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Studio quandary - stay or switch?


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Hello all! Brand new member here, with a studio quandary. My DD8 has been dancing at a local studio for two years, and is happy there and we both love the director/owner. But I've heard such raves about another local studio, that I brought DD for a couple of trial classes this spring. We were very impressed with the facility (real dressing rooms, student/parent lounges, sprung floors, foot bath, etc) and the professionalism of the staff and faculty. They also seem to offer more performance opportunities as the kids get older, with ballet and modern ensemble groups and outreach performances in the community. I also like that they're a non-profit group, and the costume fees are reasonable. As for our current studio, I believe the director gives solid instruction, and the older dancers seem terrific - at least to my untrained eye - and I'm always impressed by the caliber of the recitals. But in terms of scheduling, level placement, and parent communication, the studio can be disorganized and opaque, and their facility in a community center isn't fantastic (hard studio flooring, changing clothes in tiny bathroom stalls, parents & students sitting on the floor in the hallway). The studios are about equal driving distance for us. I know she's young, but she will probably keep dancing for the duration and I want to be sure she's in the right place. I'd like to at least try the new studio for a semester, but my daughter is so fond of her current studio director and wants to go back there this fall. I know that the longer she stays the harder it will be to switch. Today is the last day for early registration at our current studio (discounted tuition), and I need to make a decision. I'm really torn! How important are floors?? Thank you in advance for any advice!

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Hi Zsa Zsa!

I am new here, too, and also arrived with questions about leaving a studio. I'm sorry to hear you're in a time crunch -- that must make the stakes seem so much higher!

In my own daughter's experience, the "rightness" of a studio change came more from the classes than the facility itself -- DD9 recently left her childhood studio of 7 years for a far less luxurious studio in (frankly) a weird part of town. The contrast was stark, and it was so funny because as we walked in for her trial class, I found myself thinking, "I wonder if she'll care that it doesn't look as nice as her old studio?" The question was immediately answered when she stepped up to the barre for the first time and found the work serious and detailed, and the teaching unbelievably warm and positive. It was everything she was looking for, and the cosmetic stuff factored into her decision exactly zero percent.

As a parent, I totally relate to your concerns about placement, communication, and scheduling -- I had most of those questions at our old studio, and I think they're pretty common issues! Re: Floors... I'm by no means an expert, but I do know that while good floors can contribute to fewer injuries if the training is good, they can't compensate for poor teaching/technique.

It may not be true that the longer your daughter stays the harder it will be to leave -- the right fit is always a balance between the dancer's needs and parental realities, and neither of those are immutable. Needs can change, especially as a dancer gets more serious or begins to have professional aspirations -- after several years of escalating frustration, DD9 knew it was time to spread her wings.

Since you're racing the clock, is it a possibility to get the best of both worlds until you have more information? Could your daughter take a class or two at the new studio while maintaining some training at the old one? DD9 delayed leaving for the new studio this year until after her ballet exam so her partner wouldn't be stuck doing the exam alone, and during that period she did workshops and private lessons at the new studio. I think the combination went a really long way to reassuring her that her choice was absolutely the right one for her, in spite of her old loyalties. She's been at the new studio for several months now, and feels so at home. Maybe something like that might work for your daughter? It doesn't have to be all or nothing right away!

Edited by DoubtfulGuest
New thoughts.
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Hi DoubtfulGuest, Thank you for your reply! I'm curious: What are the reasons that you and/or your daughter weren't happy at her previous studio and decided to look elsewhere? 

I'm confident that the instruction at the new studio is solid. They turn out plenty of accomplished graduates. I peeked into the trial classes (ballet and modern), and was impressed with the attentive teaching. My daughter, however, is in a big rush to dance like the "big girls" and was impatient with the slower, foundational approach. She thought it was 'babyish' and that her current studio teaches 'real' dance. I'm tempted to make an executive decision here, but don't want to force her to switch if she doesn't want to!

