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xanthe

Ballet worries in 7 year old

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9 hours ago, hfbrew said:

Well for a start I'd like to know where such young boys got their stupid facts from and I sincerely hope that someone will have a word about their unacceptable behaviour.

 

Then see if you can get her to visit a class of older students of vocational level so that they can talk to her and debunk the myths (maybe her Ballet teacher has a suitable young lady that can act as mentor?)

 

And has your daughter ever seen a live performance of  Ballet? If there are any forthcoming productions maybe you could ask to meet a dancer afterwards?

 

Am actually really upset about these kids, what happened to Pictures dd makes me angry too.

 

Good luck

 

Edit to add that if you do everything properly and receive safe training then feet will be fine! You just have to look after them carefully, and hopefully your dd will do that anyway.

 

 

 

 

Having a mentor is a great idea! I'd be happy to message/write to your dd Xanthe if you think a bit of 'inside knowledge' about the life of a ballet student would help to reassure her :)

 

i too was bullied in secondary school.... I vividly remember studying nutrition in biology; the boy sat next to me googled "fat ballerina", picked out the most grotesque image he could find, and said 'oh look, it's you!' This continued for several weeks and really didn't end well..... so it's important that you intervene at your DD's school to make sure the bullying is stopped!!

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Xanthe, so sorry to read this. I was bullied as an immigrant child (to Australia) from the age of 7 until I left school. Low-level but consistent - coming from envy and cutting down anyone who might be a bit different. It's awful. But great that you know what's happening as you can work with your DD's school and the ballet school the boys go to to nip it in the bud.

 

About the feet: yes, some dancers (particularly who do a lot of pointe work) have their feet affected. But as others say, that's not necessarily inevitable. There's a lot in social media & public discussion about the hard work, pain, and suffering of ballet dancers (think of The Red Shoes!). I think (going into my professional work) that these stories are actually about keeping women docile and stopping their ambitions: if you dream big, so the cultural narrative goes, you'll have to suffer. (goes back to the Genesis story, and the way that Eve is condemned to suffer for wanting to know more - fruit of the Tree of Knowledge). These are powerful cultural narratives.

 

So, I was wondering if you could offer an alternative story - that dance training makes your feet strong, and flexible, and able to do things that other (untrained) feet can't. Some of the extra, at-home training for ballet students just starting to go on pointe suggests tat young dancers practise picking up tea towels with the feet, for example. Try it - it's quite hard to do! 

 

So could you discuss with your daughter how ballet will train al the tiny (intrinsic) muscles and bones of the feet, to make them stronger, more flexible, able to move faster, and help her control her whole body, for dancing, but also for singing. Ou feet connect us to the ground, but also allow us to jump! and fly. I think it's Chinese medicine that links areas of the feet with all parts of the rest of the body, and I can sort of see why.

 

Good luck to your daughter!

 

 

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Your poor little girl Xanthe. I'm another survivor of long term bullying at school so I can really empathise with her. It's an unusual scenario to have dancing boys doing the bullying. I wonder what's behind it? Could be just plain old jealousy of course, or I wonder if they might be getting teased themselves and are looking for someone more vulnerable to take it out on? Not that that would excuse their behaviour of course but understanding what is motivating a bully can be very useful in stopping them.

Regards the feet issue, it's certainly not inevitable that point work leads to damaged feet nowadays. My DD has been on pointe for around 8 years now and, so far at least, her feet are unblemished. I think I've had more pain, blisters etc from badly fitting regular shoes than she ever has from pointework. I'm sure she'd be happy to provide photographic evidence if it would help!

Or you could take another approach. At 7 years old, pointework is at least 4 or 5 years away, and if she doesn't want to, she doesn't even have to do it then. (Though I'd be willing to place a substantial bet that if she carries on dancing, in another 3 years or so she will be mithering you and her teacher non stop about getting her first shoes!). If it's causing her a lot of anxiety now, might it be more effective to just recognise that anxiety and emphasise all the elements of ballet and other genres that don't involve pointe? My middle child has some anxiety issues and sometimes trying to reason with him makes matters worse rather than better. If we are able to take pressure off him and give him time and space to reflect on things himself he often changes his mind in due course. Obviously can't take that approach for everything (eg school exams!) but it's worked well with trying new leisure activities, performing in concerts and so on. If I say "it's OK, you don't have to if you don't want to" he seems to stop stressing and be able to start to think logically again. Your DD might be completely different of course, but it's an approach that's worked for us and might be worth a try.

