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SugarPlum2000

Ballet Training - How much is enough?

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About time!! Some of us have been saying words to this effect for 10 years or more! But in all seriousness, I’m pleased he’s put this out there as many more people will listen to a person in this position rather than a bunch of “know-it-all” dance scientists.

 

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That is good to hear.

It is not just dance that is afflicted by this problem but times do seem to be changing. My son started a structured individual training programme in one of his sports this year. I was a bit worried about agreeing to this as I didn't want him overdoing things but his coach has actually reduced the hours he was spending on training. The focus is very much on training smarter, not longer. It is took a bit of getting used to with a fair bit of "oops, I'm over my target again this week" but he is adjusting now and has more time to sleep, get his homework done etc so feels less stressed. Plus he is performing better, both than he was before, and than a lot of his peers who are putting in more hours.

 I think one of the biggest stumbling blocks is the focus on "dedication" that comes with many sports, music etc as well as dance. Whilst it is without doubt that dedication is needed, that doesn't have to be synonymous with putting in hours and hours of relentless, repetitive practice. But a lot of people see it that way - if you are not flogging yourself you are not committed and dont deserve success. That is the attitude that needs to be changed in my opinion. It is good to see the RBS taking a more reasoned approach. I hope actions match words and the ideas spread far and wide.

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"I hope actions match words" - yes, exactly this. I might be wrong, but I get the impression the RBS Upper School is filled with students who have pursued extensive vocational training, often overseas. Either this is necessary to be successful in securing a place at the school, or it isn't ..... the article seems to suggest that it isn't.

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2 hours ago, glissade said:

"I hope actions match words" - yes, exactly this. I might be wrong, but I get the impression the RBS Upper School is filled with students who have pursued extensive vocational training, often overseas. Either this is necessary to be successful in securing a place at the school, or it isn't ..... the article seems to suggest that it isn't.

Not necessarily - yes US is filled with students who have trained elsewhere and lots are from overseas, but that doesn’t mean they’ve trained in ways that are arduous, excessive or harmful. It may even be that they’ve already experienced several years of this type of fantastic quality, well-rounded, periodised training which is in line with the recommendations from dance & sports scientists meaning that they’re ahead of the schools that are only just implementing it! (Not likely, I realise, but not impossible either!)

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One of the things I felt would have been useful to clarify was age ranges. At first he seemed to be talking about pre vocational students, for which I am sure all would agree that limits on training can only be a good thing. Then it seemed to broaden out to all students later in the piece. There must be an age at which the level of training does need to increase in intensity and hours. I remember Claudia Dean posted a series of youtube videos discussing this a while ago. She had given specific age groups and amounts of training that were necessary/appropriate. So for instance by the age of 15 she was advocating students seriously wanting a shot at a professional career should have stepped up their hours considerably, but aged 11/12 the hours were far more moderate.

 

There has to be an element of realism in any discussion like this I feel. And the reality is that internationally students who are training seriously pre professionally are putting in a lot of highly intensive and individualised hours, with a view to winning opportunities on the international competition circuit to gain entrance to the most prestigious schools. This is very different to the UK approach to training.

Royal are no different from other prestigious schools around the world in that they do take in a lot of these intensively trained international students, usually from year ten upwards at Wl and obviously for upper school.

 

Sorry edited to add  - I do think that a balance needs to be struck, we all want dance students to train in a manner which looks after their physical and mental well being, but you also can't ignore the fact that  the standards internationally are being set by students who are training more intensively than schools train in the uk.

 

Edited by KeepDancing!!
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22 hours ago, Pups_mum said:

I think one of the biggest stumbling blocks is the focus on "dedication" that comes with many sports, music etc as well as dance. Whilst it is without doubt that dedication is needed, that doesn't have to be synonymous with putting in hours and hours of relentless, repetitive practice

 

 

Amen to that! My undergrads tell me that they worked soooo hard and are exhausted. I respond that they need to work smart, not long, and that an hour's focused rehearsal time with a specific goal is far better than 12 hours of them all getting tired and crotchety with each other. One hour of focused work is exhausting - in the right way.

