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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Evaluating Studios


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We have decided to move my DD (13) to a new studio next year.  Her goal is to dance professionally and her current studio does not offer nearly enough classes.  Right now, she takes the only technique class offered, but it is only 45 minutes and is with younger girls (billed as a pre-pointe class).  Her ballet class is really recital prep and she is with younger girls (who are not serious about dance) mainly due to her height (placement is not based on skill level - random age cut-offs that change each year).  It was a fine choice when we started for recreational dance, but I see now it is time for a change.  We are not in a major city, but there is a professional ballet company (that is where she'll do an SI this year) and there are 3 studios that offer enough classes to meet the training requirements listed here.

There is nothing listed on the pre-professional schools forum for our state, so I don't know the best way to get feedback for the studios we are considering.  Is it possible for a moderator who can see my location to respond privately if there is any feedback to give in my area??  One studio is a competition studio, so I almost didn't consider it at all.  But, they have a ballet school segment that appears to offer very good training.  It has only been operating a few years, but dancers have been accepted at major SIs.  They offer a ton of technique classes, which is very appealing given our current situation.  At her current studio, everything at this time of year is recital rehearsal - even her one technique and pointe class.  We've toured this studio and the space is impressive and we liked the atmosphere.  We are going to try some drop-in classes early in the Summer to get a sense of the training. 

The second studio is probably the most well-known in town.  They have a large recreational dance division, but also offer a pre-professional training track.  We're set up for a trial/placement class and we'll learn more about the program at that time.  The third studio is an RDA studio (I need to learn more about this),  seems to offer very good classical ballet training and has more performance opportunities than the other studios.  I have had no luck getting in contact with the studio (I have tried every method to contact them), so can't even set up a tour or trial class at this point.  

Our city operates very much like a small town and the dance world is small, so I am being careful when I am asking around.  I don't want to make things uncomfortable at the current studio with so much of the year remaining.  I feel like she has potential, but we've never had any kind of evaluation and I know she'll have catching up to do when she gets to a pre-pro school.  She's not being challenged where she is and I know she is not doing enough technique.   Sorry so long!!  I'm very overwhelmed (I was not a dancer and this is all new) and want to help her get the best training available in our area!


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First, don't be afraid to ask questions.  I think you sound very diplomatic already and you want to take this step very seriously!   I also think you have some good options.

My daughter also changed schools at 13.  We looked at several!   We wanted to know where the students of these schools went.  How many made it to upper levels or second companies.  How many went on to big schools to finish (which is a good sign to me!).  How many got jobs directly from this school.  Do they have classical ballet competition winners (YAGP, Prix de Lausanne etc).  I would watch videos of their students.  Sometimes you have to ask the questions directly because it is not published.  Then we tried the schools (either SI or visit).  We cast a wide net outside of our locale (we had other reasons to do so, mainly an older brother dancer who needed men's training), so I totally get why you would not.   

In your situation, here is what I would do:

Talk to the schools you are interested in and tell them honestly that your child is a career bound dancer.  Ask them if their program could be the right program.  Be humble and respectful, and ready to take their advice (you already sound as if you would be).  Make no demands, just ask.  Ask if about alumni.  Do kids get jobs straight from that school, or (more likely) how many kids have they sent to finish at other company schools.  Ask how many career bound dancers they have vs recreational dancers.  If the classes are geared more towards recreational dancers, will they allow privates?  If you wanted to give your career bound dancer a challenge, would they support her doing a classical ballet competition (these are great if you are in a school with a lot of rec dancers). 

And the lastly she's gotta try it out, and feel they are her people and she can trust them.  Also, you have to have faith in these people and not question once you are there that she is in the right level etc.  So it's important you all feel comfortable with them!

That;'s me and how we did it.  My DD never thought she would attend the school she is attending because they do a lot of comps (not really her thing), but she went with big brother for a week and fell in love with it, and it ticked all of the above boxes for us.  We cannot question their credentials and trust them completely. 

I wish you the best of luck-- your daughter is lucky to have such a thoughtful mama!


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NYNYdancer gave some great advice.  I would only add that you can trust your young DD's connections to (or lack thereof) the teachers and atmosphere at the various schools that you are trying.  I only mention this because as a parent, I really struggled with the idea that my 13 yo would "know" what worked for her.  But I realized through the years that her ability to connect to (and understand) a particular teacher was (for us) more important than outside reputation of that teacher....  It's hard to articulate, but assuming a teacher has a certain amount/level of expertise, then the question becomes whether or not your dancer "gets" their training.  You can have the best teacher in the world, who turns out thousands of professional dancers, but if that teaching style doesn't work with YOUR dancer, then all the credentials in the world don't matter.  So, don't discount your young dancer's instincts about which teacher she feels inspired by. 

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I completely agree with what Eligus has posted. Your dancer will get a good sense of whether or not she connects...that is paramount in my opinion. Assuming all other things are relatively equal...solid training, students moving on to finishing programs etc.

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Thanks for the responses - it helps to hear that others have been through this and what questions to ask.  Great point about her connection with the teachers.  That’s probably why I feel so lost right now - she hasn’t had a trial class yet, so we don’t have that critical piece yet!  I heard back from the third studio today, so we’re all set for trial classes in the next few weeks.

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