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Advice on ballet class

(26 Posts)
elfonshelf Sat 12-Nov-16 00:23:17

DD (7) is very keen on performing arts and has been taking various classes for 3-4 years. Currently does a modern class, a drama class and two group singing classes a week, and we're adding another singing class in January.

Until September, she was also taking ballet (Cecchetti method) once a week and did Standard 1 in the summer. The difference the ballet class made to her modern was incredible and we were very, very happy with the school, the teachers and the progress she was making.

Unfortunately, the next class was only available on a Saturday and it's totally impossible for us to get there. I'm trying to find another suitable class in central London on a weekday evening after 5pm.

DD has got in a bit of a huff over it as well. Her real interest in musical theatre. She takes it pretty seriously and is auditioning for parts in the West End etc. She's decided that she doesn't like ballet and doesn't want to do it anymore.

Knowing DD, I think the issue is that the ballet class was fairly strict and they have definite ways of placing arms, legs etc whereas her modern class is a lot more free and easy. She frankly needs a bit of a firm hand at times and the discipline was actually very good for her.

I know that if I just tell her she has to go then she will get on with it, but I wanted to check if I'm being completely mean. My understanding is that for a number of roles (Matilda, Veruca Salt etc) ballet training is essential? She's also possibly interested in looking at some of the stage schools for secondary and I imagine they will want ballet training? I'd never force her to do something she hates, but given she bounced out of the last exam saying how much fun it was, I suspect it's more bloody mindedness.

Given she's only just done ISTD Standard 1, would it be an issue if she moved to RAD if that is the only option? Does anyone have any suggestions of good schools in central/south east London with classes during the week?

Many thanks.

dodobookends Sat 12-Nov-16 09:43:06

In short - yes, she needs to continue with ballet. It is a core discipline. You say yourself that her modern improved because of her doing ballet, and you are absolutely right. Incidentally all the vocational performing arts schools include classical ballet as part of their training and it is a standard part of the entry audition.

It doesn't matter which exam syllabus is studied, the important thing is the quality of the teaching, and particularly at her age, that it is fun and she actually likes the teacher smile

elfonshelf Sat 12-Nov-16 12:46:18

Thanks dodo, I will find a new class for her and just say it's not an option. She always had fun when she was actually there so shan't feel bad about it.

I was forced to play a musical instrument I hated (and was appallingly bad at) for 8 years so I'm fairly aware of what 'not enjoying' looks like.

Yamadori Sat 12-Nov-16 13:24:06

She's only young at the moment so things need to be fun for her - if she wants to take things further and is thinking of musical theatre as a possible future career, then she might need to take up tap as well. Have a look on the websites of Italia Conti, Sylvia Young, Tring Park School and the Hammond in Chester. They will all give you a good idea of what their training courses cover, and the sort of dance styles she needs. Some also offer short courses too.

elfonshelf Sat 12-Nov-16 16:31:55

She's signed up for the holiday courses at Sylvia Young and I've enrolled her for their evening singing class. She's very keen to do tap, but I've said I will only pay for that if she does the ballet too.

Biggest issue is finding classes at the right time. She already has 3 on a Sunday (modern, drama and singing) and I'm a bit wary of going the Saturday route unless I have to as it's the only day we have to do the general life kind of things at the moment.

We live in Surrey and there's not much local to us, but DD is at primary in central London (London Bridge area - we moved out but kept her at school there) and we both work there, so weekday evenings after 5pm are ideal.

SYTS do tap, jazz and modern, but no ballet classes, Italia Conti is all on Saturdays and Tring and the Hammond are too far to get too. She was at Canada Water which was perfect, but there's no weekday class for her level this year :-(

I never thought I would struggle to find something this simple in London!

As she gets older, we will rethink the Saturday thing - at the moment we are trying to keep a balance and it's nice to have a day that is generally free from commitments and free from the joys of the Southern Rail commute... although the prospect of dumping her at Italia Conti and going for some retail therapy for a few hours is starting to appeal!

GinAndOnIt Sat 12-Nov-16 16:37:16

I did ballet a lot when I was younger, but decided to quit over a very silly reason. Just one day decided not to go. My mother let me quit, and I didn't show any more interest in it for about 10 years. I've tried and tried and tried to get back into it, and have been told so many times that I have 'the gift' for it, but that I left it too late. It's one of my biggest regrets that I quit when I did.

elfonshelf Sat 12-Nov-16 16:59:20

That's so sad Gin. Would you have been annoyed if your mother had refused to let you quit?

