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Royal Ballet School Junior Associates

(41 Posts)
KatyCustard Mon 30-Jan-12 22:58:38

Hi, I was wondering if any other parents of ballet dancers would be able to help me. My daughter began ballet lessons in September (she will be 8 in April). Her teacher has moved her up a class this term and wants her to take grade 2 next term (she hasn?t done any grades yet).
I?m assuming she shows some potential if the teacher wants her to go straight to grade 2, or is it just that the grades are linked with age? I really don?t know anything about the RAD grades, or much about ballet for that matter.
I haven?t had a chance to talk to her teacher yet because it?s always a bit hectic at the end when the classes change over. However she was given a book about ballet by Darcey Bussell for Christmas and has become obsessed with the idea of going to the Royal Ballet School. I know there must be plenty of little girls out there who dream of this, but whilst looking at the RBS website I read about the Junior Associates. I understand that it is incredibly hard to get into, and she probably isn't anywhere near ready, but I was wondering - can anyone tell me a bit more about the JA and what experience you need to audition? Should my daughter be having more than one lesson a week?
I don?t want to sound like a pushy mum, but I really want to support her in this. She has a tough time in school because reading and writing don?t come easily to her, but when she dances she takes my breath away.
If any of you have any tips I?d be really grateful.

Colleger Tue 31-Jan-12 10:50:00

Grade 2 is average for age 8, maybe slightly below average if a child has been dancing for a while. If she isn't achieving at school then I would definitely promote her other talents, whatever they may be. It may be worth seeking private tuition so the teacher can give you honest feedback about her potential.

pigsinmud Tue 31-Jan-12 12:12:20

Sounds pretty good to me. My dd1 is no Darcey Bussell, however she has been going to ballet lessons since she was 4. She is doing her Grade 1 this term at the age of 8 (year 3) with the friends she has been with since the beginning - no-one has been ushered quickly through the grades. She did Primary exam in November 2010, when she was 6 (nearly 7) - in year 2.

If I were you I'd hold back until she's done the exam and then ask about her potential - see what mark she gets. Can't tell you anything about RBS as my daughter is not going to be a ballet dancer for a career grin but she does love doing it..... even if her new teacher is a bit strict and tells her off for sticking her bottom out.

pianomama Tue 31-Jan-12 12:18:13

Its is hard to say as ballet like everything else takes time to build up.
I know that they select girls by photos (!) even before they invite them for auditions.
I believe they have to look right as well as having certain grades..
They look for naturally slightly built girls who would not have to starve themselves to remain slim, not too tall, right posture etc.
Our friends daughter has been doing ballet for 4 years now (she is 10) and is going for entrance exam this spring. She didn't quite make it last year but was put on reserve.She has lessons about 3 times a week.

I have to say, she is very determined and pushes herself very very hard.
Professional ballet training is very punishing and only suit some girls.

If you are thinking about Royal Ballet School , I would definitely find the best teacher you can and arrange a consultation lesson .

Or do it just for fun and may be add some music lessons? Regular music lessons somehow help academic progress

DeWe Tue 31-Jan-12 12:21:25

In my dc's ballet school most children stick with roughly their own age and catch up pretty quickly to the other children even at older ages than your dd.

You need to get the teacher's opinion. Without being nasty, your opinion is swayed by her being your child.

Because my dc all do it, and are fine, not brilliant at it, but I've sometimes been almost open mouthed at a parent who tells me how brilliant their child is at ballet and how everyone is watching their child and knowing they're the star, when I can see (and has been shown when they get marks in exams) they're around the average. I mentioned this to the ballet teacher once (I know her out of ballet too) and she started chuckling and saying that sometimes she has to use a lot of tact, but she knows that when they're performing, to every parent their child is the star, and so treats them as such.

If she's doing the exam, then I'd wait and see the exam results. They should put them up usually and you can see how well your dd did in relation to the rest. If she is outstanding then she should be up at the top. In dd1's grade 2 (RAD) a child who had only been dancing for a term got a very high distinction, so it could well show like that.

