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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Lack of rigor at SI

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My DD (age 16) is at a respected summer dance program (week 4 of 5). She is a very capable dancer with a rigorous class schedule at our home studio. She has not been challenged by her classes at the SI. She says: I can’t break a sweat in class. The class moves too slowly. We didn’t get to jumps in class until the third week. Most of the other students in my partnering class have never partnered before, so we only did basic turns.  
She has a good head on her shoulders and is able to be objective in her judgement. She does not over estimate her own ability, but looks to be challenged so that she can improve. We are now nearing the end of the program and I feel she has missed an opportunity to grow this summer. I hesitate to reach out to the administrator of the program—would this be wise? It seems so cliché to say, after the fact, that “she wasn’t placed in the right level.” What advice would you give a dancer in this situation? How can we salvage the remainder of this SI to take away something valuable for our investment?

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I'm sorry your dancer is not enjoying her experience to the fullest. My dancer also had a summer where she felt she just wasn't challenged - the best advice I have for you is to have her focus on continued strength and on one thing she *can* focus on for corrections to really improve in an area where she may not be as strong. Maintaining is important over the summer - so is preventing injury, so maybe it's a way to think of it as continuing strength without risk of injury if she's not overdoing something. Growth sometimes comes in different ways, but I know it's a disappointment if she felt she selected a well known program and isn't being challenged. Unless she is considering year round at said program, I would let it go and not bring it up with the program--but you may want to think twice about going back in a future year if it isn't what she needs from it. The administrators of SI's try to be mindful in their placement - of course they may not always get it right, but it's good to try to figure out what she can gain instead of focusing on what she is missing out on. Best to your dancer - I'm sure she will head into the fall season very strong regardless!

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@BKS3 thank you for that insight. I hadn’t considered that she is, in fact, maintaining strength, as well as minimizing the possibility of injury. Those are two very important factors. I will also talk with her about the corrections she has been given, and see if she can shift focus to something specific for the remaining weeks. I greatly appreciate your response! It’s good to know we are not alone, and that time moves on with more experiences yet to come. Thank you. 

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I think BKS3 has some good advice--many of our dancers have probably felt they have been placed sometimes at a spot less than what they can do. I would add that if your dancer does feel she has a good rapport with any of her teachers in the SI, it's ok for her to ask if there is something she can specifically focus on so she feels she's got a bit more to think about. The ballet world is very small. I think treading lightly so as not to offend is honestly important, but it's a good time to advocate for herself, as well. I hope she can finish the summer feeling good about her choice to attend! 

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@beehive1 agreed—the ballet world is SO small, which is why we make it a rule not to complain/offend, and why I hesitate to reach out to the program admins. However, it’s a great suggestion to approach a teacher an ask for specific suggestions. She has a couple of teachers that she truly enjoys. I like these positive, encouraging ideas!! Thanks!

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What if she advocated for herself and asked, "What do i need to work on?" and "What am i not doing that you see in kids in higher level?".

I'll post a review, but my DD (14) really advocated for herself this summer. Did it result in a level change? No! But, she learned what she needed to work on.

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TSC1, also consider the fact that learning the "fit" and the SI's culture (well respected or not) is important, especially at 16, when dancers need to start getting a feel for the culture of the places they attend.  She now knows that she didn't feel challenged or pushed in that SI's environment. If she can analyze the why she didn't feel challenged, that may help.  It may not be just the "level"she was placed in.  She might not be feeling challenged due to the teaching style, the attitude of the teachers or the students or her particular class mix, the "pace" of the class, or the emphasis of the school's curriculum on certain elements. (shrug).  There are many reasons why a school and your DD just don't click that may have little to do with her actual level or ability.  

Finally, remind your DD that summers are only ONE data point in a long journey, and it is difficult to appreciate and understand the entire cost/benefit analysis of the summer experience right away.  Sometimes, you need to sit with the experience a bit to learn from it, and a "ho-hum" experience can be valuable in its own right.  

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@Eligus good advice (as always here). She certainly has identified several of the things you mention, e.g., teaching style, style of ballet being taught, curriculum. It was a good summer for making friends and going on fun outings. And she did say, I thought I would want to come here year round and now I definitely don’t. All valuable (maybe, in the long run, more valuable than just improving a jump or turn). I think part of it comes from having had a fabulous experience the previous summer, which realistically, can’t be replicated. We both expected more. And it has made me think very hard about the financial investment for future summers. I will need to be a better educated consumer—ask more questions and take off the rose colored glasses…an SI is more than it’s name. We did our homework this year (I thought) but didn’t ask the right questions. 

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Was your dancer at the upper end of the program’s usual age divisions?  I always tried to pick programs where my dancer was likely to be in the middle of a level age-wise.  That minimized surprises and disappointments.  

I do think you should write a review of the program.  It will help other dancers know what to expect.

The problem your dancer encountered is pretty common.     Numerous things could be the cause.  By posting a review, you may get feedback here from other participants that will help clarify why the classes seemed slow.

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100% echo Eligus and mln’s comments. Please do consider posting a review ❤️

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On 7/20/2022 at 6:44 AM, TSC1 said:

an SI is more than it’s name. We did our homework this year (I thought) but didn’t ask the right questions

THAT is exactly (in a nutshell) why SI experiences are so incredibly valuable.  And it may be, indeed, that you DID "do your homework" very well and thoroughly during your SI audition experiences.  But, you cannot know what you don't know.  You are learning.  Learning what questions to ask and what your DD needs in order to thrive is part and parcel of the SI and the audition process (and later, their career in dance, if they are so lucky).  Having a difficult summer experience is not a detriment to that learning process, nor is it a "failure" of a summer.  Instead, it is an excellent and valuable (albeit sometimes expensive and frustrating) opportunity to LEARN.  

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  • 4 weeks later...

I am so happy to see this thread only to know that I am not alone in feeling this way.  It has been a challenging ballet year and to add a challenging/frustrating ballet summer on top of that has been really disappointing.  All of these suggestions are great ones, and similar to what I have told DD this summer - you can always get something out of every program, it's good experience for the "real" ballet world when you have to be much more self reliant and can't always rely on other people to help you improve, etc.  It's also for me a good reminder that every year is different - programs change, approaches change, directors change, so we can do as much research as possible but it's still incredibly difficult for dancers to make the "right" choice for the summer (and for parents to help them do it).  And in our case, DD had a minor injury this summer, so maybe I'm glad she had the chance to maintain her training and strength without aggravating the issue.  And I'm hoping she returns to her home studio in the fall and her teachers see improvement that may be difficult for her to recognize, incrementally, in herself.  Anyway, just really glad as a clueless ballet parent to have this whole forum.

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