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Royal ballet school junior associates

(146 Posts)
MaisyMoo123 Wed 08-Jan-14 22:25:30

Hi, have raised this on a different thread but thought I'd start a new one specifically on this topic. My 8 yr old dd's ballet teacher has suggested that she audition for the royal ballet school junior associates programme. I'm really not sure what to make of it. Clearly we're very proud of dd as she's obviously showing some promise and I can see it would be an amazing opportunity but it also fills me with fear as it is a completely alien world to me and one I'm sure would be viciously competitive and require huge time and financial commitment. honest! Has anybody got any experience of this? I'd really welcome views and opinions to help me get my head round it! Thanks!

lottieandmia Thu 09-Jan-14 10:45:13

I don't have any dds who are JAs but I do have knowledge about the process. As far as I know if successful your dd will have to attend every Saturday for training. Girls are chosen mainly on how much potential they are considered to have. Also, body shape is very important - they only choose girls who they think are exactly the right shape no matter how good they are. JAs automatically have the opportunity to audition for White Lodge.

MaisyMoo123 Thu 09-Jan-14 11:14:04

Thanks Lottie. I've heard it's about the potential rather than current ability. Dd does ballet and no other dance, and that's only once a week (twice at present due to exam coaching). Interesting re body shape too - it sounds like they look for the blank canvas to shape and mould. Dd is very tall and willowy with long limbs - graceful (when she wants to be!) but I always assumed she'd be way too tall for ballet longer term. Can't deny that the prospect of weekly lessons scare me a bit given it would involve a lot of travelling. I'm not sure dd loves it enough at the moment for it to form such a significant part of her life. Lots to ponder!

Helpyourself Thu 09-Jan-14 11:18:08

If it all took off it could be life changing. Ballet is like music- such a hard life that its only really sustainable if you can't bear not to do it.
Does she love dancing?

lottieandmia Thu 09-Jan-14 12:31:18

I would let her audition. Where I live, children who are accepted into the programme get a chance to be in the Christmas production of The Nutcracker so that is very exciting for them.

MaisyMoo123 Thu 09-Jan-14 12:43:14

I agree with it having the potential to be life changing if it were to all take off helpyourself. I find it quite scary! She does love dancing - but she doesn't love it more than other hobbies i.e swimming or choral singing. I've not raised the prospect with her as I need some time to get my head round it first. She may well make her own mind up about it when it comes to it. Dh has pretty much dismissed it on practical/financial grounds - might have some convincing to do there if we did decide to go for it!

Ledkr Thu 09-Jan-14 12:57:42

Ds went when he was about that age. It was quite exciting travelling to Birmingham every other weekend, it was something we did together and I went shopping.
Eventually for him the physio decided he w as never going to be flexible enough but I'd prepared him for this so he was fine about it.
It's good for them I think
Go for it.

MaisyMoo123 Thu 09-Jan-14 13:18:12

Does anyone know how frequent the lessons are? I see they offer 24 or 32 sessions but how does that pan out over a year? Seems very premature thinking about this when she's very unlikely to even get through the audition but it's all part of the decision process for me!

Ledkr Thu 09-Jan-14 19:21:30

We went fortnightly but he's 22 now so may have changed.

Sparklymommy Fri 10-Jan-14 14:48:42

I think it is roughly fortnightly for our JAs. the other thing to consider is that if she gets a place as a JA, it may mean se misses a regular, syllabus class at her dance school. I only say this as my dd recently Took her grade 5 exam with a couple of JA s and they were not really secure in the syllabus work as they missed every other Saturday class leading up to the exam. All our exam students do two ballet grade classes a week, so they thought they knew it all, but when it came to it, they didn't.

ThoughtsPlease Fri 10-Jan-14 21:04:27

Sparklymommy The teaching from RBS in terms improving a dancer far outweighs being secure in the syllabus of a particular exam, exams marks don't actually mean much really.

PandaNot Fri 10-Jan-14 21:11:22

My ds is an elmhurst associate and also attends another associates class once a month. He hasn't auditioned for RB jas because it would clash with his regular classes. Associates classes are designed to complement, not replace, their regular classes.

Go for it. My ds loves his associate classes. But it is a big commitment , both time-wise and financial.

MaisyMoo123 Fri 10-Jan-14 21:59:39

Thanks all. Really useful to hear your views. As I said, this is a completely alien world to me so any insights are really useful. I'm going to try and chat to dd's teacher tomorrow as all talk about it so far has been over email. To be honest I'm still very undecided about it all. I've still not raised it with dd directly but did ask her if she'd like to do more ballet and she replied "probably not" which raises obvious questions. I'm just not sure we are up for the time and financial commitment either - call me selfish and I'll probably get shot down for saying it, but it sounds huge and we have a younger ds and a whole load of other things to think about. We're still mulling though and I totally get that it would be an amazing opportunity. Part of me wants to let her go for the audition for the wonderful experience it would inevitably be knowing that she's unlikely to get through but...

dontmesswithmytutu Sat 11-Jan-14 19:28:40

It's a long process with the potential of a lot of heartache. If she's not 100% sure she wants to do more ballet it's a roller coaster I'm not convinced you should endeavour to get on. Maybe leave it a year and see how she feels then? There are taster days you could look into for you and her which may help decide if it's the right thing for your dd. good luck!