Certainly the way it works at their ballet is the teacher approaches any she thinks have a chance at JA, and is the one to suggest it. However if a child was keen she wouldn't mind the parent approaching, as long as you are prepared to listen to what she has to say and don't stalk off in a huff, or tell her she's wrong if she says your child is not at that level.

anothermadamebutterfly Tue 31-Jan-12 13:57:25

Remember there are lots of other types of dance that don't require such intensive training from such an early age as ballet that your DD could enjoy and benefit from. My DD (9) does acro and freestyle/jazz dance as well as ballet, and while she enjoys her ballet class, it is not her favourite style. She is not very academic and struggles with schoolwork and like you, I have always tried to encourage her in activities she can do well at.

DD started ballet a few days after her 8th birthday and was put in with her age group, and did the grade 2 exam with them all a few months later, and got a high distinction. So did quite a few other kids in the group. TBH, I think she caught up quickly not because she is outstanding, but because of good teaching and previous dance/gymnastic experience.

In her ballet school the teacher approaches the parents of children who she thinks have further potential for ballet. Two children tried for the RBA programme last year, both of them were wonderful dancers, and one of them was selected. Both of them only had one ballet class a week beforehand.

KatyCustard Tue 31-Jan-12 17:04:27

Hi, thanks for taking the time to reply. I quite agree that the fact she is my daughter is going to cloud my judgement! I was hesitant about speaking to her teacher in case she laughed at me, however I plucked up the courage this afternoon and she was really helpful. She does think that she's got a lot of potential, and like anothermadambutterfly thinks she should start freestyle. She thought that JA wasn't an outrageous idea but warned me how hard it is to get in. I think I'm going to keep encouraging her and give it a bit of time. Thanks everyone.

LIZS Tue 31-Jan-12 17:12:07

Are these Grade exams or Class exams ? I think you need to ask the teacher for her honest opinion before nurturing like RBS. also her physique will need to be "right". A friend's dd is very elegant and expressive in various dance forms, on pointe now at 13 and has done relatively high level productions, but hasn't got the right knees apparently hmm to pursue ballet long term.

Sannebanana Tue 31-Jan-12 18:07:47

I think it really is too soon to tell at this stage, tbh. Royal Ballet School is incredibly competitive. I grew up dancing and have a friend whose DD is planning on auditioning for Royal Ballet School later this year, she's 9 and on grade 5, also doing tap, jazz and ballroom dancing. I think it is possible your DD could have potential, yes, but it's far too soon to tell either way at this point as she's only been dancing for a few months. If she's serious about trying out for Royal Ballet School I would support her but make sure she knows how tough it is, and that just because she isn't selected that doesn't mean she's not a beautiful dancer. I'd also recommend starting tap or jazz if her school offers them, both of these will help with ballet.

PandaNot Fri 10-Feb-12 13:20:24

As I have just found out there are other Associate Programmes, my ds teacher has asked if he would audition for the Elmhurst one. I know nothing about it or any others but I now know that others do exist and may be worth looking at?

mycatsaysach Fri 10-Feb-12 13:26:49

iirc another consideration is that these things are horribly expensive

RedHelenB Fri 10-Feb-12 18:34:15

For associates they invite everyone to audition based on the experience of my dds ballet school. (She hasn't but quite a few have) Once they become associates they then do ask some to audition for White lodge but there are no guarantees.

I don't think exams really tell much cos my dd is 10 & only just done her grade 2 (ballet not her strength btw!!) but she does other exams & they don't race through. She did get honours though!! IDTA not RAD.

I must admit, I don't get potential because I don't know what they are looking for but they do need to be flexible, follow instructions, show some personality etc. I think she should give it a go, all you will lose is 20 pound & auditions are good for you even if only to see how competitive the dance world is!!!!

chazboo Thu 03-May-12 12:56:27


I have only just come across your message so I guess you will have sorted some information by now but I thought I would give you my little knowledge.

My son began ballet lessons in September 2011 and in December 2011 was put forward by his teacher to audition for the Junior Associates (his audition is on 9th May) He has been dancing for a year but up until Sept was doing contemporary and then was selected by his teacher to move into ballet. His teacher is amazing and was principal with The Royal Ballet himself for many years.

