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Associate programme - big name vs smaller school...


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I’m looking for some advice please. Dd is in year 7 and has been dancing with a weekly associate programme at a well known ballet school since year 5. Although she always enjoyed it, it never seemed to do much to build her confidence (and often the opposite, as she frequently told me she felt like the ‘worst’ in the class). This year she moved up to the equivalent of Mids and this issue has seemed to get worse (I think her confidence and enthusiasm in general have been impacted by months of zoom classes, no performances etc). It definitely doesn’t feel like a particularly nurturing environment, and from what I can see/hear from the zoom classes, the teacher they have this year is quite negative and ‘old school’ in approach. I’m sure others respond well to this ‘tough’ approach but dd tends to take it to heart and become even lower after each class. All in all, I don’t feel it is working for her and she has said several times she wants to stop, although then wobbles on this when it comes to making a final decision. I think she knows how lucky she is to have the place, how much she wanted it when she first auditioned, and that so many people (including her local ballet teachers and friends) would think she was completely crazy to give it up. I have to admit to worrying about the same things myself. 
There is another potential option, an associate programme at a much smaller ballet school. Dd attended a summer school there and loved it. It has a very different feel and my gut feeling is that it would suit her better. But her ballet teacher has been quite dismissive of it, I think because it isn’t well known and getting a place doesn’t have the same ‘prestige’ as RBS, Elmhurst etc. 
We need to make a decision in the next few weeks as she will have to give a full terms notice at her current associates. 
If it makes a difference, she auditioned for year 7 vocational places at 2 schools, got to finals at one, but didn’t get a place. Since then she has decided she doesn’t want to go down the vocational route at this stage, possibly not at all, but wants to keep her options open. She is definitely not as fixed on her dream of becoming a professional dancer as she was a year ago, although some of that might be down to the experiences of the past year. 
Sorry for what has turned into a very long post, any advice much appreciated - thanks. 
 

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If your DD isn’t happy, I would absolutely give up the place. It’s an associates place. It doesn’t matter how prestigious the place is if it’s not a good fit for her. This is her hobby that she spends time on during her free time. Mine spent a while on an associate scheme but was increasingly unhappy, although doing well there, and gave up her place and was much happier - and still became a classical ballet dancer.

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Your daughter is obviously not finding the current situation nurturing or stimulating, so leaving it behind before she loses all her confidence and desire to dance, would seem very sensible.

Its very easy, when you’re on this blog to assume associate programmes are a necessity. For some, it will be a step on the ladder to a more challenging path but for others it is simply not necessary, providing you can access high quality classes which can increase with age.

What I would recommend is finding a  HIGHLY QUALIFIED teacher with great recommendations. This will take some research to look at the teachers behind the name of the programmes. Your daughter obviously has talent so once things begin moving again, she may well change her mind (several times!) and maintaining a sound technique and keeping confidence high would be beneficial. The name of the Associate Programme matters not one jot. What matters is the teaching!!

The big vocational schools do not care if you have been an associate of anywhere providing you fulfil all their requirements at the time of audition.

Good Luck!

 

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Have sent you a message, but I would say from your post, you know what to do. No point in doing it if it isn't helping her and confidence and happiness is as important as technique. I would make the move, I think she will get far more put of dancing somewhere she loves.

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Thanks all - I think you’re right that I know in my heart what would be best for dd right now. It’s so easy to get carried away with the journey and lose sight of what’s really important. Her local school is ‘ok’, but she wouldn’t consider moving from there at the moment. But she does attend other classes with a really good teacher a bit further away so I think we’ll focus on those a bit more too. 

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I would do your research on other associate schemes, we are in the same boat, DC is part of 3 associates and isnt flourishing as one would like to see, Dc main teacher has also said this to me on several occasions, so we’ve looked further afield and we over lockdown DC has changed direction and joined a local gymnastics club for strength and conditioning and also we have found a highly recommended physio who does dance conditioning and Dc has come on so much and is enjoying the new lessons...... once this academic year is over we will be reassessing the associates and looking at which my child wants to carry on with and enjoys. At the end of the day you do what’s right for your child not what the teachers want. 

