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There's competitions, and then there's competitions


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 16 March 2002 - 12:56 AM

Team wins 'Olympics' of dancing

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Kelli Dickens is bursting her buttons these days. With good reason. Her Kelli's Steps School of Dance has won, for the second year in a row, the Contest of Champions at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

“We took 86 kids, from Ocean Springs to Diamondhead,” she says, “and we won again. It's really kind of neat, kind of like the Olympics.”

.......

"We were up against the best,” says Dickens, “New York, Colorado, even Alaska.”



#2 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 16 March 2002 - 08:37 AM

The frightening thing about this kind of competition is that it fosters that kind of school. Eleven "numbers" for the competition! How much technique is being learned by these students who are doing all these "numbers" all the time? They learn to perform, and to "sell", and maybe some of them will have enough natural ability to wind up in Vegas or even MTV videos. Fine, if that is their goal. BUT, the problem comes when they think they have ballet training. They think they are "advanced" dancers, and then they audition for a pre-professioal program in ballet and find out they are teenage beginners. I had two video tapes come in this week, audition videos for our Summer Intensive. They were 15 and 16 year old girls who have danced almost all their lives, and they sent a video of themselves doing what they think is ballet. Neither of them had ever heard of turnout, placement, port de bras, or articulation of the feet. Seriously, I am not exaggerating here. It took only seconds to see that they were total beginners in ballet, and there was no way I watched either video long enough to suffer through seeing them in pointe shoes. They did not know how to relevé on demi pointe. Very sad. They are probably both "stars" in their home schools, which are definitely competition schools according to the resumés that came with the videos.

[ March 16, 2002, 08:41 AM: Message edited by: Victoria Leigh ]

#3 Colleen

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Posted 16 March 2002 - 05:36 PM

Not only is the "competition school" scary, but what I inferred from the article is that this woman doesn't have any teaching qualifications and possibly not much dance training. She says she got started just because she " got involved after helping a friend who had a studio in Ocean Springs. 'I just loved it, so I started in my garage with just 15 students.'" I don't think I've ever heard of any reputable dance teacher who started in this fashion. Usually they'd say "I trained seriously for many years, followed this-and-this course, or had so-and-so teacher/dancer as a mentor, probably danced professionally for this-many-years, and then settled into teaching because I loved it ". I'd be a little wary of any other 'path' to teaching especially if the person told me they taught 'lyrical'. Any real dance teacher would know that 'lyrical' can describe how you're moving but isn't a dance form in and of itself smile.gif

#4 LMCtech

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Posted 16 March 2002 - 06:41 PM

I couldn't agree more. I taught at a competition studio, but we were all college dance majors and knew that what we were doing was a joke. We also knew that "Lyrical" stood for "Lyrical Jazz Dance" as opposed to "Hip-Hop Jazz Dance". None of those kids had much talent (maybe two had natural gifts, but they were having fun. We also knew enough to never lead them into believing this would lead to a career in dance. Oh, well. At least they got good strict technique in my ballet classes (they hated me).

#5 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 16 March 2002 - 07:35 PM

Thanks, Colleen smile.gif That was very well stated indeed! I like your description of lyrical, and it is absolutely right on.

#6 Guest_ap's mom_*

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Posted 25 March 2002 - 02:24 PM

My daughter started out at a comp studio at age 4, and at age 11 she decided she wanted more ballet to set her apart from other comp dancers. Well at 11 she thought she was pretty hot stuff, as she had won tons of trophies and even national top honors. She came home from a national competition and took a ballet class at a new studio in town. This teacher had an international career, and many years of teaching experience. After her first class she thanked him for the class, and left. When she got in the car she started to cry. She asked me "how long she had been dancing", and I said "six years". She said "well, that was my first ballet class"! She was so upset, but she continued and now almost 16 she has been accepted with scholarships to some of the top SI. She had a rude awakening that day, but she has stuck with ballet. Her competition teacher was and still is very angry that she chose ballet. There is a whole other world out there that the comp students and teachers just simply do not know exists.

#7 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 25 March 2002 - 02:51 PM

I'm glad to hear there was a positive outcome, but your story really proves the point, doesn't it? We have a student now who came in a bit less than three years ago from that kind of school. She was 12 or almost 13, I think. Very strong, with a good body for ballet. But she had never heard of turn out! Really. This is still somewhat of a problem for her, however, because she was diligent, intelligent, musical, and extremely hard working with a GREAT attitude, her progress has been exceptional. She has been accepted to Houston Level 8 this year, after doing Level 7 last year. Unfortunately, not all who have spent a number of years in the competition schools can make this kind of progress, especially if they are there into their teens.

