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How much ballet?

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Hi.  I have posted here before (and on another forum) but it sometimes feels like everything changes but nothing changes...

 

Short story:  my daughter is 11 and would like to go to vocational dance school.  Her dance teacher is supportive of this, but says she feels she isn't ready yet - specifically she feels she needs to work more on flexibility and to mature emotionally a bit more.  Both reasonable points.  So we are hoping to look for entry in Year 9, and to spend time preparing in the year and a half before auditions for that.

 

However, the amount of ballet my daughter does fluctuates wildly.  She actually dances (temporarily) at two schools - one of which is her academic school (2 lessons a week), and one her dance school (one ballet lesson a week).  She will be leaving her academic school at the end of next month, and will not be carrying on lessons with that teacher, as her dance teacher prefers girls to commit to only one teacher, but made an exception because her other lessons were in school.  So she will be down to one lesson a week with her dance teacher.

 

Now, I have mentioned this is a concern to her teacher, who has previously offered her private lessons.  Which is fine (apart form the cost!) except they keep being cancelled.  I think she has had about 4 lessons altogether since they officially started in January.  Either her teacher is ill (she has had serious health issues recently, bless her) or the school is preparing for festivals/exams etc and my daughter's private lesson is squeezed out.  Even if it ran consistently, I don't feel 2 ballet lessons a week are really enough for her to reach the standard she will need.  

 

Now, the teacher has intimated that she may (after this round of exams at the beginning of July) be allowed to join extra classes taught in the school.  However, I really wanted some advice about what to ask for in general.  I know the plan is that her class are taking ISTD Grade 2 in July (they are very behind - mostly due to aforementioned ill health and stuff) and will go on to Grade 3 and take that by Christmas.  Presumably while this happens they will have 2 lessons a week.  (As it happens daughter will take her Grade 3 RAD in June with her academic school).  As far as I can gather there is no Grade class directly above them - the Grade 4's and 5's are also taking their exams this July, so will become Grade 5 and 6.  This means there will not be a Grade 4 class for my daughter to join as an extra class, she will have to either join a grade which is 2 above hers or the grade below hers.  The teacher has also previously said that the body conditioning type classes are "for seniors" so I have my doubts about daughter being allowed to join them either.

 

So I guess, what I am asking is, do you think it would be helpful for her to join lessons in a grade below her current grade?  Or 2 grades above?  Or to push for being allowed entry into the seniors (some of whom are only 1 year older) body conditioning class.  How much ballet should she be doing?  I am at the stage of becoming a little "you make an effort to offer what we want or we will find someone who does" about it, not least because the teacher at the academic school runs her own ballet only school and has offered my daughter free lessons in the short term and certainly as many lessons a week as she wants in the longer term.  And yet, daughter has danced with her actual dance teacher for much MUCH longer, and she is a good teacher and we do feel some loyalty to her.  So I would prefer to be able to ask for something reasonable from her current dance school than move her.

 

Congratulations if you follow all that - I am not sure I do!

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Uh - actually, that was quite long.  What I really wanted to ask was - how much ballet do you think a child hoping to apply for Vocational School should be doing each week?

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Quick question; are any Associate Schemes within travelling distance of you? And if so, has your dd auditioned for any?

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Really I can only find Ballet Cymru, and I think she is not old enough for them.  I read they are 12+.

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Yes, I think so. That's a shame but it would definitely be worth thinking about for when your dd is 12.

 

I understand and appreciate the loyalty to one teacher, but I do think that if the teacher has had issues which has meant cancelling classes, she should understand that if she cannot provide all the training required, you will have to "top up" elsewhere. If it helps, at 11 my dd would have been doing two Graded Ballet classes (one at Tring Park and one locally) plus one Modern class, but she also started Associates in Year 7 so would have been 3 hours or so in London on a Saturday (which obviously increased each year). I don't think she started Pilates until she was 13.

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Yes, she is going to hopefully audition for them next year.  I am applying for a place on one of their intensives over the summer for her, too.

 

I think one of my concerns is that I don't really have a clear idea how much dance will really be needed to get her to where she wants to be.  I do know that from Jan - March she was doing a LOT of dance (about 15 hours a week - 2 RAD classes, 1 ISTD ballet, 1 festival solo ballet and (sometimes) a private ballet, plus her tap and modern) and she made enormous progress.  Since then she has dropped to 3 ballet lessons (2 RAD and 1 ISTD) and the RAD will soon vanish too...  Which leaves her... kicking her heels a bit...

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My daughter is around the same age (although in high school so maybe a school year above?) 

