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Classes meeting as usual

Acton School of Ballet
Chip Morris, Director
Lindsay Moncrieff, Assistant Director
Melissa Morris, Administrator
3 Spruce Street
P.O. Box 796
Acton, MA 01720
Acton School of Ballet (978) 263-6572

Questions Frequently Asked by Parents at Acton School of Ballet

Photo by Mike Nyman
Pre-Ballet "Lambs" in Coppélia

1. How do I determine my child’s correct placement in the school when registering?

ASB follows a syllabus ladder, which begins at age 3. Students must be the required age as noted below by the start of school on September 11, 2017.

Age by start of school Correct placement
3 years Fairy Tale Dance
4 years First Steps
5 years (kindergarten) Pre Ballet (1st year of 2-year syllabus)
6 years (1st grade) Pre Ballet (2nd year of 2-year syllabus)
7 years (2nd grade) Level 1
8 years (3rd grade) Level 2
Students 9 years and older take a placement class to determine level assignment

We rarely advance students beyond their age-appropriate levels, as our ballet syllabus is challenging and its vocabulary cumulative. Technique is both learned and refined in all levels. By the time students graduate from ASB they are often qualified for professional companies, competitive conservatory or college dance programs. Many students at ASB dance for pleasure and do not seek a professional ballet career, but their education here supports that goal.

2. My child has expressed an interest in dance but isn’t ready for the formality of a ballet classroom. Are there options for three- and four-year-olds who love to dance?

Fairy Tale Dance is our introductory class for children who want to experience the pleasures of early dance and music appreciation in a gentle and celebratory classroom. Classes include short readings into the best-loved fairy tale ballets, and opportunities for children to enact simple scenes, learn basic ballet steps and participate in group games and exercises together. A treasure chest of props each week helps transform students into their fairy tale personas!

3. My child loves to dance. Can she take more than the class requirement in her level?

Absolutely. Students are encouraged to take more classes when their schedules permit. For instance, children in Pre Ballet are required to take one class per week, but they may sign up for more than one section in that level. We offer six sections of Pre Ballet each week.

When students enter the Upper School in Level 3, they may access supplementary classes such as Modern and Ballet Conditioning. Students in Levels 5 and up may also take Variations or Choreography in support of their dance education. In Levels 3, 4, and 5 students are required to take two syllabus classes per week, but may also take another two-day section of the level, making their class commitment four days per week. Or, they may take just one class in another section, increasing their commitment to three classes per week. Please call the school if you have questions about personalizing your student’s schedule with additional classes. Your child’s registration form lists the available classes to your child’s level.

Students in Levels 6 through 10 regularly take supplementary classes to support their ballet education.

4. What does my child wear to class?

Each level at the school is identified by a different color. Please refer to our attire chart for the color and specifications of your child’s leotard, tights and ballet slippers. Students are required to wear the correct attire to class. Hair should be neat and in a bun for girls, or pinned back off the face if very short. Hair nets, hair spray or gel and bobby pins should be carried in a student’s dance bag. Students are taught to follow this etiquette in the Lower School, and are required to follow it in Level 3 and up.

Boys wear a close fitting white t-shirt, black leggings or tights, white socks and black ballet slippers.

Dance This Way in West Concord (978-318-1960), and Patterson’s in Burlington (781-273-3089) carry our attire for sale. You may also attend our Fall Open House on Thursday, August 24 from 3:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Dance This Way will be on hand at our studios with leotards, tights and ballet slippers for sale.

5. What happens if my child arrives at the school and has forgotten her/his dance attire at home?

The School Administrator, Melissa Morris, keeps a stock of donated leotards, ballet slippers and tights in her office. Your child simply needs to ask to borrow them for the day. Mrs. Morris will help fit her/his size. If she has forgotten her hair supplies, we also have hair elastics and bobby pins.

6. Will my child have an opportunity to perform?

Students in Fairy Tale Dance and First Steps demonstrate their accomplishments before their parents in an open classroom at the end of each term.

Students in Pre-Ballet through Level 10, including Modern, Contemporary, and Advanced Ballet classes perform in our annual spring production of a full-length ballet. Each class performs a choreographed role. This experience is an important part of their ballet education, enabling them to both collaborate with other students and develop an appreciation for the genre’s finest works. Coppélia, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Sleeping Beauty, La Fille Mal Gardée, Cinderella, The Enchanted Toy Shop, The Pharaoh’s Daughter and Don Quixote are some of the ballets in our school’s repertoire. Nearly all of our students perform but if a student would rather just study and not perform, that option is always available. Students in Pre Ballet through Level 2 (the Lower School) perform on only one of the two performance days. Students in Levels 3 and up perform both days.

Students in Levels 3 and 4 may take the Junior Repertory class. Students in Levels 5 and above may take a Variations class. These classes offer students opportunities to perform in our bi-annual variations recitals, which are free performances held at the end of each term. Students who enroll in the Choreography class also present their works in those recitals. Students borrow costumes from our stock for these performances and do not have to buy them.

