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Ballet Talk for Dancers

"Asked to Stay" w/o a residential program setup

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Sadly, many of the schools, SI or residency, cannot seem provide good information either before, during or after the program, asked to stay or not. We must all restrain ourselves before jumping thru the 'getting asked back' hoop, especially when there is not a dorm or academic program in sight. It may be complimentary, but is it not a bit foolish, especially with the youngest of students?

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There are a couple of things that drive me birds about the "stay-on" phenomenon. There are students who SHOULD be going to major schools who create the artificial fork in the road, who say "If I don't get asked to stay on, I'm quitting." Once they've made that artificial distinction, it's almost always death. Add more conditions, and it becomes even more certain ("As a trainee, apprentice, company member). Then there's the student who goes to a Summer Intensive with the express intention of staying on, gets asked, then says she has no support system if the year-round program has no residency or academic accompaniment. Fear of leaving the nest.

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There are a couple of things that drive me birds about the "stay-on" phenomenon. There are students who SHOULD be going to major schools who create the artificial fork in the road, who say "If I don't get asked to stay on, I'm quitting." Once they've made that artificial distinction, it's almost always death.


Would you mind explaining this. I'm not sure what you mean. Thanks.

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Uh oh. I feel misinterpreted again. :yes: So maybe I wasn't clear again. By saying that teachers live for the most talented students doesn't mean that they

put up with" all those hardworking "average" students who are there to help pay the bills.
Working well with extraordinary talent doesn't mean a teacher doesn't also enjoy working well with an average hardworking student - they are NOT mutually exclusive!


Academically, I teach the students who are, by many teachers' definitions, unteachable. Schizophrenic, severe learning problems, etc. I love my work tremendously and feel best when I've made a difference in these kids' lives.


I also teach Irish dancers, not the steps but musical expression, syncopation, and phrasing. Some of my greatest triumphs have been the students without the musical ear or talent or feet for the work. I ADORE working with these kids. I especially love the kids who work oh so hard but who don't have the luck of being born with such an ear. Our current best dancer is one of these kids and, because of her hardworking nature, and our dedication to her despite her having the worst flaw in Irish dance, (she knows this), she's progressed into the top tier of dancers in North America.


But - let's be honest here - there is still a tremendous surge of energy and excitement for a teacher when pure talent comes along. Yes, it's rare but its rarity makes it even a greater thrill. I stand by my comment that a school will accept that rare entity over an average, hard-working with some talent, kid. Of COURSE they will! Their goal is to turn out professional ballet dancers. Schools will always choose, initially, what appears to be a surer bet.


And then their teachers will also work hard at molding the others into dancers too. And some of THOSE dancers become the professionals whereas some of the more talented ones, because of being unaccustomed to having to work at anything, won't. Teachers know that.

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OK, let's change the field of endeavor. Let's say a freshly graduated student applies for a job at an investment bank. While it is certainly possible for an 18-year-old to get a job at such, the chances of doing something visible are practically nil. And if they set up other goals (investment counselor, account representative, vice president) which MUST be fulfilled immediately, then they're dead.

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Fear of leaving the nest is a perfectly normal emotion too. It happens every year with kids going off to college; most of them are really scared! It's a big step in their lives and it's perfectly normal for many of them to be terrified.


So it makes perfect sense to me that this fear exists for the 17/18 year old ballet dancer who's got the prospect for staying on, and of course it will happen more often with the younger crowd. Logically, one might KNOW that staying on is the best thing for training, but emotionally a child and/or parent, might not be ready. The "whole person" has to be considered. both child and parent. Many kids (and parents) think they want it to happen but then back out when the prospect of living away from home looms closer. It's perfectly normal. And such a prospect, with a school that is unhelpful with arrangements, is even worse.


Once again, there are kids who can glide through any kind of disorganization and come out just fine whereas others need a highly structured environment. It's the beauty of the individual :yes: and when it's teens we're talking about, both types are normal. As proven by recent brain research (but stated by Maria Montessori 100 years ago :grinning: ), the age where one can be fully considered adult is 25.


