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article in Dance magazine


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In the recent issue of Dance Magazine is an article "On Education." It is written by an educator who does Project Motivate around the country. She poses the question"If you consider yourself a better technical teacher than others at another school,does that make your school better than theirs?" She continues with the answer of "not necessarily-many parents are searching for a simple dance education for their child." She explains that they are not seeking professional training,so if other schools are offering "what your community is looking for",they may not be as technically deficient as you think,just smart enough to understand the market.I have other views on this as I have seen many students come to professional schools only to relearn and start back at the beginning breaking old habbits. Please share your thoughts!

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I will state flat-out that I do not believe in 'recreational' training...period ! Good training is good training regardless of the venue. There are various ways to go about this, but as soon as you lower your standards/expectations, you have determined your outcome. This does a great disservice to the participants.

My initial training was at a community center, but the teacher was an accomplished teacher/choreographer who was working his way from one coast to the other and stayed in this program for several years. When he moved on, he placed all of his students with good schools and we did not have to 'relearn';)

I do not believe that discipline, structure or technique have to be dry, oppressive experiences and I also believe that when people understand how to use these tools, that they will actually find joy in the process!

That said, a technical teacher may not be better if she/he lacks the skills to communicate effectively. I can't, however, fathom that a community would prefer joyful well-trained dancers to happy mediocre dancers;)

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I believe this column suggests that many parents are looking for a dance related activity for their offspring, and are happiest with a single class a week, with a spring performance at the end.

Wouldn't this be considered "recreational," even with top-notch instruction?

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I think I'm going to have to read the original article. There are too many issues here that are intertwined.

I'm with Fendrock here: there is pre-professional training, and there is recreational training. For me, the defining difference is not quality of instruction, but intensity. Let me clarify that: GIVEN the same superlative instructor, one student could be receiving pre-pro training and another recreational training. It depends on the student's abilities, motivations, time commitment, etc.

Given a poor instructor, there is neither pre-pro nor recreational training. There is an after-school activity.

I'm also curious about the level of instruction the original author was talking about. I think -- but am open to debate -- that in pre-ballet classes it could be perfectly okay to have an instructor whose technique wasn't perfect. As a parent, I'd be looking for other things: someone who could instill a love of movement, musicality, rhythm, discipline. What I don't know is how long in a dancer's training this suffices. At some point, good technique becomes more important. Of course, I would not want great technique without some teaching skills as well.

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I'm careful in evaluating an instructor's technique. Ultimately, what is important is the teacher's UNDERSTANDING of the technique and ability to CONVEY it to students.

Some parts of the technique require daily practice to keep in shape. It is unreasonable to expect a 50-year-old teacher to display good technique in those areas, and it would be foolish to immediately forgoe that teacher over a 30-year-old teacher with 20 years less experience.

Other parts of the technique don't require daily practice; you can do them however old and decrepit you become. If your 50-year-old teacher isn't doing them in demonstrating things, you know something's wrong.

My Artistic Director hasn't taken a ballet class for a long time. But in many respects he can make his feet look better in sneakers than most of us can in ballet slippers or pointe shoes. He's maximizing the parts of technique that don't require daily practice.

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I recently discovered that I have online access to Dance Magazine through my old University's online journal collection. For anyone else out there affiliated with a University, this may also be an option for you.

So, after reading the article called "Cutting Your Losses" Nov 2002 p.66 (I think this is the one discussed in this thread - if it's not, I'd like to comment anyway) I would like to add my two cents to the discussion.

Wow. For an article in a section entitled "On Education" - it contains very little on "education" but a whole lot more on making money for your studio.

I find the following exerpt particularly disturbing:

"Developing a reputation that you train professional dancers is not always good for business. Producing good dancers is important, but having a neighborhood school where everyone can learn to dance--and enjoy it--is the way to go financially."

I definately appreciate (and totally support!) the need for studio owners to make a living. It just seemed really strange to read an article that was focussed more on the loss of income an unhappy child could result in - rather than focussing on improving the emotional state of the child. If someone is only running a studio as a money-making scheme - I think I would try to stay far, far away.

