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English / American styles


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Hi, just wondering if there is much difference in the style that ballet is taught in pre-professional (vocational) school in England and America. Is there an 'American style'?

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Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers! Different American companies use different styles, and the same goes for schools and training methods. Is there a particular school in which you're interested?

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I do not believe one can actually compare what is taught in vocational schools in England and the US. There are differences in all schools, everywhere in the world. The issue is compounded by the fact that Directorships and faculties are in a state of flux, constantly.


Only one who has studied the systems of ballet teaching in various countries may perhaps begin to address your question and even this may be tainted by the the obstacles that time places on all areas of the study of ballet.

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Comparisons are also difficult because of cultural considerations. Because schools are training teens/young adults, their academic development is also a part of the puzzle and different countries have different ages of matriculation from "high school" or it's equivalent. This impacts the training schedule for programs all over the world. For example, in the UK students finish their "high school" education at age 16. After this students have the option studying A level courses. I think it's a better use of time to look at options individually to see if a school meets the needs of a student in context of the dance and the academic curriculum; also look at the boarding situation if that is needed.


edited for accuracy: After completing "high school" GCSE's in the UK, students need further study in O and A levels to obtain the qualifications necessary to apply to university.

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I don't believe that it is quite accurate to say that in the UK they finish pre-university education at 16. As far as I know what they finish at 16 is the regular high school matriculation exams. In order to go on to university or degree work, they still have to pass at least three subjects at a higher level. In my day it was called O levels (0 - ordinary) and A levels (A - advanced). I understand that some vocational schools offer just the higher education exams, whilst others actually offer a degree course as part of their dance curriculum. I don't really know how this is built up - perhaps the students cram and take their university entrance exams before joining the school, or perhaps they are part of the degree course. You would need to check each school individually.

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You are absolutely correct and I misspoke in my post. What I was really trying to say was that at 16, UK students finish (GCSE's)-what we call "high school" in the US but that's not exactly correct either because in the US, a high school college prep program provides the qualifications necessary to apply to university and UK students need further study for that (the A level and O levels). This is exactly what I mean by not being able to easily compare the vocational schools in relation to academics! DD has navigated the two systems simultaneously but it wasn't easy. It required successful completion of courses in both but she did receive acceptance from a well-known UK university to study in their distance program with one A level and her American high school courses. Someone considering attending a UK vocational school from another country needs to learn about UK academic systems and make decisions based on their personal circumstances. There is a lot to consider when looking at any vocational school (in addition to the dance training).

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Thank you all for your comments so far - my daughter is at a UK vocational school aged 14 and is considering auditioning for the SAB Summer Programme.


I was just wondering if there was any 'differences in style' between the two countries, perhaps its more school specific than country.

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Definitely school specific in terms of SAB. They work totally in the Balanchine style, which is quite different.

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Just a note from a British educator (and a former Admissions Tutor for a major university). We don't have O Levels in the UK any more. In England and Wales, high school pupils do GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education), and then stay in secondary school to do A levels (Advanced Levels) which are necessary to matriculate to University. A lot of jobs also require A level qualifications. In Scotland, high school pupils do Highers (=GCSE) and Advanced Highers (=A level).


What might be confusing here is that A levels can be studied at a Sixth Form College, where the lower & upper Sixth (years 12 & 13) study in a much university-like atmosphere. But these are still high school!


A Level is about the standard of the Freshman year in most US universities (but not all). But the systems of education across the UK, both at high school and university are far less variable in quality and standard than in the US (I've taught in universities in the US as well). Much more standardised with national exams at secondary school level, and a system of External Examiners (ie a senior academic from another university) for every single degree programme.


So, once you've worked out the UK system, it operates pretty much the same at every school and university.

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Thank you Redbookish and Hamorah for clarifying my imperfect understanding of the British system. I think I understood how it affected my own dd and managed to help her muddle through both systems in order for her to have the credentials to gain acceptance to university but clearly I didn't understand all about it! :( Redbookish, I think I should have had you helping dd and the whole process would have been less daunting!

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The whole US dance school system does see very differnt!! They still seem to do so much academic work in the US, whilst in the UK dance and academics is split evenly throughout the day even from age 11.

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Darnit: I think the SAB SI would be a valuable experience for any young dancer. DS went there for one summer and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. But some of his local US teachers tried to discourage him because they felt the SAB/Balanchine style would seriously 'corrupt' the style they had been developing in him. I'm not qualified to judge if that's true, but we felt their response was at least partly based on keeping him with them for the summer!

DS also studied in London and the impression we gained is that there is a distinctive UK or Royal Ballet style that is passed on down into the UK schools.

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Nor should you confuse The Royal Ballet (School or Company) with The Royal Academy of Dance. RBS has its own teaching methodology initiated by Gailene Stock which is very Vaganova influenced. The Company these days has dancers from all over the world and some people say it has lost its "English" style.


Royal Academy of Dance is an examining institution with a detailed syllabus for different levels from Pre School up to Professional level.

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