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graduating early from a residential program

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My dd attends a year around residential ballet school and has the option of skipping a year academically. My question is whether this is a good idea or not. Academically she would be fine. If she graduates a year early she would be seventeen when she enters the work world. Do dancers get jobs at that age? Right now she is 13 and has the option of entering eighth or ninth grade. She does well in ballet too and her teacher is watching her over the summer to see if she is moved up to the next ballet level. I don't want her to skip a year only to find out that she is too young to be employed when she finally finishes.

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Why speed through childhood! Once an adult in an adult world you can't go back! Regarding her age and getting a job! Some companies do not care if a dancer has an academic education and take dancers very young, during the high school years. Then there are the others who like a little more maturity and most definitely a little more education. Companies and AD's are different all over the country and I suspect all over the world. After a ballet career is over a dancer has to have the ability to move into another career and an awful lot appear to work on bachelors degree's during their ballet careers and even go on for advanced degrees afterwords. Academics should not be short changed!

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It is completely dependent upon the individual and her maturity as well as ballet accomplishment and natural gifts. It can also require a bit of luck and perfect timing in finding a company who will employ her at 17. There certainly are trainee and apprentice positions out there for the younger dancer out of high school. My daughter was moved into the freshman year at our residential program at a private school. She began second semester freshman year jumping from a first term eigth grade at a charter school for arts and academics. She graduated at 17 with high honors and did get a full company position in a small but well respected company that has acted as a stepping stone for her. It was a good fit and allowed her to finish maturing (living and working with the other adult dancers) without the stress of a larger company. I can't personally speak to the hiring of 17 year olds in larger companies...but it would seem that your daughter's overall maturity and level of resposability will be a factor. I have four daughters...all but one (a junior next year) has graduated from high school...and all matured very differently from one another.


The benefit to graduate at 17 was that she felt she had an extra year to focus on ballet before deciding what direction she ultimately wanted to pursue. Also, the artistic director liked being able to have a young well trained dancer to have ready to adapt to his choreography without hardened habits. In the end though, there is no absolute answer for you.

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I know in my case my DD's physical and artistic development during her 13-17 year-old years was significant. There was no way I could have known when she was 13 what she would be like now, at age 17. And for that matter, she has peers who are younger than she who are more "finished" (and employable) in terms of their ballet training and some who are older chronologically who are no where near mature enough to handle going out and getting a job. From a mom of a 17 year old who just graduated from high school and is seeking a traineeship next year, I advise you to wait and see how your daughter develops over the next few years. Things change so very much...my goodness - at one point my DD wasn't even sure she wanted to keep dancing! :rolleyes:


In terms of academics, I advise your DD to take a course load that isn't too heavy and that will stress her out too much. Things are so heightened in this crazy ballet world as it is...


That's my 2¢, for what it's worth - good luck!

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Does one have to be at level "X" in both academics and ballet? In my dd's residency program some of her ballet classmates have been older and at a different academic grade; from time to time (quite infrequently) there have been dancers accelerated in dance but not academics, or academics but not dance.


If I were in your shoes I would ask about the possibility of accelerated academics with on-track ballet training. Perhaps not possible in your dd's school, but it doesn't hurt to ask.




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At DD's residency academic level and ballet level can be completely different. With the exception that students attending for their first year (unless they are seniors) take ballet history no matter what grade level. And seniors take career prep. I would just be sure your DD is set up to participate in whatever opportunities the school affords seniors in career prep, if you think early graduation might be an option.

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DD entered a residency program at age 15 a year ahead of her age-group in ballet and academics. She had to work at the academics just a bit to catch up to everyone else, but she did that part successfully. She graduated a year early, and was on-track for auditions and employment, but was stopped abruptly in her tracks by a serious injury and then a serious illness. At this point we still don't know which came first. She came home after graduating and has spent the full school year recovering from the injury and the illness, with hardly any time for dance or academics -- all her energy has been used in getting better. If this injury/illness had happened while she was still in high school, it would have been nearly impossible for her to graduate with her classmates, so I am grateful that she had the opportunity to graduate early.


Had she not been injured or ill, I'm certain that she would have found employment with a ballet company or moved into a post-graduate program. She knows a number of dancers that have found employment before the age of 18. DD has been fortunate to learn much about herself and her body during this extra year at home in between programs. She will most likely enter a post-graduate program in the fall after spending the summer at the program's SI.


