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The Best Ballet Teachers


BalletDad10
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Has there ever been a thread on this forum identifying some of the best ballet teachers in the UK and elsewhere around the world? As a teacher myself (not of ballet) I realize that a successful teacher/pupil relationship is often just down to chemistry and timing. But I'd be interested to hear about ballet teachers who have trained a high number of successful dancers.

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Very difficult to say when using the word "best" because sometimes it's horses for courses so to speak.

What suits one child maybe not another.

 

Most principals have had a relationship that worked well for them with one or two teachers.

You could draw up a list by looking at who THEY say has been particularly rewarding to work with for THEM.

They probably work with senior age students as well.

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Very difficult to say when using the word "best" because sometimes it's horses for courses so to speak.

What suits one child maybe not another.

 

 

Good point LinMM.

 

Also not easy because local dance schools are usually not selective, and draw on the surrounding population.

 

In big towns and cities where there are many schools you could maybe draw a comparison between them, but not in more rural areas where there could be only one school within reach.

 

My dd went to a workshop in London last year with a really well-known and highly regarded teacher who has an excellent reputation, and she didn't get on with her at all. Yet we know others who think she is fabulous.

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As an observer, I'm not immediately clear where this thread might lead and would offer a word of caution before any names are bandied about in an invidious or, worse, libellous fashion.

 

That said, coming from a long line of teachers, it strikes me that they have to work with the clay that they are given and, to mix metaphors, not all sows' ears are capable of being turned into silk purses.  Others have effectively made similar points already.  And in the field of ballet/dance, where pupils have an aspiration to make a career in the business - and not all have that aspiration - I'd have thought that most local UK schools are preparing candidates for audition and entry to one of the vocational schools, and it is those schools who will produce the 'successful dancers' first mentioned.  Or, to be truthful, they will prepare candidates for a further round of auditions for a job with a company and, as discussed much more than once here, there are far more of these candidates graduating each year than jobs/contracts are available.  If companies do not want to churn their dancers at the rate schools are producing them, measuring the 'productivity' of individual teachers may be hard to do.

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As an observer, I'm not immediately clear where this thread might lead and would offer a word of caution before any names are bandied about in an invidious or, worse, libellous fashion.

 

That said, coming from a long line of teachers, it strikes me that they have to work with the clay that they are given and, to mix metaphors, not all sows' ears are capable of being turned into silk purses.  Others have effectively made similar points already.  And in the field of ballet/dance, where pupils have an aspiration to make a career in the business - and not all have that aspiration - I'd have thought that most local UK schools are preparing candidates for audition and entry to one of the vocational schools, and it is those schools who will produce the 'successful dancers' first mentioned.  Or, to be truthful, they will prepare candidates for a further round of auditions for a job with a company and, as discussed much more than once here, there are far more of these candidates graduating each year than jobs/contracts are available.  If companies do not want to churn their dancers at the rate schools are producing them, measuring the 'productivity' of individual teachers may be hard to do.

There was a famous male dancer [can`t remember who].He recently in the last few years said something along the lines that for every student who is training to be a classical ballet dancer,only 2 out of every 100 will make it.Or words to that effect. Does anyone remember who said that and the actual statistic quoted?

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Great new avatar Ian!!

 

I agree it would not be appropriate to name teachers on this Forum in the way it has been phrased particularly but the person who started the thread BalletDad could do private research into who has named particular teachers they have worked with whom they have made good progress. I'm not sure if this is what he means though as he may mean teachers for much younger children where I am talking about older... 16 plus to professionals.

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I think its right to exercise caution here. Some teachers will be fabulous in some peoples eyes but not in others.

 

Some teachers will have trained lots of dancers who were successful professionally simply because they are in vocational schools.

 

And how is success for a ballet teacher defined? Is it managing to instil love and respect for ballet in students regardless of aptitude or is it the number of pupils gone into the profession?

 

I think the suggestion about finding out which teachers inspired current or indeed past dancers is a good one. But even these wouldnt have pleased everyone. Some of the teachers I thought excellent are still remembered with dread by some of my old friends and vice versa!

Edited by hfbrew
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Well personally, I feel that it is simply not fair to compare teachers who deal with vocational students to teachers who have to work with whoever turns up at their ballet school.  It is actually the latter teachers who do the basic hard work building up a student with the limited resources and hours that are available to them, putting in many patient hours of nurturing in an attempt to give the best quality training they can to the odd talented child that appears by chance in their studio.  Afterwards these students go on to vocational training with hours and hours of classes in amazing facilities with teachers who sometimes only have to "ice the cake" to make of them a dancer. 

