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lesdeux

Need advice for possible school change

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Ecourtney

Since you have other options you should definitely explore them. Even if there weren’t these red flags, you should always seek out the best possible training available. My DD stayed too long (13) at our recreational studio and we really regret it. It has taken a lot of hard work, excellent instruction (including private lessons) and good SI’s to not only be caught up to her age (newly 16) but ahead finally. I hear from a lot of parents that “my dancer is only 12/13/14 so we have lots of time”. No, not really. Things happen young in Ballet (though thankfully not as young as in gymnastics) and if you aren’t training the number of hours and at the level you need to when you are 11/12, you can’t go back and make it up. You can add extra classes but there is only so much time in a week and a limit to what they can/should do physically. It’s not impossible, but it’s better to stay on track and seek out best training available. This is all of course, if your dancer wants to be a professional, which it sounds like she very much does.  Most people never find anything that they are as passionate about as it sounds like your daughter is about ballet. That is a wonderful thing and shouldn’t be discouraged.

Remember that owning a studio is a business and many (not all) owners put their own financial interests first. If they are offering an SI and many of their students don’t attend because they are going away, that’s money out of their pocket.  Our studio smartly does their intensive in June, before the large SI’s start so that people can do both.  

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DanceMumNYC

I haven’t been too pleased with my DD’s 3-letter ballet school. I understand that ballet can be “slow & steady,” but since she’s been spending summers at other studios, I realize her school may be too slow. We’ve noticed that the school also accepts more outside students to its SI than its current students, showing that their students aren’t being trained at the level of other 3-letter/pre-prof schools in the area. The school also seems to have issues with faculty commitment. DD had 5 teachers last year & although they assured us that this type of thing wouldn’t happen again, it did. DD was supposed to have 1 teacher, but she left mid-year, causing 2 other teachers to alternate for the remaining of the year (3 teachers total this year). 

This all began about 2 years ago, but I didn’t want to make a rash decision & we had already put a down-payment for tuition so DD stayed in the school. This year, she stayed again as I researched other schools in our area. Now that we feel ready to make a switch, I am stuck between seeking quality vs. quantity. 

I read the BT4D threads of the other ballet schools we’re considering & spoke with current & former parents whose kids danced there. I heard great things & after considering other factors (location, tuition), I was able to narrow it down between 2 schools. However, now that schedules are being put up for the next school year, I am noticing that DD’s current school offers more (quantity) class. The other schools I considered, & even some of those we’d already crossed off our list, don’t offer as much class. Some offer fewer classes/week, others offer the same number of classes but for shorter lengths (1 hour instead of 1.5 hours). Some also don’t offer classes like pre-pointe, modern, character, & those that do offer them at a much later level (If DD stays in current school, she’ll get those classes now, but if she switches, she may not get them for a few more years). 

With that said, I am now confused all over again & unsure of what to do. After researching these schools & obtaining feedback, I thought they offered better overall quality training. But if DD’s current school offers mediocre quality with great quantity, does that count for anything? I was just wondering if anyone else came across this issue while looking to switch schools. Is it wiser to choose quality or quantity?

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Bavalay

DanceMumNYC, in my area and for my DD goals, I went with quality and when pointe training would begin (with pointe it was a combination of quality and quantity).  Her previous studio would've put her at 15 years old to start pointe, when she was ready to begin at 12.  I suspect your DD is getting quality training at her school.  My DD is completing her first year at new school and I can tell you that she came in ahead of her class in terms of (forgive me as I am not a former ballet dancer) steps and knowing combinations across the floor, solid pirouettes and such... But her new classmates in general had sound foundation of strength, extensions, straight legs, arabesque, rotation/turnout and such.  Within a a few months my DD had all that too with the training and attention to detail that her THREE teachers gave.  Although some students may appear to be ahead and have better training, the ballet masters can see those details that are lacking or in need of correcting.  My DD is at a 3 letter school, and it is not unusual to have more than one teacher when you have 7 classes.  They follow the same curriculum and have minor differences and expectations that the students adapt to; something they will need to be proficient at with choreographers and auditions for future in dance.  Perhaps your DD summer experiences for this year will help you decide to either stay or go to maybe one of the school's she will be at for her SIs.  On a side note, not everyone who recieves quality training takes advantage of it--and on the flip side some students excell in spite of the training they receive.  It is a tough decision.  But the fact that your dancer gets acceptances says something about her potential and training.  Being displeased or concerned with training is not a good position to be in as a parent (I was in that spot before going to new school).  Is your DD happy with her school and seeing her own growth?  Another thing to consider too.  Best to you as I bet you do have choices that may ease your mind.

