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When did your DK go away to a residential program?


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DD is 13 and will be going into high school next fall. She has never gone to an away SI, only the one at her studio. She has a great facility, feet and musicality.


I am feeling a bit burdened by decisions that need to be made in the near future and could really use some input from those who have 'been there done that'. I tend to get things bouncing around in my mind until I get overwhelmed and I am just trying to vent a bit.


DD is at a very small studio with very good training and very good performance opportunities. She has quality teachers and the appropriate number of dance hours for someone who is on a pre-pro track. The studio has a student company which she is a part of.


I would love to keep her home, and think she will continue to grow as a dancer, though her 2nd year of high school. That would mean leaving at home the age 16 for more serious training.


I wonder though, if that is doing her a disservice and if she will be too far behind other dancers if she is accepted into a residential that late while so many others begin at 14.


On the other hand the additional time at home with family and the attentive small studio would be good for personal/emotional growth.


If you have a dancer who moved away from home to go to a pre-pro school I would love to hear your experiences. I am probably over thinking this (although it is a huge deal!) and maybe I should just encourage her to audition to various SIs and just see where the chips fall. I would like to do what is best for her, and sometimes that is hard to see from so close.

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If your DD is getting solid training at home there is no reason to send her to a residential program. I would start with an away SI and see how she does. Some children thrive in that environment but not everyone and that's ok. Now take the SI experience and make it longer, add on academics, parenting via distance and then see if that's still a good fit. If she is getting solid training at home I wouldn't worry so much yet.

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Ditto what Bunhead Mama said. It's very important for dk to experience at least one(if not more) SI's before considering residential. Our experience is four away SI's and one full year of "normal" high school before letting dd live away and do online high school. Now dd is in year two of residential and online school. She is 16 and although she is happy to be away, she does get homesick. She chose (with our support of course) her path but let me say, her first SI (age 13) she cried for almost a week straight. We thought we would have to bring her home. As we waited each week out, she enjoyed it more. Thank goodness!

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I would agree to that. My DD left at to attend a three letter residential school her senior year of high school. For us, we learned it was a huge mistake. She also comes from an amazing home studio. Since she plans to go straight to a trainee/second company, we thought we were making the right decision. I'm not saying it's wrong to go, but you need to weigh many more factors into if it's the right decision. We were told many things about this school. But in reality, she danced far less hours than at home. Took less forms of dance than at home, and the promise of the possibilities to dance in their professional company performances were not reality. she didn't receive any guidance whatsoever from the school directors. She didn't have any access to PT or Pilates, like promised. It was a huge financial sacrifice for us that we were willing to give in hopes that it would further her chances with that company. Worst of all, she suffered some major self confidence issues.


This isn't the case for all residential programs. Just our experience. After having an amazing summer elsewhere, she is now doing MUCH better and is now in a different program enjoying their program.


This is a big decision. Wherever she may be invited to attend, do research on what classes they have, what the living conditions are, where their graduates are. And by all means, keep asking questions until you think you have all your questions answered. I would also speak to parents who attend the school currently. Residential programs are not all equal. And isn't always necessary, especially if your home studio is exceptional.

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I was in your shoes last year. The stress got worse for me when a well-respected (as in national awards and a good career) told us that our son needed to go away "now or never". Talk about pressure! He was a new dancer so I drove myself to distraction visiting and researching residential schools with him. In the end, he decided to stay home and that was the right decision. I'm not sure if he is getting the top instruction available in the U.S. (the jury is out), but that doesn't much matter as he wasn't ready to go away. One thing that I found is that the residential schools vary a lot (as mom2kaipar points out). I have seen several dancers drop out of a program that wasn't a good fit so it's best to spend time looking at all the options and to listen to your dancer. They will know when it's time and it's your job to make sure that they look at various options (if funds permit) - have her spend at least a few hours of meeting the instructors and dancing there before making any decisions (if she can spend an SI at her top options, even better). Take your time, be patient - and the answer will reveal itself.

