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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Readiness for the Non-dance Part of Residency?


learningdance

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learningdance

Perhaps this has been covered elsewhere. I could not find the topic within this forum.

 

We are entertaining the idea of our DD going to residency programs in the 9th grade. We are "exploring" and learning. DD is 7th grade but our decision making style as parents is to research and explore EARLY because we don't like making big parenting decisions quickly or without considering as many possible issues or situations as possible. Please don't scold me for being premature. We make tons of mistakes as parents. We have no idea what will happen the future, but we are not the sort of family to go to a summer intensive and then, when a program decides we are in for the fall, just send our kid. We need to fully investigate dorming, education, our own kids' readiness for this. I have ordered a book about boarding schools but I need more help .

 

But I am asking for sage advice from parents who have gone before.

How did you gauge your DD's/DS readiness for being away from home (psychological, needs for privacy, organization, ability to properly nourish, ability to deal with pressure, competition, and disappointment, ability to manage studies and deadlines on own?

 

Has anyone sent a 9th grader? We prefer for DD to have a cohesive 9-12 experience. In other words, we don't want to send her to the local school, have her figure that out, make friends, and situate, only to uproot her the next year. Perhaps this is unavoidable or the sacrifice one makes?

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Since we have just sent one child away, and have another who is the same age as your DD, with potentially the same plan, you are neither alone, nor are you premature!

 

Older DD was in the situation you describe in that she was asked at 15 to stay where she had gone for summer, and as badly as she wanted to go, she knew as well as my husband and I, that she was not ready. Our agreement was that she show us that she was ready throughout the year (last year), and we would be prepared should the opportunity arise again (which it did).

 

She has always been very organized, and she had already developed and was well aware of the importance of healthy eating (she also has a minor health issue that is diet-related, so she had, over the years, become aware of how diet affected her daily well-being and her physical performance). We had her learn to cook some basic meals, and she had learned how to do laundry at Summer Intensive. Coming from a studio with a competitive atmosphere, she had already dealt with that sort of pressure, and she had already experienced plenty of disappointment, so she had developed a pretty thick skin.

 

The biggest issue was doing schoolwork on her own and on time without assistance, but by last Spring, she was independent (though she still calls at least once a week to ask for some sort of clarification). Deadlines for school are still sometimes an issue, but learning to meet those is a life lesson that she will have to learn. Budgeting money has been a little bit of an issue as well, and one which is still evolving. I think that actually having gone to a regular school for the first two years of high school, in older DD's case, was beneficial, and not at all uprooting. It is important for her to have friends that are NOT ballet friends, and she was able to establish those friendships because she had the experience of a brick and mortar school (although she did have a part-day schedule).

 

However, every child is different, and we may make a different decision for younger DD as we are now investigating the possibility of a residential program for her come 9th grade. I don't think that we would change the "requirements" that we had for older DD, but we may adjust them if we know that she will be dorming rather than in a more independent living situation (as older DD is). Since we are still in the midst of this first year, I am sure that others will have much to add that DD (and us!) have not experienced yet. I look forward to hearing from those much wiser than I.

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How old is 9th Grade please?

 

9th grade is the first year of high school (grades 9-12). 9th graders usually start the year at age 14 and turn 15 sometime during the 9th grade year.

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I also have a 7th grade dancer looking at residency in 9th grade so I will be following this thread with great interest.

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I just want to give you a hug and tell you that you are not premature! You are a concerned parent who needs to be fully informed!

 

My DD is in 7th grade, I started researching alternative educational options when she was in 5th. I knew it was only a matter of time, assuming she stayed on her trajectory. She is homeschooling this year and I am very happy and comfortable with that choice... because we investigated so deeply that we were able to switch gear with confidence.

 

Best of luck to you and your DD, I will be following your story!

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Lots of things to think about depending on which schools you are looking into seriously, learning dance. Our dd attended a program which assesses dancers each year for continuation in the program. Mine was one of the lucky ones and was not assessed out, but she did see a lot of friends come and go in her time at the school. It would not be wise, in my opinion, to enter such a school in 9th grade and assume that one will be there for the duration of high school. Is it possible? Yes of course! But I would advise against going in with this expectation.

