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Royal ballet school junior associates

(137 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!

Sparklymommy Tue 14-Jan-14 18:34:50

My point exactly.

And failure to get into RBS can seem like the end of the world to a vulnerable young dancer, it can be a knock that is hard to take. Yet it is not the end of the line.

Many very talented dancers wouldn't be looked at twice at RBS, but can have very successful careers with other companies. Matthew Bourne is an excellent example.

Picturesinthefirelight Tue 14-Jan-14 20:56:59

Sparkly mommy sorry but I disagree vocational schools do not take grades passed into account when selecting dancers for upper school. They go solely in the audition.

Picturesinthefirelight Tue 14-Jan-14 20:59:10

Vocational school students don't even take graded exams though some have their students take the vocational grades mostly because you need them if you want to train as a teacher later on.

ThoughtsPlease Tue 14-Jan-14 21:05:16

I think the point to me is that even though being a JA and/or going to RBS might not turn out as planned if they decide that you are not turning out to be what they want, if you want to be a ballet dancer it is very unlikely that you will have lost anything by going through the process and then going elsewhere if necessary.

Obviously if you are not necessarily committed to ballet then it is probably not the best option.

However auditioning for JAs and attending if successful would give a child an insight to how RBS works and if they did feel that committed to ballet and RBS.

I say this as an ex JA and RBS pupil, my sister was also an RBS pupil, however interestingly by early twenties we had both given up ballet and pursued more academic careers.

Sparklymommy Tue 14-Jan-14 21:06:08

I am talking at 16, not 11 pictures. Having watched many of our senior dancers audition they all take with them to auditions portfolios with latest exam grades and head shots/ full length pictures. They all learn several audition pieces too. I am not saying they are taken into much consideration, but they are looked at.

Also, to take teaching exams they need to have passed certain levels of exams. Our dance school encourage dancers to take their DDI exams as its another string to their bow and can be a nice filler for performers between jobs. We also have several girls who want to yeah rather than perform themselves.

Whether a child is a JA or not is not that important when it comes to auditioning for vocational schools either. Even RBS doesn't solely take JAs, or even take very many from the JA program. You don't HAVE to be a JA to audition for the school.

Sparklymommy Tue 14-Jan-14 21:07:40

#teach not yeah! Bloody predictive text!

Picturesinthefirelight Tue 14-Jan-14 21:10:10

Yes sparkly. Dh teaches post 16 only so has an insight into the audition process at 16 & has been on panels. They don't look at exam results at all.

Picturesinthefirelight Tue 14-Jan-14 21:12:24

I am glad that dds school still do vocational grades (I believe RBS has stopped doing them) as it makes applying for a DDI or RAD teaching diploma easier & is another string to the bow.

Sparklymommy Tue 14-Jan-14 21:17:27

Fair enough. I still don't believe them to be meaningless though.

I have said many times that I will be auditioning Ds1 for JAs when he is old enough. I am not saying that its a waste of time. I'm just saying that its not the only thing that matters either. It's one establishment, and they are very particular and ruthless. As someone else said, the practise of assessing out every year can be very stressful for young girls who are encouraged to think its the whole world.

Sparklymommy Tue 14-Jan-14 21:19:38

RBS don't do any exams as far as I'm aware. And only about 5 GCSEs. They also only do Ballet and character dance. I think a very small amount amount of Spanish too but no modern, tap or commercial styles. Going there definitely puts all your eggs in one basket!

Picturesinthefirelight Tue 14-Jan-14 21:22:10

Dd never auditioned & would never have got into JAs. wrong body type & not flexible enough.

Going back to the OP- I would advise perhaps doing the JA for a day thing then seeing what her dd thinks. JAs is not something you do for fun. Your child has to really want it.

A friends dd did a taster day at BRB with a view to joining some new scheme - she hated it & announced she just wanted to dance a few times a week at her local school for fun.

Picturesinthefirelight Tue 14-Jan-14 21:24:36

RBS used to do RAD vocational grades but recently stopped. The sister of one of dds classmates goes there.

