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Dance schools - how inclusive are yours / should they be?

(51 Posts)
lottieandmia Mon 03-Apr-17 10:49:21

Where I live there are several dance schools and one in particular has about 500 students at least but the majority of them are not allowed to take part in shows. The principal opened another school branch for festival work which was just for the chosen few who were good enough to get into JAs and would win at completions etc. She then never looked in on the other children at the original school. My friend whose child was at this school complained that they would be asked to contribute money for the festival girls to pay for their transport to competitions!

I am not sure how widespread this sort of thing is? At your dc's dance schools how inclusive is it? I think it must be disheartening for a child who feels they are just making up the numbers.

AlexanderHamilton Mon 03-Apr-17 11:21:53

At every dance school my children have attended (dd danced but is now at vocational school and ds does singing/drama) every child takes part in the annual or bi-annual show.

Some children are invited to do solos/small group dances and some are invited to take part in external performances eg a local theatre dance event.

inarki Mon 03-Apr-17 13:48:10

This can be a problem with some of the much larger schools. Some will often make students audition for parts in the shows, or just hand pick them from the elite students. JA auditionees are usually selected from a 'list' the teacher has. Private lessons can't be requested and will only be offered if the child has potential or proven track record. Some schools, if you join from another, will ask you to audition if you want to join the festival team.
It can be problematic. It's easy to get lost and overlooked in some of the larger schools. The school we use includes all students in shows but it's not as large as yours.

Are you thinking of going elsewhere?

inarki Mon 03-Apr-17 13:51:38

It can create a divide at schools. Favouritism, rightly or wrongly, comes up, usually about the festival students.

Only some schools, just to reiterate again.

It's much nicer when all students are included and able to access festivals and private lessons and shows.

lottieandmia Mon 03-Apr-17 13:55:11

My daughter doesn't do any dancing at the moment. But she wants to do Stagecoach so really needs to start ballet lessons. I would obviously rather she went to a school with a nice inclusive atmosphere.

lottieandmia Mon 03-Apr-17 13:56:01

My daughter is more interested in singing and acting.

dodobookends Mon 03-Apr-17 14:10:06

lottie If your dd wants to do Stagecoach, then they don't actually do ballet really, so that wouldn't be an issue, They tend to do more modern/jazz/tap dancing, drama and singing.

Dance schools should really let all students be in their annual/biennial shows IMO - it doesn't make sense to spend years practising a performing art and then not be allowed to actually perform!! They do have to give extra support and training to those who show particular promise or talent, but that shouldn't cause everybody else to feel ignored. It can be a difficult balancing act for the teachers, as they would sometimes have to prioritise the most able, but there are ways of doing it so other people don't get disgruntled or annoyed. There shouldn't be any blatant favouritism...

lottieandmia Mon 03-Apr-17 14:15:49

At this particular school the elite girls are very good. But if you are a younger sibling of an elite you automatically get a leg up even if you aren't that good so I think favouritism does come into it a bit. My friends daughter has moved to another dance school where she does win medals in festivals but she just wasn't one of the chosen few at the old school.

I know she doesn't have to do ballet to go to stagecoach but I think she might find the dancing difficult without ballet.

AlexanderHamilton Mon 03-Apr-17 14:21:54

My daughter did Stagecoach for 8 years Lottie. She started ballet after a few years because she realised she wanted to take her dancing seriously & audition for full time training but many of her fellow students did not do ballet

lottieandmia Mon 03-Apr-17 14:23:28

Thanks Alexander. I guess we'll see how it goes.

nonicknameseemsavailable Mon 03-Apr-17 19:47:15

that doesn't sound right and not a true reflection of majority of dance schools I don't think. We have seen quite a few dance school shows near us and no they definitely don't select who does them, I do know of a couple of schools which do but they also do non selective shows each year too so everyone does get a chance to take part and then some can audition to do an additional show.

