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Changing Dance Schools


Dance Mum
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Hi everyone - this is my first post :) my DD is 10, she has attended the same dance school from age 3, I never thought it was for anything other than fun, she started to compete in local dance festivals age 4/5 and has had reasonable success in these, last year a famous "London" school started up a satellite school in our area offering lots of difference classes and DD and a group of her friends are attending classes there in addition to the ones they attend at regular dance class, this is creating friction with the dance teacher, she isn't happy about us attending the other school, even though it has not impacted on her at all, she has let other girls know about auditions for production at our local theatre, but has clearly excluded the girls who are attending the satellite school.  The next bit! whilst watching the ballet sections in the dance festival earlier this year, I commented to my friend how good the girls who attend York and Leeds Associates are, she had never really heard of these, her daughter is an excellent dancer and had great success in the festival, my friend looked into York and managed persuade our dance teacher to sign the audition forms, I didn't hold up much hope of my DD getting a place, and our dance teacher made it quite obvious that neither did she, but all credit to my DD she has got a place. DD and I have asked our dance teacher several times if DD can join in with another ballet class for extra practice (she currently only does 45 mins a week) to be told no, I am quite worried that when she gets to York in September she will fall behind and perhaps not hold onto her place.  I am seriously considering the need to change DD's dance school, but not sure the best way to proceed, do I move her with her friends (we are all fed up of the tension) as they are a "dance family" and have a great relationship, or do we tough it out and hope it improves.

 

If anyone has any advice its greatly received :)

 

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Hello dance mum. Most teachers do not like children to take classes at 2 different school, so this is not unusual. However, I believe any good teacher should encourage children to audition for associate classes and to actively discourage is, in my opinion, wrong. I had a similar situation but did what I thought was right for my son and he has been very successful so far. The dance teacher did take it out on him, by excluding him from things and like you, I waited a little to see if the situation improved (it did not). I then looked into different schools, and moved him, something I am very glad about. I hadn't realised how much of a bashing his confidence had taken and it was something the new teacher worked very hard to improve. You have to find a teacher who is technically strong but above all one that encourages and values the children they have in front of them. They are not just teaching dance, a good teacher enhances self esteem, confidence and a belief that children can set targets and reach goals - a valuable life skill.

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Well done to your DD on her associate place. I agree that teachers often do not like children to take classes at 2 different schools - certainly when they are younger and your DD is only 10. You mention 'classes' at the satellite school - is this ballet or other dance styles? If your current teacher is only able or willing to offer one 45 mins class a week, is it possible to take the equivalent ballet class at the satellite school? I would hope that your teacher will be supportive of the associates place regardless.

 

Re the local theatre productions - just another take on it - have you thought that it may not be a case of excluding girls as she is unhappy with them attending something else but rather the fact that she wants to offer the opportunity to those that have more time for these productions rather than overloading a 10 year old who already does (in her opinion) more than enough dance classes and activities - with impact on time and finances for families too?

 

I would advise that whatever you do, you make decisions and choose what you believe is best for your DD - regardless of her friends and her 'dance family'. Your DD is an individual and needs to be regarded as such and not as part of a group that does not want to be separated as everyone progresses at a different rate - especially when they have shown promise and been accepted onto an associates programme - she may not always be with those same friends

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Thanks Harwel and 2dancersmum :D

 

When DD and her friends started at the satellite school we were told that if they took the same disciplines that they take at the regular dance school they would not be able to be entered into the festival for the dance school, my DD takes the Musical Theatre class at both schools and a few of the girls also take Jazz or Singing at the satellite school which are not offered at our school, so we have no clashes of style.  The dance teacher has let one of DD's friends join another ballet class for extra practice, but flatly refuses to offer my DD anything else, if I take her to the satellite school for extra ballet, the dance teacher will then stop her entering festival with her ballet, character and song and dance, which is the part of dance that my DD loves.

 

I have tried to keep an open mind on the local theatre group productions, and now we know were the auditions are advertised we can keep up to speed with that ourselves.