My point is that whatever you decide to do with your daughter, I'm sure you will find your way, and she will find her way to move through both the positives and negatives of either situation.

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We pushed, with her acceptance, DD to move through high school in three years, she was fine academically and sucessful for all school/dance purposes, but last summer after spending 6 weeks in NYC living on her own, DH and I decided she needed time to know herself. She was/is mature enough to have graduated, academically strong, been working in music theatre as a dancer for 3 years, but there really seemed like some part of her was missing. It wasn't maturity, it was more as Pasdetrois suggested, such a rush to be an adult.

Yes DD will have a senior year in HS when she really only needs 1 class, but she is loving the thought of being able to choose classes at the local university, just because they sound like they are interesting.


I don't know if we would have done it differently and the problem is at 13 it is hard, if not impossible, to predict 17 or 18. But for our DD, I think she needed her junior year in HS to make some decisions about her own future, and she is heading into her senior year feeling in more control of her own destiny. Of course it could all change tomorrow!

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My dd accelerated an academic year long before she even had her first ballet lesson, so it was not something we ever considered as a package deal. That said, when she graduated high school at 17 and went to Atlanta alone to study in the pre-pro program at Atlanta Ballet, mom was biting her nails and wondering if we had done the right thing. However, the 2 years in Atlanta, while not paid, did provide strong training and refining of her goals so that she changed from thinking only of a professional performing career to ways to dance and pursue a ballet choreography degree. She was not mature enough at 17 to consider options other than performing (or even wanting to do college), but is now successfully doing both while pursuing her BFA. With the state of arts funding, dwindling jobs, etc. we are grateful that she is broadening her horizons a bit and considering other ways to incorporate her dancing soul into a career that will pay the rent. We do our dk's a great disservice when the only goal they can see is prima ballerina.


On the academic side, I think that education almost needs to be considered separately from ballet. I am a psychologist who has advised multiple families on the pros and cons of acceleration and in the long run, I think the educational needs should take precedence. If your student is in need of more challenging curriculum, her academics will help continue preparing her for success wherever her love of dance leads. A year of boring or unchallenging schoolwork can really impact work ethic, attitude and desire for dk's who are typically driven and focused. They may complain about the homework, but if the course load is more like busy work it could be a LONG year.


Congrats to your dancer on her academic prowess and best of luck navigating all these decisions!

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Some kids are academically precocious and skipping grades stops them from boredom. I believe strongly that this decision should not be linked to ballet and should be an academic decision only. My DD's are academically bright, not brilliant but very bright. When it came to my one daughters senior year she needed just one class in order to graduate. It would have been easy to eliminate her senior year by doing an on-line class but the decision was to do the opposite. With a heavy ballet schedule (8 hours some days) she did more school than was needed not less. Achievers usually want to achieve in all areas. Her GPA that year was 4.0 including AP and IB classes! Looking at her ballet year, if it were graded as academic school is, she got at least a 4.0 there as well. Her growth in that year was astonishing. All doors are open to her and that is what the goal has always been for our children, to keep all options open.


With the miserable audition season that the company ready dancers have faced this year, I am just one of many parents who is grateful for options. Options have given many a young, company ready dancer a place to land. Many dancers are heading to university programs in order to keep dancing with the intent of auditioning again next year.


At 13, you are years away from this kind of decision making, I'm just happy that academics were never allowed to slide or be rushed through and I know many other parents who feel the same. Medical school, law school, an MBA, architecture or elementary ed are all still options if wanted or needed and so is a career in ballet, only time will tell. I know quite a few former dancers who now have an MD behind their names!


Putting all your eggs in one basket at 13 is not something I would recommend!

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Perhaps I'm confused, but I have a question. Depending on the answer, my response to the original question would be different.


Flames, is the situation that your currently 13-year old DK has the option of skipping a grade (in middle school), such that although she would be a year younger than her peers at high school graduation, she would have completed a 4-year high school curriculum/experience? OR is the situation that you are considering planning out her high school courses such that she could complete the requisite diploma curriculum (e.g., 4 years English, 3-4 years math, 3 years science, etc) in 3 years, rather than 4?


