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  1. This thread has been quite intriguing to me, and it’s really interesting to hear this all from (mostly) parents’ perspectives. Having been a vocational student a few years ago I can safely say this is endemic once you hit upper school level. Sometimes it is peer pressure, and sometimes it is considered an appetite suppressant. Although there are many professionals who would advise against it (and rightly so) I’m afraid to say that many teachers/directors uphold archaic ideas. Some have the view of “if this is one way a dancer can remain thin, then so be it”. I myself witnessed dance staff smoking alongside students! The reality is that we are young people living away from home with enormous amounts of pressure. Some are curious, some see a “glamorous” aspect, others see it as a release. Although common in dance, you will find this at universities and in jobs with poor work/life balance such as medicine, finance or law. I myself have witnessed cocaine usage, large quantities of alcohol and pills consumed. I’ve had friends (current/ex dancers) who have had to go through drug and alcohol rehabilitation. The dance world really does have a dark underbelly, and it’s upsetting to see the naivety (that we all had!) of young dancers and parents setting off on this journey. I myself would be lying if I said I hadn’t had a cigarette or two (although this has mostly occurred after dance). I wouldn’t have ever regarded it as me having a cavalier approach to my health, just simply experiencing life as a young person. However, I am fully aware that it could easily slip into a habit that can have irreversible damage on my health (and wallet!). I will say as an aside that my prim, obsessive and restrictive character at ballet school is what landed me in therapy a year after quitting. I was quite stunted and hadn’t developed an identity. I really just identified as a dancer. My new “normal” friends simply couldn’t believe how little I’d experienced in life. Although this isn’t something that should be encouraged, I do believe that having elements of a “normal” teenage life are so vital (and will make for an interesting and well rounded dancer later on!).
  2. @Glissé If Dd thinks that pursuing these opportunities will bring her happiness, I’d say go for it. If not, be sure not to let anyone make you feel guilty for the decisions you take. I do think now more than ever it is important to secure a strong idea of plan b. I completely relate to how she is feeling, especially considering you enter into ballet at such a young age and it is expected to become what you live and breathe. I would really recommend not rushing into ideas of what other interests Dd may have. Take a little time, have casual conversations about it. I had a rough idea that I wanted to pursue university level education when I had enough of ballet, yet I thought my only interests were dance based! I found the free courses on the OU website really useful, and selected a couple to do casually in my free time that sounded interesting. I found eventually I kept going back to the law courses and that’s where I’ve decided to take my further studies! I also considered apprenticeships (I remember finding an interesting one working with a jewellery designer) and briefly considered going down a fitness route. I know there’s a few areas that value dance training down the fitness route, particularly barre fitness. So I’d recommend lots of web browsing, books and keeping an open mind! Also I wouldn’t really shy away from seeking help with the transition period. I know many of us have sought counselling. You may find that there’s a lot of “such a shame, think of all that time and money invested”, but please do try to ignore this as much as possible. Ultimately it’s about what will make your Dd happy, and surely that’s what should be the main goal in life 😉
  3. I just wanted to add my views coming from an ex vocational student that went all the way through and graduated, but did not gain/pursue a dance career. Most students will suffer from an identity crisis, myself included, and it is incredibly difficult to deal with! I found my self esteem regarding self belief and body image was crushed, and counselling proved very beneficial for that. I’ve also had a couple of years out to re-study (I personally didn’t feel as though vocational school gave me the right qualifications to pursue what I’ve chosen to do) and I’ve also worked in little jobs in shops locally. If you can do this (I gather it’s a bit difficult atm given the shortage of jobs due to Covid) it’s a great thing to do. Not only will it give you a routine, but it’ll put so much into perspective. You may find “normal” friends as I did - far less bitchy than many of the individuals that I mingled with over the course of my seven year vocational journey! Also a great time to do driving tests if you haven’t done so already 😜 It’s also completely fine not to rush into a plan b. I’m actually quite pleased I took the time to arrive at the decision I did. Having pursued ballet from such a tender age it can be all consuming and I really wasn’t all that clear as to what my other interests really were. As for vocational schools the support just really wasn’t there. The concept of “plan b” was mentioned occasionally in passing, but no real focus on it. We had one talk with ex dancers/students who pursued a plan b, but confusingly they only brought in individuals who went into another dance related job! Most of my year wish that our teachers had been more honest and transparent with all of us. We all knew it was a tough world, but I think the vast majority of us were given false hope. It’s a tricky thing to tell a young person who has so much passion and dedication, and you always want to try and see how far they can take that. However, as dance jobs are increasingly few and far between I really do think it is the “creme de la creme” that make it.
  4. I wonder if attention should be drawn to this article - despite being well over 20 yrs old, it does make you consider how little has changed... https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/a-step-in-the-wrong-direction-1250670.html%3famp
  5. I would also recommend checking out @thedancersanonymous on Instagram. That isn’t with the intention of putting anyone off vocational training, but it does certainly highlight many elements that are wrong with training and the wider dance world.
  6. @cotes du rhone ! I totally agree. Although I think the concept of an assessed lesson every three weeks is a good idea, I found that as an institution Elmhurst can dodge around points that should probably be made. I had a great five years at lower school and then three years at upper school which weren’t so great. I was blatantly struggling in many ways, and would’ve appreciated greater transparency over these crucial years. Being assessed out seems heartbreaking initially, but I do believe that every cloud has a silver lining. This may be with training elsewhere that actually suits the individual or re-evaluating if ballet is still for you/if you still want to pursue it professionally. As long as there is support in this transition period (I know a few schools lack this!) I honestly don’t think it’s a bad thing.
