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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Too much class for a 9 year old?

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I really appreciate your feedback, thank you so much. 

Would you say this is for all partner moves across the board? I know she isn't going to have the 10 year old try any lifts or catches or anything like that.  She told me last night she did a regular arabesque supported by him (on his hand, arm? I'm not sure) and he would walk slowly around (promenade?) She isn't en pointe obviously so this didn't seem dangerous to me.  But I personally have never been a dancer or a dance teacher so I am surely not knowledgeable enough to make that determination.  The only other thing I know specifically in their 'partner work' was a single (turn, piroutte?) with the partner assisting at their waist.  I'm not sure if she used the younger dancer for that.  Would it be safer if she was only partnered by the teacher and his assistant? (teacher is a very experienced dancer with a lot of professional work and serious training under his belt)  What age would be appropriate for her to start partner work training? I was thinking since Clara (nutcracker is clearly the ballet I have the most knowledge of) has partner work in it and our Clara (and other companies it seems) seem to fall in that 11-14 age range so she isn't that far off from that.  Would it be better to wait until she is 11 and more firmly in the intermediate level? 

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I guess I will give an opinion... have you thought about having her try something different that might benefit her ballet? For example: Acrobats or swimming.

And drop 1 class.

just my 2 cents...

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I struggled with commenting on this thread for a couple of reasons....  (1) I'm a parent of a 17 yo DD, and this forum is for under 13, so I thought you wanted comparisons with other 9 yo, not necessarily a history of others who had gone before you (although in later posts you mentioned you do want history, so now I'm commenting); (2) I thought professionals and mods would be better to answer your questions, since I'm just a parent and have only the experience of 1 child in dance, not 100s that the teachers have seen; (3) I wasn't clear why you were asking. 

I'm not trying to be offensive with that last question, but you seem happy with the school, your kid seems happy dancing the hours she is, and you don't have any ongoing issues (injuries, academics, burn out) currently happening, so I'm not clear on what your worry actually is. 

Is she dancing a lot?  Yes.

Is that okay?  It depends. 

Are there risks?  Yes. 

You've mentioned the risks, so you seem to be aware of them.  She can burn out; she can be injured; she can progress too quickly for her school and risk outgrowing where she is too quickly; she can progress too quickly through foundational technique and have to repeat and/or re-learn. 

However, risks are just that... risks, not guarantees of problems.  Only you can decide whether the schedule "fits" your DD AND your decisions as a parent.

My DD grew up in a very fast paced, pre-pro ballet school.  She danced approximately 15-20 hours a week at the age of 9 (NOT including rehearsals) because that is what *I* decided was good for her.  The school offered at least 30 hours of ballet training a week for her age, and very little time off.  In fact, time off, rests and breaks were discouraged.  It was the AD's belief that children could handle more than their parent's believed they could.  The AD also believed that American culture "coddled" children, and that children enjoyed being challenged, and ballet required a large number of training hours at a very young age.  I will say there is some amount of truth in the AD's position.  However, throughout my DD's time there, I fought to keep the schedule of hours down to what *I* considered "reasonable" at her various ages (and I used BT4D's suggestions as guidelines, along with my own DD's health, energy and attitude).  At a minimum, I insisted on 2 days off/week until she was 11-12 (?), and then at least 1 day off per week (in addition to some other breaks during the year).  That attitude did not make me a favorite parent at the school, and my DD suffered from several public lectures about her lack of "commitment" throughout the years. 

Despite those difficulties, I credit her pre-pro school with getting her to where she is now (a trainee at her dream school/company).  Could she have gotten there without her school?  I don't think so.  But I also don't think she would still be dancing without me setting some limits on the schedule early on and re-adjusting those limits frequently.  Throughout her time at the school, I saw a great deal of injuries and burn out from other more talented and amazing dancers whose parents had difficulty saying "no" or "not yet" to either the school or their children.

The risks are real and I think they can be hard to see.  Furthermore, I believe a parent reads their child better than a teacher.  You know more about their behavior outside of the ballet studio than the teacher does.  You are the best person to judge your child's energy level and health.  At the risk of generalizing too much, I also think that kids who LOVE ballet (the way mine did) will tend to push themselves very hard.  Mine was always reluctant to take breaks; she did not value the time off and fought against it.  She wanted to do ALL the classes, so it was a constant balance between what she wanted to do, and what I thought was enough. 