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You don’t have to do any associates schemes at all, but whether you want to do any or not may depend on the quality and availability of the local classes you have. Mine dropped the scheme she was in and didn’t replace it with any others.

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Self confidence is so important, in dance as well as in the rest of life, so if the scheme that your dd is attending is knocking that out of her then maybe it isn't the right place for her right now.

 

Feeling like the 'worst' in the class is really no good for anyone, especially if she still feels like this however hard she tries.  Much better I think to feel that you are a shining star amongst equals.

 

The only thing I would say, in terms of smaller schemes, is make sure that the teaching is good, and the young people are well looked after.  If you know other people who have used the scheme so much the better.  If your dd's dance teacher is dismissive see if you can find out a little more about what their concerns are.  See if they have any other suggestions.

 

At the end of the day, a person can't flourish in an environment which doesn't suit them, however prestigious it might be.

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, rowan said:

You don’t have to do any associates schemes at all, but whether you want to do any or not may depend on the quality and availability of the local classes you have. Mine dropped the scheme she was in and didn’t replace it with any others.

 

Absolutely.  However, if vocational training is (or might be) the goal, unless you have excellent quality local classes, associates from years 7-11 can be invaluable for getting a better idea of where your child is in comparison to peers all around the country.    A child might be the star of his or her local school but that alone doesn’t give an objective idea of whether they have the potential to get a full-time place later on.  

 

The other benefit of a good Associate scheme is that if your local school does mostly syllabus and exam classes, associates give the student a more rounded experience of non-syllabus ballet, plus many also include body conditioning, non-syllabus character, Contemporary and so on.  The opportunity to take regular class with different teachers is also beneficial.

 

In terms of being “tough”, I’d say that both dd’s Associate classes (Central and Tring CBA) were “tough” in that they made more demands on the dancer, were technically more challenging, and you had the stress at Central of whether you would be moved up to the next class (back then, dancers were assessed every year and the “big” assessment was between Prep 3 and Pre-Senior Ladies).  Highly selective schemes ARE tough in that you are competing against other dancers from all over the UK, and at assessment time, it’s like a dress rehearsal for full-time auditions (which of course can make full-time auditions less of a scary unknown).  Likewise, a teacher may seem tough but if this approach pushes the students to improve, that’s fine.  If they verbally batter any self-confidence out of a child though, that’s another matter entirely. 

 

If, along with the tough side and the competition though, the student enjoys most of her classes, improves and makes progress, respects the teacher and wants to work hard, then that’s fine.  If not, there is no point wasting your money and time and your child’s time and energy on what could potentially be a hobby.  You are a paying customer.

 

As has been said above, there are lots of associate schemes and auditions for 16+ training are not decided on which associate scheme is on your dance “CV”.  If your child is consistently miserable and not progressing then it’s not the right environment for her. 🤷🏻‍♀️ 

 

Have a read through the threads about other Associate schemes on here, ask questions about them - I’m sure you will find the right fit. 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks Anna C. I don’t think dd has an issue with the ‘toughness’ of it in terms of how hard she has to work, and she coped really well with the vocational audition rounds last year. It’s more that this particular teacher seems relentlessly negative (to all of them, not just dd) and rather than spurring dd on to do better, this approach just seems to destroy her confidence even more. I am sure this isn’t the case for all of the students, and I totally agree that selective schemes have to be demanding and challenging.

 

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Hi Pinkpip 100,

I would think a year of negative teaching will not be beneficial at all. Self esteem is much more important. My Dds have been in elite and smaller associate schemes. We always went with what would benefit them rather than what their teacher thought was best.

With the smaller associate schemes have a look at the faculty and their experience. If this is good and your Dd was happy there during the Summer then go for it. If you do prefer to stay at the elite one is there a different venue available that would mean a different teacher?

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Great post Anna C and much more balanced than my previous one.

