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University of North Carolina School of the Arts/UNCSA

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Guest Gypsy

These are all good questions and seem to be the biggest concerns that most parents have. NCSA is more like a college environment than most boarding schools. If you don't feel that your child is emotionally and developmentally ready to go away to college, I would not recommend this school. The high school students are separated from the college students, for the most part. My daughter had several college friends but theoretically, she was not allowed to visit them in their dorms. Curfews are very strictly enforced. The rules are enforced regardless of the talent of the student. They have sent some of their top dancers home in the past year, due to various rule infractions. Drugs and alcohol are easily obtained but my daughter had no problem avoiding them---just not her thing. If you have any doubts at all about your child and her falling for these "temptations", I would keep her home. NCSA tries very hard to prevent ED's. The students are weighed several times a year and body fat measurements done. Students who have lost too much are required to attend several counseling sessions with the nutritionist. The students must also fill out eating profiles which may trigger required visits to the nutritionist. The academic teachers are also on the lookout for ED's and other problems. My daughter enjoyed the academics a great deal. She left NCSA to move on to training that we felt was better for her. It is an individual thing. She seemed to improve more at other schools with a different approach, so we accepted the offer from one of those. In spite of all the negative comments I have heard about a certain Balanchine dancer/teacher there, my daughter absolutely adored her and wouldn't trade her years under this teacher's guidance for anything. There are some extremely negative teachers there and some wonderfully positive ones as well. She has considered returning to NCSA for her last year, and might yet. We decide these things year-by-year. The key is to find what works at the time and my daughter seems to be improving and happy now. Hope this has answered some of your questions!

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Hi all,

My daughter is interested in a year around pre-professional program as our local studio is primarily a community/recreational studio, although with very good classical training to this point. She is close to maxing out and the mix of recreational dancers (many) and serious dancers (few) is starting to be source of frustration for her.


My question is, can anyone provide first hand (or close to) information about the NCSA program in regard to both the training and the residency aspects? I understand that they've had their troubles in the past (drug/alcohol, so I'm told), as all these residency programs are vulnerable to, and that this year they are losing Mr. Pandi and his wife. Does this leave a huge hole there? Does anyone know who might be replacing them? And how about Melissa Hayden? How long might she continue there? How is year around life there for a 15 yr. old sophomore? I've also been told that there is a lot of emphasis on modern in the ballet students' last two years...could this be correct?


We have applied, but not heard back yet from them. My daughter is currently accepted to The Harid Conservatory for summer, and to Royal Winnipeg Pre-Pro Summer as these both require you to attend summer to be considered for year-around. NCSA doesn't. We applied by video to RWB and NCSA and audition to Harid.


Any information on NCSA would be greatly helpful. We already feel very good about both RWB and Harid. There's a great thread going here on Harid.



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My daughter attended NCSA during her junior year in high school, and had a good year. Among the things I liked.... They do a very nice job of a parent orientation day on the day you drop your child off. As an out of state parent who wants to feel comfortable contacting staff, or understanding this system - this is importnatn and I appreciated it. The academics. A good range of course offerings if your dancer wants to keep one foot in with serious academics. My daughter had a wonderful teacher for AP English, which was great. The academic teachers send home interim reports which were much more detailed than those in our local public school.


They have done some intelligent scheduling with integration of academic and arts on one campus, for example, starting the academics one or two weeks before the arts classes; ending arts before academic finals; and an all arts day each week (if I remember correctly (i.e. academics 4 days/week).


I found all the support professionals to be very responsive to calls and concerns - deans, medical clinic, residential life, etc.


The fact of it being a many arts campus where the kids are mixed in the dorm, and are strongly encouraged to attend each others shows -art, music, film, musical theater, straight plays, etc. etc. My daughter saw some wonderful stuff, and I found the atmosphere to be very vibrant and exciting.


The existence of costuming and scenic design majors is very evident in the production at their down town theater.


Dance - a mix of styles, and yes, probably more opportunity to do more contemporary ballet than at some other schools. You can cruise their website to see what they are performing, what guest choreographers are being brought in this year, etc. Lynn Taylor Corbett set a piece on the students to Scott Joplin music, that they then were invited to perform at (memory fails) Carolina Ballet?? They stayed there almost a week, took classes with the company, etc. This was a great experience for my kid - and for her, with a flair for contemporary, she got more opportunity there, than she might have in a more strictly classical setting.


