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DanceMumNYC

Performing Arts Schools

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DanceMumNYC

Hello! I would like to know if anyone's dd or ds has experience attending a performing arts academic school for middle school. In NYC, there are a few, including Ballet Tech, Professional Performing Arts School (PPAS), and Mark Twain etc. In case anyone isn't familiar with them---Students can audition for dance, as well as for musical instruments, vocals, drama/theater, art etc. Academically, some of these schools do very well. Not to mention, in recent years, many of these kids go on to LaGuardia High School and other specialized high schools. 

My dd is approaching middle school and we are considering these schools. However, with the "slow and steady" ballet approach, I am a bit nervous for her to audition. The dance programs at the schools offer ballet, and ballet is part of the audition, but I also found out that some schools may ask the kids to learn a modern and/or jazz piece at the audition, or even prepare one!

Does anyone have experience with these schools, and if so, did you feel that your child's ballet training by 5th grade (age 10-11) was sufficient for them to audition? Were many ballet-focused dancers chosen compared to jazz dancers? Did you get your child private lessons to prepare them?

Any info will be helpful. Thanks!

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Amie

My DD is over 13 now, so I hope this will be okay to reply....

I will start by saying, I believe all arts schools are different in training, academics, talent, etc.  So I can only speak for the school my DD attended, and keep in mind the school is NOT in NYC.  The arts school was focused on all arts, not just performing, but the students had a "major" and did not take arts classes outside of their major.  The school was a "magnet" school and part of our public school system.  Students auditioned for entrance the year before.  For dance, DD had a ballet class, jazz class, and modern class.  They were abbreviated classes, short ballet barre, 2-3 combos in center and across the floor, then 2-3 combos for jazz and modern.  Afterwards they presented a 2 minute solo of their choice and interview.  I think they stopped DD part way through her solo.  I don't remember the interview questions but I do remember that it was important that the students express their passion for dance and their desire to attend the school.  Of the students who auditioned, DD said 1/3 were completely lost, 1/3 were okay, and 1/3 were better than okay in at least one form of dance.  DD felt she was the best or one of the top 5 in class.  I think they were looking for potential as well as current knowledge, ability to learn, rhythm, and passion. I don't know how many were accepted.  Of the students who were in her class of about 12/15....there were 4 bunheads, a jazz dancers who trained with a musical theater program, a bunch of competition kids, and a few who had more potential than training.  DD's training was mostly ballet with a jazz class and a few modern master classes.  We paid one of her teachers for privates to create and rehearse her solo. 

Her overall experience was a mix.  Dance wise the training was not as good as what she got at her studio.  DD was easily the best in ballet in her class and was not really challenged there.  She did learn a lot in jazz and modern though.   Also, she had access to opportunities she would not have had before like master classes, travel, scholarships, performances in front of important people, etc.  Since most of the students were disciplined in their art form, they were for the most part disciplined in academics as well.  Generally, DD was challenged in her academic classes.  However, the arts always came first at the school and so academics did sometimes take a back seat.  The school also had an extra period in the day (2 in high school) to accommodate time for the arts.  The school was also about a 45 minute bus ride from our house.  The long day caused a few problems.  It was hard for the school to have clubs and sports, it was hard for DD to get to classes at her studio on time, she didn't have much time for studying, and she was exhausted.  She ended up leaving and going to her neighborhood public school for high school.  The neighborhood school ended over an hour earlier with very little commute, so DD had more time to dance, to do homework, and to sleep. 

Again, this is my DDs experience, you may want to ask parents of kids who go to or have gone to the schools your DD is interested in or maybe attend an open house or ask for a tour.  Good luck!

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BalletFamily

Thank you for this topic.  My DD just turned 13 and is about to finish 7th grade.  She wants to go to the high school for the arts 20-30 mins away (depending on traffic; coming home in the afternoons it can be 40 mins).  9th-12th grades.  We toured it and it looks good.  Only one ballet class a week but a lot of high level ballet students go there and they just go to their usual ballet studios after school like they would if they attended a regular high school.  This school does a lot of modern, jazz, hip hop, ballroom, etc.  Plus dance history and choreography.  Dancers are divided into beginning, intermediate, and advanced by audition.  We were told that any dancer with several years of experience would be in the latter two groups and that pretty much everyone will get in.  They dance for 2 periods a day out of 6 (a 7th period is available if you want to start super early).  One of the periods substitutes for PE and the other substitutes for an elective.  Academics don't seem as strong as the local high school, but it's hard to know.  They do have AP classes and such.  Because it's a magnet school, it's free.  Biggest issue is the commute (no more quick trips by car or DD being able to take the bus).  Number two is the academics.  We shall see.

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DanceMumNYC

Thank you so much for your response, Amie. It has already helped me a ton. I agree that arts schools differ on so many levels. The 3 schools I mentioned are at the top of our list based on training and academics. Honestly, in the long run, I believe that the training at dd's ballet school will offer more than the training at Ballet Tech & Mark Twain, mentioned above. However, they are very strong academically and spent several years ranked in the top 1% of schools in all of NY State!! Because my dd is gifted, we are considering these schools--probably more-so for academics; the dancing is a plus.