#8 PrimaBallerina01

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Posted 28 March 2002 - 06:30 PM

I go to a competition school, and my school isn't like the schools that have been described. Not all competition schools are bad. We do have technique classes, and we try to focus on all the elements of dance in our competition dances. We don't just turn all the time because we are good at turns, or anything like that. I feel a little upset, because the impression I got from the other posters on this topic was that dancers from competition schools have no good technique whatsoever, and that's not true. I know that some of you probably don't mean it in a bad way, but that's just what I interpreted. I never really knew that people from professional schools felt this strongly against competition schools. People from competition schools can become professionals, even though they might not be classical dancers. Competition is also a lot of fun, and it gives us time to get to know other dancers from different studios. We also learn teamwork and committment.

I hope I don't sound rude, because I'm just trying to express how I feel. Being in a competition school is another way of dance education. Everyone dances because they love it, or at least they like it, and competition schools aren't that bad. I just hope that people don't think all competition schools are bad, because I would be very disappointed. I know that people can express their opinions, but I feel a little hurt, since I am a student at a competition school. I do know that there is a whole other world of dance out there. Also competition schools do have a variety of different styles of dance to choose from. Not all competition schools have bad technique. Teachers and dancers at competition schools are just as devoted as teachers and dancers in professional schools.

#9 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 28 March 2002 - 06:42 PM

There are some posts on other threads that are a bit more tolerant, in terms of recognizing that these schools have a place in society. They are great for recreational dancers, and people who want a lot of fun and performing experience. As I said before, the problem is that some of the dancers from many of these schools, I will not say all but I do think it is most of them, do not realize that they are not being classically well trained, and then, if they try to go to a professional school or a summer SI at a professional school, they are either not accepted or they are placed in a very low level class. Many are taken off of pointe because they never should have been there in the first place, with far too little ballet technique in their former school. They might be strong, and have a lot of performance experience, but very rarely do they understand placement, use of rotation, articulation of legs and feet, positions of the body, line, etc., etc. I'm sure there are probably some exceptions to this out there somewhere, and perhaps you are at a school which is an exception. :)

#10 bhough

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Posted 28 March 2002 - 06:50 PM

I am glad that someone has finally spoken up about the good things that can come from a "competition" school. I, too, have been involved with an excellent school - ballet taught by accredited Russian teachers, top quality contemporary classes. However, I think that there are probably more "not so good" competition schools than schools with excellent training. Also, this school very rarely sacrifices class time for rehearsal time and if it does, it is never done with a ballet class. My daughter, who as been accepted to compete in Jackson and has attended a pre-professional ballet school for four years, has had the best of both worlds. At "ballet" school she spends most of her time strenthening technique and learning repertoire for in school recitals. At her "competition" studio, she learned other forms of dance, learned to dance in an ensemble (a skill sorely lacking amongst many ballet students, IMO) and learned to project her artistry on stage as a soloist. She has had many more opportunities to perform in public with her competition studio. I am fully aware of the drawbacks to these competitions, but there are benefits as well. Many of the students who are participating in these will become the audience of the future. Many students who take dance don't like ballet because it is so difficult, but they certainly can appreciate the beauty and skill of someone performing it with a high level of proficiency. Okay, I will now get off my soap box.

#11 PrimaBallerina01

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Posted 28 March 2002 - 06:57 PM

Thank you, Ms. Leigh, for your input! It is greatly appreciated! My school does have excellent ballet instructors, and the majority of our dancers that have auditioned for SI's were accepted, and well-placed. Yes, there are competition schools that have bad technique and instructors, but my school cares a lot about the quality of teaching, and the dancers they teach. Thanks again for replying!

#12 Guest_ap's mom_*

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Posted 01 April 2002 - 11:14 AM

I did not mean to demean competion schools in general, as my daughter has gone to a competition school for 11 years. It was after being highly successful in the comp venue that she attended a classical ballet class. As I mentioned before she was upset after her first real ballet class because she did not know nearly what she should considering the years in dance. She could do triple turns on pointe, but did not know the term allegro, or what it meant to turnout etc. The point so to speak is that many comp school teachers are not even trained dancers, but people who sorta "picked it up" as mentioned in the original post.
My daughter feels the benefits to the comp school has helped her with stage presents and has given her an opportunity to explore choreograpy. She resents taking ballet for the first seven years of her training, but learning very little and what she learned most was incorrect technique and terminology. My daughters comp teacher is a DMA teacher, which means she has passed national certification to teach, has had students in the top 5 nationally in DMA competition, but ballet is not a focus. About 20 minutes per week is all that is spent on ballet! What can you do in 20 minutes, but plie and tendu? Oh and then there is pointe class one hour per week. She started my daughter on pointe at 10! She had a pointe solo at 11, but had never had a full ballet class.
As far as dancers going from comp studios to professional companies it does happen, but they are usually jazz companies. I am not saying no one ever went from a SOLELY comp school to a ballet company, but not to a reputable one. If a dancer wants to be in a jazz company a comp studio would not hurt, but many will be surprised when they do not make it in a jazz company due to their lack of ballet training.


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