• Report: #622495
Complaint Review:

Ballet Petite & Youth Performing Arts School

  • Submitted: Mon, July 12, 2010
  • Updated: Fri, October 26, 2012

  • Reported By: Anonymous — United States of America
Ballet Petite & Youth Performing Arts School
4701 Sangamore Rd. Bethesda, MD 20816 Bethesda, Maryland United States of America

Ballet Petite & Youth Performing Arts School Sophie Nusinov, Elizabeth Ferrante, Mei-ling Abuse of Employees Bethesda, Maryland

*UPDATE EX-employee responds: I will back you up too!

*UPDATE EX-employee responds: I'll back you up

*REBUTTAL Owner of company: Understanding and Accessible Owner of Ballet Petite

*Author of original report: Apology and Correction...

*UPDATE Employee: This Is Not Abuse

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Ballet Petite & Youth Performing Arts School is a well known for-profit arts school located in Bethesda, MD. It is known for exposing children to the world of classical dance in an enchanted environment. Though the service seems to be "on point" for parents who register their children for classes within  the community, little do they know of the abuse that takes place behind the scenes.

Ballet Petite staff usually quit every 3 to 4 months. Which is not a good sign for a company. There is always either a staff shortage due to the abuse and stress of the job, or new faces that constantly enter the work place with no proper introduction or release for the students and staff. The dance school has a mission to rear up students under a consistent teacher, but are not able to simply because employers are unhappy. Students rarely have a consistent teacher throughout the session, and therefore are never able to create a bond with their teachers.

Parents are paying a large amount of tuition money, simply for the enchanted environment, and not the quality of the class. I had several parents report how most of their child's classes consist of running around, but no technique is taught to the children. When they do reach a age of taking technique based classes, it is definitely poor quality. Teachers who are not qualified to teach ballet, but are qualified to teach jazz and musical theater, are teaching ballet classes off of a previously written lesson plan in which the children are not learning terms that most children their age from different ballet schools already know. Several teachers complain about how they feel that they are a "sell out" in teaching the arts. The children are definitely not challenged artisticly. Though it is understandable for the younger children, it is not understandable for children at the age of 5 or 6 years old.

The atmosphere of the work place is "condemning". Their staff training is absolutely terrible, and there is poor communication among staff throughout each session. Rarely is staff appreciated for their hard work. Consistent reprimand is their way of getting the job done. A healthy business has a balance of praise and reprimand. However, Ballet Petite is strictly reprimand.  Staff is consistently receiving emails from arrogant site directors, Sophie Nusinov and Elizabeth Ferrante, along with IT director, Mei-ling, that reflect no sort of appreciation. The gossip amongst staff members is to a high degree where, staff members feel uncomfortable in the work place. They use you for tasks that need to be done, but instead a kind thank you, you are reprimanded for how it was done incorrectly. There is no healthy balance of reprimand and praise. Several teachers have complained of how they are never appreciated, but are used all the time to keep the machine running. Ballet Petite is known by the staff as a "running machine". The physical health or emotional health is not acknowledged, as they are always calling in teachers to work shifts to keep the company rolling. This is a reflection of a for-profit company, and why it's best to work for a non-profit arts organization.

Ballet Petite consists of employees who are trained in the arts, but their physical health is not cared for as the company gives full-time employees a health stipend of $125 (without tax taken out of the added $125) at the end of each month that enables them to pay a monthly health insurance bill. Teachers and staff are consistently sick, fatigued, and lacking financially due to the high stress that they receive on the job and little amount of money received for their hard work. The plans that they are able to receive are extremely small, and are not able to cover much when teachers have several health conditions.