 

Another thing to be aware of - school expectations regarding holiday time and trips home. In our experience, as the students grew older there were higher demands in terms of rehearsals for school-related things. One year I lost airline miles as I'd booked a trip home for a long weekend, only to learn that dd was not given permission to leave due to rehearsals. Some of dd's friends would leave anyway without permission - but this didn't sit well with me. On the other hand, when we had a death in the family the school was very understanding.

 

School - hard to give advice here really as circumstances and so forth vary so widely from family to family. I would certainly not recommend that you send someone away to a residency program doing online school for the first time - however I"m sure many here have done so successfully; it just isn't something I"d suggest.

 

hope this helps.

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learningdance

This all helps and certainly helps me think about the characteristics that I am looking for and alerting me to issues that I haven't considered.

 

My reasons for *thinking* about a residency (and it may be that it is not appropriate for DD) are the following:

 

1. Training options are not great in our area. To get a schedule that is even close to what peers are taking I am supplementing with privates (yes it is necessary) and the cost is high.

 

2. I really prefer a place where academics are taught by live teachers. Our area is not arts-focused and I doubt that our HS would work with us to get her schedule right for early release for classes. But I am going to ask and see if it's possible because there is a nearby college where she could take many classes.

 

3. I feel that DD would do well in an environment where her peers understood her life. However, I do also value that she has non-dance friends in our community. Essentially DD has never been in a ballet studio environment where there are older peers for her to look up to or even a community of ballet dancers. She is kind of lone ranger in dance. No one else is as serious.

 

4. I want her to be nurtured and supported as a growing artist by adults who have high expectations but who will ultimately value her as a person. I am all about "toughening up" in adolescence. I have an older son but some places can just suck the love of dance right out of the kid.

 

Blanche, when you said that you had an agreement with her to show you that she was ready, what did that look like? (Doing own laundry? Functioning academically with not reminders? Choosing meals?

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learningdance, we just sent our 9th grade DD (14 going on 15 in February) last month to a performing arts boarding school. She was not selected from an SI and asked to attend, so our experience is slightly different from other posters, but still very similar regarding readiness. We made this choice with our DD because we felt that she had exhausted the training options at her home studio where she had been since the age of 5 , and wanted to continue training at a high level. We also chose the school because we wanted DD to have engaging academic teachers that supported artistic kids. We have never homeschooled or done online school, but have lots of friends that do. DD went to a private school before attending her current school and had lots of friends. She wanted a school environment (classes, clubs, dances, traditions, study halls, etc.) along with great ballet training. I hope that makes sense. So far, her new school IS the right fit for her.

 

DD began to show us her growth, maturity and independence through SI attendance away from home over the last several summers (managing an ATM card, laundry, living with a roommate, making healthy eating choices, etc). At her old school, she had become a diligent, resourceful student with her limited time, due to the demands of ballet classes and rehearsals. So we figured she could handle the academic work away from home. The boarding school has supports-both academically and artistically-for students. DD is a committed vegetarian and being around other dancers that are mindful of healthy eating helps, along with a meal plan from the school cafeteria. I think we all worry about whether or not they are eating well and not eating junk, but I do know there are very healthy options for them. As far as competition, I think that it's everywhere and DD seems to think it was far worse at her home studio than it is at her new school. That may be because the school works to encourage everyone's artistic talents. Of course, I could also be very naïve, but since DD is a freshman and we are so new to the school, my perspective could change-LOL. Our expectation is that DD will graduate from this school at grade 12.

 

I hope this helps. To all those who are researching, you are doing the right thing by weighing ALL the options/combo options. asking the questions. I wish everyone the best of luck in making these decisions for their precious dancers!

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Balletwatcher

I don't know if this will help you, learning dance, but here is the way our journey to the residential program went:

 

When DD was in seventh grade, we were advised by that we needed to send our DD to a pre pro school as soon as possible. We knew nothing about the world of Ballet, so I guess that was when we started nosing around, finding out some information about what was available. The closest residential ballet program is 2 hours from our small town. We sat down together at a family meeting, and DD said that there was no way she was leaving home anytime soon (phew, decision could be put off a while!). She stayed at her home studio, augmented by some long car rides to the city for the occasional extra lesson. Summer intensives confirmed that she acted responsibly when miles from home. Specifically, she did not get homesick, could handle money well, stayed in touch with us enough, and made good decisions re friends and food and activities. She was finishing middle school and we had the school discussion once again. She did not want to attend any of the local public or private high schools. So we asked if it was time to audition for boarding school. She seemed excited at the possibility this time and had a great time at the audition. We knew it was time to make the leap, but it took six months of agonizing before sending her to a pre pro boarding school for 9th grade. In the end, we thought that we just couldn't hear those words spoken, "I might have been..."