So, this is the hard and real part - deciding what the best "fit" is for your kid. Her home teachers felt she improved at NCSA and that she returned home more relaxed and more herself in her dancing than from Harid. At Harid she definitely received a very strong technical foundation and she was very happy there, but again - reflected back by home teachers, also developed a tension in her dancing that was not suitable to her style/character/body self. I can only broadly paraphrase as I pass along this perspective, as I am not the dancer or an expert. Many people who post on this board love the Vaganova technique, but for my kid, it turned out not to be the best suited for her.


From a parents perspective, my one down side was the lack of an enforced lights out/quiet curfew. In fact if they were cast in productions and rehearsing many hours after classes, that midnight oil might really be burning doing homework and studying.


I hope some of this is helpful to you in making your decisions.

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Thank you syr!


the info is very helpful. Like I said, I'm jumping the gun a little in that she hasn't heard from NCSA yet.


We've pretty much decided on Harid for summer at this point, but that doesn't mean an invite will come for year around. What you've told me sounds in line with other opinions we've gathered on the two programs and yes, it all boils down to which program our individual kids will best melt into (if any at all---her dad and I are still really on the fence about her going year around yet at all---argh)


Out of curiosity, is your daughter dancing professionally now or is a college program? It sounds like she had some great high school experiences. Thanks for sharing.

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well she has definitely had some great experiences, and she is very much one to soak up all the positives available in any situation, class etc. But to a rather unusual degree she has been a migrant dance student! She is now at Houston Ballet Academy for her senior year in high school, after a very tough decision after summer program whether to return to NCSA or stay with Houston. Very enthusiastic/happy about dance program and her life in general there. The tough side at Houston is finishing high school by correspondence (I am VERY glad she was in traditional class room setting through her junior year), AND independent housing, as she was not one of the only six females that they have room for in their "dorm." Also (for me) she is FAR from home!!! ;) The journey continues .....

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wow, yes, what a journey. And thanks so much for sharing all the info with a stranger. This ballet world gets increasingly smaller as our children progress to these levels and even though none of us know one another, it seems our lives are all moving in parallel directions. I imagine it was indeed a very tough decision to make to stay in Houston. Your daughter must be very talented for her journey to take her through so many wonderful programs. The fact that being with Houston sets her up with a company is a great advantage, though. I wish the best for her. It sounds like she has a lot going for her and that's very exciting.


Thanks again for the NCSA info. Best wishes in your ongoing journey...

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  • 11 months later...

I tried doing a search but didn't find any recent info on this. I understand there are some new teachers. My daughter will be a senior next year and is considering NCSA. I think the daily schedule is morning technique class, then academics and lunch and then more dance. Is this correct? I heard something about the quality of training not being as good as years ago, do the new teachers make a difference? DD is planning to attend a different SI, so she wouldn't go until the Fall. Any information would be appreciated. Thanks

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Guest steuart

Hello--I am new to this forum and am also interested in finding out current opinions and experiences at NCSA. My questions are not so much about the ballet training as about the attention the school gives to the development of the whole person as well as the dancer. My daughter is 15, going into 10th grade, talented in dance (but I don't know about professional talent), very bright academically; and a very spiritual person. In the long run, it is her spirit and psyche that are most important to me, yet she is so passionate about ballet that her dad and I feel we must give her the opportunity to "pursue her dream'. We live in a small town with no opportunity and her teacher is encouraging us to attempt this route. I just want to do my research so we can make our decision with as much confidence as possible! I have enjoyed reading all the other parent's posts about these same issues and it is nice to know we are not alone!! My daughter also applied at Walnut Hill and St. Paul's School. WE will hear in the next week from those schools I think!! SHe has already been recommended by the dance faculty for admission to NCSA, and the admissions committee is looking at her academics now. Her first choice is NCSA because it is only a 3 hour drive for us, and the physical campus is amazing! She really enjoyed the audition there as well, and just "felt" it was the better fit for her.

