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Dance school versus academic school

(26 Posts)
goldenlilliesdaffodillies Sun 21-Sep-14 17:05:04

DD has a place at a great independent secondary school (depending on Common Entrance but current school say this won't be a problem for her). Her name has been down for the last couple of years and we had to pay a hefty retainer fee. It is very academic but also has an amazing music department. DD comes from a musical family and plays various instruments. Current school have recommended her to go here.

However her main passion is dance. She lives, eats and and breathes dance. She has to dance! Both her dance teachers want her to go to a dance school and want her to audition. We visited one yesterday and DD fell in love with it. The school suits her to the ground.I t's nearer to home. If she gets in would it be madness to give up the place at the other school to go to a dance school (which also has a good music department but is less academic)? She would come out with less academic qualifications but more dance ones.

DH thinks we shouldn't narrow her choices down at such a young age (13). The life of a dancer is tough. It is so hard to know which direction to go. Has anyone else had this dilemma? What did you decide and did you make the right decision?

ohtobeanonymous Sun 21-Sep-14 17:10:48

Haven't had the dilemma personally but a friends DD chose dance school and never looked back. It isn't exclusive to getting a reasonable set of results at GCSE or even A level, and if she has the dance talent she has to take advantage of the training available as she is growing...unlike academic qualifications, it is much harder (if not impossible) to get the dance training she would need later in life to go into a career in the industry.

She might not get a place in the dance school, which would make your decision easier! But if she does it would be hard to find reasons not to take it.

PillForgettingIdiot Sun 21-Sep-14 17:14:09

I agree with the not narrowing options. One injury, and she could have nothing.

Others will come along and say otherwise, and yes- sometimes the risk does pay off.

Its such a hard decision to make, and I empathise with you OP.

claraschu Sun 21-Sep-14 17:19:57

If you are going to be a ballet dancer, I think you have to focus at her age. I have a lot of misgivings about ballet, as there are so many pitfalls (injuries, wrong physique as she matures, eating disorders, ruthless attitudes of dance schools, short career, constant pain), but if she has a real passion she may always regret not giving it her best shot. You never really miss the opportunity to follow an academic course, as you can do that at any age. Dance and music CAN'T wait.

My son was at the very best academic secondary school, as far as results go; the school also had an "amazing music department", but he wanted to be a musician, and started refusing to go to school in year 9. He has ended up at a specialist music school, and is SO much happier. In his case, he gave us no choice, but I guess I believe that they can do other things later, but music and dance can't wait even a few years.

Would you feel comfortable telling us what the schools are? You might get some really helpful feedback from current parents.

claraschu Sun 21-Sep-14 17:24:40

PillForgetting: the problem is that by not putting in the time with dancing right now, she IS narrowing her options. If she goes to a regular independent academic school, she is cutting out the possibility of a dance career. She will have a longish day at school, lots of homework, and possibly other extra-curriculars. This simply doesn't leave enough time to be serious about dance.

PillForgettingIdiot Sun 21-Sep-14 17:33:09

Which is why I empathise with the OP's decision. Its a very hard one to make.

I myself danced as a child and teen, but ultimately chose academia. I was good at both, and chose the one I was better at in the end. I got a PhD at 25 - it worked for me. I'm glad I made that choice.

If OP's DD is better at dance than anything else, I'd be inclined to go to the dance school.

tess73 Sun 21-Sep-14 17:37:40

A dancer's life is very hard. Would you really choose that for your dd if she is also fairly academic? My dd dances 8 hours a week currently (age nearly 9). I imagine having this dilemma at secondary too.
How academic is the dance school? Do any students get mostly As at GCSE?

LIZS Sun 21-Sep-14 17:37:52

A lot of vocational schools offer weekend and holiday courses for potential dancers, as do English Youth Ballet and Royal. It is possible to keep on top of both but requires commitment and time management. She could get her gcses behind her and make a more conscious choice at 16. If you look at vocational schools their gcse results do tend to be weaker because the timetable is more practical and attention is elsewhere. Some schools like Arts Ed try to keep a balance and discourage "working" until later but still tend to attract less academic students. A friend considered vocational school for her dd at 13 but chose at a good, if not hugely academic , school instead. Now has 11 GCSEs at A*/A and is staying for 6th form possibly to enter medicine. She still dances a lot in her spare time but has so many more options.

summerends Sun 21-Sep-14 17:55:40

I would give the opportunity of the dance school until her GCSEs on the condition that she also focuses on getting 8 academic GCSEs at the grades that would allow her to rejoin an academic sixthform. After three years of training you will all have a better idea what her options are as a dancer. If she is yearning after being a dancer she probably won't be at her best at the academic school.