There is no requirement for exam passes to be accepted on the J.A. course as my son has never done any exams. I am actually not that hopeful of him getting through as competition is tough and he has little experience as yet. I actually know very little about ballet but what I would say is that there are some really bad ballet teachers around so if your daughter is really dedicated make sure she's in the right school. My friend's son won a scholarship with Elmhurst and through her I hear that the competiton is extremely tough for girls. As far as I am aware your daughter would need to be invited to audition for the J.A.'s but it might be worth telephning to see if they have any advice.

Good luck!!

Alrobe Sun 13-May-12 21:23:20

I wish that I had seen this sooner as it is now too late to audition for JAs this year. I can give you some facts, though, as my daughter was a JA herself.!!

They do not select on photos, everyone that applies is invited to audition. You do not need to be invited to audition - anyone can apply although you do need your dance teachers signature. ALL JAs can audition for White Lodge. It does not matter what grade you are or how long you have been dancing as they are looking for potential. it is VERY competitive!! If your dd wants ro pursue ballet the freestyle is absolutely the last thing that she should be doing. ballet is about very precise, controlled movement and freestyle is the opposite!!

hope some of this helps!

antmusic Sat 19-May-12 22:59:28

My daughter has just auditioned for the Royal Ballet JA scheme in Birmingham and it was a great experience. However, she found it exhausting and had lots of butterflies even though the teachers were all loveley and encouraging. As we could not watch the class, I have no idea what they were like or how she compared to the other pupils. She is not very flexible, so her chances are extremely slim but it was a good experience for both of us. We are also auditioning for Elmhurst and Tring in June. I am doing my utmost to keep it downbeat and will not mention the results letter when we get it (unless she is successful, of course!)

Dancergirl Tue 22-May-12 22:54:03

Royal Ballet JAs are incredibly difficult to get into. They look for potential so experience isn't that important. But they are also very fussy about having a particular body type. They look for good flexibility, good feet and ankles, long neck, beautifully held head and body proportion (short torso, long legs). I think they have hundreds applying and only about 12 places. And once they are accepted it's only for a year at a time - they have annual assesments and can be assessed out.

Depending on where you live you could also look at other associate schemes. Elmhurst Ballet School, Hammond and Tring Park all have their own schemes.

BundleBrent88 Thu 29-Nov-12 15:22:34

DD auditioned for this 2 years ago when she turned 8. She has been doing ballet since she was about 3 YO; although she is doing very well in her particular ballet school, the teacher warned that JA programme is very particular with respect to body type as Dancergirl points out. It is less about current ability to dance but the ability to be taught as the Royal Ballet School wants and whether or not the dancer's physique is suited to their school. She was not successful (not very flexible, torso too long, I suspect) but it was a good experience and has not stopped her from dancing.

taxi4ballet Thu 31-Jan-13 14:57:08

I agree with Alrobe - ballet and freestyle are at the opposite ends of the dance spectrum and require quite different skills!

In particular there is much emphasis in ballet of 'good turnout' ie: a sideways rotation of the legs from the hips, and the straight position of the back and shoulders down and flat, which are all completely different in freestyle.

Ballet teachers aren't all that keen on gymnastics for similar reasons, particularly for older children (I don't say 'girls' as boys do ballet as well - shock!!!) as the muscle groups are used and developed in totally different ways.

