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Dance Magazine: CPYB methods

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Yes I wonder about the burnout rate too and those who are burned out and their parents can't see it or maybe worse won't see it.

We had a gal at our studio about 5 years ago who her mother had her on the fast track for the dancing world. A zillion classes a week at our studio and others. Acting lessons anything that could "help her make it to NYCB" To watch the gal dance, one never saw a more unhappy girl.Also tired looking who would not be though with her schedule. The mom was crazy in the car getting her from point A to B in record time.

As the girl hit her teens she started to rebel. I use to say it would not surprise me to hear of the gal commiting some act on her mother to stop her from dancing and we would read about it in the paper.

I even approached the gal and said you look unhappy would you like to talk about it.Do you need someone to talk to your mom about the dancing. She looked at me with such sad eyes and shook her head no.She knew I knew....

Well shortly after that she got the courage to tell her mom "I don't want to dance anymore"

She now is working hard at school and hopes to go to college for some medical career.

It is hard not to get caught up in this world, but we all must ask oursleves in whatever directions we point our children when they are young is it me or them

The most harmful 4 letter word is self

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  • Mel Johnson


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For those who have expressed an interest -- these highlights taken from the chapter Profiles of Pointe Training Methods in The Pointe Book by Janice Barringer & Sarah Schlesinger, originally published in 1991, updated in 1998:


The Royal Ballet School (London, England)


“Students must be eleven years old to be admitted… While entering students take only one ballet class a day, by the time they leave the school they will be taking seventeen hours of dance class a week.”


Paris Opera School


“Students are accepted into the school at the age of nine…Once accepted at the school, students live there during the week and spend their weekends at home with parents…A typical school day finds them in academic classes in the morning and dance classes in the afternoon.”


Royal Swedish Ballet School


"Students… are encouraged to start at age nine or ten for the best results….By the time the students are fifteen, they are taking nineteen hours of dance classes a week… For the first two years, students take ballet class for one and a half hours, five times a week. They also take an improvisation class and a gymnastic acrobatic class weekly…..Character classes are introduced in the second year….Modern and jazz training are introduced in the fourth year and repertory classes start in the fifth year…. In the sixth year, they begin pas de deux work once a week and then add an additional pas de deux class the last two years.”


The book offers similar profiles on a number of American schools, including SAB, Houston Ballet Academy and San Francisco Ballet School.

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One detail about the POB school: according to the Paris Opera official site, the age of admission is: between 8 and 11 1/2 for the girls, between 8 and 13 for the boys. There are two categories for admission:

-between 8 and 10 for the girls, 8 and 11 for the boys: an audition in december, if they got accepted there is a six-month sort of internship and the decision about real admission is made in june

-for the older ones, the admission procedure is more complicated, with two auditions in march, and then a one year internship between september and june, and the full admission is decided in june.


The site says that there are six classes ("divisions") for each gender, from the 6th for the youngest to the 1st for the oldest. The girls start pointe at the barre in the 5th division (that does seem young to me- but perhaps some of them spend several years in 6th division?) The site doesn't give much information about the teaching itself, except that, besides ballet classes, they also have classes of pas de deux, variations, contemporary dance, jazz, character dance, mime, folk dance, dance history, anatomy, musical expression and singing...

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Speaking of young training....


At what age is it OK for a child to take lessons more than once a week? If a child wants to take more often, should a parent keep them from doing so until they are 8 or 9? Can it help them to take pre-ballet more than once a week? If it were up to my daughter, she would go as often as possible :)




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No, pre-ballet, be it once or seven times a week won't have very much beneficial effect on a small child.


After the very beginning classes in actual ballet, which can start as early as seven, once a week, the number of classes can grow with the child. A second-year beginner, eight years old, could take twice a week. And so on. I don't believe in immersion from age eight - it won't work unless you have a perfect physical and psychological "type" for ballet. Forcing any program, whether ballet or the bassoon, is just wrong, and potentially dangerous!

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Just for the record, the student requirements at CPYB are as follows, per week (minimum for all):



Level 1A - 2 hours

Level 1B - 4 hours

Level 2A - 8 hours

Level 2B - 10 hours

Level 3 - 16 hours

Level 4 - 18 hours

Level 5 through 9 - 22 hours



Levels are determined solely on technical ability and muscle strength, not age.



Maurinda Wingard, Executive Director

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Wingard, are the 22 hours all classes, or is some of that rehearsal? If it is all classes, can you give us a breakdown on that? How do they fit in that many hours and school too? Our Release Time students have two classes a day, but that is not nearly that many hours a week. Even if they had two classes a day of one hour and a half each that is still only 18 hours. (They actually only have 2.5 hours a day of classes, 5 days a week, so it is far less.) Do your students have 3 classes a day?

