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Danceforfun

Serious injury and excessive training in young dancers

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I have thought long and hard about writing about this topic, but I feel it is so necessary to voice my concerns about the above subject. There are so many young and gifted dancers that are being totally ruined by obsessive and excessive dance training resulting in such severe injuries. Parents quite often are scared of voicing their concern for fear of retribution. I have heard of cases where children as young as 8-10 years old are being expected to train on a weekly basis for in excess of 30 hours a week and during a week of holidays a staggering 70 hours, how is this safe? young bodies need rest and recoup time. 


 

 
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30 hours a week?! Wow! That’s a lot. My DD is 12 and does 11-14 hours a week and that’s definitely the limit I feel or else she wouldn’t have time to do homework, see non-dance friends or just relax.

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Vocational students do around 25 hours, with proper physio and medical support. So yes students doing more does seem excessive and I doubt more necessarily equals better.

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2 hours ago, DancingWellies said:

Vocational students do around 25 hours, with proper physio and medical support. So yes students doing more does seem excessive and I doubt more necessarily equals better.


i;d agree with that. 

Soccer and rugby  both  had to introduce rules  over  how many  clubs etc  YP could be signed up to  after  some of the stories of the not that far past  where  there were players playing  for school and county  teams,  playing in their local  loeagues and   training  / playing with  what now thend to be referred to as 'Academies'  attached to  the  top teir teams 

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4 hours ago, Danceforfun said:

I have thought long and hard about writing about this topic, but I feel it is so necessary to voice my concerns about the above subject. There are so many young and gifted dancers that are being totally ruined by obsessive and excessive dance training resulting in such severe injuries. Parents quite often are scared of voicing their concern for fear of retribution. I have heard of cases where children as young as 8-10 years old are being expected to train on a weekly basis for in excess of 30 hours a week and during a week of holidays a staggering 70 hours, how is this safe? young bodies need rest and recoup time. 


 

 
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Not heard anything like this.  Is this UK? 

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You raise important concerns Danceforfun!  I think as a parent it is vital to take 'ownership' of your child's hours etc. 

 

My daughter does more dance hours than her ballet school's schedule.  She does additional private lessons and does modern dance at another studio and workshops.  We firstly however discussed the research on recommended hours with a dance physio.  Based on this we made sure that we gradually increased her hours over time and review each term.  They say in gymnastics that if there are too many tears or tantrums - cut back the hours.  We also aim to do more training through Pilates or Progressing Ballet Technique or Stretch classes etc rather than adding more dance hours.  Work smarter.

 

I am aware though that it is naive to do more hours than someone would for a hobby but less than the people you expect to compete with.  My child is 'serious' about her dance so she knows that she can not have it all.  Other interests tend to fall by the wayside.

 

Having read this forum for a while I would say that if you fear retribution from a school for monitoring your child's training then a red flag is waving at you.  There seems to be many sad stories of parents who feel powerless because their child is so lucky to be at an elite school.  Each to their own but I see opportunities with many talented teachers out there - both in and outside of top schools.  I only hand over money to the ones who care for and want the best for my DD.  

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6 hours ago, Danceforfun said:

Yes unfortunately 

 

Well that is beyond ridiculous!  My ds at full time vocational school and is shattered at holiday time the most we have ever set in summer schools was 3 weeks after a couple of weeks rest and nothing in half terms or Christmas. If a child can’t make it on full time vocational hours or equivalent then it’s not the career for them.  

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35 minutes ago, Harwel said:

 

Well that is beyond ridiculous!  My ds at full time vocational school and is shattered at holiday time the most we have ever set in summer schools was 3 weeks after a couple of weeks rest and nothing in half terms or Christmas. If a child can’t make it on full time vocational hours or equivalent then it’s not the career for them.  

That raises several questions: 1)how old is the child? Surely age 8-10 should do less than , say, age 14? 2) how many hours a week do they actually have dance at vocational school in year 7 (comparable age to the original post)?  And how many hours academic work/ homework ( which also needs to be taken into account)? 3) does training in excessively  really improve performance? Surely if the child is exhausted, physically and mentally, no further gain can be achieved. 

I see it more as a marathon than a sprint- if you don’t pace yourself and optimise training vs r&r, then the child burns out early, and will never get to the finishing line.

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A quick look at Dd ‘s instragram and I could name at least two dancers who are at every event, masterclass, workshop and competition ON TOP of attending full time vocational school. I’m stunned that they are given permission to attend and I shudder to think of the damage being done to them by the physically and emotionally.

Edited by Dancermum2003
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12 hours ago, Danceforfun said:

I have heard of cases where children as young as 8-10 years old are being expected to train on a weekly basis for in excess of 30 hours a week and during a week of holidays a staggering 70 hours 

 

But who is doing the "expecting"? Are parents pushing children into every lesson or competition? If it is a school, then as others have said, pull back.

 

But, please, can we be cautious here, rather than get wound up. To be frank, you say "I have heard" - so this could be second-hand or a misunderstanding of what people think children are doing ... We need evidence, rather than hearsay.