Most small and medium size businesses that cannot afford to hire full-time employees, usually beat aroud the bush by either hiring independent contractors, or consistently hiring part-time workers. However, Ballet Petite has been in businesses since 1992 and has atleast 1,800 registered for their school. Tuition is at the most, $336 for an entire session. The company consists of a small full-time staff, and a vast amount of independent contractors. Therefore, they have the finances to provide full-time staff with an actual health and dental plan, but hasn't made the effort. However, they are fully aware of the small stipend. Teachers and staff have faced extreme health problems, such as heart conditions, car wrecks, twisted ankles, sickness, and more, but are still required to work if not able to find a replacement. And they rarely have  health insurance to cover it. I found myself getting sick on several occassions, and still had to come in for work due to the staff shortages that constantly take place.

Everyone is doing the same job. There is no specialization in work, or no real time to fully invest and complete projects. Everything is rushed. The fast pace environment is illusional. There is no reason for the company to rush. Therefore, if you a site director with a degree in theater, you will be doing the work of an IT, arts administrator, and etc... They are too cheap to hire a full-time office staff that handles the administration work. Their system always causes them to drop the ball somewhere. It is definitely not a smooth  system.

Gas is always an issue for teachers, as they commute to each location. The company believes that the gas in reimbursed via paycheck, but that is not the case. They do have a company car, but the side view mirror is broken. Overall, the company is not professional, and it's not a healthy environment for workers. It is definitely not a company for someone who attended college and earned a degree. Please do not settle for a company that is not worth investing in  long-term career. It is more for high school students or students who are currently in school. I definitely do not recommend. I did not realize how much I was "ripped off" as a worker, until I found a job that was much better at caring for their employees, and a better working environment.  My lesson from this was to read the contract more carefully before signing.




This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 07/12/2010 10:25 AM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/ballet-petite-youth-performing-arts-school/bethesda-maryland-20816/ballet-petite-youth-performing-arts-school-sophie-nusinov-elizabeth-ferrante-mei-ling-622495. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.

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Updates & Rebuttals

#1 UPDATE EX-employee responds

I will back you up too!

AUTHOR: FrmrBDEDirector - (United States of America)

I am a former employee who can confirm that all of the claims made against Ballet Petite are undoubtedly true.  I was both a teacher and director at this studio a decade ago, and it seems that some things never change.  The illusion that is created by Nancy K Parenti, is just that, an illusion and nothing more.  I have seen completely unqualified "teachers" hired and sent out to teach ballet, with little guidance or training from the company. It is very much a "sink or swim" mentality. 

Much can be said about a studio by how long their staff stays.  There seems to be a revolving door at Ballet Petite. If as much attention was paid to the development of curriculum and staff as was paid to the promotion of the program, many of the problems outlined in the original complaint would be non-existant.  Ms. Parenti takes full advantage of anyone she can in the name of promoting her business. 

 The completely unethical business practices of this company should be examined by the Department of Labor.  There was a clause in the teacher's contract at the time that I worked there that stated if teachers at Ballet Petite were reclassified by the state as employees. instead of independent contractors, they would have to reimburse the company for any penalties and taxes.  Regarding the quality of instruction, if you'd like a preview, have a look on youtube.  It is not very impressive.  Parents and potential employees beware.
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#2 UPDATE EX-employee responds

I'll back you up

AUTHOR: Dancer5678 - (United States of America)

While it has been awhile since being employed at Ballet Petite - I have to say that the author of this article is…SPOT ON… about most of her claims. It was amusing to see that the outrages heard amongst the staff finally made the internet.

I will say however that the people specifically named were all...yes hard to work with, but I would not have slain their name publicly.  

Here is what I will say.  Like many business owners / presidents of companies, Nancy Parenti had a great vision but not the most honest or stern business woman.  Without getting into too much detail, she will lead you to believe she is a wonderful woman. She speaks and dresses well, has a great looking family –and she seems genuinely sweet, and at the surface she is. But she allows a lot of negative things to occur at her company.

Here are a few...


  • Mistreatment of Employees / Independent Contractorsa.       Low Pay.  COUNTER:  Your fault, you took the job.

