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San Francisco Ballet School

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I have a 12 year old (turning 13 this summer) DD who is a serious classical ballet student. She dances 5 days a week, 2.5+hrs per day. Her dream is to go professional. We live outside SF and DD would love to attend SF Ballet School next year - 2010/2011. The thought is that this would be a great place to start with now and hopefully advance with up to the trainee level.


DD planned to audition for 2 SI's this year - ABT and SFB. The ABT audition was held several weeks before the SFB audition. She was accepted to ABT-NY and we were thrilled. We took the spot (and paid the deposit) because of the deadline and not wanting to miss out on the opportunity - which eliminated SFB as a possibility for this summer.


Now DD is concerned that she won't be able to get into SFB school for the Fall - since she won't be doing their SI. Does anyone know how strict SFB is about the SI being a prerequisite? Is this an issue even at the younger age groups or is it only true for the older girls going for the advanced levels(7/8 or trainee)? Any advice?

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hhogan-I'm assuming that you know that SFB does not offer housing for that age year round. It is not a typical residency type school although there is a small amount of housing off campus (it's actually one house) for the very advanced levels.


At that age, summer school is def. not a prerequisite, but I believe that the SI is easier to get into than the year round program, but obviously if she has what they are looking for they will take her. What level did they offer her for the summer at SFB?

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Housing is not an issue - by "outside SF" - I meant close enough to drive in. As a ballet mom - I'm used to lots of driving!


In answer to your question - she never auditioned for SFB. Once we committed to ABT-NY did not seem to make sense to audition 2 weeks later for SFB. Is the reputation for getting into SFB year round program very difficult for 13 year olds? Do you know anything about the audition process? I'm still learning...

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You can always call them directly and ask them. Selectivity seems to depend on the level. Level 4 is fairly big and there is a pretty big difference between that level and level 5. Not all of the Level 4 students at SFB get invited back for level 5 so you are competing against those students as well as any students auditioning from elsewhere.


Audition info can be found here.


(although it does say that they want you to go to the summer program)

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Thank you lemlemish for the info on levels 4 & 5.


Do you know what the ages are usually for level 4 and level 5? When I look at the schedule they post on-line - pointe/variations is not shown until level 6 and then it is only on Wednesdays. Do levels 4 and 5 do pointe as part of technique class? My dd does a 1.5 hr technique class followed by a 1 hr pointe class 4 days/week with an extra advanced pointe class on Saturdays. I'm wondering if SFB has a different approach to pointe?

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The age ranges for each level are pretty wide. Level 3 has kids from 4th grade to 7th grade. Level 4 is about ages 11-13 or so. There can be a few 10 year olds and it is not uncommon for girls to do level 4 for two years. Pointe is introduced at that level and it is part of their regular technique class.


Even kids who go to their pre-ballet program from age 6 do not go en pointe until level 4, and by then they have had dance classes at SFB for 5 years. Level 5 is about ages 13-15 and pointe is not a separate class, but instead part of the technique class. They are dancing about 10 hours a week, which I think is about the same number of hours as the Level 4 girls.


Maybe one of the moderators can comment on how typical this is of pre-pro schools, or if they feel the schedule is appropriate for the age ranges, but I get the impression that at the school level, there are very few injuries from dancing. Perhaps that is related to the schedule...

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  • 3 months later...
  • 2 months later...

Follow up to my February posting:


SF Ballet School held an audition in the Spring for locals dancers. My 13 yr old DD was accepted and starts next week - she is so excited!


Now on to my next crisis... she is in the 8th grade this year at a highly academic private school outside the city. Like a lot of ballet girls - the focus and drive she learned in ballet has helped her to be a great student. Now I am trying to look at options for high school. I'd like to find a high academic option in downtown SF that also offers the flexible schedule that she is going to need more and more over the next few years.


Any high school suggestions for San Francisco that work well with the schedule at SF Ballet School?

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Congrats! I'm sure she will have a great year.


There are a few choices I have heard about, although dd is not yet looking at high schools. I think there are other parents on this board who have had high school dancers at sfb and maybe they can tell you what they did.


SOTA (http://www.sfsota.org/) is a public school which is known for allowing kids to finish school early to get to the studio, but since it is public, you may have a hard time proving residency. It is audition only for the dance department, but most likely she will get in if she is at SFB. Academics may not be quite as strong as you are used to and it's not downtown, but it is the one most likely to work with the dance schedule for as long as possible.


There is also a private high school which is within walking distance of SFB, The International School, http://www.internationalsf.org/podium/default.aspx?t=124023 . Perhaps they can be more flexible than other privates in the city, since they are so close to the studio.