Your advice to split the difference is tempting... I hate to pay registration fees at two places, but maybe that's the thing to do here. :)

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DD9 had a number of issues, but the real turning point was when she worked up the nerve to finally say she wants a professional career. She's always been a tremendously hard worker and unbelievably dedicated to ballet (and I've been preparing myself to hear this for years!) but daring to dream it out loud was a real watershed moment in her young life. Scheduling had always been a huge issue at our old school -- she was so little, and already invited into a higher level, but the Intensive program she was in wasn't enough. They were very inclined to skip her ahead again, but she didn't want to go faster -- she wanted to go deeper and broader, if that makes sense. It's funny you mention the foundational approach -- she needed to find a place like you're describing! She's been at her new studio's SI for five weeks now, and one day they spent 2 hours working on accessing one muscle and she loved it.

Splitting the difference for a term or two could be good, if you can make it work. If that's too complicated, the other thing that might be good is to spring for just a couple of privates with a teacher at the new school. The slower approach can be really compelling in a one-on-one situation because the dancer can see their progress so quickly, which can be a powerful experience and might eliminate your need for an executive decision! 

Edited by DoubtfulGuest
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Wow, your daughter is really mature and passionate! Amazing that she already has such drive and work ethic at this young age. My daughter is not nearly at that level -- she's happy just taking a couple of classes a week at this point. Because she's not asking for more dance time, it's tempting to just let her stay at the place she likes and leave it at that. I don't want to be a pushy dance mom, ya know? ;) But she is obviously gifted with natural poise and expressiveness, and dance is the only thing that really holds her focus and boosts her confidence and that she never stops doing at home, so I want to nurture this interest carefully. The teachers she met at the new school both remarked on her strength and potential.

I really like the idea of trying a couple of private lessons at the new school. I'll ask whether the new studio offers privates... I'm also thinking of signing her up for a week-long dance camp there in August, even though she's not thrilled by the idea... I have a feeling that she'd love it if she tried it. 

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I think you are well on your way with ideas! 

Potential is a funny thing, isn't it? It's lovely that the new school has remarked on your daughter's strength -- outside perspective can be so valuable, for both parent and child. Sometimes kids don't have any internal sense of where they could go -- and it's all too easy as parents to not have two clues about it, either! You could position the August camp as 'research' -- and let her know that since she's got some talent, you feel like you owe it to her to at least do a fact-finding mission at the new studio, where you could both really check out the pros/cons of the environment. If for some reason the camp isn't a positive experience, that will be excellent information, too -- the nice thing about being 8 is that there's loads of time!

My kid is a little weird, but she just sort of came out this way! She literally did one creative movement class at age two and never looked back. At this point, my main job with her is to reign her in so she doesn't burn out, but I really do believe kids teach us how to parent them. Sometimes they seek out change on their own, but other times it's up to us to show them the menu of options and see what sticks!

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Yes, I think I will have to let our studio's early/discounted registration deadline pass (sob), to buy us more time to decide. My daughter is so impressionable, that I could see her doing a 180 on this decision if given more exposure to the new place. She's always been the "show me the menu" type. :wink:

I can't thank you enough for your kind help. I've been driving myself crazy with this. Seems like such a small thing to people on the outside, but it's looming large in my parenting world right now. 

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It's a daunting thing, to navigate and nurture a kid -- I'm 100% sure everyone here has been through a version of these choices! All the best with your decisions and the August intensive -- hope you'll do an update after the camp if she goes! 

Many studios offer exams if they're teaching a syllabus such as RAD or Cecchetti -- our old studio used the Cecchetti method for the Intensive students and RAD for the recreational stream. There are loads of ideas about which syllabus is preferred for which kind of kid -- and the main thing is finding a good fit for a child, but exams are by no means necessary. They can offer a goal for kids and something to work toward, but no one at the professional level is looking at exam grades!

Our new studio is Vaganova, which does things a bit differently -- I think they'll do an exam next year, but the exercises are not set, which suits my kid really well. She feels like she's really "dancing" now -- rather than repeating set exercises over and over all year, but that really may be a function of the relative strengths of the studios. I think you can find excellent teachers in any method, with or without exams!

Edited by DoubtfulGuest
Added exam information
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Welcome, ZsaZsa! 

