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hpdp

need advice on considering taking classes from two studios

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hpdp

DD is 11. She has been taking ballet since 5 at her school. It's a big school, has conservatory and pp track. She didn't really getting serious on training until last couple of years. Several teachers commented that she had some talent(physique and artistic).  She wanted to focus on ballet training this year.

I had some concerns with her school last year. In the beginning, she was placed at a level below her ability(the teacher agreed),  it took a couple of months to move her up to an very challenge level(2-3 levels up). An eye opening for us because of the dynamic of the students who were clearly serious on the training, comparing to all her previous classes which had some students doing it recreationally. She really loved the challenge level class. After winter break, she was moved down one/two level from the challenge level. My guess was preparing for the spring concert. I didn't feel DD got the best training that fit her ability last year. DD didn't mind about all the changes, she tends to adjust to whatever situation she is in, trying to get the best out of it, doesn't like to raise problems. She would say she could use the opportunity at a low level class to refine her technique. I agree that's true but also believe she can learn more at her level.

So this year, she is placed in 3 classes at the challenge level she was last year for a couple of months. It sounds great. Two are followed by pointe, one is not. She can't take the one without pointe followed because of scheduling conflict. She is also placed in classes one level down. She feels fine, she can still learn from those classes. But I feel this is a critical year for her. She gave up her other favorite activities(musical theatre/acting) to focus on ballet this year. I would really like to see how far she can reach her potential by taking the best training  she needed.

We auditioned another studio, smaller, also has good reputation. She was placed in 3 classes, followed by pointe.

Would it be her best benefit that she takes two classes from her school and two from the other studio?  or should she just takes all classes from her school? She is happy with her school. It has very good reputation at upper level, though I feel the early training at lower levels are quite confusing. 

Any thoughts and comments? Thanks for any input and advice.   I also need to talk to the other studio to see if they allow to take only 2 classes, since the 3 classes have to be registered as a whole package.

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dancemaven

It is not unusual for students to take classes below level.  Often teachers make those recommendation because there is some foundational component either missing or needing refinement/tuning or increased strength needed.  Without good strong foundational skills, at some point the student simply can’t progress to the more advanced skills.  There are so many components in ballet that must be co-ordinated at the same time: e.g., alignment, pulling up, shoulders, arms, legs, turnout, foot, ankle, etc.  If a student has to think about every single component all at the same time, it is overwhelming, something slides, and bad form is likely to result.  The skills in ballet are built on foundational building blocks—-much like a story.  In order to write a story, one must first learn the letters of the alphabet, then the sounds, then how to spell words, then how to build a sentence, then a paragraph, then a chapter, etc.  Along the way, there is also vocabulary, grammar, complex ideas, structure of a story, etc. that is layered over the foundational skills.  Ballet training works the same way.

So, in this case, yes, your DD may be able to “do” the skills in the advanced class, but is the muscle memory ingrained in those skills such that she doesn’t have to actively think about all the pieces and parts.  There are more likely than not corrections she is being given to work on.  Some of those may be difficult to implement if she hasn’t got the muscle memory of the larger parts of the movements such that those are second nature.  It is easier to work on getting those foundational aspects ingrained in the muscle memory of the body when one can work slower in a lower level class where one can concentrate more focus on those parts without having the extra layering of the advanced class skills.

 In addition, physical growth happens differently in youngsters of the same age.  It works the same in ballet—-different growth rates.  At 11, she is beginning to enter that crazy physical growth period where the body hits a plateau, then growth spurts occur, often unevenly among the tendons/ligaments and long bones.  Many teachers understand this and accommodate a more slow approach to rapidly growing and/or spurting pre-teen/teens.  It saves damage and wear and tear on the body, which is a good thing.  Ballet is a slow-boil activity.  Rushing skills does no one any favors and can actually slow down real training.  Different students reach different milestones at different times.

In the end, which school you choose to send her to will depend on which school you think she works better in and which school you believe has the stronger overall curriculum, atmosphere, and philosophy of training for your DD.  If she can’t make all three level classes at the original school, perhaps add a second lower level there.  I would talk to the teachers and see what their recommendation would be.

I might be hesitant to send my DD to two separate schools at this time.  It sounds as if she has some foundational skills either missing or needing tweaking.  Two separate schools with different teaching  may make that muscle memory more muddled —-for now.

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ballet1310
1 hour ago, dancemaven said:

your DD may be able to “do” the skills in the advanced class, but is the muscle memory ingrained in those skills such that she doesn’t have to actively think about all the pieces and parts.