I don't know if you've looked at the dance schedule online, but depending on what level she is in, she may not need to changes schools for a while. From what you said about her hours on pointe, I'm guessing she is in level 5 or 6 this year. Until level 7, the earliest classes start at 3:45. When she gets to 7, they start at 12:30 and as far as I can tell, there really aren't any good academic schools in the city that will allow kids to leave before 12. Also there is very little time for academic classes plus dance classes plus homework plus rehearsals.


I can tell you that the dancers in the upper levels are pretty much not at traditional high schools. Many either do homeschooling, online schools or graduate early. There doesn't seem to be a history of local schools working with a full dance schedule once the dancer is at that level, sadly.

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Thanks lemlemish for the info. I'm going to look into the International School. Someone else also told me to check out The Urban School and Lick-Wilmerding. I know that if she goes on to level 7 that the early ballet schedule does not work with any normal school - but I also recognize that she may never get there - for whatever reason. I'd like to try to keep the education up until we get to the point where we have to choose. I just wish this was easier!

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  • 2 months later...

Hello! I am the mother of a ballet-obsessed seven year old. She will be 7 1/2 in time for the spring audition at SFBS, and after seeing a trainee performance she would like to audition. I am wondering if anyone knows what they look for at her age? I have heard that they don't even have them dance, just have them walk around. I know they don't take everyone, and I would hate for her heart to be broken.


Details: She is currently taking 2 1/2 hours a week, level one, at a decent regional school. She is "the best" in her class (as told to me by her teacher) but honestly at her age that doesn't mean very much. To me it just means that I feel willing to continue gently supporting her ballet dreams. I have real fears of turning into a pushy stage mother! So far I have only followed her lead, but somehow this feels like a bigger decision than a seven year old can make -- am I over thinking this??


Thanks so much for any insight.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I know kids who got in and kids who didn't and I can't tell you what they are looking for.


But I can tell you what they do at the audition - some flexibility stuff (but one kid who is not flexible got in, and one who is a bendy, marshmellow kid did not), some tendus, some skipping. Some things that seem like general body awareness tests - can you move your head one direction while your feet are going the other way? Now switch your head, but keep your feet going that same way. They do dance, not just "walk around". It seems that they are looking as much for the ability to follow directions as they are for body type. They also do some general dancey things which suggest they are looking for musicality. I don't think there is any way to tell who will get in and who won't at that age, but I can tell you that most kids who audition do not get in. I think there were over 100 kids who auditioned for the beginning level last year and they only took about 40.


Her heart will not be broken unless she thinks it is something other than what it is. There are many other good ballet schools in the city. If it is sold to her like "this will tell us if you are going to be a ballerina or not" then she may be heartbroken if she doesn't get in. If you sell it to her like a master class, an opportunity to take class from an amazing teacher, then she will enjoy it whether she gets in or not.


Also, if she is 7 1/2 this year and doesn't get in, she can audition again next year if she wants to.

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Lemlemish, I really appreciate your reply. I haven't told my daughter much about SFBS, other than to tell her that she can audition in the spring if she would like. However, what you said about "this will tell us if you will be a ballerina or not" really resonated with me, as I have a sinking suspicion that my husband shares that mindset. I worry that if she doesn't get it, he will want her to take recreational dance once a week only instead of paying for/driving to a pre-pro program. Maybe I need to dredge up the names of some dancers who didn't get in to SFBS but "succeeded" as dancers all the same? (To his credit, I will say that we have three other children, so limited time and finance is certainly a consideration...but I disagree that a "no" from SFBS means that paying for ballet class for her would be a "waste." I guess I have a real conversation ahead of me.)

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And honestly, Rae Moon, to expect something to be mapped out in such concrete terms for a 7 or even a 7 1/2 year old is really not fair to her at all! She's a child, for heaven's sake!!! She hasn't even started 'official' ballet training most likely than not. There are a MILIION things that may or may not change between now and a professional contract opportunity---the least of which is her own personal desires and focus---including her body, her temperament, her interest level, her inquisitiveness about other aspects of life and learning, etc., etc.


It is not fair, not fair at all, to put such hopes, dreams, and pressures on such a little kiddo. Let her have her dreams of being a ballerina, but let her develop them herself. Not every 'when I grow up I want to be' dream spoken or pursued by a child of that age turns out to be their defining dream. Their dreams change with the wind---and so they should. That's part of the magic and wonder of childhood. The exploration and dreams.


Support her in her quest, but let her change her mind if she chooses--whenever she chooses. And for heaven's sake, don't make it be about whether she gets in to SFB 's school now or EVER!! There are hundreds of dancers who are perfectly happy without ever having auditioned for or having been accepted into SFB's school. There are also hundreds of dancers who are perfectly happy and successful having auditioned for SFB's school or SI and not been accepted. There IS life other than at SFB, just a there is life other than at SAB. :D

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