The Academy of Classical Ballet
Frequently Asked Questions
How is the Academy of Classical Ballet different from other dance institutions?
The Academy sets itself apart from other dance institutions in many ways, the most compelling of which is our approach to ballet instruction. ACB is one of the only dance schools in the nation to be founded upon both dance experience and the advice of medical professionals (orthopedic surgeons, podiatrists, sports, physical and dance therapists etc) specializing in dance and dance related injuries. While injury is possible with any physical activity, the Academy has taken extensive steps to help ensure that our ballet students will not have to accept the lifetime of pain and injuries as many current dancers must. Our method of training dancers is geared to help students excel in dance and avoid injury, while helping to build a love of dance, along with discipline and confidence.
The Academy of Classical Ballet's innovative teaching methods and curriculum have gained both local and national attention. We are proud to be known for our slow, precise instruction and vigilant care for the well being of the dancing body. In addition to our 'injury prevention' curriculum, we are also one of the only dance institutions in the nation and the only one in the Midwest to successfully incorporate academic content into our lessons in addition to teaching our dancers French.
Why is quality dance instruction important?
No matter what your child's reasons for joining dance, or their professional aspirations, giving your child the best dance education possible is never a bad idea. There are many reasons that proper dance training is vital:
Poor training in the dance world is worse than no training at all. Poor training can ingrain bad habits, improper technique, and unsightly affectations that can take months or years to un-train, even by the most qualified instructor.
Quality dance training, when continued for a number of years, gives the child the confidence and ability to take dance class anywhere and not feel in over their head, or ill prepared for the expectations of a 'big city' dance class. For example, classically trained ballet dancers can go anywhere in the world and take class anywhere they choose, without ever having to worry, is my training good enough? They are on par and can hold their own in any class.
Should a child receive inadequate dance training, not having initial dance career aspirations, then decide in high school or later to pursue a dance career, finding a job with a poor training background is highly unlikely.
Proper dance training can make it possible for a dance student to become a professional dancer and achieve their dream of dancing on stage.
Can dance improve students’ academic career?
Dance training enhances focus, memory and greatly enhances the ability to prioritize. Most serious dancers are also straight A students due to their ability to goal set, manage their time, organize and weigh positive choices over less positive choices. Exposure to literature, math, science and history in ballet class often helps students to make strong connections to their school curriculum as well.
How does ballet benefit the body?
Ballet puts the body through an equal range of motion, stretching and contracting all muscle groups of the body. While ballet isn’t inherently aerobic, barre exercises and floor exercises increase muscle tone, strength and flexibility. Many students of ballet began at their doctor's recommendation to help correct issues associated with knock-knees, weak backs, or poor feet.
How do I know if my child is being given quality instruction?
Unfortunately there is no easy answer to this question, and finding out the answer can be especially worrisome for a parent who lacks dance experience themselves. Here are a few tips: Does the location focus on dancing and dance technique or performances and competitions? Students who want a higher level of achievement in dance usually choose schools that focus more on technique and dance classes. Students who want a more pageant experience, or to excel in cheerleading, poms, or acting often prefer the competition studios that focus on learning routines for competitions and performances. Is the dance environment inviting? Do students, instructors and parents seem to enjoy their time at dance? And, to keep in mind for the more serious student who may want "Broadway" or "Swan Lake" as a career- does the dance school place strong emphasis on ballet technique? Even Broadway musical talent must have a strong background in ballet to land a job. Strong background means committed ballet training at least 3 days a week until at least the age of 16. For those wishing a ballet career, classes at the intermediate level and up should meet no less than 3 days a week, preferably more.
Why does your school take such a different approach to dance training?