Read your child, and make your decisions based on that.  Look at her sleeping habits, her eating habits, her stress level -- how does she handle the small setbacks/irritations of everyday life?  Is she generally irritable or happy?  Is she (generally) patient with her siblings?  Does she enjoy school?  That is all the advice I can give you.


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Thank you for your response! The 'why are you asking this?' part is really a good question.  I guess I was half expecting a lot of people to say that it wasn't that extreme of a number of hours of class, since I figured the people on here have kids that are a lot more dedicated to dance than the average rec dancers that I know personally.  The other half of me was afraid that I would get a shocked extreme response from knowledgeable people that knew this to be dangerous in some way I wasn't aware of.  

I am happy with her school and her teacher/studio owner.  I knew some of the risks (burn out, etc) and I think I do know my daughter and understand her training to the degree that I feel comfortable for the most part but I'm a mom so we always find something to worry about.  A few months ago I was super anxious that YAGP would be an awful experience for her because she is too young but the studio owner reassured me that her variation was modified only slightly but just enough to make it fit her abilities, and that she had no trouble remembering the choreo and was performing it as well as she expected, she also echoed my expectations that she wasn't expected to place but it was great experience just getting on stage.  She was 100% right.  My daughter shined on stage and really did her best.  She was outclassed by Rock 11 year olds by leaps and bounds (no pun intended) but she wasn't upset she didn't win because she felt great about her performance and enjoyed being in the master classes and watching parts of the show.

I did have another discussion with studio owner about the extra class and to get more information about what they actually did in the class and she assured me that the partner work that would be expected of the youngest girls was minimum, things like the promenades and that a lot of what she would pick up was in the explanations and demonstrations from the older girls.  She is treating this like a fun bonus opportunity to learn, like a master class, not a strenuous requirement.  I feel comfortable with that so I am going to keep her in the class. She also believes that the kids who take more classes and/or more days of the week are the ones who tend to avoid more of the injuries than kids who settle for the minimum three classes (3-5 hours a week) of class that may include other genres, especially in the older dancers.  That has logic to it I can understand too.

Thank you again, to everyone who responded.  I love that I found this resource, I'm sure I will be here for a while, continuing to learn at each step.

Edited by dancemaven
Removed full quote of immediately preceding post.

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Eligus, I thank you for your input on this thread. To be honest, I have difficulty answering questions on any parent thread. For the most part, I feel removed from the "norm" on parental threads and you have reminded me of this again. I addressed the training issues at hand, not the number of hours of training. I can never agree with an ideology of a school the puts 9 year olds in class with 18 year olds nor a school that encourages partnering classes at 9, regardless of how happy the child may seem and a description of a few "promenades". The work is unnecessary and beyond the capacity of this age group to do well. It may be cute however. My goal is to educate families on the path to professional training. Not all members have a similar goal. My number one interest in participating in BT4D is to educate parents, students and teachers. 

May your journeys continue to be bright. :)




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5 hours ago, TinydancersNJ said:

She also believes that the kids who take more classes and/or more days of the week are the ones who tend to avoid more of the injuries than kids who settle for the minimum three classes (3-5 hours a week) of class that may include other genres, especially in the older dancers.

I've been following this thread and I almost feel like I have to say one more thing....  I don't understand the logic in this quote above- all the dancers that were injured at dd old shcool were injured primarily because of over-use injuries ( I know this because I knew the parents etc , it wasn't just an observation - it was a fact) , the ones who danced less were not injured .... I think we are trying to send a message of caution here .  Professionals such as vrsfanatic and parents alike are waving some red flags and I am waving one too.... just proceed with caution and also remember more classes equals more money for studio , not being cynical, it's just part of the whole business which includes SI's etc.  I know it's tempting as a parent to do "more" especially when you see others doing it but I assure you , it's not needed at that age and if your dd is going to truly be a ballet dancer, slow work with correct technique is the only way to get there ... hope this helps in your decision making.


