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How to help choose a residence program for dd

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We have the same dilemma, and one factor for us is scholarship money, or lack thereof, since the price tags are nearly the same. We want DD in the program that would be the best fit, but I'd be lying if I said that money was unimportant, especially when we read the threads on BA about company auditions (still several years distant) and realize that we will probably have to help her financially for some time then, as well as for training now. Like you, I welcome advice...

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Hello sehring, welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers :P


All we can do here on BT is provide information shared by others who have attended the various programs. We do not recommend one over another. Have you looked at the threads on the schools where your daughter has been accepted? Those could be of some help, and it would be best if you have questions which are not answered there, to ask them directly on that thread because when that thread comes up with a new post, the people who have been there or are involved in any way with the program can respond to your questions. :D


Sehring, your information under your name says that you are a dancer, but you are posting as a Mom. If this is your daughter's registration, you will need to register under your own screen name, as we do not allow two people to use the same account. That would get very confusing! :o For information on how to do that, check the How To Do Things forum. :)

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You might also start with the Stickie at the top of this forum: Evaluating Schools


And I would encourage you to simply scroll through the index of the General Discussion forum in the Dance Education section. There are many topics that could give you some grounding and foundation with which to review your options. Just drop in and out of topics that catch your eye.

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After reading so many threads and thoughtful posts last year about choosing residency programs, I determined that it is an individual choice based upon many factors. These factors will be different for every dancer and family. But for what it is worth, these are the things we determined were the most important when we made the choice for our son last year:


---Quality of instruction and emphasis on ballet

---Academic program and the importance the dance staff places on academic program (ie, are they reasonable if a student needs extra help or needs to make something up)

---Safe and secure housing with sufficient supervision

---Class size (staff/student ratio)

---Ratio of males and females

---Male technique classes and enough pas de deux classes

---Performance opportunities

---Size of program

---Success rate of graduates being accepted as trainees, apprentices, offered company contracts and/or accepted into colleges with high quality dance performance majors

---frequency and quality of guest teachers

---Availibility of someone to answer questions and address concerns

---Social opportunities for students (they are still high school students)

---Distance from home (important for seeing performances, dropping off and picking up and just visiting)

---Level of parental involvement


Everyone has different priorities. These were ours. We researched, visited and networked and found one that met most of our needs.


The first step is to clearly define the expectations you have for your child and for the program. What do think your child will gain from being there? Be realistic.

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A couple more for the list -



If hoping to become a pro- do companies audition on site or nearby?


What support is offered to assist dancers in finding employment? (arranged company classes, ADs watching class, etc.)

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I would also add that once you have narrowed down your choice to two or three schools, talk to parents whose children have been there form at least two years. Search out the parents of the 'favorites' and parents of the 'also danced.' The "unwritten rules" that control each school will not be in any publication. Look to those who have been there to help you decide what is best for your dancer.




I hope this helps. . .

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I would echo what Quarterking has said about talking with students who are there or have recently been. My son met several dancers when he auditioned for programs and communicated by phone and on line for several months before we made our final decision. It is helpful and helps a dancer to know if the school is a fit.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you dancerdriver for your questions. I took it a step further. I added a rating scale 1-5 with 1 being so-so and 5 being excellent. We used the questions to guide our discussion with personnel at the program and our dd did the same. So we had two completed rating scales to use to discuss the pros and cons of each program after a visit. Thank you for your questions, they kept us focused and we were able to get information which was as non-biased by the personnel of the programs as possible, since we were leading the question/answer sessions.

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We used most of the criteria listed before making any decisions. One important consideration is whether a professional company is attached to the school. At least that was for us. After reading what many/most dancers have to go through just to get to auditions, it was very important for us that not only is there a company attached, but the school is used as a feeder for that company, and the company gives dancers from the school the opportunity to perform as extras. I would suggest reading the bio's of the attached company and see how many trained at the school.

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Talk to parents of students who are no longer at the school (either who have left before graduation or have already graduated). You will likely get some different information from this group, than you might from those who are currently attending the school.


Ask more than one person at the school and more than one parent how discipline problems are handled. See if you get the same story from everyone. It will help you determine if their policies match their actions in this arena. For example, schools might talk about a zero tolerance for drugs, but when you talk to several different people and get anecdotal information, you may find that there is a lot of 'looking the other way' or mitigating circumstances that indicate that ZERO is not really the number that is appropriate in this context... :wink:


Find out about the turnover in their house parents/RAs. Ask about their training, their reporting structure, how problems and decisions are made amongst the RAs and their coordinator. Ask several students and parents about the RAs and how they relate to the students. It is great to have a 'nice' RA. It is another thing to hear how that RA handles difficult situations with students who might be depressed, facing difficult personal problems, caught breaking rules, involved in bitter social problems with other residents and any myriad of other situations that can arise for teens in the middle of their most difficult years.


Ask how things are handled when a student is sick and cannot attend classes. How do they get their meals if they are too sick to get to the cafeteria? What if they get sick on the weekend? How do they get their perscriptions? Will an RA look in on them frequently and provide the nurturing that parents usually do?


Many of the questions that are typically asked when choosing a residency are great for getting a general view of the school. The list above is really good. But, I would urge those considering residency for their teens to dig much deeper and do lots of research. Talk to lots and lots of people who have been at the school or their parents. This board provides a great starting point to connect with those who have been at schools you may be considering. After talking with those you meet here, ask them to refer you to several others. Daisy chain your way along until you have really heard from a broad group of former and current students. Talk to those who were happy with the experience and also talk to those who were not. Weigh it all and come to your own conclusions. But, do get lots of data to draw from. It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort to properly research a school, but it is so important to do so, when placing your child in their hands! :)

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To add to the post above - talk to parents of both male and female students. The responses can be very different and give you a broader view of the school's climate. Ask about the code of conduct or student handbook and whether it is a "guide" or something that the school does, in fact, follow. It's hard to be a teen away from home and not understand what the rules "really" are - especially if they are constantly evolving. Or applied differently to different students. What about how the school handles parent and student feedback? Is there a mechanism in place for honest feedback - whether anonymous or not - and is feedback welcomed as a means of making the school better - or viewed as criticism?

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You're right balletbooster and cheetah, we need to ask these difficult questions in order to determine if the program is right for our dancer and if the school adults can act as parent in absence.


However, I'm not sure how to go about and do this. Let me give you an example. One school has color codes for the students which determine the priviledges based on age. However, if the parent wants their student under the tightest survellance, it can be done. Then you have the other range of the spectrum (several programs fall in this category) which allow the students to leave the campus just by simply signing out. They are encouraged to travel in pairs, there are time restraints on their "free time"(in the dorm before 10:00 p.m.), but is this enough or not?


The discipline factor is another broad spectrum. Some schools automatically expel a student if caught smoking or with an open flame to light incense, candles, etc. Other schools take all matters to a disciplinary board comprised of staff, older students and directors. Others just expel because the student has broken one too many rules.


I know we, as parents, also fall somewhere along this spectrum of discipline and rules. Is it possible to find a place that will meet my needs as a parent and also meet the artistic needs of my child? I'm being told, you have to let them go. They are joining the dance world and there are many things which your child needs to experience independently. But by law I must never demonstrate negligence, these students are minors.

Edited by 2LeftFeet
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I don't think you will ever find a perfect place. That's why you have to get as much information as possible and then weigh the pros and cons. Your DK will also be a big consideration. My DS was happy with one program - we were getting ready to send the deposit - but then ended up chosing another that was totally different from the first.


You're smart in trying to plan ahead. We tried, but our DS didn't want to consider a residency program. It was a very sudden decision on his part and we had to make a very quick committment. Though going away was certainly in his best interest, I regret that we had not done more research, including talking to lots of parents.

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