It's up to parents and dancers to choose a situation that's right for the dancer. Some won't mind the disorganization of certain programs, for others it's a bad mix. There's plenty to choose from these days and of course staying home is an option too.


The toughest scenario is when a child really isn't ready emotionally to leave home but needs to because of lack of training in the home location. I know that some families have moved to make the training home. But not every family can, or should, do that. In those cases, I tend to look at it as yet another factor, like feet, lack of musicality, etc., that can make or break a dancer. There's so much that goes into that package of being a ballet dancer and not all of it involved technique and training. Once again, the whole person, and even the whole family (in some instances) need to be considered.


It's awfully tough but brings to mind the phrase "Life's not fair". It certainly isn't, but it's life.

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Oh, I'm not saying that it's not normal, I'm just saying it's frustrating as hell when it prevents a dancer from being what she should be. :yes:

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LOL, Mel, I went back to add another paragraph or so to my post while you posted yours, I think.

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Although I understand the frustrations- those that you've described, Mel, about the deal breaker decisions in someone's mind, the 'fear factor' that might be involved, vagansmom, if someone is isn't sure about home, etc., I don't really think the thrust of this thread is about either of these things, but is much more about how much responsibility a ballet school has that recruits students who have not finished their high school education and does not have a viable residential structure in place. In my opinion the things you've brought up are all very valid but should really be discussed in a completely different topic.


Not meaning to come across as a grumpy, old, pain in the neck :) - just trying to keep this focussed :whistling: on whether or not people have reservations about the ethics or wisdom involved on the part of the programs who are doing this recruiting without a structure in place (the differing structures have already been enumerated by a number of people who've already posted.) and seeking out these young students from their summer programs and "asking them to stay" at the end of July and August.


It appears that some people believe that these programs do need to bear the burden of responsibility while, perhaps, others lean more towards the "damn the torpedoes full speed ahead" attitude or, maybe, "It's find with me and mine becauses this is the best thing to do to give my dancer/student/self the edge in training to make it."


Differences are one of the things that makes the world turn... My reason for bringing this all up is to give air to a subject that I know many parents and some teachers find troubling.

Edited by BW
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Guest pointeparent

BW, I think the key word is ethical here. It is July or Aug, and a teen is away at SI. There is competition for places at the barre or roles etc. You sent your mid-teen to a program that does not have a residency program, and you were NOT EVEN THINKING about having your child stay. But your child finds out that even at locations that have no boarding/academics, these programs post auditions for "year-round" and these kids just can't help but want to audition to see how they stack up. Usually with no intention (on the part of the parents) to consider a long distance program with no real program in place other than ballet classes and maybe a house that may hold some students.


EMOTIONS are high. Girls are presenting themselves from small and mid-sized and large ballet schools from all over. Many might be close to thinking they are out-growing their home school.


These kids audition or maybe they are tapped on the shoulder and given an opportunity to stay for the year. But at 15 and 16 is this such a good idea?? But you know how these kids feel---"but mom, this could be my big break. This could be my only chance. If I don't take it this year, there may not be an offer next year..."


It is one thing to be 17/18 and OK, maybe a few credits away from graduating. The type of year that can be finishing. But there are still MANY changes awaiting the 15-16 year crowd. Some are physical, some emotional, some mental. Some of these girls physically are still girls, and one has no idea of what womanhood will do to their body, their mind and even their motivation. These are 15-16yo who may be "mature", but really are just 15-16 year olds. Lets face it.


More and more programs are now asking kids at the last minute to consider "staying-on," residency or not. And there is little info available to the parents. You can make a list of all the right questions, but I can tell you that, in the few days you have to make a decision, you will not get the answers that you seek. Some of the answers you will find out AFTER your kid is already there. And they may not be the answers you really thought that you would get.


There are alot of emotional decisions having to be made. And if these kids fill up the available slots, the programs were always the ones who "made the right decisions," as their financial needs will be met. And if your child says no, there is surely another paying customer ready to take the slot. And if it doesn't work out in a year, the program will just select another and fill the slot. But was it the correct decision for the student.....


