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What is an appropriate way to check on your students progress?


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Do you feel comfortable approaching the AD or teachers with questions about your student's progress or performance? I'm curious if at other schools students receive any kind of routine evaluation or feedback?


At our school the student is given a certificate at the end of the year acknowledging that they have completed a class but that is it. I would really like to be more informed as to my daughter's strengths and weaknesses as well as some guidance as far as setting realistic goals for the future.


My DD is 14 and has been at the same local school since she began ballet at the age of 9. After attending a wonderful SI only 2 hours (one way) away from us the past summer, she had the opportunity to enroll in their school year program. Because of logistics the director of this school agreed to allow her to attend their classes twice a week. She is the only student we know of who isn't attending full time. She is loving it! Her teachers are wonderful and she says she can't believe how much she is learning. She feels that she is improving, that she gets good corrections, teachers know her name and she loves being surrounded with such a high caliber of dancers. I would really like to know an opinion from someone who is knowledgeable - like one of these teachers - about how she is actually doing. Is this something that other parents do?


At our home studio she has always been one of the strongest in any class she has been part of. I don't know of any students from this school going on to dance with a professional company. This is why we are traveling as much as possible to try and help her get the training she needs and wants. I realize this is her dream but I feel a need to be realistic and I'd really like to know how she's doing in comparison with other girls who want to make dancing a profession. What's the best way to do this?


I'm also curious to know if students at other schools are hesitant or even afraid to ask for help or feedback from the AD?

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  • Administrators

Students and parents should never be afraid to ask for help or feedback from their teachers or AD's. But they do usually have to ask for it. :)

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DD school has a set visitation day at the end of each semester for parents to observe, however, when we requested an additional day mid-semester (this was during her first year) they allowed it. After observing DD in class our concerns about her progress or compatibility with the program were put to rest without having to meet directly with the director.

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My DD gets an end of year evaluation which helps us to see the progress that she is making.

In addition there is a parent observation day so we can watch class and see for ourselves how she is in class.

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Our dd's hometown school had parent observation 3-4 times per year. She attended the school from age 10-14. While it was one way to view dd's dancing, I would also say that it was only one snapshot 3-4 times a year. As a non-dancer, I had no idea what I was looking for. There were no conferences or written reports for the kids or their parents to discuss progress. It was one of my concerns about the school. That said, it's a very large school and filling out reports or having conferences would have taken time away from teacher's time to teach.


At 13/ 14 we began looking for some confirmation that our dd's continual stated desire was a real possibility. Here was our problem: the school profited from our dd's presence as a student. We were told things like, "she's so talented," "she's a beautiful dancer," etc by the directors. Was she? or was she just a paying student? Her PE teacher at school actually said, "I know that school, they are just interested in your money." Talk about cold water on all the compliments! While we appreciated their comments, we took them in context. There were hints that she might be able to progress as a ballet dancer: SI acceptances, roles in Nutcracker - It could have been the PE teacher's comment, but we weren't satisfied with accolades from the school directors because she was a paying student. There were inherent conflicts of interest. Written reports wouldn't have answered the question either.


This lead us to seek outside confirmation of her progress and promise. She took class locally with another well-known teacher during a school break who was more measured in her view. She said "if she continues to work well and doesn't become distracted, she could have a chance at becoming professional." Then at age 14, we chose the SI that had no vested interest in keeping her as a student and asked to speak with the director at the conclusion of the SI. The director had no conflict of interest, had been a successful professional and taught at a residential school with no housing and did not recruit young students to that program.Her appraisal was, "She's got what it takes physically. She's got nice musicality and nice presence." She added, "If she continues her interest, stays focus and gets better training year round, she will be competitive at auditions." That was our ah-ha moment.


Her second school (age 15-18), a European vocational school, issued written reports twice a year and met with parents mid-year for conferences. Parents were invited to observe classes during the conference period as well. This school recruits only dancers who they believe will become professional dancers and earn a living wage so the focus wasn't "can they become professional dancers?" but what is needed to make them stronger dancers.


Just writing about this reminds me that is so hard to be the parent of a young aspiring ballet dancer: there are no easy or concrete answers to gauge progress towards the end goal- a job! For us, both schools and the SI were correct and the message and reports were consistent. If you do get reports, look for consistent themes.


Sorry this is so long... but one more thing. At 14, your dd is getting old enough to ask about her progress herself. A dancer must learn how to assert themselves appropriately in order to know if their work is within the vision of the AD of the company. Encourage your dd to learn how to ask teachers about her progress and what she might do to improve. It's good practice in a safe environment!

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I would ask at the school about evaluations. My impression is that most ballet schools have some form of evaluation in place.


