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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Trying new styles


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My daughter is 13. I don’t think she’ll make a career of dance but she’s still quite serious about ballet and takes 4-6 technique classes a week depending on covid restrictions and temp studio closures. She dances at a regular dance studio (a competitive studio) and supplements at a ballet studio. The style she is used to is Balanchine. We have a fairly well known Vaganova school a few hours away. She is hesitant to even audition for a SI, fearing the differences are so drastic. I like the price and location during these uncertain times. She’s also auditioning for Boston which is a reasonable distance with family nearby and she also has the option of spending the summer local, which may be best when all is said and done, but we are still hopeful. She’s a young 13- mature in some ways, but a little anxious about new situations. Has anyone’s child studied one style almost exclusively and gone in the opposite direction for a SI? How did that go? Should I encourage her to stretch her ballet wings a little or would it be silly to even consider with the differences? TIA 😊

Edited by Idget16
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I'm curious about your hesitation in encouraging her to "stretch her ballet wings"?  What would you/she consider the down side of that?  I'm legitimately asking, not judging.  For me, it is difficult to offer advice to someone if I am unsure of the "risks" involved in the decision.  

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Just my take. I think trying a different style SI depends on how solid their foundation is in the style of their home studio. We know of studios where younger students are discouraged from going away to other SIs for fear of the other teachers "messing up" the teaching of the home teachers. There is the concern that the home studio feels that they need to "fix" whatever habits were picked up during the summer away once they come back (which are most likely due to stylistic differences).

I feel that as long as the student can understand what is being taught differently (i.e. a Balanchine teacher prefers a "claw-like" hand and a Vaganova teacher might not) and can adapt accordingly, then exposure to different styles can only help. When this awareness comes in probably depends on the dancer and maybe a discussion with their teacher.

Both my daughters started off Vaganova based and due to a move, switched to studios that have some Balanchine teachers, so they are exposed to both now. I always hear them discuss the differences. I think it helps my older DD prepare for SI auditions as companies may focus on different styles and when she talks to college programs, she will always ask what style ballet is taught. She does have a preference, so I think her selections of auditions/schools are a result of her understanding of the styles.

It won't hurt to audition (if it works for you timewise and financially). At a minimum, she will get a feel for the style of teaching during the audition!

Best of luck!

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On 1/18/2021 at 12:42 PM, Eligus said:

I'm curious about your hesitation in encouraging her to "stretch her ballet wings"?  What would you/she consider the down side of that?  I'm legitimately asking, not judging.  For me, it is difficult to offer advice to someone if I am unsure of the "risks" involved in the decision.  

I just want her (my daughter)  to be happy and she’s expressed some apprehension at this. I think her teacher may have inadvertently discouraged it by suggesting other SIs for her to look at instead of encouraging this one when it was brought up in the past. But since no parents are really allowed in the studio due to covid, I get so much info secondhand (through the filter of a 13 year old, lol) so I don’t really know. I’ve considered contacting our studio directly to discuss but I hate being a pain, and I wanted an outside perspective. Thank you! 

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Ah, okay. Idget16, thank you for explaining.  I appreciate the clarification.  As a caveat, I am not an expert in styles, just a parent of a dancer, but I can share with you my DD's experience between the two styles and perhaps that can help you advise your DD. 

My DD grew up in a mostly "Balanchine" studio.  In her very early teens, she went to Harid (a Vaganova school) for a summer intensive, and she loved it.  From her perspective, the teaching at Harid was "slower" and "detailed focused" on the alignment of the ENTIRE body (fitting the torso, shoulders, head and hands INTO and working WITH the body in very precise ways).  This way of working felt in contrast to her home studio (which again from her young dancer perspective) "felt" as if the concentration of the teachers was on quick articulation of the feet/legs and less of a whole body approach.  In addition, at her home studio, she felt that she was constantly being "pushed" beyond her comfort zone, and encouraged to dance almost "on edge" ... on the edge of her technique and her ability.  I won't comment here on whether or not that is a "good" way of teaching, just letting you know what she "felt" like there, as a dance student.

She did not feel overwhelmed or lost at the Vaganova summer intensive.  She told me the teaching there felt "slower," "more careful" and more "detail oriented."  It felt to her that she needed to take a step back and fix some of the more basic technique issues (which she knew she was struggling with, and was why she wanted to try Vaganova style).  At the SI, she worked hard on changing the alignment/placement of her feet -- she had a tendency to roll in at her ankles.  Harid teachers worked with her specifically on that, and helped her to learn how to pull up through her pelvis and also worked more on her head/shoulder placement (which she needed desperately).  I don't know enough to tell you if her feeling of comfort had to do with the excellent teachers at Harid, or the Vaganova method itself, or whether it was a good combination of both. 

After the Harid summer, she told me that while she preferred the learning method of Vaganova (she liked the full body approach), she thought she needed to continue in the more Balanchine method, because she felt she needed to be "pushed" to dance more aggressively, quickly and with articulation and boldness (she never has been a "big, bold" person).   She, herself, has judged herself as struggling with quick articulation, and worried that if she trained exclusively in Vaganova, she'd never be able to "move fast" again.  Now, I'm not sure that was true, but she did actually worry about that.

A funny story about her worry about her lack of "fast articulation" -- when she attended another big letter, classical-based SI some years later, the teachers there were all impressed with her "fast articulation."  🙄   It just goes to show that while you need to talk with your dancer about their fears and desires, their perception of themselves compared to their peers might be a bit skewed.  

And I empathize with "not being a pain" and not being able to see what is going on in class.  But I (personally) would encourage your DD to at least audition, and get a feel for the style/teachers through the audition.  I don't believe your DD will be lost or uncomfortable with the differences in style.  It IS all ballet.

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Thank you! They are having a “public” live class next weekend so I’m hoping if she participates in that, she can see if it feels like something she would like to do. And from what I’ve been told, the combinations taught will be used in the audition. . 

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  • 5 months later...

Ok, my opinion, Do it!!!! I know you were thinking about taking a different style of ballet intensive, which would work too, but why not branch out to whole other styles of dance for a couple days during and intensive? Your daughter is 13, and taking lots for technique, which means she has probably been dancing for a while. I would say to start off with something like lyrical/contemporary/modern because it is (in most cases) the most similar to ballet, just with less “rules” per say. My daughter had only taken ballet for about 7 years, and decided to take a whole new route with Jazz! She loved it, and it helped her continue to dance even when she didn’t really want to take ballet. Taking intensives in other styles shouldn’t harm your daughter, because she is old enough to understand that things she is learning for other styles, don’t necessarily happen in ballet. Learning something like modern will help with her artistry, and improv will help her learn to choreograph! Something like jazz will help her with clean movement, and hip hop will help get her into a comfortable flow while she dances. She will also get a better understanding of music and movement together, which will make her a better overall dancer. Well rounded dancers look more confident and mature on stage, because they know all of the ways their bodies can move, and can use that to their advantages. And she might even decide she has a new favorite style! 

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