I hope things improve soon.

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3 hours ago, Pups_mum said:

Your poor little girl Xanthe. I'm another survivor of long term bullying at school so I can really empathise with her. It's an unusual scenario to have dancing boys doing the bullying. I wonder what's behind it? Could be just plain old jealousy of course, or I wonder if they might be getting teased themselves and are looking for someone more vulnerable to take it out on? Not that that would excuse their behaviour of course but understanding what is motivating a bully can be very useful in stopping them.

Regards the feet issue, it's certainly not inevitable that point work leads to damaged feet nowadays. My DD has been on pointe for around 8 years now and, so far at least, her feet are unblemished. I think I've had more pain, blisters etc from badly fitting regular shoes than she ever has from pointework. I'm sure she'd be happy to provide photographic evidence if it would help!

<snip>


some good  points  aobut the boys,  also i wonder if there is another jealousy  aspect here -  what if the boys  are gettign the negative message  about boys and pointe that some of the the traditionalists put out  ( as  seen in the discussion about a few weeks ago) and are expressing their jealousy towards the girls who are going to get that opportunity  ?

and at risk  of  being accused of viewing things through  a  'queer'  lens  i wonder if  one or more ofthe boys  is  experiencing  some  low level of  gender  icentity  issue  ( an interest in ballet  has been a recurring  thing in my  history   and  being a ballerina  is something which has been mentioned in the media coverage of Sophie_Rebecca's  story ). 

this is all by the by  it;s unacceptable  behaviour o nthe part of the boys and  it  needs to be nipped in the bud. 
 

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1 hour ago, mph said:


some good  points  aobut the boys,  also i wonder if there is another jealousy  aspect here -  what if the boys  are gettign the negative message  about boys and pointe that some of the the traditionalists put out  ( as  seen in the discussion about a few weeks ago) and are expressing their jealousy towards the girls who are going to get that opportunity  ?

We found the reverse actually, the boys often talk about how lucky they were in comparison to girls, in that they were so relieved that they didn't have to worry about all the hassle and discomfort about going on pointe (or all the messing around with hair and buns either).

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4 hours ago, Pups_mum said:

My DD has been on pointe for around 8 years now and, so far at least, her feet are unblemished. I think I've had more pain, blisters etc from badly fitting regular shoes than she ever has from pointework. 

My dd has been on pointe for a similar time (and started when she was 11), and other than the odd blister, she's never had any issues during ballet class or caused by wearing pointe shoes. The only injuries she's sustained have been during contemporary classes when she's been dancing in bare feet.

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Do you know the dance school that the bullying boys go t?

 

I would be very inclined to get in touch with that school - either yourself, or your DD's current dance teacher to discuss it, and ask that either the whole class, or the boys in question, could be talked to. The feet thing can hopefully be put right by some factual information, but the weight thing is MUCH more insidious, and needs to be dealt with head on quite early.

 

If DD's dance school head got a call to say that anyone associated with her school had said anything of the sort to another dancer, she would go absolutely ballistic, and rightly so.

 

Could your DD's current dance teacher maybe also do some gentle teaching and confidence building, maybe getting an older pupil who is on pointe to do a class demo or something, going through looking at what her feet have to be able to do, padding, what pointe shoes are like, doing some exercises etc?

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that is shocking, poor girl. Both my daughters dance and the other children in their classes are generally either not bothered or very supportive of them and in some cases very proud of them and their achievements. Some of the boys genuinely are impressed and have been to watch them in shows. they are in yr 3 and 4. We have had some problems with one girl in the younger daughter's year who is plainly extremely jealous and thinks she is wonderful and better than everyone else (there are ongoing issues there, not only related to dancing) but DD luckily is quite open about it and talks to me so we can discuss how it is obviously jealousy or insecurity and she can realise it doesn't affect her or her dancing and that she needs to rise above it. It is so hard when they are young. Luckily for me neither of mine will ever be dancers. they recognise that it won't happen (perhaps I am too blunt and squash their dreams - oops) but they love it and would do it all day if they could. 

