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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Coming Home from a Residential School


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Every fall dance schools welcome new students. This year at DD's studio I've met 2 new girls and their mothers since classes started last week. Both these girls were at NBS and both have come home but neither of them were "requested" to leave. What would cause a dancer to leave their dream school? Anybody have experience or insight with this? Tutumonkey :)

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Often a dancer thinks a school is their "dream" school until they get there and spend time there. The technique may be too different or they may not be emotionally ready to be away from home or they may get burnt out or they may be constantly injured or they may have anxiety induced illnesses or they may be failing their academics or they may hate the teachers. The reasons are endless.


Doesn't mean they're bad dancers or that the school was bad, just means it wasn't the right fit.

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One phenomenon observed on occasion at my dd's residency was that of a young girl leaving home at a young age and coming to the school with delusions of grandeur. Whereas they left home as top dancers in their class, they quickly found out that the residency was not about being or becoming the greatest and constantly receiving all the adulation formerly heaped upon them. They found themselves in the midst of a class full of talented and hardworking young girls. Instead of the adulation and kind words they were greeted by very serious and hard driving instructors whose only goal was to bring out the best in their students...not "almost" the best but the very best. Corrections were constant and detailed and compliments were experienced only on the rarest of occasions.


Some few could not handle that adjustment and returned home within weeks of initially entering the residency program. Fortunately, such situations seemed few but not unheard of. Their expectations and egos were not in line with the attitudes necessary to see them through the rigors of a top residency program.


Regarding another thread I have seen here, the students that stayed and thrived banded together rather closely much as a military unit comes together. Pride and the sharing of common difficulties made very close friends. They realized very quickly that they competed not against each other but rather against themselves to approach the standards set for them by their instructors. Egos were quickly replaced by the determination and drive to survive. The drive and determination led to the attributes that parents of hard working ballet students are often very surprised to see developed at such a young age.


The above are observations from years gone by and in no way could be attributed to the two young ladies to whom you refered in your question. Their situations are quite probably entirely different.

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I think CDM has made some great points. LMCTech certainly covered a lot of bases as well. Both sort of hinted at one thing that I think can often be the situation when dancers decide that residency is not for them.


The competition and pressure is very great at most residencies. Depending upon how placement is done, there can be lots of uncertainty, disappointment and pressure during the first few weeks as the levels are established. As soon as levels are established, at many residencies, auditions for the Nutcracker commence and there is stress associated with tryouts and casting. Just about the time Nuts is over, there are first semester ballet grades to deal with and the endless comparisons that are made with their peers. When they return from the holidays, there are often jury classes and another program to cast and the calendar rolls along, with instance after instance of situations that are rife with tension and drama. :devil:


Whether a dancer ends up at the top of the heap or somewhere further down, there are going to be some personalities that simply do not respond well to this kind of intensity. They may love ballet, may be gifted with the right facility and technique to be successful, but the pressure cooker that many residency programs present is simply not their cup of tea. Many prefer the more laid back setting (at least in comparison to a residency program) that their local school offers. They may find that they are simply not well suited or perhaps just not emotionally mature enough to handle the constant 'proving of themselves' that is part and parcel of the residency world.


My daughter and I have known several dancers who have left a residency, only to eventually find their way back to a different school at an older age or some who finish highschool at home and continue to a pro career. Sometimes that extra time to mature was all that was really needed. Sometimes it is a matter of residency just not fitting well with their personalities. :shrug:

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Homesickness magnified from the stress of finding themselves in a school where every dancer was at the top back home.


Not a deficit in their psychological makeup whatsoever and nothing they should ever be ashamed of. Lots of those kids meet their dance goals just fine returning home and venturing out when they're a little older. Anything under 16 is a crap shoot as far as being ready to live away from family successfully in any venture. Heck, 18 year olds heading off to college often struggle with homesickness and misgivings too!

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Our school has had three go to residency, all to come home again. One student came home because she was homesick. With the other two, it was nothing more than the experience, for different reasons, not living up to what they expected. We have good training at the home school, and they just determined they could stay on track while still living at home. One dancer in particular, I think, was very much itching to be on her own and not under the authority of parents, teachers, etc. I don't think she found "living on her own" to be what she expected. The other was only 14 and actually had a very successful year with excellent roles, etc. However, she said she didn't feel like a kid anymore living away and that she wasn't ready to be an adult yet.


In re-reading my own post, it sounds like maturity on all three counts.

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The people I know fit into mom1's category if they returned home. We know 4 dancers who've gone to residency from a cluster of studios here that already produce good dancers. All but one has come back home. All were successful at their chosen residency but it was simply a case of the "grass being greener syndrome" for these dancers. When they left, it was for hopes of better instruction and a better chance. That ideal is what made the choice to leave family "worth it" for them.


It wasn't that residency didn't work out, or that they didn't rise up. But simply that they really did have good instruction at home and the sacrifice of leaving family did not weigh out in the end for them.


The one dancer on that list that we know is still in residency but had the same questioning issues all year long last year. It was about March when she finally decided that yes, it was worth it to her. So she stayed. This however, was a student who went to residency not just for the dancing but for an academic boost as well (from her local schools).



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I am a bit surprised by the number of dks leaving residencies to return home. My dd's residency had drop outs and non-returns but not nearly (obviously) at the nearly 100% levels that foregoing posters have indicated.


Secondly. had my dd had instruction at home to match the residency, we might not have sent her off. That was not the case and I cannot imagine anywhere in the US or elsewhere that would have provided as high a level of instruction as the residency unless we had lived next door to that residency.


