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Associate classes and flexibility


Lemongirl
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Can anyone recommend associate classes in the London area that aren't quite so particular about body shape/flexibility or are they all like that?

 

My dd is nearly 11 and about to do RAD grade 3 next term. Last year she auditioned unsuccessfully for Tring Park CBA and they told me the reasons were mainly physical, to do with her hamstrings and ankles going from memory. She can't do the splits either.

 

Shes been working very hard on her flexibility and I think it's slowly improving but even though she's generally determined she sometimes gets a bit disheartened that she's not getting anywhere.

 

Her teacher isn't keen for her to try for things she isn't likely to get into but she will try again for Tring this year.

 

Does anyone have any advice?

 

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hi balletmum1972

do not give up never say never my daughter was not very flexible as teachers do not help you with that area

they told my daughter she could not get flexible as you are born with it take no notice

keep stretching try pilates slowly it will improve

my daughter has just got into northern ballet the eyb as well as being accepted for the rbs summer school

and she can not get her leg to her ear yet

if its london you want how about the childrens junior ballet or central or italian conti as ive heard they do fab ballet classes

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Hi balletmum 1972 dont give up encourage your dd to stretch everyday. My dd is a ja but there are a few girls in her class that are unable to get into box splits just yet! Have you considered london junior ballet? Or central school of ballet? Maybe a gymnastic class once a week would help with flexibility?

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Flexiblity for most of us is a slow process. It cannot be hurried or injury will occur and then what has been gained will be lost. And, remember, a child's body is changing which slows the process a bit more. Don't give up - but give it time.

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I agree my dd did LJB for a year and the training was very good, the only down side was the travel to London weekly :( but if you live in and around London it's a marvellous opportunity!!

Stardancer well done for EYB and Northern Ballet... but finals for there associate programme are not till Saturday!! Good luck if you have made finals and fingers crossed:)

Cx

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Thank you.

 

She is actually dancing with EYB at the moment which she's really enjoying and is also doing another production in the summer holidays. Luckily there's no flexibility issue with those sorts of things!

 

LJB requires a stretching assessment as part of their audition process, don't think she would get through that.

 

Italia Conti associates look interesting - does anyone have any personal experience?

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Just to say, at age 10 my DD could not even touch her toes.

Regular pilates lessons have really helped. She can now do splits all ways and can hold her foot to her ear.

She didn't get into LJB, but has been at LSB for nearly 2 years.

It will slowly happen, don't push it.

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Hi Balletmum1972,

 

I do think that sometimes Tring send out a pro forma letter about not getting into CBA, as my DD had the very same letter a few years ago and she's actually very hypermobile! So my advice would be to ask your daughter's teacher to assess her flexibility and give you some stretching exercises for your daughter to do. If things don't improve, it could be worth your while to have your dd assessed by a specialist dance physio.

 

My DD's Associate Classes in London did test flexibility but there are some girls in my dd's class who are less flexible than she is. Obviously flexibility is very important in classical ballet, but it does have to be combined with strength. Different schools look for different things though, so whilst your DD may not be right for Tring at the moment, it doesn't mean she's not suitable for other Associate Classes.

 

So do ask for an assessment of her flexibility from teacher or a dance physio. That will give your DD personalised exercises to work on and it is possible to see an improvement quite quickly, if the exercises are done properly and regularly.

 

Good luck!

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Hello,

Im a new member and posting for the first time!!

I have really enjoyed reading all the posts.

I live abroad and my dd goes to a very nice ballet school.Classes are only at the weekend..All students of all ages have a 1.1/2 hour class.They have at least 1/2 hour of stretching in the lesson and also have to stretch at the end of the class.All the students of different ages and abilities can do the splits all ways.I personally believe that if you stretch enough almost everybody can achieve the splits.My footballing son who is 11 was so stiff and he started stretching at home last year and he can do the splits now!Please,dont let anybody tell you that you will never be flexible,its just not true!

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Hello tomuchtalent and welcome to the forum!

 

I agree, stretching once properly warmed up is a vital part of a good dance class. I do think each child should be assessed on an individual basis because in the case of a hypermobile child, it may be better for them to do strengthening exercises while the rest of the class are doing their splits. The key is in doing exercises specific to your own body. :-)

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Thank you, very helpful replies.

 

Dd's teacher does a specific stretching class that in the past dd wasn't able to attend due to other commitments. However she's been doing that class since September and her teacher thinks it will help a lot. She has improved, her box splits seem wider than they used to. And she does stretch in the evenings at home when she remembers.

 

She was upset yesterday though after the stretching class however as she'd missed 2 weeks due to other things and she thinks that has set her back. But she's been very tired with EYB rehearsals every weekend. I told her this is just a little blip and the general trend is upwards in the long term.

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Definitely. Stretching progress is like a new language, or taking up running for fitness - you have to use it or you lose it! If the exercises are showing an improvement, great. If they are not, despite regular application, I would suggest an assessment by a specialist dance physio. They will be able to tell you exactly which areas need work, and give your dd appropriate exercises.

 

But that's not the cheapest of options so talk it over with your DD's teacher first.

 

I would add that tired or not, exercises should be done every day (sorry!).

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All DD's ballet classes include stretching and flexibility was tested as part of the audition for the associates she is in at Central.

She is naturally flexible in some areas but by no means all.She's had to work on stretching and little and often is what we've found is working the best for her over a number of years. 5-10 mins everyday, to increase and then maintain the flexibility - as soon as you stop you will as your DD has found start to lose what you've gained.

They do get frustrated and for a child a week, month or year can seem like forever, so as Anjuli says it's important she doesn't try to rush it and cause injury.