If your question concerns the first scenario (skipping a middle school year), I would say, if her academic acumen is there and she isn't worried about the social aspects of being a year younger (she'll be a year behind her school mates when it comes to driving, a year younger when the crowd starts dating,e.g.), and you are comfortable with her emotional maturity level, I don't see the downside. However, if you are anticipating/expecting her to live on her own in a company situation at age 17, you might want to re-consider that as well. Company members will most likely be several years older--and even the majority of apprentices/trainees will be 19-20 years old. Most will be able to drink and socialize in situations that would not be appropriate (in our little parental minds) for a 17year old. 17-year olds cannot sign legally binding contracts--including apartment leases--without a co-signer. There is a thread somewhere where many of these types of concerns have been discussed, but right off hand I can't remember where it is. Momof3darlings had some really insightful comments.


If your question concerns the second scenario (compressing 4 years of high school into 3), I would suggest you (and she) consider how that would affect her college choices---assuming she's thinking of that (and, for my part, I would suggest she always keep that in the mix---even if she doesn't think she'd go straight to college in a million years. Things change and it is always good to have options.) Some colleges don't care at all whether the student does high school in 3 years or 4. A few colleges don't even require a high school diploma as long as the requisite courses are present in the transcript. But, other colleges will tell you that although they do accept 3-yr grads, they don't encourage it----even really, really good students. From their perspective, that 'missing' fourth year is a liability for the student. It is one less year that the student had 'to discover him/herself'. It is one less year the student had to mature emotionally and socially. It is one less year that the student had to take advantage or position him/herself in leadership opportunities. From the college admissions standpoint, the 3-year grad will be at a disadvantage in the college applicant pool as a result of that lost opportunity. The 3-yr graduate doesn't get a 'attaboy!' for doing in 3-years what is set up to be done in 4-years. The college admission folks would encourage the student to take that 4th year and use it to explore other classes he/she might be interested in---take some art classes, take a drama class, take the time to be in the school play, take something the student didn't think he/she had time for because the schedule was filled with the requisite science, math, English, social science courses. That last year is an opportunity to take some of the exploration courses. When the college admissions folks look over the applicants, that 3-year grad often comes up short in comparison to the 4-year grads, simply because they missed out on opportunities.


That is exactly what the Admissions folks at several of the more selective colleges told us when my current rising senior was a freshman and thought a 3-year high school career was a good way to go. As a result of those discussions, she cooled her jets, took early release all four years to give more practice to her club sport, and has exceeded all the requisite courses and explored several art classes she wouldn't have been able to if she'd graduated after only 3 years. As a result of that, she's also expanded her thoughts on what careers she might consider, branching out from sports medicine to include psychiatry and even art museum curator or acquisition person.


Give her time to grow and explore. Keep as many options open for her as possible while she is growing and encourage the exploration. She may very well continue on the path to a professional dance career, but even if she does, she will need something else in her life 'for later'. As parents, I think our jobs are to encourage, support, and knowing that many, many things change over the years, help them (and sometimes that is against a lot of resistance :wacko: ) to keep as many doors and roads open as possible. And to support them fully when/if they decide to change directions and go down a different road or through a different door. We parents are charged with raising good productive citizens, not dancers per se.

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Dancemaven, good points. My genius child non-dancer was asked by Ivies to "defer" admissions a year simply because he had barely turned 16, as compared to the 18-20 year olds he would be joining in the freshman class. Some schools listed maturity as the reason, but many listed "legal liability". The concern was how could they provide appropriate protection against drinking, dating, etc. for a "minor". The one thing we didn't consider when both our kids finished high school young. It's hard to rent an apartment, get utilities turned on, receive medical care, etc., etc. if you're under 18, and we definitely found that ballet companies also considered under 18 to be a less desireable age group for the same types of reasons.


That said, have to admit that both my kids graduated young (not early, in the case of my DD, she just started first grade at 5, but early in the case of my non-dancer who skipped third grade and then compressed high school into 3 years), simply because their academics, maturity and peer group/friends were all older and hanging around "doing nothing" was not a scenario that appealed to them. Socially and academically it was a huge success for my two. I'm a big advocate of skipping grades where academically appropriate, but I think everyone should go into it with their eyes open.

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Here is a start to some older threads: graduating early

accelerating academics



A couple of the threads above are older ones, I hope that if you post on them some of those members will come back to share what actually happened when their DKs graduated early. I so appreciate dance1's perspective on the issue as she is one of the members who is discussing this now and also asked questions then. Her expertise will be invaluable.