Studio Director Hillary Evans was tired of hearing the adage that “a dancer is always in pain”, and sickened by the idea that teens and young adults had to ‘just accept’ having physical pain and conditions usually only reserved for the elderly. She certainly didn’t want this to be a reality for her dance students. So, while still a dancer herself, she began examining causes and solutions for dancer’s unique injuries. She turned to established literature, the advice of respected physicians and medical practitioners in the field of dance and sports training, from orthopedic surgeons and podiatrists to physical therapists and dance therapists. What she learned is that many problems of dancers actually stem from their earliest dance training. Some of the most common problems are students using turn out ( the ‘v’ shape of the feet caused by lateral rotation of the legs from the hip socket) too soon, being given steps too advanced for their bodies, or too many classes as a whole. When Ms. Evans discovered that making simple yet revolutionary changes to the way ballet is currently taught could make a profound effect upon the health of dancers, she immediately began creating a curriculum to support this safer approach to the teaching of classical ballet. This curriculum is the backbone of all ballet classes taught at the Academy of Classical Ballet.
When can girls be put on pointe?
Truthfully, not every girl can or should participate in pointe work. Lack of foot and ankle flexibility, flat feet, bunions or other foot problems, as well as students who are lacking strength or are over-weight should be discouraged from pointe work. Sadly, many institutions will put any girl en pointe if parents are willing to pay. The Academy refuses to engage in this practice. Only students who are serious about their training and have the physical capacity to participate in pointe work safely are encouraged to take that next step of ballet training. The general accepted age for pointe work is at or after 12 years of age.
Other dance schools start their Beginning Ballet students at the age of six or seven. Why does your school not start until age eight?
Not beginning formal ballet lessons too soon is crucial. All established and respected literature about the training of dance advises against beginning formal training before the age of eight, and with good reason. Younger students lack the emotional maturity, but more importantly, they lack the physical readiness and ability to execute ballet moves correctly. Incorrect movements can train bad habits, or worse risk stunting the proper growth and development of a growing body, in ways that often aren’t apparent until years later.
If ballet training should not be begun until the age of eight, what do your students do before then?
Formal training at ACB is understood to begin when a student learns to execute steps utilizing ‘turn-out’, which refers to the lateral rotation of the legs within the hip socket. Only certain body positions should be used with turn out at a young age, other positions cannot safely be begun until students are nearer their teenage years.
Prior to age eight students should only participate in learning the fundamentals of ballet, focusing on play acting, musicality, ballet steps executed in parallel, mime and story telling- all essential elements of ballet. Older Pre-Ballet students learn more advanced elements including fine motor control, that will assist them greatly during their first year of formal training. These first stepping stones are invaluable in later training, and it is often quite obvious when a dancer has gone through our entire Pre-Ballet course, over a ballet student who has not.
Is it true that Hillary Evans's teacher was trained by George Balanchine?
Very true. Hillary's Evans teacher, Ms. Esther Moody was indeed trained by and had danced with the famous George Balanchine, creator of the School of American Ballet and the New York City Ballet. Many elements from the School of American Ballet (Balanchine Technique) are also incorporated into Academy students' lessons.
Is having a teacher who was a professional dancer better than a teacher who was not?
Not necessarily. Some professional dancers do make wonderful teachers, however many professional dancers do not. Just as dancing is an art that not all can master, teaching is an art as well. Not everyone can or should teach.
Why do you insist that your students not participate in dance competitions?
In short, for the well-being of our students. While not all dance competitions are the same, most dance competitions- for those not familiar, can be likened to a combination of a cheerleading camp and a beauty pageant. The reasons that ACB does not enroll in competitions are: 1. Emphasis on ‘tricks’ as opposed to true dance technique, 2. The surplus of inappropriate costuming/inappropriate music/inappropriate dance routines, and 3. The fact that many professional dance companies and dance colleges will reject students who participate in ‘competitive dancing’ due to their lack of solid training, trained affectations and ‘pageant nature’.
The Academy of Classical Ballet 3211 S. Lake Drive Milwaukee, WI 53207/ P.O. Box 070294 Milwaukee, WI 53207
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