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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Leaving for residency

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I find myself very overwhelmed as I realize with ever greater certainty that my DS will be leaving home for a residency program, and my daughter for college. The parallels in these processes are everywhere-- applying, visiting, auditioning,/interviewing, filling out FASFA forms, buying those extra-long sheets, looking at laptops....


Not to mention all those feelings and thoughts about leaving home, to move on to the next phase of career development.


While planning to celebrate high school graduation, we will also have to find a way to mark and celebrate my son's transition as well. But it seems that the world doesn't see it that way--"he's still going to be in high school--right?" My feeling is that this transition is equally huge for both kids, and means essentially the same thing to them--a chanceto learn and develop at a professional level. I don't want one child to feel less celebrated at this important juncture.


I am wondering how other families have handled this, both from the parents viewpoint as well as the kid's; even from the perspective of a sibling graduating at the same time, if anyone has had that experience.


Whatever we do, it will have to be at minimal expense for both given what we will be facing in the coming months (years!) Emphasis will be on the meaning of this transition, not the material end of things.



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:) Vision - just before my son left for resident ballet school, we had a small party for family, friends, dance mates, dance teachers, etc. It was held in a church hall, everyone brought some type of refreshment and two of my friends had organized a silent auction (which wasn't necessary, but the monies raised certainly helped get him out there). It was a great evening - two of his friends sang, he danced a bit and then he thanked his dance teachers for getting him to that point and thanked his family and friends for their support. His teachers told lovely stories and everyone cried. Everyone signed a huge card which he took with him. The local newspaper reporter showed up to interview him, his teachers and take his photo for a small article published the next weekend.


It wasn't a huge event, but I'm so glad that we did it in the end to celebrate his accomplishment and his "leaving" so to speak. It is a graduation to the next level of training and he was so happy to have everyone there to share in his joy and trepidation!! :blushing: Plus, it didn't cost an arm and leg.

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One of my daughter's ballet friends gave a going away party for my daughter (including moms as well). Something really nice that she did was to use a twin size sheet as the tablecloth and then had everyone sign it. My daughter loves sleeping under that sheet and reminscing about all her friends back home while she is in residency!


All of her friends brought her presents, like a birthday or graduation. This wasn't planned or expected, but it did add to the celebratory aspect of the event, rather than the sadness of leaving her friends and family. :blushing:

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My only problem with that is, what if the student does not succeed at the program. Does that add to the pressure of not coming home if things are not working out. Getting together with friends or inviting them to dinner might be better when they are home on vacation helping them to feel that it is OK to come home. Graduating from high school is a whole other matter. That is a point in life when there is no going back.

We award our students with a plaque and special recognition when they graduate but let them know that they are always welcome to visit the studio and come in for a class whenever they are in town. :blushing:

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I think in most situations, whether or not the student was given a going away party would matter little to the degree of difficulty they would face if they had to come home because the residency did not work out. That is always a tricky thing. HOwever, knowing that the folks back home are supportive of your move to a residency and are celebrating that event with you can also be a comfort, should things not work out. Those same people who were so happy to see a dancer make a move forward in their training should also be counted on to welcome them back if they need to return. I would think that leaving 'under the radar' and then showing back up again, without any fanfare might make a student feel like they were rather unimportant to those at their home school.


My daughter did feel some pressure to do well at her residency, but it had nothing to do with the party she was given, but was because both the AD of the affiliated pro company and the school Director both attended the residency program. The last thing that the asst. AD of the company said to her was "Make us proud." She meant it as a very supportive indication of her confidence in my daughter and my daughter was thrilled that she even spoke with her about it. But, of course, it also made her feel that she had been given a responsibility. I don't think that this can be avoided, nor really that it should be avoided. She knows that if she were to come back to the school (as others have done after a stint at a residency), she would be welcomed back. She has seen how others who returned home, for various reasons, were treated and knows that they went on to dance professionally, both with the local pro company and in other companies after that.


I think that the attitude of the school's faculty and administration and their history of dealing with students who come home from residency is the most important factor in how a teen might feel about leaving residency and returning. For mine, the well wishes of those at her home school, including the administration and faculty, were very important to her and the fact that a party was given for her by her friends when she left was very touching and a boost to her confidence as she embarked on this new phase in her training. She knows that the people at her home school care about her and if she needs to come back, they will welcome her home.