I agree with the other opinions on this thread that the difference between professional and non-professional track training should be in the intensity and not the quality of training. I have witnessed this being carried out - and it seems to work quite well.

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Clearly, the intended audience for this article is the studio owner. And the aim of any school is going to determine approach and content of the education that goes on in the school. In fact, I would argue that the first task, and most important task, that any educational enterprise should engage in is to understand its aim, why it is in business.

Most parents send their kids to dance, or martial arts for that matter, not because they think they are going to dance professionally, or get in a bunch of fistfights, but because the activity has intrinsic value in and of itself. So most of the market is recreational. Ignoring the market or competing in a market that is already over saturated (what percentage of students in pre-professional dance programs go on to have professional careers?) is not the way to survive for most people. And as others have said very well, just because a program is not aimed at developing professionals, it doesn’t mean that that professionalism in instruction is relaxed. No one intentionally provides schlock.

Being a person who is in business for myself, I can attest that the financial side of any business is as important as the nature of the service you provide or the product you make. I thought fendrock and Treefrog’s comments were right on the money.

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i haven't been able to read the article, but i am 'with' fendrock.

i have noticed cabriole's attitude to this question before, on other boards, and read her comments with great interest, as i know her posts to be always informative and often thought-provoking. i think that she and i probably believe in the same thing here, even though we seem to express it as if we differ.

maybe it is the interpretation of the word 'recreational'?

whatever it is, i believe that the vast majority of kids and parents ARE looking for recreational training, and should be provided with that. yes, i DO believe that it is appropriate, in a business market, to give people what they are looking for. (sorry, mel! ;) )

vocational training ought NOT to be forced on, or even 'offered' to, children and parents who don't want it.

to me, the word 'recreational' simply means for fun, for pleasure, for exercise, towards social ends....it says nothing at all about the QUALITY of the teaching (teaching methods, teaching styles, etc). one can have good or bad recreational teachers, just as one can have good or bad vocational teachers.

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Mel, I'm surprised at the vehemence of your responses. I can't speak to the original article, but I don't think any of us are advocating putting babies on point and all the other evils you mention.

What I'm defending, certainly, is the good neighborhood school. Solid teaching, with a well-defined curriculum and syllabus? Absolutely. Professional-level technique? Overkill. Most of the students do not have the ability or mindset to take advantage of this.

In my mind, this school knows its clientele and caters to what it needs. NOT what it demands, because the professional dance teacher should understand the needs better than the parents. Part of the school's function should be to educate the parents about what constitutes safe and effective training. This school should also understand its own limits, and gladly hand off its talented students to more suitable training regimens.

Very, very few students are truly pre-pro, by virtue of the fact that so few professional positions exist. Shouldn't the ballet world be putting more emphasis on getting good training to the other 99.5% of the dancers out there?

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I think it is an interesting question, because I want my daughter to get a "good" ballet education, and I do believe that takes more than one class a week, even if she has no professional aspirations.

For those who are opposed to recreational training, are any opposed because they feel it is not really possible to train recreationally and learn ballet in a significant way?

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There seem to be a number of issues in this thread but at the moment, I just wanted to elaborate a little on what disturbed me about the article. Here is one additional quote from it to perhaps better convey the tone of the piece:

"Your faculty may need a financial incentive to retain students. One school offers faculty members five dollars for every student who remains enrolled in their classes for the full season. Your bonus could be different; but what's important is to offer some sort of incentive. In most cases, nothing works better than cash!"

Although, in principle I agree with Gary's statement that:

"the financial side of any business is as important as the nature of the service you provide or the product you make."

I think that one has to be very careful when the service you provide is the instruction of children. I worry that if the teachers that are teaching at the schools the article is aimed at need a financial incentive in order to keep students from dropping out that they will not be providing the:

"Solid teaching, with a well-defined curriculum and syllabus"

that Treefrog is describing. I guess that is what I found disturbing - not the suggestion of offering recreational training.

