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  1. I don't disagree. Though I don't think it is acceptable to treat minors or young adults abusively. But you asked what other industries treated their trainees like this and I answered, from personal experience. These issues are not unique to ballet. It doesn't make them ok, for anyone but lots of professions, sports, art forms etc treat their young people very poorly, Many have addressed them more effectively than ballet however.
  2. Other industries definitely have treated employees like that, though I think the tide has turned in many. Certainly my experiences at medical school in the 80s were not dissimilar, though the humiliation was centred on intellectual ability rather than physique. But the need to be "tough" if you were going to survive the profession was very much stressed. Quite a lot has changed now, but only in relatively recent years, and I think the undercurrent is still there. And there is an element of truth in it. Protecting young people from the reality of highly competitive and demanding professions does them no favours. If someone doesn't have the necessary attributes for any given profession and is not likely to be able to develop them, or indeed if the job isn't actually as appealing to them as they thought, then it is surely better to realise that soon enough to hopefully be able to change direction relatively easily. And resilience is a vital thing to learn. That basic premise is correct. The problem is the methods by which it is "taught". Most professions have realised that fear does not get the most out of people, that there are ways measure aptitude and progress relatively objectively, and that even unpalatable truths can be delivered in ways that are not psychologically damaging. I have a feeling that fields where tradition is valued very highly tend to be slower adopters of more scientific approaches to training, and dance, particularly ballet, seems to be one of those. That is difficult because of course there is much wonderful and valuable tradition in the ballet world, but some of it is very ugly. The challenge is to get rid of the bad stuff whilst maintaining the good, and I have no idea how that can be done. But some of the professional contributors to recent threads on this general topic give me hope that it is indeed possible.
  3. I had the same experience at school. I was no good at any of the very limited range of sports that were on offer at my school in the 70s and whilst that wasn't the sole reason that I was badly bullied it definitely didn't help. I also hated exercise and didn't discover any sports that I enjoyed until middle age. It frustrates me that I have missed out on so much enjoyment because the bullying school PE teachers convinced me that exercise was actually a form of torture that I couldn't wait to escape from at the earliest opportunity. Humiliation and fear are not good motivators. Well, they may achieve short term success, but long term they don't deliver the best results. I think that in many fields educators have moved away from merely replicating the way that they were taught and believing that "it never did us any harm" but there are sections of the performing arts and sporting worlds that seem to be stuck somehow. Hopefully some of the young (and not so young) people who are now recognising that they have been harmed are going to go on to become teachers, coaches and leaders in their fields and break the cycle.
  4. I've just read a very sad article on the BBC website about mental health issues in horse racing jockeys. Not a sport I follow so not something I would have thought about, but it made sobering reading and there was a lot of commonality with dance, gymnastics, cycling and I am sure other sports. As well as the pressure to be the best, weight rears its head again and again. I don't know what the answer is, as obviously there are lots of advantages to being very slim in a number of physical pursuits and that cannot be eliminated. But it set me thinking about our responsibility as audiences/fans of dance and/or sports. It is easy to blame the teachers and coaches (and I in no way wish to minimise the damage done by abusive people) but it is more complex than that isn't it? They are producing a "product" for our consumption, because that is what we want. Or at least it is what they think we want. Are we potentially part of the problem, and if so, what can we do about it? Exposing abuse is important, but there must be more. None of us would go to, say, a gladiator fight nowadays yet in more "civilised" ways human beings are still being damaged, mentally, physically or both, for our entertainment. I can't help thinking that there needs to be a bigger cultural change. I am no better than anyone else - I enjoy watching slim dancers and I cheer for my favourite cyclists who I know are required to have ridiculously low % body fat - but am starting to think that perhaps that is the fundamental problem and that practices won't truly change until we, the consumers, demand a different product.
  5. Going off the topic a bit, but this line made me laugh because it reminded me of a lecture that I gave many years ago to medical students on the anatomical and physiological differences between neonates and adults. My opening line was meant to be "Babies are NOT mini adults." But I was met by very confused looks as what I actually said was "Babies are NOT mini humans...." I think they began doubting my credentials at that point.🤣🤣 It is a serious point though. Babies, children and adolescents are, physically, mentally and emotionally, very different beings to adults, and indeed to each other - it is not just a size thing. That is why generally we have different health care professionals, teachers etc for each group. I think dance teachers have a lot asked of then actually. There aren't many other people who work with the whole age range and I think it is very difficult, probably impossible actually, for any teacher to be equally expert with all groups. Yet they are often expected to be all things to all pupils. Especially in light of recent revelations in other physical activities I would agree that any dance teacher or sports coach who works with children and/or adolescents would benefit from at least basic study of child development, growth etc as the growing body is a lot more vulnerable in many ways and not everything is as obvious or intuitive as it might seem.