 

J x

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Mine got into Associates without being super-flexible - I didn't even realise they would test for flexibility, but they did test for it. At the time of audition she could do front splits with one leg, nearly there in the other, and nowhere near in box splits. But a couple of years of constant stretching at class has got all three nailed!

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It is important to stretch when warmed up. Stretching cold is like pulling on a cold rubber band. You will notice that if you do that the rubber band develops tiny tears along the edges. The best is to stretch between barre and center. And, maybe a bit more after class. The problem with doing it after class is that when you stop and go home the muscles are exposed to cold air (outside) and usually sitting as one drives home. One must stretch only when warmed up and then keep moving a bit (like walking) afterwards to slowly cool the body down.

 

Warmed up means working the muscles - that's heat from the inside out. It does not mean taking a warm shower or putting on a topical gel. The muscles must warm from use (like a barre) and then they are ready to efficiently and safely respond to stretching.

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I always find it difficult to advise my dd when to stretch. What sort of warm up would you recommend at home Anjuli, and how long for.

 

That's a really good question. Let's walk through this.....

 

It is not recommended that one practice barre or center at home. Ballet is not like other studies where there is "homework." Even the busiest professional dancers take class - only in emergencies or one off situations would they give themselves class. Since the stretching needs to be done after one is warmed up - and you need a ballet warmup to warmup those muscles to be stretched for ballet (it goes hand in hand) one comes to the conclusion that stretching without barre and center is not recommended.

 

Unfortunately, neither ballet class exercises (barre/center) nor stretching for ballet should be done on one's own. Both need to be done under supervision of a teacher. I know that it is tempting - the rationale one normally adheres to is "if you want something work harder." However, when it comes to ballet we must add the caution "it has to be done under supervision."

 

Why?

 

We are simply not capable of seeing how our own body is operating when it comes to producing what is necessary for ballet. We cannot truly "see" our own alignment - we can learn to feel it - but it needs constant supervision from an outside source. The body "lies" and "cheats." It wants to take the easier route. And it will. Thus, the wrong muscles are engaged and learn incorrectly. It takes twice as much work to unlearn the wrong stuff than it takes to learn the right stuff.

 

And what good is it if the split is incorrect? or the hips are not correctly aligned? or the standing hip is not pulled up? or the backbend is done by pushing forward at the hips? or the spine is not correctly connected to the core stomach muscles? or all four quadrants of the abdomenal muscles are not equally engaged? or the shoulders not straight? or the head not correctly aligned with the arm in a backbend? etc.

 

 

I surely wish it were different. Many times I wanted to stretch at home - stretching for me was vital - except for turnout - I was not a naturally flexible dancer and had to work at it everyday inbetween barre and center and a cooldown stretch after class (being careful to dress warmly on the way home).

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Thank you,that's really helpful. My dd does 2 intermediate classes a week, 2 grade 5 and 1 modern. Not every class ends with a regular stretching session,so she might go some times a whole week or more without a stretch session within the class. She is VERY close to the splits and has had to work really hard. She is strong but not naturally flexible. In the past I have suggested she stretches when she comes home from class to take advantage of her muscles being warm, but I know ideally she should stretch every night. Your advice really makes sense though as in the past her flexibility has been hampered by sore muscles, which have may have been over stretched when not warmed I am now wondering? Blut how do we balance the need to perhaps stretch more that she is doing? She 11,not on any associate scheme, but with a really supportive local school.

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Stretching should take place between barre and center and then as a cool down after class. This should be done as a regular element of class. Just like pliés or tendues.

 

Actually, stretching takes place throughout the barre and center. For instance, every grand battement is a stretch toward a split. These elements can't be seen as separate entities - but as part of a whole.

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This is something I particularly like about my DD's Associate Class; they have a stretching session between barre and centre. My DD does exercise at home BUT these are exercises given to her by a specialist dance physio and are almost all strengthening exercises, with only one specific (and gentle) stretch.

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I disagree that your teacher shouldn't be helping with flexibility. My daughter does ballet, tap and modern but also does a weekly limbering class and is shown stretches to do to help with flexibility. She has been working hard at her splits and is almost there on one side (having been way off last year). She is 10. Her teacher suggested that yes some kids are born more flexible but as they grow they may have problems. As my daughter is working hard at her flexibility her teacher said that she will be stronger in her core in the long run. She recently got a call back for a CAT audition (we decided that it wasn't for us in the end) but she couldn't do the box splits in her audition so it isn't necessarily a problem if they can see the potential.

Maybe you can talk to your teacher about this.

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Hi Balletmum1972,

 

Here are a few tips which might help.

 

Have you asked her teacher if she can also do the class a grade above her own one 'just for fun'? It really helped my daughter, as she had more time to learn the syllabus and was able to progress up the grades more quickly. It also meant that she already knew steps that she was asked to perform in auditions. And does the school have non-syllabus / free work classes?

 

The English Youth Ballet auditions are really good, as parents get to watch, and you can then see the other children of a similar age, and see what the standard is like.

 

Also ENB, Central and the RAD do workshops and dance days which are good fun and will help your dd with her confidence when dancing in a different studio - this really helps when auditioning.

 

At Tring, check out their Reach4Dance dance days and residential Christmas and Easter courses - your dd might also like to audition for the Tring Park Associates, which are syllabus classes to be taken alongside the ones at your usual school.

 

Finally, the National Youth Ballet takes over Tring for a couple of weeks in the summer to rehearse for their performances, and they run a one-week non residential outreach course alongside (there is no audition) which my dd has done for the last two years and had a fabulous time.

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