is better. However, I believe the best practice is to basically follow the rules of the school. If the school prohibits privates they must have their reasons and if it a well established school they determined that they are bad or don't work on many levels.


In our student/parent handbook they mention that risk of injury is an issue as they are already pushing the kids really hard, and also that technique they teach is very specific. If you are getting privates that are actually counterproductive or "un developing" a dk in a way that the school is consciously building up, this could actually backfire and lead to an early exit.


I speculated, that where the school has a policy that prohibits privates and many are flouting the rules this could lead to confidence issues in other kids or even cause them to injure themselves because dk's are attempting to keep up. I brought this up, and it is just pure speculation on my part, based on my own personal experience and comparing notes with other parents.


Believe me there are plenty of things that are utilized to get an edge, acting, ice skating, gymnastics, mime, trapeze lessons etc. it isn't that these are taboo and you pursue at your own risk. But, it seems to be more limited to additional ballet instruction.


This particular pre/pro school is making an substantial investment in all of the kids they train (not just dk's on scholarship), effectively 100% of the kids that attend are on scholarship, as they only pay a fraction of what the training actually costs. With that, these rules ultimately are protecting their investment.


Other schools embrace and encourage privates and I am sure it is their philosophy and it works for them, their students and their business model.


I don't think breaking the rules should be encouraged especially if they are in place to keep dk's from harm, and I don't think it is realistic to say that this works in the majority of the schools. Especially as each has their own model for success.

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  • 3 months later...

My daughter does privates with our director before a big audition . Or right before she left for SI last summer between our local SI She also did some when she was coming off an injury more so for myself to see that she was "ok". I see nothing wrong with taking them as each parent and dancer feels necessary/wants/can afford. I am a photographer and recently traded a professional dancer (male) a shoot for 3 partnering privates. A great trade! Everyone's path is different!

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As kind of an added observation after another half year of regular classes, a lot of kids that I am aware take privates, open classes. In addition, to an already intense dance program, do accelerate, but they are also substantially more at risk for injuries, over use and really nagging cascading compensation injuries.


I start to see them spending significant time not dancing as they recoup and heal and don't end up being that far ahead.


Makes me think of the tortoise and the hare.

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Lol, ask me that question in two weeks as I am about to find out, at least the first part of what is apparently a three part question.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Foolhardy for me to even imagine whether the tortoise vs. hare question could be put to bed... Had our early conference and basically got a series of corrections that I suppose might be the catalyst for seeking out a private or training/conditioning regimen, or other alternative.

Her instructors said that dd has a beautiful body, lovely leg and a lovely foot. She is keeping up strength wise and precision on barre. When it comes to center she is fragile, she lacks the muscle strength to move through the following connected exercises (tendu, plié, releve, balance, down) smoothly, solidly. The attack in her muscles, is lacking. Her muscles are soft, she is lacking a little in energy. Specifically, the energy she has on barre she needs to bring to center.

Her feet are beautiful and has no trouble getting up on pointe, but her whole body it seems is not supportive of her pointe work. Balance is fine.

Facility is beautiful, but sequences of movements I.e. pique turn down pique turn on one foot is an issue. She can do each exercise on her own, but putting these three exercises and other combinations together in a movement shows her weakness.

They acknowledged that her strength greatly improved over the Summer and in the beginning of the year they were astounded, that being said in the context of what is required to get to the next level she needs to incorporate this correction. She also missed a lot of classes primarily due to her ".", and it was apparently adding to the issue, as she likely missed classes helping to develop this more. It would seems that she has fallen off since the beginning of the year and I am at a loss for answers.

So, my job is to help her figure this out, one way is to work through gyrotonics, another is for her to work on it more at home, another is to go for private(s), sports psychologist.... or all of the above.

One thing that struck me is would hypermobility explain why she might also be struggling with this?

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