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prancer

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Reply with quote  #1 
I would really appreciate hearing the reasons why a dancer should go away to a summer intensive. (We are not hoping to gain admission to a year long program.) Thanks for the advice. My dancer is 14, so I know she is old enough, but I’m not clear on why we should send her.
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heidi459

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SIs are funny things imo.  Seems they have become part of this 'formula' people have in their heads.  "Gotta go off somewhere to an SI... that's what all the serious dancers do".  Even...  "Gotta go to a big name SI... cuz that will prove something to me (and everyone else)".  Is there some truth to both of those?  Perhaps.  But I'm not so sure that either are good reasons to send them off... and spend so very much money. Seems to me that it's wise to think a little deeper than that.

That said... there certainly are lots of good reasons to go and I have no doubt you will get a laundry list here on this thread.  So my only advice to anyone considering going is to think long and hard about what specifically you and your dancer want to get out of it and then try to choose a program that will provide just that.  And whatever you do, please don't be starstruck by a name.  My own 17 yo will go to the same small, in the middle of nowhere, no one's heard about program she's been going to for the last 2 years.  And yes, she is eyeing a professional career.  And right out of high school.  So why 'that' no name program?  Because she knows that it offers her exactly what she wants/needs.  Bottom line... Know your dancer.... what he/she needs... what he/she wants.  And do everything in your power to know the programs you are considering.  It can be a boatload of money.  If at all possible you want to come out of there with a heck of lot more than what you could get (at a much cheaper price) without the bragging rights.
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Angel2228

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Reply with quote  #3 
I would send my dd for the experience and strength.
New teachers would offer her different styles, they could also make corrections that her regular teachers have not noticed. Dd went for three weeks at 13 and had the best summer of her life. The disappointing part was that as she improved, her regular class at home did not. Dd went from pointe 5 days a week in the summer, to once a week with dancers who had to ease back into it from a two month break.
Dd wants to dance after Highschool, whether it's professionally or teach. She's made friends and contacts from her summer.
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classydance

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Reply with quote  #4 
Why go to summer intensives? 

Depends on the age. 

For my child (age 15) she's at a pre professional school during the year and cannot get the level of hours in our area or the level of instruction. We don't live in a major metro area or even 2 hours from one. So, it's a matter of maintenance, really. I can't fund 4 hours of private lessons per day and really that's not useful any anyway. 

If you go to an SI attached to a company, I think that some dancers and parents believe that going to a summer intensive will help the dancer "be seen" for future jobs but I just don't know about that. I think that what many get is an invite to the intensive's year round program or "trainee" program" (These are basically ballet programs for kids who have graduated from high school. You pay tuition and room and board. Sometimes you get assistance or scholarship. For what the dancer is "trained" I do not know.  Usually they take about 10 times more dancers in these programs than apprentices or corps members who eventually get chosen for real employment.)

Last year I heard of 2 kids given corps contracts from a large co program out of about 300 attending.  I also heard of one girl getting a corps contract offer from a strong regional company SI with about 150 attendees.  So, it can happen but not for most. 

If you are going to be looking for a job, you can get a feel for the style of the company and the culture as well as the city. 

I guess if might give the Artistic Director a better look at you but in many schools the Artistic Director is not involved.  

So, why go? 

For us, the direct benefit is simply maintenance.
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meatball77

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Reply with quote  #5 
All the same benefits from sending your kids to any summer camp.  Independence, getting comfortable being away from home, budgeting ect. . .

The chance to study different styles and take different classes than your dancer gets during the year (partnering ect. . . )

The chance to study with a larger group of peers and to see how they stack up against kids outside their studios and study with a group of kids who are mostly at the same ability level as they are

The chance to be seen by different teachers and directors

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tendumom

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Reply with quote  #6 

For dd, the number one reason to go was the training. 

And when she did finally go away to a 5 or 6 week program, she learned that the grass isn't always greener.  The bigger well known program did not provide the same attention to detail and intensity as her smaller program at home. The small home studio program brought in well known guest teachers who actually taught more than one class and got to know the students to some degree (most taught for a week). The big program had guest teachers too, but the younger levels did not get those teachers at all, or maybe just once. So, the next summer, she decided to stay home and only audition for the programs that would not overlap with her home school's SI. 