    • $125 Medical Stipend. This is a great way to act like your helping.  However, in a job where the employee is expected to not miss more than 2 days of teaching due to illness/family/personal/etc you better hope your medical coverage is enough to keep you healthy. For $125/month out of pocket-health insurance doesn’t allow for more than the average healthy person.  So knowing that you’ll be exposed to sick kids every day and required to hold their hands in a greeting song, it’s hard to say that $125 is going to cover your medical costs for the year – if you JUST count the medical needs caused by the job.
  • Many heard claims about the treatment of designer and seamstress. (If you read many articles Nancy Claims to be the one to design all of these things. I would put money on the fact that “M” makes between, $30-50k/yr but has the talent and skill to make more than 3x or 5x that amount simply based on skill and innovation.


  • Here’s the deal with the lesson plans and teacher staff. Ballet Petite makes not buts around the fact that they are there to make money. In fact they laugh about it at company meetings.  I’m sure that in the beginning they thought they were going to make beautiful ballerinas out of this great program.  Well they didn’t and they never will. What every consumer and teacher who works there needs to understand is that -- THEY ARE OKAY with that, because they are rolling in your money.  As a teacher who gets sucked into this company, it’s is extremely frustrating to see that and understand why some middle-aged or high school student is teaching along side of you and your master’s degree. It is 100% true that most of those teacher either have a degree in dance/musical theater but clearly are the worst dancer/teacher to ever and they are selling out or in many cases were not knowledgeable about the company and realized after the fact . Basically – this is a feel good studio. Don’t expect to learn anything unless you get lucky with the 2 out of 25 teachers that know what they’re talking about. 


  •  CONSUMER COMPLAINT:  When I was hired I was told that if a parent ever asked if their CC was kept on file, I was to say NO.  When in reality, they keep all of them. But the major problem with that is that they are NOT locked and they’re available in the open office for anyone to break in and find. In fact- they were broken into once…but the thief only stole only cash – had he only known.

So in the end – from the outside it’s a cute company to take your child to.  Is it a poorly planned company (maybe because a college kid wrote the business plan?!), yes. Would I ever work there again, No.  Would I ever take my child there – probably not, but only because I’d want them to have decent education.  At the end of the day it’s a cute concept, and cute concepts make money. There are a bunch of companies just like Ballet Petite in NOVA – so if you don’t like them  just pick one of the other story time ballet companies.

But – whoever wrote this – I’d really like to buy you a drink! Your frustrations were as fresh
as mine when I quit too..and I thought you had every right to make the claims you did!

Nancy – it’s funny that you felt the need to spill the company overview on this site. You realize the more you put the word “Ballet Petite” is shown in a site the higher it ranks in google? Basically, countering the effort to rebuttal a disgruntled employee. Ohhhh adults and their internet knowledge. 

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#3 REBUTTAL Owner of company

Understanding and Accessible Owner of Ballet Petite

AUTHOR: Nancy Parenti - (United States of America)

My name is Nancy Parenti and I am the owner of Ballet Petite.  If you have any questions about the facts at Ballet Petite or any questions at all please communicate with me at director@balletpetite.com or call me at 301-229-6882, I am an understanding person and committed to our Ballet Petite community of faculty, staff, parents and students.


Let me tell you about how I started:  Ballet Petite is the first premiere dance education program exclusively for the young child. The specialized curriculum was developed by myself in 1992 after teaching at Washington Ballet for 17 years.  My 3 children were in nursery school at St. Patricks Episcopal Day School and I began teaching creative movement classes that followed along with the literature the teachers were teaching in class.  Along with classical music, pantomime, dance technique and my love of sewing costumes, making props and painting little sets, I developed the storydance. Each day is a magical door opening to an enchanted realm where stories are enacted and the wonders of all of the arts shine in the light of the childs imagination. Ballet Petite is an intermediate step between natural movement and formal classical ballet training.  The children learn to move from creative movement to pre-primary ballet.  The educational value is to introduce dance, artistically, to young children.


