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  1. Viv

    Miko Fogarty

    I don't think it's particularly surprising that the things you thought you wanted at 13 aren't necessarily what you want when you're 18. People change. Circumstances change. When I was 14 I wanted to be a pilot! I loved to fly and thought nothing could be better than doing that every day. As I got older and pursued my dream, I realised that the realities of a career in that industry just didn't suit me. I still love to fly and it's a great hobby to have, but I don't want a career in it because the idea of flying the same 3 hour route twice a day, every day for 5 years does not epitomise what I love about flying. Does that mean the time and money I spent between 14 and 17 was wasted? Absolutely not. It just wasn't the career for me. It's the same with ballet. I love class, but I can't imagine any career worse than a classical ballet career! I think it's important to teach kids that just because you love something, doesn't mean it has to be your job... And that if you make the choice to pursue it as a career, and decide that after experiencing it it actually isn't for you, then that's okay. It's not because you're not tough enough, or unprepared for the mental rigours of the job, it's just not the right path for you. Dancing occasionally, teaching ballet, or packing it in completely doesn't make you a failure, it makes you someone who...isn't a professional dancer. Like the vast majority of people who take a ballet class in their life! We are the 99% 😝 Now, I do believe that hothousing, home schooling, 40 hour a week training and attending every international ballet competition under the sun is incredibly damaging and should be discouraged. I believe that physically and mentally you are setting these kids up to fail in a way. Life is about balance. But just because someone pursues ballet as a career and then changes their mind doesn't mean that there is some inherent failing in them, and I think we have to be very careful of the language we use to describe the people who have left ballet behind, for whatever reason.
  2. @DD Driver Sorry I can see you already posted this video! I tried to delete my comment but it won't let me?
  3. I'm not sure if this is the right place to put this, but it just came out today. A video by Claudia Dean, former dancer at the Royal Ballet and graduate of the RBS upper school, who now runs a private coaching company in Australia. These are her honest thoughts about the decision to go into 'full time' training (as in, dancing during the day every day and doing online school, rather than a vocational lower school). She is pretty scathing about full time training for dancers under the age of 15, it's very interesting because a number of the dancers she features on her channel have made the decision to go into full time, 30 hour a week training at 10! I'm so glad, and think it's quite brave, that a teacher who is practically worshipped by young dancers here in Australia is coming out unequivocally against this. I think it ties into some of the things we've discussed on this thread, particularly about age appropriate training at the YAGP and the international students RBS are taking in who have been training at a (in my opinion) dangerously intense level for many years. I'm hoping a return to sanity and reasonable/appropriate dance training is going to emerge in the not so distant future.
  4. Viv

