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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Level Placement


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I auditioned for a new pre-professional school at the very end of last spring, before summer intensive. During summer intensive I was placed in a very advanced level , and I think I improved a lot. I just came home and started at my new pre-professional school, and I believe that my level placement is incorrect. It seems to me that I (along with one or two other girls) are quite a bit more advanced than everyone else in the class. I don't want to be too pushy, but I would really like to ask for a reevaluation. Is there a way that I can ask about my level placement without sounding to pushy to the staff? Should I ask a teacher or the administration? I don't want to make a bad impression, however I know that they don't like to change around the levels after the first couple of weeks.

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  • Administrators

When did you start in this new school and how many classes have you had so far? Since you are new, I think it would be best to wait until the faculty has had time to work with you. If you like the school, and trust the teachers, I would wait for them to move you up if they feel that you are ready. Since there are 'one or two other girls' as well, perhaps there is a reason that they feel you are all better in that level for now.

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I started at this new school about 3 days ago, and I have taken 6 classes so far. I have had the opportunity to watch some of the classes of the level above me. I observed that about half of the girls in that class had technique comparable to mine, and about half were slightly more advanced than me. To be more specific, I feel like there is one girl who is as advanced as I am in my level, and one girl who is good at barre, but not as strong as me in center. I can wait for them to move me when they think I'm ready, but I'm scared that if I don't mention something soon, they might not want to change my placement for this year. Is there a way that I could appropriately ask their reason for my placement in this level?

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  • Administrators

Perhaps they work a bit differently in terms of training, and feel that you need to be where you are for a while in a new school. You can ask, but I don't really recommend it.

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You need to be careful about your perception of "advanced." What may be advanced to you in your previous experience maybe not be advanced to your current instructors. I've had lots of dancers come to my class who can do 5 pirouettes from 4th position, but cannot do a clean single pirouette from 5th landing in 5th. Sure, it may seem that the dancer who is doing those multiple pirouettes is advanced, but in my opinion, that dancer does not have control over their facility yet. I do not base my perception of a dancers abilities on the tricks that they are able to do - I base my perception of a dancer abilities on the general mastery of ballet technique and how that relates to their own facility.


Depending on the level, there are certain things that I like my dancers to accomplish before I allow them into the next level. It can be anything from how the arms coordinate with the legs in a waltz turn, to how well the dancer can shift the weight from one foot to the next in a temps lie, to a dancers ability to learn a combination without following others (just to name a few things).


It usually takes me a couple classes to evaluate a dancer's strengths & weaknesses.... especially if they are brand new to my school (and they didn't come from a 'competing' school down the street). Once that decision is made, it is made. A dancer/parent is welcome to have a discussion with me on how I perceive the dancer's strengths & weaknesses - but said conversation will not sway my overall opinion. It is my job to evaluate all of the dancers in the room on a near daily basis - you should trust that your teachers know what they are doing.


No matter the level you are in, you should continue to work on everything that is presented to you, weather you perceive it to be "easy" or not. Even professionals must continue work on the "basics;" there is never a time to stop learning & growing.

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I agree with you that different schools may consider different things "advanced." I was using that term to define having better technique and placement. I also do agree that different schools may have different requirements as far as when students are ready for the next level.

Thinking about both of your comments has made me realize other reasons that I am frustrated other than having more advanced technique than the other girls. Maybe you could help me think through these issues, too?


1. The girls in the level above me seem to be much more serious dancers than the girls in my level. All of the girls in the level above me seem to work very hard and want to be professionals, but the girls in my level aren't pushing themselves as hard in class. This makes me frustrated as I try very hard in class and push myself everyday.


2. Of course you can challenge your technique in even a very basic class by applying the teachers corrections, which I am doing. I am worried, however, that our level may not be working on some more difficult steps that are age appropriate for us to do. I am worried that when it comes time to auditions, I may be behind on more complicated things. Not saying that we need to be doing 32 fouettés, just working on things that are age appropriate for someone in their young teens. How can I stay able to do things that are necessary for someone my age to do?


3. The teacher has asked me to demonstrate a lot of things for the class. Although I feel honored to do so, I really miss having other girls do this for me, too. I tend to be pushed in my technique by seeing the strengths and weeknesses of other dancers at my level.


Thank you so much for the help!

Edited by smileyballerina
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It is your opinion that you have better technique & placement. Remember that our own opinion of our technique & placement may not be the reality as how the rest of the world sees you. I recommend that you change your attitude in this territory - it will not serve you in the long run. Be humble, keep your head down, and continue to work hard.


#1 You shouldn't care what the girls in your level want out of dance. If you are there to work on your technique to someday become a professional dancer, more power to you. Continue the hard work. I can guarantee the a professional career has its moments when the atmosphere is not ideal but you have to continue to do the work anyway.


#2 Since when are you the teacher of the class? Why are you determining what is level appropriate? Be careful to compare this school to SI's or your previous experince. Each school (and teacher) will have their own method to get their dancers from point A to point B. As has been said many times on this site: "there are many roads to Rome."


#3 I encounter this often and it always baffles me. Why do dancers want to be struggling at the bottom of the pack, instead of flourishing within the upper end? Why do dancers think that being constantly "pushed" is the way to improve? The beauty of ballet is in the refinement of the details. When you are struggling "to keep up," you are not paying attention to the details and your overall technique will suffer. Whereas when you are in a more control of your environment you have time to successfully articulate all of those beautiful ballet details.


Lastly, I think you are way too focused on the level you are placed rather than the long term picture. This also makes me question why you decided to move to this school? Surely you felt that this new school had something more to offer than your previous school? If you believe this to be true, then why now question your placement? Shouldn't you trust the teachers to do their job? If you don't trust them... there is multiple issues here: #1 Pre-professional ballet school indicates that the school has a reputable teaching staff and thus should be respected for the decisions they make #2 If this isn't the right school for you, you should move sooner than later.


If this is still a major concern, you and your parents should request a conference to discuss how to move forward in a positive light (not about level placement).

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I'm sorry, I wasn't trying to argue with you. As you mentioned, it will be a lot easier for me to learn being in the Advanced Ballet 1 class, rather than struggling behind others in the Advanced Ballet 2 class. Thank you for pointing that out.

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Smiley-you weren't being argumentative but neither was GTLS Designs. You have a valid question and he has valid responses and comments. Here is the thing. I believe it is too early for you to question placement in a new school. Give it a little more time. By my estimation, it's been less than 10 days and that might be early no matter what the reason is.


With that stated, you need to determine the type of environment you are in before asking any questions. Placement questions in general are off limits no matter where you are. But, in some locations, it is okay to ask how you need to best work within the environment. I don't think you're ready to ask those questions yet. The reason? Because now for you, it's about placement. There will come a time shortly where it will not be about placement but will be about how you need to work to progress both in the manner you've become accustomed to and also with the guidance of what it is they saw in you that made you be placed in one level over another. This is still not to question placement, but to understand if there were issues they saw that could best be corrected in the level you are in versus in the next level where you might overlook those corrections to just: do more.


If this is an environment where dancers and teachers interact and converse readily, then later when you are able to discuss things with them about your progress and needs rather than about your placement will come the time to ask these questions. If this is a dancer friendly environment then that might be sooner than later. If this is an environment where you ask nothing and say nothing, then that might be much later.


As GTLS stated, if you chose this school because it was a better environment and training ground for you, then you need to trust them for a bit to see what that nets. Use the time in between to learn your environment and what is allowed and what is not. If you do that, and it is an open environment, there will come a time where an "aha" moment will come as you interact with your teachers where you can ask the questions you've mentioned here. Not about placement but about how you are used to working and how this affects you in terms of your current placement.

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