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Boydancermom

How to deal with instructor threats?

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Victoria Leigh

Thank you, gcwhitewater! That was absolutely wonderfully stated, totally true, and extremely relevant for this thread. Parents, please HEAR what he is saying!!!

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buzzandmoo

I am wading into this sea (here be dragons) with a slightly more parental viewpoint. My DD started her training at a pre-pro with a (undeserved) bullet-proof reputation. She was there for 5 years. They had all sorts of restrictions and rules about outside classes (EVERYONE ignored this one), coaching (again, laughable) and performances (this one they enforced capriciously depending on the pockets of the parents). She is now at a small, excellent studio that is surviving in the suburbs. I am constantly amazed at both the level of instruction and the lack of rules pertaining to what the students do. Students are supported in their endeavors, encouraged to audition and welcomed back if things don't work out the way they anticipated. It has been a breath of fresh air for us and made me (the one who pays the bills) loyal to the end! I disagree with the assertion that a small studio owner can demand blind loyalty as a way of protecting their income stream. Perhaps that is one way of doing business but is by no means the only way.

 

I also disagree with the assertion that because your DS is a new (only 2 years) student you need to stay at a less than ideal place because of "consistency of training"....we did that for 5 years at the exalted three letter school and are still fixing some bad technique issues. If anything, being picky about quality of training coupled with the attitudes your DS is exposed to is VERY important in the beginning. After 6 years of pre-pro training my DD can now take both mediocre class and bad attitudes and walk away with something positive but if she only had two years of experience it would effect her greatly.

 

Just as every dancer is different, no one path is going to work for everyone. You need to sit down, discuss with your DS and choose the path that works for him.

 

Good luck!

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Thyme

I completely agree about the hazards of mediocre training. A very 'mediocre' teacher almost cost my DS his 'career' early on. I think the trick is to not follow the flattery and hype and confuse it as synonymous with quality. My other comment on DSs is that while us parents can get the idea that a dancing boy is SO WONDERFUL, there are many many talented young men out there. They have to earn their stripes too. There. I am done (famous last words!).

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Victoria Leigh

I really do not think anyone is saying that a student should stay at a less than ideal place because of consistency of training. If there are problems with the school and the teachers and the direction, one needs to make a change. We have always said this. And, "ideal" can also be a problem, in that what is considered ideal for one student might very well be a lot less ideal for another. If it is not satisfactory, move on. But this is not really relevant to the situation being discussed here. "Blind loyalty" would certainly be a problem that raises a big red flag, but logical and well-reasoned explanations of clear rules and policies could be quite acceptable. I think in the situation discussed by the OP there were not explanations and there was a lack of clarity and understanding in terms of what was expected. Please read post #15 if you have not already done so.

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Boydancermom

A perspective regarding students performing from a teacher/school director point of view:

 

I do not allow students training at our academy to perform in other productions. Reasons:

  • Time. Even if the rehearsal time does not conflict with their training it takes away from the amount of energy, mental and physical, they would be using in their lessons.
  • Appropriate level of role. I would not know if the role being performed would be used to further the long term progress of our student. It could be material they have not worked on yet or material they have yet to fully understand and therefore should not be doing onstage.
  • Exploitation. Will this director bill this student as their student.
  • I consider performance of a student as an extension of their training...does that director?
I do not allow students from other schools to perform with our academy (even boys!). Reasons:
  • I do not train them and as I said, performance of a student is an extension of their training.
Thank you so much for explaining this! It makes sense. . [. . . ]

 

"Feather in your cap" - so very true. It's all in whether or not the dancer takes what they are given and runs with it. Words of wisdom. No need to worry about getting off your soapbox - it seems like you are not high in the sky at all.

Edited by dancemaven
Removed second-hand comments.

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Boydancermom

I think in the situation discussed by the OP there were not explanations and there was a lack of clarity and understanding in terms of what was expected. Please read post #15 if you have not already done so.

