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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Insight on the pros and cons of switching method/style during the summ


5uptown

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Hello BT4D,

 

I am pretty new here, and I hope that this is the right place to ask for some feedback about having my DS possibly train in more than one style. I apologize if it belongs in a summer intensive forum, because for us, this is basically regarding switching schools/styles for summer. But to me it feels like a more general question about training in a young, but serious, dancer.

 

My DS is turning 12 in a few months, and has been training for several years in the children's program at a strictly Balanchine school, where he is very happy. He hopes to continue into the pre-professional training when he is older and plans to pursue a career as a dancer (he is only 11, but has been very clear on this point for years). At his school, most of the kids seem to go to summer programs at other schools that are influenced by Balanchine. In fact, I rarely if ever hear anyone even mention other types of training. DS even feels like he is not "supposed" to tell anyone that he did the ABT YDSW one summer, because he might be "in trouble" for dabbling in another style (though he liked the 2 weeks and said it was not confusing to him to do things "the ABT way".)

 

I am aware by now that there are some excellent programs that are not Balanchine at all, and several of them are local to us, so the thought of him possibly doing a summer program there is appealing to me because it keeps the cost much more reasonable, and also allows him to be at home with us.

 

So I am wondering-- do I really need to worry if my son does a summer program that trains in a style very different from his home school? We live on a very modest income and have two other children, so I also feel like he should just go where he can get quality training at the least cost to us-- so staying local when we have good options here makes sense to us as a family. I don't really feel like I can ask at his current school, and as all our ballet friends are through the school (I am not a dancer and know very little about it other than what I am learning as a dance mom), I don't have other outside insight available to me.

 

I should add, we are expressly told my his ballet school that our children should not to do any supplemental ballet training during the school year, and we abide by that, so my question is not about simultaneously training in more than one style. For now, DS uses his non-ballet days to do other things (sports and modern dance-- and this year he will also do musical theater and hip hop dance at his academic school, which has a performing arts focus), and I think its been great for him both to cross train, and just to pursue other interests in a more recreational way while he still can. (For girl parents: I think its pretty typical for 11-13 year old boys to be training at a rather less intense level than similarly aged girls. At least, I have been told that is normal and takes into account their later growth and maturity).

 

Thank you.

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Here are some threads in the Summer Intensive General Discussion forum that might provide insight and food for thought:

 

http://dancers.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=17277

 

http://dancers.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=52111

 

http://dancers.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=55842

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Thank you dancemaven. My attempt to search was not successful, and this was an interesting read. (I did not know that Balanchine is not a method but a style, but perhaps I am not entirely clear on the difference between them).

 

The advice in these threads to talk to my child's teachers isn't going to help me much; our school almost forbids us from approaching them for anything. And I hope nowhere he goes would be teaching bad habits or technique but I guess you never know. It is hard when you are a non-dancer parent to really understand what is going on in the studio.

 

But this gives me some more to chew on as to what the downsides might be of going somewhere with a very different teaching style/method/whatever-it-is.

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If your school does not condone the study of ballet in another school then perhaps you best adhere to what the school is asking for a bit longer. Your son is very young. When students are young, they need consistency in training. This is imperative to the success of a child. Only once they pass the intermediate level should one even begin to consider mixing methods, if at all.

 

Perhaps you might be able to understand it if you compare it to being asked to eat and write part time with the hand you are not accustomed to using. Ballet asks that the entire body be coordinated to achieve. Perhaps eventually the roads do meet at the top, but why run around in circles at this point?

 

Just so you know, I am a teacher of one method of ballet, in a well known residential ballet program who does not allow our students to take classes in other schools unless given permission by our director unless our school is on vacation. We are a high school, training students from approximate ages 13 through 19. It is obvious when a student has studied a different methodology than the one we follow at school.

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5uptown, there are a number of thread explaining that 'Balanchine" is a style, not a method with more explanation regarding just what that means. Here is one: http://dancers.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=49424&hl=%2Bbalanchine+%2Bmethod

 

If you do a search using "Balanchine method", you'll end up with quite a few more. You may need to pick through the results as it will be a rather broad search (even if you use the quotation marks). But, reading through various threads should help you understand the difference.

 

As all our wonderful Teacher-Moderators say over and over, good teaching is good teaching regardless of method. But they also understand that there are differences among the recognized methods (Vaganova, Cechetti, RAD, etc) and that when a child is young, they need consistency in order to ingrain muscle memory. Once they reach an intermediate/advance level, it is much easier (and often helpful) to work in other methods because they will need to be adaptable to choreographers and artistic directors.

 

But, if you do want to get a good understanding, it is highly recommended that you get a nice pot of coffee or tea, pull up your favorite chair and spend a lot of time exploring all the Forums and their threads on whatever subject catches your fancy. I have been known to just pick a Forum (as I did for you the other day) and simply scroll through the index page, dropping in on whatever thread catches my eye. There is a great deal of collective wisdom, experience and information contained on this Board ---all just waiting to be shared again and again. That's what makes this resource so special.

 

Happy reading! :D

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Thank you vrsfanatic and dancemaven for your thoughts! I will plan to do some evening reading on these topics ;)

 

One problem for us is that between our very limited budget and the fact that our son is not interested in going away from home for 4-6 weeks yet, we may end up limited in what kind of summer training he can do. I guess we will see what comes of auditions, and perhaps his teacher will talk to us about it (I have heard rumors that at the level he will be in, they sometimes approach the parents about it. I can't emphasize enough how little contact the teachers have with families at his school. I know they have their reasons but it can lead to a lot of uneasiness on the part of families.) I know some parents travel with their younger boys to programs, but I am not able to do that!

 

We do no supplemental ballet during the school year, I completely understand the reasons why that could be problematic. All his ballet training Sept-June is handled by his home school and teachers. He plays recreational sports and studies other dance forms during the year, which gives him some nice balance in his life (and training).

 

Thank you again.

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  • 4 weeks later...

If you are wondering if other families do it, I can tell you from personal experience that the Vaganova summer program that my DD attended was pretty populated with young students from the "Balanchine school" in our city, and they seemed to do very well.

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I assure you, if Vaganova is being taught in the manner it is meant to be taught, the changes one must make are difficult with a very slow progression. What may seem to an outsider looking in to be "doing well", to a trained professional speaking honestly with trained professionals, the transition is difficult and a long process.

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Hmm. Interesting, pasdedeuxmama. I might know what program you mean. It's quite expensive, if it's the one I'm thinking of so I wasn't really considering it but maybe to audition for the experience and for just taking a class with Russian teachers to see what that is like!

 

Vrsfanatic, thank you for your input. I was thinking about a local to us program that is more classical, and actually after doing more reading I am thinking that the training may not be so dramatically different between these schools as people tend to make out.

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