For me, the bottom line is that if there is solid training available at home, there is no need. It's a nice extra when a dancer is younger, sort of like adding decorations to the icing on a cake. It's like any other summer program, allowing a chance to develop more independence and maturity, the chance to make friends who share the same love of ballet- often friends from all over. (Some of dd's closest friends are those that she made at SIs over the years). The exposure to different teachers is also a nice plus. The first time she went away, it was for 2 weeks before her home SI. Her teachers were amazed at the changes in just 2 weeks. She got the very same corrections she was getting at home, but with different words and different instructions to fix the issues and those words and instructions clicked. It was like magic! [smile] Oh.. and by solid training at home, I don't mean just normal classes. It should be more intense than the year round training so the dancer can really take advantage of the time off from school, etc and grow!

As they get older, 16+, going to a company based program has more benefits, but I'm still not convinced it is necessary until the end. It did help shape what dd thought she wanted, but the truth is, that she didn't really understand those things until it was really time. At most of these programs, it's not a paid company position the high school seniors are vying for but tuition based and unpaid positions. Some do have paid second companies or trainees or apprentices (the names and what they are vary greatly between companies), but a high school kid getting a full company contract is a rarity. It definitely does happen, but it's rare enough that we tend to end up knowing who those dancers are- there are that few. 

I think someone mentioned above that at some company based programs, the AD has no or little involvement.  It really varies, so "being seen" may not even actually happen at an SI. At the program where dd ended up staying on as a trainee, she had the company AD for class just once or twice the whole summer. He was more of a guest teacher. At another program she attended, the AD and the associate AD were the two main instructors for the top level. At that SI, they were actually actively looking for unpaid trainees and paid second company members. 

Many of dd's peers did get their positions, whether they be tuition based or unpaid or paid, through summer programs. I can say that she was VERY grateful last year to have obtained a position without having to go through the pain of wondering if she will be selected in the summer. It was a huge relief. And I think that worked to her benefit. She did not ask to be considered for anything, but when she asked for a conference for another reason at the end of the intensive, she was offered one anyway (funny because she would have done anything to get that in prior years). 

I do think it can be hard at some SIs to really understand what the company is like. I feel like dd got a much better idea of whether she would like working for a company when she attended company classes than when she attended an SI. At most SIs, you are not taking class with the actual company, seeing how they work and interact with one another and the artistic staff. Many of those people are not even there in the summer (obviously this varies from program to program).

@classydance mentioned tuition based trainee programs. Those dancers get additional training that should help them get to the next level. It was very clear to us that were dd was in a trainee program was not going to be a direct path into the company. Even in those cases where it can be, if you have 20 trainees and then 4 paid apprentices, it's obvious that most are not going to end up as apprentices. In her case, we had seen that not one of the second company members in recent years had come from the trainee program. Not a single one. So while she knew the training was what she needed, she knew that she was not going to be staying. Part of the training provided included education on getting the next position- building the resume, what should really go on your videos, how they should look, how to market oneself, etc. These seminars were provided by people who actually were looking at 100s of resumes, videos, etc. 

Something else that a SI can provide is direction. Dd is not alone in this. She came home from an SI one summer and understood that her cross training at home needed to change. Another summer, she came home with the realization that her year round training needed to change if she was going to achieve her goals. She had a strong local ballet school but it no longer met her needs. Going away for the summer and training elsewhere made that crystal clear. 