MaisyMoo123 Sat 11-Jan-14 21:24:06

Spoke to Dd's ballet teacher after today's lesson. She said she'd love her to audition - she is showing the potential, has the right proportions, the feet, the jump and the plié. She was very understanding re our concerns about the commitment though and wasn't overly pushy about it. We have some time to mull it over so no rush to make a decision. All your insights are really useful. Thank you!

herdream1 Sun 12-Jan-14 20:11:37

Just in case, I find some info (financial support, trial lesson next month..) at

chazboo Sun 12-Jan-14 23:23:29

Hi Maisymoo

My son is a JA with RBS. Costs are around £700.00 per year. He is in his second year currently awaiting results from his audition for vocational training (boarding school) at White Lodge/Mid Associates. He had never been interested in dance and was selected by a dance teacher visiting his school who himself had been a principal with RBS. He began contemporary dance and a year later in Sept 2011, ballet. Fourteen weeks later he was auditioned for RBS associates and was accepted. He has never done exams to this day. Ballet is his total passion and has become all consuming. On Saturdays we drive around 100 miles between his morning sessions of regular ballet to afternoons with RBS plus two other nights of regular ballet. He also has RBS exercises to do daily and his dance practice which all in all probably takes one and a half hours daily. Some of the dancers do not do the required exercises but my son is totally driven by it all. He is a very quiet child and I never dreamed he would be prepared to leave home aged 11 but it has become his dream. I also have an 8 Year old daughter who dances and rides and at times it is exhausting but honestly it has been the making of my son. I would say that your daughter would have to be passionate about it. It requires dedication and commitment but it's a great opportunity if it comes along. There are of course some obsessive mothers and the further along the course you travel, the tougher it gets. The reality is that most don't make it but some do of course. Good luck with your decision to audition your daughter.

Sparklymommy Mon 13-Jan-14 15:15:01

I am not saying that exams are more important than associates, or vice versa. But to some they are. And in my personal experience (we have one VERY obsessive grandma whose granddaughter is a JA. She would expect her to get the top mark in any exam she took and she is one of the ones who struggled with syllabus knowledge), exam grades can be useful in gaining places at vocational school, and are a better indicator of a child's potential as a dancer than whether or not they were a JA for two or three years before the Royal effectively wiped their hands of them! That may sound harsh, but at the end of the day once they believe you have reached your full potential for what they want that is basically what they do.

JAs is a big commitment, from the cost of the classes, the extra uniform that needs purchasing, the workshops in London that your child is expected to attend and f course the travelling costs. It is worth it for some children. As I have said previously, I will probably audition my son when he is old enough as I believe the the regime will suit him. For my dd, not so much. She gains more from having a regular private lesson And attending intensive summer schools than I believe she would have gained from a regular class at JAs. that said, we have particularly good ballet teachers available to us at her dance school.

Junior associates is a good oppurtunity for some children but you will also encounter the obsessive ballet mums (who make the Abby Lee Dance Company mums on Dance moms look positively friendly and soft) and it becomes very competitive very quickly.

ThoughtsPlease Mon 13-Jan-14 22:44:46

I completely disagree that an exam result is a better indicator of potential than several years as a JA. If you want to be a ballet dancer RBS is the best.

Yes they may a few years down the line decide that you are not suited to RBS, but that will not have changed the potential. An exam result does not increase potential, 'struggling with syllabus knowledge' is not a lack of ability or potential.

Vocational school auditions are based on the ability seen by those judging the auditions.

chazboo Mon 13-Jan-14 23:11:14

I agree with that comment from thoughtsplese! Vocational schools look for potential.not exam grades. The four students I know who have made it to White Lodge did so with no exam experience.

Sparklymommy Tue 14-Jan-14 09:05:04

The thing is, the royal ballet school is one school, a very prestigious school, yes, but only one school. My dd has a friend in y7 there, and she was a JA. She also had exam grades that showed her potential.

In my opinion, if you want to be a BALLERINA, then yes, JAs would probably suit you, and your ultimate goal would be a place at the RBS. However, in a way that is closing more doors than it opens, and limiting you to one genre (ballet). A few years down the line, when you suffer an injury, or you grow too tall, your career is over before its begun.

Some of the other vocational schools and colleges are therefore much better at keeping your options open and who truly knows, at 11, what they want? I have seen many JAs have their hopes and dreams crushed. I have seen many children who would not have been accepted by the scheme go on to be amazing performers. I know several in the west end as I type, a couple in ballet companies around the world and many excellent teachers too.

Also, for the record, at 16 most vocational schools will be looking at the exam grades achieved and including them in their decision making process. Usually the latest exam results, but they do matter. And they get UCAS points for them too.

Ledkr Tue 14-Jan-14 09:37:56

I danced professionally and always got my jobs on my audition.
I had a portfolio but it was rarely looked at.
They just want to know you can pick up their choreography quick and perform it well.
I didn't go to vocational school btw.
The jobs I got were only chorus and cruise ship but it was still great.
Probably different if you wanted a plum role in west end or a big ballet company.

lottieandmia Tue 14-Jan-14 09:58:15

I think Sparkly makes a good point. I knew quite a few girls who were JAs and about 4 who successfully auditioned for White Lodge. But of those 4 girls only one of them actually became a ballerina and made a career of it. At least one of them had to retire early through injury. Plus the Royal Ballet school will assess people out every year - this can be very stressful. And often they assess people out because of how the person looks physically rather than because there is a problem with their dancing.

Sparklymommy Tue 14-Jan-14 10:09:06

Audition technique is an important skill, ledkr is correct in that. I would rather dd did some audition technique workshops tbf.

Yes, at the end of the day, being able to Pick up choreography quickly and retain that information is going to be very useful. Dd and ds have both just done pantomime and it is very obvious, very early on, who can do that and who needs a lot of work.

Ledkr Tue 14-Jan-14 17:16:44

And for most dancers, auditioning will take up large portions of their career.
Ds was a beautiful ballet dancer but the RB physios didn't like his lack of flexibility yet it never held him back in any other audition.
Matthew Bourne left the RB and look at him now.

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