DD and I are very different personalities so I struggle a bit with what is the right way to go with things. I was one of these hyper-focused children and my hobbies were things I practically breathed (nothing to do with performing arts... I'm a complete novice here but trying to learn fast) and she's much more laid back.

At 7 it's probably too young to know if she has the drive and determination to go down this route, but it's not as if you can put off the training till they're older and find out! You'd never expect to have to start putting things in place for a child's potential future as a lawyer or doctor or plumber at this kind of age!

GinAndOnIt Sat 12-Nov-16 17:08:53

Oh I would have been furious - but I was (am!) extremely stubborn. It's only in hindsight I can see for myself the mistake I made.

I think this is the one kind of skill that needs to be pushed in the early years if you think it will be beneficial in her future career. It's hard, because there's the view that kids are only kids once, and shouldn't have the responsibilities like an adult would, but unfortunately ballet is just one of those things that you can't get back past a certain age.

If she is laid back and would likely go if you encouraged her to, I would get her to go. Even if only for a few more years until she his puberty, it will be so useful.

Yamadori Sat 12-Nov-16 17:56:23

I mentioned Tring and Hammond as places which offer full-time training (as you said she wants to do that in the future) so you could look at their websites and see what sort of standard she needs to be aiming for by then.

I wasn't suggesting you go to them for local classes grin

You could try asking on or for class suggestions.

ElizaSchuyler Sat 12-Nov-16 18:03:48

My daughter is full time at Hammond. The audition for Lower School is a ballet class. They do sing but just to gain an idea of standard. It's ballet that gets you a place (though they then do classes in modern, tap & ftom year 10 onwards, jazz)

Dd has been set on musical theatre from a young age but decided to go to ballet school as she knows it's such an important part of the training.

For Upper school auditions at pretty much all the major colleges (the ones tha consistently get their graduates into work) ballet is a large part of the audition.

You will struggle to find non Saturday ballet classes at the lower grades. Dance schools tend to have their younger classes on Saturday as that's when most ids of thatcher want to go & also they arn't tired after a full day at school. Usually classes for older children are on week nights.

dodobookends Sat 12-Nov-16 19:20:30

Going back to the original question... you could contact the RAD and ISTD and ask for a list of local dance schools in the area you need (I think there might be 'find a teacher' search facilities on their websites).

Come to think of it, the RAD headquarters is in Battersea and I know they do weekday children's ballet classes there.

elfonshelf Sat 12-Nov-16 19:44:40

Thank you for all the suggestions and advice - am going to try and nail something down for next term.

Would ISTD Standard 2 be the same as RAD Grade 2?

ElizaSchuyler Sat 12-Nov-16 19:48:10

I might be wrong as dd only did ISTD tap & modern not ballet but I think ISTD standards are the same level but less content. They are meant for recreational dancers who perhaps take less classes. ISTD do ordinary grades 2.

I'd have to look up the syllabus.

ElizaSchuyler Sat 12-Nov-16 19:52:33

Do you know if it was a Class Examination or Graded Examination?

Cechetti is a lovely syllabus.

Cloeycat Sat 12-Nov-16 19:56:44

As a teenager I switched from ISTD (Chechetti Method) to RAD and then back again. It may just have been the particular teachers involved but the standard of teaching I received at the ISTD class was much higher. She won't struggle to move to RAD but she will find the RAD exams are quite different (includes Free Movement and Character sections). Perhaps she would actually get on better with RAD if she likes the chance to do some less structured bits which RAD allows in the free movement section.

dodobookends Sat 12-Nov-16 20:09:55

Cloeycat the RAD has changed the syllabus in the last few years and the new syllabus is very different from the old one.

There's a thread on here somewhere about the differences between ISTD and RAD, they have a different number of grades (but reach the same level in the end) so the grades aren't an exact equivalent. The other differences are that RAD grades have character dance work; and the ballet terminology differs - some of the steps have different names in Cecchetti, but you would soon get used to it. There are several Russian ballet schools in London as well, and they generally use the Vaganova method (different again!).

OP, perhaps the best thing to do is to find a school and phone to ask whether your dd can have a trial lesson - the teacher will advise which class would be the right one for her. I suspect that for RAD it would probably be grade 2 but depends on the teacher and the ages of children currently in the class, and when their next exam is due.

elfonshelf Sat 12-Nov-16 20:59:27

She did the Standard 1 Class Examination

I'm going to make a list of schools with classes that we can actually get to and then see if we can do some trials. Working full-time makes it all a lot harder - must admit that the idea of a vocational secondary with it all on-site has great appeal!

