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Boston Ballet School for a 12 year old


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Hi Everyone,

 

I'm a fairly new member looking for advice and experiential anecdotes. My daughter turned 12 in July and is feeling more serious than ever about wanting to have a shot at a dance career. We live in central NH and she has been dancing at different area schools since she was four. I'm no expert but I believe her training thus far has been pretty good. Am I correct in thinking that she's at the age where we need to up the ante? I spoke with a very helpful person at Boston Ballet and my daughter is now signed up to take a placement class next week in the Intermediate II level. After this level, a select number are chosen for the "Pre-Professional" track. Others continue on in their classical classes.

 

Switching to Boston would be a huge thing for us. It is a 1 and a 1/2 hour drive each way and it would be 4-6 days a week. The other option is Walnut Hill's Community Dance Program. She loved the placement class there last week but I have since gotten mixed reviews on the school, from people who I generally trust and who don't have a personal gripe against the place. WH is pretty affordable if you're not a high school student. But can anything in my area compare to the training and advantages BB has to offer? I guess I'm looking to see if there's a consensus that this would definitely be worth the effort at this point in my daughter's dance life.

 

Thank-you very much!

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  • Victoria Leigh

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  • dancemaven

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  • dustbunny

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  • Sayaggy

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Sayaggy, Welcome to BT4D! We are glad you found us and look forward to getting to know you and have you join in our myriad discussions.

 

We do encourage you to take some time to nose around the site to see what all we have to offer and all the great experiences and wisdom shares by our collective members. We have a forum especially for Parents of Dancers Under 13, along with great forum on dance education, both at the pre-pro level and college/beyond.

 

We also encourage our new members (and old) to take a moment and review our Rules and Policies, along with the Pinned threads at the top of each Forum. Those Pinned threads will help guide with how the site works.

 

For your particular question, I would suggest that you review the dedicated threads for Boston Ballet and Walnut Hill in the Pre-Professional /Residential School forum: http://dancers.invis...howforum=147The threads are arranged alphabetically, so they will be easy to find.

 

In addition, you might check out pertinent threads in the Finding a Pre-Pro Ballet School Forum http://dancers.invisionzone.com/index.php?showforum=155 . There the threads are arranged geographically (usually by State or country) and alphabetically. Some states have more than one thread as the area is subdivided. You may find more information on the non-residential schools in those threads.

 

It is BT4D policy NOT to provide direct comparisons between schools or programs nor to provide recommendations among schools. We do provide the first-hand experiences of our members as empirical information to help a dancer and parent decide what school or program may provide the best training opportunity for their particular dancer, given their needs, their family situation, etc.

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You might also check out the Kolton Academy in Brookline, and, if Pittsfield, ME is any closer to you, Bossov Ballet. These programs are listed in our Pre-Professional/Residential School forum.

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Thank-you Ms. Leigh and Dancemaven,

 

I appreciate your pointing me in the right direction! I will spend as much time as I can reading and educating myself. My initial impression is that many dedicated parents have made much bigger life changes for their aspiring dancers than I am considering. Driving three hours a day actually sounds pretty simple in comparison to some!

 

We are a full three hours from Bossov but I will look more into the Kolton school. I know that there are many wonderful programs once you get into the Boston area. BB seems appealing to me because of the very structured process of moving up and on. My daughter has been moved along so quickly that at age 12 she is now at her small school's highest level. Certainly she demonstrates some ability, but she has no where to advance to now in terms of higher level classes. Thus, I feel like I need to make a change to somewhere and I might as well try to go big and get it right since she's at a pivotal (I think) age.

 

Do you think I should post anywhere about our recent experience at WH? The Community Dance Program is being run by a new person this year who is making some changes, primarily in using a Chechetti (sp?) syllabus. My daughter thought it was the best class she ever did!

 

Thank-you again,

 

Sayaggy

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You could post in the Walnut Hill thread on the Pre-Pro/Residential School forum. (Cecchetti)

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Dear Sayaggy,

 

As a parent who drives approximately this distance/length of time 5 or more days per week to commute to my 13 year-old DD's ballet school, I urge you to think quite seriously about whether both you and your daughter are ready to make this commitment--it is a huge investment of time, energy, and money, especially with gas nearing $4 per gallon (around $15 per day in gas alone) on top of huge school tuition costs.

 

Even with my husband and I splitting the driving, it can be exhausting to everyone in the family and a big drain on your finances. Both parents and siblings need to adapt to the dancer's schedule, and dinners together at home become a rarity. Vehicle maintenance also becomes an issue when you're adding a commute of 500 miles a week. Driving in the dark, in New England winters, after a full day at work and school, can be even more tiring.

 

We made this choice because "there is no where else to go:" There really is no dance studio where we live and work. And we don't regret it--DD is thriving--though there are times when it's tough on everyone. But we made certain we exhausted absolutely every other available option before doing it.

