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Allwrong

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  1. So in response to Lilya's questions:

     

    Teachers: DD is very impressed with the teachers at BIBS. Their dedication to the students is second to none. One example: the school had to shut for 2 weeks while they all had Covid, and as a result the staff have cancelled the Easter break (one day only!!) to make sure that the students don't miss a single day's training. But more than that, they give plenty of personal corrections and are very demanding. DD feels they have an excellent eye for detail, and her progress has been great. Not all the teachers are gentle all of the time. In fact, compliments are quite sparing but they do exist! You need to be a bit robust, and realise that if teachers can sound a bit negative it is actually because they really want you to improve as much and as quickly as possible. And the school has produced some really lovely dancers with gorgeous technique.

     

    Re competitions, DD can answer that better but it is hard to judge this year as Covid has disrupted this. I will say that when DD, greatly daring, suggested entering an online/video competition she had found herself, they couldn't have been more supportive, fitting in 5 hours of private preparation and time to film her entry in the week they re-opened post-Covid (despite her convalescent wobbly legs!). They are now encouraging her to prepare for competitions next year.

     

    Academics: some students do complete academics on the side, the younger students in particular (DD started at 18 with A Levels completed). One girl is completing a part-time degree. The school is perfectly happy for this, but makes few concessions, I believe.

     

    French classes: this is encouraged. There are cheap evening classes available in the building opposite the school, and the school helps you arrange these. Not free, but highly subsidised.

     

    Other costs: so far, none, apart from uniform (2 leotards and 2 skirts and much washing!) and pointe shoes. The school tries to keep costs down as much as possible. They paid for DD's competition entry, and provided costume. We have EHIC card but no other insurance (that may horrify more savvy dance parents!). Normally the school performs in the theatre opposite and also tours to other towns with productions, but no costs for students for either. This year they hope to perform a full ballet on stage, but if theatres aren't open, they will live-stream the performance to give students live performance experience, also at no extra cost. However, in a normal year, I don't know whether there might be extras such as travel to competitions.

     

    Accommodation: my daughter lives with a lovely host family but cooks for herself. We found this for her. It is very cheap. Others share flats and cater for themselves. Others live with host families who cook for them, and the school offers to arrange this for you. Several youngers students have moved to Brussels with their families! A big family adventure. Most live very close to the school and walk to class,  but you can get a student travel card to get around Brussels for 50 euros for the entire year.

     

    Social activities: officially not this year!!! Well, covid rules do allow up to 4 to meet outside. My DD is not a party girl, so she loves the fact that socialising this year is trips to museums or trips to the park (there are lots of really beautiful parks in Brussels). But in a normal year there are frequent parties. The atmosphere is lovely at the dance school, and the students meet up a lot, although they dance 6 days a week, so get pretty tired. 

     

    Diploma: you don't get a diploma as such. When you are deemed ready, after 1 or 2 years, the director encourages you to start auditioning for companies, normally your final year. Because of Covid and scarcity of contracts, some are in their 4th year/ auditioning for a second year. Once you are part of the BIBS 'family', you can continue training as long as appropriate/ necessary. There are 2 groups, A and B. Group B are younger, and then move to A, and you need to have done a year in A before you would be ready to audition. As a guide, DD started this year aged 18, straight in to A, and has been invited to start auditioning from September (her second year). There are younger girls on their second year in B, but also some her age who are auditioning this year who started in A last year aged 17.

     

    Sorry this is such a long reply!

     

     

    • Like 1
  2. As a parent who has chosen the non-vocational route I’d say:

    a) as has been said, academic schools are no picnic either, although similarly for some they can be.

    b) it really isn’t easy trying to keep dance going outside vocational school without sacrificing so much of childhood and family life. We made the decision family life came first, really don’t regret it, and our selective approach still gave space for lovely performance opportunities (NOT festivals), but the ingenuity needed is constant and tiring! And wouldn’t have been possible without the support of an exceptional and imaginative dance teacher.

    c) DD has had loads of knock-backs because of insufficient hours dancing, and they are hard too.