 

I'm not a dancer - so all help/advice is greatly received - I think the next step is to talk to some of the other dance schools about DD and what classes support they can offer us, I have always thought DD was an ok dancer, but never thought we would have to make choices about dance schools and classes :o that's the scary part!

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Is it possible to look for another festival school in the area and go and watch a class or two to get a feel for it? As a dance teacher myself, I know how 'possessive' other teachers get about their students but I also try to remember that you are the customer, essentially, and you want what is best for your DD. If that means moving to a different teacher then that is what you have to do, especially if your current teacher is not giving you what you are looking for (as a customer).

 

Dance schools are odd places; parents and children spend so long there, it often becomes a place of friendship - parents sometimes get to know teachers very well and feel loyalty to them. But at the end of the day you wouldn't have gone there in the first place without the sole objective of your DD learning to dance as well as she can. If you're not getting that any more, then it's time to look elsewhere.

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Thank you drdance and farawaydancer

 

I feel DD needs all the support and help that is available to her, she currently takes Ballet, Tap and Musical Theatre she also swims, although we know the swimming may have to be shelved once she starts at York in September.

 

I think the hardest thing about thinking about moving school is the friendship and loyalty - I feel as if I have spent a huge chuck of the past 7 years at the school and its going to be a hard habit to break, also the inevitable meeting at festival time is worrying me too :(

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I think that what might help regarding the friendship/loyalty aspect, especially re other parents is that true good friends should understand that you only want what's best for your daughter. If you make the effort to keep in contact with them once you move away, and arrange to meet up for coffee/lunch/visits to the theatre etc away from any dance studio, you can make the friendships work by themselves. Then meetings at festivals will be positive and another chance to meet up with friends, rather than an awkward situation where you are both fearing what each other is thinking.

 

If, however, they can't understand your reasons then perhaps the friendship isn't all that great anyway? Don't forget that when one door closes another opens, and while it will be hard to go to a new school and make new friends, you may find a whole bunch of really supportive parents who welcome you with open arms!

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I always feel a little concerned when these sort of dynamics emerge without a justifiable explanation being given by a dance school. Is it possible to have a face to face discussion re your concerns with teacher?

 

I guess I would recommend stepping back and looking at the bigger picture in terms of what your daughter wants to do with her dance. If there is the possibility that she might want to try to pursue this as a career then any decisions should be planned around this.

 

Although they provide performing experience, dance festivals are not essential and most schools offer some kind of performing experience in one form or another. If a reasonable explanation can be given by the teacher then it might help resolve the issue but if not then it might also be worth going to observe classes at other local schools to see what they can offer. I would be wanting to know why your daughter is not allowed to do the additional class you requested and the rationale from the teacher. 45 mins ballet at 10 is quite a limited time at her age if wanting to pursue a dance career.

Another thought and I don't ask you to name the other program your daughter attends but have you checked out how it is viewed by other dance teachers or professionals?

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When one signs up at a dance school one is a customer buying a product.  You don't buy that product because of friendships with other customers, nor do you need anyone's permission to buy the product somewhere else.  The person selling the product sells it succesfully (or not) because of its quality - not because of refusing "permission" to buy the product somewhere else.

 

Any teacher of worth will encourage the student to branch out, to explore, to widen horizons and won't ever be threatened by such exploration on the part of the student.  No teacher can possibly know everything there is to know on any given subject.  There are many paths - ways to do things - dozens of different preparations for a pirouette - and no one teacher can cover it all.

 

In addition, it is very helpful for a new eye and voice to communicate with the student.  That new voice and eye can find new paths of comunication, different approaches to problems and new roads to explore.  

 

If your child decides to take this further she will come across many different voices and eyes in auditiions and her schooling should prepare her for this and sticking with any one school and/or teacher will limit her ability to interact and profit from the many people with whom she will of necessity have to interact.

 

True friendships will still be viable.   Friendships should not limit your choices.  There will be other dance festivals and other opportunities to perform.  At ten yrs of age her emphasis is on learning and then performing - not the reverse.

