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 Post subject: Re: rehearsal and performances policies at schools
PostPosted: Thu Nov 11, 2004 8:06 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 29, 2004 11:01 pm
Posts: 110
Location: USA (Midwest)
Would you kind people humor me with another gut check? I know how I think about these (related) incidents, but it's always good to get other's reactions. Here are Parts 316 and 317 of the ongoing saga of my daughter's dance life:

1) The Nutcracker director agreed to reduce our daughter's rehearsal schedule to what we had originally committed to -- that we've established. So tonight, she goes to her regular class and gets the revised rehearsal schedule which features her name and each of her non-appearances duly noted on it for all to read about. Of greater concern to us, though, is the fact that, because of the still escalating number of rehearsals, she will miss about two-thirds of them. Though she is a very good and quick study of choreography, she acknowledged that she is concerned she won't be able to master it by show time, in large part because the director keeps changing the choreography every rehearsal. And the director has already got other dancers learning her parts, so we suspect she (the director) might be building a case to dump our daughter right before performances begin. We've discussed all this as a family, our daughter has indicated she's inclined to drop out of the show now, and we've asked her to sleep on it and tell us her decision in the morning.

2) We know that another disgruntled mom down there had a showdown with the director yesterday which ended with the director informing the mom that "the program is not up for discussion." This evening, our daughter strayed into a studio just as the director laughingly asked this mom's dancer son how his mom had been last night. The son detailed for her how upset his mom had been and some of the uncomplimentary things she had said about the director. The director, my daughter said, continued to laugh about it. What disturbs me most with this scenario is seeing that the director has so little respect for the parent of this boy that she would encourage him to take sides against his mother in making fun of her. All the woman (who is NOT one of those pushy ballet mom types) did was ask the director if she would be willing to meet with other parents at the school.

Am I right to be really, really upset about all this?

As I've said, our game plan is to hang in there with the very good teacher our daughter has for the rest of the school year. This Nutcracker director does not teach her, nor is there anything she can do to penalize our daughter if she does indeed drop out of the Nut show.

However, complicating matters just a tad is the fact, as I think I've stated earlier, that the big program in town teaches a very bizarre dancing method. They bill it as classical. It is anything but: it's a mixture of yoga and ballet. However, they have had the power to get away with this because ours is not the most sophisticated of dance markets, so few people have questioned it. There is a new director there, who brings a background in Bournonville to the place, and there are rumors that he'll get the curriculum back to something more conventional, but as of yet, he's made no changes.

So I guess my last question, in this long-winded message, is: would we be better off transferring our daughter into a big, stable program with a questionable curriculum and hope that her "perfect ballet body" (per assessments from those who have seen her, including folks from the Australian Ballet, National Ballet of Cuba and many other high-profile places) can withstand the weird training until she's old enough to head to a residency program? This questionable curriculum does not allow dancers to work full turnout until their mid-teens, and we've heard that graduates of the program are identifiable in the ballet world because their feet might look at "9 and 3," but their knees look at "10 and 2," hence their unhireability.

OK, that's enough from me. Thank you for any and all insights!


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 Post subject: Re: rehearsal and performances policies at schools
PostPosted: Thu Nov 11, 2004 11:18 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 25, 2002 11:01 pm
Posts: 678
Location: Petaluma, California
JaneH...It sounds as if your daughter needs to be at more rehearsals if she would like to perform. This is what is being communicated to you. Does your daughter wish to perform? Even if it seems like chaos (unpleasantly for you, at times) try to support your daughter and be flexible if she would like to do this. If not, you might consider taking her out of these particular performances...it sounds like she might be made to feel like she is not at the same level as the other students if she doesn't make the extra rehearsals, which could be hurtful for her. I don't know these folks, so I feel uncomfortable writing anything negative about them. I'm not saying that this is the way I would run things, but it is what it is...take it or leave it. I think the fact that she has a good teacher and is making a lot of improvement is important to consider. But, keep your eye on the other school with the new director. I can't advise you because I have no idea of the method of which you speak (yoga and ballet?) or the teachers...But, if you hear that good things are going on at the school under the new director with the Danish background, it wouldn't hurt to go and check it out. Sometimes, change takes a little while...Good luck, and I hope things work out for you and for your daughter.

<small>[ 12 November 2004, 12:47 AM: Message edited by: GN ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: rehearsal and performances policies at schools
PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2004 6:21 am 
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Hi, GN, thanks for responding so soon. I hope the fact that we've been driving 45 minutes each way for 5 years to get our daughter to her dance training should stand as proof that we support her :)

We discussed the situation as a family last night and left it up to her to make a decision. This morning she announced she would prefer to drop out of the production. I think she's fed up with adults who can't behave like adults. We've always emphasized thinking long term when it comes to dance, so one missed Nutcracker isn't a disaster, to her way of thinking. She seems to be more excited right now about two upcoming summer-intensive auditions we've agreed to let her try. This is occurring at a younger age than we originally expected it would, but I think, given everything that's gone on at this school, getting out there in the dance world beyond our area and seeing what it's like would be a very good way to find out how other places are run.

And we'll also continue to evaluate other training options in the area. I don't know if I should state the name of the place that teaches this yoga/ballet method. I don't think any of its acolytes are on the board here, but when I mentioned it once on another board, they got very upset and defensive. One of the hallmarks of the method that worried us, though, is the fact that dancers are not allowed to attempt a fifth position until at least the age of 12. The port de bras also seems to be very weak: the photo they used on their school's brochure last year featured an advanced student whose shoulders were noticeably hunched. All very strange and depressing to comtemplate.

So that's why we keep waiting and watching.


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 Post subject: Re: rehearsal and performances policies at schools
PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2004 10:58 am 
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Location: Petaluma, California
Your support of your daughter is wonderful. My parents did the same for me, and I will always (even though they are both gone now) be so grateful to them...Sometimes age is a factor in auditioning for SIs. For many of them, your daughter needs to be at least twelve, but this does vary. Have her audition for as many as possible. This will be good experience for her, and it makes available more options for her when the time comes...

<small>[ 12 November 2004, 11:59 AM: Message edited by: GN ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: rehearsal and performances policies at schools
PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2004 11:10 am 
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Posts: 1876
Location: New England
A number of thoughts:

1. Sounds like your current school really does know how to teach ballet and the other one doesn't really.

2. Performance does take a lot of rehearsal.

3. I don't know how big your Nutcracker is or what is usually done. But any director doing his or her job will double up parts, especially when there is an indication (for whatever reason) that a dancer may not be there for all the shows or might not make it to opening night.

4. The actions you describe of your director sound absolutely horrid. Two contrasts with my experience strike me.

a) In my company, confidentiality is important. There is very little privacy in the studio anyway. But it is part of the director's job to treat everybody fairly, and to keep discussions and arrangements with dancers confidential. Ballet is not a competetive sport; rather, it is each dancer's individual struggle with the demands of the art form.

b) Kindness costs nothing. Your director seems to have the attitude of "I'll punish you if you ever cross me." That may fly in national politics these days, but it is really quite mean. And unprofessional. And what you described with the kid and his mother is unconsciencable, even IF the mom she cut down had been a pushy ballet type --- it shows a contempt for humanity. Directors who treat people like that, as if they are mini-dictators, deserve to lose the support of everyone around them. Whatever his faults may be, at least my director is a real gentleman.

----------------------

In my experience, "cost overruns" inevitably happen, and performance requires so much rehearsal in the end it will suck you dry. Time and time, the overrun hits: we thought we would get a break, but then we have to come in and rehearse extra instead. That is show business.

But our director "rules" by gaining the respect of each and every person he works with --- students, professional dancers and parents. This is a daunting task, and it means he spends a lot of time listening to dancers and parents --- even when what those people are saying is foolish. (I've said my share of foolish things to him).