Even at the generic dance school dd attended for toddler based creative movement and various dance forms until age 9 had an annual written evaluation sheet that was mailed home at the end of the year. It was obviously very basic for the earliest years, but did include some technical goals for dd in her last few.


At her local ballet school, there was also an annual written evaluation. For the older dancers (13ish and up), there were annual conferences instead.

At dd's last ballet school, an even more professionally oriented school, there were conferences twice each year with the faculty. These conferences covered whatever was appropriate from technique related goals to career counseling.

As far as approaching the AD of a school, I think that varies with how accessible that person is. The AD may or may not be the right person to be asking the questions to, depending on the school. I do agree with swanchat that at 14, it is time for her to learn to ask about her own progress, starting with her actual teachers.

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At our school, the beginners get a progress report twice a year. (Fall and Spring) Intermediate and advanced dancers have a conference with the AD and the main teacher for their level twice a year. Parents are allowed to attend, but not required. Any mid-year level promotions generally come at these conferences, and fall conferences include a discussion of the dancer's SI audition plans. I always go to DD's conferences, but I am in the minority. Given her age and aspirations, I feel like for now, at least, it's good to have a second pair of ears so that I can catch whatever the 12 year old misses.


We are able to email at any time or request a conference whenever. We have done this in the past and it has been helpful. Our AD is accessible, which is convenient, especially since she frequently teaches DD's level, so she is one of the people we would be most likely to want to talk to anyway.


This year, the studio made a major improvement by formalizing what is expected technique-wise at each level, making it clear, that just because a dancer is capable of the "skills" on the list, does not mean promotion. (I would assume this is to avoid conversations like: "See, I can get around twice in pirouette, time to move me up...") Then they shared these written expectations with the dancers, along with a general syllabus for each level. These too have helped us to get an understanding of how DD is progressing, because knowing her level, we can see what the expectations are for her, and what the faculty think she is doing consistently.

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No, I don't feel comfortable asking them and neither does dd. This is her first year at a new studio and I'm not aware of any evaluations, etc. There were none at her old studio either. Both are non-company affiliated. Evaluations, conferences, or any feedback would be great but we wouldn't even know how to ask for it.

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Maybe the four hour commute is creating too much time to wonder if it's all worth it? The bullying? The solo stress? (You mention these issues on on your other topic posts.) With so much going on post your DD's Nut. casting, I could see why you might wonder what in the world you've gotten your daughter into!


it seems to me you are getting great feedback as to how your DD is doing. She was accepted to a good SI last summer, takes classes two hours away at a bigger more established studio, is getting solos in the Nut. etc.

Ballet takes a lot of commitment from the dancers AND their parents, you are not alone in making your long commute two days a week. I know of dancers whose parents do that every day, so just know you're not the only crazy mom out there logging miles up and down the freeway wondering if it's all worth it!


Sounds like your DD is doing great (even without a formal meeting with her AD). Try to enjoy it all, relax and know that dancers are amazingly smart kids and your DD will rise to the challenge of her solo, even if she's not given as much time rehearsing as you think she might need. I highly doubt her AD will allow her to go on stage unprepared. Her casting shows the AD believes in her, and will want her to shine come performance time. Even if she doesn't get the rehearsal time you or she may think she needs, that's ok too. It's all part of the ballet world and performing in general. When my DD had her first solo, she received no time for a dress rehearsal. Her dress rehearsal was her actual first performance. Was she happy about it? No? Was it fair? Not at all. Did she perform her best? Not really. There were flooring issues, and costume issues she had to figure out while on stage in front of an audience. But she got through it and delivered an amazing performance the next show. It all works out. DD felt great pride getting thru that first show, and she still uses it as a bench mark when things get tough.


It'll all work out great for your DD! We are rooting for her and for you!

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Our studio doesn't have evaluations but the studio owner is very open to having a discussion with you/child to let you know where you stand. If your studio has set times for observation, I would definitely take advantage of that. We have observation week - the parents can come in and watch entire classes all week to get an idea of how your child is doing in reference to the class. It is more effective if you go in with the mindset that you are going to watch everyone with an open mind, not just your child, so you get a feel for the different skill levels within the level. I find it utterly fascinating to watch all of the kids of all different body compositions dance together without the pressure of performance. I'm not a dancer so I welcome to opportunity to ask why one dancer is more effective at a move than another and what skill progression is required for that move. Landing jumps for example. Some kids land harder/louder than others even though they are smaller people as far as build. Why can a 165 lb boy land quieter than a 90 lb girl in the same class? You wouldn't get an opportunity to know if you aren't sitting in class watching. I will tell you, my kids absolutely hate observation week. As explained to me last night by my oldest DD - class where you work on things you suck at so why would you want all the moms staring at you while you are getting to the business of screwing up? Touche baby, touché...

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