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Large 'big name' pre-pro versus smaller pre-pro


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I have a dd at a big name prepro and another at a smaller school. The one at the smaller school used to attend the big name school her younger sister is still at. Both kids just had their spring shows and evaluations. And we just learned that younger dd was invited back to big prepro. We have been comparing the training of the two schools in case younger dd wasn't invited back.

 

I think the thing I can say definitively about these two schools is that it's really comparing apples to oranges. The big school really focused on very clean pure technique. Older dd has far cleaner fifths, pointed feet, etc then her classmates who have come from a variety of places. Also, she has the benefit of having performed in a huge production with everything that entails. However, her brief stage apparences did not prepare her for the artistic part of ballet at all. Maybe that is just her experience but I think that either school alone would not prepare her for a career. She needs to have both of the schools for their strengths. I think that it's a huge mistake to think that any one school can give a dancer everything that they need.

 

That said, even with thoughtful parents who "aren't drinking the kool-aid", I don't see/hear of many people who pull their kids out of the big names. From what I've seen, people keep their kids there as long as they possibly can. So even though people seem to always be second guessing the big name school, pretty much no one leaves unless they aren't invited back.

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On the flip side, maybe it is not possible to tell at the younger ages who will be company material. Perhaps the audition brings in students capable of becoming professional dancers because they have good feet, turnout, extension, musicality but only a small handful develop into the type of dancer suitable for this particular company. Does this mean that they are not really professional material at all? Probably not but I would bet a large percent of the dancers cut around age 12 or 13 stop dancing at this point. So is the school doing it's students a favor by cutting them or hurting them so badly that talented dancers quit trying. Good question to ponder.

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Balletpop, I believe that's a very important question to ponder!

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Lemlemish- I must tell you that people DO leave the big 3 letters even if they are invited back. My DD left at age 12 due to several reasons- class size, commute, strong focus on ONE style only, favoritism, to name a few. As Buzzandmoo said, I too would have kept her more local and wait until 15 or so to move to big name. Having left, we do realize that it is even more difficult to get back in the older you are. DD is happy with the move we made and time will tell if she decides to go for a big name again.

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I am still wondering how many dancers make it into companies who are asked to leave these big three letter schools. Buzzandmoo has correctly pointed out that not many of the children accepted into these schools end up in the company of that school. However, do dancers who are asked to leave make it into any company at all? Are there success stories that people might share? I guess I am asking whether or not these schools are seeing qualities in the young dancer that lead them to believe that they should pursue a different career and view dance more as a hobby. In that case, we might conclude that they are actually doing the child a favor because it is a much bigger disappointment to train until the age of 17 or 18 and then realize that a professional career is not going to happen. I personally know of many dancers who never made it into companies and some of them became very depressed for a while.

 

Perhaps the problem is how they go about things. From posts about the big three letter schools it seems like these schools keep the dancer and the parents in suspense until the end of the year and then surprise them with a bad evaluation. I have heard that at one of the big three letter schools, it is often the children who are used in the productions who are asked to leave at the end of the year. So it is literally a "surprise"and a big blow to their self esteem.

 

So I guess there are really three questions. Anyone know of a dancer who was cut from a big pre-pro school and went on to have a professional career? Would you rather know earlier rather than later that a professional career is unlikely? How could these schools approach things in a nicer way so that the young dancer (and parents) is not so disappointed at the end of the year? It seems like they deliver the bad news and then leave the subsequent mess to the parents to deal with. In fact the meetings often do not include the child at all so these schools are excused from delivering the bad news and the parent has to do it.

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For the record...SAB does not provide any real evaluation. You get a phone call from a secretary who says "I am sorry but I have no information, I am just the messenger" At least in the Children's Division. And when a parent tries to pin them down you get no response; literally no response. Reasons given at a "special meeting" (and I am NOT making this up! LOL); "doesn't sparkle enough", "something in the hips", "looks bulky", "doesn't move far enough across the floor".....when you ask for more detail they change the topic and say the time is up. The reality is the REAL reasons for the cuts would tarnish their reputation and perhaps even create some legal issues.

 

Here's my biggest beef.....and I believe Balletpop has touched on it.....due to the "reputation" of a school like SAB many students (and parents) loose their confidence in their abilities because "well, if SAB thinks I am not good enough then I must suck!" When in reality (most of the time)that student might have as much potential as the next kid! We are talking about 10,11, and 12 year olds! Unless SAB has made a pact with the devil and has second sight they HAVE NO CLUE if that kid can succeed!