Just out of interest, what is the situation with height and ballet these days? My father's cousins were both at White Lodge but were asked to leave later as they got too tall (5ft 8"). I'm only 5ft 10", but my sisters are 6ft and 6ft 2" and my grandfather was 6ft 8".

DD has growth delay and we have been seeing the endocrinologists since she was 2, but they aren't sure what her situation will be - genetically she should reach 5ft 8" but they think 5ft 3" is more likely. She's very slim with very short body and long arms and legs and only a handful of kids with her condition so not much data to go by. She has plenty of growth hormone, but lacks the growth factor that allows your body to use it.

I went to a ballet class as a child and my 6ft 5" father turned up to pick me up at the end and the teacher took one look at him, turned to 7 year-old me and said "well, I can see you'll be too tall to be a dancer"... was devastated.

ElizaSchuyler Sat 12-Nov-16 21:49:07

The Standard class examinations are not quite the same level as the grades. It takes the form of a class led by the teacher rather than the full grades where the students are meant to perform the work from memory without a teacher present. I've got a feeling they don't learn as many excercises as well.
Standard Class Exams are meant for those who either are not quite ready for the full graded exam or who have less class time etc.

ElizaSchuyler Sat 12-Nov-16 21:51:15

No one knows the current thinking about height but anecdotally it's more about proportion. Over on balletco there are pages & pages of discussion about what the vocational schools look for & ratio of torso to height etc with no firm conclusion.

elfonshelf Sat 12-Nov-16 22:02:54

I'll have to check on the exam - I know that they were seen in groups of 4 with exercises all done by memory. I think a teacher may have been in the room observing though.

I looked on the ISTD website and they had Grades where the exams were called Grade 1, Grade 2 etc and then Class Examinations where the exams were called Standard 1, Standard 2 etc.

Having a look at Balletco... fascinating discussions.

dodobookends Sat 12-Nov-16 22:56:22

You don't need to worry about height at this stage - from what you've said she would only be taking ballet classes to support her other training anyway. There's a long road to travel yet smile

From what I gather height is much less of an issue than it used to be. More important is a small head & long neck, long straight limbs and a short torso, strong feet that neither roll in or out, a certain amount of hypermobility (but not too much) and hip joints which have the potential facility for flat turnout. When people talk about being the 'right shape' for ballet, that's what they mean. Without those characteristics, then the real advanced stuff is a physical impossibility for normal people!!

GraciesMansion Sun 13-Nov-16 10:50:05

Both my dc dance, ds at vocational school. Ballet is the absolute core of all dance styles and if you're thinking she will want to go down a performing arts route then she will need ballet. If we could access central London classes I would be looking at the RAD headquarters classes in Battersea, young dancers academy or one of the Russian schools. Which exam board (or even if she does exams at all) is a secondary consideration to the standard of the teaching.

elfonshelf Sun 13-Nov-16 19:17:57

Had a long chat with DH today and I'm going to see if we can get her into one of the RAD HQ classes. If not, then we will go down the Saturday route and try somewhere like Italia Conti.

I'd rather spend time and money with somewhere really good than opt for just any old ballet class. If necessary I will have a word with my boss and see if I can leave early one day a week so I can get her to the right class.

We're going to treat it like music theory - a fact of life if you want to do certain things. DD's quite competitive so I imagine she'll want to do exams, but not something I'm worried about.

Thank you all for the advice.

elfonshelf Fri 18-Nov-16 15:27:51

Thank you all for the help and words of wisdom.

I have managed to find a Standard 2 Cecchetti class that starts at 6pm on a weekday and is very convenient travel wise, so she will be starting classes with the Marylebone Ballet School at SYTS in January.

I was pretty frank with the teacher about Miss Stubborn and Sulky's current attitude, so we will see what happens, but given she spent 2 hours attempting to do pirouettes and grand jetés across our (very small) sitting room last night, I imagine she will whinge all the way there and then get on with it and have fun once I've disappeared. In any case we have an initial trial class.

Feeling slightly Tiger Mother and that really she should be begging to go to classes rather than being marched to them... I'm treating it like music theory for the body. Have told her that it's not optional, and that if she wants to do the other classes and wants me to continue to take time off work and organise her getting to auditions etc then she needs to meet me halfway. Apparently that's blackmail...grin

elfonshelf Mon 20-Mar-17 21:10:56

Thought I'd do a quick update 6 months on...

DD started the new classes and is absolutely loving it. Starts Grade 3 next week, both the standard and grade exams and is auditioning for RBS JA's in the summer.

She turned round to me last week and told me that she was so, so, so happy I made her go back to ballet and how much she looked forward to her lessons and loved dancing.

Phew, I can now go back to my usual Mouse Mother role.

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