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tldx

Massive Home Studio SI disappointment

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tldx

DD (14) started her SI yesterday, and wow, disappointment is an understatement. We decided to stay at the home studio this summer so that she could be assured of getting enough pointe time in, as she feels that is where she needs the most work. This was discussed with the director months ago, and she agreed that it would be best (and that DD should definitely go away next summer). Yesterday that all fell apart.

DD was placed below all but two other girls from her usual level. I say placed loosely because the teacher conducting the placement class just read groups of students from a list and those groups stuck. They'd been placed before the class even started. DD was moved down one level in ballet, taken off pointe, and moved down two (!) levels in contemporary, where she has always excelled. (It is worth noting that the contemporary director is not present this week.) This all came as a huge shock. All year long, DD was getting great feedback, progressing nicely they said, and was invited to additional classes. 

Here's where the politics come in, I believe. The director was not present in the placement class. It was run by one of the teachers, who normally teaches advanced level classes, and has made it clear that she prefers the "traditional" ballet body (petite, slim, bendy). The girls from DD's level who placed well all fit that traditional body type. DD is tall, small framed but muscular, with a lot of hypermobility. She had a few classes with this teacher last year, but chose to drop them because the teacher was generally unpleasant with her or just ignored her. (Seriously, this teacher seems to really dislike DD. She actually interrupted an audition DD had a couple of years ago to inform the people conducting the interview about DD's technique, despite the fact that she had never taught DD. She had nothing good to say. DD did not get in. We can only speculate as to why.) 

DD tried to speak with the director about her placement, specifically to find out why she'd been moved back in contemporary and taken off pointe. The only response was "It's the first day back, wait and see how it works for you. Remember, sometimes you will take classes with lower levels, but sometimes you will have classes with people who are better than you." Word for word. Not "higher level", "better than you". Right now, I cannot even intervene because the studio has a hard policy against responding the placement inquiries during the first week, but it's a fact that by week two, they will refuse to move anyone up, claiming they've missed too much. Normally the placements seem to make sense, but nothing about this does.

I feel like I've woken up in bizarro world. This is not how our studio usually is. If a student is struggling, or needs to go back/stay back, it is usually well communicated, before any actions are taken, and the reasons are thoroughly explained. We've been there. 

This has taken a massive toll on DD. She feels as if they don't want her there any longer and are trying to squeeze her out. She also believes, and I have to agree, that being sent back so far will do her more harm than good right now. This placement is a guarantee that she will not move up a level in the fall, as she will not get the training needed for the next level. I'm fighting the urge to pull her out, partly because I don't want to overreact, and partly because it's already June - auditions are done, registrations are closed, and the money has already been spent.

Just typing this up has my blood pressure up. Please talk me off the ledge. Or tell me it's time to move on.

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dancerdancer

I’m sure you’ll get some great advice here. Here are my initial thoughts: First of all, I’m sorry this happened. It sounds like a really miserable situation for your daughter.

It also sounds like you have limited options, at this point. You could pull her out of the intensive, but will lose all that money and still not have time to get her into another summer training. And quitting would maybe feel like they have all the power - like they made you quit and kept your money. From where I am sitting, a better option may be to encourage your daughter to salvage what she can from the situation. It could turn into an experience where she realizes her true strength of determination in a challenging situation. It is also possible that she will progress, even in the lower level. I realize politics may prevent that studio from promoting her, but she may make progress that other studios will appreciate in the fall, and that would be better, maybe, than taking the summer off.

It is also possible that your director is dealing with politics of which you are unaware. If she sees your daughter rise to the occasion, despite the other teacher having placed her low, that may pay dividends in the next year, after all. Directors are usually very well aware of how difficult it is for dancers to be placed in low levels. They will hear complaints about this every year. Nonetheless, for many reasons (some having to do with the dancer, some not) placement is a mess more often than not, in our experience. It’s pretty inexact, and different teachers will divide the same dancers up differently, so there are lots of variables. I think many directors can really appreciate a student who dedicates themselves to getting whatever they can out of whatever class they find themselves in. If this particular director doesn’t appreciate that quality, then the next one may, and this is as good a time as any to start practicing that approach.

I speak from our family’s personal experience, as my DD’s have been placed in levels way too low and way too high, sometimes in the same summer. I have always tried to tell them that they are the same dancers no matter what group of students they happen to find themselves in at any given class. We’ve talked a lot about how the different scenarios feel very different, psychologically, and that there are pros and cons to both. They have found that it is tough on their egos to be placed low, but that they tend to then be able to really stand out in class, and get a lot of attention and growth, despite being in a lower level class. It’s a great ego boost to be placed high...but then it’s tough psychologically to be at the bottom of the class all summer, struggling to keep up. They have learned a lot in all those situations, so as much as I would love to have a drama free straightforward placement this summer, I suppose I should keep rooting for these character and strength-building placements.

Not having the opportunity to do pointe is a challenge. But depending on the program and her level, she may not actually lose that much. Especially in the beginning levels, a lot of the progress on pointe really comes from the strength and technique you build in your work on flat. That’s why it is possible to start pointe “late”, focusing on technique, and then catch up quickly. I realize that pointe work was the reason she stayed there in the first place, and that’s really, really frustrating. I’m not sure what to do about that except to suggest that she work her tail off at least this first week, and see if her teacher is impressed enough that they let her switch levels. If that doesn’t work, and she decides to finish out the program, maybe have her add in theraband exercises to help her work on her foot strength in preparation for whatever she decides to do this fall.

Advice like this is tough to give, because we don’t really know the people you are dealing with, or your daughter’s situation. That context matters and you have to take it into consideration. Hopefully hearing about others’ experiences gives you some ideas.

