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Age 14 for classical ballet age 16 for musical theatre?


Bluebird22
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One of my students (age10, year6) has recently had feedback from two separate associate programmes and the information is interesting...

Elmhurst have said that for anyone looking to be a classical ballet dancer they must be in full time training by age 14 to stand a chance of succeeding. For musical theatre they must be in full time training by age 16.

 

Royal Ballet have suggested that she needs to have auditioned before age 14, no further information other than that.

 

I read success stories on here every day, lots of DC don't start vocational training until 16/18, but how likely are they to then succeed?

 

It's really pickled my brain, do Elmhurst and Royal write off people for upper school training if they haven't started by age 14? Is it just a tool to get children to audition for lower school, which brings in money and then again for those who successfully gain a place? Am I being cynical?

 

Just wondered if anyone else had meetings like this with associate teachers ? And what people's thoughts were ?

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Full-time Musical Theatre schools often prefer students to be at least 18 before starting training. That is not to say that 16 is too young, some 16 year olds are more mature than others, but to say that you won't succeed in MT if you don't start full-time training at 16 is wrong, in my opinion. I remember hearing of a young man who studied medicine (I think it was medicine, a long course, certainly), got his qualification, then joined a very good full-time MT school aged 25. A Musical Theatre career has potentially more longevity than classical ballet hence it is possible to start later.

 

Equally if everybody had to be in full time ballet training by 14 then nobody starting at 16 would ever get a contract in a ballet company. There would be no point in RBS having SAs and Advanced Associates, no point in Central having Pre-Seniors, and so on. I don't know what motive a school could have in saying that. And it is just an opinion - who is to say if it's right or wrong?

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My DD is at Millennium doing dance course there are older students there, lots are 18 as they wanted to do A levels first so for MT I would say you can be older. My DD didn't start any dancing till 11 but had done competitive gymnastics ! She didn't start what I would call proper ballet till 13 but we knew she wouldn't be good enough to follow that path !

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Thanks, that was what I thought, I have friends who didn't start LSC until they were 18 and they are doing brilliantly.

Just had me worried that I had missed some big development in the dance world where 14 had been determined the cut off age!

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One of my students (age10, year6) has recently had feedback from two separate associate programmes and the information is interesting...

Elmhurst have said that for anyone looking to be a classical ballet dancer they must be in full time training by age 14 to stand a chance of succeeding. For musical theatre they must be in full time training by age 16.

 

Royal Ballet have suggested that she needs to have auditioned before age 14, no further information other than that.

 

I read success stories on here every day, lots of DC don't start vocational training until 16/18, but how likely are they to then succeed?

 

It's really pickled my brain, do Elmhurst and Royal write off people for upper school training if they haven't started by age 14? Is it just a tool to get children to audition for lower school, which brings in money and then again for those who successfully gain a place? Am I being cynical?

 

Just wondered if anyone else had meetings like this with associate teachers ? And what people's thoughts were ?

Putting it bluntly, saying that a student has to be in full time training by age 14 to pursue a classical career is simply nonsense. There are successful dancers who trained at their local dancing schools until the age of 16. I can think of two young men in Birmingham Royal, a young female soloist with ENB and a female member of the Royal corps without any trouble. All entered full time training at 16. There must be more I don't know of I'm sure.

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16 for musical theatre is definitely not true. A lot of respected musical theatre courses only take from 18 so uni aged. Even then it is pretty well known they like the students to be mature and sometimes prefer to take slightly older students when they have a bit more 'world experience' and aren't just straight out of school.

 

I've known a lot of musical theatre and acting students at well known schools who got in the second or third time auditioning. Now maybe they improve lots between times but I also think age and growth in maturity are a factor. Musical theatre does take grit and determination in a lot of the same ways as dance but there's a bit less of a rush!

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When my 16 year old ds went to finals for upper school he was asked by a physio how many hours of dance he did a day ! He replied " 5 hours a week." After that and the standard in the class he knew it was beyond him, having only been doing ballet locally for 4 years, he felt that he couldn't compete. Now he is an SA with RBS he knows even more the standard that is expected and is finding it really challenging. I also have a dd in her 4th year of vocational training. I still can't figure it out ! Earlier or later ? My heart tells me that it is when the individual child is ready and that a good relationship / connection with the teacher is essential for them to blossom. Age may not be a factor !!

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I Echo Dancemad. That is absolute nonsense. I've had many students go on to both careers who have stayed with me until 16/18. And that is without any associate programme. On the contrary one student who went to ENBS was told how excited they were for her as she had so much potential and hadn't even started full time training. Elmhurst take a lot of non vocational students at 16 so I don't understand how your student has had that feedback. Personally I feel a student who can cope with the rigours of dance training for hours after a full day of 'normal school', and all weekend, shows just as much dedication and stamina as a student who has been in a tailor made environment.

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Perhaps these are just guidelines developed over years of experience with obvious exceptions to the rules. Maybe it is the fairest answer that can be given to a question often asked by parents in a situation where time is limited. I would take it to mean they feel it is best to be in some sort of vocational training by 14 if you want to be a classical ballet dancer either in a vocational school or with a private teacher and for musical theatre it would be 16+.