  6. I'm not a teacher, and I am nowhere near London so can't help from that perspective, but my DD did festivals for many years, so I do have a bit of knowledge. Each festival should publish its syllabus well in advance and that will tell you the rules around age groups, length of dance, age restrictions on pointe work, props etc etc. Festivals that are affiliated to All England will follow their rules but there are plenty that aren't and sometimes rules are subtly different so its always worth carefully checking each time. I always advise parents who are thinking of starting festivals to start out by watching a few to see if its its something they are sure they want to get into, as it can end up a lot of time, expense and work for both the dancers and the parents. I guess the same applies to teachers! Whilst the big, All England qualifying festivals tend to be the highest standard and often have the best adjudicators, I would give serious consideration to starting off with some smaller local festivals if possible. That would give you, your dancers, and their parents the opportunity to find their feet a bit more, rather than jumping straight in at the deep end. Doing your first festival somewhere where there are 35 dancers in the section and the other 34 are confident, experienced competitors could be a very daunting experience for a young person. Some festivals have Novice and Open sections. The Novice sections are often restricted to dancers who have not been placed in the top 3 at a previous festival (though the rules do vary, so be sure to check!) so they are ideal for new starters as often give a confidence boost. The genres available also vary but broadly speaking there are the Classical genres which are ballet, character,national, and sometimes classical greek, and the Cabaret classes - tap, modern and song & dance. Some also have a separate lyrical modern section, contemporary and acro, and there are sometimes sections for the dancers own choreography and impromptu. I've probably forgotten some too! Then there are duets, trios and troupes often split into broader age groups and categories than the solo classes eg it might be classical duets which would have duos from any of the classical genres competing against each other. Personally I would suggest duets/trios or solos as a starter, and don't enter each dancer for more than a couple of dances initially. There is a special stress that only the parents of dancers who have had 10 solos, 4 duets, 3 trios and 3 groups in one festival know about and you really need to build up to it! 😁 Groups might seem attractive as the dancers are not on their own, but as others have said they are a huge amount of work for all concerned and have their own pressures. My DD used to find groups the most stressful, partly because if you mess up your solo, its only you that's affected, but in a group, you feel like you've let all your friends down. Also, if something goes wrong in a solo it can be disguised, whereas that's very hard in a group. My DD won the ballet championship at quite a big festival once doing a dance that bore absolutely no resemblance to what her teacher had choreographed. She went completely blank when the music started so she just improvised! Obviously you can't do that in a group.The other stress with groups is that there seems to be continual rechoreographing as people come and go, often last minute if someone is ill or suddenly decides to go on holiday 2 days before the festival.🙀 If you have a group already suitable, say from a show, and you have a group of very committed dancers and parents, then it might be ok as a starter, but otherwise I would leave it until you have a core group of dancers who are established in festivals. Also, you get all kinds of shapes and sizes of stages at different festivals and adapting the dance to the space on the hoof (literally!) can be very difficult. Dancers get better at that with experience and it is easier to develop that skill in a solo or duet than in a group. My DDs old teacher used to hire the theatre where our local festival was held for an evening a week or two beforehand. It was great for first timers or those with new dances to have a few run throughs on the actual stage so if you can do that it is worth considering. OK, I think I've rambled on a bit! There are pros and cons to festivals but overall we had very positive experiences and made lots of friends. DD learned a lot - life lessons as much as dance lessons-and I'm glad she had that opportunity. Good luck!
  7. I suspect that every sport/activity has skeletons in its cupboard, especially those where weight has an impact on performance and especially where there is a high percentage of female participants. Misogyny runs deep in society unfortunately. Of course it isn't only in physical pursuits that abuse can occur - there have been big issues in some music schools for example - but there is a particular kind of abuse that is more specific to activities where physique is important. I think awareness is increasing and people are starting to stand up and say "no, this is not ok" but the balance of power is still very much in favour of the potential abusers, and is likely to remain so whilst competition for limited places is so high . Ironically, whilst I have Safeguarding training through my work, far more of my knowledge on the subject comes from the education I have had as a volunteer sports coach in an organisation that has been seriously criticised by some of its elite athletes in recent years. Whether the training that I, and people like me, receive, is indicative of a paradigm shift in attitude throughout the organisation or of a chasm between the grassroots and elite programmes I am not sure. Either way, hopefully it means that youngsters coming up through the system will have a better experience and be less vulnerable if they do progress to elite training. Of course it is a very complex problem. Not all abusers are male. Not all victims are female. But girls and young women are particularly vulnerable to this kind of abuse for all kinds of reasons so I view this as very much a feminist issue. Unfortunately I don't know what the answer is- its highly complex - but I am certain that talking about it is very important and applaud the makers of Athlete A for bringing this issue to more people's attention.