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I suppose we could quibble over what retains students, and whether or not the market is asking for "Solid teaching, with a well-defined curriculum and syllabus."

Offering a financial award to teachers who retain students is not, in and of itself, a sign of schlocky teaching.

I suspect that the primary distinction between a good school and a Dolly Dinkle school is its attitude toward the end of year performance.

Do students attend to learn ballet, or do they attend to practice a routine they will display in rented costumes in May?

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Originally posted by fendrock

I think it is an interesting question, because I want my daughter to get a "good" ballet education, and I do believe that takes more than one class a week, even if she has no professional aspirations.

For those who are opposed to recreational training, are any opposed because they feel it is not really possible to train recreationally and learn ballet in a significant way?

In my original post I mentioned that the venue was, in my opinion, not the issue in determining quality dance training. I guess I was less clear in my position, as grace pointed out, is probably more with the semantics of the word recreational . I think Treefrog was closer to it, by acknowledging intensity of schedule, etc. not quality of training. So, yes, fendrock , I DO believe that significant training can and SHOULD be available for those not necessarily on the pro-track.

From a business prospective, I would think that a studio owner with a qualified staff could indeed find exemplary training profitable, as such training is quite addictive;)

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Another problem I have with this type of school described is that many do indeed put those "babes" on point. Of course not every child needs to wish to become a future dancer. But when dance is taught incorrectly it becomes a matter of doing harm to a body. I have a problem with that!

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Garnet’s point about financial incentives is a good one I think. In the business world, financial incentives seem to be the rage. I know one company I used to work for uses them extensively now (they had none when I was there). But I will argue that when they are as garnet quoted from the article, they actually harm the business in the long run whether the business is a dance studio or a factory.

The problem with immediate financial rewards such as a bonus for reenrolled students is that it encourages the teacher or whomever to ignore the aim of the school and do anything to get the bonus. That is just dangerous to the long-term prospects, both professional and financial, of the studio.

I’m not saying that all teachers would do that, but given a long enough time, it is almost sure that eventually one will harm the school as a result of the bonus policy.

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To address Mel’s point about 5-year olds on pointe, offering tap, hip hop as a means to get people into ballet, I think it really depends on the studio owner’s aim. Ignoring the obviously dangerous stuff like 5-year olds on pointe, no one can serve the whole market, and so the notion of “doing whatever any parent wants” isn’t an aim at all or is it really serving the market at all. An aim has to be more specific than that. For someone like Mel, it would seem that an appropriate aim might be created around simply providing a ballet education, for example. That could certainly have a recreational focus. And offering things like tap or hip hop might be inconsistent with an aim of providing a ballet education.

Another studio owner might go for tap, hip hop, or something that is more popular. He or she might have a little introductory ballet class, but if that owner knows his or her aim, the most profitable part of the business will come from tap and hip hop, and most of his or her students will gravitate there. I see nothing wrong with that either.

No single studio or school can do it all. Parents and students seem to learn that and they can change schools as they better understand what they are seeking in a dance experience.

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Hi All,

Thisarticle is very disturbin in my opinion. I understand te need for 'recreatonal training' but going about that is very touchy business. There isa school in my area that is the most profitable school around. Most ofthe dancers thre are recreational. They have a jazz team that is very good, mainly because the teacher requires at least 2 ballet classes a week. In this same school, several students have attended SI and year round programs at kirov academy, SAB, Nutmeg, VSA, Harid and so on. This school really is the best of both worlds.

Another school in he area offeres incredible technique and produced many good dancers, but ent out of business because the teacher refused to recognize the needs of the children in her classes. Here is an example of needs going beforequility. No matter how good the teaching, if the teacher tears down her students the parents will eventually step up.

There is no easy answer to this question. The focus of a studio need to be to take care of the students in the most professional manner possible. A child can have 'fun' in a good ballet school if the teacher can relate to a studens need. But the needs of a student should not undermine good training. Good training does not need to bankrupt a teacher. And so th world goes round!

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