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Boys & SI Scholarships


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This is my 13 year old son's first year to audition for SI's, and so far he's really enjoyed it.


I've had to put up with a few comments from fellow moms in the waiting room. We get to chit-chatting and when they find out that my dancer is a *boy*, I immediately get a comment such as "Oh, well, then he's automatically getting accepted" and then another mom will inevitably pipe in with a comment such as "AND he'll get the best scholarship of anyone in this room". I'm never exactly sure how to respond to those comments, so I usually just say something like "Well, it's his first year to audition, so I really have no idea."


Ballet Austin is near our home and we've heard it's a good first-time SI, so my DS was thrilled to be accepted and to receive a very generous scholarship offer (100% tuition, room, board). Another boy at our studio received the same scholarship. DS has auditioned for other programs (including a few big-name selective ones), and so far has received scholarship offers from those he has heard back from (albeit, so far not 100% like Austin's).


While my DS is very grateful for Austin's full-ride scholarship and will most likely attend Ballet Austin as a result, he can't help but wonder if the scholarship offer was merit-based (that is, they feel he is a talented dancer) or if it was simply a matter of "Oh, you're a boy. Here's a scholarship."


His female classmates are rightfully thrilled when they receive an SI scholarship, even if it's just a partial one. However, it's hard for him to be as excited about scholarships as his female classmates because he's not sure if he's being rewarded for his talent/hard work or just his maleness. His female classmates don't seem to take his scholarship offers very seriously, telling him "Of course you got a scholarship! You're a boy! It's different for girls".


Is that just the way it is and we should just be thankful and get used to it? Do SI's really just give out scholarships to all males regardless of talent/ability? I'm not trying to "look a gift horse in the mouth" or sound ungrateful for the financial assistance. I'm simply trying to figure out how this SI game works.

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I have no good advice because my DS is only 8 and a long, long way from going away anywhere. I do think, though, that this is the flip side of how boys get "front and center" at recitals or more frequent SI scholarships... they will always wonder why they got what they did. If DD were to get a front and center part in a recital she would know absolutely the teacher thought she was doing a great job. DS? Will always "know" it's because he was the only boy. It might be someday that he would deserve front and center (I firmly believe that is not the case for him right now); but when he does deserve it there isn't going to be anyone saying "Oh, okay, just so you know? *Now* you deserve it."


On the other hand, it's hard to complain when good things come his way now and then. He puts up with teasing at school and slight social exclusion (not invited to birthday parties, etc) at ballet, the place where he spends the most time outside of school. I really think there are pluses and minuses for everyone involved in dance. It's human nature (or maybe just HuckleberryDawg nature) to remember the bad parts; but really it's good and bad everywhere for everyone.


At any rate, congrats to your DS on his scholarship and that he's going to spend his summer getting better. Regardless of whether scholarships are harder for girls to get, it's still a good thing for him to get to go. At the end of the day, if he comes back improved and able to take on more male roles at his home studio, it's better in some way for everyone.

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I really don't think most good programs scholarship male dancers just because they are males. They have to have something going for them, in terms of facility, potential, and good training. If not, they would not be scholarshipped, at least not by programs that I know. Yes, it is easier for males to get them because they are much fewer in number, and, yes, the schools do want male dancers for partnering. I can't speak for all programs, but when I was doing the auditions for WSB we scholarshipped only those we felt deserved it, not just because they were male. We might have accepted some males, especially older ones who could partner, who were not obvious company potential, but they were not scholarshipped, to my knowledge.

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Not all programs accept all boys that audition. Not all boys that attend SIs get scholarships. Some programs are more generous than others. We know from experience. When my son was first encouraged to audition after only a year of ballet his AD told him he should probably audition since he'd not only get accepted but would also get a full scholarship. She said it would be automatic. He refused to audition because he thought it wasn't fair that he would be treated differently. And he was insulted by her comment. Those were his words, which surprised me. Actually he wasn't ready anyway - he was only 10 with very little experience. But his comment seemed remarkably mature and a good attitude to have once he did start auditioning. I think that helped him when he got his first wait list letter a year or two later and his first rejection yet another year or two later at a place he desperately wanted to attend.


I think sometimes it seems as if boys get more scholarships, but keep in mind that we don't know how many girls get them. Percentage wise it's certainly in the boys' favors, or so it would seem. So sometimes parents get frustrated. But one thing that many parents of girls don't know is that sometimes there are other tasks associated with those scholarships that boys receive. I can think of two places where my DS received full scholarships - including room and board - but was also informed after the fact by letter that there would be additional responsibilities. I can't recall exactly, but I think in one situation he was to arrive a few hours early to help the girls move into their rooms. Neither of those programs offered scholarships to all the boys. And not all of the boys that attended were accepted.