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Thank you all so much for the advice and comments - lots of things to think about.

 

It's been a mixed end to the week - she saw her vocal coach on Thursday and had a great lesson with him. He's very high energy and fun and while he really makes her work, she comes out bouncing and confident. 

Then we had her invitation advanced ballet class yesterday and the teacher asked to speak to me at the end. Apparently DD is saying she's unable to do the exercises, and then does them no problem at all - rinse and repeat for each one. She's also lost the ability to point her toes or turnout as well, yet can get her legs flat on the floor in froggies (I'm not entirely sure how froggies work, but apparently this was significant). They're really worried about her and what is going on. It's a different teacher from her normal class and a mixed G3/4 (ISTD) so work is more advanced and students are all hand-picked so a jump in terms of interest and ability from her normal class but she's never struggled in previous weeks.

 

I explained what has gone on, and they're going to take it slowly with her, but also feel that letting her be incapable when she clearly isn't probably won't help either. Ugh. Had a brief chat with her and didn't get very far other than establishing that she definitely doesn't want to drop classes and she definitely wants to do the JA audition (can't help thinking it would be much easier if she did want to give up!). She's panicking a bit over not being able to remember which name goes with which exercise - she's a huge perfectionist and control freak so I get why this is causing her stress, so I've bought some nice books with lots of pictures (Darcy Bussell's one), downloaded the syllabus and between them and YouTube, we're going to suss out what is what. 

 

She's been asked to sing at solo in a public concert next weekend, so I imagine that will do her confidence a world of good and get her passion for performing back.

 

I think the boys at school are all at different ones, so bit tricky to have words, but the school are v unimpressed and are working out how to deal with it on a whole-school basis (DH has been a governor there since before we even met, so HT has already been in contact with him about ideas).

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Then we had her invitation advanced ballet class yesterday and the teacher asked to speak to me at the end. Apparently DD is saying she's unable to do the exercises, and then does them no problem at all - rinse and repeat for each one. She's also lost the ability to point her toes or turnout as well, yet can get her legs flat on the floor in froggies (I'm not entirely sure how froggies work, but apparently this was significant). They're really worried about her and what is going on.

 

But she is only 7. So they (and you) could relax a little bit about her progress. Sounds like she needs her confidence bolstering, and gently reminding that she is very capable. I hope this is just a blip!

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They're not worried at all about progress - just worried about her worries.

 

I suppose it's a bit like getting back on a horse after falling off - you don't want the fear to grow in their mind till they're making it into something it isn't, you just want the enjoyment back, and they don't know how to manage that and as she's new to the class they don't 'know' her if that makes sense.

 

Happily she hasn't got anything like exams coming up for a year - so possibly just ignoring the refusal and waiting for her to decide it's more fun to join in will be best. I just don't know. Rather wish it was July and we had a big summer break coming up!

 

It would also be easier if she was older - she's very hard on herself at times... hence why I asked, very seriously, if she wanted to not go to the RBS and to maybe drop one or both ballet classes. She knows that we are totally okay with that. So many children are passionate about things when they are little and then it takes a bit hit once they hit teen years - I'd never consider money or training wasted and she can change direction if she wants. Heck, I'm still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up at 45 and am on career path number 200!

Edited by xanthe
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crikey - she is 7 and they have her doing grade 3/4 ISTD classes? my yr3 child consistently gets in the 90s and up to 98 in ISTD exams but is only in grade 1 ballet and grade 2 for other things. The poor girl is quite probably a bit overloaded to be honest and even with good natural turn out etc it sounds a bit too pushy to me. Is she by far the youngest in that class? I would think that has a large part to play in it all too. Although it is nice to be good enough to be asked to do harder stuff it is also very daunting and socially if they don't fit in the class that can be very off putting.  Obviously you are happy with the school and trust the teachers but if she is already in grade 3/4 then what is she going to be learning once she is a teenager? I would love mind to move a bit quicker with their exams, their school is very slow with them, but I don't think I would want them moving that quickly. So much of dancing includes maturity, both physically and mentally so whilst it might seem like this is all because of boys at school being nasty, it could be that SHE just wants to slow down a bit and be a bit more of the regular 7 year old ballet dancer if that makes sense.  I hope this doesn't come across as critical as I don't mean it to be, I am just another dance mum and as I have said mine won't be going on to be dancers in the future, but I am just genuinely shocked at so much so young (and very impressed) but also if she was one of my daughters then I would be worried about burn out.  Is she very focused on just ballet or does she do other dance styles? I just wonder whether perhaps a bit of breadth in her training might be a bit more relaxing for her at this age. Some children only like ballet which is fair enough but most of the girls we know do a mix of styles until they are about 10 or 11 and then some might just focus on ballet.  