Lastly, there was one situation of a young girl where we had insights into both the stories as told at home and the stories of events as told from the residency. They were, needless to say, quite different.


I am not finding fault or casting blame on young kids who return from residencies in the above but rather just making observations. Sending young kiddos off to a boarding situation at ages 12-16 is a roll of the dice under the best of circumstances.

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mom1, that is an excellent point! :shrug: When the home training is comparable to the residency training, the other aspects of living in a residency that have been mentioned, (being away from home, friends, regular highschool experiences, the increased competition, endless pressure, no longer being the 'star', etc.) are going to be evaluated with far more scrutiny, than when a dancer doesn't have comparable training at their home school.


Even when the home training is not comparable, one or more of those aspects of living in residency can simply tip the scales and make a dancer decide that residency is not right for them - at least not at this time!


Residency is by no means a panacea. It isn't going to meet the needs of everyone and it is not the only way to a pro career, by any stretch!

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had my dd had instruction at home to match the residency, we might not have sent her off.

I think that's the key point, CDM. As momofthreedarlings mentioned, I think these kids have a romantic idea of what the training and experience must be like, but if their home training is top-notch, they may not find the experience lives up to expectations.


One of our students who came home said there was certainly a greater quanitity of classes, but not a superior level of instruction, and sometimes it was inferior.


This is not at all intended to disparage residency programs. Clearly they have a high success rate, and contribute to the employment of a high percentage of dancers. Just to say, it's all relative to one's current circumstance. Not to mention, most 14 and 15 year olds are still very young and in the process of developing on all fronts.



*Sorry balletbooster, I think we were posting at the same time.

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Knock, knock...teacher here!

I think that's the key point, CDM. As momofthreedarlings mentioned, I think these kids have a romantic idea of what the training and experience must be like...


is perhaps a very important way of describing most ballet student's approach to ballet training and their approach to the professional world of ballet in general. I cannot tell you how often I hear this from former students and professionals when they "make it" into the professional world of ballet. The dream is a dream, but perhaps the reality of what the profession actually is is something one must come to terms with, re-evaluate the current dream and perhaps formulate more mature ideas for the dream. There can always be room for growth within a dream! :shrug:

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My dd would agree with vrsfanatic 100%. The leap into the professional world is the greatest adjustment anywhere along the road. Fortunately, her experiences before making that leap gave her some very good insights as to what lay ahead as she made that leap.


The dd attended a non company affiliated school for four years and a company affiliated school for the last two years. I think it was the latter that gave her far more insights into the pro world than the former.



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  • 2 months later...

I would like to hear from parents who have had a child come home from residencies, for whatever reason. Did these dks return to their old schools? Were they welcomed back warmly? Was there a feeling of returning to something "sub par"? Or was it an easy transition? Did they adapt well to their new academic schools? How about family dynamics; was it hard to adjust to being back with the family? My dds haven't even been accepted to a residency yet and I'm already worried about how they would feel if "not asked to return" :lol: . I have heard so many sad stories, and would not want my dds to feel in any way as if they "failed" if a residency doesn't work out for them.

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I've known several dancers who have left a residency (several different residencies) and returned home. In several of those cases, the dancers have eventually returned to a residency situation (although a different one than they were in before). For some, the switch to another school was the very next school year. In a couple of instances, the dancers stayed home a year and then found a residency better suited to their needs the following year.


I can't speak first-hand about the transition a family goes through when a child leaves and comes back. I would guess it is not unlike what occurs when a child drops out of college and comes home to live for awhile or when a child graduates and moves back home. There is going to be a period of adjustment. It is likely more noticeable for a high school age student who has become used to more freedom and making many decisions on their own, who now finds themselves back at home, where their parents will likely want to resume many of the monitoring activities that they had to give up while their child was away in a boarding environment. That is tricky for everyone. :blink:


I'm hoping you will hear from some parents who can give first hand wisdom on this transition. I think there are lots of things at play in this situation that make it challenging. But, since your daughters have not yet embarked on this adventure, I think the key for you is finding a school that is the best match possible for your daughters. What is right for one, is not for another and the right match is essential, in trying to avoid the possibility of your child coming home before graduation. That match does not just mean finding the best training possible, but it also means finding a school where your dancer's abilities and body type will be a good fit and where the chemistry is right between student and teacher and the living arrangements are a good fit, etc. etc. etc. :blushing::blink::wacko::o:blink::wacko:


I don't think of coming home from a residency as a failure. I think of it as a poor match for that dancer. Not a condemnation of the dancer or their abilities. I know we talked about this before my daughter ever went to her program. View it as a year by year adventure. Each year, you and your daughters are evaluating the program and deciding if it is right for them for another year, just as the program is doing the same. Needs change, bodies change, dancers change, sometimes there is a shift in school culture, faculty, expectations, etc. from year to year. It is a mutual selection process and while the school may hold some cards, if they do not believe that a dancer can thrive there, then your dancer will likely have received many clues that things are 'not right' for them at the school, prior to that and should be starting to realize that this may not be the ideal place for them to succeed with their goals.


Stress how important it is that the school be 'right for them', rather than stressing how important it is to graduate from that program. Keep the goal of dancing professionally as the end result, not completing a given residency's program. I think if you do that, then leaving a residency can become just a bump in the road, rather than destroying the dream altogether.


And remember, many return home from residency because they decide that they no longer want to pursue dance professionally. When the choice is the dancer's and not the school's, I think the transition back to home life is easier, because the student feels that they are in control and again making choices that are right for them! :lol:

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Very good point.


I also would like to re-emphasize that deciding to come home is not a failure, merely a bad fit or a re-prioritizing of values.

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