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Residential schools and young students


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I was just wondering if any of you have children in residential ballet schools. My daughter has expressed intrest in auditioning for a residential ballet school, but I am torn on how I feel about it. I have no idea if she is even remotely good enough to be accepted, but I have heard some scary things about the schools. I worry about the level of education and the attitudes. She is still pretty young (11) but I know that it isn't a great idea to leave it too late either. Any experiences would be helpful. .

Edited by vrsfanatic
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Hello, which residential schools are you considering for her? I notice you are in Canada. If you are interested in RWBS or NBS there is lots of info in the specifc threads in the SI and Pre-Professional school forums. There are some parents here who have had kids at these schools from young ages and who have very kindly answered any specific questions I've had. I know I would have a hard time sending my dd away for year-round training, but it is something we are considering for the future. I am wondering exactly what scary things you have heard...? :unsure:

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  • Administrators

jphoenix, 13 is very young to be thinking of going away from home. Our feelings here generally run towards keeping a child at home as long as possible and as long as she is getting both the quality and quantity of training necessary at home. If the training needed at a pre-professional level is not available, then it may be necessary if the child has the talent, physical facility, previous training, and of course an incredible passion and drive to dance.

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I don't exactly love the idea of sending her away at such a young age either, however we live in a very small town. She goes to a good dance school, but the demand for ballet there is very limited. She takes two classes a week, and they are the only classes available to her in ballet. My fear is that she is not getting the level of training for what she says she wants to do. I know that she is too young to know, but I do know that she absolutely loves what she does. I know that schools like NBS or the Quinte ballet school will take them regardless of what training they have had if they have all the right stuff, but once they get to grade 9 (about 14yrs old) they expect that they will have a certain level of training.


The things that have made me very nervous are stories I have heard from adults who attended some schools. I haven't really heard about NBS, but from others I have heard stories of girls being encouraged or at least not stopped from smoking to keep their weight down, being told how stupid they were in class, and even stories of girls attempting suicide. Now these are from a long time ago so maybe times have changed, but it is pretty scary.


At the moment I am thinking that maybe she should attend a summer intensive first to see what it is like. The good thing is that there are two residentials schools within an hour and a half's drive from our town, so if she did decide it was what she wanted it wouldn' t be too far away.

Edited by jphoenix
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It does sound as if your options are limited for at home training. The SI idea is always a good place to start. Having 2 residential programs within 2 hours of your home may be just grand! :unsure:

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Guest appjuli

jphoenix, we're in exactly the same boat - small town, two dance studios to choose from. My daughter goes to the better one, but it only offers ballet twice a week. We found a woman with a wonderful background willing to teach in her basement studio another day a week, and then there are all the other classes that just keep her limber - jazz, tap, clogging...


Last summer she went to a SI. It was a test for both of us - to see how she'd like living away, how she'd handle her time, money, friendships, how we felt about it all. It's also only 2 hours away. She's auditioning this weekend for the residential program, and if she gets in the high school years will be spent there. Being within driving distance is important to me at 13/14.... if she gets sick, injured, emotional, we'll be able to be there pretty quickly. It's not time yet, for us, to get into long-distance parenting, but she NEEDS to dance. It doesn't seem optional.


I absolutely encourage an SI. Had my daughter not loved it, or if dorm life had been the issue, we could have discussed moving (yikes!). It's nice to know what the options are.


Best of luck.

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Those stories you have heard about residential schools sound a bit wild. My dancer left for a residential school after just turning thirteen and certainly nothing like that has happened in the past three and a half years. However there are forty plus kids being supervised by several counsellors during the day and one overnight. Supervision overnight consists of sleeping in the residence after completing bed checks etc. By just the law of numbers it is probably easier to get into trouble in a residence situation than at home. The consequences however are harsh if they are caught (and eventually they ususally are). Consequences range from long periods of total grounding outside of ballet classes and school, loss of financial assistance or scholarships, probation or even being sent home. Unfortunately there has been at least one dancer sent home each year for one reason or another if my memory is right.

Serious dancers will not risk any of those consequences but believe it or not, there are dancers in residential programs who are there more because they can be, than because they want more than anything to become professional dancers.

As for the smoking thing, the school policy is very clear. Students must have written permission to smoke from parents, and then not in the residence or ballet building and smoking will be taken into consideration in the assessment of financial aid applicaitons. A few of the older students do smoke but I would hazard a guess it would be no higher percentage perhaps than at a regular school.

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jphoenix, have you reviewed the various threads on our "Pre-Professional Schools/Residency Programs"? If not, just click over to the Board's Main Menu, scroll down until you find that Forum, then open it. There are threads on various residency programs (alphabetical, so it is easy to find specific ones.) The information contained therein is first-hand experiences, questions, information, discussions regarding the residency programs. Many of your fears and questions may be calmed and answered over there.