Victoria,

 

I think you hit the nail on the head. Had there been clear rules regarding outside performances then our son might have made a different decision. Communication of expectations and rules are so very important. Other dancers in my son's studio have been given contracts to sign (I'm not sure of the details) but he hasn't. I do still view what was said to our son as a veiled threat because it wasn't true (e.g. "I won't coach you anymore if you decide to take the role"). He is still taking classes from him. IF our son heard it correctly, then that is a threat as it wasn't true and would seem (on the face of it) to be manipulative as our son was in the midst of making a decision. We will be meeting with his instructor and studio to clarify what was said and what their rules are so there are no misunderstandings in the future. And yes, I think that I overreacted - probably because these sort of things have been said in the past to our son, [. . . . ] Now - we all know that there are two sides to every story - but when you hear numerous stories - you tend to see a pattern that can be worrisome. [. . . ] We have all made mistakes and we learn from them - so I do try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt but when you see other questionable behavior - well, it's sometimes hard to look at it with a clear lens. I fear that I have fallen into not looking at this with a clear lens.

 

Thyme - so very true about our son's (and us) getting big heads. Oh my goodness! After our son's first SI audition season - it was big (both of us!). I understand supply and demand - but it's a bit ridiculous how companies fawn over boys. The "feather in their cap" phrase came from a local instructor who was trying to help us navigate and understand what was going on with this performance drama. She helped him with an audition tape in the summer and was sorely disappointed when he chose not to go to a residential school that she had gone to. I think in her case, she had nothing to gain from it, so I was just repeating her assessment of what might be going on and the missed opportunity of his studio.

 

I think because boys are so scarce - that if there is even a glimmer of talent - then the company owners begin to saiivate and even exaggerate it in their head. It does seem that things are changing now that there is less funding and jobs.

 

As a parent - the biggest compliment was when the AD of the Nutcracker company told our son that he remembered him from watching him in his home studio class because he worked very hard. Now - that's music to a mom's ears! As far as I can see - in most things in life, talent plays such a small part in success. It's all about passion and hard work. So - like you, Thyme, we are learning to run a million miles away from the disengenuous "oh, he is so talented!". In fact, maybe our response should be "who cares?" (and then run away). :hyper:

Edited by dancemaven
Removed second-hand situation comments.

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Millie

As the mother of a male dancer who has been a professional for eight years now, I have found that boys with a glimmer of talent are indeed NOT scarce. It may seem so when viewed from a small town or an area where ballet may not be popular. All you need to do is observe SIs, see competitions like YAGP, and watch the larger ballet companies. The talent among boys and men is amazing. The competition for ballet jobs is fierce and the men are all very well trained.

 

There is a belief out there that it is easy for men to get jobs compared to the women. I can tell you that it is just as competitive, and more than a glimmer of talent is expected.

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Boydancermom

Millie - no argument here. I think we are talking about boys that have barely put their big toe into the pond, so to speak. I do think that professionals can sometimes spot a boy that has the right "lines", or the right work ethic, though....and I guess it's natural for companies and SIs to encourage that but the proof is in the hard work and staying power that is necessary over the long run. I don't think that anyone, including myself, were saying that there aren't men that are fabulous dancers, that they were given their careers on a platter, or that it's an easier career for men vs. women - but the level of entry (at least from my POV, being a novice mom to a boy) seems to be lower for boys than girls at the beginning of the journey.

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Boydancermom

Wanted to give an update and could use some advice.

 

I brought up my concern about the veiled threats to the AD and it was not taken well. In fact, he didn't respond to them (didn't offer an excuse or that it was a miscommunication) and instead went on the attack. Said that they were tired of my husband and I not taking their advice about SI's and residential schools and were taking away his scholarship. It did make me realize that we haven't trusted them for various reasons and I'm sure that is frustrating. The emotional manipulation is just one of the reasons we don't trust them - there are many more things that have made us (and our son) uncomfortable. The one AD is the big problem. He has a history of being untruthful, manipulative and having a hissy when a student thinks about leaving.