Come discover our staff:  The energy, talent and integrity of our teachers and staff is unsurpassed.  Sophie Nusinov, Elizabeth Ferrante and Meiling are wonderful Ballet Petite examples of kind and honest individuals who are committed to providing excellence while truly caring for the students, parents and other staff wellbeing.  What impresses me the most about them and all of our staff is the sense of community, the warmth, the loyalty to what Ballet Petite represents in its mission to provide a uniquely creative and magical expression of exceptional creative movement, pre-primary and beginning ballet technique, emerging as our basis for providing excellence in our children. 


I believe strongly that two and more heads think and decide better than one, so I involve others in all major decisions.  Sophie, Elizabeth and Mei love working with others in teams, and enjoy the challenge of setting and meeting ambitious goals.  They encourage others who have innovative ideas and projects and are supportive of them.  Sophie, Elizabeth and Mei are mentors to other staff who put this into practice on a daily basis. The best part of their day is to walk around, visit classrooms, talk to faculty, chat with students and parents, and be part of a community.


Here is what we believe in as a company:

The artistry of Ballet Petite speaks to the heart of children.

We believe in high standards of a varied and graded curriculum for each individual child. Our comprehensive curriculum allows each child to develop their own unique gifts. Along with the technical leveling of each class, the training emphasis is placed on the natural flow of movement, musicality and the joy of dance. Our students receive dedicated attention in small classes with a curriculum that builds through steps designed to nurture the spirit of each individual child.

We believe that the energy and talent of our teachers is unsurpassed. Our teachers are not only extremely well-trained dancers and performing artists, they are also kind and welcoming educators with years of experience.  Our teachers are trained to be conscious of each and every movement, and they create an experience of beauty and magic. Our teachers are gracious and lovely, and through the extraordinary curriculum, they naturally awaken the childs imagination and inspire their creativity. Each teacher has committed his/herself to the childrens artistic growth.

We believe in the creativity of the child.  Children are full of fantasy and imagination and they are always in the process of changing. If formal classical ballet is begun too early, the imagination does not develop fully, and, when the time comes for formal ballet it can become less interesting. Ballet Petite begins with preparatory movement that works towards ballet.  Our curriculum moves in sync with each childs physical and creative development.

We believe in classicism in music, dance, literature and costume arts.  Children are born into the world with a desire to dance and a musical capacity. Our younger students experience this classicism through dance sequences, classical music, classic literature, singing, and poetry. Our Pre-Primary class curriculum was written in conjunction with the renowned teaching of the Royal Academy of Dance.  Ballet Petite puts together fundamental training and the classics in dance, music and language within the reach of all young students.

We believe in the nourishment of language arts skills and cognitive development.  Fairy tales are especially nourishing to the developing consciousness of the young child. Listening to a story and then reenacting it in dance engraves the story in the childs memory. Their whole-hearted participation is so fulfilling that most children can tell the story the following day after only one hearing. Two, three and four year olds are soon participating in lengthy series of dances and verses in the progression of their classes. Such dexterity of movement is related to the development of mental dexterity.

          We believe in the quality of the childs environment.  The Ballet Petite setting is integral to its goals for the children. The hand paintings and pastel colors transmit a warm glow in the studio.  The effect of the beautiful arrangement of costumes and props is a feeling of entering a childrens fairytale garden; a place of enchantment and beauty where the child can create to impulses of the music and their hearts.

          We believe in artistic, handcrafted costumes, props and sets.  Our beautiful costumes have been delicately cared for and lovingly attended to. We understand that young children internalize everything from their surroundings and this artistry becomes a part of who they are about to become.  Our costume arts speak to the soul of the child. The costumes teach the children to care, to appreciate beauty and to be grateful.  They have all been created as exclusive one-of-a-kind treasures just for Ballet Petite.


Get to know the Ballet Petite teachers and staff:  Observe just one class and you will see the difference.  The teachers are gracious and lovely, and through the curriculum they naturally awaken the childs imagination and inspire their creativity.  The teachers commit themselves to the childs artistic growth, and provide the groundwork for a life-long love of dance.


Correspond with the staff by email or phone and you will see the energy, talent and honesty of our staff is unequal.  They are not only extremely well-trained performing artists and administrators, they are also kind and welcoming educators with years of experience. 