    We are still, at 19, trying to have our cake and eat it with DD: in vocational school at last but with top university place lined up. Will eke this out as long as it is fun! 
    Do I regret the decisions? At the moment 100% not. Without ballet, DD would be in the miserable farce that passes for university this year. Instead she is living a very rich, very happy life abroad and loving the chance to dance at last. An amazing reward. I’m glad we didn’t give dance more space, though. I may change my mind when she is heartbroken that she has to accept defeat, which I suspect will be inevitable. But she will have had so many magnificent experiences, so much fun as well as so much heartache. 

    • Like 1
  3. Kate I couldn’t agree more about taking time: both that it is necessary and that it is very possible. (We are colleagues in the broader sense and maybe in the same institution I think from one of your earlier posts though in very different disciplines). I’ve seen this up close with my son who stepped out of university after his first year, took a year out, and went back a transformed character: so focused, so happy. Same course but a totally different student.

    Do agree about the rush to achieve the (perceived and artificial) success of grade grubbing, instead of understanding and maturing. And so important: enjoying. I think it indicative  of these wrong approaches to education that online learning has been deemed an appropriate substitute for the university experience which it so very much isn’t, however high quality it often has been. Content coverage completed, marks achieved, everything else lacking. 
    So yes, gap years are great and young people excited and curious about the adventure of life is what we should be encouraging. Young dancers are equipped with so many skills for their new adventures, but learning to slow down is a good one to add to their impressive repertoire.

    • Like 2
  4. I can give some first-hand information, as my daughter is currently there. I'm happy to DM if you have specific questions, but I found it frustrating not to have some more public information before she left, so here goes.

    This year, it has been a fantastic decision, as she has done so much dancing, and Belgium has had a lighter lockdown than many places so they are yet to miss a day's class. The staff are very committed to the students and have a fine eye for detail, and work them very hard. Compliments are hard to come by, but there is a constant stream of energetic corrections. The emphasis is very strongly on classical ballet, though character and contemporary are also taught once a week. The teaching is Vaganova, and you will need to adapt if you come from a different tradition, but the staff understand this. My DD has made enormous progress, but that may be because she was non-vocational before, so the sheer number of hours has had an impact. They dance six days a week, with a short day on Wednesday giving the students a mostly free afternoon, and a half day on Saturday. There are 2 groups, in theory ages 15-17 and 18 - 21, but there are some 18 year-olds in group B and a couple of 17 year-olds in group A, according to stage of training. At 18 and non-vocational, my daughter was surprised to be placed in group A, where she is dancing with students who are auditioning for contracts (such as there are at the moment). This is a fantastic opportunity for her, and has been very challenging in a good way, with exercises pitched at a demanding level. One of the boys has just been successful with getting a contract, so has just left, meaning pas de deux is stretched rather thin, but they do nonetheless have a class two or three times a week. Most of the students come from vocational backgrounds, and it is truly international, with only two or three Belgian students. Teaching is in varying forms of English (!) and some is in French, but there is no automatic assumption that you will understand French.

    There are a large number of hours given to repertoire, both solos, usually for competitions, and corps de ballet for regular performances. Since the annual December performance was not possible, the school prepared a professionally filmed and slickly produced video of repertoire extracts as a Christmas present/ compensation, which was sent out to parents for free, which was a nice touch and an acknowledgement of the students' disappointment. Theatres have been re-booked for March, though this may also be problematic. The director, Anderson, is absolutely determined to get the students on stage this year to give a full-length ballet performance. We'll see.

    The pluses: real commitment from the staff; excellent value for money; really positive and supportive relationships between the students; being a small independent set-up, there is a lot of room for manoeuvre and flexibility in decision-making, which is being vital this year.

    The minuses: because it is a small, independent set-up, you rarely know what the decisions are until the last minute, but this is what protects the room for manoeuvre; you need to be ready to accept quirks; you need to be resilient as praise is scant and corrections freely given.

    For my DD, who is taking a very unconventional dance path, it is perfect. For those who have come through a more conventional vocational route, it may be a bit of a culture shock.

    For practicalities: Brussels is a great city to live in, and very international. Accommodation is not provided by the school, but can be had cheaply through a fabulous organisation called 'un toit deux ages' (my daughter is paying 2000 euros for the entire year's rent), though many of the students share flats locally. Do feel free to DM me for details.

    • Like 7
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