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Year round Programs


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My DS (age 11-12 in November) has been asked to attend the year round program at Canada's National Ballet School (NBS). We are thrilled and excited and scared to death!!! He wants to go. I would really like him to wait another year. I have read tons of posts on the subject. Lots of people say 11 is too young, others say that you have to let them go if they are asked because this opportunity is too big to refuse. The feedback we got during the interviews was that they really wanted my son to start with them now because while he has been getting excellent technical training where he is it is obvious that he has been dancing with girls. He needs to develop a male flow of movement, learn how to hold his arms like a male dancer, open up the chest....etc. Also, he is starting to grow (huge growth spurt this year) and puberty is around the corner. They want to get him stretching and do the body conditioning boys need before testosterone tightens him up and bulks him up.


I always thought that because boys are so needed in ballet that he would have more time to make this big a move. If he was a girl we know we would be saying yes without any hesitation. ACK!!!!!


Any feedback would be appreciated!!!

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He wants to go.


That's probably the number one reason there that tells me he's ready. And yes, it is just as important for boys to have proper training as it is for girls. :)

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If he is receiving excellent training where he is I would wait. 11 is too young to go away imhop. Tell the home teacher what they said. Wait. My son was invited to ENB at 11 and I politely declined and kept him home. He is about to go away at 16 and has had multiple offers and his pick of schools. If it was a girl I would also be saying NO! My 16 year old female students are also getting offers for year round schools. It is harder yes but they are older and you have a better idea as to wether they might be dancers or not.

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Thank you both for your replies. Still no decision yet. But I am feeling comfortable with choosing not to go, now just have to have a real heart to heart with the boy. I would consider letting him go and try for a year. Wish I had a crystal ball.

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I understand your dilemna. When my son was 13 he wanted to go away. I said no. When he was 14 he wanted to go, again we said no. At 15 he really wanted to go, no again. Now he is 16 and we are letting him go. He is more ready but more importantly, I am more ready. It is a big decision and every family has a different situation.


You know your family dynamics and your son so you have to make your own decision. I could not have let my child go at 11 but maybe your situation is different. When my son was 10 he danced with a boy who left to go the Royal Danish Ballet at 10. Not only away, but a different continent. He has thrived and is still there.


So good luck with your decision.

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In most cases I would agree that dancers should not leave home before 16, and in taoofpooh's case, I agree that waiting a year or more will not be a problem as NBS has stated that his current technical training is excellent. However, what concerns me is that they can tell from his dancing that he is training with girls. Nothing wrong with co-ed ballet classes, but does his current school offer men's training starting around age 14 or so? If not, he will most likely have to change schools (which does not necessarily mean leaving home unless there is nothing closer) before age 16, speaking strictly in terms of training. Whether this works for the student and family is another, more important issue on which I cannot offer an opinion (taoofpooh knows her family better than I!) but as far as training goes that is what I think based on the information given.

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We are in Western Canada. There are not that many boys. My kids are at the best school in town which is affiliated with the ballet company. My son is the only boy in his class. Two years ago there were three of them, one went to NBS the other to a local school due to family circumstances. There is a good boys class for the little boys and there is a boys class (although not daily) for the pre-professional program. The problem seems to be the middle years. It is based on finances, too few students makes it unfeasible to run a class.

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DS had few boys at his studio but was never told that he danced too much like a girl. He was actually the only male in his level for a few years. But his instructor liked working with boys. Perhaps by letting the instructor know what was said, she will be better able to focus on those issues and help your son change some of his habits. We have seen that it is very possible for a boy to go to a studio - as the only boy and with only female instructors - and still end up with a contract upon completion. No men's classes during the year - just summer programs to supplement.


DS wanted to go away at 11 and we said no. By 13 and 14 we would've let him go away but he really wasn't interested. Those are tough years (especially 13) and home was the one consistent thing he could count on. I'm glad that he was home and had a "safe" place each night to vent and complain and just be alone. Now at almost 15 he's ready to make that move and so are we. Actually we think he'd be OK at his old studio, but there are logistical and school issues that make a move to a residency a much more viable option.