Such good advice - please take as your dd is very young and "levels" at this point are not important, the proper training is .

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hpdp

Thanks dancemaven. I appreciate your advice very much. I have no experience on dance. When I was puzzled by the levels, DD said it didn't matter, it's the teacher that she could learn from. 

Most of the teachers at the two schools have a background associated with a big name ballet school not too far away. Some teachers  teach at both schools, so the different teaching won't be an issue.  DD also auditioned at this big name school, was placed at the same level, first year t&p.  Though DD really wanted to go there, but we decided not given all the factors, e.g. longer commute, longer training hours, coming back after 9pm 4 weekdays, other kids' need ...

DD wants to focus on ballet, I'm a little worried that she is behind other serious peers technically since she only took two classes per week in the past two years. dancemaven's  description about the strong foundational skills makes great sense. She will take a lower level class at her current school.  

Sorry to say, a minor reason I was considering other schools is,  the tuition for her school is significant more than the other two based on the same hours training she gets. I didn't pay attention until this year since in the past she was only doing 3 hours.

Many thanks!!

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dancemaven

Your DD sounds very wise and mature in her approach to learning.  That attitude will serve her very well!  ❤️

Best wishes on her continued journey!

 

 

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workmail

HPDP - Mom of 2 DD here to make general observations. 

Studios set up a certain level of commitment that can be impractical for families who have kids who just want to dance and get better. 

An 11 year should choose an activity and try to do her best in it. There are a few start at 11 that decide to be a professional dancer and are complete prodigies with serious training and go all the way through to being a company member. Meanwhile, many studios act like they are grooming kids to be professional dancers with a certain formula of classes and if you just follow that, then you are ready to join a company in the end. That's less than 1% of students. Most students are trying to get exercise, an arts education, exposure to the classics, social groups, fulfill a passion, something for the college application. It creates great memories if they have a chance to dress up and perform. 

You hit the nail on the head with the parent perspective - Are the teachers holding them back?  Do they have some pre-conceived notion about what your child could accomplish this year? It's great that your child felt that classes were fun and she was learning regardless of level. Some teachers are great at individualizing combinations and corrections even if there are slightly different abilities between students. 

Other parent perspectives that are not at the forefront of a teacher's placement and scheduling decisions-

  • The dancer has other siblings in other activities that conflict
  •  The parents are working and this schedule may not work for the family.
  • The family might want to have one day of the week that they have dinner together.
  • The cost is prohibitive or better at a second studio but you want the benefit of some aspects of the more expensive studio.
  • The child may want to take a piano lesson on one other day so instead of the 4 required classes, she could make it to three.
  • One studio may have a strength in ballet but not contemporary.
  • Distance is a factor. You might be willing to drive to one studio 2 days a week but want to go to the closer one at other times. 

Etiquette wise, keeping both studios informed is the right thing to do. They may not consider it ideal, but will they let you enroll? Would you be okay with getting penalized at performance times, because some students followed all of the director's recommendations, but yours did her own thing?  If so, do what you and your child think is best. Also, it's best to talk first and directly to your school director and not hash it out with parents in the lobby or have the kids talk about it first.

Something matter of fact like: Because of driving, budget, schedule and family life, we would like to take these 2 classes at your studio and she might pick up a couple other classes at a different studio purely because of these factors."

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hpdp

Thanks workmail. I appreciate you took your time to reply. It gave me different perspectives to look at the whole picture. 

I was hitting the nail on my head about what the teachers/director thought about DD. I'm not good at talking to teachers(especially the diretor) in person. The director saw her dance once two years ago, talked to me after class, said she was talented, wanted to train her. When I followed up a couple of month later, she said DD was not really that way or there. I was confused but fine, DD's mind was on musical theatre at that time. Then came the changes of levels throughout last year. I wish the director can talk to me openly. But I don't know what to say. Anything I can ask specifically?  

If we have any changes, I will post here. Thanks!

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dancemaven

Hpdp, unfortunately, no one here has yet been able to find a crystal ball for discerning who will or won’t succeed in obtaining a professional dance career.  Trust me, we have all looked for one and lamented the elusiveness of finding one. 

So we must struggle along doing the best we can with what we know at any given moment. 😊

After traveling this journey with my own DD for the better part of 23 years, I would advise young dancer parents to adjust goals along the way.  The  goal that is always foremost is to get the best training one can within the bounds of the family’s needs and resources at the given time. 