 

 I do not mean to belittle vocational school teachers in any way, because it takes great knowledge and perception to be able to look at a whole class of talented students and still find things to correct and improve.  However, I just feel that it is not quite right to give all the credit to vocational and professional level teachers.  I personally appreciated the attitude of the Principal of the vocational school where a male student of mine trained.  She told me - of course you deserve our thanks and all the credit due to you as his teacher - without you he wouldn't have got to the level where we could accept him. 

 

A dancer is created from the input of many teachers along the way.  Even those that teach him or her for a short time leave their mark.  Modern, character and jazz teachers, summer school teachers, master classes with guest teachers all contribute to the finished "product".  Some teachers are definitely better than others, but as has been said - what works for one may not work for another.

Edited by Dance*is*life
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Thank you for some great replies especially from Dance Is Life. I started this post because the focus on this forum is usually on which are the best schools. As a teacher myself, I know that it is the quality of the teachers that make the school. Therefore if good teachers leave school A and go to school B then it might be something worth sharing here. The other reason is that there are many teachers who don't work in vocational schools who are excellent - the unsung heroes and heroines. Maybe they would like to be named on a public forum and given some recognition for their hard work.

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I thought this might be of interest.

 

http://bead109.com/2012/09/29/sharing-ballet-what-makes-a-ballet-teacher-good/

 

My own thoughts. I thank all my teachers for what they have taught me. From each I have taken some form of gem or snapshot that has become part of me. Sadly, I have had first hand experience of being taught by a teacher who set out to destroy as opposed to nurture but I take learning from this as to how not to teach.

 

There is many a time when whilst teaching a class, the words or memories of an old teacher come to mind. They have helped me not just in my dance career but in passing knowledge down the generations.

 

For me. A good teacher should explain, inspire, guide, challenge, keep you safe, create an environment where the student feels comfortable to learn and focus on artistry in addition to just doing steps.

 

It has to be said that in my opinion each teacher has to navigate many challenges throughout their career and will never be liked by everyone. I also believe it is important that every dance teacher is aware of how their own dance history has the potential to impact upon their teaching career. It is not appropriate to go down the road of 'I suffered so you must suffer too.' Sadly in some cases this still happens.

 

For me, I always try to ask myself the question "what am I doing and why am I doing it?". If I can be honest about my motives and hold on to these when perhaps I have to say something which I fear may not be received too well then I still believe I am acting with integrity. An example of this might be that as a teacher I feel that a certain pupil is not yet ready to start pointe work but her peers are. I would be doing the student a disservice by allowing her to begin pointe work when I felt she risked injury or was not ready but if I can give a clear explanation to the student in an encouraging way and in addition give her things to help her reach her goal such as strengthening exercises then these types of challenges can be navigated in a sensitive manner.

 

I personally love to watch students grow not just in terms of their dance abilities but also in confidence. A teacher is in a role of power and there is also the potential for this to be abused. It has been heartbreaking at times to see talented students who I have almost had to start to unpick the psychological damage that has been inflicted upon them. Sometimes I can go some way to doing this and other times it seems I have for them too late.

 

No two students are the same so part of the challenge is really getting to know how each student learns and holding in mind that they might need different things at different times. On top of all the points raised. A good teacher is not a good teacher unless they teach the mind, body and spirit of each student they encounter.

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Thank you for some great replies especially from Dance Is Life. I started this post because the focus on this forum is usually on which are the best schools. As a teacher myself, I know that it is the quality of the teachers that make the school. Therefore if good teachers leave school A and go to school B then it might be something worth sharing here. The other reason is that there are many teachers who don't work in vocational schools who are excellent - the unsung heroes and heroines. Maybe they would like to be named on a public forum and given some recognition for their hard work.

I think that would be up to them, to be honest. We don't allow posts which "out" other people's children and identify them, so I think if a teacher wanted to be identified on here they would identify themselves - but it would be their choice.

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What makes a good teacher is subjective and one would hope that whatever the child's ability they were in an environment that they were enjoying and learning in the classes regardless of potential of eventually making a career out of it, be it dance, academics or anything else.  I think Balleteacher sums up what I would hope every teacher we encountered believed and practised.

 

I could, but wouldn't name teachers who have encouraged and been supportive towards my dd but others would soon turn around and comment they were not for their dc and vice versa. My dd was not struck on one of her teachers last year, some of her peers thought she was the best ever, this year my dd thinks another teacher is fantastic others don't. My dd would say the best teachers are those that notice you - giving both corrections and praise, nothing worse than a whole lesson with no feedback. 

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Perhaps if someone is interested in schools in a specific area, they can ask fellow balletco-ers for details of good teachers/schools in Town X (or wherever) and then people can PM them with suggestions and information.