    Intermediate Foundation as an adult

    Congratulations @The_Red_Shoes I thoroughly enjoyed the video of you I have officially been entered for Grade 7, Intermediate AND Advanced Foundation in October. Not sure if I will be lucky and do them over three days, or whether I will have to do two in one day. It's been a real struggle to get me ready for Advanced Foundation, I'm still not sure I am ready! But my teacher wants me to do it and I don't argue with her. Recently I've been rewarded with comments such as 'that was almost a brisé' and 'one day soon that will look like a grand jete en tournant' so I must be improving... At least I have two more months to keep working and hopefully by October I'll actually feel ready.
  5. They are 14 and 15 and, like many of the DC on here, are training hard every day to try and get into a classical upper school. I agree that many students, not just international students, can come back from these schools broken (all you need to do is read some of the recent threads on here to know that this is a serious problem!) but it becomes almost impossible to stop them when they want it so badly. While I agree that many Australians have access to amazing local lower level training (though I do place a geographic caveat on this, much like England the quality of training in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane is far better than what you can get in Wollongong for example), it's a simple fact that there are no classical finishing schools in Australia (besides ABS) the way there are in Europe. I don't want to derail this thread into a discussion of the poor, underprivileged, upper middle class Australian girls whose primary concern is which country they want to get off to over the summer, so I'll leave my comments about the topic there. Or I probably will... I don't know sometimes I can't help myself 😁 This is a concern of mine too! How many amazing, prodigious ballet talents win a scholarship, join a company and flame out? Through a combination of years of intense and sometimes dangerous training catching up with them, and suddenly being relegated to the back of the stage, waving a rose backwards and forwards while someone else does the solos they've spent years perfecting... In my opinion there is no substitute for solid, class based training, and the progression into a suitable finishing school if it is so appropriate. It's why I like many of the competitions run by the RAD. They have strict limits on the age at which one is allowed to perform en pointe and they set the variations that can be competed at certain levels to make sure they're age appropriate. I wish more competitions were like this, though of course RAD competitions are set by an authority whose primary focus is in training, not tricks. Perhaps that's what makes the difference.
  6. I have to say, these was the inference that stood out to me! Not exactly positive about the YAGP is it? And, though it seems a remarkable 180 from schools attitude to YAGP in the past, I actually welcome it. While YAGP gives wonderful opportunities to dancers of many ages, all over the world, it shocks and concerns me to see the number of their 'pre-competitive' age division competing, and winning, en pointe! 9 and 10 year olds wildly cavorting as Kitri, with no sense of what they're actually portraying, or the untold damage they are most likely doing to their bodies. It's quite sickening. While YAGP not only allows these children to compete en pointe, but also actively rewards them for it, I very much struggle to support it as a competition. I hope that RBS's stance, for whatever reason it was taken, might encourage other schools to have a long hard look at the culture they are supporting. They're not willing to put their own students en pointe that age, but will look the other way, or even congratulate other schools for doing so? And the more 9 year old winners we have en pointe this year, the more competitors there will be doing it next year, because clearly that's what it takes to win... Sorry for the tangent, it just struck me and I'm rather unqualified to comment about the doom and gloom of RBS holding more international auditions. As an Australian, my first thought was 'hurray!' so I'm clearly looking at it from the wrong angle. I just think of the girls I am training with, who are desperate to have access to the sort of training British students can access. Australia has one vocational school, the Australian Ballet School, and if you aren't the right fit for them, you have no choice but to look overseas. All the 'full time' or 'vocational' training on offer in Australia is a dance program run through a studio, with online school tucked around the edges for a couple of hours a day (and I promise, there are no MDS style funding arrangements in place for these programs). While I do understand the position many of you are coming from, and there do need to be questions raised about whether White Lodge training is really preparing students to be competitive in the ballet job market, I also think you should consider how lucky you are to have access to some of the best training in the world without having to leave your family a 20 hour flight behind you at the age of 16... If White Lodge students start finishing year 11 and being totally unsuccessful for any of the dozens of upper schools available within the UK, then I'll agree you have something to worry about.
  7. Viv

    New pointe shoe woes

    I've just had my attention called back to this thread, and I thought I'd give an update in case future people are having the same issues. I ended up pulling out the gel cushion, stuffing the shoes with kitchen towels and chemist bought toe spacers, and got through a month in them before I had to give up. I took them back to the fitter who very politely and firmly ripped into me for a whole variety of sins...the toe spacers I bought were too thin so weren't doing anything. By wearing the shoes I widened the box slightly, and then when I pulled the gel cushion out (even after padding with a flatter sponge) the widest part of my foot was now lower in the shoe, so I widened it lower down as well. The whole shoe ended up being closer to a XXX then an XX. We also realised that because my feet are so compressible (the fitter was shocked because they basically end up half the width when squished) and my toes are hypermobile, all of my toes were being pushed in towards the midline. She gave me a special, wider toe spacer which made a big difference. I also went down a width. Originally the fitter said they were certainly too narrow and refused to sell them to me, the top of my foot was sort of pillowing out of the top and they look too small when my foot is flat. She made me stand in the shoes while she taught me all about the things you should never do to make your shoes fit and how I could have broken my toes, etc etc, to see if my feet went numb from too small shoes. Compared to grishkos they are anything but too tight. I have also been working hard with my teachers on pulling up and out of the shoes. In combination with the toe spacers and the slightly narrower shoe, I get far less toe pain and my pointe work has improved dramatically. I suppose my advice is, trust your judgment, know your feet, but also talk to your fitters if you take them home and they're not quite right. If I'd done that before wrecking my wider shoes, I may have saved myself a lot of hassle...
  8. Viv