 

 

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prancer

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Reply with quote  #7 
Thank you for your thoughtful answers. I am very glad I asked the question. Your responses have given me a lot to think about. We have intensive training available at home and I think my dd is still in a position to benefit from what is locally available, but I can also see how instructions from others could help her improve. I was worried that if she did not start SIs soon that she would be taking herself out of the game. However, I’m reading these answers to sound more like: get the best training you can get for your dancer’s needs rather than start filling a resume with intensive attendances. Am I reading you correctly?
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heidi459

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Reply with quote  #8 

Can't speak for anyone else but you're certainly reading me correctly.  I know there are those who are convinced otherwise (I know some of them personally) but no one can ever convince me that a resume will get you a job in ballet... for many reasons.  Not the least of which is that anyone can intentionally mislead w/crafty creative writing.   That SI you attended at 12.... & at your peak.  That world renowned teacher you studied with.....  in that master class.  That principal role.... in the rather amateurish production. That 3 letter school you attended... before being told you no longer met their standards & were let go.  Heck, you could even out & out lie.  No one would know.  Resumes are essentially a sales pitch. They don't tell an AD what they really need to know.. . which is how well can you actually dance.  My advice is to focus solely on getting the very best training you can so you don't have to worry about how you are going to "tell" someone that you have what they want. Instead, focus on doing everything that you can so that when the time comes?  You'll be able to "show" them.

 

eta: also, I know that people like to minimize the financials but keep in mind that getting the very best training means &&&.  Lots & lots of &&&.  Over many, many yrs.  Which means that perhaps it's wise to think twice about spending money for the wrong reasons.  I.e., if it costs 6-7K for that 3 letter SI on the other side of the country but your dancer could gain just as much (perhaps more of what she really needs) for half the cost?  That's 3-4K that could be spent on additional training opportunities.  Maybe that same summer.  Maybe over the course of the next yr.  Maybe over the course of the next few yrs. IDK.  Just more food for thought.  

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prancer

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Reply with quote  #9 
Thanks Heidi.  Yes, since reading your and tendumom's replies, I have run a few different cost scenarios including considering how many private lessons we could buy for the price of one SI.  
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meatball77

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Reply with quote  #10 
One of the girls my daughter danced with when she was little was hired as a full corps position at 17 and she never attended an outside summer intensive.  She was at a strong studio with strong teachers who gave her lots of room for performance and training and to be seen.

It all depends on what your child gets in their yearly program and what they are lacking.  Do they need partnering class, performance opportunities, to experience other genre's than ballet?  My daughter is at a small studio, she has performance opportunities and partnering (although with a professional which isn't the same as using a weak partner) but because her school is small she needs to dance in the summer with other strong dancers who are her age.
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classydance

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Reply with quote  #11 
Thanks tendumom

Could you remind us what company your dd dances with? Or maybe just a descriptor, as I think you are the only one replying who has a child who is actually pro. 
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heidi459

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Reply with quote  #12 
Quote:
Originally Posted by prancer
Thanks Heidi.  Yes, since reading your and tendumom's replies, I have run a few different cost scenarios including considering how many private lessons we could buy for the price of one SI.  


Obviously it's just my opinion (you decide what that's worth) but it really does feel like logical thinking to me (re: the overstating of the importance of a 'resume' & the understating of the importance of $$$).  Dancers need the best training possible to reach their full potential & increase the likelihood that they'll find some level of success.  When it's all said & done w/what will matter is how well they dance, period.  Training takes many many yrs & costs serious money.  The more money you have to spend, the more training opportunities will be available to you.  Not spending money on unnecessary things leaves more money for those opportunities.  It's really not rocket science.

To be honest, if it weren't for this more affordable program dd now loves, I don't know if she'd be going away.  Her training has been varied.  She's seen who's and what's out there.  Hasn't been w/the same school for yrs on end.  Has & continues to take opportunities to learn from different teachers.  Her new yr round program is phenomenal & in a very different way from her old one.... it's mission being to bridge the gap btw 'student' & 'company member'.  And because of a quirky little local company she's a part of now, she has performance opportunities up the wazoo.  So when we see the dollar figures that are associated w/so many of these summer programs (plus travel expenses!)... & feel strongly that they're not likely to provide anything MORE and BETTER... I just don't think I could spend it. I just don't ever want to be in a position where I have to say "we can't help you anymore" because of yrs & yrs of indiscriminate spending.  Unfortunately, there ain't no money tree in our backyard.
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meatball77

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Reply with quote  #13 

I will say that I don't think you can compare privates to a summer intensive.  A summer intensive (at home or away) is going to be a much broader experience.  A few privates to work on problem areas or prepare for a performance or competition is helpful, but nothing like spending hours in the classroom.