 

Our son would like to stay at the school and go to the other instructor who wasn't involved in the above and stay with his friends. We could do that, but I don't think that will give him enough hours....so we looked for other supplemental classes in the area. Our options are:

 

1) A local studio around the corner that has an instructor that used to be partners in a company with his current studio ADs. There is no love lost between them - the falling out was very emotionally charged. The main instructor (female) has a good track record, danced with Ballanchine, has coached YAGP winners and NYCB dancers but has suffered over the last few years because our son's studio owners took most of their students in the fall out. They are in a make-shift studio with indoor soccer games going on next to the ballet area with soccer round things (if I say the "round thing" word, it censors me :-)) hitting the curtain between the two and lots of noise. Our son had a private with the instructor earlier in the week and liked her. She said that our son was dancing "like a girl" and had talent but wasn't being pushed hard enough to do male jumps, etc. Today, our son took a class and was less enthusiastic. The girls were younger than he was - and there was a fairly big spread of levels. He said that it was the equivalent of a Level 3 (out of 5) at his last studio. The floors weren't sprung and he said his knees hurt. But I think the biggest issue might be that they only offer four 1.5 hour ballet technique classes a week (plus one hour of modern). The esteemed instructor told us that our son should be doing 18 hours a week and that we would talk about his schedule after her Nutcracker is over in January She said that we could do as many privates with her that we could afford to help our son learn male jumps, etc.. (which sadly isn't many). She said that our son couldn't go to any other studio for more classes but that if an instructor comes to her studio - she would allow them to teach him. My question is: does this sound like a reasonable option? How important are spring floors? How important are male instructors or male classes at this point (our son is 14 - will be 15 in January).

 

2) A studio an hour away - there are older girls who commute there that dropped out of Option 1 above, so we could carpool. This instructor is ABT certified, danced professionally in Cuba and has sprung floors. I've heard good things about her - and she is running the rehearsals for the out of town company Nutcracker that our son is in. She has two technique classes right in a row 3 days a week (one lower level and one higher level - girls his age go to both) plus pointe on the 4th day (so our son can't go that day). She has no problem with our son going to supplemental classes on the other days and will also scholarship him for anytime he comes. She seems much less possessive than Option 1 above - but doesn't have the track record of Option 1 (although several of her girls have gone to 3 letter SIs). With this option we could supplement with one or two classes from the instructor that he likes at his old studio - plus another male instructor that has offered to give him one male technique private and a pas class per week. And there is a company 3 hours away (that he is doing the Nutcracker with) that said he can come anytime that he has time on the weekends to take male classes there. This would be a patchwork option - going to several studios.

 

3) Get by for the next few months, finish out the Nutcracker - and get him to a residential school in January - if any accept students mid-year??. This seems like a viable option because he is tired of the ballet school drama and he is going to school (including transportation) 9 hours a day and then trying to dance 3 hours a day - which doesn't leave a lot of time for homework (he isn't doing well in one of his classes). He's pretty stressed out - and thinks that it might be easier to go to a residential ballet school with online school for 4 hours a day and dancing for 4-5 hours a day. A much more balanced life. I emailed one of the places that he was interested in (and got a generous scholarship to) to see if the offer still stands (probably not - but doesn't hurt to ask). I will contact others tomorrow to see if they accept students in January. He will very likely go away to a residential school next Fall - but the question is if he can get by with Option 1 or 2 until June and still make progress?

 

Any advice on which Option you would choose and why?

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learningdance

Well you appear to have thought through the pros and cons of each. I am sure that you will make the best choice. I think that you have a strong sense of what you want.

 

Hugs and hang in there.

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gabby's mom

I have no advice, just some experiences to share.

 

When a dancer accepts a scholarship at my daughter's school the dancer agrees to participate in certain performances, attend certain classes, and may only perform outside if the school is credited and the outside performance doesn't interfere with classes and performances at the scholarship school. Students are not restricted from taking classes elsewhere, but it is difficult to wedge additional training into the schedule. The studios in our area that offer scholarships usually put some stipulations on their students and sometimes restrict them from taking classes or performing elsewhere, but none of the ones we've considered restrict outside activity for paying students. In theory I don't think I would enroll in one that does, but we have a few options for ballet training in our current location and of course not everyone is as lucky.

 

Proper flooring is in my opinion essential for preventing injury. At my daughter's school, the walls do not reach the ceiling and noise/music/etc. from other parts of the building and other studios can be heard. It doesn't seem to impact the students, but I was concerned about that at first. My daughter said she doesn't "hear" anything but her instructor and the music for her class.

