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San Francisco Ballet School

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On 2/19/2018 at 7:38 PM, HMLK said:

I've read this entire thread. I want to clarify that the only housing provided by SFBS for upper level students accepted into level 7, 8 or Trainee is Jackson House? It accommodates approximately 25 people and costs about $10,000/year?


I see that the SFBS website says that the Trainees that Housing and Tuition are free.


Jackson House accommodates about 20-25 students age 15+, is Co-ed, and is offered to the upper level students and trainees. Students live in singles (reserved for trainees usually), doubles, and triples. It is on invitation-only basis and SFB strongly asks you if you have family or friends in the area that your dancer could live with before offering you a spot in J-House. Priority goes first to out-of-state students and trainees, then level 8 and 7. 

Two years ago, SFB started offering the oldest students (age 17+) apartments in Panoramic, a student-only apartment building closer to the studios. Professional students from other performing arts live in this building and there is no SFB staff there. Students in Panoramic essentially live on their own. These are doubles, and like J-House, trainees get to live in Panoramic for free (a HUGE perk since one of these tiny 220-SF apartments rents for $2500/month).  

All Trainees receive free housing in either J-House or Panoramic, free tuition, 14 pairs of pointe shoes a year for females (I’m assuming an equivalent flat shoe stipend for men), and a monthly monetary stipend for 10 months that is enough to cover most of their groceries. Meals, laundry, and transportation are not included.

Level 7 and 8 students must pay the $10,000/year boarding fee, which is below the market rate for SF. Meals are not included.

 J-House is located in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of SF, which is the most expensive residential area. It is extremely safe, and is a 2-mile bus ride to the studios. Panoramic is about 1/2 mile from the studio but is not in the best neighborhood.

There are resident advisers in J-House, one of which sleeps there, and others that work shifts throughout the evening. Students are required to be out of J-House by 9am every weekday. Students in Panoramic can come and go as they please. 

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Hendolvik, thank you so much for this concise, detailed answer. It is just the sort of information that I was seeking.

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I used to go to SFB. I know one girl in my class is an apprentice now. She may have been there since level 1, but I'm not 100% sure. It was definitely younger than 14. Another girl joined in Level 4 and she was 13. She skipped a level, worked through the rest of the levels, and now she's in the corps. Given the rarity of guys, they seem to have a better track record. There are an apprentice and a soloist (many familiar with SFB probably know Max Cauthorn) who are both guys that have been fully trained by the school. But most join the school at 16 or older. And I agree with everyone else, this is a pretty normal amount for the big 3-letter American schools. I could go into my theories into why this happens and why it may never get better, but I'll refrain. Ultimately, whether or not your DD will make it is based on how if she and the school can see eye-to-eye. It's a gamble moving to a bigger pond. You can reduce this gamble by doing a summer intensive to test the waters. But also know that even if your DD ends up going to SFB and is somehow not invited back later on, that shouldn't be the deciding factor in whether she's "good enough" to be a professional.

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On 3/10/2018 at 11:11 AM, nynydancer said:

What kind of dancer is successful there

Nynydancer -- I wish I could answer you definitively, for my own DD's piece of mind.  :P

Are you asking about the likelihood of your DK settling into SFBS from 13-18yo and then the "odds" of him/her moving onto the company?  I'm sure you know this from your research, but when analyzing SFB, it's good to keep in mind that the AD of the school is different and separate from the AD of the company (as it is in most pre pro schools I've experienced).  Therefore, the ultimate decision about which dancer will be chosen for the company is solely in the company AD's purview.  A quick read of the bios of the dancers at SFB shows that many of the SFB dancers are "imported" laterally.  A review of the dancer bios will tell you if they trained at all at SFBS (although it doesn't indicate for how long).  So, if you're asking whether the SFBS training gives Mr. Tomasson the type of dancers he appears to favor?  :shrug:  Personally, I think that is an impossible question to answer.  Instead, I  would respectfully refer you to the several discussions about the "brutal 1%" odds of making it professionally, because I don't believe ADs of companies CARE where their dancers were trained, they just want what they want.  From my previous years' analysis of that question, the most important qualities to improve your DK's odds of making it into any company are excellent training (personalized to the needs of your DK) and a whole lot of LUCK and great timing. 