RPDANCE Wed 27-Mar-13 19:13:39

Just to clarify a few things regarding this post.
I was a JA, and then went on to White Lodge at the age of 11. I have danced professionally and now teach.
To audition for the JA's you do send photos away with an application form. Most people will be invited for a 1st audition(unless they can tell from your pictures you are definitely the wrong shape). There will be a 2nd day of auditions for successful candidates.
They run monthly classes is all major cities.
You can be assessed out but this is purely to prevent the parents from wasting time and money if they believe the child will not be a dancer. JA classes are fun and a great experience. At such a young age they take children on potential. They look at flexibility, body shapes and a certain grace. Flexibility and good feet are the main things, as they can work with you.
It is a very hard profession, but extremely rewarding.
If your daughter is not academically strong, yet shows talent in dance i would push her to do these auditions. As if accepted to White Lodge, she will be nurtured in small class sizes both academically and ballet. It is one of the best and most beautiful schools in this country, and all UK students accepted will be fully funded.
I hope this helps

Sparklymommy Fri 29-Mar-13 07:19:36

Just seen this thread and thought I would give you my opinion. My daughter has danced since she was 2, and currently attends six ballet classes, a modern, a tap, a jazz, a street jazz, a Classical Greek and two body conditioning classes a week. She has friends on the JA programme but we have never applied ourselves for several reasons:
1: She is unlikely to get in due to her overall body shape. DD1is not big, but she is relatively short at 4'5" (she is 10). She is also quite broad across her chest.
2: I know that the nature of the classes would probably bore her. The JA classes are all about developing proper technique. They take the children right back to basics and work on the simple stuff in a very repetitive manner. My DD1 is not of the temperament that would see the benefit in this. They also do not take into account what grade children are. My daughter, at ten, is Grade 5 and Interfoundation level for Ballet but a lot of the work done at JAs is going to be simpler.
3: the cost. JA is, IMO very expensive and on top of the cost of being on the programme they have their own uniform which you must buy and many trips to White Lodge or Saddlers wells. I feel that more beneficial to my DD is regular private lessons with her dance teachers and performing in local dance festivals.

All that said, for some children it does wonders and I will probably audition my DS1, when he is old enough as he has the right temperament for a JA and shows particular enjoyment in his Ballet. He also has already (he's 6) expressed a desire to go away to dance school at 11. Whereas DD1 is very opposed to the idea of boarding school!

Just to correct the previous poster, education at White Lodge is NOT fully funded, it is means tested. Therefore if you have a high income you would be expected to pay on a sliding scale. I know this as my Dds friend has just been offered a place starting in September.

KatyCustard Tue 23-Apr-13 23:21:16


Seems like ages ago (over a year?) that I started this thread.

With my daughter's teacher's help and encouragement we have applied and she has an audition in May. It's been really hard as a mum to get the balance right between "We believe in you 100%" and "There are lots of talented dancers out there and the chances are you won't get a place!" I haven't put it quite like that but I'm doing my best to be supportive and encouraging whilst trying to keep her rooted in reality. She's a big fish in a small pond at her dance lesson - one of only four other girls. BUT we are keeping the emphasis very much on the fun of the audition and being brave enough to try etc. etc.

Argh! It's so bloody hard being a Mum, hoping you make the right choices for your children.

Thanks for all your advice - if anyone has any other tips on what to expect at the audition it would be gratetfully received. grin

stickchildren3 Wed 24-Apr-13 13:09:57

Hi OP, I've been watching your original thread with interest. My DD1 also has an audition in May and I deliberated for ages whether to let her go for it because I know how competitive it is and chances are she'll be disappointed. However, I too felt I'd be letting her down if I didn't give her the opportunity. All I know about the actual audition is what the letter says. I'm trying to play it that it'll be fun having a day off school and going to the big city!! Maybe someone will come along who knows more?

KatyCustard Wed 24-Apr-13 22:46:45

Hi Stickchildren3, which centre is she auditioning in? We are going to London, but don't have a date yet. Fortunately the London auditions are all May half term as her head wouldn't give permission to miss school, not even for the Royal Ballet!!!!

stickchildren3 Fri 26-Apr-13 13:12:24

We're out in the sticks but she's doing it in Manchester as that's the nearest place. I can't believe your head! That's dreadful! That is definitely an advantage of going to a small country primary. I'm getting a bit bothered as the closer it gets (next week) the more desperate she is to get in, it could get messy! I'll post again about her experience.

RedHelenB Mon 29-Apr-13 19:25:37

When they see all the other chlldren there it will hit them that it is no easy task to get in!! As has been pointed out, all that apply get an audition.

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