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BW

"Asked to Stay" w/o a residential program setup

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BW

As 99.99 % of you know, I have no vested interest in the ballet school world anymore - except for the fact that I know a number of BT4D members and hear more and more about families having to decide - usually very quickly in the space of a week sometimes - whether or not to let their teenagers "stay" at a program for the year when the program offers no residential facilities and support. This often causes a great deal of angst due to the stress of weighing the perceived benefits vs the risks. :green::sweating:

 

It appears to me that this kind of thing is becoming more and more common every year. I have been hearing of more programs than ever that are now encouraging students who attended their summer programs to stay - even though they may not have any real residency program organized to support these kids.

 

Some programs have a list that people may sign if they want to be considered for a spot in the year round program, while other SIs will choose the students they're interested in towards the very end of the intensive, while still others are really pretty open to anyone staying who they feel would fit in with the appropriate year round levels at the school.

 

How do you all feel about this? What do you think the responsibilities of the ballet program are? If they are "asking people to stay" do they not have any responsibilities to support these kids who might be as young as 15 years old - maybe younger?

 

I suppose I am playing the devil's advocate, though I prefer to think of myself as being a voice crying in the wilderness that is asking is all this really considered OK? I mean, if a ballet school has not thought out its residency program, i.e., either having a dormitory staffed appropriately, a real host family list with families who are known entities, some kind of psychological support services as well as physical therapy services, and at the very least a well thought out list of suggestions for these students to continue their high school academics such as a working relationship with a local school or schools, information about good Internet education, plus some kind of communal meeting room or lounge where these students who are away from home can congregate and form some viable form of a community - doesn't it behoove these ballet programs to do so before they "ask" students to stay? Or, is this all moot because of the highly competitive nature of making it in the ballet world as a professional? :innocent:

 

As I'm writing this, I can't help but laugh a bit ruefully that there will always be someone who can rearrange their lives in order to meet the bar(re :lol: ) that's been set. I do believe there is a difference between someone choosing to attend a program without a residential program of any sort and dealing with all of this morass vs that of program's asking a student to stay, yet not having any real support for said student.

 

Any thoughts? Perhaps this is a sign that I'm no longer in the ballet world anymore, just looking in from the outside.

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Victoria Leigh

No, you are right on, BW. It is a major concern. As you know, I have always been against students leaving home, IF they are getting the training they need at home. If not, then it is a problem, and each one will have to be dealt with separately. Residency programs may indeed be very necessary for them, but staying at a school without an academic situation in place, or a dorm or host families in place, is certainly a really difficult problem. Not impossible, but much harder for the parents and students. We have some who do that, but so far they have had to find living arrangements and their method of schooling. Some do correspondence and online, others attend regular schools. Some live with families, others get apartments and a parent or grandparent moves here too. All very complicated. The goal of course is to have a dormitory, and arrangements with a school. But that has not yet been accomplished.

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thedriver

BW, I think it depends on the manner in which the student was asked. If the SI approaches only students who have already said they would be interested in remaining if asked, then I don’t think the program has a responsibility to support or assist the dancer. On the other hand, If the SI approaches a student who has not voiced an interested in remaining, than I think the program should have someone on staff designated to help the dancer and her/his family secure accommodations for year-round training. In either situation it would behoove the program to provide as much assistance as possible - an unhappy dancer won’t stay!

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AsleepATheWheel

Parents of ballet students know the pressure their student is under to 'make it', seemingly at earlier and earlier ages. Hence, the many panic filled threads on this board, many started by parents of children not yet in their teens. Then, the panic filled threads begun by parents of kids in early teens (perhaps even I have started such threads) about whether their kids will succeed, how they will succeed, change programs, add programs, subtract programs, privates, competitions, special deals etc.

 

This being known, an invitation from a top ballet company, with a school attached or NOT is definately looked at as if it is the 'make it or break it' opportunity for those that know there will be very few offered, if any. We parents also know that if we say no to the opportunity, in most cases, there are hundreds of kids ready to fill our kids 'pointes'.