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Knock, Knock

I am not the parent of a dancing boy but I do have a daughter who audtitioned at eleven unsuccessfully, then again the following year and did go away to a residential school. Dancers are evaluated continuously when they are in residential programs and may or may not be asked to stay each year so in that respect it is very much a year to year commitment on the school's part. A dancer may asked to come full time one year and may not be even considered the following year. In some instances it will be because a body is not developing in a favourable way, it may be that technical skills are not where they should be, it may be that there are already enough dancers at that level or lastly it may come down to the fact that the talent pool at the time of a second audition is different. If you decide to wait for another year you and your son should be aware that there might not be another chance. I know personally of several dancers at both RWB and NBS who have not had a second opportunity after choosing to decline an offer. I also know of dancers who can successfully wait until later. It is very much an individual thing but should not be assumed. Ballet schools are a business and if your son is a commodity they want to aquire then everything will be positive - it is much harder (impossible) to sell yourself it they are unsure of you as a product they wish to develop.

As for going away, as a parent I told myself we would look at it only for a year in the beginning. That really was not realistic on my part and only delayed my feelings about my child leaving home probably forever. If your son really wants to be a dancer once he gets into an enviornment such as NBS where he lives with dancers who will have the same concerns and issues as he does and can train with others like himself for hours a day, has access to physio and doctors who know dancers and can access dance studios pretty much any time he wants to it would be impossible to pull him out. The better your son does in an enviornment like NBS (and of course always assuming that he remains sure in his wanting to do ballet) the more distant he will be from you and your family. Visits home will be just that -visits and not returns.

Now to the more positive! :) It is an incredible opportunity to be able to focus on training and have so many teachers and support staff making it possible to do so. In my case mom and the car weren't able to give my dancer anywhere near what she has gotten by going away. The past four years have given my daughter incredible opportunities and experiences that she would not have had at home.

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As a parent of a male dancer who went to NBS at age 9, I would say let him go. I think it is important to gain good tecnique from them at an early age. I would be especially concerned that he is learning with girls. Also, I think to keep males interested, and avoid the many societal pressures of a boy dancing, it is important to dance woth other males. He will also be able to observe the older boys and be involved in the culture of dance. Finally, I think it is very different in Canada than the states. In the US there are many good schools, but in Canada promising dancers leave home early.

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Our sons probably know each other. :grinning: Too bad you don't have PM privelges yet.

*edted to remove some identifying information*


The only advice I can offer is to listen to your gut. My son chose to stay year round at NBS next year (our sons are exactly the same age.) It was his decison. He's the one who has to live away from home, work hard, etc..etc.. This is his dream and he has to do what he feels is right for him. We also felt like he he has been given this opprtunity now, so why not go for it. There is always the chance that the offer might not be extended next year (puberty changes, etc.,) although that was not our main concern. The folks at NBS told us that DS could wait another year if he wasn't ready to leave home.


I also asked the folks at NBS if we had more time since he was a boy, as that was always what I had heard. But they told us that it is not true across the board, and since ballet demands so much more from boys technically then say 10 years ago, that it is really every bit as important for boys to get the right training from an early age as it is for the girls. Yes, the ballet world is still short of boys, but early, good training may make the difference by allowing them the flexibility of choosing which companies they would like to work for, internationally, or otherwise.


Also, our particular family dynamics give weight to a decison towards a residency program for him as well. DS is also very independent, generally well-behaved, and conscientious. We know that he will be responsible and thrive in his new environment. Residency is not for everyone. For DS, he said NBS just felt like home.

I wish you and your son the best of luck in your decison making. :thumbsup: Let me know if there's anything I can do to help. :rolleyes:

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We were not told that he dances like a girl. We were told that he needs to learn arm movements and style of movement that boys use. If he has no one to mimic, how is he to know!?!?!

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Yup, my DS knows your DS. My DS was in Audition class C.


Very cool, today is the day we make our decision.

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"If he has no one to mimic, how is he to know!?!?!"


We always wondered about this, too, but somehow DS' AD knew what to correct. She would point out specific things, but honestly there weren't a lot of them that were too different from the girls. At least not at that age. DS has only recently started really watching ballets intensely, whether live or on DVD, so he's never really had a male role model. Yet this summer, when he was in a class of all males, most of them older than him, he did quite well. The things he is behind are are nuances unique to that particular style. His technique is fine for his age. At 14, going on 15, he WAS told, however, that time was running out for him to learn the fine details that may make a difference in the long run.


Good luck with your decision. There are advantages and disadvantages to both paths!

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