  8. Am I the only one who read the title of this thread and thought "Oh, interesting. I didn't know there was a ballet company based in Bath"?! 😂
  9. Oh yes, I hate the "you can be anything you want if you try hard enough" ethos because it simply isn't true - we don't live in a Disney movie! I know people who say that kind of thing are often just trying to be encouraging. The same goes for the oft told stories of people who "made it big" in their fields despite having major disadvantages like being a late starter or having the "wrong" physique. Those stories can be very inspiring but what people often forget is that those who make it against all the odds are usually absolutely exceptional in other respects. It is a fine line to tread as one thing that is for sure is that if you don't work hard then you almost certainly won't succeed but I think young people trying to enter any particularly competitive field need to be realistic. I was very pleased to read the piece of work that my sporty son had done on goal setting at a recent online masterclass. A year or two ago I know his long term goal would have said something like "GB Olympic Team" but now it says "University First or Second Team".He is good at his sport, very good in fact, and he works extremely hard, but he is not going to grow to the height that a national level player needs to be, and that is more or less unsurmountable. He would certainly need to be a lot, lot, better than a very good junior to overcome that hurdle. There are those who will say that you should always aim for the very top but I disagree - you should always aim to be the best that you can be, recognising that not everyone can go to the Olympics or be a soloist with the Royal Ballet. So many things influence outcomes, and many of those are outside our control, especially physical factors. The biggest danger of the "you can be anything you want to be" ethos is that when most, inevitably, find that's not true, then they will be left feeling either lied to, or that it is their fault - they didn't work hard enough or didn't "want it" badly enough to succeed. Often nothing could be further from the truth, and those beliefs can be very damaging.
  10. It does all sound very complex and confusing. My heart goes out to all dance teachers. Not only have most of them had significant financial concerns throughout this whole period, they've had to deal with completely changing the way they teach, literally overnight, but now the stress of trying to figure out how to safely restart, in the face of conflicting and rapidly changing advice. What a nightmare! I can empathise to a degree as I am the Chair and a Coach at a children's sports club and I have been having sleepless nights over our planned restart. There are so many considerations. You think you've figured it out and then someone spots something you haven't thought of, or the guidance changes and your carefully thought out plans don't fit any more. Some of the parents think your precautions are too restrictive and a similar number that they don't go far enough. We can't confirm how sessions would be run until have a reasonable idea of numbers likely to attend, but people understandably don't want to commit until they know what is on offer. Our income will drop as we will have lower numbers and our expenditure is increasing, but if we increase fees the risk is that people are put off and income drops further. The government, our governing body and the organisation that we hire our facilities from are all saying subtly different things about what they expect of us, and some parents can't understand why we are not up and running already as technically our activity have been allowed for 2 weeks now. It really is very, very hard. And we have the advantage of being outdoors and of being a voluntary group. We do want to provide a service and we want to ensure the survival of our club for years to come, but unlike most dance schools nobody is trying to make a living out of it and nobody's business and long term financial future is hanging in the balance. So comparatively, we've got it easy. When you are not in the thick of things is easy to criticise those who are. The solutions seem "obvious" when it isn't you trying to implement them. The people here are without doubt the most rational and reasonable group of people I have ever come across on an internet forum, so I know I am preaching to the choir here really. However, even the best of us are getting to the end of our tethers re lockdown and some are deeply concerned about their DCs training, so it is natural that many want to get back into the studio as soon as possible. Announcements like this from the RAD are very encouraging but PLEASE be patient and understanding with your teachers. Those that I know are working their socks off to get things going again and have all the same wishes and worries that the dancers and parents have. I was talking to a dance teacher in Scotland today in fact and she was saying how stressed she us about the number of parents ringing to ask her when she will be allowed to open again, as studios seem to be opening in England. Obviously she is pleased that they are keen, but she doesn't have Nicola Sturgeon on speed dial and will find out at the same time as everyone else - and then have to react quickly! Please continue to support your dance teachers, and those who run any other activities your children take part in, but give them the time and space they need to plan and prepare for a safe reopening. Hopefully it won't be too much longer now!
