What to do when your dancer wants to go to boarding school

NYCB principal Tiler Peck left California at 11 to dance in New York City.

One beauty of summer programs is they give students a chance to try something different. Tappers might trade in their shoes for a modern workshop, and jazz dancers could refine their technique with ballet. But sometimes, branching out leads to falling in love. What if a student returns this month and announces that she wants to study elsewhere?

Though it may hurt to learn that one of your stars wants to go to boarding school, it’s essential to help her through this transition. She’ll need your guidance on how to prepare, mentally and physically, to make the most of her new experience. And once she’s gone, you must recover from the loss and keep business thriving.

 

Is It the Right Decision?

It’s important to voice your opinion, even if you don’t agree with the dancer’s choice. “It’s a big decision, so I’m honest because I want them to know what they’re getting into,” says Ashley Canterna Hardy of Edna Lee Dance Studio in Maryland. Make sure they’re certain about moving by encouraging them to research the school; its year-round program may differ from the summer intensive in schedule, class offerings and even faculty. “Some kids come here wanting serious training and are shocked and realize it’s not for them,” says Martin Fredmann, artistic and executive director of the Kirov Academy of Ballet of Washington, DC. Students may focus on one technique and find that they miss mixed training or realize that sacrificing a normal teenage lifestyle may not be for them.

Those who are serious enough to leave home probably want to dance professionally someday, so they should consider the school’s alumni, and whether the program feeds into a company. Canterna Hardy sits down with the student and parents to explain that they should expect a competitive atmosphere. “Everyone at these ballet schools is fighting for the same goal—to become a professional dancer,” she says.

Moving away from family, friends and teachers can be rough, especially for younger students. They should take location, distance from home, housing and academics into account; homesickness may become their biggest challenge. New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck, who left California at 11, says that building relationships with friends is important. “I lived in the dorms where everyone’s away from home,” she says of her time at the School of American Ballet. “My friends became like family.”

Julie Jarnot, co-artistic director of Artistic Fusion Dance Academy in Colorado, puts dancers in contact with a trusted person in the same school or city, so there is always someone nearby in case of an emergency.

 

Preparing for Independence

Once you prepare your students mentally, it’s time to get their bodies in peak physical condition. For the ballet-bound, Canterna Hardy suggests taking technique class five to six days per week to continue building on principles learned that summer and to develop stamina and endurance. Jarnot sends students to Pilates to maximize strength and flexibility. She also talks about nutrition and sleep. Instilling healthy habits and responsible decision-making skills will help them succeed in the long run.

Still, students won’t understand the true intensity of the program until they arrive. “Some kids who are 16 and 17 years old enter school and realize they haven’t had the foundation or the right equipment—there’s a lot of catching up to do,” says Fredmann.

Find out if there are transitional training programs available to new students. For instance, when dancers arrive at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, they are screened to identify strengths and weaknesses and  given catered exercises. “Most of the time they need to take a step backward,” says Interlochen’s director of dance, Cameron Basden. “They can do some steps really well, but they don’t know how to put things together.” She acknowledges that competition dancers succeed because of their work ethic and enthusiasm. As great performers, they tend to channel that energy into their studies.

 

Fostering a Lasting Connection

It can be difficult to say good-bye to a dancer you’ve invested in. “Once you get the news,” says Jarnot, “it stings a little bit. But if they want to pursue a career in ballet, and you know that’s what they should be doing, it’s easy to let go.”

To manage the loss of a leading dancer, Jarnot turns her attention to younger students. It reminds her of the studio’s purpose: to support and encourage kids. As the dancers age, they will continue to feed the studio. “You have to build from the bottom. As much as that star will be missed, there’s always someone to fill those shoes,” she says.

Stay in touch and encourage your dancer to return often. Canterna Hardy still choreographs for her student at The Rock School and taught a master class there through the connection. Peck says that choreographing at her mom’s studio, the Bakersfield Dance Company, lets her take a ballet vacation and revisit her jazz roots.

The key to maintaining your students’ business is to nurture your connection. They’ll bring outside experience, inspire the little ones and even lead you to new business opportunities.  It’s a win-win for everyone. DT

 

Julie Diana is a principal dancer with Pennsylvania Ballet. She has a BA in English from the University of Pennsylvania.

 

Photo: NYCB principal Tiler Peck left California at 11 to dance in New York City; by Paul Kolnik, courtesy of New York City Ballet

Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Kyle Froman

Darla Hoover was at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet's studios running a rehearsal in 2014 with director Marcia Dale Weary. Hoover had just returned the day before from staging a ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia. Jet-lagged, she mixed up her words when giving a correction.

Weary took Hoover's hand and gently said, "Honey, you work too hard."

Hoover, and the students, had a good laugh.