 

Other posters' responses suggest that the norm is not 70 hours a week! And that in the main in the UK, there is more good sense and care, than the overuse you are claiming. The good sense and care would seem to be the norm, which is good.

 

And if it's your children, then take control! No teacher is worth overworking a growing body, no matter they promise miracles.

Edited by Kate_N
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I know children at full time vocational school who are dancing constantly in the holidays too. It is absolutely ridiculous. 

The schools are totally unaware that the parents are taking them to all these extra lessons. There is no time to relax and recuperate. My DD comes back from full time school tired and needs a break. Also as a family we need time together and not her being segregated again from the rest of the family because of dancing. I seriously worry about the physical well being, long term, for these pushed to the limit bodies of a few children. 

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I know of two schools with extremely good reputations in the dance world where it is the "norm" to dance 4-8 every day plus weekend Associates and weekend classes... 25+ hours a week as a junior. 

 

My dd is 10 and dances 14 hours a week  plus comps and Associates but in September will attend vocational school and I will be looking at whether to reduce external classes as will be doing 20 hrs at school. 

 

I agree though, as a parent you need to take responsibility for your childs schedule - I insist Dd has 2 evenings off dance classes and not all holidays are full of workshops /conventions. 

 

Unfortunately it appears the commercialism of how popular you are on social media/where you're seen doing tricks/who you ve had a photoshoot with is becoming more important than your dance facility and talent. 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Kate_N said:

 

But who is doing the "expecting"? Are parents pushing children into every lesson or competition? If it is a school, then as others have said, pull back.

 

But, please, can we be cautious here, rather than get wound up. To be frank, you say "I have heard" - so this could be second-hand or a misunderstanding of what people think children are doing ... We need evidence, rather than hearsay.

 

Other posters' responses suggest that the norm is not 70 hours a week! And that in the main in the UK, there is more good sense and care, than the overuse you are claiming. The good sense and care would seem to be the norm, which is good.

 

And if it's your children, then take control! No teacher is worth overworking a growing body, no matter they promise miracles.

I have seen two timetables for myself

All you have to do for actual proof is look through instagram. There are many dancers /teachers that love to say how many hours the kids have been hammering away at whatever class. 

 

 

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Surely if at a suitable vocational school there should be no need during term time for any extra external classes/training? It could cause conflict with training systems/styles, give false ideas of a dancers progression & theirs & teacher ‘success’, wrongly make a school think they could be causing injuries or overbuild of muscle, or weight loss.... all things that can be caused when young bodies just do too much & that can have life long implications. 

I say to parents, pull back, view from a distance & don’t get pulled along into the treadmill that more equals better or that you have to keep up with the ‘Jonovskis’ etc etc!!! I do think the schools should get savvy & see what their pupils are actually doing outside.... (a quick trawl through Instagram,  parents FB & commercial websites are quite an eye opener!!)

Most voc schools have policies & rules in place... for the sake of their reputations, children’s health, parents bank balances, other non voc kids (who should be the ones accessing this training.... surely it is aimed more to give others a chance?), family relationships, mental & social welfare then they should enforce their rules. I am sure parents & the young people in question sign a code of conduct for most training? This needs to clearly state what is/isn’t acceptable (eg. Term time after school classes not, selected Summer Schools permissible etc etc) & consequences should rules be ignored. This may cause unquiet (I suspect mostly by establishments making rather a lot of money from parents who still frequent extra training on top of vocational training & it’s fees - of course, finances come into it & where a child is funded by mds/school bursaries, ironically often there is more money than before full time training began when they paying for classes/travel etc year round.)

I have rambled on a bit here - sorry! 

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2 hours ago, dancertaxi said:

 I will be looking at whether to reduce external classes as will be doing 20 hrs at school. 

 

I don’t Even know why you would consider doing external classes apart from a summer school or 2.

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I have to agree with Harwel, why do you need external classes especially if the child in question is at vocational school. 

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17 minutes ago, Harwel said:

 

I don’t Even know why you would consider doing external classes apart from a summer school or 2.

Its a non boarding performing arts secondary school - no Tap Dance or grade work. 

Whilst it will give Dd the opportunity to further develop singing/acting (included in the quoted hours) she would also like to do her intermediate/advanced.

 

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12 minutes ago, Pointetoes said:

I have to agree with Harwel, why do you need external classes especially if the child in question is at vocational school. 

I am not saying she will continue with her current hours. Dd did not want to board so this was our comprimise. 

20 hours at school plus a max of 5-6 for grades and tap will be the limit. 

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Ok so if you want to go there....Below is a link to an interview with students at Master Ballet Academy in Arizona.  Some of the students are just 12 yrs old I think when this interview was filmed last year and many had enjoyed great success at Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) comp.

 

At 1:35 the head coach, Irena Wozniak, talks of students training 7 days a week for 5 to 6 hours every day.  Sometimes up to 10 hours...

I have seen on instagram that these kids do have periods off due to injuries but they seem to view them and the recovery time as part of the deal!  Guess it is survival of the fittest.  Some kids may not recover and return to training.  Really it is like the world of competitive sports...but you also have to have artistic talent to make an impact in the top ballet competitions.   Their goals may be to go to a great school and then company but probably Hollywood or ad contracts are more lucrative options.  