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My dd was at a very small, but very good ballet program until just this fall. It was always in her plans to go to a residential program when she turned 16. I have to say that she basically outgrew her home studio. If the training and performance opportunities were still beneficial to her, I would guess that she would still be home. By auditioning for summer intensive programs, it allows you to see where your dd and her training stacks up compared to others around the world. If she is receiving merit scholarships to the programs then you will know her training is better than good enough. In that case, my opinion is that she doesn't need to go away. Just my two cents...

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Noodles, have you taken the opportunity to do a Search regarding your question? I know there have been multiple threads where folks have shared their experiences over the years. It is a recurrent question and I know there is a lot of wisdom, experiences, and food for thoughts shared in older threads.


I would definitely encourage you to take some time to look through some of the other discussions for more insight. :)

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Although DD had several opportunities at the age of 14 yrs to move away from home to further her ballet training, for a multitude of reasons we decided to keep her at home. We too were warned that DD would fall behind and would lose her chance to pursue her dream.


There were definitely compromises, DD's number of hours training per week were at the lowest end of the recommendations on this site and the quality of training was perhaps not as high as it may have been if she had moved away. However against the odds DD did gain a place at a European pre-professional school affiliated with a company and moved overseas to take up the place when she had just turned 17 years. She has handled the transition incredibly well but has definitely struggled at times, particularly with home sickness. I am just so grateful that she did remain at home for so long. Although she is behind in strength and ability compared with many of her fellow students who moved to more serious training at around 14 years, her teachers certainly feel she can catch up within the next year or two. The other positive side to the less intense training pathway that DD took is that she graduated from high school with a university entrance qualification and place and has had minimal injuries, unlike the majority of her cohort.


From what you have written it sounds like your DD is at a fabulous school and even better living at home. I think there have to be exceptional circumstances for a young teenager to move out of home, especially a dancer.


It's been said many times on this board but "we're not raising dancers; we're raising children who dance." That's what helped me most when making those hard decisions!

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Victoria Leigh

Noodles, I have said this many times, in many places on the board, but will say it again. If the child is receiving both quality and quantity training at home, I see no need to send them away. Excellent training is excellent training, whether it is in a tiny town, a big city, a small school, or a residential school. If a child does not HAVE to leave home in order to receive the needed quality and quantity of training, then why would one even consider it?

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Noodles I am in the same boat, so I really value this thread. I would say that if you DD has not gone to an away SI for a substantial period of time (4-5 weeks) it might be hard to know how your DD would connect with the boarding setting.



I think that in terms of sending away. The training is a consideration (quantity and quality) but so much as well. The environment and its supportivenss (or not). The academics. The 'vibe" of the place.


For our DD I am a bit worried about the degree to which she is feeling isolated in her own home town. She has her family and loves our family life, so that's a consideration but there are NO serious dancers in our town. She has NO close dance friends with whom to share her experiences. She goes to regular school and she has several friends but she just doesn't have people who understand her. The lack of peer group also means that she does not have a cohort of same-age dancers who can "challenge" her. .. . There's fine line, as a think one poster pointed out. . . Too much competition, lack of attention from teachers. . .that can destroy confidence but lack of challenge, peer group, and connection to like-minded friends is a problem too for social development.


But our training situation simply lacks the # of hours. She is not getting what she needs and the options to get those hours are home schooling, which I cannot do as a career woman.


I have been trying mightily to make sure that DD has social opportunities. I had friends over before the HS football games and I create times with her friends. She volunteers. It's just hard though.

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I want to add an insight that I thought about. . .


As a parent I am blending what a dance teacher says about necessary dance training with what I believe DD needs for whole person development . It is definitely possible that a dance teacher may be exactly right with the assessment of the need to go away for dance training "now or never" BUT a kid who doesn't possess the life skills to do it, needs a certain academic situation, thrives with a more personal approach, isn't ready or would be psychologically overwhelmed shouldn't go. . .


Great dance training won't take on a miserable, homesick, disorganized, unhappy kid. In fact, it's possible that the wrong setting could really break the kid.


So dance teachers are (usually) giving very specific advice about dance training but that's not all that must be considered. I am sure that most consider that parents will consider the other factors and that most know that those things are critical to success.

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I am breathing a sign of relief this morning as I read all of your thoughts on the topic.



If a child does not HAVE to leave home in order to receive the needed quality and quantity of training, then why would one even consider it?


