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Ballet Talk for Dancers
rane

Studio Dilemma

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rane

I have been debating some studios for the upcoming school year and was hoping for some advice.

My 5-year-old daughter has taken two years of ballet classes at our local ballet school, which is affiliated with a ballet company that performs full length ballets. My daughter loves ballet and has a dream of dancing in a company production one day.

This year will be the first year she can audition, so I’ve done some preliminary research to see what to expect and what to prepare her for. From what I’ve gathered, the huge majority of the dancers chosen for the public roles in the ballet productions are members of a separate competition studio and are on the competition dance teams there, in addition to taking ballet classes at the ballet school. Many of these girls dance hours each day and perform on the weekends with their teams. Many of these girls are the same dancers cast from production to production. 

So the takeaway I’ve gotten is that I may need to supplement my daughter’s current ballet class with more dancing classes, specifically  at the other studio to give her any chance. I looked into this studio, and it offers ballet, but in combination with tap, jazz, hip hop and Acro classes. It’s very different from the ballet studio we attend and I’ve always struggled with the idea of signing my daughter up for other types of dancing based on my personal preference. That’s why I initially signed my daughter up for ballet and her love has grown from there. But it seems like these other classes/studio might help develop stage presence and performance ability. For those more familiar with the dance world, is there something in those types of classes or environment that might be helpful to supplement ballet? Or would it be all the time devoted to dancing/movement that is a benefit? 

Are there any other suggestions that might be similar in style to ballet but develop performance skills? My daughter figure skates, but at her level she is working on foundational skills, not the artistry that would translate to ballet. In fact her coaches have recommended ballet as off ice training to support skating skills 😉 But there are other studios for Irish dancing, performing arts/theater and creative movement/modern dance nearby. Would any of those be helpful? 

Any insights you have would be very appreciated! Thanks so much for your help!

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dancemaven

She is 5 years old.  She will not start actual ballet training until age 8.  Everything before that is pre-ballet , i.e., learning to co-ordinate her body movements, learning to change directions, learning to skip, gallop, walk on tippy-toes to strengthen calf muscles, stretches, learning to follow patterns, learning to follow verbal cues, learning to follow non-verbal cues, learning to change direction, learning to hear different musical tempos, learning to travel in space, learning to move with other dancers, learning to form a circle joining hands without pulling others down, etc. 

At 5, she needs time to play childhood games, run around the park or yard, entertain herself with her imagination, just be a kid. 

No need to worry about putting her on a straight and narrow path to be a professional “ballerina” when she grows up.  No, you do not need to supplement her pre-ballet classes for any reason other than she likes the activity.  Let her explore on her own time line.  She has plenty of time. 

She may change her mind a million times as to what she wants to be when she grows up—or not.  But as the parent, your job is to raise a good citizen, not a “ballerina”.  So, follow her lead, let her explore this wide wonderful world as it opens up to her. Don’t narrow her explorations too early. Her curiosity doesn’t need to be contained or focused so early.  She’ll find her way to her interests as she goes. 

 Settle back, watch in wonder, and enjoy seeing a beautiful being unfold—on her own time and pace. 

Breathe. 😊

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ballet1310

Dancemaven has said it in a very articulate way.  My first instinct is just to echo .... she’s 5 - please believe us all when we say that she is very , very young ... just enjoy her childhood and don’t be fooled by on line videos of girls spinning, leg lifting etc ... that is not ballet .. there are more than enough years to get there 

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rane

Thanks so much for your perspective Dancemaven! I totally agree that it’s most important to have priorities in order for her lifelong development and life skills. 

 

I just don’t have a dance background, so I’m not sure what is normal or not, and got overwhelmed as you can probably see from this post 😉 It did sound a little frantic as I reread it.

 

I guess it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that more is better at a young age without realizing it. I think it stems from the culture we are surrounded by to push everything down to younger ages, so I felt like I need to keep up in case she decides it is what she wants to do continuing on. Of course time will tell, and I want to always follow her lead, but I mostly don’t want her to be at a disadvantage. -In sports around here so many kids start playing at three, and then network along the way to have opportunities later on. After researching, I guess I jumped to conclusions that dance is like that? That other studio does sound intense like that. Is that the type to be avoided until they are older?

Edited by rane
Clarity

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rane

Thank you ballet1310! Your perspective was very helpful! It’s nice to know that the other styles are not essential and that training through a ballet studio (where we both feel comfortable) will support her as she grows!

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dancemaven

Ballet is slow and steady—-although progress will have plateaus.  It is patient development.  Training muscle memory as muscle development progresses.  Too early and bad habits that are difficult to re-train get instilled. 

Yes, the competition studio dancers will appear to progress faster and flashier.  But for true ballet foundation and technique, that type of training is not optimum.  True ballet foundation and technique requires  long-game, not short-game training. 

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Ballet6706

I agree with the above posts. In the meantime, if you do feel like you are swimming in a sea of the unknown and feel overwhelmed, it might help it to make friends with moms of older dancers in your community. If your school has a PTA or volunteer group, get involved.  Research what the studio does with dancers starting around age 9 and most importantly during the puberty years. Watch them. You will learn a lot by observing and listening. So when it is time to commit, you know your child is getting the best possible training. My teenager is 200% percent committed to ballet, joining a day program and living with a host family next year, but from age 5 - 9, in addition to her low- commitment dance classes, she tried so many different sports and activities and none of them sparked joy for her. As a pre-professional student, there is no time to try things for the sake of it - and luckily she/we have no regrets! 

 

Edited by Ballet6706
fixed error

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5678StarMom

More hours of repetitive movement at such a young age can lead to overuse injuries as well. There is a reason proper ballet training is slow and steady, longevity. I liked to keep the max hours of dance in class as approximately equal to their age (max 5 hours for 5 years old, 6 for 6 etc.) INCLUDING rehearsal, until age 9 when pointe prep is starting and then following the guidelines here is where you should be trying to focus.