    Adult Ballet Intensive UK (The Ballet Retreat)

    My sister is leaving me in London on 16 Jan and I'm meeting a friend either in France or Germany on 2 February, so really anywhere in those two weeks. Any part of England (and I suppose anywhere west of Germany!) would work.
  9. Viv

    Adult Ballet Intensive UK (The Ballet Retreat)

    This may not be the right place to post so mods please move if necessary. I am hoping to celebrate my graduation from law school with a big trip to Europe and the UK. Does anyone know of any adult ballet intensives that either are running, or are likely to run, in mid to late January 2019? I know it's a bit of a weird time but I have a few weeks to kill either in England or France before I'm due in Germany and I thought, why not spend it dancing?
  10. While ballet terms can sometimes be confusing, or even contradict the every day meaning of words, in the case of alignment, it means exactly the same thing. The definition of alignment is "the proper positioning or state of adjustment of parts in relation to each other". In this case we mean body parts. Alignment also means "the line thus formed" and this is what speaks to me more in a ballet sense. We spend a lot of time in ballet talking about 'lines' and alignment is a huge part of that. What makes alignment so confusing for me is that it's not just up and down, if that makes sense. It's not just ribs and pelvis and knees and toes all being in line straight up and down, but also is reflected in the alignment of the arms and legs in certain ballet positions. I know a big struggle girls in my class have is when the leg is pointed to the back. It is easier to keep your turnout if the leg is slightly more open and it can even feel like the leg is fully behind you, but when seen from the front it is actually pointing almost out to the side. The leg is not 'aligned' with the spine, so even if your spine is perfectly straight up and down, your alignment is still off. Unfortunately, just getting your leg behind you doesn't fully tick the alignment box either. If, in order to get the leg fully behind you, you drop one hip lower than the others, now your hips are out of alignment. If you tilt your booty back to get your leg back, now your pelvis is out of alignment. This is why I think of alignment as sort of gyroscopic, everything must be in the right place up and down, side to side and in and out. Alignment isn't just about hips and legs though! I struggle with the alignment of my arms in arabesque because my shoulders, elbows and wrists all hyperextend and point in different directions. I have to make sure my shoulders are facing the right direction, that one shoulder is not higher than the other, that the elbows are softened and not hyperextended, and that the wrist is not fished to the side. All of this, unfortunately, is also alignment, and is what contributes to making balletic and beautiful lines. Alignment is huge and complicated! In a 'simple' first arabesque, you must make sure that your leg is fully stretched and feet pointed, the leg is aligned with the spine, the hips are sitting square and straight and both are pointing in the same direction, that your sit bones are under your spine, that the spine is stacked evenly with each vertebra lined up with the one above and below, that the ribs are soft and not jutting out to one side, that the shoulders are facing the same direction as the hips and neither shoulder is higher than the other, that the front arm is slightly curved and the fingertips are in line with your nose and your side arm is not too far back or forward and is curving downwards, that your fingers are relaxed but not curled, that your head is floating on top of your spine and is not thrust forward or back, and that the eyeline extends above beyond the fingertips... And all of that, is alignment. All I can say is, good luck to your DD! I would say first step is making sure shoulders and hips facing the same way, then start working on the rest of it haha.
  11. Viv

    Help with hair please!

