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Ballet Talk for Dancers

When choosing a studio- training vs. atmosphere


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DD (age 12) started ballet a year and a half ago. When we realized she was serious about dancing, we spent a lot of time researching studios to find the right one. We choose our current studio because the training is very good, with many students going on to dance professionally. We have been there since August.

I can hardly believe I’m saying it, but now I think we may need to change studios. Although the training is great, I’m afraid the atmosphere might not be right for us. My DD is a very serious, quiet and shy kid, and my observation is that this studio seems to be better for kids who are a little more outspoken and assertive.

Although there are several nice girls at the studio and we’ve made a few good friends, there are many girls who aren’t very nice. My DD has been teased about her size (she’s small and thin). She also gets “corrections” from her classmates when the teachers aren’t around. I have brought these concerns to the teachers, their response was basically “girls will be girls”.

DD got into a very competitive summer intensive. Although the teachers had encouraged her to audition for this specific program, once she was accepted they told her they thought she’d be better off staying and doing their summer program. One of the teachers even said he was disappointed she didn’t get a scholarship.

When DD placed top 12 for classical at YAGP, not one teacher congratulated her or told her good job. Not one. She’d only been dancing just over a year.

I know ballet is tough career. I know that if this is truly what DD wants to do, she will have to develop a thick skin. However, she is 12. Does she have to develop it now?

We're so new to ballet. I don’t want to overreact, so I would really appreciate any advice.

Here are my questions-

Is this sort of thing typical at serious ballet schools?

Is it possible that the reason this studio is so successful is because of the highly competitive atmosphere it encourages between students?

For a child that wants to become a professional ballerina, is it better to stay at the studio with great training and a difficult atmosphere, or would it be better to go to another school who may not have as rigorous training, but has a more nurturing and supportive vibe?

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I can only give you my experience. We left a studio known for its solid technique because the intensity of training and competitiveness of some of the students and moms was too much for my Dd. It felt like a pressure cooker. My sensitive, non-competitive Dd was losing her joy and her energy, and developed a negative view of herself.


At our new studio, good technique is still a focus, but the atmosphere is much more nurturing and inclusive. The stress is gone and the joy has returned. The change in environment was exactly what she needed.


I've come to the conclusion that the most important thing for a dancer is for them to be able to experience joy in their training. Finding the right environment for your dancer's passion to bloom is hard, but so worth it.

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the most important thing for a dancer is for them to be able to experience joy in their training. Finding the right environment for your dancer's passion to bloom is hard, but so worth it.

Exactly right! There is absolutely no need to be in a competitive, sniping environment that eats at one's soul. That is not conducive to finding one's voice and expressing the joy found in having that voice.


Find a studio that fits your daughter's personality style and where she can feel welcomed, nurtured, and cared for. That does not have to be a warm and fuzzy place all the time, but it should be a place where the teachers are firm, but kind and can demonstrate by their overall behavior that they do care for their students and do recognize them as individuals and can learn to work with the students in their own way.

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This is what my "mom instinct" has been telling me, but since DD is so in love with ballet and really wants to pursue it as a career, it feels like being at the "best" studio is important. However, after watching her heart get broken little by little, I really think we need to make a change. Thanks for the support.

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"Best" means what is best for her. Not all studios fit all dancers. :wub: There are plenty of quality studios teaching excellent technique where students do not feel stressed. Happy hunting!

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Ultimately she will not get stronger if she is unhappy at her studio - no , it is not like that at all schools, she needs to be somewhere wihere they have strong training and the right attitude. Yes, ballet is hard and you need a thick skin but I believe there is a difference between corrections etc - even if they seem harsh my daughter lives getting them an utilizing them - and a negative atmosphere


wanted to add that I understand how your dd feels and it hurts as a parent to see them go through it ......

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Our studio has received students who came from the good studio/bad environment type of places. One very talented senior dancer arrived very jumpy and nervous, or "beaten down", and yes I would say this hurt her dancing. She is thriving now.


Our studio is pretty good. There are a few mean girls (or boys) at our school. Our teachers are supportive once they know about it, as I have learned recently with my DS who had some issues with a peer. Sometimes they don't find out, and this can let things fester (or in one case a kid actually quit), but when they DO find out, they react. I think it's very telling that your school didn't take your concerns seriously.


Ballet is brutally tough in so many physical and mental ways, who needs additional negativity? If you can find a quality school with nicer people, I'd go.

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  • 7 months later...

I wanted to update this since we are almost six months into training at the school we originally thought had better atmosphere, but maybe not as good training.


Boy were we wrong (in a good way)!


Our new school definitely has a much better atmosphere. It is night and day compared to where we were before. Kids are treated as individuals. They are not constantly ranked against each other (by teachers, parents or other students). Nutcracker was not the giant ball of stress it was at the other studio. I kept waiting to see the claws come out after casting went up, but it never happened. It was just a really fun performance experience.


The biggest surprise has been the training. For my daughter at least, it's been much better! She has had big jumps in technique over the past few months. She is beginning to take more risks. She is becoming much more confident. It's been incredible.


There were moments I was worried. It is so much calmer than the other studio. And although it seemed to us like she was getting better, there was that little voice saying "Maybe the technique isn't great. Maybe this is all a mistake."


It wasn't. We now have results for the four SIs she auditioned for. All of them "big name" programs. She was accepted to all of them. One program even invited her to the 15-19 year old program instead of the 10-14 year old program (she's 13 now). We were VERY surprised, very grateful, and very, very happy. It feels like additional proof that changing studios was the right thing.


One of the main teachers called her after she got the acceptance to the SI she most wanted. When my DD told her "Thank you. It wouldn't have happened without you." The teacher said that wasn't true. She said it was DD's hard work and talent that should get the credit.


We are in love with our new studio.


Thank you classicmom, dancemaven, ballet1310 and nynydancer for your advice. It was instrumental in us having the courage to take the leap and try a new studio. It was absolutely the right move, and we couldn't be happier.

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  • Administrators

Great news, PlainJane! Thank you for updating us. :)

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What a great update, PlainJane! So glad the switch worked out so well for your dd. Mine is having a similar experience and I couldn't be more grateful. :)

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What a great outcome! So glad you updated us all.

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