7. Do I need to purchase costumes for the spring production?

Yes, students purchase a costume for the performance of their primary class. Modern and Contemporary students also purchase a costume. We measure students in December and order the costumes in January. ASB makes every attempt to keep this one-time purchase cost as low as possible for families. Fall registration includes a $40 costume deposit for the Lower School (up to Level 2) and a $50 deposit for the Upper School. This deposit is refundable only if parents inform the school on or before December 15 that their child will not be performing in the spring, or if the child is unable to perform due to extended illness or injury. Parents pay their costume balance in January, when they pay their spring term bill. This new policy is meant to streamline the billing process for parents. Now there is no separate bill in May when costumes are handed out. There is no refund for costume balances once orders are placed.

8. What is your policy about tardiness?

We do not tolerate tardiness and strictly enforce our policy. Students must warm up at the barre before working in center, and late students miss this important warm up and are prone to injury. Tardiness is also disrespectful to the teachers, and distracting to other students. Parents should only register their children for classes which they can realistically enter on time. Please understand that arriving on time to class means being in the classroom ready to work at the assigned start time, not coming in the door of the school.

Our Tardiness Policy: If a student is going to be more than five minutes late to class, she or he must ask the teacher for permission to enter the classroom. Entry is at the discretion of the teacher and may be refused. Students late to class by ten minutes or more are automatically marked absent and may not enter the classroom. A student missing a class for any reason, including tardiness, may make up the class as described in question #17.

A student may not be asked back to the school for a subsequent semester or promoted to the next level if he or she has been chronically tardy, as it erodes the integrity of the classroom experience for others. It is also a courtesy to call the school when your child is going to be absent so that we don’t worry.

9. We live in Acton. Can our children walk to the ballet studio after school?

Our school opens its doors at 2:30 p.m., which is early enough to greet all students walking from the various public schools nearby. Our school is within walking distance of three elementary schools, the junior and senior high schools. Students are welcome to come early to the studios to do homework, eat their snacks, and socialize before classes. Once they arrive, students may also call their parents from the ballet school office to let them know they made it safely. We open our school at 10:00 a.m. for Tuesday and Thursday morning adult classes, and at 9:15 a.m. for weekend classes.

10. How does payment of tuition work?

The school operates on a two-semester calendar. Parents are required to pay the full semester’s tuition prior to the beginning of school, either by cash or check payable to Acton School of Ballet. We do not accept credit cards. This payment is non-refundable, except in the case of injury or illness with an accompanying doctor’s note. We do not make exceptions to this policy, and thank you for your understanding.

11. Other than tuition, what expenses would I incur if my child attends ASB?

ASB does not charge a registration fee. Other expenses include the cost of ballet attire (please see attire list for details), the spring costume purchase (usually between $50–$95, depending on level), and the purchase of any tickets to the spring ballet performances. In 2017 the cost of a ticket was $20. Students approved for pointe work also purchase pointe shoes. Optional purchases include DVDs of the performances, ASB logo wear and studio portraits.

12. What is your pointe policy? My daughter was on pointe at another school. Can she continue on pointe at ASB if she transfers?

Students may begin pointe study only after passing our Pointe Readiness Evaluation, usually administered by the Director. Generally, students at ASB are able to take the evaluation at the end of Level 4, or during their year in Level 5, depending on their age and growth. Students who do not pass the evaluation the first time may take it at a later date, usually at the suggestion of their teacher. Many students do not start pointe work until midway through Level 5 through Level 6. Students may be required to take a second year of Level 6 to strengthen pointe work before advancing to Level 7.

A transfer student who was on pointe at another school is required to take a placement class on pointe to determine if she may continue at ASB or needs more preparatory work.

13. My child was trained at different school but now wants to transition to ASB. How would she/he do this?

Please call the administrator and give us the details of your child’s background, age, and training. We will assess correct fit for a placement class and have the student come and take one of our regular syllabus classes as a guest. This gives us a chance to ascertain a proper level for your student. We realize that visiting students are sometimes nervous during placement classes and we make every effort to make them feel comfortable. Our goal is to place new students in levels which will be challenging but not overwhelming.

14. Do you offer separate classes for boys?

Boys and girls take their technique classes together. Depending on enrollment, we may offer a separate boy’s master class in the Upper School, taught by the school’s Director, Chip Morris. The scheduled time would be coordinated with individual student schedules, to ensure accessibility for all eligible boys.

13. I understand how the syllabus levels work. Why do you offer Beginning Ballet, Advanced Ballet, and Contemporary Ballet as other syllabus options?

We recognize the need to offer different educational models to our diverse student body. Beginning Ballet is for teens (and adults) who are starting ballet later in their student careers. This class gives them age-appropriate introductory training with their peers and prepares them for later entrance into the laddered syllabus program.