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heidi459

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Reply with quote  #14 

I agree that privates are not always all that beneficial but I can say w/confidence that a yr's worth of privates were, in fact, THE difference for my dd.  She had so much work to do that 1st yr she switched over to ballet from comp.  And while her daily classes were everything she could ask for...small, intense, demanding, w/lots of individual attention... she absolutely needed that focused 1:1 to play catch up. Ended up costing us about 5K... the cost of an SI.   So just thinking back, if we had had to make a choice?  And the primary goal was to push her towards her full potential?  Those privates would have won out, hands down.  No SI anywhere could have done more for my dd, even as much, as that yr of privates w/that crazy Russian prima ballerina.


eta:  as I think more about it, even now, again, I think a focused summer of privates w/her current teachers would prove more beneficial than 5 wks at most SIs.  Their style of teaching, the way they focus so very much on the artistry... they know her, what she needs, & how to get it out of her.  At so many SIs it's almost like spinning your wheels.  Not at all a bad thing if maintenance, or the 'experience', is what you're after.  If you don't have high quality summer training available locally.  Or if the goal is to be invited to a yr round program.  It just all comes back to knowing what specifically you want/need... and making sure that the programs you're considering are capable of giving it to you.  Rather than just spending X number of $$ to follow the crowd.

eta2: and fwiw I realize that it's almost coming across like I'm turning my nose up at SIs & I want to say that I'm most definitely not.  I'm just advocating for more informed decision making, that's all.

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dave9988

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Reply with quote  #15 
We are at a local pre-pro style school.  Our school generally doesn't condone going away before sophomore year in HS, and frankly discourages it before HS.  Before junior year (and maybe even after, I'm not sure), that blessing likely only comes if it doesn't have a major conflict with the school's own local SI.  Clearly there's a financial interest in having dancers attend the local SI, but I don't believe that's the sole driving factor.  I could list other reasons, but I'd be speculating.  The only thing that's ever been stated straight up is: "that's how we've always done it."  Not exactly a great reason, but  the school does have a good track record.  Heidi might suggest that's partly because that's where the local "serious dancers" go, and I can't disagree.  The flip side though, is that's also where many of the "serious teachers" choose to teach. 

My DD(soon to be 15) will audition for out of town SIs for the first time this season.  What we hear most from others in our school after coming back from their first out of town SI is that they gained CONFIDENCE.  That just because they aren't as good as the best dancer(s) in their class does not mean that they aren't also a good dancer.  That while there are good (great!) dancers elsewhere from other schools, "our kids" can fit in, learn, excel, and even be looked up to by others in the class.  That there are some teachers who balance corrections and criticism with praise.  Not to get negative on our school - it is what it is, and it's not what it's not.  It's great for training.  But "that wasn't terrible" often passes for high praise from the AD.

So training is important in an SI, yes.  But it's also an opportunity to sort of test out the bigger pond, to see what else is out there and how/if you fit in.

Is it worth the money (tuition, travel, food, pointe shoes!)?  I guess that's up to individual discretion.


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tendumom

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Reply with quote  #16 
The big pond concept is definitely another reason to consider going away.

The first time DD went away just for 2 weeks, she not only came back with visible improvements, she also gained a new confidence she had been lacking. She learned that while she felt like a small fish at home, in the bigger pond of a larger SI, she was actually a much bigger fish.

Dd's school was like where Dave's kids attend. SIs were but encouraged until dancers reached a certain level. That generally happened when they were high school aged. They did encourage attending an audition in the level prior, but otherwise, they recommend the home SI. I also agree this was not purely financial.
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prancer

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Reply with quote  #17 
Thank you all for the very helpful posts.  I am grateful for your time and willingness to share your experiences.

