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Need advice on progress meeting at new school


MEWDancer

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A little background: My DD is 12.5 years old and has been on pointe for a little over a year. We had been going to a medium sized town, with an excellent school and extremely good teachers. She was dancing (ballet) 10-12 hours a week last year. (4 hours of that at a not so good school in our tiny town). Her teachers at the good school follow very strict procedures and individual assessments when putting students on pointe and she had an easy transition to pointe because of that. She had also been doing once a week semi-privates with her best teacher.

We moved to a large city and she started in September at a well-known school affiliated with a professional company. Her placement there seemed off from the start. She was placed with girls just going from 4.5 hours a week to 7.5. The girls are all in her age range (levels overlap ages there) and have been on pointe a similar amount of time but most of them cannot get over their box, sickle, and cannot do pirouttes en pointe and don't hold their core, they focus on turnout at this school but lots of these girls in her class roll their feet in to achieve turnout. All of these things were noticed by my daughter and told to me (I am NOT a dancer, but have been watching her privates, and listening to her teacher give corrections and explanations for years) and on the parent watch day I did notice that the overall skill of the class was not up to par with her peers at her medium sized old school.

This large school puts entire classes en pointe at one time and some are only 9-10 years old.

She has attended summer intensives at a well-known school with very slow and basic classes, and understands the importance of perfecting technique.

The problem is that she is not feeling at all challenged and feels she is losing skills that she had before because her class here is not teaching them yet. We feel like she was placed lower because we came from the outside and she has not been here since she was 4 years old.

They sometimes have classes combined with the next level up (who are mostly her age) and she feels comfortable there, and I have seen them dance, she looks like she fits in right in the middle of that group. My daughter dances 7.75 hours a week at this large school, and on Saturdays we travel 2 hours back to her medium school where she is a member of the Contemporary company and has 3 hour classes followed by a 45 min. pointe class. * edit - ("Company" apprentice I should say, it is run by a faculty member at a University with a large dance program, to give the older/higher level girls an idea of what a professional company is like- it is NOT a competition-dolly dinkle type company).

Her old teacher reached out to me and said she notices that my DD does not appear to be being challenged, and is not making any progress since we left. (same things my daughter feels).

The school has individual conferences set up for next week in place of class to discuss progress and summer intensives. It is with her two teachers and the school director (who we have not met). I am looking for advice as to the best way to approach these issues without coming across as a parent who just thinks my DD is amazing (she is good, a hard worker, but I am NOT one of those parents). I don't want our concerns to be dismissed and we are willing to give this school a chance, but we are prepared to look elsewhere.


I am new to being able to post on this, have been a lurker- but just got the right kind of email to have an account. Hope I posted this correctly and it makes sense. Thanks!

Edited by MEWDancer
Added paragraphs just to make it a little easier to read.
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Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers, MEWDancer! Glad you were able to get a new email and join our forums. (You posted correctly, and it makes sense. :) )

 

I'm sure the situation is somewhat frustrating for your DD, and for you, but keep in mind that students new to a school are often placed slightly lower at the beginning. I think it would be best for you to first just listen to what they have to say, and let your questions stem from their evaluations. There may be some valid reasons for the leveling, but I would hope that they would explain her placement and also their thoughts on her potential to advance. If they do not, then ask.

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Thanks, I am going in to this feeling defeated already, but have no idea what they will say. It is really frustrating, we drive 45 minutes each way, I sit and wait every day because it is too far for me to go home, DD is not excited very about the classes, and I feel like I am wasting money and time. I am anxious to hear what they say. DD did not participate in their huge Nutcracker (23 shows) as she had committed to her old school's Nut before we moved. This school called to ask if she wanted to be in it even though my DD did not even audition and I believe they cut kids. So, maybe they do see something in her. It is just difficult to make a switch when you didn't want to, and have it not live up to expectations. Not just for her, but for me as I spend so much time sitting here (alone- none of her classmates parents stay) waiting. There is a school closer to home that we are curious about, but don't have any information about it and it is not reviewed on this site.

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MEWDancer, I hear your concern. Please try to go into the conference with an open mind and an inquiring mind. Use this opportunity to ask about the school's overall philosophy regarding its mission and how it works to accomplish that. Does it see itself as training future professional dancers, does it see itself working to train dancers to go to company trainee/apprenticeships following high school graduation, does it see itself training college-dance program ready dancers, high-level recreational dancers, multi-disciplined dancers, or a good recreational level dancer?

 

What is the school's overall philosophy on advancement through the levels? What are the levels? Is there an overall curriculum--in writing--that guides the teachers and the different levels. How is that curriculum implemented and followed? How do the various levels fit together? How is advancement through the levels determined, generally.

 

After you get a feel for the school's actual mission, philosophy of training, and curriculum, then you can start asking your questions as these elements apply to your DD.

 

If at the end of the conference and after some time to think over what you learned, you should be in a better position to evaluate whether this school will do what you want for your DD, if it is just going to take a little more time to adapt, or if it just isn't going to be a fit.

 

I would try very, very hard not to go in with a feeling of defeat. Try very, very hard to go in on an inquiring mission and then apply what your learn to your DD's situation and needs. Getting a feel for how the school envisions its own big picture will help you decide whether your DD and family fit into that picture.

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We were in a similar place last year with a new school in a larger city and my daughter was 15 at the time. We had already invested a lot into her dance training, and sent her to a highly regarded SI in NY for 2 summers in a row. At this New school in the larger city we relocated to they placed her in a level that seemed below what she was used to. When I sat down with her teacher and director a couple of months in, I learned that they thought she was doing something that was going to lead her down a path of injury that they wanted corrected before moving her up. Sure enough, she had already been injured because of it.

 

However, I was still anxious all year for her that she was going to lose technique and strength by slowing down from what she had been doing. By the end of the year, my feelings had completely changed. I could see they had developed a stronger more clean technique overall, and they invited her to skip a level this year. Now she is very challenged in the level she is in. I love the technique I see in the higher level dancers they produce. She went back to the same SI in NY last summer and she did in fact advance in level there as well.

 

If I were you, I would look around for a plan B school. But do your best to show a positive attitude about the situation with your daughter if you choose to stay and wait to see how things turn out where you are. That was hard for me last year. I went through a lot of the same feelings you describe. She seemed discouraged at times but she developed an attitude of patience and looked for the positives. She made some very good friends and they seemed to look up to her.

 

Look at what their more advanced dancers technique is like to give you an idea of what their teaching produces.

 

I know this must be frustrating and our situation may not be the same at all, but I had the same feelings and worries.

And, as a former dance teacher, I know it's generally frowned upon for parents to interfere with the training, but I personally would speak up as respectfully as possible as to your daughter being challenged and staying motivated.

I wish you the best of luck!

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Thank you, very good advice. It does sound like a similar situation. This school does produce beautiful dancers and tends to look first to them when there are openings in the professional company. The meeting did not really go very deep and I didn't end up saying anything, I guess we both know that perfecting technique is important, and she likes her classmates and teachers. I have no doubt she will move up next year, and I think that this is an age and level where there will be more kids that don't move up. She has had a nagging injury all year, knee pain, we finally went and had it looked at and started PT and were told she needs to strengthen her hips. She has been doing the exercises one week and already has less knee pain. I think if we were not still involved with her old school on Saturdays (where they do things very well, but move more quickly) and her old teacher hadn't said something to make me worry that we would not even be thinking about or comparing it.

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