Advanced Ballet is a rigorous pointe level meeting twice per week (Monday and Wednesday evenings) for students who have achieved Level 7 or higher status and are on pointe, but who can not make the commitment to more classes during the week.

Contemporary Ballet is also an advanced ballet level (Level 6 or higher) which meets twice per week and focuses training on the creative fusion of classical ballet and modern but does not study or perform on pointe.

Both Advanced Ballet and Contemporary Ballet levels perform in our year-end ballet. One or both classes of Advanced Ballet and Contemporary Ballet may also be taken as supplementary classes for eligible students.

16. My child has a nut allergy. Is the school a peanut-free zone?

No, the school is not guaranteed to be nut-free, but we do not knowingly serve any products which have peanuts at school functions such as cast parties. We encourage families not to bring allergy-causing snacks into the school but we can not always enforce this recommendation. Parents of children with allergies should consider whether the school policy is consistent with their own doctors’ directives. Health issues should always be noted on your child’s registration form.

17. Do you have a makeup policy for illness?

Yes, students are encouraged to take a make-up class in any other section of their level. Please check the schedule to see when other sections of your child’s level meets. Teachers expect to see students doing make ups in all of their classes. You do not need to notify the Administrator ahead of time when taking a make-up class. The student simply tells the teacher at the beginning of class that he or she is attending the class as a make-up.

18. What is your policy on student hygiene?

Dance classes are aerobic and often sweat-producing. Students are expected to wear clean leotards and tights, and air out their ballet slippers after classes. We recommend students in the Upper School always bring extra deodorant in their dance bags, as well as other personal hygiene items as needed. Girls should remove their pointe shoes from their dance bags every night and air them out by leaning them up against a wall. Also, please make sure all of your child’s attire is labeled with their name, especially their ballet slippers.

19. Where do students leave their belongings when they are in class?

We have two dressing rooms available to students, one on each level. We recommend that students not bring valuables or excessive cash in their bags, as these rooms are unmonitored. If a student loses an item, she should check the lost and found bins in these rooms. Any lost valuable items such as jewelry or cell phones that we find are kept in the Administrator’s office for safekeeping until retrieved by their owners.

20. How do you handle snow days?

If the school must close due to snow, the announcement is posted on our web site and on our phone by 10 a.m. for afternoon classes and 8 a.m. for morning classes. We often but do not always follow the local public school snow closings, as we must take into account the travel concerns of students and faculty from over 30 different communities. If we must close the school, students are encouraged to make-up classes later in the week in another section of their level. Classes with no make-up options are re-scheduled.

21. How do determine class size?

We make every attempt to keep class sizes small. We have guidelines for each level, based on educational classroom models we believe are successful, and re-evaluate them at the end of each year. Fairy Tale Dance (for 3 year olds) is capped at 8 students, First Steps (for 4 year olds) at 10 students, and Pre-Ballet, Level 1 and 2 classes cap at 14 students. All afternoon and weekend Lower School classes run with assistant teachers, as well as their head teachers. Upper School classes are nearly all held to 16–18 students through Level 6, though many are smaller. Level 7-10 enrollments are by invitation. Supplementary class sizes are determined on a case-by-case basis.

Acton School of Ballet and the Commonwealth Ballet Company (CBC) are separate organizations. CBC is a non-profit corporation governed by a separate board of directors, and is financially unrelated to ASB. CBC recognizes Acton School of Ballet as its official school, and ASB students audition for many CBC productions. However, dancers from other schools are also welcome to join CBC and audition for its ballets. The Commonwealth Ballet Company audition takes place in June of each year for students aged 13 and up. This year the Nutcracker audition will take place on Sunday, September 10, 2017 for students in Levels 3 and up. Please visit the Commonwealth Ballet web site for more information.

23. What are the Acton School of Ballet’s expectations of parents?

Parents are expected to support their child’s education at the school. We expect our students to arrive on time for their classes with proper, clean attire and hair supplies, be rested, in good health, with nutritional support before aerobic work (i.e. not hungry because they did not get a snack after school). The number one stress that afflicts students is the fear that they are going to arrive late to class. We ask that parents try to alleviate this by allowing extra time to navigate traffic and parking.

24. My child has expressed an interest in teaching. Are there any opportunities at ASB?

ASB offers some qualified older students opportunities to become teaching assistants in the Lower School. There is a training period in September to orient new teaching assistants. These are paid positions. Last year we offered eighteen older students these coveted positions.

25. My child is interested in an education or career in ballet after high school. Can ASB offer help?

We keep an active file of universities which offer ballet programs and keep abreast of new programs. We are happy to meet with parents and students to discuss our opinions about these programs. We can also offer guidance regarding auditions for professional companies. We actively write letters of recommendation, maintain relationships with other teaching faculties, and research opportunities for our older students.