Best wishes!

 

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Bavalay

Dancerdancer--I adore your response to this situation and will come back to it in the future as I am sure I will need it for my DD12(could have used it at the beginning of this academic year that just ended for us).  Tldx--best wishes to your  DD; building character and grit through times like this is what makes life worth living.  Perseverance does the self esteem good.  I hope your daughter dances each day with style and grace despite the disappointment.  

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tldx

Thank you both. I don't think it's going to be that easy.

DD shared with me Day 2 so far... Technique with students two levels below her (9-12 years old), then they watched a movie. The girls from DD's level? They were in variations. She said that she feels more like a baby sitter than anything else. She will be spending the entire day with this group. She's asked me to come pick her up. 

How am I supposed to feel when I hear this? I could barely understand her on the phone, she was crying so hard. Hearing my child declare herself a loser is not something I can handle. It just isn't worth it. Every part of me wants to march in there and demand an explanation. 

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cclw

I am very inexperienced in the world of ballet, but if I were you I would be desperately trying to find an alternative at this point for my daughter.  I know it's really late, and you're not likely to find an opening in a big or name intensive, but is there a small intensive or a different local school with an intensive that you could call and talk to? I would not force my child into a situation that made her that unhappy. 

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Victoria Leigh

tldx, really great advice from dancerdancer!  She nailed it, especially on really encouraging your DD to go in there and shine in that lower class. When she goes back tomorrow she needs to focus totally on herself, with a positive demeanor and a determination to learn and execute everything with her best energy and determination to shine.  She needs to stand as the example for what the rest of them are hoping to achieve!  

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Elf Font

If it were me, I would ask the director about the change of plans, given that it is 180 degrees different from what the two of you discussed. My approach would be to put it in an email so that you could outline your thoughts clearly, and so the director has time to respond. Also, the fact that she is watching a movie on day 2?! While I think the advice to use this as an opportunity to shine is great, I think it is very difficult to "shine" while watching a movie. I agree with cclw to try to find alternatives if the director does not give you a reasonable justification for your daughter's placement and your daughter has to "babysit" or watch movies during the intensive. 

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Victoria Leigh

Yes, it's hard to do, but I still think she should really try unless you are sure that there is a better school for her next year. Will the director be there next week?  

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Noodles

tldx, I am so so sorry to hear of your DD distress! Such a heartbreaking thing to have your child in tears when they should be having a positive experience. That said, I think it is important that your DD push through this. For one reason, this is a true test of her personal grit and determination. It may very well be that a terrible error has been made, and she has the opportunity to prove her commitment and resolve right now. Secondly, if you do pull her from the program you may be headed down a path from which there is no return/recovery as far as her relationship with the school/teachers/AD etc...unless you are planning to switch schools. 

If she has been happy with the training and the treatment she has received, up until now, I would assume there is either a very good reason that she has been placed where she is. If she has not been happy with the school then it may be time to move on. 

 

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AncientDancer

I hope I am allowed to comment as my DD is now over 13. Is it possible to do the morning at this intensive, then join another school for their open, summer classes in the evenings? In my area, we have such a variety of schools that some children (mine included) do classes at different places in order to get a variety of experiences. If her current intensive class is only watching a film instead of dancing each day, that would be a prime time to pick her up, take her for lunch, then find classes elsewhere to supplement her training. 

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iceberg*lover

You also need to remember you are the PAYING customer. Ofteimes in the world of ballet training it is easy to lose sight of that fact.

No one know more than me, as the parent of a late starting dancer who was *always* placed low, then exceeded in their level, how painful this is. But with what you've described, it may be time to become a mamabear  but be aware they may be fallout. I know she's 14, and should be advocating for herself and all that, but this is YOUR money. It may be time to be THAT parent.

Watching a movie and babysitting? They need to pay her. I think an email to the director is in order, even for an explanation.

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Victoria Leigh

A question, tldx....this is an SI, so I would assume that the movie was one class period of time, and she still had her tech. class and probably at least 2 other classes after that and the movie?  You might want to check on the schedule to see if a movie is an everyday thing, or if something else goes into that time slot on different days.  I would hope that the movie they see is ballet, or at least dance!  It is not really the best option, though, for an SI.  They should have either more ballet, or a rehearsal of some kind, making up at least 4 class periods of dance per day.    

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tldx

Ms. Leigh - The schedule changes every day. Yesterday was two technique classes, contemporary, conditioning, and character (after placements). Today is technique, the movie (I don't know what they watched), contemporary, repertoire, and etiquette. Tomorrow's schedule will not be posted until tomorrow morning. They "should" be having two ballet classes, repertoire/variations, contemporary (alternating with character), and conditioning (alternating with other styles) daily, based on previous years. Lower levels have a slightly different schedule though, incorporating movies, arts & crafts, etc. Those levels are aimed at ages 7-10, so are more like a camp.

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tldx

Thanks to everyone for the responses. I'm at work right now, but will get caught up as soon as I can.

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Taxi dance

I am so sorry to hear that your daughter and you are dealing with this. From my experience, I would advise your daughter to make the most of every class and work on what she knows she needs to work on with her technique, keeping a good outward personality towards all teachers and classmates. Hopefully, she will still make the most of a difficult situation and be moved back to pointe. Because it is your home studio and you did discuss pointe being the reason for her staying for the summer intensive with the director, I don’t think it’s a huge overstep to simply ask her by phone or in person why things changed from her need to stay to get pointe to not getting pointe. Ballet seems to be full of situations that seem unfair but toughen the dancers up for real life. Best of luck. I would also start looking at options for the year just in case and to get another idea of her placement. 

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