 

So it can work--I don't mean to sound pessimistic--but I would weigh your options very, very carefully so that you and your DD and family don't burn out. 12 seems a bit young to me. Does she realize that she can get excellent training at places other than Boston Ballet, or is she lured by the big name and/or belief that if she studies there, she'll become part of the company? Could she try a summer intensive there when she's older instead? Could she take some private classes at your current school to supplement her training and challenge her further? There is a lot to consider...I hope your decision process goes well!

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If your family decides that the commute to Boston is too big of a commitment at this time, you might want to take a look at Southern NH Dance Theater. They are located just south of Manchester and do offer excellent training along with some performing opportunities. If you call them, you can ask if they have had students continue on to professional ballet careers. I believe that they have. My daughter attended their summer workshops for several years when she was in middle school and loved everything about them.

 

I appreciate your enthusiastic “Go big or go home” attitude, and I am not in any way trying to discourage you from Boston Ballet, but as posted above, such a commute will cause wear and tear on your family as well as your car! If your daughter is only 12 and already in the highest level of her school, then you are right that it is time to move on. I’m only offering another option for you to consider. As many board members wiser than me have said, “There are many roads that lead to Rome.”

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Dear Dustbunny,

 

Thank-you for your thoughtful and honest response, I really appreciate it. I've been weighing all of your questions for a while now and I'm admittedly unsure about what to do next. Maybe if I give a bit more information then I'll get even more good advice.

 

My daughter is 12 and has been taking ballet since age four. It has always been "her thing." We have made drives 55 minutes each way at different times. For two years we did that three times a week, four during Nutcracker. For the last two years she has been closer to home at a much smaller school where she gets a lot of attention. She takes six classes a week: four technique, one pointe, one modern/jazz. However, as I wrote initially, she is already at that school's highest level. In addition, I talked an excellent teacher from the farther school to come up and teach closer to home. She takes 4 classes, very small, with him, including Character.

 

In some ways it may seem like enough and it's certainly fairly convenient. But for someone who really wants it, is it enough? When compared to what WH and BB have to offer it seems insufficient and like the kids in those types of programs will be the ones with the very best chances, understanding that there are never any guarantees in anything, especially dance.

 

We homeschool, which helps a lot, my husband is supportive, my only other child, a 9 year old son, dances also, and I know we can afford more than we're currently spending. I'm not sure what BB would cost; I guess I'll find out soon.

 

A young woman, very talented, danced with my daughter four years ago at the farther studio. She switched to BB, got into their Pre-Pro, spent a few years in it and this summer joined PNWB's company. She is certainly not the norm but it does seem unlikely that she would have done so well if she had not gone farther from home.

 

I really am open to all thoughts and ideas on this; that's why I wrote to begin with. My mind is not made up-I'm in the exploratory phase. My biggest question is really this: at what age is it really crucial to "go big" if the person is to really have a chance? At 12 my daughter has the body type but her projected height is only 5' 4". She has good feet for pointe. She has the love and drive. In other words, I've long been told that she has "what it takes." The limiting factor will possibly be training and our ability to provide the best for her.

 

I hope this doesn't come off as sounding boastful. My daughter is not a "phenom" but I think she could be a contender. Like all of the parents on this site, we want to help her realize her dreams, if possible. Knowing what is the best path is the most excruciating part of this process for me. I know we'll have to muddle through it on our own but I really will appreciate more words of wisdom from some of you who have been there, done that.

 

Thanks again, Dustbunny.

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Hi EAC,

 

Our posts crossed; thank-you for writing. Southern New Hampshire Dance Theatre (aka SNHDT) is a very good school and is the very one I was referring to as the "farther studio." My children have both had good experiences there and I recommend them frequently. It's not that they don't provide good training, they do. But as that one dancer realized, they just aren't on the same scale as the Boston area schools. I have been thinking that if I'm going to drive almost an hour each way, why not go all out and head into Mass? We can use the driving time for foreign language, math games, even viewing programs like NOVA if we get an i pad that gets mobile internet. Back to my big question, modified now: Say I take her back to SNHDT after the holidays. She turns 13 next July. At what age would it really be almost crucial to switch to a bigger, for lack of a better word, pre-pro school? It's clear to me that if I could give her the moon she should be at SAB or somewhere like that. I can't do that for her. But I might be able to pull off Boston area. I would like to keep our lives sort of sane for as long as possible; so when do I head on the path to insanity? Is there any sort of strong opinion on this? I do a lot of reading and I've been led to believe that she is fast approaching that crucial age.

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We homeschool, as well--but find that by the time we get in the car, we've had enough! And after class, when it's dark, audio books or silence are preferable to anything else. You need to decide for yourselves whether adding to a 55-minute drive is reasonable. There is a huge, huge difference between a 60-minute and a 90-minute commute, even though it doesn't seem like much when you consider it. Sometimes you can use the time constructively, and other times it's just a long drive that you have to endure.

