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Do we let dd audition for ballet school or not?

(39 Posts)
Dancergirl Sun 12-Jun-11 22:21:01

This is a tough one. Dd1 is a keen ballet dancer. She's done ballet since the age of 3 and it has always been a passion for her, even more so lately. She's now at the end of Year 5 so dh and I have been looking at secondary schools. She's quite bright academically and will be sitting 11+ exams at a mixture of state and private schools.

However she also wants to audition for a full-time ballet school. The school in question is about a 40-min drive away depending on traffic. The fees are massively expensive (around £6,00/term day and £9,000/term boarding shock). I haven't decided yet if she would board or not but I don't fancy doing that journey twice a day and I have 2 other children to consider. But dh and I would hate for her to board. Academically the school is of a good standard as far as I can see, but it is obviously limited in what they can offer as half the day is devoted to dance.

So all in all dh and I are not keen on the idea. If she auditioned and got in we would then have a huge decision to make. Dh is not even keen on her trying but I feel that if she doesn't, we may be denying her an opportunity.


confidence Mon 13-Jun-11 00:29:50

Have you looked at the Music & Dance Scheme? The Royal Ballet School in London plus a couple of others elsewhere in the country have very high "nominal" fees, but are heavily subsidised by the government so that entrants only pay a proportion of those on a sliding scale relative to income. Of course outside of the unlikely event that one of these is on your doorstep, it would probably involve boarding.

Is she exceptionally able, as well as single-mindedly obsessed? Is she immovably focussed on ballet, as opposed to dance in general? If the answer to all these questions is yes, then you probably need to do what you can to provide what she needs. I must admit I couldn't see how to do two 80 minute round trips a day with two other kids though!

If not, then I'd avoid it and just provide what you can around normal school. The few ballet dancers who get through the gruelling training to even enter the profession get paid a pittance and are over the hill at 35. It's not worth thinking about unless the drive and ability are so strong that it's impossible to consider any alternative.

I'm likely to be in a similar situation in a few years with my DD who is obsessive about music. But even that has a wider range of realistic options and opportunities than ballet.

Kez100 Mon 13-Jun-11 04:57:36

I don't think she should audition at a school where she cannot vomit she passes - unless she is happy to do it for experience.

I would, however, look at options available that might workmfor
you and her and let her audition for those (maybe, as I said, using this one for experience of the audition process).

Kez100 Mon 13-Jun-11 04:58:26

Not vomit! Hate predict text. Cannot enter.

happygardening Mon 13-Jun-11 07:51:28

Have you asked her ballet teacher what are her chances. Years ago a friend was spotted by her ballet teacher and and Royal Ballet and offered a place and they'd pay the fees and her father would not let her go - she never got over it. A few years later I went to watch her at a lesson and she was a million times better than all the others - it was obvious why the Royal Ballet wanted her is your daughter that good?
If you are not going to let you daughter go even if she is offered a place then dont let her go for the audition is cruel.
As a last pont I beleive the Royal Ballet provides an excellent all round ed not just ballet.

Dancergirl Mon 13-Jun-11 09:43:56

Thanks for your replies. Her teacher has told me it would be for a fee-paying place not MDS. She is good but tbh I don't know if she's good enough. And her lack of flexibility has been a problem although it's gradually improving.

So I don't think her chances are that high. So either we let her try for the experience or we don't let her try and explain to her that it's not likely she'll get a place.

senua Mon 13-Jun-11 09:55:50

nooooo. You can't say that she is not being allowed to try because mummy & daddy don't rate her!
Let her try, on the understanding that competition is fierce and she may not get in but all kudos to her for trying. Google some Thomas Edison quotes on try.try and try again. Or tell her about Robert the Bruce and his spider.

It may be useful for 11+ preparation and make her realise that there are plenty other above-average kids out there and she needs to raise her game. Or it may totally destroy any self-confidence. Only you know how she will react.

sparks Mon 13-Jun-11 09:57:27

I wouldn't do it iiwy. I wouldn't want my dd boarding at that age and as confidence says the logistics of it make a day place seem impossible. (Also I wouldn't have the money for fees, but maybe you do.)

There are other options for full-time ballet school at age 16+ if she continues to be so determined.

elphabadefiesgravity Mon 13-Jun-11 10:03:59

Are you able to say which school it is? Is she currently a JA?

