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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Will my 12 year old survive a 5 week SI??


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My DS has done a 5 week SI at his own studio for the past 3 years and did a 2 week SI in NYC when he was 9. Since the one in NYC didn't have housing we went with him.


This year DS is finally old enough to audition for the bigger 5 week SIs and his school director thinks he should go away to one this year. He has several that she has discussed with us that he is interested in and she feels confident he will get in.


Here's the dilemma. DS will do just fine with the dancing and socializing but we are worried about him handling the rest of the SI. We just can't imagine this kid getting out of bed and getting to class on time without someone to constantly prod him, I imagine him never doing laundry, and I think his meal choices would be attrocious!!


Has anyone dealt with this before? I'm not concerned with him being gone, I am divorced so he has gone back and forth to his dad's house and my house since he was a baby - he is just fine being away from home and makes friends easily. But I'm afraid that he won't be able to get up on his own and get to class which will result in him getting kicked out. Did anyone else have these kinds of concerns?

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hi finallykf- when our DS was about 12 he went away for an SI for a week on his own. Not 5 weeks I grant you but still... I wondered how on earth he would manage that but he seemed to do it just fine. He got caught up in the flow with the older kids and the dorm routines. He and I talked about good food choices and what would happen to his performance if he didn't eat properly. I would have similar anxieties as you about a 5 week program but our DS did just fine with a shorter one on his own. So I guess he would have done the same thing on a longer one. What I also know about my DS is that at that age he would not have coped energy wise with a long program regardless of being with us or on his own. I am sure someone with direct experience of that end of things will give you their comments. Here in Australia we don't have such long programs.

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I would be concerned energy wise also. My DS is also 12 and I am letting him audition for a 10 day program and a 2 week program that are being held a month apart (and would let him attend both). He has been invited to audition for a 4 week at his home school but I don't think he could handle it physically. I watched how much the 20+ hour a week Nutcracker and regular class load took out of him and I don't think he is physically ready.

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My son just turner 12 last year when he went for his first 3 wks SI away from home. By the end of it he was begging to stay for the rest of the term (another 3 wks), but we couldn't afford it time and money-wise. This summer he will go away for 6 wks, he will just turn 13 by that time.

There are rules and counselors, as well as peer pressure, so I wouldn't worry about waking up for the breakfast and classes. Personal hygiene and laundry on time - another issue, but they have to learn and DS did manage to stay afloat among all these new responsibilities as well as he could. So, I wouldn't worry about waking up or doing laundry.

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He did just fine with his past programs in terms of energy. The one in NYC he was ready to go site-seeing every night after class because he found that one rather easy compared to his home studio. I have always been surprised that he isn't ready to drop after dancing from 9:00 to 4:30 every day at his home SI but he loves it. I have heard similar things from people at our studio about assuming he would end up being affected by everyone else and getting up and getting to class via peer pressure but they know him so I wanted to hear from people who don't know him. Someone told me when someone tells him he stinks - he will do laundry! Ha!!

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My DS attended his first 5 week SI at 12 years old. I think a 5 week resedecy program with room mates and counselors should be fine for your son.

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Mine did a 4 week at age 9 and started full year at 10. He Handled it just fine and is growing into a mature young man now. Good luck to your son, I hope he enjoys it.

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My son didn't go away for a summer intensive until he was 13/14 because I had those same worries. He is honestly a big space cadet and doesn't generally pay attention to life going on around him. I let him go to a 4 week summer intensive that first year and he did just fine with everything. The thing we have both noticed is that he does much better with the self care skills if he doesn't have anyone else to rely on. When he is at home, he just expects he will be taken care of and he doesn't have to deal with the details of when and where. Part of me thinks if he's taller than me, he should be able to take care of himself, the other part still thinks of him as my baby. Before he went away for the first time, I made sure he had plenty experience in doing laundry, cleaning, basic warming up of left overs, proper food handling, traveling skills, self care, etc. Last year, at age 15, he flew to his SI in another state with a layover by himself - no worries. He stayed there for 5 weeks, flew by himself to a different state to meet his teacher for a competition for 10 days, flew back to his SI by himself where he stayed for the remaining 2 weeks, and then flew home. He handled shuttles, layovers, and catching taxis all on his own like a pro. He always had clean dance clothes, got himself to class on time, and had a fantastic time. The only difficulty he had was remembering to take his medication when he was supposed to. At his SI this year, there were younger boys your son's age. If they could remember to behave themselves and not act like annoying little brothers, the older boys had no problems taking the younger ones under their wings and helping them out. The RAs were also fantastic and extremely helpful to all of the boys.