There are also quite a few threads in which members have debated, discussed, offered support, and wisdom to others who have the same questions you are wrassling with. You can use the "Search" function to locate some of these or you might just pick a couple likely forums and scroll back through the multiple index pages. I remember doing this and finding a wealth of sage advice and helpful considerations.


There are also Archives that may have information from years past on particular programs. (I am not the best searcher, so I often just browse when I'm looking for information that is on a less direct topic, like yours.)

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I'm not sure if the residential schools offer classes to day students as well, so this suggestion may be off the mark, but ... could your DD take a couple of classes each week on that basis? There are families on this board that drive 1.5 hours for training; of course, this regimen doesn't fit every situation. Anyway, I thought that might be a way of getting better training for your young DD without sending her away just yet.

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Guest Vicarmac

I would have a hard time sending my kid off before 13 but would recommend researching before then as you are doing.

My daughter is at NCSA in North Carolina, (is that where you are thinking about, appjuli?) She is 16 and this is her first year there, she now wishes she had gone at least the year before or even at 14. Yes there are kids that get in trouble, but no more so, probably, would if she were still in her old school. But if caught it is dealt with quickly, and there are consequences. Even not getting to perform in the Nutcracker when you are in one of the big parts.

I have been quite happy with how things are done there.

Now here I must take exception to mmded's contention that "serious dancers will not risk any of those consequences" That is not always true. Some very serious and talented, even the most driven people in all fields are sometimes drawn, never the less, to high risk behavior. Some athletes, and very talented artists, writers etc come to mind. And throw in that some teenagers, no matter much there is to lose, no matter how much they want to be a dancer, no matter how hard they work, will still not always use good judgement.

And even if going away is decided on, remember what is good for one is not the other so explore your options as well as possible to find the right fit. And try to find more current info, and what not has gotten exaggerated in the memory as years have gone by.

I also agree with the others that SI are the first step in finding out about being away.

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Very good points, Vicarmac:

Now here I must take exception to mmded's contention that "serious dancers will not risk any of those consequences" That is not always true. Some very serious and talented, even the most driven people in all fields are sometimes drawn, never the less, to high risk behavior. Some athletes, and very talented artists, writers etc come to mind. And throw in that some teenagers, no matter much there is to lose, no matter how much they want to be a dancer, no matter how hard they work, will still not always use good judgement.
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I have a 16 year old daughter at NBS who began at 13. I have posted quite a bit on the other threads that the moderators have mentioned. I am happy to answer any additional questions on this thread or through PM. NBS starts year round at grade 6 now but takes grade 5 kids for their summer program. They also have a junior associates program for kids that are not ready for their professional program.

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My daughter was eleven when she began life at a residential school. While it was all sort of thrown at her (meaning she didn't have dreams, or even thoughts of moving away) she has never once regretted her decision. However, it was an agonizing five weeks or so coming to that decision. We did the driving for two hours in every direction looking for a suitable studio and we do not live out in the middle of nowhere. I can't imagine any parent (well, that's not entirely true) looking forward to allowing their child move away, especially at such a young age. And let me tell you, this one is magical - not that all of your children aren't magical - I'm sure they all are. I know people must look at me like I have two heads when I tell them that we let her go so soon. That would be my impression. Honestly, it was the right choice for her. I've seen the threads where moms are so sad (and rightly so) that their children are away at summer intensives for four weeks or so. I think to myself - try letting them go for life - but then I am so happy that they have not had to deal with that yet. She was gone for about a month when I finally got around to reading this one paper from the school. It mentioned something along these lines - now that your child may never live at home again, other than when he/she is on break...... Now that is a killer thought to deal with. I write that as I am blocking it out....again. What I just wanted to say is - as everyone else has said, there is no rush (as long as they are getting what they need at home) and I would think it will be pretty obvious to you when this is no longer happening. Oh, and as always....cherish every second that you can, because no matter how long you have them with you.....it will never be enough. You have my best wishes.

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jphoenix, we are preparing for the possibility of residency at NBS for our daughter next year. She would be 12, turning 13, when she might. We did consider it last year (also at NBS) but decided we could make the situation at home work for another year and I would second the opinion of those who feel that it's best to try and make it work at home for as long as possible, at least at these ages.


I think the most "healthful" bit of advice I can pass on is that you need to make sure your child always feels like she or he has more than one option -- which also includes not dancing at all (blasphemy, I know)! During this year of "test-driving" the residency idea, we've made sure DD feels like she understands all of what's out there, both home and away. And even if Plan A for training doesn't happen, she knows she would still have Plans B, C and D. I think placing all the eggs in one basket would be very stressful for a kid (and parents).


You also need to find a FEW trusted people you can review your ideas with, but I would caution you against talking to too many people. You might encounter either jealousy or condemnation. We've found that teachers who have been through residency themselves have been excellent resources.

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