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Too long in ballet grade?

(30 Posts)
grainnewaterfall Sun 24-Jun-18 03:16:44

I'm asking for a friend as our children don't attend the same dance school, hence name change. I think it's more than a bit off and think child has been failed by the school but thought I would ask for opinions.

Friend's child (nearly 12) has been in Grade 3 ballet for almost three years. Apparently corrections are very few or general corrections, such as 'some of you are doing this, it should be like this' (class of 11-15 depending) he has reached a point where he is bored, thinks it is pointless and his confidence has been affected.
He was once of the youngest when he joined, now he's one of the eldest. There is also some favouritism with competition children receiving the most correction, and they tend to do the exams, while he is overlooked. Apparently there are a couple of people like him in the class.
I think the school doesn't like to put children in for the exam unless they have a good idea they'll receive a distinction. The irony is that he only received distinctions in his old school but now he thinks his technique has deteriorated through lack of correction.

Friend is upset to have got it wrong and let so much time pass. She doesn't know whether to wait for an exam or cut losses and move somewhere else.

I don't know if I've forgotten anything there. Thanks in advance

blackdoggotmytongueagain Sun 24-Jun-18 03:51:40

We have separate classes for competitive dancers and recreational. There is a big difference - the competitive dancers get more classes and develop faster, taking exams more frequently. The recreational dancers do it because they enjoy it, but there isn’t quite the same imperative to improve. It sounds as though this school is trying to deal with two cohorts in the same class?

MonsterKidz Sun 24-Jun-18 04:20:58

That does seem a long time. I’d generally think one grade a year, maybe 18months to 2 years at the most. But we do grade exams regardless of the result, if the child is ready and has learned the syllabus.

I’d encourage Mum to speak to teachers and make a decision based on that. My son was stagnating in class recently and there was poor behavior from other children, I said nothing for too long and as soon as I spoke up things changed!

Crazygirlmama Sun 24-Jun-18 04:54:45

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

taxi4ballet Sun 24-Jun-18 10:52:43

Three years in one grade - he's probably bored out of his mind.

Sorry, but that's ridiculous. Usually dance teachers go out of their way to support and encourage boys in ballet as they are such a rare commodity. They should be pushing him along, and suggesting things like boys-only workshops and associate programmes.

If there's blatant favouritism shown by the teacher and he isn't getting much in the way of either attention or corrections during class, then he needs to move schools pronto.

Absolutely don't wait for an exam - he is wasting his time there, and your friend is wasting their money.

grainnewaterfall Sun 24-Jun-18 11:14:40

Thank you. She’s definitely going to have to speak to the teacher as he hasn’t been put into the end of summer term exams (which is what brought about the conversation), which means it will be somewhat over three years by the time of the next exam session, and even then he may not be doing the exam.

Re. competition children and grade classes. How I understand it is that in the lower grades; pre primary, primary, grade one, grade two, the classes are quite large and in those lower grades there’s a fairly even mix of competition pupils (those who do comps, competition classes and private lessons). As you go up the ballet grades the classes are smaller and the minority are non competition, once a week students.

I just think it sounds like it isn’t a good school to progress in if you’re not a competition pupil, but also it sounds like the teacher doesn’t know how to ‘work the room’ in terms of correcting? Other people (who he has said are largely ignored like him) have just left. I also don’t think it’s a school strong in ballet as they don’t as many ballet exams when compared to modern, tap, gym etc

This is IDTA syllabus grade 3, he obviously knows the grade very well at this point, but his technique etc mustn’t yet be considered at the level to pass the exam with distinction. He feels his technique is no better than the time he joined, even possibly deteriorated. It was a necessary school move at the time though (house move) which she now regrets.

grainnewaterfall Sun 24-Jun-18 11:17:38

Aside from the general class corrections his personal corrections are things like ‘turn out’ ‘don’t let your elbows drop’ and some weeks nothing at all. I find this a contrast to my own child’s teacher who is going around the class adjusting and correcting students!

grainnewaterfall Sun 24-Jun-18 11:21:18

Thank you Taxi, I was typing there and didn’t see your reply.

Yes, that’s my opinion exactly. It’s ridiculous and I’d be moving him.

taxi4ballet Sun 24-Jun-18 18:04:11

If his technique isn't up to scratch after nearly 3 years in that grade, then I would respectfully suggest that perhaps the standard of teaching isn't all that great.

At 11/12 and if he is really keen, he should be doing at least 2-3 hours of grade classes a week, his own and the one above, plus regular workshops or associates.

He would also really benefit from a teacher who is thoroughly familiar with teaching the male syllabus and he needs to be dancing with other boys too. Are there any other boys at his dance school?

What about English Youth Ballet? They might be auditioning in your area soon. They have great parts for boys in their productions.

dancinfeet Sun 24-Jun-18 18:37:42

It is very difficult to tell from just the student's point of view. It is entirely possible that the teacher is very engaged with her competition students, and less interested in the recreational students who dance once a week, in which case I would say move him as all students deserve the best training regardless of how many times a week they attend class.

It could also be that although this boy says that he knows the work, in reality he hasn't grasped the finer details of the syllabus and so has become stuck in the grade until he knuckles down and gets the syllabus learnt in depth. There is quite a big jump from IDTA grades 2 to 3 ballet in terms of syllabus content. I have a grade 2 recreational modern student who is 11, and although he thinks he knows the work if I asked him to perform the amalgamations or dance he wouldn't be able to remember them even though he knows most of the set exercises and his rhythm work (clapping and marking) is dubious at best. It's a bit of a 'lead a horse to water but can't make it drink' situation with dance exams- the teacher can deliver the material to the students and meticulously give them corrections, but until they start to A: remember the syllabus accurately (not their own version of it) and B: start to apply those corrections it is difficult. Ultimately the child is showing the Examiner not only what they have learnt from their current grade, but that they are ready to begin studying the more difficult work in the grade above. The grade 2 boy I teach also tends to faff about or talk when I'm giving corrections to other students, rather than listening and applying the correction given to the other student to his own work also, which is another good way for students to improve (not that I'm saying that the lad in the OP mucks around!).

I must say that I also give more in depth corrections to my competition students than my rec students - a rec student (1-5 hrs of dance a week) might be told to 'stand tall' or squeeze their bottom in, but a comp student of the same age (6-15 hours of dance a week) would be told to find their 'neutral pelvis position' and to engage their core and gluteus muscles - if I said that to one of my 10/11 year old rec students I would get a blank look. My comp kids have a much better understanding of anatomy and technique and how to apply corrections, because they are hearing it several times a week not just the once like my rec students.

Obviously if the comp students are doing more hrs of training a week than the rec students then they are going to progress and move up faster. It's also part of a dance teacher's job is to make the dancers take some responsibility for their own dance training and conditioning, and if students want to progress faster then they should work at home as well doing flexibility and strengthening work. There isn't anything wrong with just going along to class once or twice a week and doing it as a hobby without practising at home - but then it's no use complaining that you can't keep up with those that do! I find that this is the singular biggest reason why rec students leave my school - they see the comp kids perform (some of whom choose to dance 5 days a week) but then get fed up that they themselves aren't turning out amazing turns, leaps, and tricks in their routines after their 2 hour a week class. They want to get to that level, but don't want to (or are unable to) commit to the amount of hours of time, training, and sheer dedication that is required to get to that level. There is absolutely nothing wrong with dancing at a recreational level and realising that you are doing fine for the number of times that you train each week, rather than comparing yourself to someone who does far more hours, or worse still resenting them for doing so (again, I'm not saying that this is the case in the OP, just that I am finding as a teacher that so many kids these days want the reward without the hard work that goes before hand). For the first time this year I am going to split my rec and comp kids in their graded classes, and I'm doing it for the benefit of the rec kids. I want them to have more manageable goals to work towards and with other children on a similar level, not to be looking sadly at the technique of other dancers in the class who are doing 5 x as much training each week. I just want my rec students to come to class, have fun with like minded dancers and learn as much as they can about dance in the couple of hours or so that I see them. Without the pressure of trying to keep up with my comp dancers.

