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Momof3darlings

A re-visit to "Measuring Success"

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Momof3darlings

One of our members recommended we re-visit a thread that was pinned as a Sticky. That thread was a very valuable one and is here: Measuring Success: Evaluating a Ballet Program.

 

After discussion, we felt it might be better to start a new discussion and see if there have been any changes or additions to how success is measured and how evaluation needs to occur today. Please read through the linked thread but do respond here with updated questions and conversation.

 

The original question is quoted here as well:

 

What suggestions do the veteran parent readers have for evaluating a year-round residential school? Many of our kiddos are dancing this summer at places far from home that offer invites to stay yearround. I can't imagine how one redoes schooling,housing, etc. all in August for September (assuming you can't toss unlimited funds at solving a problem). How do you discreetly find out stuff like -- where their graduates go? how many of the students who start there in high school years graduate there or is it a constant wash of new people as others fade out injured, unhappy, transferred etc? What is the quality of the academic schooling choices? Is the school in the 21st century on health/fitness/adolescent development? The stuff you want to know without prejudicing the dance-based decision of the faculty...

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kikiswede

Ask the dancers! Many of the pre-professional schools now have social network pages like Face Book. You can see more details on these sites than on the commercially paid for sites as well as having the ability to identify dancers, direct msg them with a question..." Do you consider this school living up to it's success claims? Are you satisfied in your own success... based on this school or another one? Thank you for your candid reply".

 

You can also post on the wall you are welcoming personal msgs regarding the satisfaction of the school and program...all candid honest personal msgs welcome. Anyone with something to say will do so...without editing.

 

If a ballet program is housed in an academic school as a separate independent program, contact the guidance counselor office and ask them for specific statistics. How many students go on to college dance proograms, or professional companies. Ask how many students dropped out of the dance program during the past four years, or left the school with injury or disillutionment. They can't talk ballet business or name names of students, but they are required to give graduate, college acceptance numbers, and general information. I have seen on some sites where I know the dancers who graduated listed and who are mis-represented (by oversight, deliberate or not) as dancers contracted by companies but are not...eventhough a few claims were accurate. Also ask the ballet program of those who are with ballet companies, how many are paid company dancers, or unpaid trainees and apprentices...there is a huge financial and reality check difference.

 

I have done this with two daughters. It is a very huge commitment and very expensive.

 

One daughter did graduate and was signed as a paid company member. The other daughter is at a University with a dance program but majoring in liberal arts by choice and taking dance as her creative outlet for joy. Definately do your due diligence.

 

Personally, I would NEVER allow a young female dancer to live in a dorm for a ballet program at a school unless the entire school was dedicated to the dance program and dance students..ie Vaganova Academy,Harid, or a Performing Arts School etc... Non-dance faculty DO NOT GET DANCERS NEEDS...no matter how well intended. Insist on ballet host family placement. Dance students need to rest beyond the bells, eat when they are hungry, relax, cry, scream,sleep, BREATH without big brother watching them and have someone GET IT and advocate for them and their parents with the school and program.

 

I hope this helps.

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learningdance

We are considering residential programs in two years and this was my question exactly. . . . I think that there may be a disconnect between my expectations and reality in terms of job placement and these ballet schools.

 

 

IMO, from the data that I have been able to come across (which is scant) many of these ballet residential programs are not delivering dancers to trainee positions in the first-tier and second tier companies in the US. Frankly, I would expect the strongest residential programs to be delivering a solid 50% of their students to 1st tier co trainee positions and another 30% to 2nd tier companies and the remaining 20% to colleges.

 

In fact, when I look at some of these programs, NO ONE has gone to a 1st tier co in the last 5 years. So accepting that my 50% expectation is unrealistic, I have to believe that 0 % going to 1st tier companies is not acceptable. Why is this? Are schools taking more students who aren't actually qualified? Are trainees for the 1st tier places simply coming out of the company schools? Do these schools lack the connections needed to make the calls and get their students seen? Are that many kids opting out of ballet after a residential program? Are they peaking within the program?

 

I know that even a place like SAB will only take 5-10% of their OWN students into their company so I guess it's silly to expect that these companies will take outside students at a higher rate.

 

I think that what I am figuring out is that you should assume that you DD will NOT progress to a first tier company unless picked off by the said company's school at 15-17. I am assuming that it is an entirely unrealistic expectation that you DD could go to a ballet residential program for a full four years and land in the most secure companies. (And I am not talking boys, because that's an entirely different situation. Boys make up less than 5% of the ranks of pre pro ballet dancers.)

