Many students and parents may have questions regarding how student placements (dance level) are determined. For some students, this is an entirely new process. It is important to understand that during the course of a student’s dance career, these placements will occur on a frequent basis. It is helpful to understand how and why these placements are made and what criteria is used to determine placement.
In a school that offers professional training, placement is not determined by friends, schedule, or parent request. Sometimes, when students come from other recreational activities or from schools with different philosophies of training, they are surprised by how students are placed.
Our philosophy is to place the student at the highest level that can be both happy and healthy. This level will give each student both the proper amount of challenge and success to keep the student motivated and improving at the fastest rate they can, which is highly individual to each student.
As professional teachers, it is our ethical responsibility to ensure that each student is able to safely and securely meet the physical, social and emotional challenges of the work that is being presented. Our teachers have many, many years of professional training to help them assess and understand the needs of each student.
At Vimy and ESB, we also value the individual contributions of students. Our dancers are not identical robots who respond at an equal rate to training. Dancers have different strengths, challenges and personalities that make each dancer unique and allows each dancer to bring different qualities to their group. While we allow for differences in physique, musicality, performance etc. it is vitally important that we recognize that each student will progress at a different rate and require different types of supports during their time in our program. For example, a student who grows several inches may find their muscles, tendons and ligaments take time to catch up to that growth, leading to possible lags in flexibility or strength. They may not progress as quickly as their peers. Some students can leap ahead, while others take more time. Indeed, we often see one student struggle, and may need to be held back, only to shoot ahead at a later time, while his/her peers face challenges later on. Growth and the onset of puberty, for example, can lead to changes in center of gravity, which highly effects the ability to turn and jump effectively.
Sometimes parents ask how the performance of their child can impact the progress of others. “ My dancer is not that far behind the other students, she is happier there and what difference does it make to others?” They might think , for example, that in a math class, a child who receives lower marks does not have an impact on the other students. Let’s say that student A is working really hard in math but consistently scores between 48-52%. It might be easy to assume that this has no impact on other students who are more successful in math. Indeed, in a classroom where individual work time allows the teacher to spend extra time with the struggling student, this may be the case. But imagine a scenario where the teacher needs to review concepts repeatedly (as they should) with student A, in different manners and teaching methods, where the rest of the class would need to sit quietly and wait for student A to understand the work being presented. A dance class is much like this scenario. While a certain amount of review enhances the dancing of all students present, a student who is not physically ready for this level cannot proceed to more difficult steps. The teacher risks the injury of the student if they are not capable (at this time) of handling the work, yet needs to provide challenge for the other students in the class. Differentiated instruction, so common in the classroom, can be achieved with moderate success in the studio but has much narrower limitations within the student population. In the dance world, placing a student who is not ready for that level into the class has a definite impact on the others dancers and their rate of improvement. To put a student into a level they are not ready for, simply because they want to stay with their friends, puts not only that student at risk, but the others in the class as well. We do, of course, recognized the sadness and frustration that dancers (and their parents) feel when they do not progress in the manner they would like. Many of our staff have, in fact, had these challenges throughout their life. We are both sympathetic and understanding to these challenges and welcome the opportunity to meet with students to provide supports.
Dance, much like physical growth, is something determined by a wide variety of factors and, is some cases, cannot be rushed even with hard work and dedication. Much like we would never judge a student who does not hit a growth spurt when their classmates do, we recognize that at times, even with supreme effort, there are plateaus can challenges.
So it is our duty as dance educators to make sure that each student is placed in the correct level and that we take into account the strength, stability, flexibility, balance, agility, social, and emotional requirements of each level. We have, unfortunately, all seen the disastrous results of students put onto pointe too early, or pushed past their physical and emotional abilities too soon. These choices can lead to serious injury or even the end of a student’s dance life. We are committed, as a teaching team, to ensuring that each student is placed in the best level for them at their current physical, social and emotional development. We work together as a team to consider many different viewpoints and opinions before making a decision for each student. We do not “play favourites” or take requests, we do not consider friend groupings (as the sole source of placement); parents do not have the opportunity to change placement decisions. We do, however, continually monitor students and will move students from time to time, who have either excelled faster than anticipated, are able to show abilities beyond those seen at placement auditions, or how are unexpectedly struggling with work we thought they could handle. This movement most typically happens in late September, although it is possible at other times during the year.
More questions about placement? Concerned your son or daughter is not with students who will challenge them? Read this excellent article for ideas to reflect on: