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Oreogal

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And by better, I mean higher enrollment means they must be doing something right? Is a huge competition school that pride themself on being national champions almost every year hands down "better" than a much smaller competitive school whose not "national champions." Also, every school in my area now markets themselves by saying they have an "award winning company." Though aren't there good and bad competitions and don't most comp. give awards out for everything?
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tappinmom

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Reply with quote  #2 
We went from a large studio that won everything to a small studio that got in the overalls once in a while.  For us the technique at the small studio was far superior and DS improved by leaps and bounds with the extra technique classes and attention. 
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mcshells

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Reply with quote  #3 
Competition means nothing. There's a difference between teach A dance and teaching how TO dance. I'd rather my child be at a studio focused on technique and a slow boil approach to rather than one focused solely on learning and cleaning choreo so they can win competitions.
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melissa745

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Reply with quote  #4 
I do not think bigger is better. Smalls schools can be just as good.

However, I think that the really good teachers want to make good money and I think that's probably easier for them to do at a larger school. That's just a guess, though.

We go to the biggest school in town. I've hard a lot of snide comments from other folks in town about how our school pushes too sure and is too competitive. But when I see their kids dance, I know I'm in the right place.
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cynmckee

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Size doesn't mean they are better.  What a larger school does provide is the opportunity to dance with kids your own age, the opportunity to have older dancers to learn from, and the opportunity to partner.  If the instruction is subpar, then the above doesn't make up for that. 

We left our first very small studio because at 11 she was at the top and that was just crazy.  We left our second studio, that was larger than 1 because they were going in a rec direction and we found out dd needed better instruction (although she grew a lot at studio 2 in the year we were there.)  3 is our home through graduation.  It's small enough that the SO knows the name of every student, but big enough that the opportunities are boundless.
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tendumom

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No, bigger isn't always better. 

As you probably have already figured out, the term "National Champions" is meaningless. Far too many national competitions including some that give out some sort of an award to each school in attendance. You are exactly right- not only are there good and bad competitions, some of these competitions even vary by locations. Competition A may be highly competitive in one region but may be so-so in another region of the US. 

It is difficult to really judge a school. Here are a few things I look at. 

The faculty. Who are they? Has their training actually gone beyond that school? If so, has it consisted of more than a drop in class or a master class? Do they have any training in how to actually teach dance? As dd has gotten older, it has become easier to read between the lines in bios. Also, as an aside, I don't care for the practice of schools listing faculty by first name only. A professional teacher should have actual credentials and shouldn't be hiding behind a first name only. 

The class schedule. For a competition school, do they have actual technique classes in addition to rehearsals. Classes that are pretty much a warm up and a rehearsal year round are a sign that a school is not a high quality dance school. I found, when we were looking, that the better schools had both technique classes and rehearsals. The names may not be the same, but that's what should be going on, at least as a dancer progresses beyond preschool and early dance classes.

Alumni. This gets tricky too. Of course a big school will have more alumni that go on to dance. And, of course, the majority of kids will not go on to dance professionally. Most will leave it behind after high school. But, any quality school that has existed long enough will have alumni who have danced professionally. It's funny how that goes. There is a very large ballet school in my area, a medium sized school and a very small school. The large school is the oldest (over 50 yrs), followed by the small school and then the medium school. Of the three, in the last decade, the smaller school has produced more professional dancers. I think the medium school has had more go on to dance in college programs (mainly the more prestigious programs). The large school has produced some dancers for their own company. Anyone else they have claimed left by age 13 or 14. One would think the large school, by virtue of its size and its training program, would have more professional dancers out there.  So, if there is a list of alumni who have gone on, look at what they did. Did they go on to dance on a college team or a cruise ship or on Broadway or in a ballet company or what. 

Finally, look at the dancers. Of course, even that can be deceiving. Watching a recital of company team dancers who have only rehearsed these same numbers all year may be different than watching a smaller school that concentrates on technique year round and doesn't start learning a recital dance until 2-3 months before the performance. Still, as you become more acquainted, you should begin to notice things like outstretched legs, pointed toes and ankles, cleanly done turns on releves vs spins, etc. Those are signs that good technique is being taught, not tricks. 

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meatball77

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Reply with quote  #7 
When we moved to Austin my daughter took a class at a very large comp studio.  My daughter who was eight at the time came out of the class saying "Mom, they weren't teaching right".  It was a large school that claims lots of wins.  If I'd been looking more carefully I would have noticed that it was a drill team focused school.

