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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Thinking outside the "box" or just plain crazy?

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I am in need of some collective thinking and am soliciting opinions, experience and advice from BT4D. This is a long-term decision for me and I am thinking about August and the start of next year for my DK.


I have a DK (about to be 14), who has attended a pre-pro school in a rural area for 7 years. DK is committed to a life in the arts, for sure -- classical ballet, if at all possible. We both understand the luck, work and time such a career would require. DK seems to have some amount of facility, talent and training classical ballet would require.


BUT. This DK is what I would classify as a "late bloomer" -- takes the slow, careful, measured approach to just about everything in life. And DK tells me of frustration with current school due to training issues. Although the school currently is in transition, I believe the main contention is actually a difference in the approach to training. The school trains hard, fast and intensely -- more of a "boil" atmosphere. DK is more of a "slow cooker." So, in DK's eyes, the school seems impatient with DK's progress. This is NOT a rant against the school -- they have been successful and currently have some dancers who can give them the instantaneous gratification they seem to crave/want, DK is just not one of them (at least at this time of DK's development - perhaps never, I don't know).


We are a close-knit family, and my primary objective is to keep the family and siblings together as long as possible, so I'm reluctant to allow my DK to go off to a residential program with a (possibly) different training atmosphere at this point -- although in another year my decision might be different. Notice I'm not "dead set" against this idea, just reluctant. It is my belief that my "slow cooker" would benefit from at least another year within the family environment.


However, the current pre-pro school environment is frustrating both of us, and (more importantly) DK questions whether the training is what DK (personally) needs. There is not another pre-pro school within easy (hour) driving distance.


So -- am I crazy to be contemplating a year of private coaching? Is this possible? Advisable? Ridiculous? :nixweiss: . I'm really looking for collective thoughts on this. Has anyone else considered this option? Experienced it? What should I be thinking about?


And Mods -- if this should be in "cross talk" -- please move. I was unsure where to post. I chose here, since I spend a great deal of time lurking through the threads on how to find the right pre-pro fit for your DK.

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Eligus, is the private coaching in addition to training at the school, or instead of? Is your DK female or male? (Not that important, except I think there is often a difference in maturity, in terms of being ready for a residency program or not.) Since we consider ballet as a "slow boil" training, I don't think that being a "slow cooker" is necessarily a problem. If they are trying to push the student too far too fast, that is not necessarily a good thing. And since you indicated a rural school, I'm thinking that, ultimately, a residency program may be something you will need to look into. Where is your DK at this point in terms of SI programs? Attended in prior summers, or just starting out this summer? What has been the experience there?

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I was thinking private coaching for a year at home "instead of" attending the pre-pro school. Is this possible or advisable?


SI programs: DK's current school strongly discourages leaving for SIs. Despite that attitude, DK has auditioned (last year and this year) and has been accepted at several big name schools. Last year, we ignored the current school's preferences (and open disapproval upon returning in the Fall) to attend a small, extremely selective SI for a few weeks that DK thoroughly enjoyed. Absolutely NO trouble being away from home, loved the atmosphere and the teaching - DK called it "ballet therapy." :whistling:


This year DK is undecided about which SI to attend. Several acceptances from SI auditions, no fear of leaving home, just the anticipated "fall out" from current school.


I guess that means DK might be more ready to leave the nest than I am to have DK go. It's a tough decision for us parents. But leaving home at 14 just feels a tad too young to me. But I have to be practical. If DK leaves the current school for an SI this summer, DK may not be able to return to said school (by DK's choice or the school's choice). Then we will have to figure something else out quickly. :speechless: Like my DK, I don't do "fast and furious" happily. So I thought I'd start looking at alternatives and trying to think outside the box for next year.

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Eligus, I have a problem with schools who do not allow students to attend SI programs. I feel strongly that they are advantageous, and that schools who disallow them are either insecure or just totally into keeping their income for the summer. I think it's time for a move for you.

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Ms. Leigh,


I love, love, love your teaching philosophies as I understand them here on BT4D. Honestly, if I could do so without making everyone a little edgy, I would stalk teachers like you.


"Moving" means a residential school.(sigh) Or... this private coaching idea.


But perhaps I'm being too obtuse. Are you saying my outside the box thinking is just a tad too crazy? It's okay if you are, I can take it. The logistics sound daunting to me, and when I worked outside the home, I dealt with difficult logistics on a daily basis, so that's saying a bunch. I was just wondering if anyone had found a different route than your DK leaving home at 14.

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Is she high school now, or entering in the fall, Eligus?


I don't think that outside the box thinking is crazy, but, I am not a fan of only private training. I am also not a great fan of sending them away from home, if, and that is a big IF, the training at home consists of the quality and quantity necessary for one who is aiming for a career in ballet. But, every decision must be based on a family decision, financial ability, and belief that the child is ready to handle the academics as well as dance, living away from home. And, knowing if the child is truly "driven", has the talent, passion, focus, and work ethic needed to survive the years away. Then there is the matter of finding the right program that fits the needs of the family and the child. Not an easy thing, and actually I consider it to be out of the box thinking even more than only private training.

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Ms. Leigh --


Thank you for your thoughts. I appreciate your time spent helping those of us you only know "cyberly" to make these difficult, personal decisions.


DK would be headed into first year of high school (9th grade). If I did private coaching, there is a possibility of attending a local (small) high school for the social interaction (to replace the ballet school social environment "need"). DK is currently cyber-schooling, but I'm trying to be as flexible as possible in solving some of the potential "issues" I see with the private coaching.


