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My 8 year old has been involved in a ballet ministry this year and we are starting to work on our budget for next school year and I had a question for those who are familiar with dance. 

We have two options: continue with the ballet ministry or join a christian dance company. 

The dance company would be classes once per week 45 min. (with larger classes) and the ministry would be twice per week 45 min. per (small class - probably 2 girls total).

I don't know enough about dance to know which is better from a learning dancing perspective.

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Dance mom here (though, geez, I don't know how that happened). Seconding the above. From the perspective of learning dance, more often and smaller groups is always theoretically better. But quality of instruction is above that. I mean, I'd opt for fewer lessons with a better instructor.

If the primary goal is dance, then my guess is that you won't find the best instruction in Christian specific classes and organizations. But if the goal is letting a kid follow her interest or letting a kid express her art for her faith, then obviously that's a totally different matter. I mean, at age 8, it might be that friendships are the primary thing you're looking for, not professional quality dance instruction.

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I always prefer small classes and more frequency even for my dd who is just a recreational dancer. My dd has actually ended up in classes at two studios. One is a huge studio with almost 200 kids. Lots of activity. Fun events like dancing in the city parade. Huge recital. Four sold out shows on the local college campus. The studio advertises on billboards around town and gets pictures in the paper of recitals and events. It's a fun thing to be a part of.   She has maybe 12 dancers in her ballet class and her teacher doesn't give much individual attention to any of them. 

The other studio is a brand new studio started by a young woman who was a teacher at a big studio that closed. It is a one room studio in a big office building. There are only 2-3 per class and maybe only 20 dancers total. They do a smaller recital in the high school auditorium with less than 100 people in attendance. Way less hoopla. Way more personal attention.

I like the second studio better but my dd started at the first and is pretty attached to the whole experience. I can't blame her. It is FUN to dance at the big studio. Lots of glitz. Lots of everything. But the second is better for instruction and more reasonable in time and money. 

I think identifying goals is important. My dd dances for fun and exercise and to have something to fill her time. If she was training for a career then the big studio wouldn't be doing anything for her, I don't think. But it is fun and that is a large part of why we do it.  

As with any activity you get into with your dc, it is important to know what the goal is for participation. 

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And just a note- the best ballet training in my town is a Christian dance company/studio associated with the local Christian university. I'm Catholic and the company is way too evangelical for my comfort level so we have taken another route. Now, we are in a very small city in the Bible belt so I wouldn't expect this to be the case in other areas but I would not necessarily discount a Christian company for dance instruction. If my dd was interested in pursuing dance more seriously our options would be to drive 50-75 minutes to nearby bigger cities or join the Christian company. I am sure this is unusual on a national scale but in certain parts of the country I can see it being the case. 

 

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21 minutes ago, teachermom2834 said:

And just a note- the best ballet training in my town is a Christian dance company/studio associated with the local Christian university. I'm Catholic and the company is way too evangelical for my comfort level so we have taken another route. Now, we are in a very small city in the Bible belt so I wouldn't expect this to be the case in other areas but I would not necessarily discount a Christian company for dance instruction. If my dd was interested in pursuing dance more seriously our options would be to drive 50-75 minutes to nearby bigger cities or join the Christian company. I am sure this is unusual on a national scale but in certain parts of the country I can see it being the case. 

 

That's a good point. Around here, it's definitely a... well a primarily religious thing. If anyone were serious about dance specifically, they wouldn't choose a Christian group. At least with ballet, it's very easy to get bad training and develop bad habits. I would worry about any non-mainstream group. But again, it all depends on the OP's primary goal. If it's have fun, share fellowship, make friends, do something physical, then absolutely none of the concerns I'm raising actually matter. If it's more like, she loves ballet and would like to see where it goes... I'd say make sure you're with instructors who can take her forward. You can always drop out... but it can be hard to get into ballet after a certain age, like around 10 or 12. That's not very fair... and I can rant about all the activities that are closed to kids once they're young teens and what nonsense that is... but it's also something to know. And for ballet, that includes poor training.