I could not find the threads where we talked about company life at 16/17. But I'll keep searching. It does provide it's very own, unique circumstances that not every dancer is ready for. DD1 handled it fairly well but she's an old soul. DD2, I'm not so sure, she is a typical teen with a little bit of that normal rebellious teen streak. I wouldn't have been able to guess either's readiness at 13.


The main thing to remember while I search for those threads is that in college while you're exposed to older students you are still very much on the same social page and you don't generally in the first year find freshman hanging out with graduate students on a regular basis. In a company, you will find everything from married dancers with a social scene much like the one you as a parent have. To those who spend every weekend in over 21 bars and clubs and most everything inbetween. Work may present the same thing. A company in a college town will present one social environment, a company in a bedroom community another. DDs 1st company was in more of a bedroom community so the over 21 outings were very seperate from those where someone under 21 could attend. It made for many a lonely weekend, even though the company members did try to occasionally remember to plan the outing at someplace she could get in before 10pm. It really wasn't their responsibility to do so everytime nor to plan their nights around her. There were many times she would go out to dinner but then couldn't go to the next place.

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A big Thank You to everyone who offered their experience and advice! Our situation involves my dd skipping eighth grade and going on to ninth. We would not arrange her classes in order for her to graduate early; instead she would skip an entire grade because the course work has already been mastered. She is very mature for her age and academically she is ahead so much that she is often bored. Her teachers at her residential program have tried to challenge her academically, but have suggested she go onto ninth grade. Right now, dd is in ballet 6, which at her residency is the youngest ballet class for girls. There has been discussion of moving her up to ballet 5. Her teacher is watching her over the summer intensive to see if dd moves up. Either she would be the oldest or the youngest in her ballet class. DD does not have to be at the same level in ballet as academics. The growth and development pattern for the two are not always in sinc but could catch up when she makes more progress dance-wise.


Another problem that I just thought of is that the dancers are on color codes that restrict how much freedom they have outside of school. My dd would be on a much more restrictive code than her ninth grade peers and would not be able to join them in many activities on the weekends. This will happen whether she moves up or stays in eight grade. It's just that she will make more friends that are older if she goes onto ninth. DD is also very small for her age. I'm not sure how this figures into things, but it is in the back of my mind on this. She is 13 years old. She looks like a younger kid.


My dd has suggested that if she were to finish one year early, she would be attend an apprentice or a trainee program for a year so that she could sign contracts at age 18. She is very confident and optimistic too! DD has not put much thought into college, but we do keep that option open for her. She wants to dance and then maybe go to college later. As far as signing apartment leases etc... I guess we could co-sign for her. If she becomes a dancer, we might have to help her the first few years anyway. I don't know a lot about dancer's incomes, but have heard that it is difficult to make ends meet. I am more concerned with a company not wanting to sign her because she is too young. Do companies sign 17 year olds? Would she have to attend a trainee program just to get to age 18? What if a company in Europe wanted her? I have thought that I might have to go with her because she would be 17. I've heard of families that pack up and go, but we have our own lives too. I hope that doesn't sound selfish. I'm sorry that I have so many questions, but we have to have a decision by August. We are just trying to do the right thing and not make a decision that can't be fixed later on. Many thanks to all of your help out there! :wallbash:

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Flames at 13 some of the questions you're asking are still very much wait and see at least the ones about dance are. I strongly suggest you take a good bit of time reading the Trainee/Apprentice boards, the Higher Education Boards and the Career Discussion boards. Then both reading about other's journeys here as well as asking the questions you have.


I would be a bit concerned about the color codes if the weekend activities would have to be much different. It is important for her to both do well academically but also be welcomed socially and that will be hard if they do not color code her with her academic peers. I'm not sure how that works where you are but I would be a tad concerned.


Some companies do sign 17 years olds, others wait until they are 18 for liability reasons but the recent trend is that almost everyone who has no dancing credentials goes through the Trainee/Apprentice ranks for a time before being moved up. There are exceptions of course, but it has become more of a trend in recent years. That could change by the time your dancer rolls out, but for now, that is the reality for most. Given that, I still believe you need to plan the best thing for her academically. Dance will follow.

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