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Bavalay

...I should also add the quantity needs to be there too DnaceMumNYC.  Ugh.  You need both 😎.  At least that's what I believe and have seen to be true for my dancer

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DanceMumNYC

Thank you for your advice, Bavalay. When DD had 5 teachers, she was only 9 years old with 2 technique classes/week!! The teacher couldn’t fulfill her duties & had to step away from teaching mid-year. The school couldn’t find a steady replacement, so they had 4 other teachers alternating to teach the class until the end of the year.

Ideally, DD would attend the other schools’ SIs & then we’d be able to decide. However, her current school asks for a down payment for the Fall in June!! Way before she’ll step foot in another studio for the summer. In previous summers, she attended two of the schools we’re considering. But there is still one more really on our radar that she won’t experience until July.

DD does like it here, but she did like her old school more so she’s open to leaving. Since coming here, she also began dancing less & lost some skills (flexibility for example). I must add that her old school was NOT a ballet studio though, so she was pushed a little more than recommended & her current ballet studio DOES follow the age—appropriate guidelines listed here on BT4D. 

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labrador

Obviously, an important question is whether or not you can sustain forfeiting the down payment, should you choose to go to a different school. 

You mentioned that your daughter’s flexibility diminished. Could it be due to a growth spurt? Can you and your daughter tell that she is growing as a dancer thanks to her current school in a way that is comparable to peers in other schools?

Comparing the progress of individuals, especially, during their growing years can be tricky, however, one can discern patterns. Will attending upcoming year end recitals help you make up your mind?

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lesdeux

Hi DanceMumNYC-

As you may see from the beginning of this thread we faced a similar dilemma a couple of months ago under slightly different circumstances.  We decided to leave the school where my daughter had trained for five years. Part of the equation was that as she is now 12 and has spent the past three summers at a variety of very good summer intensives-- she saw not only where peers seemed to be as far as training as a comparison (she felt not as advanced) but also truly loved the excellent training she was getting at the intensives and wanted to explore other school options.

The school we left had been really slowing down the training to the point that she felt at a disadvantage/lacking confidence  when she went to intensives in summers. I think that happens in many schools to keep the students there longer (more money for the school under the guise that they want  to keep the dancers engaged and not burn them out).  We visited a newer studio that was an offshoot from a very good pre-professional school in the area and decided to immediately switch. We  have been very pleased with the training and my daughter's  progress has been incredible in only 2 months.

I will say that no school near us is perfect (or maybe no school anywhere is perfect). The new studio lacks organization as far a rehearsal schedules and communications etc but the overall training is fantastic.  She is much happier as the teachers teach to the top of the class and give tons of personal corrections as opposed to group corrections and teaching to the bottom of the level which happened at our last school.  There are a few favorite students who get special roles (but that happens everywhere) and my daughter feels her teachers admire her work ethic and give her tons of support and push her in a good way. She is so much happier.  

I was so scared to leave the last studio as we had been there so long but it was a GREAT move for her. She feels so much more confident returning to two of her favorite summer intensives this summer.  The new studio is more flexible than the last school and many other schools--it is more of the mindset that academics should not suffer under the rigors of ballet training so dancers may train as much or as little as they want, with the understanding that the more they are there, the more they will grow.  

I would encourage you to explore other options in your area--the tough decision for you may be giving up a spot at a desirable school but the way I look at it is, exploring better training could really help your dancer in so many ways. My daughter loves being around other passionate dancers (more at the new studio compared to the last) and she is working so much harder for her personal goals (and her flexibility and conditioning are on a completely different level-- night and day--now I see how much we were missing at the last school).  I hope this helps!

Good luck to you and your daughter!

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DanceMumNYC

Labrador, the “down payment” is fall tuition (over $2K) so we would not be able to forfeit it. I believe DD is growing as a dancer, but when she & her classmates meet other kids from other schools (at auditions mostly), those kids are usually more advanced & get more acceptances & higher level placements. Yes, I plan to attend a few year-end recitals to help make the decision. Thank you!

And thank you for sharing your experience, lesdeux. It’s great to know I’m not the only one who’s faced this dilemma. I see a common theme that most people do not regret leaving their studios. 

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Bavalay

DanceMumNYC, over 2K would be a lot for me to forfeit...I would not enjoy to be in that position and see better now the predicament.  Like you said, my DD does not regret leaving her former studio yet is grateful for the time she did have there.  While you are sorting things out before deposite is due...would there be a placement for your DD at any of the other studios she did SIs last year/year before that?  Would those be suitable should this year's SIs not have a spot for her?  Do you believe it is time to go (for now)?  Would returning to current 3 letter school be an option when she is an older dancer?  I'm wishing you peace as you look at options and what is best for your family for the next year

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Fraildove

Dancemum,

If any school is offering ballet technique classes less than 1.5 hours in length stay away. It is impossible to teach a full technique class in anything under, and even in a 1.5 hour class my corrections have to be kept to a minimum and I still have to leave elements out that I would prefer not to. I was going to ask the same thing about flexibility, was it during a growth spurt? All children lose flexibility as they grow unless they actively work on it daily. At home after a warm bath using passive stretching is a wonderful way to maintain without risk to injury.