Witchend Tue 04-Apr-17 20:47:06

Mine started at a lovely school where the teacher leant over backwards to avoid favouritism.
After around 8 years there teacher suddenly changed and had her favourite pupils and everyone else could get stuffed.
She's still doing that and has gone from long waiting lists to struggling for numbers.

dancinfeet Tue 04-Apr-17 23:30:57

Dance Teacher here - I will try to give you an opinion from 'the other side'.
Without doubt, some teachers are very blatant in their favouritism, however this also happens in other sports and activities and even in schools. This does not mean that all dance teachers favour some students over others. It is true that some 'opportunities' are more suitable for certain students than others, such as auditions, competitions/festivals, JA's etc.
JA's is the Junior Associates of the Royal Ballet School - no teacher is going to send a child to audition who has a 0% chance of getting in to the Associates programme. This would be a waste of the parents' time and money, a waste of the audition panel's time and very misleading and unkind to the child who is being led to believe that they have the necessary requirements to train under the Royal Ballet methods. Teachers screen their dancers carefully and select only those who they believe may stand a reasonable chance, even so out of thousands of applicants only a handful of children are selected each year for the Associates. The same goes for open auditions for musicals, shows and pantomimes - if your child cannot meet the requirements of the audition then it is pointless all round sending them along.

Dance festivals can give the impression of favouritism as some schools select only certain students to take part. As a teacher it can be difficult as you know that the standard is usually reasonably high, even in the novice sections. They are strictly segregated by age, not level, so a 9 year old Grade 1 student who does 45 mins of ballet a week can find herself in the same section as a 9 year old who is in Grade 5/6 level classes and studies for 10+ hours a week. My advice to anyone whose child is being overlooked for festivals - go along and watch your child's age category when your local festival is on. Look at the average ability of the children in the category and ask yourself if your child is of the same overall technical standard as those you have watched, and is capable of remembering a solo of approx 2 - 2 1/2 mins duration and performing it confidently in front of an audience. Confidence plays a large part in festivals I have known some lovely young dancers who would have crumbled on a festival stage due to lack of self-confidence, and others who although capable dancers would not have the self motivation and drive to put in the necessary required hours of home practice.

I do believe that all students in dance should be permitted and encouraged to participate in exams/awards (if not capable of passing a graded exam, a medal test or class award should be offered), and dance shows should be inclusive with every student taking part. I do also feel that no student should be forced into a situation such as an exam / audition / competition where they feel completely out of their depth or placed in a show routine where the choreography is far too complex for their capabilities, but likewise no child should be denied an opportunity or held back from because of unfairness to their peers. Therefore, in some situations it is necessary to be selective.

If you feel that your child is genuinely being excluded because of favouritism, then I would advise speaking to the teacher to find out why, or what areas of their technique your child can work on to improve their chances of being selected in the future. There is also nothing wrong with dancing JUST for fun / enjoyment / a hobby, after all only a few will ever go on to be professional dancers!

Originalfoogirl Tue 04-Apr-17 23:34:34

I assumed this was about including children with disabilities. My girl would love to go to any dance class, but I haven't found a single one who will take her because she has a walking frame.

That's what a lack of inclusion really looks like.

dancinfeet Tue 04-Apr-17 23:50:36

Originalfoogirl, are you looking for a specialist class for children with additional needs, or do you want her to be included in a mainstream dance class, and which dance subjects? It may be easier for your daughter to join a tap or musical theatre class than say, ballet, modern or acro for example

lottieandmia Thu 06-Apr-17 00:01:06

Original - I have a severely disabled 15 year old so please don't suggest I don't know 'what lack of inclusion looks like'.

Danceinfeet - I wasn't talking about auditions for the royal ballet. Clearly they have a very tight skill set they are looking for. Iirc they ask for photographs of your parents so they can see what your genes are likely to hold in store for you as you get older.

I just remember my friend being frutstrated with this school I mentioned because they were saying her daughter wasn't ready to do her exam. She moved to another school and got a distinction.

On another note I phoned one dance school to ask about lessons for my dd. They said that she will be in grade 1 but would need to take her exam in June! I thought this was very unrealistic having been a dancer myself - usually I spent 9 months on a syllabus before being ready for the exam. So I've chosen another school which the timing is not so good for but they let the children take the exams when they're ready.

Witchend Thu 06-Apr-17 00:03:16

I totally agree with you. there should be some level of entitlement based on ability. It is perfectly fair enough to give the main part two years' running to the same person if the same person is the best.
I'm speaking from the point of view of a parent whose dc were never going to be picked as the best. They enjoyed it, but were never going to star in ballet.