She does ISTD grade 3 - 2 lessons per week. One of these classes is for everyone and one is an exam class. She also does 1 grade 5 class as, like your situation, there isn't a grade 4 class available. So in total she does around 3 hours ballet a week (plus some classes in other dance styles). She manages the grade 5 fine and enjoys it although you can tell she isn't of exam standard for this grade. However, she is not intending on applying for vocational school or associates so I'm not sure if that really helps answer your question! 

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It does help, Chloe - it means that attending 2 grades higher isn't a completely stupid idea!

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Yes, she is going to hopefully audition for them next year.  I am applying for a place on one of their intensives over the summer for her, too.

 

I think one of my concerns is that I don't really have a clear idea how much dance will really be needed to get her to where she wants to be.  I do know that from Jan - March she was doing a LOT of dance (about 15 hours a week - 2 RAD classes, 1 ISTD ballet, 1 festival solo ballet and (sometimes) a private ballet, plus her tap and modern) and she made enormous progress.  Since then she has dropped to 3 ballet lessons (2 RAD and 1 ISTD) and the RAD will soon vanish too...  Which leaves her... kicking her heels a bit...

You're right; 15 hours a week is a lot at that age! To be honest, she may have struggled to do that much and keep up with homework demands at secondary school - depending on how much homework her school gives. I think you need a happy medium, and to get that, it sounds like an honest chat with teacher is needed.

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With hindsight my dd was doing far far to little ballet in year 6.

 

For various reasons she took her grade 2 exam aged 9 in Year 4 then spent 2years in a once a week Grade 3 class. She did modern, tap & several mysical theatre classes as well as the occasional RAD Assocuates session but we found she was very behind where she needed to be when she started vocational school in year 7.

 

Others were around Grade 4-5 & some had also started IF.

 

WITH hindsight we should have moved her to a school that offered at least 2 grade classes plus a non syllabus or vicationsl class per week. But we didn't know then what we know now v

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This is a tricky situation - trying to fit in the necessary training is hard. It seems that her ISTD teacher may not be able to provide enough.

 

While it is quite right to respect her longer standing teacher the bottom line is that if she cannot provide enough you will need to look elsewhere. If your dd likes the teacher at school her dance school may be a good place to start looking.....

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I suppose in my head I was thinking if she could do 4 ballet classes in a week, plus join the conditioning class, that would be ideal.  In an ideal world that would be her 2 ISTD grade classes (up until she does her exams anyway), plus one lesson for the grade above, one private lesson (or possibly 2 if she only has one grade lesson) and the lower senior conditioning class.

 

I would prefer to come to some arrangement which means I don't have to move her, but I need to know what I want to ask for before I go in, as I find her teacher quite intimidating and have a tendency to nod and agree with everything she says.

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I would say as many hours as you can fit in. If your dd is hoping to get into vocational school in year 9 she will have to be as least as good as the dc already there and they will have been doing 15+ hours of ballet weekly from year 7. Many of them will have been dancing 5 days a week from an even younger age which is probably why they got in at year 7. There are very few year 9 vocational places available so the more hours your dd can put in now the better.

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So your DD is currently in Y6, and is 11?

 

My DD is a year older, and has no intention of going to vocational school. All her cohort at her - reasonably serious - dance school have, at least for the last couple of years, followed a timetable a little bit like this:

 

3x 1 hour ballet lessons. DD did her ISTD Grades 4 and 5 in Year 6, so at this point in Y6 would have done Grade 5, Grade 6 and Inter Foundation lessons.

1x1 hour ballet exam preparation in the term before an exam.

1x45 minute beginner pointe lesson

 

So 4.45 hours of ballet. In addition:

1x30 minute private lesson

1x1 hour stretching / body conditioning / flexibility

1x45 minute modern, 1x 45 minute tap. (x2 in exam terms - I think DD did her Grade 5 ISTD modern in this term of Y6)

1x2 hour 'performing groups' rehearsal, sometimes an extra hour with the 14+ year olds because DD is very tall and sometimes subs in their dances

1x1 hour of choir is optional

 

More in e.g. show terms. As I say, none of DD's cohort have plns to go to vocational school - historically, graduates from the dance school often go to Birds, perfromers etc at 18, a few go to e.g. White lodge younger, but none of DD's cohort have such plans. they are just 'average' dancers as far as that school is concerned. In that context, the amount of dancing your DD does sounds quite low if she is to be ready for a vocational school at 13.

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My dd started vocational school in year 9 and prior to that she was doing about 5-6 hours of ballet per week, which included a non-syllabus class. She also attended an excellent monthly associate class. Although she had to work very hard, she was by no means behind when she started vocational school and I think that was largely due to the non-syllabus classes that gave her a much broader experience than her RAD classes and also a much wider ballet vocabulary. I do think to some extent it should be quality rather than quantity at that age.