    @MrsMoo2 I thought you were going to bring up the dad who did his daughter ponytail by sucking it all into the right shape using the vacuum cleaner! Some of these techniques are actually quite genius (and hilarious)
  12. Viv

    RAD Ballet - exam results for graded exams

    @youngatheart I like the way my teacher approaches the issue of whether to enter students or not. A couple of weeks before it is time to enter students for the exam, she pulls aside the students (or the parents for the littlies) and lets them know that she does not believe they are ready to sit the exam, or likely to pass the exam as they are now. It is then up to the students whether they want to go ahead with it anyway, or do a class award for grade exams. If the student still wants to do the exam, knowing they may not pass, they are entered and treated like any other candidate. I think it's a nice cross between honesty and managing expectations, without preventing anyone from doing anything. With regards to Girl C, she has all the facility in the world but not the strength to use it! She is physically immature, at almost 14 she looks closer to an 8 or 9 year old in physicality. Due to her hypermobility she struggles to gain and retain strength, despite being given a specific strengthening regime at home. She is a gorgeous performer but falls down on technique, because the examiner can see at the barre all the facility she has and isn't able to use. Girl B on the other hand works to the full range of her limited facility and works with my teacher to try and mask her shortcomings (e.g. in exercises that are designed to move sideways, she tends to travel slightly forward due to her limited turnout and our teacher works with her to discover ways she can limit that forward movement without sacrificing alignment). She has gorgeous ballon and effortless turns. She also has that quality that means you can't take your eyes off her... While she may not be built for a classical career (which luckily she is aware of and is turning more towards contemporary) she is still a stunning ballet dancer in the context of the exam. With regards to Girl C not quite being ready, I would say that still gaining distinctions means that she's still technically very proficient, just not working to her full potential. It will take years for her to gain the control over her body that others her age have, simply because of the way she is built. Another difficulty is that, in my part of the country, exams only occur once a year (we need to fly an examiner over here and they do a whirlwind tour). If the student isn't quite ready, it's not possible to say 'let's just wait till summer', they need to wait an entire year before another exam date! There are distinct social and mental health disadvantages to falling behind their peer group by such a degree, which I don't think advisable if the goal is simply to push them from the 70s to the 80s.
  13. Viv

    New pointe shoe woes

    Unfortunately these felt right in the shop, and it went exactly as you described, toenails trimmed, not uncomfortable standing at the barre, flat or en pointe or even doing courus. I don't fault the fitter so much as thinking that the the slight widening caused by rises was enough for my foot to start sinking I had never seen the size changers though, they look great! If I can't find them in Aus, I may need to order from Just Ballet and hope it helps in this instance. I wish I was in the UK so I could visit you or some of the fabulous fitters described on this site! I did see that Gaynor do a 'fitting kit' with box liners which was tempting to me but not sold locally. There is also an Australian company called En Pointe Orthotics which I'm wary of, but would be interested in trialling, if they weren't once again on the wrong side of the country! If it does end up being the shape rather than the width, I think I may end up in a bit of a 'fool me twice, shame on me' situation as I really do think I want to try them in X width haha. Though as I couldn't even wear flat shoes today because of pressure on the toenail, I have almost certainly bruised them and perhaps should give up now.
  14. Viv

    RAD Ballet - exam results for graded exams

    Yikes, sorry for the essay! I have the flu so please forgive rambling, nonsensical tirades...
  15. Viv