I have been looking around for dd but she isn;t good enough for classical ballet and fees/logisitcs for musical theatre/drama are unrealistic for us. Hammond looks good but doing the drama strand incudes little or no dance/voice and dd wants all three.

happygardening Mon 13-Jun-11 10:21:24

Don't be put off by boarding this is an old chestnut on MNT and generates nearly as many hysterical postings as mentioning the word Eton! Many children board from 11 and love it especially if she's doing something she loves. I know nothing about ballet but my friend was told it was age 11 or never. By 16 having been in a normal school and only been dancing once maybe twice a week she would have missed the boat but then that was the Royal Ballet.

elphabadefiesgravity Mon 13-Jun-11 10:24:13

Most serious children who don't go to vocational school would not be dancing once or twice a week. They would be 2 or 3 times a week at their dance school plus JA's plus any performance companies they joined.

sugartongue Mon 13-Jun-11 10:25:52

if you can afford it, let her audition and let her go if she's good enough. Make sure you get her to sit for normal schools and maybe see if you can get her taster days at some so she would know what she was missing. Then let her make the choice. If you can't afford it, just explain that to her. my kids know that some thiings are just beyond our reach because of money and that's all there is to it. But it seems wrong to crush a child's dreams if money's no object, and if after a couple of years she decided it wasn't for her she could still move back to a normal school closer to home

elphabadefiesgravity Mon 13-Jun-11 10:29:33

You can get some advice on in the Doing Dance forum

Colleger Mon 13-Jun-11 10:37:54

I would be looking for a school where you can qualify for MDS as the thresholds are high - around £150k per annum.

I am very much of the opinion if someone has a non-academic talent then it should be pursued. Academic education will not go by the wayside and one can always study at a later date. Sister went to ballet school after a professional career of 10 years then went to study Medicine at 30.

In saying that my one concern would be the self-esteem and competitive culture at dance schools which could lead to depression or an eating disorder. Is your daugther emotionally secure to deal with this? If she is a perfectionist then I would avoid such a place. She will also enter an environment where she is no longer the best which may also add to any pressure.

stikmatix Mon 13-Jun-11 14:04:31

What is there to lose by letting her audition (except the cost of the application), if you think she'll be OK if she doesn't get a place?

To put it into perspective, the other privates you're considering will cost around 4500 per term for tuition, then add on all the extras. If she went to St H then you'd be looking at around 40 mins each way from your area as the traffic is awful Pinner to Northwood direction in the morning (can be sticky even taking the back roads) - regardless of whether you drove her yourself or put her on the school bus.

I agree with the PP that we hear lots of stories about dance schools, but you can only cross one bridge at a time, and you seem like a sensible person, whois giving their DD lots of options for secondary, so go with your instinct!

thekidsmom Mon 13-Jun-11 15:03:46

Tough call, and have faced a similar dilema with music school

I'd say, take it one step at a time. Enter her for the audition and prepare her. Take the audition, see what happens. If she's offered a place, then you have to think it through.

But there are lots of other ways to increase her dance contact - checchiti, English Youth Ballet, other companies - all without going to dance school at huge cost. But when its right, its right.

risingstar Mon 13-Jun-11 16:59:28

i think that if she is not utterly obsessed or has been spotted as a rare talent i would not even start it. tbh, the school may offer her a place even if she is not top flight. the life is utterly intense and if you are not top flight it must be pretty grim always being an also ran.
i had a friend who had this experience at 11. her parents could just afford the fees. she lasted one term and hated it- in fact she never put on a leotard again. she was lucky in some ways in that she just slotted back into the local school- it sounds like you are in a spot where competition is far greater.

Dancergirl Sun 19-Jun-11 11:44:36

Thanks for all your replies, some v helpful advice.

I spoke to the school in question this week - Tring Park - spoke to the Director of Dance. I wanted to find out a bit more what they are looking for as I was a bit concerned about dd's lack of flexibility. A LOT of it is down to physique - the right proportions, a well-arched foot, excellent hip flexibility and so on. No matter how talented they are if they don't have the right physical attributes they won't be accepted by these schools. She also said something that has stuck in my mind - 'ballet chooses the child not the other way round'.