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Momof3darlings

Good questions and good things to think about prior to having a child in residency. You are certainly on the right track in your searching. I have to agree with some of your assessments, but remembering that in my time here some residencies have undergone some fairly big changes. Even with your realization that 50% was in fact unrealistic what you may be finding is that the whole 1-2% Brutal Reality Club doesn't exclude any school. It's a global thought.

 

Residencies are businesses and in order for them to succeed they must fill the classes/buildings just like any other school. So that means they come through the same ebb and flows that a home school does. Some years they may be power packed with talent and other years not so much. There are but a few who break that mold. Simply because they have auditions and there is a focus on the arts for the majority of the day does not mean that every student there comes in as a dancer with the potential to dance in the largest and most prestigious companies in the world. One would hope that if you do come in with that talent that it can be fostered to help you get there, but if you're seeing no one in the last 5 years then to me this says that the ones you looked at are more like regular home schools. Occasionally they get a dancer who can make it through that route but the vast majority of time, they just educate, teach dance and end up with dancers who don't hit that Golden Target. That is reality. No matter where you dance, unless there is assessment out every year, 1-2% will actually dance for money. Probably less than that will dance in what I assume you're meaning top tier. 1-2% will dance ballet, period.

 

What you may be finding is that there are only a few residencies left with track records of more success than the average home school. I know that some of them are not what they used to be.

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Beezus21

Oh boy, this is depressing. Learning Dance, thank you for all the research you have done. It is these little pieces of information I use to make decisions and ground me in reality. During your research, did you happen to find any residential program that tends to have better placement rates than the others? I wonder if any of the European programs are better??

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leaper

I am following this renewed thread from the perspective of our situation where we decided as a family that a residence program was not right for our DS. We watched 2 of the males at our home school leave and live away from home for 4 years. One was taken into the corps of that company, the other's path is unknown. We decided that we wanted to raise a DS who had more to his life than ballet/dance. Church, school, outside hobbies. He's gone to SIs away every summer and has had some great opportunities locally. His home training had some drawbacks, however we decided based upon a lot of what is written above, that the cost (financially and emotionally) did not outweigh the benefits. His current SI is a mix of males who are from residence programs and those who live at home. He finds that the residence program dancers are not as interesting to talk to! I realize that each situation is unique, however I think the dancer must have the drive to live and breathe ballet exclusively in order to balance the cost of family separation. Our DS has chosen the college route for the next steps of his ballet career-even so he knows that future employment is not guaranteed.

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diane

In most of the European Schools of which I have some knowledge, it is about the same. :) The reasons are myriad. (some mentioned above)

 

-d-

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vagansmom

I wrote about this in another thread some time back, but I think it's critical to recognize three factors:

1. Due to budget cuts following the economic crash, ballet companies have nearly all had to reduce the number of the dancers in their companies. Many companies closed. Smaller and fewer companies = less job openings

2. The 1990's and 2000's leading up to the crash saw an enormous boon to the population of dancers attending both residential and non-residential ballet studios. People had money to send their kids to such training grounds. Then when the crash happened, ballet companies found that they could increase their coffers by opening schools themselves, thus leading to very large numbers of highly trained dancers. Every year during the 90's and 2000's saw a new batch of "shiny pennies," little ballet students with big dreams, enter into these schools. Every year, these schools turned out far more dancers than there are jobs.

3. Due to major advances through the years of treating ballet injuries, professional dancers can now dance healthier and therefore longer, so less jobs are available for that reason too.

 

It's the perfect storm: way, way too many highly trained dancers coming out of reputable ballet training grounds . There's no place for most of them to go! It doesn't matter how good the ballet school is. If there are no openings, there's nothing that can be done. Keep your eyes wide open when you put your child into these fine residential programs. Know that the likelihood of your child earning a professional living as a ballet dancer is practically nil. Don't fault the ballet schools for the larger problem. It will take years, if ever (given that the current culture doesn't value ballet as did past generations), before the ratio of ballet dancers to available jobs approaches anything near worth the gamble. Of course, I'm talking about this from a purely numbers perspective. Ballet training offers enormous enrichment to the lives of those who can afford it even when they don't get ballet jobs.

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learningdance

Momof3 Thanks.

 

Yes, it does seem that many of these residential programs only have a success rate better than home schools.

