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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Prepping for discussion with studio on attending Residential PrePro at 16

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We are in the process of considering a Residential Pre-Pro program at age 16 for DD.  Audition will happen this spring, and due to COVID quarantine rules we may miss a couple weeks at the studio.  We are preparing to discuss this audition opportunity with the studio owner.  Studio owner is not a big fan of dancers leaving for training prior to 18.  Studio has never offered partnering, but training is otherwise excellent.  In last 10 years, out of 9 girls leaving, 2 are dancing professionally at regional companies whose schools they attended, and 4 are at big 3 letter name companies, whose schools they attended.  I know there are no guarantees, but our DD audition opportunity is at a big three letter name school. For what it is worth, there have been no dancers in the last 10 years who have stayed until 18 and then pursued ballet as a career.

As parents, we are still very hesitant for our DD to pursue ballet professionally, let alone send her off at age 16 to a residential program where we know nobody. DD did attend SI there.  We are new to the ballet world.  On the other hand, our daughter has received excellent training, has the ideal ballet body, and everything seems to fall into place for her as she has planned (bittersweet for us).  We also do realize the opportunity presented to her is quite an accomplishment.

DD is extremely concerned studio owner will not support whatever decision we make.  Overall, we don't want to burn bridges as we don't even know if DD will get into this school.  if she doesn't get in, we will most likely look into other schools for at age 17/Senior year of high school.

Looking for advice on conversations parents and teachers have had that were productive, and tips for the conversation. I feel studio owner will play the card that we should trust her and will question our ability to make this decision due to our inexperience. 

Thanks in advance!

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Dear Adf, my DD would have loved to be in your DD's pointe shoes at 16. She was asked to go to a residential program but they didn't have an academic school, and she would have to study online. We were not in favor of that and are very happy with her dance school which is part of a small professional regional ballet company so she has opportunities to experience professional performances and be in them. We did not want her going away before she graduated h.s. and did not have the means to pay for room and board and tuition before college (which is a possibility). Dancers have left our school to study at residential schools and the directors understood. Their advice was to not go to a school that wasn't a part of a company (if your goal is to dance with a company). One student who left completed her pre-pro training but still hasn't found a professional job. She gave up high school and did online school with other students in the house that was rented for the students. One friend chose a professional arts boarding school to finish the last two years of high school, and will go to college for dance. (She does modern/contemporary more than ballet.) Another friend left to go to a top ballet school which involved renting an apt. in the city, paying for private school tuition in addition to ballet school, and having family members take turns living with her which they made work. After  5 years of the intense training, she has decided to not pursue ballet as a career and go to college. (She will keep dancing there, but no longer wants to be a professional ballerina.) So 16 year old dreams can change. My DD wants to dance professionally as soon as possible, but with the pandemic affecting the arts, we are looking at college as a backup (pursuing a b.f.a.) with the hopes of dancing professionally either after her diploma or leaving when she gets a chance to dance and finishing school later.

You, of course, will have to decide what is best for your child and whether you can bear to have her away at this young age and in the very unstable world of the pandemic. No matter how much your child wants to dance, at this point she is still a child. Is she ready to be away from home? Is it very far away? Do they have top notch academics? Is the tuition really worth it? Is your dancer's body type what they are looking for? Being too short or too tall or being made to keep a certain weight for dance, can all hurt a dancer. One program that wanted my DD doesn't hire petite dancers so what would be the point? 

As for your home studio, in this day and age if your DD left and came back, do you think they wouldn't accept her back? All studios need your tuition. If they are professionally run, there should be no hard feelings. If your DD cannot receive a high-level of training there, I can understand your wanting to continue her dance education elsewhere. Pre-pro schools make money for the program, check out if their graduates are getting hired. Good luck to your DD!

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My advice would be to not cross this bridge until you come to it.  We don't know what this spring will look like- whether there will be a need to quarantine in both directions or whether there will even be an in person audition for this school your daughter is dreaming of. 

My daughter was in two very different ballet school environments. One with a director who sounds similar to where your daughter is, a local school with a strong program and a reasonable number of professional graduates, but a director who also told tales of dancers who left too early. There was always a level of concern about disagreeing with that or other policies, and there was a level of fear accompanying that.  Her second school drew from a much larger area and had dancers who came from other areas including international students. The philosophy there was different. Dancers should fly the nest for opportunities. They helped dancers sort out those opportunities when the time came. The latter was far more supportive. I suspect one difference was that the artistic faculty was larger. You didn't just have conferences with the one director, conferences were held with several of the faculty with a parent always there, no matter what the age of the student. Even international students had their parents in for conferences and meetings via teleconferencing. 

