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When is it time to change dance schools?


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#1 taxi4ballet

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 09:08 AM

I would be really interested to hear the experiences of people who have changed their ds/dd's dance school. Why did you move, and did it work out for the best, or do you wish you had stayed where you were?

We are having a bit of a dilemma at the moment, and aren't sure whether a new approach from a different teacher would be a good thing or not.

#2 spannerandpony

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 09:24 AM

Good question! We moved dd to her current school at 7. The school she started at only did exams every other year and you had to wait until the whole class was ready before they would enter any children. Consequently, by the time dd was 7 she had only done Pre-Primary and Primary Ballet exams, and Primary tap, and wouldn't have done her Grade 1 until 9.

The interim years between exams were spent learning material for a big show. The costume hire was really pricey, you had to attend extra classes approaching the show (at extra cost) and the dress rehearsals used to go on until ridiculously late. The year she was 5, the dress rehearsal ran until 10.45pm on a schoolnight!

Then because they used to learn all the syllabus work in two terms, they used to demand extra classes coming up to the exams, on the basis that "you all need such a lot of work, none of you are good enough". The extra classes were pricey too.

After almost 4 years of this we had had enough, so spoke to the Director of dd's current school. We took her along for a trial class and she loved it. 2 terms later she got a Distinction in her Grade 1 exam and was a very happy little girl indeed. She's still there 6 years later and it was her current teacher who suggested she try for Associates, and now works around Associates to ensure that dd gets the same amount of training.

I was honest with the first school, paid them a term's notice, and explained exactly why I was moving dd.
*Spanner*

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#3 Ecarte

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 10:02 AM

I think if you are even questioning your dance school your instincts must be telling you something?

I too have questioned My DD's allegiance to her dancing school. Her ballet teachers are fantastic and I have no complaints however the modern and tap teachers are not the best. As ballet is her focus we decided to continue and resign ourselves to the less than perfect tap and modern.

Some people have left for this reason but ballet is not their main interest. Not every school suits every dancer I suppose. Could you have a trial lesson elsewhere to see what your DD thinks?

I think as Spanner and Pony says if you do leave as long as you give the correct notice and explain why ,then follow your instincts.

Good luck in your decision

#4 taxi4ballet

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 10:17 AM

We have had a couple of trial lessons at other schools, and I hear the same each time. DD has the facility but she's not using herself and they think she's not receiving enough correction.

The trouble is, she's been at the same school for ages, has lots of friends, loves it there and is making progress. She does get frustrated, though as her teacher isn't one for 'positive' praise and encouragement; and she isn't a hands-on teacher, which I'm beginning to think is becoming more important especially in the major grades.

Also, the other schools are a lot further away, and considerably more expensive.

What to do?!

#5 spannerandpony

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 10:39 AM

Very difficult decision. I don't think any school is perfect - dd isn't always enamoured with the Modern teacher who seems only to praise one child (who rarely attends class) and doesn't think that the good dancers need praise (!) BUT Modern is only once a week and she loves learning from her ballet teacher.

The ballet teacher and I have had some long conversations about dd which resulted in the teacher being completely hands on, which has made an unbelievable difference to their relationship and they now understand each other completely. Dd knows which "bits" the teacher means, and teacher knows now that dd really couldn't feel which bits to do what with.

Sometimes teachers might be frightened to be hands on, in case a parent complains. Have you asked your dd's teacher to be more hands on, and actually said "you have my permission to be hands-on"?

Personally I can't see how you can teach ballet without touching, but in this day and age you can see why teachers may be reticent about doing so. :-(
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#6 Pups_mum

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 10:44 AM

We've never changed dance schools, but I have moved my DD from one academic school to another and my advice would be to listen to your instincts. I spent a lot of time brushing aside things that I wasn't quite happy with as I didn't want to upset either my DD who had lovely friends, or her teachers who were essentially good and nice people. Eventually some other circumstances forced our hand and we had to move her and I was glad of an excuse really. It was a good decision and I should probably have done it earlier, but hindsight is a wonderful thing! It took a little while for DD to settle but after a relatively short time she was much happier. Nowhere is perfect of course and there are a few things we miss from the old school. There will always be "niggles" but if they become things that keep coming back to bother you,rather than just minor irritations, then I would seriously think abut moving.