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lY6LxdR_n4Q

 

 

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And this level of work is then rewarded by our top schools by giving accelerated places to these students. Currently another 14 year old from abroad is at The Royal Ballet Upper School having been given a place at YAGP to start in September. How can we, as responsible parents who won’t put our children through this gruelling schedule and value silly things like an education (!!) compete with this! 

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The child/children in question are not in Vocational training but in a private local dance school. I have seen however that many Vocational students are also now appearing at numerous conventions and additional competitions in general the entire dance world it appears has gone insane!

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6 hours ago, Kate_N said:

 

But who is doing the "expecting"? Are parents pushing children into every lesson or competition? If it is a school, then as others have said, pull back.

 

But, please, can we be cautious here, rather than get wound up. To be frank, you say "I have heard" - so this could be second-hand or a misunderstanding of what people think children are doing ... We need evidence, rather than hearsay.

 

Other posters' responses suggest that the norm is not 70 hours a week! And that in the main in the UK, there is more good sense and care, than the overuse you are claiming. The good sense and care would seem to be the norm, which is good.

 

And if it's your children, then take control! No teacher is worth overworking a growing body, no matter they promise miracles.

I do not want to be accused of defamation therefore I stated "I have heard" I know the pupil personally and therefore it is not second hand information this pupil has been advised to refrain from dance for lengthy period of time (until September) by an extremely well respected professional practitioner. The expectation to train this intensively is from the teacher and the parent feels totally backed into a corner.

Edited by Danceforfun

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3 hours ago, dancertaxi said:

Its a non boarding performing arts secondary school - no Tap Dance or grade work. 

Whilst it will give Dd the opportunity to further develop singing/acting (included in the quoted hours) she would also like to do her intermediate/advanced.

 

 

That makes sense, if it’s not a ‘ballet’ school she’s going to attend.  It’s not going to be 20 hours of dancing at school, then more dancing. 

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1 hour ago, Danceforfun said:

I do not want to be accused of defamation therefore I stated "I have heard" I know the pupil personally and therefore it is not second hand information this pupil has been advised to refrain from dance for lengthy period of time (until September) by an extremely well respected professional practitioner. The expectation to train this intensively is from the teacher and the parent feels totally backed into a corner.

 

The parent needs to take control of their child's life. Risking health is not worth it.

 

This is not uncommon unfortunately. 'No pain no gain' seems to be acceptable in some schools.

 

But I totally agree that the paradox of 14yo being accepted into RBS US (and that's another long thread) gives mixed messages to our dc.

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I think that this is a risk, and when I hear about the amount of summer schools, masterclasses and so on that some students are doing on top of their regular classes I do sometimes inwardly scream "give that child a break before THEY break!"

But on the other hand I  think that sometimes it's best to take things with a pinch of salt, especially how life is portrayed on social media. When my DD was at home she was often at her dance school from 8 til 6 on a Saturday, as were most of the other "serious" students. I would sometimes be aware of other mothers hinting that this group of students was "doing too much". In reality, they weren't dancing for 10 hours at all. They had a few lessons scattered through the day and the studio was too far to make it worth going back and forth, so they would do their homework, help the teachers a bit and just hang out together in between times. But of course the photos on their social media tended not to be "here's me doing my maths homework in the waiting room"!

I do agree that there's a risk, and social media can certainly reinforce problems, but I suspect it's not as widespread an issue as it might first appear.

 

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6 hours ago, dancertaxi said:

I am not saying she will continue with her current hours. Dd did not want to board so this was our comprimise. 

20 hours at school plus a max of 5-6 for grades and tap will be the limit. 

 

 that  sheds a bit more light on the subject 

the  discussion over 'confusion'  should be by the by   with  secondary school aged kids , you can understand it  with little ones and wantign to get  a sound basis in one  awarding  body for the lower grades  , but  older children especially those looking towards  perofrming or teaching asa career need the ability to adapt to the demands of the choreographer / teacher ( and ultimately employers 0

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This topic makes my blood boil a little! However, yes, do exercise caution especially with social media! If you know the child in question that is different. I am not surprised by this though. Some teachers are incredibly competitive and will 'hot house' children. A lot of these children seem to love every minute of it, especially if their parents and teachers reward this commitment with praise, and then they get external validation with competition wins, "ambassador" roles (the latest fashion, it seems) and more. Other students see this and think that they too must do all this to win, or to be successful. In a large school, only the best, most committed dancers will get chosen for competition groups, performance opportunities etc so kids and parents do feel backed into a corner. I do also fear these types of schools may well be the type of school where kids must work through injury, pain or illness for fear of being sidelined. It goes against all safe dance practice guidance and is a sure-fire route to injury or burnout. It's tantamount to abuse - either physical or emotional - but who is to police it?

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Are you sure you have this correct....70 hours of training in holiday time....that's 10hours a day even if dancing every day of the week.

I have to say I'm not sure if I believe this statement .....in that incorrect ( or exaggerated) information has been passed on to parents!! 

Its absolutely ridiculous!

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