I am only considering it because I believe it may be the only way to be competitive in this highly competitive field!


Although in my gut, I know she is better off at home for a few more years. She is already taking an alternative route to her education, a independent study program. I would only consider a residential with dorms, a cafeteria and academic support. I know that she would thrive better in a more nurturing environment....so I have a bit of a short list of potential schools. However if she stays home until she is older then some of that changes.


Ulike Boydancermom, I have not been told by an outside source 'now or never' in fact DD's studio believes that kids should stay though high school, even the few who have dance career dreams.


DD is on a great track, she gets nice roles and would definitely miss out on that if she went away and become one of many, instead of one of a precious few. She is also very attached to the girls at her studio, they are all dear friends, I would hate to take that away. The older dancers take the younger ones under their wings and treat them like little sisters, watch out for them and mentor them. DD has dear friends who are both older and younger than her, some are her mentors and some she mentors. I really have more reasons for her to stay home than to go away, which is why I feel tormented and needed to hear from others about your experiences with sending your DKs away.


Dancemaven, I will search for other threads as well...I was having a moment and felt the need for a more direct conversation. It means so much to have these connections with people who I do not even know but are living the same crazy life. My own friends think this whole ballet adventure is weird!


I guess our approach to her first SI this year should not be influenced by looking for a 'potential residential', but we should instead just look for one that appears to just be a positive experience. This takes a huge load off of my mind.


Edited to send some hugs to learningdance. Is your DD on BT4D?

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...I was having a moment and felt the need for a more direct conversation. It means so much to have these connections with people who I do not even know but are living the same crazy life.

We totally understand the need to reach to those who are dealing with the same thing. This is not the first conversation we've had about this (nor will it be the last). However, it is totally worth your time to read what others have experienced in the past - that is why we keep all of these threads, so that parents can see that this experience isn't new, and that everything will be okay!! :thumbsup:

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Lately, I have had interesting conversations about going away to train and my conclusion is that dancers become the dancers they are going to be, regardless of the note-worthiness of the school. Now, if your local situation is truly lacking (in quality and/or quantity), then that's another consideration but if your local situation really is up to par, I would say keep her home as long as you can - even through all of high school.


We were fortunate DDs grew up with decent company-affiliated training (mid-sized regional) but some dancers do go off to big-name programs each year, starting as early as 14. It's been interesting to observe these dancers when they occasionally come back home or are at the same SIs (sometimes I can see first hand, sometimes the feedback is from DDs and their friends). I think there is this thinking that when a dancer goes off to the big name school (and I've observed dancers going to three of what would be considered in the top tier "three-letter" or equivalent schools and a couple residential conservatories) that there will be some sort of exponential growth that would not have otherwise been achieved at home. Two, three years later, are these dancers lovely? Yes, of course they are. Are they being trained well? Yes, of course they are. Did they have an exponential growth over their peers who stayed home? Not that I or DDs can tell and I might even say some might have fared better at home. Have the families made huge personal and financial sacrifices? Definitely and only each family can decide if it has been worth it.


Noodles - one things that strikes me about your situation is that your DD has not been to any SIs outside of her home studio yet. That's step number one. I'm not sure you can truly know whether or not she is getting the quality training at home until she and you can see other training first hand. SIs are hugely important for DDs to evaluate their progress against others and determine if their year round training is meeting their needs.


learningdance - your situation might be more pressing for getting to a bigger pond for training but sometimes big fish in a small pond is a good thing. My DDs have actually left the mid-sized company pre pro for their senior year to train with a particular coach who teachers at a rec studio - they were training privately with him two or three times a month for a couple years now and, after a stint in the pre-pro conservatory level at their company-affiliated school, DDs decided they would benefit from having this coach more frequently instead of as a supplement to their traditional training.


There is no right answer. Research as much as you can, recognize when you are being served "kool-aid" and trust your gut.

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Don't take the cart before the horse so to speak! She needs to go away for an SI first to see if she even likes the more competitive, more focused environment. I agree with others. If her training is good, if she is talented, there is not a reason to assume that residency is the only choice. But if you decide to go that direction, I would certainly not consider it unless she has been away first to a quality away SI.

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