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If it were true that only ballet students in full time training at 14 are considered to be the right material, then why do the major schools hold open auditions for entry at 16+?? Is it because they select entirely on merit perhaps? In fact I also know ballet dancers who have successfully gone full time at 16 so its not that uncommon. And going full time at 11 or 14 is not the right choice for everyone, even if there were enough places to go around. Many DC are not ready to leave home or not ready to commit especially if they are talented in other ways. Finally it also implies that teachers outside of vocational schools do not offer an adequate standard of training and that really is rubbish. Sorry rant over.

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Yes Peach3 I'm hoping that's the case it seems the most logical explanation, because we ALL know people who have been successful without following those guidelines. I guess it's up to local teachers and parents to research and work out what is best for each individual child.

I would hope mnemo that no associate scheme would be implying that local teachers standards aren't adequate, it's us that supply them with pupils!!

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As the teacher of your student you will have access to your students associate teachers and with RBS JA's you are invited to watch the class and enter into discussion, so why not take up this opportunity and ask the question first hand?

As a dance teacher you have clearly been successful, what route did you take?

Good luck to your student he/she clearly has potential to be accepted onto both associate programs.

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I think there is an incredible amount of pressure on young dancers and parents. I think it must be very rare to feel long term

confidence that the hours of practice or the opportunities taken or the exams passed or the competitions entered all add up to or point towards a guarantee of success as a professional dancer. It doesn't take much to sow a seed of doubt - are we doing enough? Could we sacrifice more? Push just that little bit harder? What is everyone else doing and should we do the same? Is it all over now or if we haven't achieved this goal by this time next year is it time to give up then?

I'm just relieved we have this forum so that parents and teachers can share their collective experience. No one wants to sugar coat the truth or make out that every child who wants to pursue a career in the arts is going to be able to fulfil that dream but I do find it inspirational when someone posts 'well X didn't do it this way and look at them now!'.

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Two things strike me about this.

 

Firstly there are simply not enough MDS funded places for all talented ballet students to be in full-time vocational training by 14. Yes, there are other schemes such as YDA and Legat, but they are only feasible for those few families who are able to afford it.

 

Secondly, There are more schools offering upper school training (inc ENBS, BTUK, Rambert, Ballet West etc), so many more vocational training places become available at 16 plus. If it were true that you have already missed the boat by then, what would be the point?

 

You cannot write people off while they are still children who haven't even begun their GCSE's yet.

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Also you can start in vocational school at a young age and get thrown out when it's time to move to the upper school, for all different kinds of reasons, whilst someone else might be accepted to upper school at 16 and succeed.  There's no guarantee for anything.  Bodies change, life intervenes and poof that's it

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Mum in a spin, I wouldn't be able to tell you whether we are a hobby or geared towards vocational training school objectively! Like petal violet said that seed of doubt is always there! I guess that's why I've turned to this forum, I would hate to be the reason someone didn't succeed, which is why I encourage my students to experience as many other teachers and opportunities as possible.

 

I try and liaise with associate teachers as often as I can, via email or if I'm really lucky I try and get to a class, particularly on the run up to a big year like LS auditions Mid auditions. That way I can continue working on whatever weak areas they have picked up on, I can also oversee their homework exercises (mainly Royal). It's also good to check that my teaching/corrections/technique isn't being corrected. I don't think we ever stop learning, so I'm absolutely not ashamed to say I love observing other teachers, liaising with them, using their teaching techniques!

 

The student in question is not emotionally ready to audition for anywhere just yet, and her parents hadn't even considered a point where it would be an option. For them 14 seems a long way off, which I guess it is! She will audition when she's ready I'm sure however soon or far off that is!

 

One of my other royal students' associate teacher spoke to me last week but she is auditioning for WL and Elmhurst so her advice was more if WL doesn't happen this year keep applying!

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I think there should be more rather than fewer. If there were more lower school training places, then our home-grown students might be more able to compete for upper school places.  Haven't we recently had threads on here about the level of competition for jobs in the industry, and how so many places go to candidates from overseas? You've got to be in it to win it haven't you? How many other careers write people off at 14?!

 

Yes, RBS hardly ever takes anyone non-vocational into their upper school, but then that's because they fill the majority of places with their own lower school students, the cream of the top handful trained at other UK vocational lower schools who want to go there instead, international competition winners, and world-class students from overseas. Once they've done that there's not much room left for anyone else.

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In many ways I think you need to make a parallel with sport training.  It is not writing people off at a certain age, but rather that they get eliminated because they should have got to certain level, whether representing County or in Junior International squad!  Performing arts and sports are intensively competitive at every stage, for training and employment.

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There isn't really any point in drawing the line at 14 though, is there? We all know that vocational places Y8 upwards are as rare as hen's teeth, so are we saying that if you aren't in vocational training by 11 you'd might as well give up?

