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Ballet Talk for Dancers

What to do when there isn't a suitable training?


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Hi there, 

My DD is almost 12 and we recently relocated to a very small town. After took a trail class at the local studios nearby, we were told by the owner (former PNB dancer) that my dd's technique is WAY above the highest level class they can offer. She is welcome to take class with the highest level, but unfortunately, they don't have more. They also don't offer any private or rental. The studio is quite expensive (almost twice as much than we used), but my dd can dance 4 times a week in the studio which is a plus after doing online classes since last March. 

We drove 2.5 hour to another school yesterday. They have more levels/classes, but the teacher (danced with SFB before) also told us that my DD needs faster class. Not that the school isn't good or the class is not organized but she is capable of doing more and ready to move on; it's not beneficial to only take slower class or not having classmates that can stimulate the learning. If we choose to come, she is willing to offer extra 15 mins after the class to speed some combinations up for her. However, because it's far, we can only go there once a week. 

We can't do 2 schools, but I'm thinking about letting her to continue doing online group class with her old teacher, so she somewhat keeps the technique. We just don't know if group class will be offered yet. Privates are very expensive for us that we probably can only afford once a week. My DD is still very young that I think we should wait at least 2, 3 years before letting her go to any residency program (if ballet is still what she truly wants). She has been training in a big name school and dances approximately 12.5 hours a week, so this is a big shift for her. Even though she said there is always something to work on in every class, I'm worried that I am not giving her what she truly needs. 

I'm wondering if there is any parent that faces the similar problem and willing to share how to keep the training when there isn't a suitable in-person class? Thank you! 

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My DD(12) has not yet outgrown the available training in our very small area, but probably will in the next couple years. However, she is more focused than her peers and thus is looking for more out of class than she sometimes is able to get. We have chosen to have her in the best local studio and supplement with semi-private lessons with another very focused young dancer and summer intensives. Once she is older and has a better idea what her long term dance goals are, then we will make other decisions. 

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Unfortunately sometimes there is no great solution.... You may need to “cobble something together” if you feel she is still 2-3 years away from going to a residential program.  

From a teaching perspective, the caliber of teaching can outweigh the amount sometimes. It may be better to have a very good teacher less often, than a mediocre one every day.  Is there a reason you can’t do two schools or a combination of her old teacher and a new school?  At 12, a short period of good, but not exceptional training, would not be the end of the world.

Whatever you choose has to work financially and for you as a family in terms of time and stress! There may not be a perfect answer right now and she may need to supplement her training with other means in the interim. Best of luck working through it!

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On 8/21/2021 at 8:45 PM, Miss Persistent said:

From a teaching perspective, the caliber of teaching can outweigh the amount sometimes. It may be better to have a very good teacher less often, than a mediocre one every day.  Is there a reason you can’t do two schools or a combination of her old teacher and a new school?  At 12, a short period of good, but not exceptional training, would not be the end of the world.

This. We did this with our now 17 yo DD and are now doing it with DD10. We started with drop-ins at a very high caliber school a couple of hours away when we could, then we ended up finding a teacher for privates 2 hours away who we see a couple to a few times a month. They can get a lot out of that time with a really good teacher who knows what they need to work on.

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I don’t know if this is a viable option for you, but wanted to share our situation. We also live in a smaller town 2 hours from a metropolitan area, so ballet training options are very limited. However, there is a university nearby. My daughter became acquainted with the dance dept through some community events and after some discussion with the main ballet professor she is now a non-traditional student there. Starting at age 12 she has been dual-enrolled in the university and attends a college level ballet class 5 days a week after her regular school day (3 days ballet, 2 days pointe). Then, she attends her small competition studio 2 evenings for other classes she’s interested in (contemporary, additional ballet/pointe, etc).  

It isn’t the same as a ballet focused serious program with peers her own age, but she is getting better training than other local studios, has a new perspective on her career options in dance, it’s cost effective for us, and as a bonus she’s collected many college hours on her school transcript. Also, as a dual-enrolled student can audition for the University stage productions which has been great audition experience. She’s 14 now. She does focus on finding a strong summer program which helped tremendously for her to gauge if she’s on-par with her peers in ballet since we don’t have much of that locally. It’s not perfect, but is working and she is happy and continuing to improve. Just wanted to throw out an option that some may not consider when nearby studios are limited. 

Edited by MrsPretzel
grammatical correction
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Our situation was similar. DD became serious about ballet two years ago, when she was about 12. We knew it was just a matter of time before she would outgrow local instruction. We made do by enrolling her in the best local studio we could find and supplementing with private lessons and conditioning classes at a local Pilates studio. Whenever possible, we took her to dance workshops and classes in the nearest large cities. And, of course, she attended as many weeks of summer intensives as possible.

This week, DD leaves to attend a pre-professional program in a distant city. DH and I are not thrilled to let her go, but it's a good opportunity and she's very excited. It will be a major transition, but it's time. 

There's lots of good advice in this thread. I wish you and your DD the very best luck in finding quality ballet instruction. 

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We are in a similar situation and as mentioned above -- you can "cobble" something together.  It often requires lots of sacrifice and travel - but if you have the time to do the ground work, it can be really beneficial for your dancer if that is what they are passionate about.

We have been very lucky to have a great community we fell in to for my dancer.  Here is an idea of our patchwork, remember flexibility is key and she still has time:

We currently travel once a month for a weekend of classes (3-5 hrs per weekend) with a studio three hours away from us (the nearest city).  We also do a one hour zoom private lesson as schedule allows.  In addition he does one hour zoom classes five days a week with excellent instructors.  Plus he is still at the local (only) studio taking two classes (top level that our studio offers, a lot of the dancers leave at the high school level for drill team and they can't do both).  We have about 10-12 hours a week with our patch working, so it is possible depending on your dancer and how they respond to online training supplementation.

Edit to add: He does cross train as well with yoga and gym time too. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

You've gotten a lot of good suggestions here, but I will add another: there are still quite a few exceptional virtual opportunities available that were born of the pandemic. I agree with all of the posters above that you should do what you can to "cobble together" the best in person opportunities that you can. I totally understand about the expense of private lessons, even over Zoom, but I think you can find some good less expensive virtual options as well. A couple that I know of: Sugarfoot therapy has been offering a once-per-week virtual group class that is really challenging (this isn't ballet, but it is great conditioning specifically designed for dancers), and believe Runqiao Du (former Artistic Director of The Kirov Academy), in addition to offering paid online group classes, does some live virtual classes that are open and free.

There surely must be more that I don't know about. I wish you and your dancer the best of luck in finding a way to make it work!

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  • 2 months later...

We are struggling with a similar issue in that there simply aren't enough supplementary classes available in our area.  When I was growing up my school offered adult division classes that were also open to students, and we were given the opportunity to also take the class below our designated level for additional training.  I was also lucky to live within commuting distance of NYC, so there were always open classes there I could take on school breaks/weekend days.  But there's just nothing like that available for my kid where we live now!  It's very frustrating.  

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