This conversation is definitely helping me clarify my thinking.  For one thing, I have realized that my daughter is on the cusp of likely benefitting from an SI.  She is a freshman in high school now and will turn 15 this spring. This is the first year that the AD has suggested a SI, and I now know that the timing is in line with that recommended by other programs.  Conceptualizing my dd as on the cusp has helped me quite a bit.  In my opinion my daughter is roughly one year behind on her ballet training after moving to more serious training from a comp school.  If I look at the recommended training guidelines on Ballet Talk for Dancers she has been training this year at the 13 year old level (not the 14/15).  She has shown amazing growth in the past year and blossomed under solid training, as well as benefitted from puberty and gaining control of her long limbs.  The main difference in the levels for my dd is the amount of pointe work, and she is will increase her pointe work to the 14 year old level after winter break.  So again - she is on the cusp.  

Wondering about what she will need in the next year is another good question for me.  Her recent training has been excellent, and I would argue a perfect fit for her. However, she is now a top student at her studio, so I don't know when/if she will max out what they can offer her.  This probably sounds off serious alarm bells for most of you, but she is in a revamped dance program in an established performing arts school that regularly produces Broadway artists.  The ballet teachers in our program are professional dancers who have either taught or danced with the teachers at our local ballet schools, so the potential for excellent training is there. My daughter wants to impress her teachers (not compare herself against classmates) - and she believes she still has much to learn from her teachers - so again this gives me pause about an outside SI.  She gets amazing attention at her home studio and they have their own SI.  So unlike many of you, my dd is currently a big fish in small pond, so the SI would be more likely to hurt her confidence than build her confidence.  Believe me, she does not have an overinflated view of her own ability (she knows the very best ballet and comp dancers in our region and knows the difference), so taking a confidence knock right now might be counter productive.  

On the other hand, I know my daughter responds to new voices and learns something new when she takes master classes.  I know she is inspired by big names.  And I know that soon - in the next year - her focus needs to turn to adding more artistry.  Some of her teachers have amazing artistry, but the classes remain largely technique focused.  After serious thinking, this would be the reason for an SI (or privates) this year.  I do believe that an SI (both instructors and peers) might be able to pull more artistry from her, and I think this will be necessary - but again, I am considering if she ready to focus on adding artistry this summer - maybe?  Will she be hungry for it next year? - probably. 

I will let you know what we decide, but I'm thinking something smaller this year and full-sized next year.  Thanks again.


  
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tendumom

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Reply with quote  #18 

Quote:
 In my opinion my daughter is roughly one year behind on her ballet training after moving to more serious training from a comp school.

This is a reason she may very much benefit from the right program. I think your idea of a smaller program where she can get personal attention this summer is a very good one. 

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hopefuldancer17

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Reply with quote  #19 
My DD was not getting the quantity/intensity of training that she needed at her home school, nor was she receiving any partnering instruction. Those were two good reasons for her to go away starting in high school. She was also outgrowing her home school's summer program. She benefited from hearing corrections from new voices and having new eyes watching her when she went away, as she really only has one teacher at her school. Her home studio does not do privates. Going away also helped solidify for her that this was the life she wanted for herself: being immersed in her art, with other serious dancers. Her first year was at a bigger program but her next two were at smaller programs where she got much more focused attention.
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prancer

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Reply with quote  #20 
Thank you for all the comments. We have made our summer plans and decided to stay small and focused. She will attend her home studio’s ballet Intensive as well as another small intensive emphasizing ballet and modern. I think this is a good plan for my dd this year. She will get more of what is working at home as well as benefit from venturing out in a manageable way. Thanks again.
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sglemon

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Reply with quote  #21 
It is nice to get experience and critiques from different instructors. I think it is important to learn how to adapt to different teaching styles.   My DD also learned, at 12 years old, what it was like to be away from home for 2 weeks, dancing 8 hours a day.  The distance was tough.  The second day there, she cried wanting to come home, she stuck it out and is ready to fly, now.  Also dancing 8 hours a day, solidified her love for ballet.  She learned at 12, she was behind on ballet training at her current studio.  Decided that is what she wanted to concentrated on, ad moved to a preprofessional program, and then a Conservatory type of ballet school.
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Lorax

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Reply with quote  #22 
I agree with a comment made earlier that seemed to point to SI attendance as being a status symbol of sorts, it's what others are doing (and announcing)... I've noticed several social media bios of younger dancers (managed by their parents it would seem) that now state things like, "SAB SI 2016" in addition to placements at competitions/ scholarships. I definitely feel the social peer pressure exerted by other parents (and I see it exerted in my dancer's day to day), "So... where are you going this summer?" Followed closely by long discussions about last summer, followed closely by discussions about how amazing or not so amazing the experience was and the strategies and planning going into making this summer the be all end all of learning experiences filled with all sorts of expectations about what comes next. 