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Have a look at the U.S. Forum... There's a section for parents of under 13's with a thread on hours per week. Quite interesting to see how ambitious they are across the pond!

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Dance is life - the rest is just spare time :) this is my DD's view. As regards ballet lessons 3-4 per week 90 mins each if possible, seems to do it for her. There is also no rule that says you have to do each grade to completion and sequentially, at least until the higher vocational grades. DD did grade 5 and IF in parallel and this worked really well. It can work well for the teacher too since it doubles the number of classes they can provide without extra timetabling. Also greatly agree with previous comments about doing associate/non syllabus classes as this gives added depth and variety. She also practices at home every day and does daily stretching exercises, entirely by her own choice.

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I think I would be less concerned about the hours and more concerned about the standard. Working on grade 2/3 at 11 is not a very high standard as she will not know or understand the names of steps which others will know, and obviously won't have tried them so they are unlikely to be technically correct. At 11 she should be working on Grade 4/5 together with IF.

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Harwel - I know.  *sigh*

 

I do know that her teacher doesn't like to start girls on IF until they are 12, because she doesn't like them to start pointe work until that at the earliest.  But the grades is a huge issue.  However, it should be possible for her to catch up, if I can get her teacher to offer her more lessons.  Shouldn't it?

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Pointework in IF is mainly just a few excel uses at the barre & one simple centre exercise.

 

My dd did IF for 12 months before going on pointe, she learnt everything else & did the barre on Demi until she was ready for pointe.

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I think I am going to have to be *that* parent.

:D You're in good company, there's quite a few of us around (me included)!!! Sometimes you have to take a step back and look at what is on offer from your local school, and if it isn't enough, then no matter how loyal you feel to the school and teacher, then it may well be crunch time. 

 

Incidentally, if my memory serves me right, at 11 my dd was doing RAD grades 4 and 5, and also inter foundation (with about 5 minutes a week on pointe at the end of the class).

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How kind of your other ballet teacher to offer free classes, and regular classes after that. Do you think the answer to your question is in this teacher. Perhaps your daughter could attend auditions for year 7 purely for practice. What about rhythmic gymnastics to increase flexibility. One class of ballet per week is definitely not enough if your daughter wants to get into a good vocational school. What about trying open days at the Royal Ballet. How does her teacher feel about your daughter attending workshops and summer schools?

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Pointework in IF is mainly just a few excel uses at the barre & one simple centre exercise.

My dd did IF for 12 months before going on pointe, she learnt everything else & did the barre on Demi until she was ready for pointe.

I agree. I've been reminded that dd was also taking Inter Foundation classes along with Grade 4 at 11. Her class did the same; learned the whole syllabus on demi and then did the pointework last.

 

I also agree re. quality vs quantity.

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Big girl pants definitely required! I would talk to the teacher who is putting her in for her grade 3 from school, and ask her how she can help your daughter reach the standard she needs in order to audition in 18 months time. She sounds to be more reliable and quite keen to help your dd. Loyalty works both ways and if the other teacher can't offer what your daughter needs, she should tell you so and acknowledge your dd only has one chance to get this right.

 

Good luck, I know how hard this bit is! Moved twice before, to ensure the correct training at different stages. Your dd is your priority and the transfer can be done in a nice way, how the teacher reacts is her choice.

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My DD is also in Y6 at the moment. She did 2x 1h IF class, 1x 45min RAD grade 5(now 6) class, 1x 35min Pilates class and since March 1x 30min pointe class. On top of that 2h15min associate class every other week. She also did Pilates and feet exercises at home most days. She is now going to a vocational school in September with 4h of dance lessons (2h will be ballet) Mon to Fri.

 

If your DD wants to try for Y9 entry she should ask to join the 2 grades above class AND the grade below class (my DD did that last year to build up strength and stamina) AND the body conditioning class. If the teacher is supportive she will agree to that - if she doesn't don't worry about being loyal too much, focus on your DD's future. The other teacher sounds good to me. It looks like you might be from South Wales like us - not easy to find a big school with lots of classes etc - my DD goes to 2 rival schools! They had a bit of a problem with it to start with but I didn't care, I was only trying the best for my DD. After a while all ended up well. One school/teacher was her "main" teacher signing up all audition forms, helping with her solo etc etc, the other school/teacher was to get more hours in a week.

Also try to sign up for workshops and master classes, Easter and summer schools etc whenever possible.

Hope it does help. Good luck.

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OK, lots to think about.  Thank you all so much for commenting.  I have a much better idea now of the conversation I need to have with her teacher, and of the action I will probably need to take if the conversation doesn't have the outcome I want.

 

Thank you again.

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