Our director does not always please everybody (he can't). And he is far from perfect, especially when it comes to chaos. But when the chaos hits and he asks more from us at the last minute --- we grumble, but then we come through. Because he has worked hard to EARN the respect of everyone there, we believe he cares about each and every one of us as a person, and we therefore want to do our best for him. Not only is this modus operandus good for the dancers, it is also good for the show --- he manages to suck more out of us in this "gentle" way than he would ever get with Machiavellian tactics. He knows exactly what he wants on stage, and is VERY good at getting it out of dancers.

I could not imagine dancing for anyone as tyrranical as what you describe. Dancing is too hard already to have to deal with little tyrants as well.

Two other things:

* Our school goes to extra effort to make things run smoothly for the parents, keep them out of the chaos. It is professional dancers who need to deal with rehearsal chaos, not children and parents.

* Remember that since you are the customer, the school has a primary responsibility to you --- in particular, to give your daughter the best possible ballet training over the long run. Everything they do for/with/to her must ultimately tie in to that goal, since YOU are the customer. That is different from being a professional dancer, in which you as a dancer have a primary responsibility to the audience. Professional dancers get used and abused to a certain extent, students should not. Many directors, I've found, don't understand this. They try to run their schools like professional companies.


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 Post subject: Re: rehearsal and performances policies at schools
PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2004 11:12 am 
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I think you are right to be wary of what you see at the "Yoga-Ballet" school.


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 Post subject: Re: rehearsal and performances policies at schools
PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2004 6:45 pm 
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Thanks, citibob, for all the useful thoughts. I've got a partner-in-crime who talked to the director at the yoga-ballet school today (she's got an earnest young dancer, too), and he was very honest with her, acknowledging that he wants to phase the weird stuff out, but it'll take time. So I guess the question is will we sit tight til fall 2005 or fall 2006. If we can get the great teacher for another year, next year, and steer clear of the Nutcracker director, we might be in luck, but by then my daughter will be 12, and I know she'll need to be training more than they'd be willing to give her at this current school. Only the kids in the upper level, which is run by the Nutcracker director, get the full complement of classes. In the general division, where we've kept her, she gets 3 technique classes a week, an hour of modern and a pre-pointe class (when it isn't converted to rehearsal!). We've supplemented with private classes every other week with a wonderful, semi-retired teacher in the area (oh, how I wish she ran a full-scale program). We've tried to keep her training on a sane but linear progression of hours. So far, so good. I guess we'll have to just keep taking it one step (or bouree) at a time. :D


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 Post subject: Re: rehearsal and performances policies at schools
PostPosted: Mon Nov 15, 2004 5:30 am 
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Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK
Jane - you sound like a lovely parent and I would love to have you at my school. Unfortunately not all parents are like you and because of many awful experiences us teachers can have with some parents it can make us very wary.

I have just completed the first weekend of our biannual show and I have to say some parents seem to make life as difficult as they can by moaning about how inconvenient dates and times are that they have known about for quite some time and have not been changed. One parent had the gall to moan at my doorperson because we overran by 20 minutes at the dress rehearsal. the over run was only because we were doing photos (for the student and parents benefit), the actual rehearsal finished 10 minutes ahead of schedule. My door person gave the option of the parent to take their child and miss the photos but they declined. Basically, they just wanted a moan.

You are obviously not like this and the majority of my parents aren't but the ones that are do make you wary.

I think your concerns of privacy and the amount of changes is well justified. I think what I would suggest is that you stick with the school and the good teacher but just weigh up carefully the performances that you agree to, perhaps choosing by director.


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 Post subject: Re: rehearsal and performances policies at schools
PostPosted: Mon Nov 15, 2004 8:02 pm 
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Location: USA (Midwest)
You're apologetic about a dress rehearsal that only goes 20 minutes long? No, Joanne, you sound like the lovely person and I wish my daughter could go to your school!

But I know where you're coming from on the wariness. My husband is a swim coach and we've also met many, many of Those Parents (whom you can recognize from 100 paces by the rabid look in their eyes and the bumper stickers on their cars -- and their kids are never the truly gifted ones). It's such a delicate dance, building trust in these teacher and parent relationships. And that really is what's all about, isn't it -- trust.

thank you, though, for the kind words. It's assessments like that which are keeping me motivated as we navigate this tough time.