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42 minutes ago, mamashark said:

How’s do you identify good or poor training if you have no training of your own?


For ballet:
- ask about the instructors' own training and credentials -- a good instructor should have come out of a reputable dance company or gone through quality training with an emphasis on proper form, and have good credentials
- is there discipline, in the form of encouraging students to take dance seriously, starting with uniform requirements -- requiring hair in a bun, no jewelry, pink tights, black leotard
- what does the studio look like -- are there mirrors for students to see themselves to correct form? is there a sprung wood floor (essential to preventing injury -- working on a vinyl-tiled floor in a studio that is in a strip-mall is not going to be the best for the student's body)
- sit in on a class; do the instructors correct the students' form -- at the barre, and out on the floor
- do the instructors make sure that students are not going on pointe before feet have fully developed -- you can permanently damage foot bones by going on pointe too young
- is there more emphasis on proper form and true understanding of dance -- or is it more about  "put cute kids in a costume on a stage for parents to enjoy"

Important proper form corrections are things like:
- turn out comes from the hips, not the feet (some people think turn out is about having the feet pointing sideways from the body -- that leads to twisting knees and injury)
- also, keep knees in line with toes (i.e. -- don't try and turn the feet out farther than the hips & knees, as that causes knee damage)
- bending backwards comes from the upper back, not lower back (which can lead to damage to lower back)
- use core muscles (abdomen) to hold in stomach but also to pull up out of your hips

Etc.

 


ETA -- PS
Just to be clear, when I say "on pointe", I mean in the special pointe shoes that look like the dancer is balancing on one toe. I DON'T mean when the dancer is balancing on the balls of the feet and the toes, with the heels lifted. That second move is perfectly fine for all ages. 😉 

Edited by Lori D.
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DD18 is no longer dancing, but she was in preprofessional ballet training until she was 16.

It is entirely possible to receive poor training in ballet technique. If the goal is to learn things properly to build a strong foundation in dance (which is what I would recommend, but is not what all people have as a goal), at age 8, ballet classes should be twice a week for 90 minutes each. This is standard ballet training advice. You might like to read more on the Ballet Talk for Dancers forum. https://dancers.invisionzone.com/

So, to be completely honest, neither of the options you presented meet that criteria.

If your daughter's goal and your goal are just to learn to dance expressively as an outpouring of faith, and you are less concerned about advancing in technique, I think that you can visit each program and see which one is a better fit in that way.

If the goal is to become a well-trained dancer, I would look for a different studio. I would argue that being a well-trained dancer will enable someone to better express her faith through dance and is therefore the better option, but that's just me. You might see it differently.

If you choose one of the studios that you mentioned, please please please please do not let your daughter go up on pointe. As in never, unless she switches to a studio that will provide better training.

It's perfectly fine to choose recreational dance, as long as you don't expect it to result in especially good ballet technique, and as long as it is just a childhood pursuit. Any long-term goals should include proper technique training, which is not considered to be possible with 45 minute or once a week classes.

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50 minutes ago, mamashark said:

How’s do you identify good or poor training if you have no training of your own?

You can read a lot -- A LOT -- about this on the ballet forum that I linked in my previous post. When DD was 9ish, I found that forum, and I learned a ton by reading through all of the threads, old and new. You can read without joining, but if you create a username and join the forum, you can access more things on there.

Also, I would echo Lori D.'s advice about some telling things to look for when visiting studios.

Edited by Storygirl
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Ballet Talk for dancers is definitely a black hole of information.

I know of excellent, pre-pro studios that still do a single class per week for 8 yos starting Ballet I. So Storygirl's suggestion that twice a week 90 minutes is the only way isn't totally correct, but inevitably it ramps up to twice and then three times a week soon thereafter. Typically around age 8 is when students start actual ballet and two classes is the most common - that is what they do at ds's studio. Before that it's usually pre-ballet.