 

However, and I have thought about this a great deal, I would not allow my child to live with a 'host family' unless I knew that family personally and even then, I think it would be a huge burden for that family and a ton of stress for everyone involved. For the majority of those kids 14 and under, it is not appropriate, tho I do know that it is done. Even for those over 14, an appallingly young age to leave home and live with a 'host family', it could have repercussions of great magnitude for years to come. Yes, there are some kids who will succeed no matter what situation they are thrown into. But, in the interest of their mental and physical health, unless there is a true residency program, kids should probably reside with parents (hoping in this case that the parents are responsible adults). If parents wish to travel with the child to the new training opportunity, that is another situation altogether, good in some situations, worse for those with more children to care for, not to mention spouses and jobs.

 

I think we must all take care to consider what effects these decisions are making on the future of our families. Tossing caution to the wind works for some. Careful consideration of real and appropriate options are best for everyones future.

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rubiraven

I agree with caution....I feel very strongly that I have a repsonsibility to both my DD and my son to be involved in both of their lives. I also believe that my stewardship as a parent means that I need to parent them and not send them away. This led us to be creative in finding the best possible training here locally for my DD. When we did send her to be with a host family that we knew, it became the most terrible emotional ordeal for my DD and it is only now being resolved, 9 months after the fact.

 

I am going out on a limb but.....if you have talent, there cannot be only one path or one way to make it. I used to agonize over the choices but in the end I have decided that if it is her destiny, or God's will (depending how you choose to see it) it will happen in the manner that is best and when the time is right.

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Victoria Leigh

Rubiraven, I agree about the host family situation, however, if there is not good enough training, it's not going to happen. I don't care how talented a child is, if the training is not there "destiny" is not going to take care of it. Sometimes it is quite necessary to figure out how to achieve our own destiny! :innocent:

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balletbooster

It is interesting that you bring up this thread now BW, as my daughter just returned from a major company school's summer program that requires students to attend a specific audition class during the SI, if they wish to be considered for year-round. In past years, and according to the information they sent home to parents this year, this audition was only open students in the top two levels. But, evidently this summer, they did allow younger SI attendees to audition and accepted several into the school and one or two into the second company, who were just 15 years old, entering 10th grade.

 

This program does not provide any academic assistance and the top two levels have daytime classes, so home schooling or internet classes are the only viable options. They provide a townhouse arrangement for those 16+, with limited supervision. For these younger ones, I understand they have secured a house with a dorm mom to accomodate a small number of the <16 dancers. Still, the schedule for these younger kids is not ideal and leaves them with lots of free time during the day to do their coursework. I believe that there may be someone to monitor how the classwork is going, but I'm not sure.

 

These kids all willingly auditioned for the program. So, you can't totally blame the school for this situation. However, it is new for the school to make this option open to those below the top two levels, who are usually 16+. It does put dancers in a very difficult situation, feeling like this is their ticket to a future pro career and yet not giving them or their parents all the pieces of the pie that make what is already a very difficult decision (to leave home for residency) much, much harder.

 

Because there are several well respected schools offering a more complete living experience for young dancers, I am perplexed about why these students are looking to stay at programs where there are so many issues that complicate the situation. :innocent: I think that it is always nice to know that you could stay if you wanted to and then when the offer comes, it is far more difficult to say 'no' than either the dancer or their parents imagined. While the pressure is on to commit and make the move within a matter of weeks/sometimes days, I would urge careful and measured consideration of the offers made, while carefully investigating other ways to achieve the dancer's goals and also what another year or two at home might mean in the long run, to the dancer's aspirations.

 

NOTE: My daughter did not audition at her SI for year-round and so my information is second-hand through her roommate (and mom) who is one of the young ones who auditioned and was asked to stay.

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Hans
Because there are several well respected schools offering a more complete living experience for young dancers, I am perplexed about why these students are looking to stay at programs where there are so many issues that complicate the situation.