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@KeepDancing!! you are of course absolutely right that training of any kind needs to be age appropriate and, as a general rule, both time spent and intensity will increase as a young person matures. And of course nobody becomes skilled at anything without putting in a significant amount of time and effort. But I do think that there is a fundamental flaw in using quantitative measures to judge anything qualitative. It happens all the time of course - individuals and organisations tend to measure what is easiest to measure, not what matters most. You can't blame people really. Things like time and distance are easy to measure and are objective. Quality is neither.

But I would say that rather than asking "how many hours should an X year old be doing" we should be asking "What kind of training should this X year old be doing". That is a far harder question to answer of course but it needs to be asked. I have come across young people, and their parents, in a number of fields who brag about their "how long" or "how far" and wear their exhaustion, and injuries, almost as a badge of honour. That isn't  good for anyone.

 

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here in oz its common for almost all elite girls/boys  to be home schooled from year 7-aged 11/2 or from year 9 at latest   , competitions locally and overseas are taken seriously with YAGP / asian grand prix  prob biggest i think at moment looking at who is attending what  . Plenty of other  comps to go to in asia i note.   The training is  very tailored aiming to place these kids in overseas schools . We also  have no problem here taking kids out of school to go to competitions or overseas ballet summer schools in UK or europe   or exams which makes it much easier aswell- schools are supportive i have found . What is quality to one child/parent tho may not be to another and quantity obv depends on kids body/endurance/capabilities- what 1 child gets out of a lesson can be very different to another child . Elmhurst was at YAGP in Oz  this year i noted along with lots  from europe  and RBS did  asian grand prix this year again  . Plus a youth ballet in every city pretty much aswell .......it all costs money tho of course ...... x

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5 hours ago, leotardmum said:

here in oz its common for almost all elite girls/boys  to be home schooled from year 7-aged 11/2 or from year 9 at latest 

 

In my experience (in Sydney) this is not a large number of 11/12 year olds going full-time.   Most students entering full time are 14/15/16 year olds. 

Some young students go full time because they live in an area that can not offer elite training.  

 

Also, homeschooling and Distance Education have a long history in Australia.  Everyone under 16 follows a curriculum overseen by a state-based Board of Education whether it be through a bricks & mortar school or alternate education option.  

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4 hours ago, DD Driver said:

 

In my experience (in Sydney) this is not a large number of 11/12 year olds going full-time.   Most students entering full time are 14/15/16 year olds. 

Some young students go full time because they live in an area that can not offer elite training.  

 

Also, homeschooling and Distance Education have a long history in Australia.  Everyone under 16 follows a curriculum overseen by a state-based Board of Education whether it be through a bricks & mortar school or alternate education option.  

 

I also understand that good quality dance training can be offered in 'normal' schools. A friends DD will start next year at one (in Sydney) that incorporates dance very much into wider education and has a company that competes at a high level at Eisteddfods etc. 

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2 hours ago, BellaF said:

I also understand that good quality dance training can be offered in 'normal' schools. A friends DD will start next year at one (in Sydney) that incorporates dance very much into wider education and has a company that competes at a high level at Eisteddfods etc. 

 

Yes, there are several academic schools in Sydney that are serious about dance training (contemporary and ballet).   They also (usually) allow their students to attend part-time after-school classes at a dance studio.  This means that students can be doing substantial hours of ballet whilst still in mainstream schooling.  I think - as Leotardmum points out - many of these dancers then start to look at full-time training at 14/15 years old, if pursuing ballet.  

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Very good point in the post about periodization - this is absolutely basic to any serious athletic training at all (the original scientific research is from the 1950s) and it's pretty shocking that it's news to anyone. Even for someone like me - the weights program I use has a wave loading pattern, so you get one heavy, one middling, one brutal, and one light workout per week.