OP - If the exams are in the summer would he be happy to do the classwork assessment rather than the graded examination, and is this an option that could be put forward to his teacher? Its a shorter version of the exam and marked a little less harshly. I have done these before with students who have struggled with technique or who aren't quite keeping up with their class group, but likewise I don't want to keep back in the grade with the group below? Just a suggestion, but it would mean he could move up to the next group and get his grade 3 certificate with the rest of the class? If he is really set on the graded exam then he may well have to wait until next term if his teacher feels he isn't ready (or find another school, with no guarantee that he will get the exam done any quicker there either). Has his mum tried having a word with the teacher, just to find out what his weakness is that's holding him back - i.e. knowledge and response of the syllabus / musicality and timing / strength and technique? At least this would give an indication of what area he needs to work on. Good luck though, I have been in this situation several times as a teacher, with a student who is bored but still not ready ( my own daughter is a bit like this with her grade 6 ballet at the moment!) and it's the best feeling in the world when they finally take their exam and you can go into class and teach them some new exercises and dances! Even though dance is about repetition, it's also good to break up the syllabus classes with show work, and free work from time to time.

SecretNutellaFix Sun 24-Jun-18 18:50:06

Would it be worth his parents finding a boys ballet class for him, with a male teacher?

grainnewaterfall Sun 24-Jun-18 19:01:55

OP - If the exams are in the summer would he be happy to do the classwork assessment rather than the graded examination, and is this an option that could be put forward to his teacher?

They don't do classwork assessments, or even medal tests for the IDTA ballet, apparently, just the grades.
I thought he had promise when I last heard, so I was surprised to hear about this 'three years in the same grade' situation. He always achieved distinction before and usually the highest mark in the school for classical. He really doesn't seem to receive much correction or instruction. She has sat outside to listen to the class and this does seem to be the case.

There is no show work and no free work. No end of term parent viewing class or anthing of that kind, it does all seem to be about the competitions. At my own child's school they do free work at the end of the grade if there's time or in the private lesson. He wouldn't have been 'allowed' to remain in a grade for three years there.

Taxi - thank you, I'll pass all that on.

Yes three years ought to be enough time to prepare a child for a grade 3 exam, even if they're doing nothing outside of the class or school.

There are two boys, similar age, although these are both competition boys so he's doing better than both of them...in a way, for what that's worth. One has just joined his grade and another is in grade 1.

He's at the stage where he just wants to leave now. He did like ballet, the school appeared successful in competitions and championships, but after digging deeper she discovered that the children with places on associate schemes and the like all also danced at other schools in addition.

grainnewaterfall Sun 24-Jun-18 19:03:47

Thanks all, sorry. I'll pass all of this on. Something will be done now at least.

dancinfeet Sun 24-Jun-18 19:23:18

From what you have said in your last post, if he was doing well previously at his other school then the teaching just isn't up to standard at this school or that they are only interested in their comp team, with less focus on exams.

I'd advise finding an RAD school (or ISTD) and getting him into multiple classes a week to catch up what he has fallen behind on, they might let him skip out grade 3 or he might still have to do it but they might have a separate technique or strengthening class he can also attend, or a vocational grade such as Intermediate Foundation. Even a few private lessons to get him back to where he should be and working along the right lines. Best of luck to him and your friend!

taxi4ballet Sun 24-Jun-18 19:28:34

Spending too long in a grade is detrimental to a dancer's progress. They get bored, lack motivation and can become demoralised and lose interest - and some will no doubt lose confidence in their own ability as well. None of those things will improve with even more time in a grade, they will only get worse.

If a student is bored and they still aren't ready for an exam, then a new challenge will reawaken their enthusiasm. I still remember the time when my dd's teacher said:
"I don't understand it, she's dancing much better in the Intermediate class than she is in Inter Foundation".
Well, that's because she was sick to the back teeth of I/F and needed to move on.