If you're interested in the odds at a particular school/company combination, I would read the trainee/post-grad forums for those school/company combinations to get an idea of how many corps members are taken from the trainee/apprentice/second company ranks and the bios of each company member to try to suss out their training.  It was either Momof3 (?) or Dancemaven who wrote (and pinned) an excellent "primer" on what to look for when analyzing whether a company will be a good fit for your auditioning dancer.   I believe it's pinned in the postgrad training forum.  SFB has a relatively good track record of hiring their apprentice level members (lowest member of the company) from the trainee group (top level of the school).  But -- again -- given the brutal reality of the ballet profession, being hired into the company does not guarantee your DK any more than ONE season with that company.  It's a yearly assessment by the company.

If you are asking about being hired at SFB company itself (or looking like their dancers), I can only tell you my individual analysis of what I see from the outside.  From my perspective, Mr. Tomasson's company is filled with dancers with gorgeous facility (very archy feet, and lean, sculpted legs).  Most of them have drool-worthy "lines" and flexibility, and seem to move with great fluidity and excellent musicality.  It also appears to my eye that the dancers in the company are the more classically trained than east coast, Balanchine-focused dancers, although they also seem to be able to move in a neo-classical/modern way as well.  The way they move "matches" (IMO) more ABT than NYCB.  I will point out that if your DKs can achieve those characteristics, however, they are well on their way to being "successful" anywhere. 

So, clearly the question of  whether or not the SFBS training works for your DKs is a separate question from the somewhat unanswerable question of "what kind of dancer is successful there."  What type of "success" are you envisioning?  Being promoted through the school ranks/achieving parts or performance opportunities/ scholarship?  Or are you talking about your DK receiving personal corrections/training to address his/her weak areas? 

This is a long-winded (but I hope helpful) answer to explain why the general questions you are asking are very difficult and almost impossible to answer in a way that will help you make your decision.  You might receive more helpful firsthand information to make your decisions if you indicated what you thought your DK needed to work on specifically and how SFBS might address those weaknesses.  (do they have pilates classes, cross training, stretching, more vaganova training or Balanchine, modern, professional experience on stage, number of classes and with whom, hours of work per day)...  But despite all those questions, from my personal experience, the "right" training and most important aspect of the training decision usually came down to a specific connection my DD had with a particular teacher... and IMO that's an individual judgment that can only be assessed by your DK taking classes from the place/teachers where your DK might be interested in attending.


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  • 3 months later...

We just found out that our daughter has been accepted into the San Francisco Ballet school-year program (early level). I would like to hear from others' who have recent experience in this program (levels 1-3). What is the acceptance rate? And what % of students in level 2 move up to level 3 at SFB? Who are the teachers? Are level 1 and 2 students given the opportunity to perform in the Nutcracker? Are they inury-prevention oriented (i.e. making sure students are well-trained/strong and flexible enough before doing more advanced moves)? We attended the student showcase and were very impressed, but that's the extent of our exposure/knowledge of SFB. I would really like to hear about others' experiences. Thank you!

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My DS was there for level 1 and it was a nice foundation.  The reason why we left is that it was a far commute for a 9 year old at the time and he was also involved in musical theater at the time so we chose a studio closer to us in Walnut Creek that offered really good foundation and he was able to do Theatre as well. And it was basically free for my son to train in Walnut Creek where sfbs was about 2700 for level 1 and this was 4 years ago when we decided to leave for the studio closer to home. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Mom53, SFBS has increased the numbers in the lower levels recently. I don’t think there is a specific percentage that could be stated of who is asked back or asked to repeat (or is cut), but as the levels increase, the cuts are more pronounced. Nutcracker casting can happen at any level, as long as the child is age 9 by a certain date (in the fall) but there are relatively few parts for the younger-age dancers.

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Thank you pmom and wintergarden for your helpful posts. The commute to SF is the biggest obstacle for us. I wish SFBS had satellites schools teaching their program and to their standards elsewhere in the Bay area. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Does sfb give merit scholarships for year around program to girls? Anyone know the percentage of girls that receive scholarships for the year around program?

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Is there a special online High school that SF students enroll in? We are looking g for one that counts  dance classes as their electives......

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All California residents have access to free online high school through k12.com, which a lot of SF students use (I know Natasha Sheehan graduated from their program). You can contact them through the website about whether dance is transferrable as a Physical Education or elective credit. There is also a nearby public high school in SF that is more flexible with class times and such for ballet students, but that is more for level 6 and below (where it's mostly after school). I forget the name now, I'll tell you if I remember. Hope that helps smgdo!

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what is the schedule like for upper level (8) students and how much " studio or rehearsal time" are they in outside of classes?  Does SF dedicate  any time for them to finish HS  classses or is that all  on the students own time?

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