 

How disheartening for all those students reading this (and for their parents), who have trained their socks off every evening and weekend for years, attended one or more associate programmes, passed vocational exams at the highest level, been awarded scholarships, won competitions, performed as soloists with youth ballet companies, attended every vocational summer school and workshop going, and have now finally succeeded in their ambition to train at a vocational upper school - and have managed to achieve all this whilst at school full-time and gained 10/11 good GCSE's.

 

What does this thread say to them? That all that Herculean effort was pointless and a complete waste of time, and you are never going to get anywhere because you weren't in full-time vocational training when you were younger?

 

We should be motivating and inspiring our young people, not telling them that they have already been written off.

 

How incredibly disheartening and demoralising for every non-vocational student who has achieved so much against the odds and is now in full-time vocational training at 16+. To find out that you needn't have bothered. 

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The trouble with statements like this is that they are very hard to evaluate as there is so little raw data out there. Yes, we can all think of examples of people who entered voc training at 16 and have had or are having a career with a ballet company but this says nothing without information about the denominator, and a statistical comparison with those who DD enter voc before 14. Perhaps those who made it into a company after entering US at 16 are the ones who are fundamentally more talented and, had they started voc training at 11, would have made principal dancer aged 19  (I'm not saying this IS true, but that it COULD be true and we wouldn't know from the occasional anecdote which is all we have to go on). Equally maybe for every 100 of those who don't go into voc training before 16, only 1 makes it to US compared with 80/100 of those who are at voc school (again I have no idea about the true figures, and the trouble is neither does anyone else seem to!).

 

I honestly don't know what the true stats are, but perhaps the person quoted in the original post has enough experience to feel this is true (of course doesn't mean they are right as again they only have their own little sample to make inferences from)...

 

I know from our personal experience that DS was told something similar but with a significant (I think) difference in emphasis- if he didn't enter voc training at 14 he would still have a good chance of a career in ballet but it would NOT be one that realised his full underlying potential...

 

It certainly had me convinced.

 

edited to make more sense...

Edited by CeliB
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"I know from our personal experience that DS was told something similar but with a significant (I think) difference in emphasis- if he didn't enter voc training at 14 he would still have a good chance of a career in ballet but it would NOT be one that realised his full underlying potential…"


 


I think perhaps you have hit the nail on the head her CeliB. It is apparent when comparing those entering at 16 with girls who have been at vocational school (LS) that non vocational kids are playing catch up , specifically in terms of stamina and strength. Whether that is a difference that will make a difference in terms of outcome after US remains to be seen

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Invisiblecircus - you must've been so talented to succeed when starting at 14 - amazing!

 

Taxi4ballet I understand the frustrations - I am in the situation you describe with my dd. If she gets an US place that would be great. But due to the huge expansion of places in USs I think we have to accept that most will not have a career in a classical company? If I am wrong I would be delighted - but I have a duty to tell my dd how it is.....

Edited by sarahw
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Not dance but music... Never really shared this story but here it is... A relative of mine only took up a musical instrument at the age of 16 after leaving school. He paid for his own lessons out of his earnings as an office clerk. His music teacher suggested he should audition for music college, something he had never heard of, coming from a very ordinary family who pushed for him to become a bricklayer and give a large chunk of his earnings to his mother. He was offered a scholarship to all four colleges that he applied for apart from one, because he told them he couldn't possibly play to the accompanying piano as it was out of tune. They showed him the door! Anyway, it wasn't easy for him, no one understood his accent at music college etc... But a very successful career followed after only starting lessons at 16. I suppose it was meant to be though because that is who he is and I can't imagine him doing anything else.

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I think the key thing here is to apply nly to those schools which you feel to be sufficiently selective. This is what my dd did, as she said there is no point traning at a lesser school if those at the highest level did not see sufficient potential! As expected, she did not obtain a place but thought t better to change direction at 16 than three years further down the line!

Aiming high is a good thing to do, and some will achieve that. Others will have been offered places at 'lesser schools' (as you put it), are very happy with their choice and are thriving there. All the schools look for different things in a dancer, and will only offer a place if they believe there is genuine potential. It is all about becoming the very best dancer that you personally can become.

 

By the time students reach 16, most of them have a very good idea of where they fit into the hierarchy, and know all too well that only the exceptional few will ever reach the very top level in their careers. But they persevere, because they can't imagine doing anything else.. 

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That is all true. I think it is quite hard for some dc to understand that a vocational place post 16 (and under 16 come to that) does not necessarily equate to the desired elite classical career. Of course other careers in dancing are equally valid reasons to be at such a school.......

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I think we are on dodgy ground by referring to some UK Upper Schools as "lesser". It's worth remembering that the only UK Upper School that is able to promise 100% graduate employment is RBS Upper School. None of the others can, nor do they.

 

All schools have their pros and cons and all look for different things. Even if a dancer is offered a funded or scholarship place at "only" one school, or "only" what some would call "lesser" schools, they have done extremely well.

 

Provided that dancer has the physique, facility, talent, musicality and work ethic, they have as good - or poor! - a chance of getting that elusive contract post training.

 

You also have to factor in that after 3 years some may have changed their career choice, or go into teaching, contemporary, musical theatre, do a different degree, any number of options. So there are other successful graduates than only those who get a contract in a ballet company.

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