 

It feels that you are a bit hung up with so many teachers, but if each of the teachers were qualified ( and if they are teaching at a 3 letter school in NY I would be shocked if they weren’t) then although it isn’t ideal I would see that as a deal breaker. Especially if the same style is being taught within the school. It would be different if each teacher was using different terminology and methodology, but assuming they were generally on the same page it shouldn’t hurt her training. 

 

Someone upthread mentioned that teachers are skilled in seeing the little things in technique that others can’t. While it may be the case that at 12 or 14 one school is producing more ‘accomplished’ dancers than another, the fundamentals of technique, placement, turnout, strength etc may not be as strong and will become evening later. And I will leave you with this...

When watching a group of advanced students, dancers that come from all over from different schools together around the age 16-18, can you tell which dancer went en pointe first? Can you tell which dancer learned to do fouettes first, or which dancer was Clara? Almost no one can. That is why it is often cited on this board that ballet is a marathon and not a sprint. If a dancer is getting high quality training in the appropriate ammonia, is getting strong SI acceptances (and even that isn’t a great indicator at 11-15 to be honest. A lot of that is based on what a director sees as physical potential and teachability not about actual skills even if it seems that way to many parents and students...) and is progressing in level, when they all reach that advanced level the only thing that matters is a strong foundation, beautiful technique and artistry. So when deciding to stay or go, try and plan for age 18 as opposed for the next 2-3 years. Not about what schools are winning competitions, but what schools continually produce beautifully trained dancers at the advanced levels that are getting jobs. If that is, of course, your dancers long term goals. But if you are interested I. Her dancing at Radio City or on Broadway as a child dancer then I would advise differently. And that is an awesome aspiration as well, but just different.

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labrador

2k is a lot of money!

This is an offchance, will it be possible for you and DD to observe  class at her equivalent level in another school before the year ends? 

 

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labrador

FrailDove,

Can you share tips regarding when it is time to question current training? There are guidelines for desired progress in training but individual dancers progress at a certain point in time is not always uniform even under the same training. 

A number of people on this forum suggested SI acceptances and level placement as a way to evaluate both an individual dancer’s skill as well as the quality of their training. I think, DanceMumNYC, you look at SI acceptances and level placement as a good way to evaluate the quality of training. If I understand correctly, you are saying that this is not a very reliable measure. 

Othet than abuse at a dance school, what other indicators are there that a teenager in the intermediate-advanced level is not receiving adequate training?

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5678StarMom

I would like to add that using a SI as a judge of the year round school could potentially be inaccurate. It will allow you to make some judgement about a the school, but the quality of classes over the summer may be far different, etc. There is normally an entirely different level of talent if the SI is competitive. Are the the classes taught by the same staff as the year round, is the SI program ran by the same people? 

As far as the year round students not all making the SI at their home studio, that may not be an indicator of quality of training but actually talent. When the pool of talent is expanded to the entire world for a small amount of spots, only the top of the talent pool is accepted. They may be well trained but lack that "it factor" that extremely competitive programs are looking for, or not be the "look" they are going for, etc. 

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DanceMumNYC

Thank you bavalay. One of the schools she will attend this summer already has a spot for her, but we don’t know what the school is like other than what we’ve read on here & the feedback we’ve gotten from other families. We were really leaning towards that school though. Our other choice is a school that’s gladly accommodated us every summer as needed (she was able to take drop-ins when she couldn’t do the SI), but I haven’t yet checked to see if there’s space for her year-round. I am not sure if she’d want to return to her current school in the future if she’s still dancing then. The saying here is also, once you’re out, you’re out. So many kids want a spot here so seats are extremely limited, especially in the teen years. It would be very hard to return. 

Fraildove, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom & insight. To my knowledge, her current school doesn't produce as many professional dancers as the schools we’re considering. The ones who go pro aren’t in the “top tier” companies either, unlike those from the other schools we’re considering. To also answer your question, my DD recently turned 11 and is already over 5 ft. Yet, I never assumed the loss of skills/flexibility was due to a growth spurt because she’s always been taller than average & grew consistently even at the time when she was more flexible. 

Labrador, that’s a good suggestion, thanks! We only planned to attend their year-end recitals. She has experience at one of the schools we’re really considering, but not the other. You’re also asking very good questions because I did initially question DD’s training after a few SIs. Then we began having teacher-commitment issues, which made me consider going somewhere with better quality training & administration. 

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MelissaGA

I will second observing or even taking a class at the other schools under consideration. Even at 10, dd knew from taking s single class if a school was going to be a good choice or not. When she changed her training at 17: there were programs that seemed a great fit on paper that were clearly wrong for her once she took classes there. 

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