 

If ballet is important to her, 45 min.per week is woefully inadequate.  She should be doing 60-90 min. classes at least three times per week.   And that should increase as she gets ready for pointe at 12 yrs of age - if that is her goal.

 

At a new school there will be new friends - and true friends at the old school will want what is best for your child.  A tension filled classroom and/or waiting room lounge or dressing room is not conducive to a good environment for learning.

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I don't have this problem my dd teachers are amazing and nothing is too much trouble for them. My problem is that my dd is sooooo comfortable there she is shy about exploring new place such as summer schools, and vocational schools but I know she wants to dance professionally

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Dance Mum, your DD's teacher is putting obstacles in your DD's way rather than helping her. It is ridiculous not to let your DD attend a second ballet class if she is keen to do so. I would seriously think about changing schools because your DD's teacher is being unsupportive and petty. Associate teachers work alongside the local teachers and your DD will need to make progress at her local school if she is to keep her Associate place. Anjuli, makes the point that you, the parent, are the paying customer but, for some reason, ballet parents don't think of themselves in this way - at least in the UK. I think that that's because there is a bit of a mystique about ballet and many parents know very little about ballet training and the ballet world in general and therefore defer to the teacher in everything. Obviously, a parent shouldn't be second guessing everything that a teacher does but a good teacher has the confidence to explain his/her reasons for the decisions which s/he makes and parents will generally accept those decisions even if they are disappointed with them if the reasons are dance-related and not connected to the teacher's hurt pride, possessiveness or other inappropriate personal reasons. On a related point, a while ago I asked my daughter's then violin teacher, by way of a note in the 'contact book', when my daughter might take her Grade 2 violin exam. The teacher took incredible offence at this innocent question and wrote me a stinging reply saying 'I'm the teacher and I'll decide when she will take her exam' and then something to the effect that if I didn't trust her judgment then I should change teachers. Well, I did change teachers not long after that, actually after my daughter had taken her Grade 2 exam (which she passed with a high distinction) which was actually not long after this exchange between us. I thought that her behaviours was very rude and quite bizarre but she was a rather odd woman who I suspected suffered from some sort of mental health problem (this incident wasn't the only reason for me thinking this). I took the view that I couldn't work with her if I had to tread on eggshells in case I offended her and that if she wasn't prepare to treat me - the paying customer- in a respectful manner then I didn't want to pay part of her income.

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Although not for same reasons, my dd has changed schools in the past. Its never an easy decision, and dd was reluctant due to friendships. However, we discussed reasons for and against moving & agreed that moving was best. There are obviously some issues at current school, but weigh up the issues against any good points. If poss discuss issues with current teacher & see if situation can be improved. Ultimately you have to go with what is best for your dd. Good luck & well done to your dd for getting into york

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Wow - thanks to Balleteacher, Anjuli_Bai, Staceydor Aileen and t-rose for sharing your experiences and knowledge, you have given me different thinks to consider and think about.

 

I'm looking foward to watching DD and her friends in the end of YBS summer school performance on Thursday.

 

I think the most important thing that I have never taken into consideration is that I am a customer and am paying for a service. I have felt loyal to the dance teacher but this is starting to fray.

 

Shygirlsmum - hopefully we can both do the right thing for our beautiful budding ballerinas.

 

And thanks everyone for congratulations on getting into York we are so proud of DD ????.

Edited by Dance Mum
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We recently moved dance schools and I made my daughter's make the decision themselves.  They both doesn't want to leave because of friendships and being comfortable there.  We made a pros and cons list of their current school and new school to help them.  I then gave them cards with both school names on and they both had to show each other their choice after a count of 3.  They both chose the new school.  We have all made some fabulous friends at this new school and now wonder why we didn't switch earlier because they are so happy with the new school.  Good luck with any future decisions you make.