When and if the time comes, present as you did to us. You don't know that she would be accepted or that she would even go *if* accepted but this is something she would like to try and you are going to support that. 

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On 11/3/2020 at 12:20 PM, Adf said:

will question our ability to make this decision due to our inexperience

I had this conversation (several) with the studio my DD grew up in.  They too, did not want her to leave before 18.  And you are right to anticipate the above argument.  However, the way to prepare yourself is to do exactly what you are doing now.  Research, research, talk to your DD, research some more, talk to OTHER professionals, and research some more.  Finally, after you have been as OPEN to advice and thoughts as you possible can be, realize that YOU are the parent and YOU (and only you) have the best interests of your DD at heart.  No one knows as much about what your DD needs other than herself and YOU.  You have raised her.  You have a TON of "experience," so nip that argument/thought right in the bud.  The studio is only capable to advise you regarding their slice/section/knowledge of ballet training.  There is a whole WORLD of ballet outside of their experience and knowledge.  How relevant that other knowledge and experience will be to your DD, I cannot say.  But I can say that generalities about training are about as useless as generalities about anything....  this is your specific, individual DD... and you and she must weigh the knowledge, experience and advice you receive and determine whether or not it is applicable to her.  Even if it IS applicable, you will then also need to help your DD weigh risks/benefits of her decision.

In my DD's case, she knew from a young age (around 14-15yo) that she wanted to leave to go to a different training program when she was 17.  She told me that she would need different training (more artistry, more partnering, more concentration on HER weaker areas than her studio was giving or could give her).  We discussed this, and much like Marzipandreams, I struggled with allowing such a move to occur at that young of an age, even in a supervised setting.  After several discussions, I told my DD that she could leave home at 17 to pursue additional ballet training if she graduated from high school by then.  That required several summer courses and a high number of credits during the school year to occur, but she did accomplish it, and left for a residential program at 17.  

I only tell you all this to reiterate what you already know -- there are so many factors to weigh!  Therefore, a studio's blanket policy of "not leaving before 18" cannot rule your entire decision.  You and she must do the work to determine what she needs to grow and become an adult... and a ballerina.  

I will pass along one piece of advice I heard from someone who had walked before me and came back to tell me what she learned.  She said to me to NOT be in a hurry to leave the relative safety of "school" and "training" phase.  Despite what your DD may believe, there is PLENTY of time.  This mom told me not to worry about or rush through the "schooling" phase.  If the school/company likes you, they will keep an eye on you for quite awhile, whether or not you go to their school. 

In the U.S., the only time pressured school/company that I know is SAB/NYCB.  Because they limit their new hires mostly from their school, if you are past the age of 18, you are unlikely to be hired there past that age.  But that's it.  And that's only one company.  Every other company with which I am familiar are not really looking to hire 18 yos.  Don't get me wrong, some do hire that young, but if you look in the post grad forum, you will find that on average, the age of hiring professional dancers has crept up to about 20.  That's my opinion, anyway... others may disagree, but my guess is that with ballet companies struggling to put on productions, that age is unlikely to DECREASE. 

I hope that information is helpful... just keep in mind that you know your DD best, and there is no reason to rush into the "professional" world.  So, look at the type of training and life experiences she will need to mature, and that consideration is so much more than "ballet" training.  Good luck!

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Thank you all for the replies!  Marzipandreams, I hear you and also am concerned about a possible future career change decision.  But I guess many young adults today question the career they went to college for.  I wouldn't fault her for trying what she thought she liked at 16-18.  you really don't know until you get there.

MelissaGA, I also get the wait on the conversation.  Issue is I really don't want it to get out that she is going, and have the rumor mill flying.  She had to tell her few closest friends, but the longer we wait the risk goes up.

Eligus, as always you are full of great wisdom!

And fortunately, there is so much info on this board about how to choose a school, and is it the right fit that I now have my list of key points that we have considered and will have that with me during the conversation. I am pretty direct, and also plan that if the conversation starts to go into unhealthy range, to call out the fact that my DD loves the studio, and I really don't want our decision to affect that affection, between the Studio Owner and my DD.  


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I would assume that the studio is accustomed to dancers leaving as they age, and they probably want what is best for your dancer and for her to reach success. Personally, I think you can test the waters by opening up a dialog about at what age/stage of training do they think your dancer should consider auditioning for company attached schools and see where that conversation goes.

My daughter was always very open with her ADs about her dream to move on to a larger company affiliate training program. They cheered her on but also told her when she was 15-16 that she was not ready. When she was 17, closing in on 18 they told her that she was ready and asked how they could be helpful. Her desire to become a professional was something they knew and supported. 

I think your first step is to see what their thoughts are on training as dancers advance in age and then map post your strategy.

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