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I've always appreciated your insight, Vrsfanatic, even if I haven't necessarily always personally complied with it.  :wink:  I believe you know a great deal more about training ballet dancers than I ever will, but sometimes, parents and their kids are not in ideal situations for training. and we make the best decision we can with the information we have and in the situation we are.  But please don't stop trying to educate us because that is the only way we can make better decisions in the future.

And yes, Ballet1310, all the injuries I saw (including my DD's own injury) were related to over use... And "burn out" is real.  But I'm not sure I would have believed someone else telling me how frequently it happened to others when my DD was 9....  I didn't see it happening then.  Most of the injuries and burn out didn't usually happen at 9, and I didn't see it happening to mine.  Instead, most injuries happened at the 11-14 age, and were excused by the studio with reasons like "didn't have a ballet body" or "chose to do something else" or "wasn't strong enough to handle what the profession will be like."  As you implied, it was never the ballet studio's procedures or set up that was in question  -- it was always the student's "fault."  So, it took awhile to educate myself on what was really happening.  You give good advice to warn that the studio is a business and to take their guidance with a grain of salt. 

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Thank you Eligis for your kind words. Unfortunately, some parents do not want to hear that their school of choice, while providing the services they seek for their child, may be prioritizing the business aspect over the well being of their child. Perhaps the operative words are  "providing the services they seek" and "over the well being of their child". I asked my very brave and naïve mother in the world of ballet, years ago, how did she know how to choose the school she chose for me, to enter my "life" in dance. She said it was easy. First she called a professional school to ask about their requirements for an eight year old. She also asked what were the requirements for the teaching of ballet, just in case a child really did want to pursue it as a career?  I suggest all parents investigate the requirements placed upon young people studying ballet at a professional level to compare their own child's schedule. No professional school places 9 year olds in class with 18 year olds. No professional school offers "partnering" classes to a 9 or 10 year olds, whether on pointe or not. There are concrete excellent reasons. As I have said in other threads, if the practices of some ballet schools in the US took place at the academic level, parents would be very alarmed.

While a child may be entering ballet without the aspiration to dance professionally, if the child begins ballet without a solid foundation in excellent fundamentals, the child's options in dance are automatically limited. It is similar to learning a foreign language from someone who only kind of, sort of knows the language.

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Eligus, yes , I agree - hard to see the injuries/ burn out at 9 !  It’s an exciting time when your child starts dancing but it’s a long  road so it’s best to start in the right way or that road can end quickly 

My hope is others read this thread and just take a step back and consider before jumping all in - also that they trust others, again , especially vrsfanatic , when they give advice !!   

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My dd went to a school that offered various dance genres in addition to pre-prof ballet. I never really considered the other classes when determining how much was too much dance. When she was around 7, she had pre-prof ballet about 4-5 hours/week. It seemed like a lot back then, but she was doing very well and we were both happy. It is now 2-3 years later and she has switched to a solely pre-prof ballet school. The amount of ballet classes/hours has reduced to half of what they used to be at the other school, despite the fact that she's older and I think she should be dancing more, if anything. She still takes other dance genres at another school, and they have become more hours than ballet. That worries me. I reviewed many threads on BT4D and asked for a lot of advice, and found that this "slow and steady" approach was the way to go. I still have some doubts because I learned that other pre-prof/3-letter ballet schools in our area still offer more ballet.

My dd also had her first dance injury since switching schools, so I think I understand what the AD means. I'm not sure if it has to do with muscle memory and consistency or what, but before her body just knew what to do and how to do it. Now, it seems like it's easier for her to be injured with just 2 ballet classes/week. However, I also understand that she is slightly older and in a higher-level class, and may be doing more intense moves that can increase the risk of injury. Also, she is a tween and I understand the body begins changing to prepare for puberty, affecting her movements. I can't really pinpoint the cause or blame the "slow" school. 

I will say that I agree with previous comments regarding classes labeled "company ballet" and "partnering." If you have an '08 kid, then our dds are practically the same age and those classes don't sound appropriate IMO, based on the NYC-based pre-prof schools. I also find it a little confusing for a child to be in both beginner and intermediate ballet regularly. I know some kids take lower-level classes from time to time to brush up on fundamentals, but I've never seen it done in a way that it makes up the regularly scheduled lessons.