 

Beezus, please be clear that my "research" is very biased and simply my cursory analysis of a handful of east coast schools.

 

Yet there are some places that get their kids employed. . .Ellison is known for that. It's just not a residential place really.

 

Rock seems to do a decent job as well.

 

Can anyone answer this question. .. Do you think that the best affiliated company schools (e.g. JKO, SAB, Houston's Ben Stevenson, PNB's School, SFB) have a better track record of employability? Not necessarily employing people into their companies but sending folks to other companies? Do you think that these schools have better connections and reputations to get their students seen?

 

I think that one thing I am really learning is that you cannot ignore connections. If the field is overloaded and there are many talented dancers, then someone who can pick up the phone and say, "Take a look at this person. Let them take a co class," will make a difference. I also think that the places that their dancers have gone in the past reflect the nature of their connections or the places that appreciate the particular attributes that they train their dancers in.

 

I also have to say this, I know that it won't be popular, but it would seem that YAGP could certainly help give a dancer an edge, more in getting into a school and getting some money to help train. It would seem that this type of experience can help to differentiate the view that a school would have a dancer's skill set beyond what is seen in class. Honestly, there are people who excel in class but simply don't sparkle on the stage. I don't see a ton of traineeships being given out there and probably the folks that get traineeships would anyway.

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vrsfanatic

I have been working in a residency program for the past 19 years. Having watched the ebbs and flow of the American ballet job market over these numerous years, I would like to add that the addition of the various levels of trainee/appentice/2nd company situations has impacted the residential schools ability to market their participation in the successes of their students. Most trainee programs and competitions are quite busy marketing themselves using various school's alumni as "their own". The job market is very tight right now. There are so many talented and better trained students out there, deserving of work. Competition is tough right now. In order to get into top tier programs, students need to have top tier facility, work ethic and training. If you live in an area that can provide this training, then great, residency not necessary. Having traveled the US and internationally, I would have to say that unless you are in a metropolitan area, finding the necessary training locally may be dfficult. Also, within our profession, there are so many ideas of what is high level training. Students are in need of more education than even 10 years ago to compete for top tier jobs.

 

In todays world, the criteria for success as a business requires huge marketing and the selling of dance. Sometimes this sounds and looks good to those seeking answers for their child. There is no one answer for anyone. In the end it is a family decision that needs to be re - evaluated on a regular basis. Since ballet based residencies are generally smaller in number regarding student population, it may take more years to produce top tier dancers. What may be important to look at is the fact that they do produce dancers in numbers who are worker in the industry of dance.

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vrsfanatic

I have been working in a residency program for the past 19 years. Having watched the ebbs and flow of the American ballet job market over these numerous years, I would like to add that the addition of the various levels of trainee/appentice/2nd company situations has impacted the residential schools ability to market their participation in the successes of their students. Most trainee programs and competitions are quite busy marketing themselves using various school's alumni as "their own". The job market is very tight right now. There are so many talented and better trained students out there, deserving of work. Competition is tough right now. In order to get into top tier programs, students need to have top tier facility, work ethic and training. If you live in an area that can provide this training, then great, residency not necessary. Having traveled the US and internationally, I would have to say that unless you are in a metropolitan area, finding the necessary training locally may be dfficult. Also, within our profession, there are so many ideas of what is high level training. Students are in need of more education than even 10 years ago to compete for top tier jobs.

 

In todays world, the criteria for success as a business requires huge marketing and the selling of dance. Sometimes this sounds and looks good to those seeking answers for their child. There is no one answer for anyone. In the end it is a family decision that needs to be re - evaluated on a regular basis. Since ballet based residencies are generally smaller in number regarding student population, it may take more years to produce top tier dancers. What may be important to look at is the fact that they do produce dancers in numbers who are worker in the industry of dance.

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learningdance

Thanks Ms. S,

 

You bring up a good point. . .Everyone "claims" people as their alumni in a marketing grab. Caveat emptor with the reported data.

 

I don't understand/know what you mean in this part-- Since residency programs are generally smaller in terms of numbers of students. . . I thought that in the field of students trying to get into companies that wasn't the case. I thought that the kids going to residencies far outweighed the kids not.

 

We don't live in a metro area. We have GREAT teachers but the problem is a mass of students who want the same amount/quality of training in our area. So we have to do a lot of private training. Most students who dance in our area do competition dance, which enjoys the most commercial success and some ballet schools, but the teachers in the local schools are simply not of the same caliber as our teachers (and I have plenty of facts to support that with). It took some digging around for me to find that out because our teachers are really humble but it's true.