PPAS (the 3rd school I mentioned) isn't known for its academics, but it still out-ranks the neighborhood public schools by far and placed much higher than usual last year. Dance majors at PPAS also take classes at the renowed Alvin Ailey School. Since PPAS is a public school, that means these dance classes are also free!! They are bused to/from Ailey on a school bus everyday for dance, so transportation won't be a big issue. The only thing I'd have to consider is her getting to the ballet studio on time. Thanks for mentioning that. The schools are no more than 3 train stops apart, but I'm not sure of the Ailey schedule the students follow.

The school your daughter went to sounds a lot like these schools. Ballet Tech & PPAS also have the high school component, so that is something else to consider. There's no doubt in my mind that my dd would be ready to audition for performing arts high schools when the time comes. But at the middle school level, I am thinking that the competition dancers who also have decent ballet training will take up most (or at least half) of the acceptances, as you mentioned happened with your daughter's class. 

These schools are highly sought after. According to the middle school directory, dance is the most sought after program and nearly 2,000 kids audition for maybe 20-something spots. :wacko: 

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5uptown

PPAS for middle school is not a dance-specific program, it is musical theater and includes dance. The students take a double period of performing arts every day, which includes voice, acting (twice a week) and dance (either once or twice a week depending on the year). The serious ballet students continue with afterschool training at their ballet schools. The audition requires a song, a monologue, and a short dance portion. In high school, the official partner is Ailey, but there are students who are enrolled at other approved pre-professional dance schools can use that for the arts credit; they only do academics at PPAS. So, not all the dance majors actually attend ailey. For high school admission, dance applicants would do a dance audition that includes ballet and modern. We know kids who were accepted to high school who don't have prior training in modern dance, so that might not be a hindrance to a kid with obvious talent. 

If your daughter got into and went to ballet tech, all her ballet training would happen during school hours. Some big plusses of this would be reduced cost (its a public school) and giving her time to pursue other interests in her afterschool hours. But she would not be allowed to attend her regular ballet school in addition to Ballet Tech training. 

I didn't look at Mark Twain due to location, so I can't tell you more about that. 

There is no real reason that most ballet students in NYC can't attend regular academic middle schools. While you are correct that these arts programs are highly selective, be aware that the academics might not be what you are looking for for your daughter. These schools serve a more diverse group of learners than a self-contained gifted program, and they are small, so they don't generally offer differentiated classes or tracking. Everyone is together. 

You should tour these schools and look hard at what they offer in terms of academic and arts, and only apply to the schools that your daughter would want to attend. My biggest advice to parents is not to worry too much about the selectivity, and more about the fit of the school for your family. Both PPAS and Ballet Tech have concerts coming up in June, you can attend them and see the actual current students performing, which will give you a sense of the caliber of the arts training. 

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Amie

DanceMumNYC, I'm glad my my post helped.  We are lucky because our neighborhood public school happens to be very competitive academically and actually has more overall academic opportunities than the magnet schools which tend to concentrate on a specific area.   Also, I think I gave you the wrong impression about the selection of competition dancers over ballet. The primary reason there were so many competition dancers vs ballet was simply because that is who auditioned.  There were only a handful of ballet dancers who auditioned and basically anyone with decent ability was accepted.  MOST of the competition dancers had reasonable ballet technique as well but not to the level of DD and the 2 others from her studio.   There really are only 2 good ballet schools in the city I live in.  One is DDs smallish studio with professional contemporary ballet company attached and the other is the big well known professional classical ballet company school.  There's a bunch more in the suburbs, but people are reluctant to drive through traffic to get there.  So, most of the kids end up at comp schools.  Also, it is possible to remain at the arts school through high school, it's a personal decision and what works for one person might not work for the other.  The 2 others at DDs studio who were accepted stayed through high school, but they did not participate at their home studio to the degree that DD was able to do.

 

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DanceMumNYC

5uptown, Thank you so much for the clarification and information!! Did your child(ren) attend one of these schools? (Please feel free to DM me!) It would be great to speak to someone with first hand experience. 

I wasn’t aware that PPAS’ middle school had a MT track or how the audition process went. Can middle school students use their afterschool pre-pro ballet program to fulfill the arts credits, or is that only an option for the high school? And if that’s the case, are families seeking this school for its academics if they plan not to take advantage of the dance program? Also, is it Ballet Tech’s rule that students cannot take ballet elsewhere?! Did they give a reason for this? 

Thank you for your advice. I did a little research and I think, academically, Mark Twain would be a great fit for my dd. But as you mentioned, the Brooklyn location worries me. I did hear that students from other boroughs can still take a school bus though. However they probably have the weakest dance program out of the schools mentioned. I will definitely look into their upcoming performances! Thanks! 

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DanceMumNYC

Amie, thank you for clarifying as well! That’s good to know. I think kids from all backgrounds will try to audition for these NY schools and it’s nerve-racking to know how many seats are available vs. the number of auditioners each year. I will keep doing my research and make sure dd gets prepared for potential auditions in the fall. She currently attends a K-12 school, but sometimes I think it’ll be easier to go to an academic school closer to the studio or with a performing arts component to supplement the ballet she’s getting.

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