Doubtfulguest has given your great advice already, but I thought I would add some. At 8, from wiser moderator advice I have seen over the years here, I think you still have some time, since it sounds like your current studio has decent training based on what you know, so that is the good news. However, if she loves dance then you may want to get her where she has the potential for the best training as you go through the years: that means sprung floors, for one, and also the amount of ballet classes that will be closest to what is recommended here (see Age Appropriate Training Guidelines pinned at top of this thread). Truthfully, I do not think it is all that important to have the exact right amount of hours at age 8, BUT you want to be in a place with hours close to the guidelines as girls get older, particularly as they prepare for pointe and then train en pointe. Many schools in our area are not too different(on the surface) for hours/etc at age 5-8, BUT then in the teens the majority have one to two days a week for ballet and pointe from age 12/13 to 18, meaning there is not much room to grow and improve and continue to advance the level of dance at those places, and there is certainly no path to becoming a professional.

Find out the hours/#classes per week of ballet at both places for the tween/teen levels and see which studio is closest the the guidelines here. If neither are, you may have to look into other options.

We switched DD at age 6 to the best school in the area mainly because DD loved dance as a hobby and it was obvious from the old studio's recitals that the older girls did not have good training at all, even to my "I danced on pointe for fun 1-2x a week in high school" recreational background. So we did not have to leave a studio we loved and all that--my husband and I had been planning the switch for almost a year. We just had to convince DD that she would learn a lot more at the new place, even if she no longer had sparkly-costume fun recitals at the local college. I was not on this board then , but looking back I still would not have moved her earlier, and truthfully could have waited another year and all would have ended up the same, though a year after that it might have affected placement! It is very common that girls who move from similar studios to our current company-affiliated school after age 9 bump down a level or two when they start (i.e 10 yr old "pre-pointe" rec studio student is started with the 8-9 yr olds, which is our 2nd year of ballet, 3-4 years before pointe). 

I wish you all the best in making this tough decision!


PS--your question about exams: some pre-professional schools do, some do not (ours does not do "exams" but certainly the teachers do assessments when deciding if the girls can move up levels), but to my knowledge from reading this board, formal exams are not a necessary part of good training. 

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Thank you for the response, cammies! I looked at the class schedule at our current studio, and see that the advanced ballet classes are 1 hour 15 minutes, rather than an hour-and-a-half, as per the guidelines. I don't know whether my daughter will ever progress to advanced ballet at all, but perhaps this fact tells me something about the quality of the school as a whole. On another note, I like that the new studio offers a strong modern dance program, in addition to ballet, especially since my DD has flat feet and may well choose that different direction... The sparkly costumes of the current studio do hold quite an appeal for the moment, though! :)

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There is another issue that I didn't see anyone mention.  One approach might be objectively better than another (though frankly I think there are many paths that can produce an excellent dancer) but the best training in the world is useless if the child decides to quit dance entirely.  While foundation is vital for all dance, and especially ballet, every teacher/school approaches that differently.  My daughter (age 12) has seen and heard of a variety of interpretations and has told me flat out that if she had been in a school that did one of the super slow burn approaches, she would have left dance years ago.  I believe her; it's just not her learning style (for anything, including academics).  Would she be a better dancer now if all her classes had been slower (I'm having a hard time labelling the differences as I don't believe one is better than the other, they're just different)?  Maybe, maybe not.  But I assure you she's a much better dancer now, than she would have been had she left dance when she was 9.

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My daughter switched studios at 9. She maybe could have waited another year, but I think 9 was probably right for her. The old studio had a few serious kids, but was mostly recreational. I knew she needed to be somewhere that offered 90 minute classes and where I could see a clear pathway from one level to the next. As someone described it earlier, her new studio works deeper rather than faster. She thought it would be hard to leave friends and teachers she loved, but once she made the switch she never looked back. 

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BalletFamily, you have an excellent point. The last thing I want to do is turn her off dance, which is so important for her confidence right now. AB's Mom, it's useful to hear your story, and to know that a switch doesn't necessarily have to happen right now. I'm still not sure what to do, but I'm thinking I may let DD go another semester at the old place if that's what she really wants to do. It's too soon to know how serious she will be about dance, and if she's having fun there maybe that's good enough for now. It's good to know that the new place is there, if and when we need it. She can always go to week-long camps and springtime drop-in classes there, and see if it sticks. Thanks to all for your help thinking this through! 


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Does your daughter like the studio she is at?  Is she asking to leave?

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