  11. I'm no expert, and there will be others who are far more knowledgeable along later I'm sure. But as I understand it, the dangers of early pointe work are two fold. First there is the risk of an acute injury ie the child is not physically or technically strong enough to do what is being asked of them and they get hurt due to falling or twisting or something. Then secondly, the risk of longer term damage to the feet. Even with correct technique, obviously dancing en pointe is not natural for the human foot and large loads are put through the bones, ligaments and joints. Children's bones are relatively "soft" and don't become fully ossified until beyond puberty. Some of the growth plates in bones don't close until the late teens or even early 20s in some cases. So they are more susceptible to damage. I think one of the commoner problems is the dancer developing hallux valgus, or bunions, where the big toes become deformed. Also, as already mentioned, younger children may not be capable of performing the techniques correctly so develop bad habits or "cheats" to enable them to do things that are actually technically beyond them. That can also lead to additional strain on the body. The effects may be immediate relatively early or not until later in life when the dancer develops arthritis in the feet and ankles etc. As to why some people are badly affected and others aren't, well I guess that is just down to human variation. My DD has friends who didn't start pointe work til relatively late and have developed foot problems whereas she, with hindsight, started too early (about 10/11) but so far, has had no foot issues at all. Different foot shapes, relative strength vs flexibility, technique, shoe fit, bone age/age of onset of puberty all probably contribute as well as lots of other factors that I have no clue about. Its definitely not the case that if you start pointe below a certain age there will be issues and if you wait til later you will be fine. But as a general rule, starting very young increases the likelihood of injury or long term foot problems. I think Natalia Osipova is only in her early 30s so unfortunately she may yet develop bone and joint problems consequent to her childhood training.
  12. So sorry to hear of the disappointments, especially as these young people have had more stresses to deal with than average this year. In some ways I think it is harder to get so close and then be unable to take up a place than it is to receive a "no" in the first round of auditions. Remember that your children have demonstrated real potential to get to this point, and that there will be more opportunities in the future. I was watching a video with my sporty son today, in which one of his sports heroes was giving advice to young atheletes. He started by saying how those who are "the best" at youth level are not necessarily those destined for professional success. Early success, he suggested, was largely down to physical strength, with those boys who hit puberty early often winning by virtue of superior power. But, he went on to say, that all evens out with time, and indeed the late bloomers may ultimately have the edge, because they have learned superior skills, tactics and resilience as they couldn't simply rely on brute strength. He encouraged those who aren't at the top currently to keep trying whilst cautioning those who are the big winners at the moment not to become complacent and to explore their weaknesses. Obviously that advice doesn't carry over to dance precisely, but the principles certainly do. The game is definitely not over at 11, or even necessarily at 16 and disappointment today may become strength tomorrow.
  13. Apologies @Dance*is*life - I must be confusing you with someone else. I think I may be losing my marbles!
  14. If I recall rightly from previous posts @Dance*is*life is in Australia, which has so far had just over 100 Covid-19 related deaths in total since the outbreak began. It is great to hear of something approaching normal life returning anywhere and I really hope our Australasian friends continue to stay safe as their lockdowns ease. But Australia and New Zealand are some of the least badly affected countries in the world so far and the UK is one of the worst. We are still seeing more deaths per day that Australia has had in total. It is lovely to hear positive stories and it does indeed give us hope, but I think we need to bear in mind that the background is very different. Given the severity of the outbreak here, and the fact that we are approaching what would be the summer break here anyway, I think we probably do need to prepare ourselves and our children for the fact that there are unlikely to be any face to face classes before September at the earliest. If things improve sooner than anticipated that will be a bonus, but with it becoming clearer that the majority of schoolchildren will not be returning in this academic year, I think it is hard for dance schools, sports clubs etc to do anything different. We have pretty much mentally written off my son's sports season, though he is still training, but for fitness and fun, rather than because he anticipates the return of competition.
  15. @Pinkpip100 I completely understand why you are uncomfortable with the idea that your DD is "better" than the others at her dance school, as it is such an emotive word, but she is definitely "different". Out of all the 10/11 year olds in the country who take dance lessons, only a tiny percentage apply for vocational schools and of those, a very small proportion get as far as finals. Your DD clearly has potential. She is different to the majority of pupils in a typical local dance school and so requires a different approach. Don't be afraid to ask for that, and if her current teacher cannot provide what she needs, do look for additional or alternative provision. Personally, I would expect a good teacher to recognise and nurture potential in a pupil and also to recognise their own strengths and weaknesses. I'm not a dance teacher but I coach at a children's sports club. Like a typical dance school, the majority of our members are "once a week" kids, with a small number of more able and focused children. The latter group all also attend other clubs, regional training sessions etc and in fact we actively encourage them to do that. I don't see it as any slight on our club or my ability as a coach - we want *all* our kids to enjoy themselves and reach their full potential and that sometimes means signposting them elsewhere, both for the more performance focused coaching and contact with other similar children. Being a big fish in a small pond is generally unhelpful in the long term. It really is fine to look for more- don't feel that you are being unreasonable.
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