  7. Hi, just thought I should add that I also managed to gain student funding for my university degree having had a DADA and completed my Level 6 Diploma. I’m also a law student, so not a healthcare based degree! Just be really careful whilst applying and be sure to declare your qualifications correctly. I personally had absolutely no problems and was granted all the necessary funding I required 🤷🏼‍♀️. As far as I know all of my fellow schoolmates have been just as successful with a plethora of degrees.
  8. My heart really goes out to all of you - even when I was attending auditions in 2017/2018, many of us were warned at auditions that they weren’t sure if they could take on British dancers due to the uncertainty of Brexit. I hate to think what it must be like now, especially with a global pandemic! Although I had a good experience with a postgrad scheme, I would say tread with caution. In many cases they are money making schemes and a chance to fill in a few costumes at no cost to the company. I knew of a few dancers who have done more than one, and it gets to the point when you can wonder if you will ever be paid for your labour. After my postgrad scheme I was offered work, but wasn’t going to be paid a wage. I was told it was good for “exposure”. There was no way my parents could continue to support me like that and realistically I wanted something in return for my work. There is also absolutely nothing wrong with calling it a day if your heart isn’t completely in it anymore! I wish I had made that decision far earlier in my US journey rather than living through a lot of agony and pain. I am a far happier person now. If you want to pursue it still, I would highly recommend looking and seeing if you have any Irish/European (EU) grandparents/parents and seeing what you can do with regards to applying for a passport. I am envious if you have! 😉 Wishing you all the very best of luck. Big hugs too - it really isn’t an easy journey!
  9. I am slightly late to the conversation with this thread but I’d just like to say tread with caution. More students/professionals read this forum than you’d think (we are internet savvy young people after all! 😉). Discussions about physique can easily get out of hand and can be quite triggering if you’re not careful. Ballet unfortunately does have a particular aesthetic that only a tiny percentage of people possess genetically. As an ex-vocational ballet student at one of the top schools, I can confidently say my body shape has fluctuated as a result of comments/pressure to reach particular grades in reports/assessments or just simply in the hope that I would be favoured. I started my professional training as a relatively muscular 12-year-old and had already started puberty. Although I was slightly bigger than some of my classmates who were still pre-pubescent at this point, I never remember having any hang-ups about my physique. From the age of 15 onwards I have been everything in my teachers’ eyes... “just right”, “too thin” (although worryingly this was occasionally met with praise), “too big”, “too bulky”, back to “just right”. I have really suffered with disordered eating, yo-yo dieting, body dysmorphia and general loss of confidence. It can very easily zap the love out of ballet! I believe it is hard enough growing up as a young person in this day and age, let alone adding the difficulties of dance training on top of this! Please encourage young dancers to love their bodies, no matter how they may look aesthetically. Be very cautious of any dance teacher who attempts to give scientific advice and claim it worked for them - every body is different! If something is flagged up as an issue, please approach someone who is actually trained to deal with athletes (if you can find someone who also deals with dancers it’s more of a bonus!). You wouldn’t ignore a doctor’s advice and listen to what Joe Bloggs advises for your health, so why do the same for dance?! Be sure as parents to be there to be a shoulder to cry on and someone to cheer from the sidelines. Unfortunately so many dancers won’t ever “make it”, but you don’t want them walking away with a bitter taste in their mouths. It really upsets me to know that some parents can be incredibly judgemental of developing bodies - we get enough of that from teachers as it is! Encourage your DC to pursue safe physical activity outside of dance that will not only benefit their dance training, but also provide huge amounts of enjoyment. Encourage other interests and hobbies too. Conforming to this ideal of a bunhead is NOT healthy! Eat nutritious food but also don’t make a song and dance out of it. Don’t overload children with summer schools and masterclasses - yes, it may be cool to be taught by particular dancers and to have the ability to travel to new places, but use holidays to rest too! Follow this and I think many of you will find that your children will actually develop into stronger, healthier and happier dancers that fit the aesthetic requirements.
  10. I’ve often hung around this forum as a student and agreed/disagreed with many things. This thread is excellent and something I personally can certainly relate to. I recently wrote a blog post that may be of interest to you all: https://lizzie-donson.medium.com/trials-and-tribulations-of-the-dancer-are-we-reaping-what-we-sow-c9278b0dba11 Out of my seven years of vocational school, I can confidently say that the last (and most vital) three years were the worst, and in hindsight the worst of my life. I went in as a high-achieving, promising student and left damaged. Ballet ended up being like a drug to me - I was going through many lows, thinking that the few highs were worth it. Much like @Kat09 my parents tried the best that they could, providing me with private lessons, physiotherapy and words of encouragement. In order to “save” myself I walked away almost three years ago. Although I am much happier now, it has taken me two rounds of therapy to get to this point. I still don’t have the greatest relationship with food or my body image and still have days which are so utterly dark. I have achieved a lot since I left. I’ve re-studied and after rounds of interviews and admissions tests I got into one of the world’s best universities. However, there is so much irreversible damage, and I know I’m not alone in my experience. Please help your children if you see them struggle. I think most people are too afraid to stick their head above the parapet, but it isn’t worth ignoring. It isn’t worth hanging around a prestigious school if it is of detriment to mental/physical health. I often think that ballet needs to come with the same warning as gambling: “When the fun stops, stop.”
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