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Ballet Talk for Dancers

choosing a year round program

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My 16 year old daughter has always chosen her summer intensives based on what program was the most difficult to get into and where she thought she would get good training. She is almost 17 and is feeling like this next year she should think about going year round somewhere, and that will probably be determined by where she chose to attend this summer. Certain year round programs like PNB seem to be out of the question since she isn't attending their SI. She had several good options and has attended several good SIs, and chose the one that was her favorite and with the dancers she felt most challenged by.


Her concern is that she may be choosing a year round school with very slim chances of making it into the company. I'm thinking she still has two more audition seasons where she will be 17 and 18 at the time of the audition, but she is panicking because she feels like time is running out and she is getting too old. It is very hard to see a 16 year old wrestle with stress about making the wrong decisions for her future, so any advice would be appreciated!

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I think she is wise to go with the one that has the training that fits her best. I think any residential program that is attached to a company has very limited possibilities of a student being trained there becoming a company member. Even getting into the second company of many places does not at all guarantee a position in the main company. Get the training, try for the residential and learn all the lessons that come from the process with grace and thankfulness! Its going to be harder and more competitive as she heads out there - 16 is very young to worry so.

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Thanks Lady Elle, I can always count on the posters here to talk me down! At what age do they need to start thinking of smaller programs that might have more interest?

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Oh goodness! There are so many options its really just time for you and your daughter to start searching the internet (this web page is an excellent start!) and research. My daughter is also 16 (just turned) and is a sophmore. While she would love to attend a residential program her senior year, the reality of us being able to afford it is a bit slim. Summer Intensives are a stepping stone into a residential program so first, you have to be accepted into that! But I think there might be some programs that do not have an audition process?? Is that correct? Anyone?


For now - train train train... Research research research! Just like colleges (which is what we are doing now). And, don't worry!

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Sixteen is NOT OLD! Let me see if I can add some perspective from our personal experience. We are most familiar with The Royal Ballet School so I'll start there. At age 16, they accept students into their 3 year Upper School Program. It's vocational training and they graduate with a diploma in dance. Most of the students are 19-20 when they graduate although a few are one year younger or older. This school has an excellent history of dancers who graduate with contracts with a living wage so most then go into companies where they are the youngsters. A good director won't rush a young, developing professional- their bodies are still growing, the increase in demand increases the potential for injury, and just allowing a dancer to settle in helps their artistry. As Americans, our "time crunch" was the result of this upper school training juxtaposed with plan B which was college and the time frames for auditions, applications, and interviews (college). The timing is almost a "perfect storm" for the two plans. If a young dancer doesn't have a contract, do they engage plan B, do they take another year after high school for more training (still with no guarantees), or take a college course or two while dancing productions contracts. It's not an easy time for these young dancers!



I remember hearing stories about 16 year olds who were dancing in companies, professionally. Yes, there are a few rare examples but the vast majority of new professionals are at least 18. And those 16 year old prodigies are "at risk" for lots of things IMO: burnout, injury, rushed into roles that they aren't ready for (and, yes that shows onstage). Like a precious flower bud, it takes time and the right environment for it to become a fully bloomed flower.


For now,at sixteen your dd should be at a place that provides the very best training that you can afford for her to have. For summer: choose the SI based on that criterion. As flattering as it is for a dancer to be accepted to a competitive program, do your research. Ask if that program will give your dd enough personal attention and who the faculty is at the SI. If the website doesn't show who is teaching, call before sending your deposit and ask. Then consider possible year round programs. It is possible to audition for some schools without having attended the SI. If you have a few year round schools on your list, call and ask if they audition. If your dd is considering that school for SI, ask if that is influential for acceptance and scholarships to the year-round program. I guess what I'm saying is ask questions- so much of how this whole process evolves seems to have a whimsical, unpredictable nature. Take some control by asking questions. If a program doesn't want to answer your questions, that's a data point that you should note.


Lady Elle is absolutely correct: attending an SI and/or any year-round program does not guarantee a job as a trainee, apprentice, second company or member of the attached company. The best your dd can do is train well, and be ready for company auditions with a prepared variation, a mind-set to learn new choreography and even be thinking of some improvisation. If auditionees make it past the first cuts, those may be part of the audition. Make sure your dd's school is providing her the opportunity to be prepared!

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This advice has been quite helpful to us as well. Thank you, Swanchat, LadyElle, and Sagemom.

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