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Aileen, while I understand your wanting to leave a teacher for not wanting to walk on eggshells, I found your post quite offensive regarding the teacher being an 'odd woman' who you suspect of having mental health problems. While I don't want to steer the thread away, I feel it necessary to respond. It is statements like yours which perpetuates the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Just because someone acts in an eccentric manner (many talented artists are very eccentric) does not mean that they have a mental health condition. On the other hand, 1 in 3 people will have a mental health problem on their lifetime, and a mental health issue does not make a person odd, or weird, or dangerous. There are many people with 'hidden disabilities' including mental health conditions, diabetes, epilepsy etc who walk amongst us, live fully functional lives and do highly responsible jobs. Winston Churchill led the country successfully through a world war while dealing with mental health issues (all without the medication and treatment available nowadays).

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I don't think aileen was suggesting this teacher didn't lead a full life, but she said that there were other instances which she felt suggested mental health issues. Aileen didn't allaborte what these other situations were though. I do know a lot of friends and colleagues who have had mental health issues at some point in their lives, all have them have been different in their behaviours. I didn't read this post to be offensive?

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Dance Mum, congrats to your dd for her York place, and I can only echo many of the other really helpful comments. We moved dance schools after more than 10 years with the first one, and it was the best thing we could have done. Your dd's teacher should be supporting her in her ambitions, and not putting obstacles in her way!!

 

Although your dd enjoys her festivals, the amount of time devoted to them can sometimes 'eat' into the time available for training, and if she is really keen she does need to be doing at least two ballet classes a week, and yes' she probably does need to think about dropping swimming now.

 

Perhaps you might be able to chat to someone at the end of her summer school, and ask for advice?

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I think the anxieties associated with changing dance schools (for whatever reason) are two-fold. Firstly there is something about ballet teachers which attracts a strong loyality but as a parent we need to remember that our dcs needs are the priority and most times it is possible to leave a school on good terms if it is approached in a positive and honest manner. When my eldest dd needed a school which offered more lessons we found one suitable then went to see the current teacher with a small gift, thanked her for all she had done and explained our reasons for leaving (ensuring we gave the correct notice required). It is always worth remembering that all the teachers ( good or not so good) our dcs encounter on their journey contribute to their overall development as a dancer. Secondly the issue of our dcs friendships. When we start sending our kids to classes it is usually just for fun and therefore the friendships that they subsequently make become part of the enjoyment. However those friendships are almost certainly based on a shared love of dance and it is therefore just as likely that the same type of friendships will be formed with another group of similarily-minded kids. We had to change schools several times (for different reasons) and each time my dds have formed lovely friendships some of which survive a move and others which dont. In fact a new person in a class is often seen as quite a novelty and serious ballet kids generally seem to be quite welcoming (although their parents are not always so). So my advice to any parent in this situation (and it does seem to come up quite regularly) would be don't be afraid of change. If you have reached the stage where you are thinking about it then you probably have actually already made that decision. Put your dcs needs first and if it doesn't work out think again. I have known dcs leave a school to return at a later date and most teachers/pupils are actually more accepting of this than you would think although unless the reasons you left have changed this is probably not an advisable move (beware ' grass is always greener' syndrome).

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drdance, the teacher wasn't eccentric (most music teachers are not eccentric in my experience) and I wouldn't say that her behaviour stemmed from an 'artistic temperament'. As far as I am aware, she had never been an artist in the sense of being a professional performer. I'm sorry *if* she had some sort of mental health problem but there were various reasons which made her difficult to deal with, not least many cancelled lessons, sometimes two or three in succession, which could not always be made up because the lessons were given at school. Whatever the reasons for her manner and behaviour, I didn't want to have her as my daughter's violin teacher any more as I didn't feel that I could work with her. As the 'paying customer' I could change and I did.

 

Finally, I don't think that you can dispute that sometimes MH problems can make people very difficult to work with or live with. A friend of mine nearly had her children taken into care because of her husband's erratic behaviour (which was deemed to be dangerous to the children) when he was suffering from severe depression. I also had to deal with a colleague, who was also a friend, when she started to make unfounded accusations about her work being sabotaged by other members of staff - which was very difficult because it was a small organisation and I did not have the resources of an occupational health department to call upon.