A large school has more to do with the business side of things than the level of instruction. 
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Klba37

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Reply with quote  #8 

We attend a smaller school, not the smallest in town, but surely not the biggest. We have very gifted teachers. Ballet teacher even teaches at another ballet studio also. Our studio has been around for years. SO grew up with her mom owning it. We have national winners also, but I believe all studios in our area do.
We have one competing for Distinguished Young Women of United States this week in Alabama. She won the county, then state, hopefully national next.

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melissa745

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Reply with quote  #9 

Our studio has very few dancers that go one to dance in college. But we also have very few that are interested in a professional career.

Luckily, we have other options nearby if my DD wants to go somewhere else as she gets older.

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gymmommy71

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Reply with quote  #10 
Large studios can usually always be successful at competitions because when you have a large talent pool to draw from you'll have a good number of people who are good at each "aspect" of competiting just because of natural ability. For instance, if you have 75 junior/teen aged dancers, you probably got at least 15 who are naturally good turners, 15 who are exceptional tumblers and 15 who are extremely flexible. Then you can strategically structure your groups to highlight the various kids' strengths, hiding the weaknesses in the back row, and have dozens of amazing numbers. A thing to look out for when you see a seemingly amazing large studio is if they keep using the same set of a few amazing dancers in all their routines doing the same amazing tricks and turns while different kids back them up. It's a sign that they are just stacking their groups w/ indivIdual talents instead of actually making ALL their dancers as individually amazing as their "A dancers".

My DD was once part of gymnastics team that was able to dominate the team competition at many meets because of this situation - we just happened to have at least 3 athletes who were really naturally good at each event (in gymnastics your team score is based on your top 3 scores in each event totalled together), even though our all around scores per athlete weren't as strong compared to other gyms. Our numbers were our advantage, not necessarily our overall skills/depth.
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Mom2Girls

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Reply with quote  #11 
+1 to everything Tendumom said. 

Bigger is definitely not always better.

For me, better means it is a positive environment and is a place that actually teaches a kid to dance....not a place that just drills them into looking like they can kind of dance. They don't have to turn out professionals, but if they do, it is definitely a positive reflection on their instruction. 

When looking at studios, (though I got lucky and was referred to current one by an awesome mom on here), I first look at how much ballet they offer. This doesn't always work because some studios won't post their full schedule, or only post a rec one. It also won't tell me the quality of the ballet, but a studio that offers/requires multiple 90-min ballet classes for every level but the youngest ballet levels is pretty much a must in my book and helps rule out many a studio, surprisingly. After that, you evaluate quality, but this isn't always easy to see unless you have seen it before. Big competition studios may be providing good training, or they may just know how to play the game, so don't rely on "big" as an indicator.
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momma2gap

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Reply with quote  #12 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tappinmom
We went from a large studio that won everything to a small studio that got in the overalls once in a while.  For us the technique at the small studio was far superior and DS improved by leaps and bounds with the extra technique classes and attention. 


This is us to the tee. The huge mega studio bragging about self-nominated "awards" seems appealing but when one really researches, come to find out most of the info is "altered" and many of the kids are getting trained elsewhere & just compete with the huge studio.

DD9 and DS7 have made more progress in the one year with our small studio with focused instruction than in 4 years at the huge, very well known studio that has a ton of kids. I mean there are 60 kids in one ballet class!! Who can learn in that type of environment?

I'm for sure in the "bigger is not better camp"...
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OurLittleDancer

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Reply with quote  #13 
We have been at both - a large studio and now a small studio.  We much prefer the small.  The technique is fantastic and the dancers are more dedicated.  Wish we had made the change sooner.  Also, remember when they say award winning - at what level are they award winning.  There is a studio in our area that puts everything in the paper - they don't even compete at the highest level, but people in the community think they are all amazing because they "win" these elite competitions etc.  

I agree with what others have said - the growth of the dancers at a small studio is huge.  One year makes such a big difference.  
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melissa745

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Reply with quote  #14 
I would like to point out that bigger is not always worse, either. Some of the members here are very biased one way or the other. You can get everything you can at a large school as you can at a small school, and vice versa. It all depends on the owner and the teachers. 
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tendumom

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Reply with quote  #15 
Quote:
I would like to point out that bigger is not always worse, either. Some of the members here are very biased one way or the other. You can get everything you can at a large school as you can at a small school, and vice versa. It all depends on the owner and the teachers. 


Very true! In my very long post, I gave the example of the 3 ballet schools nearest my home (not including the one that had ballet in the name until recently but.. well.. there's a good reason why they changed their name! LOL). I could have also given an example of some of the comp schools we looked at a few years ago. DD was coming from a large comp school where they produced an average of one Broadway performer each year (school has been open for 30+ years and they've had 30-40 alumni on Broadway) plus dancers on cruise ships, professional sports dance teams, college dance teams, and even a ballet dancer. Granted, it is a very large school with 3 locations. Dancers take technique classes and company classes are where the dances are taught and rehearsed. This starts with the youngest dancers and goes up. They also require several ballet classes each week. In contrast, we looked at another school, MUCH closer to home, that had tons of trophies and titles, no separate technique classes and all sorts of hidden expenses. Alumni? None to speak of except those that became teachers at the school. Sadly, the costs between the two places were about the same, with the smaller school ending up higher because of all the extras. Oh, and that second smaller place... it was like what meatball77 described. Dd spent the day there during their intensive (read as "time to learn dances for the fall." Dd was SO excited when I picked her up. She told me about the new jumps she learned and the dances they were doing. And then, the shoe dropped. Dd, age 9, said "But one thing was weird, Mommy. In ballet class, everyone was sticking out their belly and their butt and no one was correcting them." Yeah.. thanks kiddo! 
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cynmckee

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Reply with quote  #16 
Quote:
Originally Posted by melissa745
I would like to point out that bigger is not always worse, either. Some of the members here are very biased one way or the other. You can get everything you can at a large school as you can at a small school, and vice versa. It all depends on the owner and the teachers. 


I agree.  I know many have gone to a smaller school and feel like the training is more individualized and better.  I can defiantly say that has not been my experience.  It all depends on the quality of the classes and the quality of teachers.  I can tell you that when my dd moved to our current studio, she cried almost every day because the quality at the "bigger school" was so much higher then she was getting at the smaller school and the shock of no longer being the big fish in the small pond.  It was quite a wake up call and made her dig deep to improve and catch up and even surpass.

OP, I think what you should take from this thread is that size doesn't necessarily matter. Quality of instruction and the opportunity to grow is key.  If you have that at a small or a large studio, then the rest is really detail.
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FantabulouslyCherry

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Reply with quote  #17 
I agree with @melissa745. I all depends on whether the DT is working on proper technique and how the SO runs the business.
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Angel2228

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Reply with quote  #18 
Every child learns differently. Best teachers and environment may not be at the largest studio. Larger studios do normally mean there are a bunch of different options and classes for your dancer to take. Ex. DD goes to a mod size studio, but for ballet she is in between classes. They had a gr 5 and a gr 3 ballet class this year, her and another girl did especially good in their exams the past 3-4 yrs, but they don't have a class for gr 4, and not ready for gr 5, so gr 3 it is. [frown]  

One of the smallest studios I know only have a comp team of 23-25. They only go to comps that they want individually(although they did send groups to a few) They are going to The dance Awards, and I bet at least 3 will end up top 20 at New York and Vegas. They are pretty amazing to watch!
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LJK2dance

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Reply with quote  #19 
Every studio is different... I would say that you just really need to do your homework.  Our old studio is one of the biggest in the area.  They score quite well often  ... BUT ... They usually attend smaller competitions attracting mediocre talent and with the exception of their oldest teams, the rest are entered in novice or intermediate levels. I do not know of a single student who has ever gone on to dance professionally with the exception of teaching classes for this same studio after they graduate high school.  Technique instruction is spotty and the classes are jam packed with only the "front row" girls getting any real attention.  The DS, however, does not hold itself out to be a pre-prefessional school and actually comes right out and tells the parents competition is just for fun and friendship.  It is the PARENTS who seem to get all caught up in the competition hoopla!  Another local studio is even bigger than that one, and I think their technique instruction is fabulous!  If my DD's were interested in going back to being on multiple competition teams, I would sign then up immediately!

SO, in addition to researching the studio, I suggest also asking yourself what you and your dancer actually want out of dance.  If it is the pre-professional track, then that might knock a few contenders out of consideration pretty quickly.  My DD's now go to a small ballet school in a pre-professional program which does not have a competition team per se.  I think they learned more technique in a month than in over five years at the old place!
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tappinmom

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Reply with quote  #20 
Quote:
Originally Posted by melissa745
I would like to point out that bigger is not always worse, either. Some of the members here are very biased one way or the other. You can get everything you can at a large school as you can at a small school, and vice versa. It all depends on the owner and the teachers. 