In fact I spoke to the teacher on more than one occasion because I felt she was unfair to the children who were good by not allowing them the opportunities they deserved because she was trying too hard not to give someone too much opportunity.

When the school changed into being about the favourites, the favourites were a group with whom she's friendly with the parents. They aren't by any means the best, even though I have been told by one of the parents that she gives them extra coaching before the exams etc. which she doesn't offer to anyone else. They still don't score the highest.
When they'd been given all the opportunities after one set of exams this was pointed out-and the teacher dealt with it by removing the class affected' s exam results from the website hmm.
They're front line in all chorus numbers, any individual parts in the shows are shared between them and the parents will be offered the front row seats too...

Originafoofoogirl there is some thought going into this at present. Dd2 was asked if she could join a research group for helping people with disabilities in dance. She's an upper limb amputee, but I know some lower limb were also asked. Dd2 couldn't make the week though.
Avoid any RAD their disability policy is roughly "do you really expect us to change into the 21st Century".

lottieandmia Thu 06-Apr-17 00:05:08

My friend is a teacher / choreographer at dance fest and I know they take disabled students.

lornaballet Thu 06-Apr-17 00:10:32

That does sound a bit soon for exams. My child did one exam after 7 months, but had covered the work already in another syllabus at a different school. It will be approx 9 months when she does her exam next month

I wasn't talking about auditions for the royal ballet. Clearly they have a very tight skill set they are looking for. Iirc they ask for photographs of your parents so they can see what your genes are likely to hold in store for you as you get older

Did they do that at one time! Speaking only of RB Junior Associates; I know they used to ask for occupation of parents (which I thought ought to be irrelevant), and even up at until last year wanted the height of parents, but not this year. They are making positive improvements!

lottieandmia Thu 06-Apr-17 00:11:55

I think that's the problem witchend when it's about who they like the most (parents) I've noticed that the favourites at this particular school are in some cases excellent dancers but the younger siblings of a favourite automatically are assumed to be brilliant before they're old enough to even take lessons. From a young age they get put into a special programme where they're doing loads of extra lessons a week. So if course they are going to be better than all the children who don't do that iyswim.

If anyone watches Dance Moms, I thought it was interesting that after Maddie Ziegler left who was clearly the favourite, the other girls like Kendall and Nia started getting better choreography and actually winning their divisions because they had more opportunity. That was my view anyway.

lornaballet Thu 06-Apr-17 00:13:19

Original - if she wants ballet you could contact one of the dance organisations; RAD or IDTA, for example, and ask them to help you find a class. The RAD posted something about this subject fairly recently I think.

lottieandmia Thu 06-Apr-17 00:13:30

Yes lornaballet - my knowledge is out of date I think! Good to know they are not asking for parents professions any more - how judgy!

Witchend Thu 06-Apr-17 00:17:32

Thing is lottieandmia, it also depends on "how" they take disabled students.

There's a huge difference between them competing in with everyone else and the marking scheme being adapted to suit them-not by any means making sure they win, but giving them a fair bite of competition.
And another possibility where they pop all the disabled ones at the end and say patronisingly "oh you're all so brave I can't possibly choose between you" and give them all a cheap plastic medal that says "I took part".
Or the other end of the spectrum where they say "we're totally fair as we judge everyone on the same merits" so basically dd2 would have no chance because they'd say they can't score her missing arm because it isn't there <glares at RAD>

Gym (where a missing arm is much more significant) has been far more accepting and adapting than dance where a good proportion of the time it makes much less difference.

lottieandmia Thu 06-Apr-17 00:31:04

I agree Witchend. Ballet in particular calls for you to have a perfect uniform and hair so that you can get the maximum marks for grooming as a baseline. To be honest, I've rarely even met a dance teacher who isn't a bit unhinged.

My dd3 actually has dyspraxia and inattentive ADHD (medicated) so she isn't without her own issues. But as she gets older I'm finding that she can self regulate and concentrate better. She's been asking to go to stage coach since she was 6 but I felt she wasn't going to be able to concentrate for that length of time then. She's going to do ballet mainly to help her with dancing. In the past she did gym but stopped because she didn't like the Asymmetric bars.

taxi4ballet Thu 06-Apr-17 14:42:53

The Royal Ballet School absolutely does not ask for photos of parents!!

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