Things have gone very well since then. :rolleyes:

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Blanche, when you said that you had an agreement with her to show you that she was ready, what did that look like? (Doing own laundry? Functioning academically with not reminders? Choosing meals?

 

Yes, yes, and yes! DD had two potential options for this year, one of which was a school with a built-in academic component, and the other, which would require her to complete her high school credits through an online school. We agreed that she needed to take an online course last year to see if she could function in that academic environment. She also had to take the initiative to complete all homework/projects, etc. as well as maintain good grades. For her, moving in the direction of independence academically was a journey; she works very hard to achieve what she does but schoolwork is not easy for her. By Spring, she had taken full responsibility for her academics. School was the biggest sticking point for us as finishing high school is non-negotiable (though she agrees).

 

The past few summers away seemed to give her laundry autonomy, so that was not an issue. We have always included our girls in meal preparation, and over the past few years, she learned how to make some basic meals on her own. She enjoys cooking, so that was a plus. Our family has had a weekly allowance in place for years as well, and she had to show us that she could live within a budget both at home and during the summer.

 

Given that we live close to an urban area, she also had opportunities last year to venture out with friends, with the caveat that she maintain appropriate contact with us and act responsibly. She is a rule-follower by nature, but acquiring some "street sense" didn't hurt, either.

 

Hope that helps.

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My daughter attended her first SI when she was 11 and she attended one every summer after through high school. She handled her money well, made good choices on food, and always found nice friends. I let her go to a residency program when she was 15 turning 16. We both thought that getting with like-minded kids would be good for her and that the intense ballet instruction would help her move toward the next step in ballet. She was a serious bunhead, rule-follower, and hard worker, at the time living and breathing dance, and felt that a residency program would be the perfect place for her. She, however, struggled with the other "like-minded" kids at residency as we found out her mind wasn't like the others. She went to dance, cooked and baked and watched TV and studied in the evenings, attended church (a mile walk each way) on Sundays and came home as often as we would let her. Many of these kiddos, on the other hand, went to dance in the day and partied at night pretty much every night. It was a lively, fun group of girls and boys, however my daughter didn't want to be involved in this kind of "fun" and really didn't know how to handle the situations she was facing.

 

My advice for what it's worth, is talk to your child about your expectations and let them voice what they expect and what they hope for out of a residency program. Be open, upfront and honest with what they may be faced with, giving your children hypothetical situations that could possibly arise, like under-age drinking and sex, and help them come up with different ways to handle peer pressure and dealing with people who make different choices than you. These certainly weren't bad kids, just kids who were facing a new-found freedom and weren't making, in my daughter's opinion, the greatest choices. My daughter in the end made all the good-girl choices, but they came at a high price. She spent a year getting great ballet instruction, but she had few to no friends. In the long run her dance suffered because she was miserable without friends. Now are all residencies like this? No, of course not. But to say this was the only one is just as silly an idea. I asked my daughter recently if she felt she had made the right choice that year going away and she said yes it was the better decision at the time. She said she probably wouldn't have achieved as much as she has in her ballet life without having attended this residency. I ask myself sometimes if I felt we made the right choice that year letting her go, and I can honestly say, if I had to do it again I'd keep her home.

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Ahh residency. It has made my daughter a much more independent person. She has had to make some hard choices. It is a highly competitive environment with no room for friendships. She has had to watch her classmates make bad choices and separate herself from the pack, based on her judgment. She has had to be very guarded with her thoughts and feelings. She has been bullied by other students and been a witness to bullying done to other students, with little to no accountability. You really do have to have a tough skin. If you go in without one, you will definitely leave with one. It gets really difficult when the student gets older and it comes time for auditions and company eligibility. That's when the fun dies and a new dynamic is born -- it becomes intense. She is in her last year, and is walking away with a couple of life-long friendships. However, when they all go their separate ways, it will be interesting to see if those bonds remain. I hope so.

 

Ballet training has been the best that she has ever experienced. Truly it was the right decision for her training as a ballerina. However, she may not end up getting a contract this year, negating the whole idea of whether or not it was a good choice. She will then move on to perhaps a college residency. Residency at a young age is a double-edged sword. Proceed with caution.

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