Ask Amy: Embracing the Challenges of Learning a New Style

April 29, 2020

My daughter is 14 and just started a different ballet school in France. She comes from a strong Russian technique and seems to be struggling between schools and keeps saying she is losing her placement. Do you have any advice on how she can keep her strengths of one technique yet learn from the one that she has just started? —Aslı

I would advise her to be patient and to have an open mind. We don’t forget what we’ve learned before; we build upon it. It takes time to adjust to any new style. I had to do this myself when I joined a Balanchine-based company, and had no previous training in the style. I threw myself into it, adjusting my center of weight and my port de bras and learning how to spot front. Over time, I gained certain strengths, such as speed, attack and improved pointework. But I retained qualities from my previous training, too.

I would advise your daughter to dive right in, and to trust that she is building on her solid Russian foundation. The French style has different emphases, such as crisp footwork, so she is probably having to redirect her focus and, for now, feels uncoordinated. It may take several months before she feels like she’s making progress. Embracing another style will make her a more versatile dancer. If, however, she really feels she is not benefitting from her new school after the year is out, it may be time to change back.