goldenlilliesdaffodillies Sun 21-Sep-14 21:50:44

Thanks for your replies. The academic school is Kings, Canterbury. I have no idea if there is any serious dance there. We need to look at both schools again.
DD has been on quite a few dance summer schools and it has made her more determined. The problem with the dance school is that they can only do 7 GCSE's due to the level of dance they do although the students apparently have a history of getting A's and A*'s.

summerends Sun 21-Sep-14 22:29:27

Golden do you know which ones those consist of? If it were 7 including dance or music or drama etc that would be more limiting. Would she be bright enough to add in an extra with outside tutoring with the dance school schedule. Working towards common entrance would give her a very solid basis for some subjects so it might be manageable.
Brighton school has a very serious dance school attached with dance scholarships ( has been discussed on another thread). Is that at all an option?

Lhart1589 Mon 22-Sep-14 01:34:42

A honest answer I would take the dance route, if it's something she has a passion for and is one of the lucky ones to have a natural talent it should never go to waste. When I was 11 I was in the same position, my parents sent me to the academic indie and I carried on dance as LIZS said there are summer schools and weekends to do royal ballet and the EYB which I did and loved seeing my friends then! But by the age of 14 Id grown tired of not spending time with school friends and spending all my time in the studio. So after slowly dropping hours I stopped. I done well in my exams, done well at university, and now I have a job which pays well but can't help but think if?? Sorry for droning on but id let her take a chance at it! She's a lucky girl to be gifted with the chance to go to a dance school!

Lhart1589 Mon 22-Sep-14 01:36:58

What if* sorry blush also by just stating my job pays well not I enjoy it shows which route I wish I had took!

MexicanSpringtime Mon 22-Sep-14 01:56:35

*they can only do 7 GCSE's due to the level of dance they do although the students apparently have a history of getting A's and A's

There you go then, OP. Kids who are able to follow their passion are usually good at concentration too. Certainly the arts schools here in Mexico get very good academic results too.

My daughter is a dancer and I know there are lots of risks involved with that career but a good dance school would also teach her how to protect her body.

sashh Mon 22-Sep-14 06:25:49

You can go to uni at any age, you can't be a professional dancer forever.

30years after my parents stopped me doing art I still resent them.

Can you see which side I'm coming down on?

summerends Mon 22-Sep-14 07:03:20

I think most of us agree that she needs to be allowed to pursue it (although I do have a hugely talented relative who devastatingly had to stop ballet through injury just when her career was taking off and has not yet recovered several years later). However it is how best to keep her academic options open for a later decision point.

GraduallyGoneInsane Mon 22-Sep-14 09:02:01

My DD2 has just gone off to dance school for sixth form after doing
GCSEs at an academic school. She did associate classes and summer schools throughout the years which helped firstly develop her dancing, but also helped me mark out where she compared to the girls who were already in full time training. I suspect that had she gone to vocational school at 11 she would have been a better dancer, but ultimately she has got a place in full time training now so has done incredibly well. That could be an option for your DD?

You don't say where you would like her to audition. Certainly the 'big 4' vocational dance schools (White Lodge, Elmhurst, Hammond, Tring Park) get great academic results and are likely to be your DDs best chance for a career in dance. If she got into one of those 4 I would be inclined to let her go.

Ultimately, you know your DD best. My DD2 is a delicate flower and needed a bit more home time, hence auditioning at 16 rather than 11. If my DD1 had been serious about dance I might have considered auditioning at 11 as she is much more outgoing and feisty.

Dunlurking Mon 22-Sep-14 09:57:05

I've got a ds who didn't audition at 11 for white lodge but a friend did and went. They both have excellent GCSEs, the white lodge boy just has less of them.

The top unis recognise when kids have managed to juggle both academia and dance to high standards and these kids do get offers for law, medicine, veterinary medicine etc after attending the vocational schools and changing their minds about dance as a career. The forum to read (or post on) is here www.balletcoforum.com/index.php?/forum/9-doing-dance/

goldenlilliesdaffodillies Mon 22-Sep-14 12:38:25

Some great advice thank you. The dance school we looked at is Legat's. The dance world is so new to me that I'm not sure which ones would be good and which not!
Part of me really wants her to try for dance. I nearly went to drama school but didn't as my parents couldn't pay the amount of money needed. I have always regretted that but don't want that to influence DD's path. It's so hard to know what to do!

SuedeEffectPochette Mon 22-Sep-14 18:22:38

I thought you got the best of both worlds at Legats since basically you do the academic at St Bede's. You should have another chat with them because I would have thought you can do both academic and dance here, both to an excellent level. Legat's is the "fifth" dance school - the "top" four (which offer wider funding options) being Royal Ballet, Tring, Hammond, and Elmhurst. The children at these schools seem to get excellent exam results too, so I don't think it does narrow your options IMO.