 

Our "small" school has placed several dancers in big companies, including ABT and Kirov, after summer intensives at the big names--but they didn't even start attending these SIs until they were 14 or older, had gone through puberty and were emotionally/physically ready. They studio helped them make the move to the next level. It's just one opinion and experience, but we didn't take the plunge into the long commute until my DD had made those transitions and it was quite clear that she wanted and understood the demands of a more professional track.

 

You might think of it this way: Is your DD ready for two, full-time jobs--her schooling and her dance--plus a daily commute? She may be. But she also might want to have some time to just be a kid, and she may not even realize that. My DD loves to socialize with her dance classmates, and that's tough when they're so far away.

 

If she is talented at a young age 12, she'll only grow that talent through the years with her hard work and dedication to dance. I would keep it simple and sane as long as you can. Are you comfortable about talking with her current teachers about making a move? Have they recommended that she go to a school that offers more at this point? They might have valuable thoughts, as well. If they're truly interested in her dance education, they might even help you with your decision!

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Hi again and thank-you Dustbunny!

 

Everything you have said makes loads of sense. I really don't want to burn any of us out-something I have avoided thus far. One good thing is that we are checking out schools/programs with another NH family who would assist in the commute. They currently drive to Bossov every weekend so they are already feeling tired from just four weeks of Nutcracker rehearsals. It will be interesting to compare/contrast my children's experiences with WH and BB. They have placement classes at the BB Newton studio next Friday. I was thinking that if we started mid-year it will probably only be four days a week-at least that's how much for my daughter at WH based on the level she was recommended for. That would give us a chance to see how we all like it and if it's a sustainable thing to do long-term. We would have the benefit of longer days, a couple of vacation breaks, and seeing how the end of year performance requirements affect us all. I'm pretty sure I can handle almost anything for just four or five months. It might be a good way to gauge how serious my daughter is and if she really wants it compared to the sacrifices to her free time that she would have to make (not that she has much right now with 10 classes a week plus rehearsals for the holiday show.) I'm thinking that if nothing else, they'll get some really interesting experiences out of it, we'll do more cultural things in the Boston area that we've long wanted to do, they'll get some really solid technique training and we'll learn more about ourselves. If it seems like too much then we could commit to the fall demands at either SNHDT or the local programs they've been enjoying with renewed appreciation hopefully. So, it's sort of like a long, intensive trial period in my mind. Does that make sense?

 

It's amazing how many dance/homeschool families there are. One third of their small studio is made up of homeschoolers. It's a decision I made when my daughter was in utero, but it certainly helps make things less crazy for dancing hours. We don't get home until 8:00 or later three nights a week but my kids have the good fortune to be able to sleep past 8:00 am and get the rest they need so badly.

 

Thanks again, Dustbunny for your insights. My daughter wasn't ready for a sleep away intensive last year. Next summer is a long way off but we're planning on SNHDT's 12 day intensive which I know first hand is really excellent. If we go thru with any change this January, our summer will feel like a real vacation in comparison!

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So, it's sort of like a long, intensive trial period in my mind.

 

I would only add that sometimes it can be difficult to get the toothpaste back into the tube! I have seen so many friends of mine do the most amazing, complex arrangements to further their child's ballet training (we're talking way more than a 3 hour daily drive), and often it becomes a permanent part of their lives. Once the child has tasted finer fruit, and made relationships and dreams, it isn't always such an easy thing to simply go back to the way things were. I'm not saying don't do this - I think you have to go with your gut - but also be aware that it might turn into something that is emotionally harder to get out of than you currently may think.

Edited by LovesLabor
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It sounds as if you have decided and have listed lots of reasons to justify your decision to go to Boston. But lots of dancers appear at big schools/companies late in their training. I used to think the bigger the name the better the training. I have come to learn that is not always the case! Classes can be large and individual attention is hit or miss. I wish you good winter weather and an excellent car! Let all of us here know how her placement class goes. You will certainly have a clearer idea of what your choices are after that.

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I have to agree with bunbun's post above. Its not always the best choice to go bigger mainly because the class sizes are that much bigger. She could be placed in a class of 25 to 30 students... Also, the traffic in Boston is very tight especially in the South Boston area during rush hour... So, on top of your 1 and 1/2 hour commute you also need to add on time for traffic, finding a place to park (almost non-existent) unless you pay at a garage $$$. I'm not trying to discourage your choice, but she is young and time is on her side. You could have her attend their SI this coming summer and see if she really likes it there before investing so much of your time and money now.

 

Good luck with your decision.

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Have you considered Portland Ballet in Maine? Their program continues to grow and their C.O.R.P.S program is run by Joseph Morrissey. She wouldn't be eligible for the CORPS program yet but they have good teachers. The commute would probably have less traffic than going into Boston.

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