Dd will do 9 GCSEs. The same number as she would have at the selective school she got a place at.

Only 5 surprises me. A girl we know has just left after year 9 (her choice not assessed out). She's very academic.

ThoughtsPlease Tue 14-Jan-14 21:25:13

Of course it is not all that matters, and of course they are ruthless they want the best ballet dancers that suit them.

There are other ballet companies that are very good, but RBS want a particular type and look of dancer, if you don't fit this it does not mean that you cannot be successful as a ballet dancer elsewhere.

Why you think only young girls and not boys would be bothered by the yearly assessments is a very odd comment.

ThoughtsPlease Tue 14-Jan-14 21:30:33

We did 9 GCSEs many many years ago!

Sparklymommy Tue 14-Jan-14 21:33:55

Dd1s friend who she has grown up with and always danced with went in September. Her mother has said she wouldn't put another child through it. Her daughter is very committed, very much for her ballet and her mother says that no matter how hard they work it is never enough.

She writes to dd regularly and has had a few times when she's wanted to quit. She won't, because she really, really wants it, but its not an environment that I think is healthy for a young, vulnerable girl.

Dd was horrified when she said they only do ballet. She can't imagine not doing modern and jazz and everything else she does.

Our dance school head would never have got into JAs, let alone RBS, but was head girl at RAD. As was another of our teachers. She probably would have got into JAs but didn't start dancing until she was 12.

I think the Royal Academy of Dance is a much healthier environment for ballet dancers. Or the Birmingham Royal ballet (Elmhurst).

Sparklymommy Tue 14-Jan-14 21:37:24

Sorry thoughtsplease your right, boys are just as susceptible to the yearly assessments, and unhealthy atmosphere.

Ds will audition for JAs, but has already told us that he plans to audition for Elmhurst at 11. This is because the boys he looked up to a couple of years ago went there. He is currently 7! But very sure of what he wants already.

Picturesinthefirelight Tue 14-Jan-14 21:37:37

The RAD dont have a full time school - just after school & holiday courses.

ThoughtsPlease Tue 14-Jan-14 21:46:38

Sparkly so a friend of your daughter has spent 1 term at White Lodge, presumably the first time she has boarded anyway, and is not happy there, but this is not a reflection on ALL the other children who have been through the process. Of course many will have felt like this, but the majority not.

Obviously if your DD is 'horrified' by only doing ballet then it wouldn't be the place for her, but really I think you should stop being so anti-RBS when it seems you have no first hand experience.

For many children it is great, and even if they don't make it is have provided something very valuable to them.

Sparklymommy Tue 14-Jan-14 22:24:33

The RAD have a college.

thoughtsplease I am not anti RBS, I reiterate I believe ds1 could be 'right' for RBS and will encourage him to explore his own potential, with the possibility of RBS.

For dd1 it would not have been right. She would not have enjoyed JAs, I am fairly certain of that. She is a performer and does not want to go down the very singular route that RBS would involve. Whilst loving her ballet she also enjoys all the other genres of dance not offered by RBS.

Dds friend does enjoy the school, and whilst she has suffered from the odd spate of homesickness, she will make it work as she truly wants it. She has never once complained to dd, but her mother has spoken about how hard it can be. It is extremely disciplined. Yes, for some I am sure it is the experience of a lifetime. But it is not something to be entered into lightly and will certainly not be an easy ride.

MaisyMoo123 Tue 14-Jan-14 23:28:45

Really interesting to read all your posts. It does make me realise how much of an alien world all this is to me though! The more I read, the more I think that this route would require a huge dedication that I'm just not sure we have. Dd loves her ballet and we've been taking her to lessons since she was really little but it has never been thought of by her or us as anything more than a nice hobby. Her teacher suggesting this has come as a complete bolt out of the blue. We had never considered anything like this and didn't even know it existed until last week! I'm not at all bothered about whether exams matter or if one syllabus will detract from another. I'm guessing they all have their merits and if you're serious about a career in dance and have the talent then you will find the right path. Whatever, all that seems a long way from where my head is at. If we were to send dd to the audition then it would not be with a future career in mind. She's 8 and way, way too young to set off on a blinkered path. This is why I am so wary of it to be honest. I can totally see how you would end up getting swept along with it all until it becomes the be all and end all. Dd often says that she loves her lessons but openly admits that she doesn't think she wants to be a ballerina and would prefer to just dance for fun. I'm wondering if I should take that as her answer to whether she'd like to go to the audition or whether I should tell her so she can make her own mind up.