 

My daughter's school is a commute of 45 to 60 minutes. Luckily she is able to read and do homework in a moving vehicle and is willing to do homework on Saturday between rehearsals and Sunday evenings to ensure she stays on top of her schoolwork. She carpools sometimes with a young lady who becomes carsick when she tries to read in the car and can't take advantage of the travel time to complete homework. Her friend is enrolled in virtual school this year, which works well for her and her family and gives them some helpful flexibility.

 

As far as multiple levels and younger students in class, the second year students at DD's school range in age from 8 to 14 this year. Older students have the option of enrolling in open adult classes, leveled classes, or both. They generally spend less time per level than the younger students and could be in level 4 (ages 12 - 19 this year) by the fall of year 3. One very small school about an hour away from us has a single instructor and has had great success sending students off to big name pre-professional programs and summer intensives with only four 90 minute classes per week and only 2 levels in the entire program, beginner and advanced. Hard work with a good instructor are key to "making progress" in my opinion, and ideal conditions are hard to come by.

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Boydancermom

Gabby - thanks for your response. I have a few questions: It's interesting that four 90 minute classes per week produced results because that seems to be below what is recommended here on BT4D - although I think it's age dependent. What age were the students? Good to know that outside noise doesn't typically bother dancers. What's the proper flooring to prevent injury and how can you tell if it's "proper"?

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dancemaven

Honestly, I think the instructor's end result---if not the delivery---was a fair statement given your history with him.

 

DD had a very wise associate director of dance at her residential school that once told me (after I had pestered her endlessly with concerns about classes during a difficult time at the school): "dancemaven, either you trust me or you don't." I realized she was absolutely right. Either I chilled out and trusted that she knew how to do her job or I didn't, in which case the was no reason to leave DD there under the school's direction. The woman was a very well-respected and excellent teacher with a long history of helping to turn out professional dancers. She was also a kind and parent-tolerant person, having taught pre-professional and college BFA students.

 

I have never forgotten that simple statement.

 

Boydancermom, it is very clear that you do not trust your son's instructor and haven't for a very long time--whatever the reason, for good or bad. Therefore, it is definitely time to leave.

 

We can't make any decisions for you. And I don't think a prolonged debate here will really serve any real purpose. You seem to have done your research and are quite strong-willed and opinionated about the type of instruction you want for your son. The degree of name recognition for any program and any instructor seems to be an important element in your search along with the amount of scholarship offered as available. All you need to do is prioritize your requirements and then go with whichever school or instructor best meets those.

 

One thing you do need to cognizant of, however, is that to develop properly, your son is going to need consistency in training sooner than later.

 

As for proper flooring, that has been discussed many, many times here on BT4D. Perhaps a good cup of coffee, a comfy chair and some reading is in order. :wink:

Best wishes on your decisions.

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Victoria Leigh

Boydancermom, I stopped reading after the part about no sprung floor. I'm sorry, but you do NOT want your son dancing any hours in that studio, much less learning "male jumps". Period. End of discussion. I didn't even read your last your option so cannot comment on that. However, you also totally need to get over this "18 hours a week" thing. This boy is 9 years old, has a lot of growing to do, and a LOT of time to become a dancer. Check our guidelines again......we do not recommend anywhere close to that amount of training for a very young second year student.

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Boydancermom

Thanks Dancemaven. I appreciate your response and I'm already on the research trail about flooring - will grab a cup of tea and get to work!

 

I don't think the conclusion that you have drawn that name recognition is most important to me in finding the best quality instruction for our son. I think that a track record is most important - and I recently read by a very astute person on here recently (can't remember who it was - might have been you) that it's not necessarily where the students of the instructor end up (because company jobs are getting more and more difficult to come by) but the improvement that one sees from their students - which makes sense although it's not as easy to research or measure.

 

One thing that I have learned from reading this board is that quality of instruction is most important. It just seems like a very elusive thing to measure - especially for most of us who are newbies to this whole world. In my former life I was a gymnastics coach and judge and as a result, it was fairly easy for me to spot a good coach - I could see from their team as a whole (there can be talented outliers on any team, but if they were consistently "clean", with great amplitude and good form, I knew that they were coached well, not to mention how they interacted with their gymnasts. Dance is just Greek to me! Hopefully with time it will become easier to spot quality - just about the time that my dancer is out on his own! :-)

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