It's hard to form an opinion if it's the only school your dd has been to. I allow my dd to use the summers to "explore" other dance studios through their junior intensives and young dancer programs. If they have any in your area, it may be insightful to attend one, or even ask if she can take a trial/drop-in class. Another thing you can do is see the level of training of the older dancers. Are they being accepted to summer intensives? What's the next step for them? Do they get into finishing schools? Are they college and/or company-ready? If your dd continues to take ballet seriously, these are some questions to consider for her future.

Lastly, my dd is also in an academically challenging school, and I must say that the workload (homework, studying, etc.) becomes greater over the years. If your dd keeps up a busy dance schedule, you may have to prepare for alternative schooling. 

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My daughter will be 11 and in 6th grade this fall. She started ballet recreationally in 2nd, so she has completed four years of training. The first two years were one 45 minute class per week. I had her take the two week intensive at our studio that summer, because she showed focus and promise but she seemed to lose interest some weeks. I thought building her commitment, attachment, and confidence would help, and it really did. 

The following year she was invited to a new pre-trainee class for dancers the teacher saw interest, focus, and potential in. Her graded class plus one technique turned into four, adding a Saturday morning technique class with the studio’s ballet company’s artistic director, and the pre-trainee technique class with her regular teacher. 

The summer after, she took the studio intensive again, which had been extended to three weeks. She loved it. 

This past year she started jazz. The hours kept changing as we adjusted the jazz classes for her skill level, from 7.25 to 9.00 to 9:30 to 9:15 to 8:30 to 8:45 to 7:45.  One graded ballet extended to 1.5 hours and she dropped 1/2 ballet technique classes since it was late and there was 1.5 hour gap to wait after the prior class finished. 

Moving into the fall, she will probably have 1-2 graded ballet 3, 1-2 ballet technique, probably including trainee company class, trainee rehearsal, plus jazz 2B and a lyrical class. Most girls in her lyrical 2 class this year were already in 2B jazz, but 2A ballet. Her background is the opposite. She was able to catch up because of her ballet technique and her commitment. 

My husband was very against the increase in dance classes. Going from one to intensive “summer camp” to four to ten classes / 9 classes seemed like way too much. I think he understands now and is even okay with her doing trainee and the commitment that goes with it, as long as it doesn’t exceed what she did last year. We will probably trade some jazz out to keep her schedule manageable. 

My husband’s caveat is one weekend day free for family activities (Nutcracker is a very reluctant exception.). My daughter just wants one weekday without dance. 

I think as long as good compromise is worked out for dancer and family dynamics, it will all be fine. 

My daughter is not thinking of dance as her future career. She has lots of things she wants to try, and it is true that the commitment to dance can leave little room in the schedule for other things. 

She enjoys herself and has positive association and accomplishment in dance. It’s part of her identity, and her dancing is a beautiful joy to watch, as is her attitude and her own happiness a joy for us to hold. 

Since she self manages her academics well, we will see if middle school presents challenges to her dancing. Every day is a new adventure, right?

I should note that out studio does not rush grade advancement or pointe work.  My understanding is that pre pointe class entrance at our studio is carefully evaluated and only begins after 6-7 years of training. My daughter is 2-3 years away, and I trust that they will not let her go en pointe unless she is completely ready. 

For school days she has had up to 2:45 hours of class, but that was only at the start of the year. Most days she has had 1-2 hours max, including Saturday technique and rehearsal. 

Our studio this year has intensives for  level 1A-1B, beginning 2A-2B, intermediate 3-4, and advanced 5-6. My daughter will be evaluated tomorrow to confirm her schedule. The intensive is for the prior year’s grade level, but she will likely do barre in the next level class. 

With trainee choreography scheduled the coming weeks as well, she will be at the studio dancing from 11-5:30 straight. I’m crossing fingers that she will manage fine. She seems to think she will. Tough girl! She has amazing endurance. 

She has never been injured from dance either, and I credit her teachers for focusing carefully on form and safety. She has good posture and balance and for work she only needs a little more hip rotation for her turnout and some stretching in the quads. 

Edited by lyricalp
Added some thoughts about future grade levels and hours for upcoming intensive. P.S. she has never had an injury.

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