My oldest now 16 was the type of kid who would have lived in the studio starting at a young age if I would have let her. I tried to keep her wanting more instead of just giving in to the more more more attitude that was around the studio. Her hours ramped up so dramatically as time went on anyway, even with us putting limits on what she could do. My youngest now 9 has always been perfectly fine doing the minimum, at least several hours a week less than her sister at the same age, with the only difference between the 2 of them being that we sought out the best quality training for the youngest vs. sticking with our original studio where I just went along with whatever for our oldest. She is on track at 9 to being just as well trained as her sister regardless of hours. Our original studio was primarily a competition studio, a lot of emphasis was on performance and rehearsal, and ballet was secondary. I fought against what the original studio was and supplemented her training to no end, which made her hours higher than necessary. Our new studio is a ballet studio that dabbles in conventions secondary to the ballet program. It has less hours but such better quality. Long story short, quality over quantity. Also you can't change a studio to meet your needs, and needs change over time.

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Noodles

Rane, I am the parent of a 16 yr old, and I know this is the under 13 group but I think the view from where I sit has value. 

We all want our kids to excel and whatever they try, we want to give them all of the tools that they need, the instruction that they need and the support that they need to be their very best. HOWEVER, ballet is different. Ballet will keep demanding more and more from your dancer. There is never a moment of 'having arrived/succeeded'....at least until they have a professional contract and even that has no guarantees. Ballet is like a jealous girlfriend....she demands everything. 

I know that when you see these seemingly more advanced dancers you want to help your child catch up but as has already been mentioned they are advancing in the wrong way and will likely burn out or get injured. Let your child focus on ballet and if the passion is there it will become her focus, let it happen organically. It is a hard road and really the ones who seem to make it are the ones who have their own internal drive. Sometimes dancers are advanced and they are the darlings who get all of the best roles, but as those around them (who maybe didn't dance as many hours) catch up, they can't handle not being the special 'chosen one' and they drop out of dance. Sometimes they are only in it because they get so much attention, when that stops they lose interest and that makes room for those underdogs who were not the stars, to get their time in the spot light. It is a good thing to learn to fight for what you want.

Hang out here, read a lot. You will get a solid education in ballet and this group will help you navigate through sometimes muddy waters! 

 

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DanceMumNYC

Hi rane. I understand your concerns as I too had similar concerns just a year or two ago. I also noticed that, in our area (NY), of all the kids who attended open auditions, mostly the ballet and competition dancers were chosen (that is to say, children who did both, not just one or the other). They were cast in more roles for major productions (The Nutcracker & other ballets affiliated with a company, off & on Broadway, etc.), gained a high rate of entry to summer intensives & were placed in more advanced levels, & some were even granted scholarships to pre-prof ballet schools. As you seem to have noticed, sometimes even non-ballet studios or genres of dance may help with things like stage presence, picking up choreography quickly, & performance ability. However, not all training is equal & many competition schools lack technique--hence why these dancers also attend ballet schools. They are also very expensive (costumes, traveling, hotels, competition entry fees, etc). Therefore, I would not advise you to put your DD in a competition school. The skills you are seeking will eventually come with steady ballet training. Please don't be in a rush because your DD is certainly not behind at 5 years old. As noodles mentioned, many dancers who seem to be ahead right now are nowhere to be found in the long run. 

That said, I'd like to reiterate the previous comments: Your DD is only 5 and you have nothing to be worried about! Her goals & dreams may change over the years, so I wouldn't get so worked up over dance at this time. However, if your DD truly loves to dance, there is no harm in taking a recreational tap or jazz class to supplement ballet. I was reading the bios of dancers in major ballet companies, & a lot of them started out taking other genres and/or competing, then switched over to ballet. Just know that it is not necessary, & certainly not at the age of 5. When she is older, it may benefit her to take other genres of dance for various reasons & depending on her goals (Note that many ballet studios eventually add character, modern, etc. for example). However, it is definitely not a requirement at this age in order to have a successful career as a ballet dancer. Please know that there are plenty of professionals who were ballet-only students & did just as well, succeeding in their careers. 

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AmyMary

My DD is 12 now so we only in the past two years switched studios and amped up her training.

In hindsight the one thing I wish I had done sooner was educate myself more on the ballet world. I was always the mom who bought her pink tights at Walmart and never paid attention to much.

No, it isn't time to prepare for YAGP and summer intensives at five but it is good to know what may lie ahead if she sticks with it. I have enjoyed expanding my own knowledge of ballet variations and music. I had to sort of cram a lot of info in a short period of time when she first did YAGP.

I say this because I see teenage girls here whose moms have put zero research into ballet and it has really hindered their opportunities. We are in a small town and many of them think their daughter will somehow drop out of the sky and be a professional just because they want to...so educate yourself, but appreciate the fact that you have many years to relax and enjoy a slower pace before ballet potentially eats up all your time and money.😉

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DanceMumNYC

I agree, AmyMary! Educating oneself in the meantime is a great plan. 

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rane

Thank you everyone for the wonderful and supportive responses! I wish I knew how to respond to each of you individually to say thank you, but know that I read and valued all of the insights and wisdom you shared with me as I embark on this dance journey with my daughter :) There were so many good suggestions on how to learn more about ballet and support my daughter as she grows. So grateful for this forum!

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rane

 

AmyMary, DanceMumNYC, Ballet6706, I wanted to let you know that you helped to inspire me to sign up for an adult ballet class to learn more about this beautiful art form I start a five week session for adult beginners tonight!  Thank you everyone for the wonderful support, insights and suggestions on this forum!

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DanceMumNYC

How exciting!

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