 

This does already happen on the forum, and seems to work well.

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Yes it is a bit like a fried egg. The peony is actually called White Swan but doesn't much reassemble that either although you cold imagine the white part as a tutu!!

 

My favourite avatar is still Spanners though!! I just love that doggy!

 

On my Spanish night (tonight) a lady brings in a staffie bull terrier/cross boxer called Maisie.....she's more staffie though.....she's a hospital and hospice visiting dog and we've all fallen in love with her. I think if I can take a piccie of her with my iPad I might use her as a new avatar at some time!!

Sorry Moderators way off topic....though I wonder if ballet teachers took their dogs to class whether the pupils would up their game!!!

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back to ballet teachers (sorry!) I would also say that certain pedagogies suit different people- my DS for example did a summer school at the Royal (probably the 'best' ballet school in the UK in most people's opinion) and didn't like any of the teachers except the ex vaganova teacher (and even then he said it was a 'watered down' version of what he was used to). So even the 'best' ballet teacher using the English style would have suited him less well than an 'average' Vaganova teacher (though I hasten to add that his Vaganova teacher here was certainly NOT average but exceptional in my opinion!!! If results are anything to go by she trained DS from having danced half an hour a week to awarded full scholarship at Kirov in under 2 years)....

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I love my dds ballet teacher! She gets so cought up in the lesson, every 1/12 hour class turns into a 2/12 hour class!when the parents ask how much longer she says "in a minute".Apart from that she calls each parent into the studio regually to give a run down on their childs progress.

It's only a hobby school and none of the

students want to be dancers.

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What is a good teacher?

 

Many of you have echoed my original comment that a lot depends on the chemistry between teacher and dancer. In addition, timing is important. At what stage in their development the dancer works with the teacher. And certainly it's essential that the teacher loves ballet and loves teaching and knows how to handle different types of people. I also agree that dancers can benefit from a variety of teaching styles.

 

Instead of focusing on who are the best teachers, maybe I should've asked you a different question: what qualities in your experience make a teacher good or bad? What kind of work ethic is important? How much and what kind of practice do students need? What type of praise should the teacher give? And how do they motivate their students?

 

These are some of the many questions I ask myself every time I teach, although I am not a ballet teacher. Any thoughts?

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Gosh, good question. IMHO, a good teacher is:

 

Constructive in the way that they correct or critique a student,

Constructively honest about the student's ability should the student have aspirations to dance professionally,

Willing for the student to broaden his or her horizons - e.g. Suggesting auditioning for Associate Schemes etc.

Willing and able to understand individual students and adjust their teaching accordingly - for example a hypermobile student with reduced proprioception needs help feeling which body part should engage.

Able to express and impart a love of dance.

 

I'm sure there are many other qualities in wonderful teachers but these are what sprang to mind! :-)

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Guest chinafish

I have had a teacher who, somehow, within the same 1.5hr timeframe, managed to make us work so much harder. I don't think there was a significantly higher or lower number of exercises done within the class, but I felt well worked after class and got so much more out of it.

 

He refused to start and exercise if we were not all in the best posture we could be and with everything being engaged. And would stop the exercise even 2 counts in if we were not up to his standards. He has this magical way of achieving this without letting anyone feel rubbish. I think he goes about the "I believe you can do better than this so let's do it at that level NOW and not waste time. Life is short!"

 

There is such a fine line of being encouraging vs making people feel like they are never going to be good enough.

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I've reading posts on this forum for a while but this is my first post. I wanted to add to the attributes people have listed above of what I think is a good teacher:

  • Not having a 'one size fits all' approach when it comes to corrections.

I didn't start ballet until I was into my 20s but I have heard the correction 'jump higher' a lot to myself/other dancers, even though it didn't help me at all. It has always impressed me when a teacher can think of other ways to correct someone if the 'usual' correction doesn't work.

  • Not 'writing-off' a student or putting down a student in front of others

I once had a RAD teacher who got the class to gather round me one day during centre practice, raise my leg in 2nd and tell the others I was an example of someone who had no turnout - I felt so humiliated. She also said that someone people 'look wrong' doing pointe work and I was an example of them. I should have complained to the school at the time but this teacher is still teaching and I wonder how many students she continues to put down.

  • Letting a student move on when the time is right for them

This was already mentioned above but it can be difficult if the school wants to 'keep' you. Even though I started ballet as an adult, I have experienced teachers who have become offended when you leave their school. I needed to leave a school for several reasons and followed the correct procedure, eg, giving notice, etc. but I was made to feel very awkward. It felt like the only legitimate reason to leave was if you had gained a place at vocational school (as a school-aged student).

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