And from personal experience, I would caution about anything less than a full tuition scholarship. Many are tempted by partial scholarship offers. This family has first hand experience with the interpretation of what a partial scholarship means. What swelled heads we had over going to a year-round residency program on partial merit scholarship. The program then made no secret of knowing our financial status. And solicited for donations.

I was invisioning lots of really good dancers (who should receive invites) getting them but lots of "on the border" dancers receiving them to just to pay the bills. It would be those "on the border" dancers I would worry about giving false hopes to as they are the ones with so much more to lose. The tops of the tops, will most likely make their way regardless. It is those "almosts" who could be hurt the most in a cash cow
Of course my DD is special and has talent. But I personally believe that mine was clearly an on the border dancer who would help her residency program pay the bills.
I will just say that there are some programs that do exist that do accept students who are not always destined for the professional ballet world.
And my DD was not the only student there who fit this bill. The school's response when graduation time came and there was no contract to be had was to offer the students a place in the post-grad program. Some would return for 2 years. Still nothing close to a traineeship. But tuition payments continued to come in.


This is not sour grapes. My DD had the time of her life at a residency program this past year. But she clearly is not destined to dance professionally. Her success with SI audtions this past year did not even come close the the previous years. So much changes at 15.


We have no regrets. We let our DD experience the year. We let her go and figure out for herself where she fit in the hierarchy of ballet. And she could see that the school was filled with talented dancers. But only a few---2-3---that were truely gifted. And despite another offer of merit scholarship for another year, she is home to pursue other dreams. She will still dance, but not like before. And what an experience she had. It will be one not soon forgotten. She will have a lifetime of memories. But to be honest, if I had to do it over again, I would have said no.

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You wrote

Sadly, many of the schools, SI or residency, cannot seem provide good information either before, during or after the program, asked to stay or not.


I do not believe they cannot. I believe they simply will not. My question is why?


Call me a cynic, but I am always suspicious of anyone who will not provide all necessary information. Sometimes parents of young dancers don't even know the questions to ask. Even "big" name schools are guilty of this.

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pointeparent, I wanted to send you a private message to thank you for caring enough to share your experiences and insight and "calling a spade a spade" when it comes to the realities you've experienced - but then I found you hadn't quite reached the PM stage. Many thanks.

Edited by BW
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Pointeparent, I just wanted to say thank you also for a great post. What I love about your perspective is that you clearly made it possible for your daughter to give residency a try and then walk away from it, still feeling positive about herself and her future as a whole person. Even if you personally have regrets, I honestly sense from what you've written that she came out of it well. What a gift you're given her!

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pointeparent, thank you for helping to set the record straight with your own personal experiences. Telling your story in such a compelling way will help countless other families on this board make good decisions for their dk's. It's invaluable to hear about your firsthand experiences in the exact situation we are discussing.

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Another point of view: All 3 of mine were "asked to stay" and did stay. They felt like moving away was pivotal to furthering their chance at a career even though attending a very good local school with a great reputation. Studying with a pro-company school really made a difference for all 3 of them. Two of mine were accepted at programs that had a residency program but there were still lots of the same decisions to make--schooling being the most important of those choices. I would say that one of those 2 of mine was a "border" student, not one of the sure- thing students. For her, there seems no doubt that accepting that offer IS the reason that she has danced professionally.

My third daughter was asked to stay at a school that, at that time, had no residency program. Of course, having 2 sisters dancing professionally we knew that there could be an offer of staying. The offer came, with very little information. It was a much harder decision, but I was able to move to be with her. Would she be dancing professionally now if we had not made that move? Maybe, but we doubt it. Doubt it for all 3 actually. All 3 stayed the first time the offer was made by the schools. I must admit that I held my breath when the second one was 15 hoping that she would not be asked for at least another year. 16 was a good age for the girls to accept those offers.

I guess, for me, the decision to stay would depend more upon WHERE they would be studying. Being asked to stay at a major pro-company school would make me much more likely to accept because those schools often can be more effective in assisting the student to obtain a job. If my girls were not at the level of the major company schools and were getting the offer from a smaller company school, I would not accept unless there was a really good indication of company interest evidenced by full scholarship and maybe a housing assistance stipend.

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