 

 

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Quality over quantity every day. However quality teaching can be so hard to find these days, especially in the UK outside the vocational schools. In your local dance school.

 

Doing an hour ballet training badly with a low level teacher is a disaster, but doing 6-7 hours with them can jeopardise your ballet career options. Bad habits are extremely hard to put right after years of training the wrong muscle in the wrong way. Muscle memory being implemented badly can sometimes be irreversible. Limiting high end career oportunities.

 

Always start with the best teacher possible, and check their credentials!

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3 minutes ago, Simon Moriarty said:

Always start with the best teacher possible, and check their credentials!

I agree, but perhaps it is easier said than done. 

 

Most parents on this forum had a child who started dance classes as a once-a-week hobby when they were very young, and they probably chose the nearest dance school to where they live. Only some years later (and having unexpectedly discovered that their child is turning out to be quite good at this ballet lark) have the parents realised that they need to pay more attention to the quality of training their child is receiving.

 

How would a parent with absolutely no prior knowledge or experience of dance be able to judge whether or not a teacher or school is any good? 

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You are very correct in your point taxi4ballet. 

 

From our experience when 'said' child does start to get good and need the next level of training, the tendency is to stay put because of friends, and other festival commitments etc. Local dance schools are amazing establishments for the community and for the local area, but fair too many local dance teachers think they own their children, and rather than send them else where with best wishes and support, or admit they have outgrown the school or their personal level of teaching experience. They hold onto them, therefore holding their training back and potentially damaging their dance career options in the future.

 

When a child does want to be more serious about ballet, it should be the parent who investigates further training and look deeper to what is available. This can be done by way of Associates schemes or just by moving to a better school with better teaching.

 

We as a school provide some of the highest quality training in the UK, and we offer this to whom ever wants to take it, or wants the information about it. Some do, other don't for that exact reasons I mention above.

 

In answer to how a parent can find out about a teacher or school. Parents should find out their teachers experence as a dancer and what qualifications they have gained as a teacher. Also how long have they been teaching, and the successes of the school. Every school in the UK will from time to time have a talent walk through their door because they live local. So they may go onto RBS, or greetings. This could have happened at any school as that scold just had the talent, that does not nessaraly mean the school created that person or trained them well! So when did that success they talk about on there website actually happen. Do they get success year on year, or was it a one off ?

 

Also a website is to shout about your qualities so they are aways going to worded in a specific way to get you to join. Thats just marketing yourself. But maybe these statements need to be taken with a pinch of salt.

 

We are aware of quite a reputable school in the UK saying that "they can get you into a vocational school of your choice!" which is a ludicrous statement, because by nature they are all Auditioned places, and the local school does not get to choose or have an influence, also that suggests you turn up at the school, say "I want to go RBS" and they can deliver this. 

 

The ballet world is a minefield for parents who do not know this world. It is not easy thats for sure!

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The wonderful local dance school my dd went to rarely advertises (other than through newspaper articles celebrating student success), and even now doesn't have a website.  

 

I assume that the power of 'word of mouth' and a reputation dating back many years enables them to fill the classes.

 

When dd was ready to be stretched beyond what was available at the school, the principal arranged for her attend suitable classes at other local schools,  but she stayed in control of dd's training and guided us through associate applications and auditions until dd left to go into full time training at 16.

 

We were incredibly lucky.

 

 

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I would also promote the importance of building strength and flexibility through focused exercises - not just adding more classes.

 I think you hit a wall with the value of adding more and more dance classes.

 

This year my daughter substantially increased her dance hours and this has gone hand in hand with more time at the dance physio and home exercises.  She is seeing the physio semi-regularly e.g. weekly when she had injuries and growing pains, through to once a term when all is going well.

 

My daughter's physio gives her exercises to do each day to improve on particular aspects of her ballet skills or to prevent injury.  No amount of dance classes could achieve these goals.

 

She also does daily warm-up classes and some Pilates, Conditioning and Progressing Ballet Technique (PBT ) classes.

Edited by DD Driver
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