Strongly seconding what Lori said about looking at the teacher's training. The teacher should have had training and danced professionally at a professional company. If you want serious training for your kid, then you want to be at a studio that sends kids to companies. Like, one of the best shortcut ways to know if your studio is legit is that they'll have a wall with their alums who have graduated and gone on to dance at various companies - and not to get into their summer intensives, but to actually get into their training programs or studio/junior companies. Sometimes, if you live in a more rural area, that may not be an option, but that's the gold standard. That or a school attached to an actual professional company. That's where my ds dances now. At a school that's part of a nationally known company.

Of course, that's only if your goal is serious ballet training. As was said above - that's far from the only goal with dance. For me, the ideal would still be to try and get serious training... at this age, the cost and intensity aren't that different from the for fun classes with inferior instruction. It's only in a couple of years that it ramps up. But even then - at least around me - there are options for quality instruction that are less intensive. You just aren't going to master the same skill level as the kids who are dancing 20+ hours per week. Which, again, is fine. Different goals, different dancers.

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1 hour ago, Lori D. said:


For ballet:
- ask about the instructors' own training and credentials -- a good instructor should have come out of a reputable dance company or gone through quality training with an emphasis on proper form, and have good credentials
- is there discipline, in the form of encouraging students to take dance seriously, starting with uniform requirements -- requiring hair in a bun, no jewelry, pink tights, black leotard
- what does the studio look like -- are there mirrors for students to see themselves to correct form? is there a sprung wood floor (essential to preventing injury -- working on a vinyl-tiled floor in a studio that is in a strip-mall is not going to be the best for the student's body)
- sit in on a class; do the instructors correct the students' form -- at the barre, and out on the floor
- do the instructors make sure that students are not going on pointe before feet have fully developed -- you can permanently damage foot bones by going on pointe too young
- is there more emphasis on proper form and true understanding of dance -- or is it more about  "put cute kids in a costume on a stage for parents to enjoy"

Important proper form corrections are things like:
- turn out comes from the hips, not the feet (some people think turn out is about having the feet pointing sideways from the body -- that leads to twisting knees and injury)
- also, keep knees in line with toes (i.e. -- don't try and turn the feet out farther than the hips & knees, as that causes knee damage)
- bending backwards comes from the upper back, not lower back (which can lead to damage to lower back)
- use core muscles (abdomen) to hold in stomach but also to pull up out of your hips

Etc.

 


ETA -- PS
Just to be clear, when I say "on pointe", I mean in the special pointe shoes that look like the dancer is balancing on one toe. I DON'T mean when the dancer is balancing on the balls of the feet and the toes, with the heels lifted. That second move is perfectly fine for all ages. 😉 

So I don't know how to interpret the ballet school that her teacher went to, but it's super local and probably not what qualifies as a big name, but everything else you mention here is happening in her classes. The dress code, studio, proper form, etc. When I sit in on the class I'm hearing lots of form corrections exactly like what you're describing, plus a lot of straight legs, pointed toes, etc. 

 

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1 hour ago, Storygirl said:

You can read a lot -- A LOT -- about this on the ballet forum that I linked in my previous post. When DD was 9ish, I found that forum, and I learned a ton by reading through all of the threads, old and new. You can read without joining, but if you create a username and join the forum, you can access more things on there.

Also, I would echo Lori D.'s advice about some telling things to look for when visiting studios.

thanks for that link, I've got a lot to think about and that sounds like a good place to start learning!

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What is it you and your dd hope to get out of dance classes?

As Farrar pointed out, working towards serious training and a professional career is not the only valid path. Three of my children so far have taken ballet classes, at several different schools. None of them was or is interested in ballet as a profession. If one of my children did want to go that route I would do my best to support them but so far the reasons my children dance haven't included that one. They dance for enjoyment. They dance for better body awareness. They dance for regular fitness. They dance because they like performing. They dance as a social undertaking. (Different reasons at different times for different children.) Ballet specifically has been more about learning some dance fundamentals and hasn't been their primary focus even within the realm of dance. They do Irish dance, and musical theater, and acrobatics, and tumbling; a couple have taken tap classes. 

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