You're right.  It is more about quality instruction.  Sometimes you get that at a big studio and sometimes you don't and the same applies to a small studio.

We have some of the top studios in Canada (possibly North America) in our backyard - Joanne Chapman's and Canadian Dance Company.  Both are huge studios but the technique that their dancers have is phenomenal as is their choreography.  They are learning too dance and not just spending time running dances.  Lots of their alumni go on to other dance pursuits and do very well.  Both of these are examples of where a huge studio is doing it right and not sacrificing training just to win trophies.  They train hard and it shows.
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heidi459

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Reply with quote  #21 
I think the potential risk of a larger studio... even if the training is solid... is that it can be easy for dancers to get lost in the shuffle if that larger studio comes with larger classes. And if the staff is spread too thin, it can influence what and how much they can give to their students.   It can become a bit of a numbers game.  One of the reasons I chose super small for dd when she switched to ballet this past year.  But then, as others have mentioned, it can be a bit of a trade off since the array opportunities can be more limited with a smaller school... although the likelihood of being chosen for those opportunities that do exist increases significantly because of that smaller pool.  

When it comes right down to it, I think you really have to think about what it is your looking for.  It's not about which is better, it's about which will best serve your particular needs.
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melissa745

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Reply with quote  #22 
Quote:
Originally Posted by heidi459
I think the potential risk of a larger studio... even if the training is solid... is that it can be easy for dancers to get lost in the shuffle if it means larger classes.  It can become a bit of a numbers game.  One of the reasons I chose super small for dd when she switched to ballet this past year.  But then, as others have mentioned, it can be a bit of a trade off since opportunities can be more limited with a smaller school.  I think you really have to think about what it is your looking for.  It's not about which is better, it's about which will best serve your particular needs.


This is definitely true. We've been really lucky and all my kids have small classes even at our huge studio.
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Momof3

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Reply with quote  #23 
I can see benefits and challenges for each, though I've only ever been at smaller studios.  One challenge of a smaller studio is that there can be fewer offerings because there just isn't enough of a student body to support a large range of levels for each genre. I know we've dealt with that at our studio, where there is the occasional student for whom there just isn't a good fit level-wise (doesn't have the level of technique to dance with the seniors, but a good bit more advanced than the juniors, for example). We have enjoyed the more individualized attention available at our current small studio, but I really agree with the others who have said that it's the quality of the instruction that is really important. You can find that in large and in small studios - you just need to know what to look for.  I would also question why a studio is small - is it new, and still growing, or can it not retain students over the age of 11 or so because the instruction is poor?
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dirtchic

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Reply with quote  #24 
We switched from a larger studio that had 2-3 groups that did very well at competitions, almost always won critics choice and if they didn't they were in the top 5. The rest of the groups were average to below average and made up 90% of the company. By looking at the results you wouldn't know that though because of the 2-3 top groups.

The new studio is significantly smaller, 50 person company vs 150 person company, and every group does very well. Not a single one of DD's groups failed to place this year and only 1 group ever got lower than the highest adjudication. At Spotlight we won the sweepstakes award, 90% of our groups received a diamond which is all but 2 groups. Each competition the results were the same, all but 2 groups receiving the highest adjudication. 

In any business , it is difficult to go from small boutique to large power house. There are some mega studios that have it figured out but none in my area. 

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cynmckee

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Reply with quote  #25 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dirtchic
We switched from a larger studio that had 2-3 groups that did very well at competitions, almost always won critics choice and if they didn't they were in the top 5. The rest of the groups were average to below average and made up 90% of the company. By looking at the results you wouldn't know that though because of the 2-3 top groups.

The new studio is significantly smaller, 50 person company vs 150 person company, and every group does very well. Not a single one of DD's groups failed to place this year and only 1 group ever got lower than the highest adjudication. At Spotlight we won the sweepstakes award, 90% of our groups received a diamond which is all but 2 groups. Each competition the results were the same, all but 2 groups receiving the highest adjudication. 

In any business , it is difficult to go from small boutique to large power house. There are some mega studios that have it figured out but none in my area. 



It's funny because I think large means different things to different people.  I consider our studio large, but we have a 60 person company (which is 10 over what the SO originally wanted.)  When I think small, I think 15 person company or 50 students overall.  Our studio is like yours, and we often sweep awards so to me it feels like we are large.  I guess there are some much larger studios in our area, I just don't think of them as "bigger"...don't know why.  SO is opening up a 4th studio in our building this year...I bet this seems small to some, huh?
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