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 Post subject: Re: rehearsal and performances policies at schools
PostPosted: Wed Nov 17, 2004 5:05 am 
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Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK
Jane you are so right. The only people who have asked is it necessary for their child to attend the dress rehearsal have children who need that rehearsal the most!

It is good that you have an insight into what happens from the other side, then you can at least judge when things are not as they should be.

You may have already said this but is there an overall principal of the school that you could talk over your concerns with?


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 Post subject: Re: rehearsal and performances policies at schools
PostPosted: Wed Nov 17, 2004 8:49 am 
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Location: USA (Midwest)
Hi again, Joanne. The overall principal of the school also seems to have "listening issues." When I did try speaking to him in that super mature way of saying "what can WE do together to resolve OUR challenges?" he totally blew me off with a lecture about how I need to be more sympathetic to his problems. And another parent who has sat down with him got treated to a lecture about how wrong we parents are about our concerns over too much performing. So I don't feel confident that he listens so much as he tries to convince others of the errors of their ways (and we've encountered this attitude with him before).

No, I think the solution is to look elsewhere. It does look like the big school in town is making very positive changes: another family has already visited and our daughter's private-lesson teacher has spoken with the new director there.

So, I'm in the process of setting up a visit. But now I have to deal with the heart-renching reality of helping my daughter continue doing classes at the current school while we do this search. And, being a sensitive kid, it's tough for her. Her other buddy who has already visited the big school has decided he's transferring in January (he's a 10-year-old boy), and the idea of continuing on at the current school doesn't seem to bug him as much as it bugs my daughter. My husband says that's just the difference between boys and girls. I would almost rather switch her immediately when and if we decide that the big school is a better option. I know right now she's looking at her current teacher and 3 classmates (yes, enrollment is that low) and morbidly envisioning life without them. Oh, the melodrama. It never ends in the dance world, does it?

<small>[ 28 December 2004, 08:22 AM: Message edited by: JaneH ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: rehearsal and performances policies at schools
PostPosted: Wed Nov 17, 2004 3:53 pm 
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Location: New England
Quote:
Oh, the melodrama. It never ends in the dance world, does it?
Ha ha, that's funny! :)

No, I suppose it doesn't end. The best we can do is:
a) Try not to add to the melodrama by making some of our own.
b) Try not to get caught up in others' dramas
c) Remember that there REALLY IS more to life than dance.


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 Post subject: Re: rehearsal and performances policies at schools
PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 6:35 am 
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Posts: 110
Location: USA (Midwest)
thanks, citibob. Those are all marvelous thoughts!


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 Post subject: Re: rehearsal and performances policies at schools
PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2004 4:24 pm 
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Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK
Jane just wondered if there were any further developments or solutions to the problems?


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 Post subject: Re: rehearsal and performances policies at schools
PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2004 9:53 am 
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Location: USA (Midwest)
You're very kind to ask, Joanne. I was tempted to post an update, but didn't want to risk boring folks. We ended up going and visiting the big school in town where we happily discovered that the new director is putting a Vaganova and Bournonville curriculum in place for the 12-and-younger level. He loved my daughter, she loved him. His second-in-command, who would also be teaching her and is an NBS of Canada person, loved her, too, etc., etc. So we thought, OK, it's now a viable option and we'll give it a try next school year.

And then things started to get punitive at her current studio, as I feared they might because of her dropping out of their Nutcracker. So, after much thinking and talking, we decided to switch her, beginning in January. And other families, including her best dance buddy, are leaving, too, for the other school. Turns out we aren't the only ones who've been frustrated. As I think I predicted at the beginning of this thread, I'm afraid this school is a sinking ship which is such a shame because they do have some very good teachers (although there have been signs from the really awesome teacher our daughter has had that he may be following us to this other school).

So, long story short, there's a sense of hope and optimism here again. Change is always a bit traumatic, but I think we've managed it in a way that has kept it pretty even-keel for our daughter. She's dancing around the house again, and that's always a sign that she's happy. :)

<small>[ 28 December 2004, 08:25 AM: Message edited by: JaneH ]</small>


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