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I agree with Memo's insights on this one. Our DD was previously at a school where one of the older dancers was sent off to a residency program with much hoopla. At a school benefit dinner, she was made the guest of honor and a few moms put together one of the most maudlin highlight videos I've ever seen. It felt maudlin because I think many people felt the girl didn't stand a snowball's chance in you-know-what of making it. She hasn't, but she's still out there depleting her family's resources, trying to make it. I often wonder if a little less hoopla wouldn't have helped the dancer and her family maintain the good sense they needed to make better decisions.

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I guess I wasn't thinking of a 'gala' or some other extravaganza :) or even something that was sponsored by the ballet school. In my daughter's case, it was given by a longtime ballet buddy, in her home and was very low-keyed, but sent her off with many heartfelt goodbyes and well wishes.


I do understand the point of not making too big of a deal of such a thing. But, doing NOTHING and acting as if the student just disappeared also seems callous and insensitive to a teen who is making a very big transition in their life!


I do think that such events are best handled by the parents or friends and NOT the ballet school. Then, the send off can be tailored to suit the individual's situation much better. (If a school does one thing for one student, they really have to do the same thing for the next one who goes off to a residency and that might not really be appropriate.) Parents and/or friends can come up with an event that would be most appropriate for their child/friend. I think the key here is to have the opportunity to say goodbye, feel the support of those who remain behind and share the dancer's excitement about their new adventure. :blushing:

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I do understand the point of not making too big of a deal of such a thing.  But, doing NOTHING and acting as if the student just disappeared also seems callous and insensitive to a teen who is making a very big transition in their life! 



I agree with that, it is wonderful for the school to acknowlege the students accomplishments just as we do when someone graduates and goes to college, or gets a part in a professional musical, or gets a scholarship to a summer intensive. But a student has not graduated from high school and though we do wish them well and aknowlege their accomplishments we dont want to make them feel that if they come home they have failed and will "never make it" Plenty of dancers have found that a residency is not for them and end up doing very well when they mature a bit and you really cannot tell for sure until they go and try it.


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Parents and/or friends can come up with an event that would be most appropriate for their child/friend. I think the key here is to have the opportunity to say goodbye, feel the support of those who remain behind and share the dancer's excitement about their new adventure.


My daughter left in late summer, with a birthday a month into the new school year. we knew we would not be able to spend her birthday with her. So her dad and I put together a combination going away party/birthday party. It was attended by some from ballet, some from school, some from church, etc. It was about her being able to say goodbye, and about family and friends being able to say goodbye and show their love and support. We make it very clear that presents were optional. It really was to be a new adventure. And it was a little closure before local kids started back to school without her. I never thought about there being any pressure as a result of the party. And I don't believe anyone else did. Probably because it was not something given by her school, or really having anything to do with a "formal" type of bon voyage. It was a casual Bar-B-Q pool party. She received special scrap books and photo albums and the like; things to take to school to remember her friends with. I was sooo glad we did it. And I think it made it easier on everyone, not harder. We even spoke at the party about how she could always COME HOME any time. And she would have family and friends waiting with open arms.


Hard to explain why, but it almost made the actual day of departure easier for her. She had the opportunity to hug and kiss and say goodbye. Her friends were both boys and girls in attendence. And I think it was easier for them to just be able to express themselves about the whole thing.


Go with your gut. If it feels right to so something, do it. It worked for us. And everyone really had a great day.

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I'm not saying do nothing, believe me. I was just sharing what I thought was a pretty extreme sendoff. Certainly I learned a lot from watching that whole situation play itself out (for example, I can never now hear the Elton John song "Tiny Dancer" without cringing, thanks to the soundtrack on that video). But something low-key and genuine would, I have to believe, be very comforting and encouraging for a kid facing a new situation.

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My only problem with that is, what if the student does not succeed at the program.  Does that add to the pressure of not coming home if things are not working out. 


I think this situation applies to college send offs as well. There is always a chance a scholar will end up coming home to a local school.


I agree with posters that a non-elaborate send off should be planned. Perhaps more of a going away party, then a your-going places party.