One of the programs that had such a stipulation was Ballet Austin - but that was maybe 4 years ago. I recall getting a letter that detailed some of the stipulations of the scholarship and responsibilities he would have but I can't remember the details. So maybe if your son is feeling uncomfortable, you can reemphasize that the scholarship is merit based (there are a lot more boys in ballet now - so they can choose based on who they really want to attend) but that some programs also require something in return! Even if it's extra classes each day so all the girls get a chance to partner. Even though there may be no cost (in dollars) he will be paying his own way there :)


It can get very ugly at SI auditions. I found reading in the car was the best place to hang out.

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I am a parent of a boy who has auditioned for SI's and know other boy dancers ...the scholarship offers are NOT a given. Boy dancers experience everything from rejection to acceptance w/no scholarship to partial scholarships (25-50% tuition) to full scholarships (w/o housing) to complete full-rides (housing included). My guess is that the dancer's ability and potential has much to do with scholarship offers and that should come as no surprise. Also, I am guessing that available money varies from program to program, as well as the need for males for partnering, etc.


I do wish there was a magic ball that would let us know which programs are more scholarship-prone from year to year, though...as many families we know can't send their male dancer to a SI program without a scholarship.

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Thank you for your replies (and p.m.'s). I read them all very carefully and appreciate your inisghts.


I feel like this school year my son has just moved into a different category of dancer, and I'm having to sort things out all over again. At the studio six days a week, stricter corrections, higher expectations... Up until now, it's been all about his "potential" but suddenly this year it seems like he's actually expected to actually dance well! :wink: However, he seems to be rising to the occasion and maturing as a dancer-- I don't think he's ever worked harder in his life than he has since this school year began.


I think he was looking at this first year of SI auditions as a way to really see the rewards of this year's hard work and then felt confused when the answers weren't as clear-cut as he hoped (I'm sure many girls experience the same feeling).


At any rate, since posting this message a couple days ago, my son has moved from happy but confused to absolutely thrilled to be leaving home for the summer to study ballet intensively. I think this is going to be a great summer for him!!

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Even though being a boy may help his chances, there is no doubt that in this time of financial hard times, I can't believe that scholarships are handed out easily to anyone. Your son should not only realize the great responsibility and opportunity that this SI will bring him, but should also take pride in his accomplishment. Congrats to him!

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And since there are much lower numbers of men in ballet vs. women, it's not surprising that schools are trying to encourage the males who have talent. But notice that I said, "who have talent". If the male dancer cannot move well or does not have the coordination or physical potential, they will not be encouraged. Males also develop later than females, so the expectations can be slightly different for males.

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Dismiss the comments but do be understanding of the reason for them. Room and board included in scholarships for females are almost non-existant if not non-existant in totality so in some respects that is a tad of reality in people's assumptions. As others have stated, you son still has to bring something to the table in evaluation and that is what is important, he must have. There are not scholarships for ALL boys who audition and as your son ages, those full scholarships will be tougher to achieve so the goal is for him to continue to bring the right things to the table so those opportunities continue to exist.

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The Ballet Austin "full ride" does require a little work study. My son got the offer last year but chose to attend another program. I think it was just a little bit of time each week cleaning some common areas. Other boys from our studio have gone to Austin and loved it.


I've been wondering lately if not receiving a scholarship but attending anyway makes it less likely for the SI to offer you scholarships in subsequent years. Because they know we were willing to pay once? Anyone else have thoughts about that?

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Congratulations to your son!!! First off, not all boys are accepted to SIs, especially to the elite SIs. Second, not all boys are offered scholarships - and definately not all boys are offered full scholarships.


I do think that because of the ratio of boys to girls who are auditioning for SIs in the first place, there is probably a higher likelihood of a boy being offered a scholarship of some kind but it's not as a way of saying "Hey, we noticed you have dangling male parts - here is your automatic scholarship." SIs are only going to accept dancers they feel are talented, male or female. And they are only going to offer scholarships to dancers they feel are exceptionally talented, male or female. I do think the bar is probably lower on what they consider exceptionally talented for male dancers, only because there is a smaller pool of male dancers to choose from. All the programs want to have at least some guys at their SI so they have to offer some kind of incentive to the talented ones in order to lure them away from all the other SIs - so they offer them scholarships.


Plus the programs that are known for having some better partnering programs absolutely have to have enough older guys with enough strength and experience to be able to partner all those girls who want the partnering experience. They definately need to have a way to ensure they have to a way to guarantee enough guys for partnering. They need to offer those scholarships to lure those strong guys away from the other SIs.