#7 Kitschqueen_1

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 10:58 AM

My 15 year old dd has just left her dance school after 9 years!

It was not an easy decision to make as she was one of her first pupils when the school opened and her teacher is more like a family friend. However, whilst the school has grown and gone from strength to strength there are very few teenagers who dance there and certainly none who wish to pursue dance as a career. This made my DD a "big fish in a little pond" which was not helpful.

Once she started on her contemporary CAT last year I think she then found the school and the teaching limiting and became bored and disinterested in her other lessons.

She has started ballet at another school now and is absolutely loving it again. It is a much larger school with a fantastic reputation and it has some exceptional dancers (who are her age). Her new teacher has been wonderful with her as she has had to switch to RAD syllabus.

Her old dance school was at the bottom of our road, I now have another 2 hour round trip a week, increasing in the autumn. The lessons are more expensive and I spend a fortune in Tescos whilst I am waiting but has it been worth it......absolutely, just to see her enthusiasm and love of dance return.

It wasn't an easy move and we did not take the decision lightly but in the end I had to put her needs before our loyalty to her old teacher who I'm happy to say has been massively supportive of it.:-)
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#8 taxi4ballet

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 11:00 AM

My instincts, and dd's, are that she needs to move, we just can't make up our minds where to. :wacko:

We've investigated several options and had trial lessons, but there are con's as well as pro's, and weighing it all up is so frustrating.

DD needs to be happy with her decision, and I would like her to have the best teacher we can afford, and who is the 'right' teacher for her.

AAArrrrgggghhhh!!!

#9 Pups_mum

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 11:20 AM

Do any of the potential new schools have any summer activities that your daughter could attend? That might be an opportunity to get a better feel of what the schools are like.
Good luck with your decision.
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#10 taxi4ballet

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 11:23 AM

Do any of the potential new schools have any summer activities that your daughter could attend?


We're already fully booked with a summer school and EYB so we can't do that, it's a good idea, though.

#11 Flowerdew

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 11:57 AM

My advice is really make sure your dd is happy with moving schools and its not just your decision and she's going along with it. A few years ago a student of mine moved schools but this was really her mothers decision. She came round to see me and had a chat about the reasons she thought were the right ones for moving schools she thought her dd was behind in her grades and that the emphasis at my school was too much on shows and competitions and not enough on exams. I said to her how does dd feel about this as she is so happy in class and doing well and she said oh she doesn't want to move!!! but I think its better for her as she wants to go on to vocational school and the school she is moving to has a good track record of getting students into vocational schools. However after the student had been at the new school for 2 weeks I received a phone call of the mother who was close to tears saying she had made a dreadful mistake and her dd hated the school and was refusing to go and please could she come back to mine! Of course I said yes and since then my student has progressed very well and this year was awarded a DADA for a top vocational school in London! :rolleyes:
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#12 aileen

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 12:12 PM

I think that it's very difficult to continue with a teacher when you have lost confidence in him or her. Sometimes issues can be resolved after a discussion with the teacher but often they won't. If the teacher does not accept your point of view (eg your child could progress more quickly) or is unwilling or unable to change the structure of how things are done (eg exams are only done when the whole class is ready or only one class a week is available) then if you are really dissatisfied your only option is to change teachers. More fundamentally, if you don't think that the teacher is good enough then you have to change really as you're not going to express that opinion to the teacher, are you?! Of course, it can be difficult raising issues of concern with teachers anyway. I have to say that in my experience teachers in all fields are not generally very open to having a constructive discussion when a parent is dissatisfied. Ballet and music teachers are probably worse than school teachers in this respect as they work for themselves and are not accountable in the same way. Specifically in relation to dance, I think that schools vary hugely in what they can offer. Some are only really capable of offering dance as a hobby and are not geared up to support and train children who are contemplating a career in dance.
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#13 sophika9899

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 02:22 PM

We changed ballet schools because the teacher more or less ignored my DD, took calls on her mobile during class and spent the entire lesson sitting in a chair (except during watching week) . Need I say more??
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#14 taxi4ballet

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 02:24 PM

My advice is really make sure your dd is happy with moving schools and its not just your decision and she's going along with it.


I couldn't agree more - it's definitely dd who is wanting to move, she instigated the whole thing.

She keeps asking us what she should do, and of course we just say that we will support her in whatever decision she makes. The thing is, it's a big ask for someone who is only just 13 to take a decision that she thinks could affect her whole future.