 

oh and if you don't already have them, see if you can get hold of the Drina books by Jean Estoril. I LOVED them when I was younger, I was older than her when they republished them but I really enjoyed them and luckily still have some of them for my girls. lovely stories.. perfectly suitable for her to enjoy. not in print now but normally available second hand through amazon.

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She's just moved to G3 (just moved to Standard 3 in her other class) and turns 8 later this month - the Friday classes are mixed, but she is probably one of the youngest there.

 

We hadn't aimed or expected her to be moving to G3 quite so fast, but the teachers seemed to think it was within her capabilities and she had a strong grounding. It's a tricky one as she's likely to hit puberty very late (family pattern) and has growth delay - her bones are between 2 and 4 years delay as of the last x-rays in November - so she won't be going en pointe for a long time and I do wonder what the heck will happen when everyone else does and she can't, or when she gets to the point that you can't continue going up the grades without going en pointe. Haven't a clue, but hoping the schools have come across this before.

 

Currently she does 1.45 hrs of ballet a week, 3 hours of musical theatre and a 1 hour session with a vocal coach - so not nothing, but I don't think overloaded for her age. Singing is her main interest and I think she'd go and see her singing teacher every day if I let her, but she loves dancing as well, but doesn't care for the street dance/jazz type things on offer. She does full-time theatre arts courses during the holidays and half-terms and dumps all the dance classes of that type in exchange for extra singing and drama. She's not a kid that can be easily talked into doing things she doesn't want to do! Ballet is the one dance form she really likes and we were quite surprised when she seemed to be doing so well. I tried to find her a modern or tap class, but the available ones for her age are at times that we can't do. She does like the very choreographed stuff that she does with MT but ballet is definitely what she wants to do most.

 

She's been determined to go to vocational school since she discovered they exist last year - her aim is somewhere like Arts Ed or SYTS for MT, but I want her to keep her options as open as possible and not close doors, so when she seemed to be doing well at ballet, it seemed silly to not look at Associates. She is very dyslexic, so finds school hard and really looks forward to things she can do well at. I try to find teachers who she clicks with and who teach things safely - I have moved her from one place because they never warmed them up before singing and encouraged belting - but otherwise I am the kind of mother who likes to dump at the door and run away as fast as possible (I don't even know what her Friday teacher even looks like). Please don't worry about sounding critical - it's really helpful to get other opinions and points of view as we basically all just want our DCs to be happy and enjoying life, especially at this age. I did ask her vocal coach if he thought I was a 'pushy mother' - he laughed and said that I definitely wasn't, but that DD was most definitely a 'pushy kid' so I was basically stuffed!

 

She auditions for MT stuff without blinking - was upset to get so close and then not get cast, but the actual auditions don't phase her at all. She's entered herself for competitions in her schools and is totally blasé about it. Part of the reason we are a bit taken aback is that this behaviour is really, really unusual for her.

 

As parents, DH and I totally expected a rather shy and very academic child who preferred books and computers to anything physical, so DD has been rather a shock to the system and we're a bit lost. We expected to be stressing about 11+ in a few years time and knew the ropes for that. Children are never simple! 

 

 

Edited by xanthe
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I'll look out for those books - I don't remember them from when I was little... Noel Streatfield and Lorna Hill are the ones I was keen on :-)

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Dyslexia does cause some problems with dancing and I think these are more pronounced in the grades rather than standards. For example, the working memory required to remember free enchainement and more complex exercises, greater need for changes in direction, more use of French vocabulary, greater need to listen etc. It may be that she is struggling but can't really articulate why! Perhaps it would be best for her to slow down a little for now? are the competitions she enters pre-prepared material? I think ballet auditions are particularly difficult for those with a slow processing time because of the need to immediately perform with no prep time!