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My ds did his first residential 2-week s.i. last summer at 13, and he did struggle with some basics, like connecting with the group going shopping after class so that he could get laundry detergent so that he could wash his clothes. We working on laundry basics at home before the s.i., but what he really needed was the initiative to get the process started. This year, for his first 5-week intensive, I'm going to pack laundry detergent and a lot of quarters in his suitcase. He also lost his entry pass for the studio. All of the usual stuff. But none of the problems at the s.i. were insurmountable. And he had a great time.

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For laundry, I packed him a bag of those tide pods and some of those color catcher sheets in his checked luggage. No measuring - you just toss one of each in. The color catcher sheets also negate the need to sort colors/whites/etc so he could just do one load of dance clothes and be on his way. Greatest inventions since sliced bread!

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My son went to his first SI at 13. It was 6 weeks long, and I had very similar concerns as you. I knew he'd be fine with being away from home as he's quite independent and loves travel. But, he has ADD and isn't always responsible with his personal life.


Overall, he did well. The one problem he had was getting enough sleep. He and his 12 year old roomate stayed up late nearly every night, and he was exhausted by week 5. I also think he wasn't making wise eating decisions. Because of the exhaustion, weeks 5 and 6 were very difficult for him, and he was glad to come back home.


Last year, at 14, he went to an 8 week SI and it worked out perfectly. Since he had learned his lesson the previous year, at 14 he took much better care of his sleeping/eating needs, so he was stronger and more energetic/focused at Week 8 than he was at Week 1! .


If I had to do it all over again, I think I wouldn't have sent him to a 6 week program at 13. There are so many wonderful 3 and 4 week programs to choose from, and I think it might have been better for him to do something shorter. But, hindsight is 20/20, and he certainly has no regrets!

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My son went to his first SI at 13. He went to one that was only two hours away and I had two brothers that lived there. He did great. Much better than I did with him away. He came home with life skills .He started packing up his own lunch, food and protein shakes for dance and dance clothes. He has a twin brother, so it was very easy to see how he learned to take care of himself. Now I need to find somewhere for his brother to go.

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I agree with others that experience away on their own really jumps up their independent living skills! My son did his first 5-week SI at age 12 across the country. He was one of the youngest and so felt a fair amount of pressure to keep up with the older boys and follow their example (with hygiene, nutrition, etc.). The RAs were very strict about in bed and lights-out time, and since there were 3 in a room (and all on the same schedule), it would have been pretty hard to oversleep.


I did send the laundry detergent packets and lots of quarters. Dance clothes got washed regularly but I don't think the bed sheets ever got washed. He's done his own laundry at home since. (I do the sheets...)


I like to think of it like sleep-away camp - very normal for 12-year-olds to go away for 4 to 8 weeks and have a great time.

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My son went away to his first SI, which was a 5 week program living in a dorm, on his 12th birthday. On his 13th birthday, he went to a 6 week program living in the dorms. Both programs were a plane ride from our home. He is pretty responsible and good at waking in the mornings, and there were no issues at all. I do have another son who sounds like your son in terms of waking in the morning, etc, but despite my worries he had no problem going away to boy scout camp and following the routine. Just like school, where they have to learn the routines, I think that kids adjust well to the environment once they are there. When they know that mom and dad can't help them out, the step up. The bigger consideration would be whether your child is the type to get homesick. Surprisingly, my son didn't get homesick in either of his SI's, except the last week of the 6 week SI- but I am pretty sure that is because he was sick and it is no fun being away from home in the dorms when you are sick!

Good luck!

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