I think one of the reasons there is such a myth out there about how easy it is for guys to get scholarships is that there is a ripple down effect. The amazing guys get the scholarships to the elite places, which opens up scholarships to the next level of male dancers and the next level of SIs, etc. etc. Plus when a bunch of guys on scholarship at a SI are bragging about being on scholarship, the guys at that SI who AREN'T on scholarship aren't going to go around and advertise to everyone there they DIDN'T receive a scholarship. So sometime I think it becomes assumed that ALL the guys at the SI are on a scholarship.


My son is 10 and has been auditioning for SIs for 2 years now. Last year he went to ABT YDSW - no scholarship. Two weeks in NYC - we called it the most expensive vacation we have ever taken. This year he was accepted to Boston - no scholarship. My husband just lost his job so he can't go this year. I'm told scholarships aren't as common in the younger kids SIs. Regardless, my experience is that not all boys get 'em. I'm hoping one day I can say he got one!!!


In any even, what I have always said is that it really doesn't matter who gets a scholarship or not. They don't give scholarships to companies. You either have enough talent to get into a company or not. And you don't get into a company just because your a boy. All those boys who got scholarships to SIs aren't going to be competing against any of the girls who didn't when it comes time to get into a company.

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As a small update...I learned today that he was accepted into Joffrey NYC's Ballet Intensive, but did not receive a scholarship. I know it sounds weird, but I'm actually kind of happy about the no-scholarship thing. Now we know that his dancing wasn't quite excellent enough for them to scholarship him this year. So, if he works hard, improves this year, and receives a scholarship next year, then he will have something to feel very proud of next year! Probably a weird line of thinking...

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From my experience:


1. There are more girls training in the ballet world, and only a small percentage get meaningful scholarships. A lot of programs do not give many, or any, scholarships to girls during the summer and/or school year . . . even if the girls are very talented.

2. The schools need boys.

3. In order to attract talented boys, they routinely offer scholarships for both the summer and school year.


As the parent of a pre pro female dancer I understand the above reasoning. But I have to admit it frustrates me and at times even angers me. We've paid a lot of money for ballet training and we've paid a lot for many years. It upsets me to hear how almost every guy in my daughter's school has a substantial scholarship. It just doesn't feel fair. Especially if your DD has danced at a program for multiple years full price, and then a new guy joins for free.


Every once in a while I rant about this with other parents in our program. And they remind me that if the school didn't give such great scholarships to these talented guys, these guys would go elsewhere. So our daughter's are benefiting by having really talented guys to partner with. Yeah yeah I get it. It still doesn't feel fair when it's time to write the checks. Ballet sure puts a hole in our money bucket!


So slhogan, I'm sorry that some parents made flippant remarks. But in the grand scheme of things . . . if he's talented, you won't have to pay NEARLY what the families of girls pay. If hearing those kind of remarks is the worst that happens, oh well. Trust me, resentment can run deep especially when families have to sacrifice so much for so long. It doesn't make it right, especially because, heck, it ain't your fault, lol. It just is what it is.

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So slhogan, I'm sorry that some parents made flippant remarks.... If hearing those kind of remarks is the worst that happens, oh well.


The remarks really aren't the challenge. The girls at his studio really are quite nice and are his very good friends. And as for the random moms at SI auditions... well, I certainly can't blame them for being annoyed. I don't have a girl dancer, so I don't know how it feels to be on the other end, but I can imagine.


The challenge simply lies in the fact that it is difficult to use SI acceptances/scholarships as a barometer for how well he dances. With each acceptance the question arises: "Is it because he is good or is it just because he's a boy?". With that kind of ambiguity, its tricky to get a good feel for whether he has what it takes to go far in the world of ballet.

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As a parent of a dd I understand your frustration with the constant drain on the family budget for ballet training. However, as the parent of a DS let me toss in an additional thought...my ds loves ballet and has loved it from an early age. Not that it matters, but he also LOVES girls. However, this young man has not been able to go to a public or private school since he was outed. I have had to quit my job to homeschool him because he was tortured for this art. Most of the boys at our pre-pro school are homeschooled. One is at a performing arts school that costs his family $7000 per year (cheap actually) to send him too. None of these boys in our "progressive" community have been able to survive in the public school. For my dd, I could make the choice to take her to public school tomorrow and she would be fine, perhaps even thrive because she is a dancer. For my ds, it is not an option.


Because I homeschool my son for his safety, a traditional job is not feasible. At one time, I was a highly compensated executive. I often feel like the scholarships that these boys receive are merely compensation for difficult life decisions that families with dancing sons have to encounter. Trust me..I would rather pay the $5000 or so tuition than have my son have to avoid telling people what he loves to do, or greet new friends with statements like, "I dance but I like girls." It's a cruel and lonely world out there for these guys! We need to remember that and encourage them and their families to pursue this craft or we will not have any ballets left.

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