I know dd just hasn't got enough flexibility and I think her chances of getting a place are pretty low tbh. In a way I'm relieved, I would much rather dd goes to an academic school and she can carry on her ballet at her local ballet school. There are also auditions coming up next year for London Children's Ballet and English Youth Ballet which she can try for.

Anyway we don't have to decide just yet. Tring Park has an open day next term which we can go to and if dd still wants to audition she can.

confidence Sun 19-Jun-11 20:25:26

Tring Park is definitely part of the Music and Dance Scheme so I'm not sure what your DD's teacher means. AFAIK if they pass the audition to get into the school, the fees are automatically means tested. But I'm mainly going on what I know of the music schools so maybe it's different.

I know someone who teaches there (though not in dance), I've heard the kids a few times and they do do some astonishing things. And it's not just ballet but other forms of dance too, which might help if your DD is not a natural ballerina.

None of which changes the logistical issue of the travelling though.

elphabadefiesgravity Sun 19-Jun-11 20:55:20

Although Tring is part of MDS is is only one specific course and they seem to have less MDS places. Most children who get into Tring are fee paying.

The best thing would be to visit and also look at other perfoming arts school sin the area and get a feel for the place.

Amaretti Sun 19-Jun-11 21:00:54

It may be 40 mins by car but if she were to get in then she needs to get the bus. Any children do an hour each way on the school bus and it's fine.

omaoma Sun 19-Jun-11 21:06:12

second the message that if she doesn't have the PERFECT BALLET physique it's as best not to raise her expectations. And she would probably be a JA already if she were the right 'type' to go into ballet. Darcy Bussells are few and far between I'm afraid.

Would also add: ballet had many great attributes but it's weakness (well one of them) I would say is the narrow view it takes on potential careers. There are many forms of dance as expressive, challenging and motivating as ballet, and roles as exciting and creative as 'lead dancer' (not to mention better paid and more sustainable) such as choreographer and animateur. But I had no idea they existed when I was your daughter's age and the classical ballet world I experienced wasn't exactly very interested in or knowledgable about other dance forms. I think if I had known you could be a contemporary dance choreographer, rather than be a ballerina (impossible for me) or dance on cruises until you gave it up at 35 and became a provincial teacher (which seemed to be what everybody else did) - that that may well be what I would be doing now instead of jacking it all in at 18. The problem is if you have your focus set on 'ballet dancer' there are millions of ways to fail and very very few to succeed. Going to a classical ballet school might actually make that issue worse? Maybe she needs to widen her view a bit.

SugarSkyHigh Sun 19-Jun-11 21:14:02

we live near tring park, my DD is obsessed with ballet and dances every night almost, with a local teacher who is EXCELLENT. We don't need to go to Tring park. (even though it's closer than our "local" teacher). My DD is driven (at the moment - keep waiting for her to go off it but it never happens)!! has some flexibility issues too, but is working hard with local dance-pilates teacher and has improved considerably.

Her aim is to audition for vocational school at 16. Some of her friends went off to RB and other vocational schools last year and the year before. Guess what - two of them have now been assessed out and are back with the local teacher.

SugarSkyHigh Sun 19-Jun-11 21:24:09

omaoma - with the greatest respect I cannot agree with your statement that "if she doesn't have the PERFECT BALLET physique it's as best not to raise her expectations. And she would probably be a JA already if she were the right 'type' to go into ballet."

There are dozens and dozens of dancers who failed JA/MA/SA auditions who subsequently succeeded. One person I know of failed 6 times and eventually got accepted for SA. And as I mentioned above, plenty of kids with what you call the "perfect ballet physique" (which actually varies from vocational school to vocational school anyway) who do have early success and are accepted into JA's and other such classes, are booted out a year later because of changes in physique/lack of progress etc etc.

If you really want it, and work work work, you might be able to get there. Obviously you need some talent but hard work is essential - natural talent and the "perfect physique" alone will not a dancer make - ballet or any other form of dance.

SugarSkyHigh Sun 19-Jun-11 21:27:16

p.s. yes Darcey Bussells are few and far between, but there are many people out there who dance for a living because they HAVE TO DANCE and are fulfilled dancers. Darcey Bussell needed loads of other ballet dancers around her for lots of scenes, let's face it! You can't have Swan Lake with just one swan! grin

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