Different strokes for different folks, but I find the relentless self promotion road always leaves me certain that it's not the right road for our family. 

I also notice a competitive creep about summer intensives. The road seems to be: step 1. attend a competition that awards scholarships to intensives and year round programs (of course they hope for high placements to brag about) step 2. announce the wonderful SI scholarship received step 3. announce completion of that SI as part of your social media bio, lather/ rinse/ repeat the next year with the result being these incredibly long bios for kids as young as 12 with a non stop year of preparing to compete / preparing for SI auditions/ participating in the SI audition and already talking about what happens next year before this year's SI has even started. 

Anyway, I think I'm talking in circles. I agree with all the above that stress the learning journey over the word "intensive"... every dancer is different and needs different things. If a studio offers high quality plain jane summer classes that may be just what the doctor ordered for your dancer that year. If your dancer had a bit of a rough year ego wise a small less ego driven SI where they may really flourish and see the growth from start to finish may go a long way towards having a great next year. If your family and your dancer enjoy the social media promotion and name dropping and checking another prestigious locale off your list, go for it. As with all things, just be really honest with yourself and your dancer about not just what you're doing but why you're doing it.

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prancer

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Reply with quote  #23 
Lorax, I think you are making very good points.  Given what I was seeing, I was quite concerned that I needed to arrange for my dd do more to keep up with the Jones's.  And I started this post thinking I needed to ship her off to as prestigious a SI she could be accepted into.  I wondered if collecting all these experiences and accomplishments was necessary for my dd to move forward, and didn't want to prematurely limit her.  After lots of careful thinking, and all the helpful advice here, I have decided that I don't think she would benefit more at this time from big SIs - not big classes, or big names, or big reputations.  She just needs good and somewhat diversified training this year to solidify and build on her recent growth.

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Lorax

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Reply with quote  #24 
prancer, you are very wise (in my opinion, but that's easy to say when you agree with someone). 

I am also grateful for the advice given here because I was, without a doubt, hurtling towards that keeping up with the KarJonesians (little attempt at humor) mentality as well. 

I will admit, I still feel the pressure about the prestige factor. Then I remember that by making these choices now, when she is older and really has explored all of the good local options and absolutely needs to go and spend a little time in places where she may want to train year round we will have the money to do so and she will have the skills, and the age/experience to make the most of it. 

Looking forward to catching up with you, prancer, at summer's end to see how our kids feel about their choices.
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heidi459

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Reply with quote  #25 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lorax
prancer, you are very wise (in my opinion, but that's easy to say when you agree with someone). 

I am also grateful for the advice given here because I was, without a doubt, hurtling towards that keeping up with the KarJonesians (little attempt at humor) mentality as well. 

I will admit, I still feel the pressure about the prestige factor. Then I remember that by making these choices now, when she is older and really has explored all of the good local options and absolutely needs to go and spend a little time in places where she may want to train year round we will have the money to do so and she will have the skills, and the age/experience to make the most of it. 

Looking forward to catching up with you, prancer, at summer's end to see how our kids feel about their choices.


As someone who has never made decisions that way at any time in my dd's journey... no interest in a big name SI, no interest in a big name pre-pro, no interest in a big name finishing school... I am very much looking forward to seeing where this gal of mine ends up a few yrs from now.  There are many people who believe we've made big mistakes but their opinions are of no matter to us.  It has to be your/your dancer's own journey.  Educate yourselves.  Trust your ability to plan that journey wisely.  And travel it proudly.
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