Those issues (as I see them) currently include:


cost/expense -- I have no idea what this would be, but certainly more than current school (w/ scholarship)

determining the proper training/amount of time -- I have some ideas, but am in no way an expert

the need for social interaction with peers - potential solution of brick and mortar high school

the need for dancing with peers/quality of movement from those you admire

the need for performance -- how strong is this for a year? And satisfied w/ a Nut performance? "competition"? (wince at that one)

the need for partnering -- again, how strong is this for a year's duration?

the "name/reputation" issue on "resumes" -- I question whether this is a real "issue" or not. As others have said, good training is good training. But still a potential "issue" to think about.


And most importantly -- HOW to find the right fit/coach for DK?


And am I missing anything in my thoughts of potential pitfalls/problems?

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Expense is going to be a huge issue.

Training/amount of time also a huge issue, because for most people the cost would be prohibitive.

Dancing with peers is important for a lot of reasons, including learning from those one admires

Performances in the teen years are important. Competitions, not so much.

Partnering could begin at this age, if possible, but is not critical.

School name on resume usually not an issue for teens.

Finding the right coach... gigantic issue.

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Hmm. My first, instinctive answer was "No. DK has not asked specifically for a residential school. DK's minimum requirement has been to ask only to "figure something out before next year."


But that is not strictly true. DK has expressed interest in a residential school about 3 hours away, and in another pre-pro school 4 hours away. I will submit that despite my best efforts at holding out for one more year at home, the current school does not seem to be a good fit any longer at this point in time - hence the SI search currently and the thoughts for next year. The pre-pro school 4 hours away does not have a residential option, so that would require finding a host family. The residential school 3 hours away would require serious scholarship help to be within our financial reach.


In the "figuring something out" category, *I* was a bit more comfortable w/ a residential school option, thinking along the lines that a boarding school environment would actually make me feel more comfortable than having DK live with a family I don't know.


The other "figuring something out" that occurred to me was keeping DK at home and trying the private coaching idea. (weighing the prohibitive costs of that option versus travel, host family and at least partial tuition at another school and/or the cost of a residential school). In my mind, we are only talking about another school year -- a temporary arrangement rather than a permanent fix.

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My 13 year old daughter started attending a residential school this Fall. It goes against everything I believe in as a parent. But it was the best choice for her (and she really wanted to try) and our family under the circumstances. And although she had a bit of an adjustment period, she is thriving and loves it. It is hard to accept that she has moved away from home, but once I really allowed myself to grieve the loss and realize just how much happier she is getting the dance training she has wanted, it makes it a bit easier. Once we made that decision, things fell into place, even the money.


Best of luck. It is such a hard place to be as a parent.

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One dancer (13) we know found a teacher she really connects with and this year has worked out a schedule in which she has afternoon privates (early release from school) and participates in an after-school small group class a few times per week with the same teacher - which cuts the cost down while maintaining consistency in teaching and providing a social/peer element. There is a maximum of 6 dancers in the group class and it is held in a small rented studio - it is an independent venture that has been organized by this teacher for her more serious students. On class days the privates take place in the rented studio and other days they take place in a studio they built at home. I am not sure how many private lessons per week she is taking at the moment. I should note that she is also participating in a few competitions this year to build performance experience. Anyway, it seems to be woking well for her!

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How did they find such an awesome arrangement?!


Momtodancer - thank you for pointing out that their joy in pursuing their passion eases our pain a bit....

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  • 2 weeks later...

Is there really no other program she could pursue that would keep her at home? Where would you find the private coach - are they associated with a studio?


I think that an entire year of nothing but private coaching would not be a good idea. As others have pointed out, part of how our dancers learn is watching their peers and hearing all the corrections and praise. I would also worry that only being exposed to one teacher would create some problems. One teacher will see something another will not, or will explain a correction in a way that really breaks through - not to mention the fact that if you don't have an EXCELLENT rapport with the teacher, things will get ugly very quickly!


DD currently studies at two studios (one in the a.m., another p.m. and weekends). This arrangement was agreed to by both studios, so no one feels like we are "cheating." ;-) The drive time is horrendous, but she is getting what she needs and was able to spend another year at home, which was important to me. I would strongly encourage you to gather information about all the options around you and see if you can piece together something that will work. You may discover that the little "Dolly Dinkle" in the next town is actually run by a former principal dancer and it regularly turns out company ready dancers....or, you may find that your only options remain private coaching or going away. I don't mean to imply that you haven't considered other options, just that really throwing yourself into (another round of) concentrated search efforts might turn up another option, or at least help you find peace with your final decision.


Best wishes and please don't forget to come back and share once you make a decision.

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I appreciate everyone who has taken time to read and respond to this question. It appears that the majority are coming down on the "just plain crazy" side. (lol).


DK and I have studied this problem for awhile now, and there certainly are no easy answers (which we knew going in, I suppose). The good news is that the discussion and thought has helped us make decisions about current SI choices. DK was accepted to a prestigious SI associated with a residential school that appears to have a completely different attitude and teaching methodology than DK's current pre-pro school. In addition, this residential school uses their summer program as a sort of long-term audition for their year-round. After much discussion, DK has decided to try that SI to get a feel for different teaching methodology along with the "WAY far away from home" aspect.


So... we continue to "wing it." :green: If the SI does not work out on both sides (school and DK), we'll re-visit the private coaching/different school/"something else" options....


But I appreciate the heartfelt advice and experience here on BT4D. I laugh in empathy when I read posts from the "planners" of you who are just starting your journeys. At one time, I too, was a planner perfectionist. Now I have a quote on my wall that I read every day to remind myself that I may not actually be as lost and confused as I feel:


"Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase." --M.L. King

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