"Are you kidding me?" Hoover replied. "You're the one who made this monster. There is no off switch!"

Weary founded CPYB in 1955, and it quickly became an internationally known school that has produced countless principal dancers. Famous for her high standards and tough work ethic, Weary instilled those qualities in Hoover, who served as associate artistic director at CPYB under Weary, as artistic director at Ballet Academy East's pre-professional division in New York City and as a répétiteur for the Balanchine Trust.

Hoover took over as artistic director at CPYB in the spring this year after Weary died suddenly, and while she's committed to continuing Weary's legacy, students have begun to see some of Hoover's vision as well.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix, has been called the Queen of Fundraising by colleagues. A studio owner and high school dance coach with over four decades of experience, Clough is known for her smart and successful fundraising ideas.

Now, Just For Kix has created a new online tool to help everyone tackle their fundraising goals, whether you're raising money for uniforms, extra classes, or to cover the cost of travel for your dance team's next convention.

Clough shared a few of her best fundraising tips, including everything you need to know about the new tool:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
From left: Daniel Novikov, Alla Novikova and Mishella Vishnevskiy at Blackpool 2018. Photo by NYC Digital Media, courtesy of Alla Novikova

Alla Novikova began her dance training at a ballroom studio called Edelweiss in Saratov, Russia, when she was 9 years old. She was immediately recognized for her natural talent and work ethic, placing third at the Russian Open just three months after beginning ballroom lessons. The lessons she learned at Edelweiss shaped her career and provided the foundation she needed to open her own ballroom studio: Work hard to prove that you're good enough to be here, and give honor to the experiences that brought you to where you are today.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by NYCDA
Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Professions across the globe hold yearly conferences, and the dance industry is certainly no exception. Annual conferences exist for dance teachers, dance medicine professionals, dance educators and more. Taking the time out to attend them can be well worth your while for a number of different reasons. Let's take a closer look at four of them.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Father-daughter dance. Photo by Lisa Lee, courtesy of Dance Academy USA

Your year-end recital is your studio's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not only is it the time for your dancers to celebrate what they've accomplished during the year, it's your opportunity to demonstrate to parents firsthand the value of a dance education. A successful recital can also grant your school an influential role in the local community. Whether a prominent conservatory or a small-town studio, and whether your dancers win competitions or take classes once a week, your year-end recital is the chance for your dancers—and your program—to shine.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Q: How do you approach gender when teaching in 2019? When I was training, male dancers were encouraged to make their movement masculine, while female dancers were encouraged to keep their movement feminine. Today, gender has become much more fluid, and the line between masculine and feminine performance has blurred. How does that impact the way we should be teaching?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Photo courtesy of Z Artists Group

New York City–based pre-professional training troupe Z Artists Group, along with dancers from eight professional companies in the city, are joining together to combat gun violence with, "DANCERS DEMAND ACTION," a performance aligning art with activism at The Joyce Theater, this Monday, November 11, at 7:30 pm.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Infinite Flow

Last week, 2019 DT Awardee Marisa Hamamoto and her partner Piotr Iwanicki brought their boundary-breaking work to the "Good Morning America" stage in a segment highlighting her inclusive dance company Infinite Flow.

Infinite Flow is a Los Angeles–based wheelchair ballroom dance company (the first of its kind in the U.S.) that incorporates an equal number of disabled and nondisabled dancers, as well as a range of styles like hip hop, contemporary and other partner dances.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending

Since she was hired in 2006 to create a dance program at Washington & Lee University in Virginia, Jenefer Davies has operated as, essentially, a one-woman show. She's the only full-time faculty member (with regular adjunct support). Over the last 13 years, she has created a thriving program along with a performance company—at a school with fewer than 2,500 students—by drawing on her admittedly rare strength: aerial dance.

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network

Savion Glover is one of the biggest names in the dance world, and perhaps the biggest in the tap world. The trailblazing hoofer's hard-hitting, rhythmically intricate style has fundamentally altered the tap landscape.

Glover is also a master teacher. But during his many years on the scene, he's never appeared regularly at a major dance convention. That is, until this season: Glover is now teaching at JUMP Dance Convention, scheduled to appear at approximately 15 more cities on its 2019–2020 tour.

We talked with JUMP director Mike Minery, himself a gifted hoofer, about working with a living legend—and how Glover is already changing the convention class game.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Though she loved choreographing, the high school student showcase wasn't quite enough for Julie Deleger, a recent graduate of The College Preparatory School in Oakland, California. The answer for her was an independent-study project during her last semester there. "Choreography is so personal that sometimes you need to take more or less time with it," she says. "Doing it on my own was really helpful. I let the project guide me rather than having to adhere to a specific set of rules."

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox