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Ballet Talk for Dancers

The Day student at a residential school

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Both of my DDs are/were day students at a pre-pro residential school. (One graduated 2006). I have read alot of comments here on schedules and the social pros and cons. I would like to comment from our experiences on the "Best for the Student" consideration. Perhaps role casting and rehearsals are affected by the standing of not paying full tuition room and board...but that isn't the point to attending the school and ballet program.


The academics at this school can be very challenging. The school accomodates both local students as the local highschool, and it is also a boarding prep school for students from all over the world and this country. There is a very large Asian student body here with alot of focus on Math and Science. The courses range from a general basic high school course with a "Trades" focus to college prep and honors classes. In addition there is a very demanding Ballet program with the Russian Vaganova training. Not only do the students study ballet in the after school ballet program, but they have ballet and dance associated classes during the school day also. The demands on every student is huge.


I happen to believe that students will benefit more for having at least one parent to come home to at the end of the day. In regards to friends...each DD had a different experience. The older one was more of an introvert and very focused on ballet and her academics. The other DD is enjoying school and the ballet program but is much more social.


In both cases the girls bring home "over nighters" from the dorms to our "Ballet House." Not only does it give a change of scenary...the girls enjoy cooking, kicking back and feeling a bit more at home. The dorm kids will naturally develop special bonds and closeness as part of their emotional survival. When they are sick , challenged, or not doing well...mom and dad aren't there. Sure they can call them or email them...but it isn't the same. They turn to each other. It is much more of a challenge to reside in a dorm in high school faced with not only academics...but with the demands of the ballet program and social growth as well.


My daughters though have similar bonds with the other local ballet students who attend the school. We are one of five families who relocated here, bought homes or rented homes, and moved the families to avail our kids to the ballet program and academic program. One of the families home schools their DD. Our current ballet family profile is a mirror of what occurs here every few years with a new wave of families. One family rents here and maintains their family home out of state. Why? To be the best possible support for their ballet student in a challenging academic school also.


I suggest looking at the stats of your school that you are considering. What percentage of dorm boarding students have really gone on to a paid ballet career on graduating? How many have stopped dancing all together? Grant it...at least an academic success will open other doors for them...but that will happen no matter where you are. The trainee and apprentice positions are also very different than five years ago. Dancers out of high school usually went the way of trainee to apprentice and if fortunate enough onto a paid company position. Today the funding for ballet companies isn't there as it was before so trainees and apprentices have to consider longer no or little paid positions upon graduation from high school. So look and see how the kids who dance and have graduated are doing...do the research and weigh it all in the balance of your decision. It is a clear picture here...that I will not get into.


My 20 yr old entered as an 8th grader...graduated early at 17 as a high honors student...did get a paid position with a smaller but very respected ballet company...still dances and is taking undergrad courses also in a University. She benefitted both ways from our high school...but it wasn't easy for her or her sister...and we are all glad that we stayed together as their emotional support and the framework of a family. The older one is very capable, mature, and receives lots of kudos for her work ethic and dedication to whatever she commits to. Independence comes from more than living on your own in a dorm....but for some dancers and families it is the only possible way.

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  • 2 months later...

I am re-submitting this thread because these past two weeks I have been getting lots of questions from parents considering sending their DKs to our local residential dance/academic school. The school will be well attended this year. I highly recommend both the school and the ballet program so whatever you decide for your student...whether they live in the dorm, live with the ballet host home, or live with family who moves here...it will be an excellent decision for your dedicated ballet student. My last comment on this thread goes a bit deeper to answer some questions asked of me this and every year since we began here.

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There really is no one right answer for everyone. The tricky part is assessing the needs of the dk and hoping that your research is thorough and accurate enough to know if the dk's needs will be met. If the residency offers both dance training and academics, ask to see cold, hard facts of the results of both. Ask to see SAT scores for the past 3-5 years, college acceptances and curriculum. Ask to see the school's profile- that's the piece of paper that the school has that defines who it is to colleges. Ask for a detailed list of dancers who attended the program for the entire program and where they danced directly after graduating. Be careful if they won't show names or just give a long list of "dancers from our program have gone on to dance at...." This verbage is created to make the school look successful in placing dancers but could also include dks who attended the school's program as young children, studied elsewhere and ended up dancing at YYZ company. What you want to know is over the past 5 years who were the graduates of the program and where did they go right after they graduated and if the school knows, where are they now.


As far as living arrangements, families do what they have to do and can do to support their dks. Each dk is different and I believe if the family maintains close contact and good communications, any of the situations can work. I too, would love to have my dd come home at the end of her day just as she did her freshman year but she was presented with an extraordinary opportunity that made living at home impossible and she has done quite well. She is growing into a lovely young lady, independent and secure in herself and yes, we still feel very much a part of her life.


For those looking at schools, do your homework, make the best decision that you can and know that you can change your mind if it doesn't work. There are different ways to do this and they all come with costs and benefits.

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For those looking at schools, do your homework, make the best decision that you can and know that you can change your mind if it doesn't work. There are different ways to do this and they all come with costs and benefits.


Swanchat: What you said was "you can change your mind" is true. It's a big decision for the dancer, family, and economics of the family, so trying to make the right decision the first time is what is strived for...but if for whatever reason...the DK and family can take a breath knowing they can alter their decision if it isn't working out. That thought alone can make it easier to commit to a decision.

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