A good strong classical ballet foundation will carry any dancer far—whether it be towards s professional dance career or a good, well-rounded citizen with an appreciation for the arts. 

At age 11, your DD has both time and a long way to go. Puberty will play a significant part in setting goals, desires, and natural facility for dance futures.  At this point, IF she had any inclination for aspiring to a ballet career, the focus should be on getting her the best classical ballet training you can given what is realistically available in your area.  And by “best”, that means a function of instruction quality, sufficient time, philosophically compatible approach, nurturing environment, and a compatible teaching/learning dynamic for your DD. 

As far as how to talk to teachers and ADs, I was always interested in learning about their overall philosophy about teaching, what they saw as the studio’s mission (recreational, community outreach, pre-college, pre-professional concert ballet, commercial dance, competition dance, trophies) , how they approached the school’s curriculum (structured, integrated across disciplines, co-ordinated among disciplines, core training, adjunct disciplines, which ones, why), recommended course progression for various goals, philosophy of levels, philosophy of moving through the levels, expectations of student goals.  In short, I was just damn curious as to how dance was taught and how the curriculum was structured to progress and how students worked through these progressions. 

Only after I understood the overall school structure and philosophy could I really figure out how/where my DD fit in or what I could expect for her at the school. 

At that point, I could feel comfortable asking how the teachers and AD saw my DD and we could talk about her strengths and weaknesses and how to approach those.  I will say that over the years prospects waxed and waned during those formative years.  There are sooo many physical changes that occur.  Dd really didn’t achieve her “dancer’s body” until she was 18-19.  

We parents often say we want the teachers or ADs to “just tell us”.  But, truly, we only want that candor when they tell us what we want to hear—-that , yes, our DD will be one of the lucky (not chosen😉) few.  But the teachers all know they don’t have a crystal ball either.  And so many who were once told “no, not you” actually became a “yes, look at you!”  

So, my advice would be:  read, read, read threads here—old and new.  Absorb all you can.  Just have conversations with the teachers and AD at your studio.  Don’t always make it about your DD.  Just have conversations to learn more about the studio, the teachers, their beliefs, what inspires them to teach, what excites them about teaching, what do they see in the student body at large, what are they striving to achieve at the school.  Just be damn curious!! 

And always—enjoy the journey.  It is such a special journey to tag along with your DD on (as long as you don’t make it yours instead). 

 

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momof5dancers

Dancemaven and Workmail, thank you for the great advice.   

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AmyMary

Great advice here! My DD will be 13 this fall and we amped up her training from a couple days a week around your DD age. She also sounds very similar in goals and personality.

I really like what dancemaven said. Right now DD takes a couple of classes in the advanced level and a couple below. I find it a great balance. She gets to be challenged in the senior class with more advanced choreography but really gets to refine her fundamentals in the lower class. Is this an option for her?

After getting our feet wet with YAGP and auditions I quickly discovered that doing one pirouette perfectly is rewarded far more than doing five mediocre ones with intricate combinations.

I also think as a parent sometimes we have to balance honoring their aspirations with our own needs. I travel one way an hour five days a week because it is the closest legitimate studio....but if you have a great studio that is cheaper or closer it is certainly worth considering! Is it possible to just try a class or two there and see how she likes it? 

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momof5dancers

AmyMary- Glad to find another mom that travels an hour each way for class.   I mean I wish we didn't have to, but I always feel crazy for doing so.   We are doing it 5 or 6 days a week.  During Nutcracker it will be 7.   We recently found a studio that is a little bit closer, and the training is good there.   But the kids have friends and the hours are a lot more at their current studio.  14.5 hours vs 5 or 6.   So that is why we are there. 

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AmyMary

I know what you mean! DD got Clara this year which means we are there 6 days straight. Sometimes it is lonely to hear other parents complain about the burden of being 15 minutes away from the studio . Not only do we live so far but I don't have the option to drop off and come back.

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momof5dancers

Yes, you hit the nail on the head.  I wish I could come home and do chores or have some downtime.  Not an option.  I have to laugh because I was there this week and people were complaining that they live 10 mins away.  That would be my dream come true.   Oh wow, congrats to your DD on getting Clara.  That is so exciting.  Good for you for working so hard to support her, it is a lot a work.   This is the first week of it and already I am a bit tired.  I hate driving so it really sucks the life out of me. Good luck getting through this Nutcracker season.   I bet it will all be worth it when you see her perform.  

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dancemaven

We are slipping     :offtopic:   :D

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