My Dd started Associates because her own school was very tiny and didn’t offer more than 1 class a week. She was lucky to have a strict but caring teacher with a passion for detail. She felt she had to put in more effort when she went there and it pushed her. It also opened her eyes to the broader ballet world which she could never have experienced in her own school.

Sadly this teacher left, and was replaced by another, very different, but equally well qualified teacher. Somehow, those lessons were not the same. This was felt by many.

It was a teacher/ personality type of thing which wasn’t working. Associate schemes can be beneficial but are not compulsory to a career in Ballet ( providing you have good alternatives) and it’s often the teacher that makes the difference.

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As is often said on this forum, the destination for any young dancer is far from certain - only a very small number go on to successful classical careers - so it is incredibly important that the journey is enjoyable in its own right. If any particular teacher or scheme is making a young person unhappy then I would seriously doubt the value of continuing, no matter how prestigious it is. Yes, a lot of good teachers really challenge their pupils and can be strict, but there's a big difference between that and creating an atmosphere in which the pupils feel demoralised and unhappy.

There have been a lot of threads recently that have discussed teaching practices and their effect on young people and a lot of people have said similar things - that their DCs ended up in environments that weren't right for them but that the dancers and/or their parents were afraid to speak out. When you/your child gains a place at a sought after school or scheme it  can be very hard to speak up or walk away but if you read the threads, the vast majority of parents say that they wished they'd listened to that inner voice that was telling them that all was not well.

Nobody thrives in an environment where they are unhappy. The wider educational world recognises that fear and humiliation are not useful tools if you want to get the best out of a pupil but some dance teachers seem stuck in these habits, probably because that is how they were taught and sadly they know no dufferent.. I think it's really good that you are questioning the value of this scheme for your DD. If your gut instinct is that it isn't beneficial then I would listen to that - you know her better than anyone.

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@Anna Cthe yearly Assessment at Central still takes place in fact.  I would even go so far as to say they are clearer now than they were when we started our Associates journey back in 2015 🙈 about the place offered only being for one year and what the possible outcomes are from the Assessment. I personally find it very beneficial to have that clarity.

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2 hours ago, Pinkpip100 said:

Thanks Anna C. I don’t think dd has an issue with the ‘toughness’ of it in terms of how hard she has to work, and she coped really well with the vocational audition rounds last year. It’s more that this particular teacher seems relentlessly negative (to all of them, not just dd) and rather than spurring dd on to do better, this approach just seems to destroy her confidence even more. I am sure this isn’t the case for all of the students, and I totally agree that selective schemes have to be demanding and challenging.

 

 

They do, but demanding and challenging doesn’t have to mean constant negativity and a miserable student.  Whatever the goal and the eventual outcome, there has to be something enjoyable about the journey.  If the negatives of this scheme outweigh the positives then you’re absolutely right to look elsewhere.  

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1 hour ago, MAK said:

@Anna Cthe yearly Assessment at Central still takes place in fact.  I would even go so far as to say they are clearer now than they were when we started our Associates journey back in 2015 🙈 about the place offered only being for one year and what the possible outcomes are from the Assessment. I personally find it very beneficial to have that clarity.

 

That’s really good, MAK.  It manages everyone’s expectations, which is ideal. 

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A teacher who is negative and is destroying your dc's confidence is not the sort of thing you want, regardless of the prestige of the school. This alone is more than enough to leave the associate programme to be honest.

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It would appear that your her regular teacher is more concerned with what is "prestigious" for their own reflected glory possibly, than what is best for your daughter.  Follow your instinct and change Associates and then think carefully whether you need to change the regular school too. 

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2 hours ago, Pas de Quatre said:

It would appear that your her regular teacher is more concerned with what is "prestigious" for their own reflected glory possibly, than what is best for your daughter.  Follow your instinct and change Associates and then think carefully whether you need to change the regular school too. 

 

This may be the case...or there may be other reasons why the teacher is less enthusiastic about the alternative scheme.  

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