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That is very interesting - we have work arounds for singing where I get given the heads up and print off the lyrics in Arial 14pt so she doesn't have to struggle with the score, as she gets hugely frustrated with being unable to sight-read.

 

She has said that she struggled at the YDA with remembering what the French meant and getting confused and said the same again on Friday about that class. Her major area of weakness is working memory - she's 7th centile so it's really, really bad. I've offered to go through them with her - just looking at one exercise a day or something.

 

The competitions she enters herself for are all singing ones - she picks her songs and really works them up for weeks beforehand. She will only sing unprepared stuff with her teacher or on her own in her room, she detests having to do anything unprepared in front of people - she's a very unshowy offish child for that reason (bar the pirouettes on Victoria Station... it has the right kind of slippiness apparently!)

 

I don't have that book, so will order a copy. Thank you!

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Just a query, based on the comments on working memory.

 

Are her other lessons also ISTD grades? Or another board / exam type? I ask because the requirements for ISTD grades focus very much more on free work, given by the teacher, rather than repetitive set exercises (I'm not saying that those don't exist, just that they aren't the whole focus).

 

As ISTD grade class would therefore put much greater strain on a child's working memory than e.g. an RAD class at the same level (after the exercises have been taught in the latter). It might also be that she can dance the step / enchainement after she has seen others do it, which is why she initially thinks she can't do it and then does it well?

 

On age - the minimum age to take ISTD Grade 1 is 6, so at a fairly normal progression of a grade a year, finishing grade 2 and moving into grade 3 at 7 is 'normal, but on the youngest limit'.

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She's always done ISTD Cecchetti - she only does exams in ballet, everything else such as singing and MT are not exam based. 

 

She's only just moved up a grade - last term the extra class was a mixed G2/3, and I think it will move back to G2/3 in September - they're just keeping the same kids together for the rest of the year and then the G4s will go into a G4/5 plus an additional stretch class. I think that will suit her better as she will get more repetition of things she has already done and adding the new on top. 

 

She says she can't remember the names of things, so has to watch the others and then she knows what to do. With things like reading, she needs to see a word 50 times before it's stored away whereas a 'normal' child might only need to see it a couple of times, so it makes a lot of sense that this might be the same. Add in her perfectionism and I can see why she's upset if she's feeling insecure. I really hadn't thought the working memory issue could impact here... one to think about. Normal class teacher is aware and has dyslexic child herself so may have some ideas.

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it does sound like she is pushing herself rather than you pushing her.  We have similar things with not being able to go on pointe with one daughter - joint condition will really limit her ballet wise and she is having to deal with this at the age of 9 but she is being very mature about it. She likes her other dance styles more in some ways anyway and there won't be a problem with them so I suppose that makes it less of a concern for her plus she knows she won't be a professional dancer in the future.

 

she has dyspraxia issues which cause her some problems in life but in dancing somehow they don't seem to affect her too much. She has terrible spelling problems and can't pick up language well due to a language disorder but again somehow she seems to manage to remember things so we have been lucky with that so far. The teacher should have a list of all the vocab needed for the grade so ask for a copy of that and then you can practice it at home. doing ISTD might be more daunting because of the free work but it will probably do lots of "therapy" type work for her working memory as it will help develop the skills she will need.

 

I could never sight read in music and had to learn everything and play from memory, I gave up exams at grade 3 because of the sight reading so I sympathise with her on that one.

 

yes the Drina books are lovely. We have a few Noel Streatfield and Lorna Hill ones still from my childhood too but Drina was the best in my opinion.  Also there are the Louisa the ballerina books by Adele Geras which she might enjoy. they are small chapter books, still in print so she will be able to read them herself I expect even with dyslexia and my daughters enjoyed those too. I got them on Amazon a year or two ago. 

 

 

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I think there might be some confusion with the other ISTD ballet. The cecchetti work is set apart from one jump sequence and one free enchainement in the exam and minimum age for grade 1 is 7. In my opinion grade 4 is well above the level that a 7 year old could do competently. For example they do slow lift and hold to arabesque, half grand rond de Jambe in the centre and pirouettes both directions. Standard 3 to grade 4 is a huge jump and I'd tell your daughter not to be too hard on herself. I tried to look up the syllabus online but it seems to have disappeared! I think there may be a minimum age to take the exam. Hopefully it will return to a grade 2/3 class in September and I'm sure she will be happier!