Another thing I'm wary of is the fact that they are obviously looking for a certain type. Dd's teacher says she knows what they're looking for (she's ex RBS herself) and that dd fits the bill. It just feels a bit like a factory and I wonder if they are only picked if they are the right look and shape rather than showing real talent?

Dromedary Tue 14-Jan-14 23:49:53

Presumably they to have the right body AND the talent. Talent alone is clearly not enough.
I'd probably tell your DD what the opportunity is, but without making a big deal out of it. As you say, it is easy to be carried away, but on the other hand she may be resentful if she finds out later that she had a special opportunity and it was not discussed with her.

chazboo Wed 15-Jan-14 00:07:26

Hi Maisymoo. I think my situation was similar with my son except that he had only been doing ballet for a matter of months when he came home from his regular dance teacher with a letter to audition for RBS. I was very shocked and didn't fully understand how huge it was (rather stupid looking back) I didn't make a big deal of it but I did discuss it with him and he said he wanted to audition and it went from there. Your dd may not be ballet mad at the moment but that can very quickly change, particularly if she was accepted as a JA. I would definitely give her the chance to audition if she wants to, there is nothing to lose. Remembering competition is especially tough for girls as there are so many applying. When ds auditioned they saw just under 1000 children and there were just under a hundred spaces available I believe ( figures quoted by RBS) so not great odds! They are looking for the right body shape and potential rather than current talent. If your dad's dance teacher is former RBS she will know what she is talking about. Cost is a factor but if you think about the cost of any other activity they may take up such as horse riding then the associate course is not unreasonably expensive. Good luck with your decision.

chazboo Wed 15-Jan-14 00:09:30

Sorry, typo! I meant dd's dance teacher not dads

Sparklymommy Wed 15-Jan-14 07:33:54

Also, with regards to cost, there is help available if your on a low income.

It is a good oppurtunity. I had never heard those figures re the 1000 for 100 places before, but that makes sense. And then the year groups at white lodge have 24 children. 12 boys and 12 girls. From across the world, not just the Uk.

There are other associate programmes as well tho: Elmhurst run a good one near us, and the RAD run one too. The RAD also do what are called ACE classes, which run for 4 months, one lesson a month on a Sunday. My dd has done these and loved them. And I think we paid £25 for the four classes. Also workshops are always a good thing to do with the RAD as they have some exceptional teachers and are fun.

As I think I've mentioned in the past, RBS run a workshop called JA for a day which it would be worth taking your dd to. I believe they do a Q and A and it would give you some indication of whether or not your dd would enjoy it. It is a big commitment, but I would definitely not rule it out without speaking to your dd about it. Obviously her dance teacher thinks she has potential or she wouldn't be suggesting it.

Looking back over this thread I can see that I have sounded negative about RBS. That wasn't my intention. It can be amazing and I think all the children that I know who have been JAs have enjoyed it. I would just try and make sure that I'd your dd does go down that route that she is aware they assess out regularly. And even if your assessed out by them, there are other schools and other companies.

Ledkr Wed 15-Jan-14 07:52:38

That said. If you are a decent dancer you will get work eventually if that's how you want to work.
With ds I did all the festivals ,JAs, extra classes and privates.
He danced for a short time then became a chef!
With dd who is good at ballet particularly, I've just stuck at class's, low key festivals for fun. She also does lots of other things including being part of a theatre group and singing.
She wants to do musical theatre/holiday entertainer so this is right for her.
Op it dies sound as if the commitment would be too much for you but I agree with talking to her about it.
With ds I had two older boys but now I've got dd plus a toddler so I couldn't fit it all in.

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