At Ballet Petite, we believe relationships are at the core of education and our work with others is personal and nurturing.  Everything at Ballet Petite should stand the test of excellence.  Contact Nancy Parenti at director@balletpetite.com or 301-229-6882, or any of our staff at information@balletpetite.com or 301-229-6882.


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#4 Author of original report

Apology and Correction...

AUTHOR: Anonymous - (USA)

My apologies. The previous statement regarding the hardworking women was out of line. I take back the statement. They are very hard working women. However, there is a bit of a power struggle, in which favors are asked of employees, and if not done to the level of their expectation, they are sent emails of rebuke and assumption, instead of kind constructive criticism and inquiry of what is causing the level of  performance. Sometimes it is the employees being irresponsible, and sometimes it's the leader being too hard on the staff, which according to many studies can cause low performance. But the constant rebuke without inquiry or self-evaluation as a leader can come across as a bit narcissistic. Again, there is such a thing as balance. By no means was my mission to assassinate anyone's character...that was not the point of the post. But it was to express the grievances of employers and previous employers who have experienced this in the work place, and felt nothing was being done. It was a deep concern. I have no further comments, and will no longer bebate.
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#5 UPDATE Employee

This Is Not Abuse

AUTHOR: Anonymous - (United States of America)

The histrionic and irresponsible claims found above reflect the opinion and defamation of one disgruntled former employee. In particular, that young lady felt underpaid and undervalued by her former employers. However, she takes her complaints TOO FAR when she argues that she and other employees were in any way ABUSED by the company. In particular, when she implies that Sophie, Elizabeth, and Mei-Ling abuse their employees, she takes advantage of her anonymity to assassinate these hard working women's characters.

First, and most troubling, the writer reports "poor communication," and then  "consistently receiving emails," in the same train of thought. Because she apparently disliked the people sending her the emails (calling them "arrogant"), she also names them in the title. While this (illogical) complaint could be a minor issue, addressed by a conversation, the writer chooses to place the managers' names in the title, next to "Abuse of Employees." How irresponsible! In a forum like this, where defamation clearly violates the Terms of Use, Ripoff Report has a responsibility to monitor and correct such ugly hate speech.

Second, while Ballet Petite provides services for young children, its employees are not children themselves. However, the complainant above seems to expect to be treated the same way as the young (sometimes infant) students of the school - with a cookie, some fairy dust, and a hug just for doing their job. Instead, she writes, "rarely is staff appreciated for their hard work." Unfortunately, she fails to recognize the hard work that her former managers do every day. She also fails to recognize that those who work as independent contractors do so by choice. The complainant's immaturity, despite her college education, leads her to write that Ballet Petite "drops the ball," when she really means that she could not handle her own work load, and left under the pressure of a difficult job.

Finally, take notice of the loneliness of this report. No one else, in the company's history, has ever filed such a claim against them -- because no one has grounds to do so. Certainly, everyone would like to be paid more for the work they perform, and certainly, full benefits would be nice if one could get them, and certainly, a little pat on the back would be nice now and again. However, these are PERKS and PRIVILEGES, not RIGHTS. Their lack does not entitle every former employee with a laptop and a chip on their shoulder to file false and misleading "reports" of "abuse," that can do serious harm to the reputations and emotional well-being of those accused. Such over-dramatic rhetoric cheapens and devalues the meaning of abuse when it describes actually existing, criminal activity.

The poster should have thought twice before posting what she wrote. Since the record above is permanent, one can only hope to argue against it. Perhaps in time, readers of these posts will realize that her grievance amounts to little more than a temper tantrum. Perhaps Sophie, Elizabeth, and Mei will forgive her this moment of ignorance and weakness; perhaps not. Clear-minded customers and mature employees alike will forget this ugly incident after a while; I hope that happens sooner rather than later.

**The writer of this post expresses their own opinions, not those of Ballet Petite and Youth Performing Arts Center.**
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