Dance Training

Should Dance Students Get to Choose Their Own Variations?

Cameron Durham, Courtesy Houston Ballet

Do students get a say in choosing their competition variations? It depends on the coach's philosophy:


Always: Stephanie and Bo Spassoff of The Rock School

Stephanie Spassoff, PC Catherine Park

"We ask dancers to look at different variations and let us know what they feel they can handle," says Stephanie. "The coach and student then assess the feasibility together," says Bo. "We believe we get the best out of our dancers when they are part of a process that's collaborative and congenial."

Sometimes: Ilka Doubek of Litchfield Dance Arts Academy

Litchfield Dance Arts Academy, PC Jacqueline Pettie

Doubek allows dancers to weigh in, but ultimately it's up to the coach. "Often I find when kids come to you and say they want to do a specific variation, you may have to water it down or simply say it's unrealistic," says Doubek. "For someone tall with long legs, I like to give them something to show off those lines, but a perky soubrette personality is well matched for something like Coppélia or Flames of Paris."

Never: Claudio Muñoz of Houston Ballet II

Claudio Muñoz, PC Jaime Lagdameo

"The student never chooses the variation. You need them to trust you to do it," says Claudio Muñoz. "The proper material for competition has to reflect ability and taste. So, it's up to the coach to look at the dancer in front of him and assess."

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