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mom2

Both of my daughters attended residency programs - two different ones. Only one of them ended up making dance a career ( a story for another day), and the career hasn't been an easy road by any stretch. Recently I asked the dancer to reflect on her years in training because parents here on BT4D were asking questions - and I wondered what she thought now that she herself has the advantage of hindsight.

 

She doesn't think that she would have done anything differently in terms of her school - she was happy with the fit of the school over the years. She went there pretty young, but says she is still happy with that decision -our home studio did not have the amount of ballet training required and given our jobs hubby and I were not able to cobble together enough other training elsewhere. We did try for one year to augment - this did have many advantages but there were some inevitable scheduling conflicts which were frustrating to one of the teachers in the 2nd and bigger school.

 

At dd's residency program students were required to attend that school's SI every summer. If students wanted to do a second program, this had to be vetted through the school (dd did this at least three times from what I can recall and we were able to make it a bit of a family vacation). However, it was not possible for her to attend in-person auditions for summer programs the way most of your kids do (too difficult to get permission for a leave of absence from her school for this). She wishes that she would have had this opportunity as she sees that there is a skill set one acquires through attending many of these over a period of time. Unfortunately the first time she went to a cattle-call audition for a company was in NYC - pretty overwhelming.

 

Dd did take one year post-secondary additional training, as did many of her ballet school classmates. Of her graduating class - there were 5 women and 4 men. All did find work, but for some it took 2 years. They are scattered all over the globe now from Europe to Asia and in between. Of the 9 dancers one started in level one and continued with the school to graduation. Over the years we saw some dancers choose to leave the school, and others were of course assessed out by the school.

 

In terms of competitions, in dc's time at the school two dancers competed in YAGP (one male, one female). Neither placed in the top three, but one was in the top 10 from what I recall. I know that one already had a company contract in hand before the competition, I believe same was true for the other dancer but I really don't know for sure. My point is that these were a good experience for the dancers and good opportunity for the school, but they did not independently assist in landing a job. Another dancer was to have competed in Prix de Lausanne but unfortunately was injured and couldn't take part. The year after graduation (dd had by now moved on), some of the dancers had an opportunity to participate in a program sponsored by another Residency program which brings together students and young choreographers from partner schools. One of dd's friends was offered a contract from this experience.

 

I hope this information is helpful. Next time dd is home I'll see if I can get her to reflect a bit more.

 

mom2

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CeliB

A perspective from the UK (which also applies to some other European schools) is many residential schools have government funding, and because (or maybe anyway) of this they assess students out every year if they feel they aren't progressing sufficiently/have grown too big/small/injured etc. It is also common for the 6th form (16-18) to be a new audition process so that children who have been in school since 11 have to compete for entry at this stage. There have been many years at Royal Ballet for example where fewer than half the children who trained there 11-15 made it into the 6th form. Often more overseas students (including those identified through YAGP and similar) join at this stage. This means that the cohort of dancers graduating is sometimes very different to those who entered the school age 11. Despite this they schools will list their graduate contracts as theirs, even when they may have only taught that student for one or 2 years. I don't know how much this happens in the US- it certainly doesn't happen at DS's USA school...

 

It is in many ways quite brutal, and the end of year assessment (EVERY year) provokes serious anxiety- to the extent that it has been questioned whether is stifles the childrens' ability to grow as artists due to a constant atmosphere of fear (I think that's probably overstating it but I guess for some it may be like this).

Anyway I think this means the graduate 'success' is not really comparable with many programmes who don't assess out regularly.

 

Another snippet of info from the director of the Dutch National Youth Company (who my DH had a chat with recently- long story) is that he felt competitions were only for those children who weren't in a big name residential programme to get noticed. He said if you were already in a residential programme (and I think by big name he was talking all those mentioned above- SAB,Houston, SF, Kirov, Royal,Elmhurst etc etc- others not listed only because I cant think of them offhand not because they are lesser) there was no benefit.

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CeliB

sorry to be strictly accurate I think they don't assess out in year 10 as they have already started their GCSE exam syllabus, so they get GCSEs at end of year 11 before applying for 6th form (years 12 and 13)

for those who are confused about English school years our year 7 (first year of residential school) is the year where the child turns 12 (grade 6?)

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