There's no law that says you have to take the grade 3 exam before moving up to the next one. A different school will assess the person in front of them and put them in the appropriate class, they won't insist on a piece of paper. Different examining bodies have different grade boundaries anyway.

Oh yeah - and choose a school where the focus is on training each individual student to progress to the very best of their own ability.

Avoid like the plague a school which concentrates on the teacher's pet competition favourites, and just goes through the motions with the once-a-week riff-raff.

dancinfeet Sun 24-Jun-18 19:45:41

completely agree with Taxiforballet - all students should be valued by their teacher, no matter how many times a week they attend class

taxi4ballet Sun 24-Jun-18 23:35:53

OP - I tried sending you a PM but it wouldn't go through.

grainnewaterfall Mon 25-Jun-18 10:35:23

I've just checked and I had all private messages blocked for some reason! It should be fine now.

grainnewaterfall Sun 08-Jul-18 12:23:43

Just a quick update to let you know that he's starting a good RAD school from September, and will be having private lessons to get up to speed. He's going to be doing the grade 3 (but RAD not IDTA) he's wasted three years on concurrently with grade 4.

The teacher was given the chance to address things but grew defensive and said it wasn't unusual for once-a-weekers to take longer than three years in a grade. Also tried to rubbish any associate schemes mentioned, the alternative being to stagnate in her class for another year or more I suppose?

Apparently they've said before that they don't care if it takes years for pupils to be ready for the exam, but they won't move them until they're at the 'required' standard. I was given permission to mention it to his old school who were quite shocked and offered to let him take the IDTA exam at their next session, just so that he has the bit of paper to show for his work.

Thank you again for all your advice and opinion, and espcially to Taxi. I was very upset to hear what had happened as they went to the school filled with optimism, as on the surface it appeared to be good.

taxi4ballet Sun 08-Jul-18 13:36:13

Onwards and upwards smile

OiWhoTookTheGoodNames Mon 09-Jul-18 12:26:15

Avoid like the plague a school which concentrates on the teacher's pet competition favourites, and just goes through the motions with the once-a-week riff-raff.

Was the final straw with me and dancing altogether to be honest for my eldest when this started to kick in even at the very youngest levels once they'd picked out their designated competition stars. I'm fine with there being good, less good and downright awful in an activity - but when you're on week after week of getting whichever random could be found to just babysit and play musical statues - it's bollocks and we walked away. Was becoming blatant we were just bank-rolling the real kids that mattered and wasn't even being done in a subtle way (hell gymnastics have the same thing with the once a week rec-classes being a funding source for the squad really - but at least managed to pull that off without you openly feeling you had the piss taken out of you for it).

MrsSnootyPants2018 Mon 09-Jul-18 12:43:25

Could it be that the teacher thinks those children wouldn't pass the exam? Some may enjoy dance but don't have the artistic flare and talent to progress. It could be that he has reached his peak.

grainnewaterfall Mon 09-Jul-18 13:39:05

Avoid like the plague a school which concentrates on the teacher's pet competition favourites, and just goes through the motions with the once-a-week riff-raff.
That certainly seemed to be the case at my friend's son's school. Like I said, this wouldn't happen at my own child's school where the teaching is excellent and they seem to be treated more or less equally.

I hope you found somewhere better, Oiwhotook. We tried a big school a bit like that some years ago and luckily discovered quickly, in the first few weeks and were able to leave.

taxi4ballet Mon 09-Jul-18 14:57:45

Could it be that the teacher thinks those children wouldn't pass the exam?

After almost three years in one grade and which is designed for recreational students?

No - if they're not ready after all that time then the teacher is crap.

TallyWest Mon 09-Jul-18 16:03:39

My niece is a once a week student. She's just done her RAD Grade 5 ballet in 14 months and received a good grade. I expect that's not out of the ordinary either. The groundwork and basics is very sound and that must make a difference, and her teacher is very good.

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