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The students who go to Carlisle High School do get released early because CPYB is counted as a school subject, but that release time is 2 P.M. So, they could get some of their school work done before ballet if they attended Carlisle High School. There are often rehearsals called early , though, so they would not alsways get that time. Also, many students attend a full day of school at a different high school and have to travel to get to CPYB so have extremely long days. Mine would do some of their homework in the car but would often be up until the wee hours completing their schoolwork. They were always on the honor roll and certainly learned to budget their time. Now that 2 of them are older, I have asked them if they regretted the time they spent on ballet . And their answers were a resounding NO. I didn't agree with the required long hours but they loved it and wanted it. I must admit that none of mine made it the whole way through school at CPYB though, they all moved on to a company based school before they graduated from high school. ( And they did graduate , by the way, and the oldest are taking college courses while they pursue their professional careers)

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Just asked my daughter for a full breakdown of her Nutmeg schedule:


Monday - Technique - 3:30 - 5:00

Pointe - 5:00 - 5:50

Repertoire - 6:45 - 8:00

Available for more repertoire - 8 - 9 or 9:30


Tuesday - Technique - 3:30 -5:00

Body Conditioning (Pilates/yoga) - 5:00 - 5:50

Pointe/Repertoire - 6:45 - 8:00

Available for more repertoire - 8:00 -9 or 9:30


Wed.- Technique - 3:30-5:00

Partnering - 5:00 - 5:50

Repertoire - 6:45 - 8:00

Available for more repertoire - 8:00- 9 or 9:30


Thursday- Technique - 3:30- 5:00

Pointe - 5:00- 5:50

Repertoire - 6:45- 8:00

Available for more repertoire - 8:00 - 9 or 9:30


Friday- Technique - 3:30 -5:00

Body Conditioning (Pilates/yoga) 5:00-5:50

Pointe/Repertoire - 5:50-6:45

Dinner followed by availability for more

repertoire once rehearsals start


Saturday- Technique - 11:00 - 12:30

Repertoire 1:00 - 4:00



Some of what's billed as repertoire is partnering or pas classes. Additionally, there are daily technique classes on Monday - Friday from 2:00 - 3:30. These are intended to be for boarders and anyone else in certain levels who can attend. Many of those in attendance are the older students who are newer to Nutmeg, but any advanced dancer is also welcomed. My daughter's school schedule allows her to make it to some of these classes.


Same for Saturday. There's a 9:30- 11:00 class intended for same group of dancers. It's also used as a make-up class for anyone who missed a class during the week.


My daughter's at the ballet studio most days till 9:00 or later, esp. once Nutcracker or spring performance rehearsals begin, as well as all day Saturday till about 5. Dancers who want to work extra are welcomed as long as there's a teacher available in the building. Many of the advanced dancers take advantage of this.

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I'm more interested here, in the levels where the modal age (the age most frequently encountered) is below eleven. While a minimum, and those seem fairly sane, is absolutely necessary, is there a maximum? I'm seeing far too many pre-teens give up on ballet before they can really start to progress, and one of the reasons they often cite is overwork combined with boredom. While some of that is inevitable, I'm seeing it far more often now than I did say, thirty years ago. I even notice that boys give up on organized sports for the same reason - they get dumped into immersion programs designed to produce the XXIst century Lou Gehrig, and they don't like it!

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There is no "maximum" number of classes at CPYB. Students taking a minimum level of classes would usually not be considered serious students. More is considered better--the goal is to become "strong" There could be 11 year olds in any level--the leveling is done on ability/dedication compared to age.

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I see a potential serious problem right there, with lots of chances for abuse.

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Guest Leigh Witchel

Mel, I really suggest you look for yourself, in that case. I'm quite certain that CPYB has its problems, and that there would be some children who suffer burnout, injury or other problems, but we're making an lot of judgments here that are based on principles without observation. My experiences there have been that the kids are doing what they do voluntarily, and they go there specifically to do that. Bela Karolyi was probably not the gymnastics coach for a normal child either, but not all children are the norm.

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Leigh, with all respect, I have spent more time in Carlisle over the last thirty-plus years at either the War College or the Military History Institute than I care to think about, and can say with confidence that it is not Lake Woebegon, where all the children are above average. Bela Karolyi did not teach all of Romania, besides. Unfortunately, in all that time, I never was able to break away from the press of business and go over to CPYB to observe the situation. I did have the opportunity to meet some students in a non-dancing environment, as the children of colleagues.


I suppose my trepidations are based somewhat on George Washington, one of whose favorite phrases, on which he worked many variations, was "big with the likelihood of mischief." I think you and all others of good sense will agree that an unlimited card of classes from a master teacher and an unlimited card of classes from Dolly Dinkle are two entirely different things! Marcia Weary may indeed have the potential for abuse of unlimited classes for preteens under control, but my concern is the competition school or worse that points to CPYB and uses it as an example to push more and more classes on unwary students and parents. I'm a professional educator, whether it be ballet, history, or English, and I would no more give unlimited daily classes to an eight-year-old than I would expect him/her to explicate the Institution of the Confederation of the Rhine or analyze T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land".

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Even if a dance school recommends more and more claasses for the younger(and sometimes even the older), doesn't the final decision rest with us? If we, as parents, think our child is getting burnt out, or just plain tired, its our responsibility to talk to the teacher and figure out a better plan. THey can suggest the path for the children, but its our job to listen and then decide what is the best plan physically and mentally while relying on the studio's expertise in the area.

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