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I also have this problem with two DD I have spent fifteen year at a Dance school where I have been nothing but Loyal Honest to there dance teacher . Now because of Bullying issues which were not dealt with it has resulted with a child being a Victim in order to get around the real issue . Any one who can help please P M We are all distraught but my heart goes out to my DD .

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Unfortunately this seems to be common place.  Some DC outgrow their school, others feel sidelined when new pupils attend their school which affects established relationships and confidence, and some teachers are just not equipped to deal with growing issues.I do know of some talented children who have considered giving up dance because of similar issues, and that would be such a shame.  

 

For me, if the matter cannot be resolved with the school / teacher directly, then without a resolution I cannot see how the situation can improve, and therefore as a paying customer and with your DC's happiness and best interests at heart, it may be best to look into moving schools. 

 

It's an emotional and distressing situation to be in, but no harm in looking into other local schools and seeing what they have to offer.  Maybe visit a few and get a 'feel' for the place?

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Dance Mum I do feel for you it is such a difficult position to be in. I had a similar sort of problem whenmy DD was just 7. She had been going to a school for three years which, when she joined had an excellent standard with a large number of students going on to vocational school. As you say one builds up loyalty to a teacher and we were no exception, I made costumes for the shows and DH helped move props and scenery. However, after three years the teacher seemed to lose interest, stopped doing exams, seemed to have the older girls (unqualified ones) taking the classes and only seemed to be working on show work rather than syllabus or technique. Things came to a head when I glanced into DDs class one day and saw her standing looking bored and doing nothing. I was shocked since DD always lived to dance. They were rehearsing for a show at the time so we didnt want to let anybody down but after the show we went to the teacher and told her that DD wanted to do exams so would be leaving. The teacher got quite nasty and said some very hurtful things despite our previous help and loyalty, luckily DD was not around to hear the remarks. we were sad to leave but we know we ultimately made the right choice, in the end you know if it doesnt feel right, it is not necessarily about number of classes but more about the fact that things dont fit any more. If your DD is keen and talented which she clearly is if she has an associate place then her needs are the most important thing. Go with your gut and dont wait, in my experience if you are concerned now it only gets worse because you begin to pick up on every negative thing and it gets more unhappy.

 

Hope you can sort everything out,

Best of luck to you DD

Dramascientist

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Suppose one is happy with the school/teacher but has been there for a few years.......I would say it is still advantageous to either find other classes elsewhere in addition to the present school and/or leave entirely.

 

A settled routine where one is comfortable is a routine that needs a bit of shaking up.  In my experience both as a teacher and as a student, I always gained from change.  It was not easy, it wasn't comfotable -- but that's the point.

 

I wouldn't recommend it for the first 3-4 years of study - but after that, yes.  It doesn't have to be dramatic or traumatic - something as simple as adding a second teacher.  

 

As much as any teacher tries to vary the class, use varieties of music and movement, her/his brain is the brain of one person and the brain tends to relish routine and becomes "blind" to the fact of routine.  Sometimes it is as simple as always starting a glissade with the back foot - then when the student is suddenly asked to start a glissade with the front foot - the brain rebels at change.  However, if it is always used to change the rebellion will be less traumatic.

 

Not only is movement in need of constant change, but so too is sight and sound.  If the teacher is constantly trying to get a student to alter her  weight/balance placement - eventually, she subconsciously grows tired of correcting this and the student does too  - she tunes it out.  But a second/new voice and eye might approach this problem differently - or just the sound of a new voice engages the student.

 

How many of us as parents have experienced this?  We tell and re-tell - or advise - our children about some issue and we can see they tune us out.  But someone else says the same thing to them - and they "hear" it.

 

This is also true of space.  Often when in a new studio it takes a couple of lessons to accommodate to the new size, shape, lighting, etc., of the new space.  One can test this by using the old comfortable studio but turn around and do the class with backs to the mirror - it's very upsetting! This, too, is why suddenly being on stage is disorienting - the space is different - no walls - different lighting.  

 

We each experience this when we drive.  When traveling the same road every day we might tend to mentally drift - but on a new road one pays attention.

 

I am a firm believer that learning needs variety of experience.  

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