#15 Anjuli_Bai

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 02:50 PM

I think that after the basics are learned it is important to have more than one teacher in one's schedule of classes. No matter how wonderful the teacher is, she/he does have a certain mind set - a certain way of doing things - of presenting things. But there are many ways of doing things - many approaces and many different solutions to a problem. This can only be explored by having different teachers along the way.

If one has the same teacher or even the same set of teachers at the same school it becomes too comfortable. After a while the student might not really "hear" the teacher and the teacher might not really "see" the student.

I discovered this quite by accident when in my student days my beloved teacher was out ill for a while. I had studied with her for three years. When a substitute came in, suddenly it was a new voice - a new thought pattern - new eyes looking at me, new solutions to problem areas. It really made a difference for me and after that I made sure that I never took class from only one teacher and I went to different schools - often at the same time.

Even in syllabus work i think this is true - never get too comfortable. A good teacher - a good school - will not try to constrain the student from exploring other paths. If they do try to constrain the student this, to me, is a sign of problems. A lack of confidence in their work.
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#16 aileen

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 02:50 PM

Taxi, I'm not clear exactly why your DD wants to change schools. How old is she and is she thinking about a career in dance?

#17 aileen

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 02:51 PM

Sorry, taxi, I see that you've already told us that your DD is 13.

#18 taxi4ballet

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 03:39 PM

As Anjuli says in her post, it's very easy to get so used to somebody that you can't see the wood for the trees.

DD is on an associate programme, and also goes to whatever workshops and dance days we can get to, so she is used to being taught by new people.

She often comes home from them saying that someone has picked up on something she is doing (or not doing), or explained a movement in a different way, so that suddenly she understands something and 'the penny drops'.

My dd can't help thinking that she needs someone with fresh eyes to help her make the most of herself.

#19 Pups_mum

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 04:16 PM

Does it have to be either or? If there are things you do like about her current school could you continue some lessons there and get additional teaching somewhere else? I realise that might not be possible either for logistical reasons or because the two teaching styles may clash though.


#20 taxi4ballet

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 06:46 PM

She really likes her friends there, and of course, she is fond of her teacher, she has been in her life since she was three, and it would be a big wrench for her to leave part of her life behind.

But.....she has now had the experience of being taught by some phenomenal teachers at summer schools and workshops etc., and she's old enough (just) to realise that this is what she now needs all the time.

#21 Fiz

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 09:29 PM

I changed my DD's school a fair bit. One because the teacher kept chopping and changing her mind about exams, who could and who take them, the next because the teacher had no accredited UK qualifications and lied about her Canadian ones, and the third when my DD was badly injured when she was not warmed up before a lesson. She'd been there for over ten years, but what happened put her out of dance for 6 months and in chronic pain and she needed to see a chiropractor twice a week for three months, which proved very expensive.

#22 aileen

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 08:01 AM

Taxi, is your DD being too self-critical? When she goes to her associates classes, the workshops etc are other children not receiving a lot of corrections as well? Or is it more a question of the teachers at these other places communicating better what she needs to do to improve? If you don't think that the teacher at your DD's current school is good enough for what your DD wants to achieve then it will be hard to continue with her as you have lost confidence in her. Before moving though, I would ask to watch a lesson (if you have not already done this) and find out whether any of the school's students have progressed to vocational schools if that is what your DD is thinking of. You should also find out about recent exam results and what exactly the school can offer in terms of the number and level of classes. I would then have a frank discussion with the teacher about your DD's progress so far and her ambitions and her current areas of weakness if you are able to identify them.

#23 taxi4ballet

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 09:05 AM

Taxi, is your DD being too self-critical? When she goes to her associates classes, the workshops etc are other children not receiving a lot of corrections as well? Or is it more a question of the teachers at these other places communicating better what she needs to do to improve?


Yes, she is a self-doubter, which isn't helped by her present teacher, who isn't one for positive praise and motivation...

Of course, all the other children at workshops etc receive corrections too, but dd is now old enough to notice that the ones she receives really seem to help her, and are generally not corrections that she has ever had from her current teacher.

You are right - what we need to find is someone who can 'connect' with her, and communicate things in a way she really understands and can respond to.

#24 spooky

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 03:26 PM

...... her present teacher, who isn't one for positive praise and motivation...