Picturesinthefirelight Mon 22-Sep-14 18:38:22

My dd is at one of 'the big four'.

She is very academic & turned down a place at a selective private school to go there.

It surprises me greatly that they only get to do 7 gcses at Legats. At dds school they do 9 which is the same number if gcses she would have done at the academic school.

I don't think we have narrowed her options, in fact I think we've widened them as she was struggling to fit in enough dance hours of the right standard locally.

I'm not convinced she will stay there fir a levels (academic school will have her for 6th form as long as her gcse results are good). At vocational dance school she can only do 2 a levels & she really needs 3 to keep her options open for her 2nd career choice of physiotherapy.

I am impressed by the academics so far, she is also very musical & the standard of music is very high at her school. Also they picked up on a potential SEN very quickly & gave support (totally missed in her academic prep school)

Most importantly she's happier there.

Oriunda Mon 22-Sep-14 20:11:17

Slightly different situation, but when I was 16 and had done my 'O' levels I wanted to leave school and become a full time student at my stage school. The 3 year course would have seen me (assuming I passed all exams etc) leave with an Equity card but also, and possibly more importantly, teaching qualifications (ie to be a dance teacher). My parents were going through a horrible separation and my mother told me I had to stay on at school to do my 'A' levels (so I had the option of going to university).

Like Lhart above, I found it hard (and physically tiring) juggling both studying for 'A' levels and going to dance classes every night and all day Saturday mornings, whilst seeing my friends having Saturday jobs and going out. I lost interest and eventually stopped going. Having then passed my 'A' levels and been offered two places at university, my mother (having now left the family home but unfortunately still considering herself in charge of us) decided I couldn't go to university after all as she didn't think I'd work hard enough. You can't imagine how resentful I felt. In those days the student loan didn't exist so parental earnings meant no grant.

Even now I think about what I could have achieved. Yes, injuries do happen, and in fact I turned out to have a weak ankle, but that's why you get the backup of teaching qualifications.

I would let your daughter follow her dream.

taxi4ballet Wed 24-Sep-14 13:02:50

OP, you mentioned that your DH mentions narrowing her choices down... well, the thing is - by not auditioning for vocational schools this time round her choices will be narrower still.

At 16 she might find it much more difficult to be accepted for vocational dance schools if she hasn't had the right level of training over the next couple of years.

Perhaps it is worth auditioning for one of the 'big 4' anyway, and see what happens.

Madge5 Sun 07-Dec-14 21:52:06

Hi. I know it's been a few months since posting the initial dilemma but I thought you might be interested in our story.
My DD very similar to yours; loves dance but I felt she should have an all round education and if we could find a school which was also serious about dance then what more could we ask for. We found a boarding school in Oxford; great all round education and DD got a dance scholarship. They seemed to be very serious about dance. She started there in September and it very soon became apparent being serious about dance amongst everything else is not the same as a specialist dance school. DD had to still do sport and fitting in dance lessons in an already busy schedule which included Saturday school was not easy. She was doing 7 hours of dance a week and she really needed to do 22hours+. Long and short of it; after a term she is leaving and joining Legat. Beauty of Legat is that it is within Bede's, which is a great school; it's not Kings Canterbury or Brighton College but at least DD will not be surrounded just by dancers. There are no more than 30 dancers in total and should she be unlucky enough to get injured or decide dance is not for her, she will still get a great all round education.
Beware of schools such as Brighton College, where the dance is great but it's not a dance school and an academic school such as Brighton is not going to compromise on its grade requirements for the sake of dance.
My DD was told by a number in the sixth form at her last school that as the years went on they had to reduce the hours of dancing as their academics got harder and required more time, so they ended up doing dance as a hobby only.
Bear in mind, as happened with my DD, that just because your DD is passionate about dance does not mean every other dancer in a general school will be too; in fact, she is likely to be the only one wanting to take it seriously; not even the teachers take it seriously; it's not why they are there.
If your DD wants to be a dancer and you are happy for her to be; send her to specialist dance school. In fact, she would be better off at a state school where she can finish at 3.30 and then go and dance for four hours or so every day. Otherwise, unless she is a rare talent, she will be competing against all those that have had that training and discipline and have the stamina as well.

Madge5 Sun 07-Dec-14 21:56:46

By the way; at Legat they may just do 7 GCSE's but they also do BTech Dance which is worth another three. Same for A levels; two standard plus BTech dance, which is worth three A levels. They have had girls go to Oxbridge and the better Uni's so your DD will not be too disadvantaged but it's not Kings Canterbury or Brighton College.

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