    RAD Ballet - exam results for graded exams

    I don't necessarily disagree with your position entirely Youngatheart. I believe that there are times when ranking can be beneficial to children and I do not agree with a world where everyone gets a trophy just for showing up, or football goals aren't counted because 'everyone is a winner'. However, I disagree that ballet exam results are one of those things that should be shared publicly, because so much comes down to initial ability or facility and because exam results, as we've often seen, have very little to do with which students will make it as professional dancers (if this is even what the students want!). By sharing their marks, what exactly are we preparing them for? I also think it's somewhat unrealistic to think that students will be happy with coming last on a list because they were less able to start with. All they can see is a big pile of people who are better than them. If you choose to share your marks, because you are happy or disappointed or neutral, that should be entirely your choice, and no one else should be expected to share theirs. There are a whole host of reasons why someone might be happy or sad with their results, regardless of whether they are objectively good or bad. For example, I used to have a friend at my studio, the only other crazy old lady dancing with children, who had far from the perfect ballet body, could not get a straight line across the top of the ankle and had relatively no external rotation. While she worked very hard and achieved merits all the way up to Intermediate, she was told by my teacher it would be very unlikely that she would pass advanced foundation. This student decided to attempt it anyway and started taking intermediate classes again to work on the basics, scheduled extra private lessons, did conditioning outside of class to be more prepared. When results came out, this student called me in tears because she had 'only' achieved 49 marks in the exam. I was thrilled for her, because to go from not being considered able to pass, to passing by a good 9 marks, is in my opinion quite an achievement. However, objectively it is not a good mark. No matter how prepared this student was for the marks she received, she was devastated that after pouring so much work into something, she didn't even get 50%. This was a mature woman of 23 who cried for days after getting her marks. I don't believe that a 13 year old would be any better equipped to deal with such a blow. As another example, there are three girls in my class, two with a perfect ballet body and one with a different physique. All three have shared their results with me and not with each other. Girl A has natural facility and achieves great marks without trying. She puts in enough work to stay at the top, but otherwise has a tendency to be lazy because it comes easily to her. Girl B has little turnout, short muscular legs and only okay feet. She works incredibly hard and consistently scores in the 90s for ballet exams. Girl C has the best facility of all of them, is an associate with the Australian Ballet, yet 'only' achieves in the 70s and low 80s for ballet exams. She is very small for her age, physically immature and things haven't quite clicked yet. She was very pleased with her marks last year, until someone told her that Girls A and B both got in the 90s. Girl C now wants to quit ballet next year, despite loving it, because she thinks she is no good. She already compares herself to Girls A & B and their seemingly effortless achievement and now believes that only bad dancers get in the 70s. I have tried to cure her of this by telling her that only 30% or something get a distinction in ballet exams, so in this way comparisons can be beneficial. But ranking these girls, to my mind, serves no purpose. Girl A doesn't care about her marks for her own sake, only that she beats other people, and to demonstrate to her that she can continue to do this without working hard is not to her benefit. Girl B may think that, because she achieves highly, she has a higher chance of a classical ballet career, which is most likely not possible because of her physique. Girl C thinks that she has no shot of a career, which she desperately wants, because she's a 'bad dancer' who should give up now. Luckily, our teacher gets to spend 364 days a year future proofing these students, telling Girl A that she needs to work harder, Girl B that she needs to work smarter to use what facility she does have, and building up Girl C's confidence because when it does all click, she'll be amazing. But to these students, exam day is the only one that matters. Having their exam results, a snapshot of how they looked to one person on one day, shared with everyone and therefore, in my opinion, given more importance than they're rightly due, greatly undermines the work of the teacher to pull out of each student the best that they can achieve. In my opinion, exam results are a poor indicator of success or of hard work, but these kids place so much importance on them, even with a teacher who is trying to put everything in perspective. To have the whole studio, who doesn't get to see how hard you work or how much you've improved, know where you fall on a list is demoralising and, to my mind, serves no purpose that could not be better served in another manner. Lastly, it is also true that sharing marks within a studio only tells you how you compare to other students at that studio, not to other students that you will eventually be competing with for places at vocational school or for classical careers. Being a big fish in a small pond isn't going to prepare any student for when they're suddenly thrown into the ocean, in fact it may falsely inflate their expectations. Even if every ballet school around the world publicly announced their students results, I'm sure there would still be some rude awakenings when it came time for auditions.