 

Rant over.... :yes:

 

ABT always gives a detailed written evaluation at the end of every dance year.

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Buzzandmoo - I am sure that there are many many parents who feel the way you do about SAB. They are probably not reading this website anymore because their kids have most likely stopped dancing. I feel your pain when I read your posts. If your daughter is determined to dance, time will heal wounds and encouragement from other teachers, schools, summer programs, will help her restore her confidence.

 

I wish your daughter the best of luck in her journey.

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Balletpop, I do not have a specific year-round example for you, but I do know there are dancers invited and attending their SI (with scholarship) for multiple years, offers of year-round spots, who are suddenly not invited back and yet go on to dance professionally. One, I know with The Dutch National Ballet.

 

So, no, I don't think SAB has a crystal ball that works any better than anyone else's. They just have many folks who think SAB has an all-knowing crystal ball. What they may have is a crystal ball that works better for very limited professional scope, i.e.,., dancing professionally at NYCB.

 

But unless one believes that NYCB is the only professional dance company in the world, then whether one trains or stays at SAB should be no different that determining whether it meets the needs of YOUR particular child at any given time in their training journey. It should be assessed just like any other pre-profession school and setting. It is, in the end, only one of many pre-professional schools.

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Offhand, I personally can think of 4 female dancers cut from the SAB program who went on to dance careers, but I bet I could come up with more, given a little more time to think. I also bet my daughter, who attended SAB for two summers, could come up with way more. The four I know danced or are still dancing with: Miami City Ballet, Ballet Sarasota, and Richmond Ballet.

 

Off the top of my head, I think there are 2 prime benefits of SAB vs. other quality ballet training schools:

1. Companies looking for students know that if a dancer is in the top tier of SAB, that student's body is a fine ballet instrument: turnout, flexible and strong feet, lean body. Other dancers with beautiful technique, but wrong body type or some kind of flaw (such as my kiddo's right foot) are let go a few years earlier. Other ballet schools will continue to train those dancers into the highest levels (and a number of them defy the odds and become professional dancers), but SAB won't because they can draw in the finest bodies from other schools. Note that I specify bodies: A big pet peeve of mine is that SAB's training is often bloodless. I don't think students are given enough chances to perform, and many very clean technical dancers are boring onstage.

2. The annual SAB workshop: upper level students who participate in it are looked at by ballet company directors in the audience. Every now and then, I get tickets to that event. I've run into choreographers and ballet directors (met them over the years) who eagerly look forward to seeing the current year's group. The soloists usually are invited in NYCB, but there are many other dancers onstage.

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To respond to jflyte, SAB is not the only three letter big school that cuts. My older dd(16) was cut at age 14. Out of all the girls who were in her level 1 classes (there were two classes of 20 each aged 7.5-9), I know of 3 who are still at the school. Mind you that of course, there was an audition to get into level 1, so those original 40 already had some potential identified.

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JKO/ABT also assesses students out in the pre-professional division. I am sure most, if not all of these schools do. It is not an uncommon phenomenon for students attending SIs at these schools to seek acceptance to the upper levels of the schools for year round.

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So we might be back to the beginning question - should you turn down an opportunity to attend a pre-pro school at a young age? Or should you supplement the training and go while you have your foot in the door? It is true that your dancer might get cut but what are the chances of getting accepted at a later age when the geographical competition increases? It is my opinion that you should go while the opportunity is available to you. Strike while the iron is hot? (" When you have the opportunity to do something, do it before you lose your chance.")

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This conversation has been incredibly enlightening! Thank you!

 

I have a question about that crystal ball

 

From parents whose kids have been cut from the big schools, when looking back, could you see any signs? What about the kids who did not follow the rules and took ballet as a supplement at other studios? Did doing that affect their technique and they were eventually cut?

 

I know, I know--next I'll be reading horoscopes. :)

Edited by est
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I would like to answer the last question. I think taking supplemental classes can be helpful, not harmful, especially private lessons. I bet many professional dancers will tell you that they did that in spite of the "no outside classes" rule. In fact, other parents at the school are often the best source of information about private lessons and supplemental classes.

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