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Guest steuart

Hello anyone! No one has posted anything about the NCSA year round program as far as I can tell for the current year! I need info so we can make an informed decision! :) My DD who will be 16 in the early fall applied to Walnut Hill, NCSA, and St. Paul's School (in New Hampshire, mainly to appease her dad who is very concerned with the academics at ARTS schools!) She has been accepted to all 3 schools..., because we live in Virginia, both Walnut Hill and St. Paul's are quite a distance for us. NCSA is only a 3 hour drive from our town! I want DD to go to NCSA because I can get there quickly, and more often than if she goes further!!


So... does anyone know any inside scoop about NCSA? How are the academics? Will it be a safe place to send DD?


We live in a small town in Virginia(about 25,000), 3 hours from DC, and she has been encouraged by her teacher to pursue year-round instruction. Her teacher says she has given her all she can, and now she needs to move on if she really wants to do this...so now we are off on the great adventure. It is frightening though.


Any advice or words are welcome. Thanks.

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Victoria Leigh

Hello steuart, welcome to the parents' board here on Ballet Talk for Dancers! :)


I actually just answered this question from your dancing daughter over on the Young Dancer board. The question really needs to be the training and the academics, not the convenience. NCSA is primarily Balanchine style training, while Walnut Hill is not. I would not put St. Pauls in the same category, in terms of ballet, as either of these schools. In terms of academics, I don't know.

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I agree with Victoria that St. Paul's can't be put into the same category as the other two programs in terms of ballet training. We had looked at it briefly ourselves at one time.


But in terms of academics? Cream of the crop :) - One of the finest academic boarding schools in the USA. :o

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Guest steuart

Thank you Victoria Leigh for your prompt response. I do need to step outside of my own selfish desire to have DD within driving distance..it is hard however.

so, now my question is: Which type of training--Balanchine or ABT--is better? Which school will best prepare her to realize her dream of dancing professionally, or perhaps bring her to other realizations? Are the academics strong at NCSA? Her dad and I feel that if we don't encourage good academics, we would be failing her. Is there a logical way to list the pros and cons of each school to help us make an informed decison? Thanks.

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Guest steuart

Vagansmom--where did your DD or DS end up? I agree St. Paul's is an awesome place...but the ballet is definitely second to academics (not a bad thing, but not what DD wants). DD feels St. Paul's wouldn't offer her much more than what she gets now, so we are looking more at Walnut Hill and NCSA now.

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Steuart, as far as the academics are concerned, ask questions of each school you're considering:


Ask for a breakdown of the colleges their student population have been accepted to over the last 3 years (any earlier than that can now be considered too old - there was a world of difference in the college application climate between my son and daughter's years of applying - they're 5 years apart).


But make sure your list includes everybody they've graduated. You'll need a breakdown of how many went on to professional careers (and where) and how many went on to college (and where). Truthfully, schools usually like to say something very general like "Graduates of our program have been accepted to some of the finest colleges and universities including...."


But that doesn't really tell you much. HOW MANY last year were accepted to college programs you yourself would consider to be fine schools? You need a complete student breakdown. Schools will not offer that information readily but if you ask for it, they have it available.


But because many students get accepted into top colleges as "legacies" (parent went there), listing the colleges doesn't always tell you much about the quality of the high school.


Ask for SAT scores. That's always telling. I sit on a committee that awards merit scholarships to high school seniors. I am appalled, in reading through their applications, at how low their scores are. I know some of these kids personally; they're very bright kids. But the local high school in my town isn't so great and it shows up in those scores.


Ask for a list of AP courses. If they don't offer many, they're not committed to staying academically competitive. That said, I don't happen to be a believer that AP courses are the better courses in a fine high school. Although St. Paul's offers many AP courses, the superior quality of their education is such that their regular courses often are of finer academic quality than the AP's. But unfortunately, nowadays, AP's are what colleges want to see. (It's a phase, they'll get over it - in fact, I hear they're starting to :) ).


And, just so you can compare, get the same information from the high school your child would've been attending had you not decided to send her away. That way, you can get a really solid comparison.

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We live in CT. My daughter was lucky enough to have both a fine pre-professional ballet school AND a fine private academic boarding school on our doorstep. She attended Taft in Watertown, CT (St. Paul's is, along with Hotchkiss, their biggest competition) and Nutmeg Ballet. We briefly looked at St. Paul's because I was faced with a daunting car pool schedule.

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