At my house, everything was celebrated with a pool party/barbeque. From my acceptance into a prestigious Girl Scouting trip to Germany, making the dance team, graduating high school and leaving for college. It was a way to gather friends together to show support or excitement for whatever was happening.


I would recommend a small dinner out or a larger dinner at home. I would keep it to actual friends and not the entire dance school. Have a cake if that's your thing, it is an exciting occasion, even if it is not a graduation. A few small presents wouldn't be terrible... little things like sheets, or shoe elastics. This isn't the occasion for a new car :blushing: , IMO.

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We are somewhat within the same sort of situation noted in the first post. If there is only one child in question then I can understand maybe making a party (low key) before the departure for residency. But with 2 kids, the larger effort should definately go to the graduating senior. The one graduating and going on to college deserves their special time. Heaven knows (let's be honest) that they have probably been quite patient (or not) thru the years regarding dancing sibling. Now is their time!


As for a residency send off, the important thing to consider when sending kids off to residency is to do all you can to keep them humble. They havent really graduated from anything yet... yes, they did 'get in' but success at a residency is way more than that. A dinner with family or a friend, and maybe a small gift is enough.


With 2 kids, balance is key.

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I want to thank everyone for their thoughtful responses. This has been a very helpful discussion, that has raised a lot of issues for me. I appreciate all of you who have shared your own experiences. It's touching for me to hear about the love and support offered to all of these kids.


I guess for us this is complicated by the fact that my son cannot return to his school or studio(s). We pieced together the best training that we could in the area, and it has been a difficult year. In particular, he needs more mens classes and partnering. So he can't really come home if he wants to continue to dance.

If one program is not a good fit, perhaps he could try another, as he has been accepted to a number of programs. Each program has a different feel, different structure etc., and my guess is he would have to try another. Or perhaps he could be home schooled and commute to New York, which could be very isolating and stressful. In any event, if he continues with dance training, he will have to leave home. I guess that only increases the pressure, and I am sorry to have my young son have to experience this. However, what I sense in him at this time is relief to be going on to an integrated program, with kids as focused and dedicated as he is. :)


I do appreciate all of your perspectives. This will help me plan in a more careful and thoughtful manner. I have talked to my daughter and got her opinion about these celebrations. She has had to put up with a lot :blushing: with all the dance focus here, but she also cares deeply for her brother, and we can all put our heads together and come up with something that fits our family, as so many of you have.


I think back to my first posts, and feel I have come full circle, taking the advice that Mel Johnson and Victoria Leigh gave, and here he is, going off to further training. Really, without this Ballet Talk resource, we still might be floundering around, losing time and heart. Thanks to all.

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When my daughter left for her residency, her friends had a special outing with her and we did something as a family. At her studio, they had a small send off with cake and a lot of tears.

My 2 cents...

I want my daughter to succeed, and she is working very hard to do just that. BUT if she wants to come home and hang up her pointe shoes I don't want her feeling like she disappointed anyone. Big parties, long good-byes, etc set up the expectation of some big return. In a residency they are still learning a lot about the ballet world PLUS a lot of life, independence, and success/failure.

Yes, a "good bye", "good luck, or "best wishes" is totally appropriate and needed. Being supportive is one thing, but having a big celebration is another. I believe small scale is best at this juncture.


This gets me to thinking about graduation...

I thought you graduate from High School and College(medical school, law school, vo-tech, etc) Nowadays parents think you must have a graduation party for preschool, elementary school, middle school/junior high and everything in between. When did this happen?

Sorry to get off the subject. :thumbsup:

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I feel for you. Last summer we sent our oldest 2 off. We homeschool the kids and had a big all day cookout party for my oldest as a graduation party. He left for school the next week. About a month later one of the parents from my second son's dance school had a going away pool party for him. They invited the girls from his level and one lower and the kids brought funny gifts. The type that amuse and remind the recipient of the giver. One of the parents made a dvd interspersing his earliest dance at age 6 to the better stuff at 16 with cuts from Monty Python, Rocky and Bullwinkle, and Jon Belushi. The difference was one was a big deal, life changes type of shindig and the other was a "youre leaving, we'll miss you" type. It worked, but oh you will miss them next year.

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