 

Balletbooster, I agree. There are so many good ballet schools with established residential programs. If they must all be ruled out and the dancer is not receiving sufficient training at home, that's when it's time to look for another solution IMO. My parents were quite wary of me leaving for SAB at 16, and it has a full dorm in the same building as the studios and relationships with two nearby academic schools. If the situation had been similar to the one you describe, they never would have let me attend.

 

Sometimes students put on figurative "school blinders" and can only see one school as being the right one. This is often not the case, and most of the time attending a summer program is not the only way to audition for a residential program. Just call up schools, ask if you can send a video, or see if you can make a day- or weekend-trip out of a live audition (although I realize not everyone can just fly off to another coast for a weekend on a whim :D ). I sent a video to Rudra Béjart months after the audition process was officially over, and I ended up spending seven months there!

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thedriver

Something else that the dancers and their family may over-look in their rush to ask or be asked to remain; is that the summer intensive program is rarely a true sample of the year-round program.

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Redstorm

Of course I want my daughter to realize her dreams....but, the thought of sending her someplace without an established boarding program is out.

DD wants to go away her junior year (actually her sophmore but we said no way) to a residential/academic reputable school. We have looked at several, but are only considering those that have boarding and academics attached and are successfully established.

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vagansmom

As one devil's advocate to another :D , I'm going to offer up one major (perhaps ONLY) realistic reason why schools make these offers without having appropriate housing or schooling programs in order: They don't have the money to do it yet! Plain and simple. It would be nice if every great pre-pro DID have the finances for dorms and the paid staff to oversee them, oversee the students' academic/psychological needs, but truth be told, a pre-pro school has to start somewhere. And that somewhere usually starts from the bottom on up and moves slowly, with only one or two exceptions where schools have exceedingly generous donor(s) who endowed them from the get-go - SAB and Harid, for example.

 

I've seen this up close in both the academic school world AND the ballet pre-pro world. A given school has terrific training and interested students who maybe arrived from afar to live with a relative and take the summer ballet training. In academic schools, it's similar: a student moves in with a relative for the school year, going home on weekends and holidays.

 

Those students spread the word. More kids come for the summer. The school realizes that, because their training is so good, their name - the proof is in the pudding - gets around. People start calling but many won't send their kids because there's no dorming situation.

 

So the school makes a plan - say, a 10 year one - to create residency housing for their students. What to do in the meantime? Find host families, nearby apts., etc. Most of the host families - my family was one for a few years - have or have had children in the ballet school and are intimately acquainted with the program. The school knows they can trust them.

 

The money generated from the additional students living with host families is used, along with grants, donations, fundraising, to buy or build a facility for a residency. It costs tons of money and requires a focused plan.

 

For most residency ballet schools, if they didn't go through this stage at some point, they would never have gotten the facility and ability to pay for the staff to oversee it.

 

So, yes, it may be frustrating and certainly there are many people who decide their children can't do it this way and that's perfectly understandable, but there are other families who are willing to do so. We're all different. In my academic working world, families are wealthy and have a generational history of sending their children away to boarding schools or to live with relatives nearby excellent schools, sometimes, though not usually, in 4th. grade. Most, though, went away for high school.

For a school with a plan for a future boarding school, it has to start somewhere. Often it starts word-of-mouth, student by student living in host families or relatives, till word gets around enough so that interest swells and so does the program.

 

If the school has a strong and dedicated board of directors and a solid long-term plan, it can make that switch over to a residency building. In some ways, a well-conceived long-term plan that is rigorously followed is a really strong indicator of a healthy program. It's proof that the school is really disciplined.

 

As I mentioned, we were a host family for Nutmeg Ballet for a few years, at first in the summers, then for a full year to a high school aged student. There were a handful of us host families and we teemed up with each other for field trips, etc. and for advice when we needed it. It was a strong community. Our students, by and large, attended local high schools. (My family's student, however, had gotten her GED before she stayed the year with us).

 

This pull-it-together phase is a necessary transitional stage for many schools. They don't WANT it to stay this way, they'd LIKE a residency, but these are the building blocks that will lead them to that permanent home. I watched it happen with Nutmeg Ballet through my daughter's growing up as a student there. When she was about 6 or 7, they had their very first student from afar, Karla Kovatch (soloist with Boston Ballet for many years, currently principal with Festival Ballet in Providence). Karla lived with a host family. Exactly 10 years later, when my daughter was 16 or 17, they opened up their very beautiful new facility, with dorms, gorgeous dance studios, and a music conservatory too.

 

They started one-by-one with a host family here and there, on to a couple handsful of host families, to nearby apts. and homes under a ballet parent (the young men still have this arrangement), to buying a building in town, then building a huge new wing. Their final challenge now is an academic program. More on that later, but from what I know, I am thrilled about their plans and about the woman directing it. It will be solid, (and I'm a hard person to please when it comes to academics :D

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Hans

Just to clarify, SAB began as a non-residential school. Its dorm, which it shares with the Juilliard School, was built (I believe) some time in the 1980's. UBA, however, has been a residential school from the start, although it didn't always have an in-house academic program--its students used to be bussed to a public school in Bethesda. UBA currently allows all students between 14-17 to live in its dorm, and if a student has completed high school but wishes to remain for the apprentice program, it assists them in finding apartments nearby.

 

[Edit: I had misunderstood vagansmom's post when I wrote the following paragraph. For correct information, please see her clarification post and my reply on page 3.]

 

I'm surprised that Nutmeg doesn't provide housing for its male students, especially if it's implementing an academic program. If I were still a student, that would be a very strong deterrent for me--it sends a message (intentionally or not) that they care more about the girls. I can understand the dorm not being large enough, but if they have the space/money for academic classrooms, I would think they'd make housing for both genders a priority.

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fendrock

If a dancer wants to audition for a particular school, and the parents are willing to make arrangements for him/her to attend, that is always a possibility -- such as the first out-of-town students who wished to attend Nutmeg.

 

I think the real question here is why a school would go out of its way to invite students in August for a school year that starts the following month, knowing the incredible stress and strain it causes.

 

It creates the atmosphere described by AsleepAttheWheel, and just doesn't seem like a very good way to go about enrolling students.

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BW

vagansmom, host families that are identified and known well by a program are a horse of a different color than what my initial post was aiming at...

 

My target is the program that does not have any such things set up before starting to recruit. I'm not suggesting a full blown dormitory with a medical staff, etc., has to be in place but I do believe there should be a well thought out plan with at least the bare necessities in place such as a real bonafide list host families, a listing of other options for the students who are below the legal age to live on their own, at least a list of academic alternatives and some kind of organization to act as a student council or something.

 

There are some programs that have nothing even on paper to offer their recruits. :D And many of these programs are not at all new to the ballet world. :D Your scenario with a board of directors and a real solid and well thought out plan is quite a different thing - and of course one would hope for this but it's not always that way even at some of the most well known places.

 

I see chauffeur has started another thread geared towards parents of young students and residencies...that's another subject completely and I'm sure will generate a whole different discussion.

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Momof3darlings
The money generated from the additional students living with host families is used, along with grants, donations, fundraising, to buy or build a facility for a residency. It costs tons of money and requires a focused plan
.

 

Oh goodness! I was going along pretty swimmingly enjoying the conversation until I saw this part of vagansmom's post (I'm still enjoying her, just this part made the hair on the back of my neck stand up) So is what you're saying that in the process of building a school, some schools are willing to fill it with students who might pay the bills? All while knowing the implication of being asked to stay (by that student and their parents) is that you "have it", when in fact that may not be the case? Please, please tell me I'm wrong in my assumption.

 

DD has friends all across the country from about 6 different SI's in this boat as we speak. This would make me sad and would leave alot of these dancers reaching for false hopes even more than they do every day.

 

vj

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