Taxi, It's a harsh fact but there really does seem to be very little praise in ballet classes generally. Many years ago my daughter came out of her local ballet class quite upset saying that the teacher was 'picking on her'. On further questioning it turned out she had been given a lot of corrections compared to the others. I explained to her that it was because the teacher knew how serious she was about her dancing whereas the others were just dancing for fun and the teacher was doing it because she wanted to help her. I explained that being given corrections should be viewed as a positive thing - better than just being ignored! Once she started associate classes I always used to ask her if she was given many corrections that day and she learnt to view these as positive comments.
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#25 Anjuli_Bai

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 03:52 PM

I think that praise and corrections are two different things - though, they can of course be combined.

Praise doesn't have to be complicated - just a smile and the word "Yes!" when something is well done.

I've had ballet teachers who in all the time I knew them never smiled. And, some who thought that praise was counter-productive.

One of my happiest moments was when I overheard one of my young students say to a new student: "We work hard but we have fun."

Nothing wrong with some laughter and a smile and some well earned praise. No one is diminished by that.
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#26 aileen

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 04:01 PM

Taxi and spooky, the problem is that the approach of most ballet teachers is the direct opposite of that of most school teachers. Ballet teachers are hyper-critical and tend to focus on what is wrong whereas school teachers are trained to emphasise the positive and to overlook mistakes to some extent in order to maintain a child's confidence and enthusiasm. I think that when a child starts ballet the approach of the ballet teacher often comes as a bit of a shock to the child and the parents who are more used to the cosy world of the primary school where criticism is couched in very careful and sometimes oblique terms and there is a lot of talk of one's child being a lovely girl etc.


#27 aileen

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 04:05 PM

I should have added that some ballet teachers are experts in the art of damning with faint praise. My husband used to find open classes hilarious for this reason and we have some on video!

#28 Anjuli_Bai

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 04:43 PM

Praise is not an "extra" - it's a very effective teaching tool. How else is the student to know when something is done right?

I remember a rather fierce teacher who regularly gave a diabolical turn enchainement. It never felt smooth and I always felt very unsatisfied with it. We all struggled. Then one day a man in class - in utter frustration - asked the teacher if anyone ever got this right? The teacher (to my utter shock) pointed to me and said "she does."

Well, gosh - that's the first I knew I was getting somewhere with it. It was nice to know! It was also instructive to know I was on the right path. It was encouraging. But had the other dancer not asked - I would never have known.

Many times the student has to learn by feeling where things should be and how else is the student to know when the feeling is correct except by being told?
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#29 Fiz

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 05:41 PM

We get "Very nice, ladies" and our teacher really beams when she is pleased with us. It's very encouraging.She's lovely!
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#30 Balletmad97

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 06:12 PM

We were at a dancing school at the age of 3-10 where they had more of a focus on competition work than exams, the dancing was brilliant and wouldn't regret going there because even though they did exams rarely and their was only one ballet class a week still got 90 marks (distinction) in Grade 1 Ballet at the age of 9. Sadly it didn't work out because of the competition focus and it wasn't really our sort of thing but the teaching was incredible and no doubt it inspired us. Then off we went to the second dancing school at the age of 10-14 a lovely atmosphere, nice people and further ahead in grades. The ballet teacher at the school worked wonders but wasn't the nicest person on the planet and left the dance school after a feud. After that everything got a lot worse. Now just moved a few months ago to the third dancing school which offers the exam work at the required level and gives more corrections which is what we needed. They also offer very good modern and tap classes at a high standard which has opened up the option of musical theatre and the opportunity to do competitions which we know won't affect exam work. Its brilliant and many have gone onto some of the most famous musical theatre and ballet schools in the UK if not the world.

Honestly changing dance schools hasn't affected our view on any of the people we have met and we don't regret going there because it was what we wanted at the time. People's opinions, dreams and aspirations change and if you want to change dance schools don't be afraid to do so because often you can judge it for yourself. Normally the teacher knows themselves if you need to move on or you want to move on and that isn't a bad thing we've left on good terms with all of them and if we ever wanted to return they would probably have us back with open arms. On the corrections thing- I think praise is neccesary as is corrections but if you want to be productive and get somewhere you need the corrections more so than the praise. The praise comes when everything has been corrected.
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