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I was going to say that Cecchetti ISTD is not the same as Imperial ballet ISTD (which is what i was referring to). If the Friday class is Imperial ballet ISTD, then it may be the free exercises, as I said.

 

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Both are ISTD Cechetti.

 

I'm going to see what the situation is in September and if it goes back to a mixed G2/G3 class then that is fine, if it stays as a G3/G4 class then I think it would be much better for her to drop that class and concentrate on the Standard 3 alone and perhaps try and tempt her into giving another dance style a go. I'm not particularly bothered about her doing exams - if she wants to do vocational school, all the matters is how she does at the audition, not what certificates she's racked up, so a happy time doing the Standard class is better than a miserable time doing the harder Grades, and a good solid grasp of the basics is the most important.

 

Thank you so much to everyone here for their advice and suggestions. Fingers crossed that everything settles down soon - she's said she does still want to try RBS so hopefully that will be a fun and happy experience. 

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Sorry to be a bit slow on the uptake here and forgive me if i missed this.

 

So she is doing standard 3 and grade 3. Are the standards where they do a slightly reduced syllabus? 

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Yes standards are designed for children who only take one class a week. There's slightly less strict technique, the teacher goes in to the exam and takes the 'lesson' (not allowed to correct them though!), there are no questions or free work. They listen to 2 pieces of music and have to dance to them instead. Standard 3 isn't as high a level as grade 3

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Standards have exams where the teacher is present and slightly smaller syllabus, Grades have no teacher present and extended syllabus. Generally schools only seem to do the Standards as a matter of course, the Grades are a way of offering an extra class at the same kind of level for children who want to do things more seriously. ETA: Cross-posted with Moomin who has given a much better explanation than me!

 

DD has also just told me that she's the only one from her normal class in the current Grade class, so everyone else will be starting G4 while she has only just moved to G3... I thought there were a few of them. 

Edited by xanthe

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oh, round here I don't know anyone who does standards. All the ISTD schools do grades based on just 1hr a week until they are grade 3/4 when they seem to go up to 2hrs a week. Perhaps this is why they take longer on the grades but mine have always had very high marks.

 

Just wondering if your daughter might be better with a private lesson at grade 3 rather than pushing her in with people in the class above. might help build her confidence?

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I have never come across an ISTD school doing Class examinations (the equivalent name from the other ISTD syllabus).

 

Here - decent quality ISTD Imperial ballet school - everyone does Grades on 1 class per week up to I think Grade 2 or 3, when they start doing both their own grade and the one above to up it to 2 hours per week, then 3 a coupld of grades later (2 of the same grade then 1 above)

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Progress at 1 grade per year, almost exactly - DD took 4 terms over a couple of grades, but compensated with Grade 5 2 terms after grade 4 and Interfoundation the term after grade 6. She's just done Intermediate at 14.

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All the ISTD Cecchetti schools I looked at across London seem to do the Standard classes as a matter of course and then the Grade classes are on top for those taking it more seriously - I don't know what happens with Imperial. Both the schools she has been at/is at seem to do pretty well in terms of getting children into Associate schemes and winning prizes in Cecchetti competitions etc and have good teaching. I liked the first school hugely and we only moved due to timetable clashes - the new one offers more classes so we're not moving back plus DD loves her standard class teacher.

 

They are supposed to do their standard and Grade alongside each other - just seems to be this crossover at the moment, plus the vast majority of the kids in her standard class are only doing ballet as something to do after school and don't have any real interest. The class above there are a fair number who are a lot more serious and who are trying for Associates this year, DD is the only one from hers. I'm a little concerned as to whether they will have enough students to run a G2/G3 combined given that this class is invitation only and I have no idea how many G2s there will be in September. I ended up with a spreadsheet of pretty much every school we could get to in London and their class times etc trying to find something that would work and still took 3 months to sort out... think I will cry if I end up having to go through that again!

Yesterday's class went really well thank goodness - DD said she was really pleased because she learnt a new exercise at the YDA audition and then they learnt it in class yesterday for the first time and she was able to demonstrate it for them, so I think that has done her confidence a bit of good. 

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