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How much is it about the body?


Flora
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I found that really interesting also Janet. Why did RBC not take her out of school I wonder, only wanting her when she'd become so experienced elsewhere?

 

Even more surprising to me was why they didn't take Vadim Muntagirov out of Upper School. He has everything. He then rises extremely quickly at ENB and then they want him back and as a Lead Principal. I wonder how many of the RBC Principals have come to them straight out of Upper School and risen through the ranks? And of those, how many are British?

If I remember right, the company only had one vacancy for a male dancer and they took Polunin rather than Muntagirov, partly because Muntagirov was very shy and maybe they thought he mightn't project well onstage.

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I was rereading Luke Jennings' article about RBS to find a quote for another thread, but while I was reading it I was struck by this comment:

 

"But the obstacles these children will face are formidable. They will be subject to term-by-term appraisal and at the end of each year some will be "assessed out", or asked to leave. Perhaps they have failed to reach the expected technical standard, or their bodies have developed in ways that do not comply with the school's increasingly narrow physical ideal. Short-backed and long-legged, in the Russian mould, this is very different from the longer-backed "old" Royal Ballet look and there is a certain irony in the fact that many of the school's ex-company teachers, were they to present themselves today with the bodies they had as teenagers, might well not fit the mould."

 

So apparently, at least at RBS, it is about the body in a way that maybe a few decades ago it wouldn't have been. Now the school is training prospective dancers for a worldwide market and the worldwide style seems to be converging on the Russian ideal, perhaps they feel they don't have a choice other than to just go along with it. Makes you wonder how many of the British stars of the 1930s to 1960s wouldn't have made it through White Lodge if they'd been students now.

Edited by Melody
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It's interesting I think how things change quite subtley.

 

I was just saying on another thread how Fonteyn had a perfectly proportioned body and looked good in a leotard!!

 

I suppose today .....in ballet terms that is or rather RBS ballet terms .....her legs although not short... would not be long enough by today's standards.

 

Would they have still picked her today? I rather hope so .....I'm sure she would have slipped in under the "je ne sais quoi " rule

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Fonteyn also didn't have flat turnout or wonderful 'banana' feet. I fear she would not have made it through JA selections these days!

And interesting to note that it seems more and more at year 7 WL are only taking JAs (for girls anyhow).

 

The quote from Luke Jennings article above perfectly sums up what we have been talking about, thank you  Melody

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Way back in the 50s, my mother trained with someone (at Tring when it was a full-time ballet boarding school) who had been "assessed out" of the RBS because her measurements were thought to be indicative of growing "too tall." At 5' 2" (just) my mother was thought of as perfect "pocket ballerina" height. When my sister was going for jobs, at 5' 4" she was often shorter than most other dancers in the room. 

 

Things change, ideas change, aesthetics change. Some of the more acrobatic of our dancers or those with an athletic look (I'm thinking of someone like Dusty Button) wouldn't have been employed back in the 50s. It was commonly thought that "Asians" (Chinese, Japanese) couldn't do ballet because their legs were usually to arqué (bow-legged). And now we have dancers like the amazing Chi Cao.

 

Things change!

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I think RBS are looking for the full package both techinicaly and pysically for their style of training. It is the same with POB, Bolshoi, Vaganova and other big classical schools. Is this wrong? Does it push out other talented dancers?

The dancing world is very, very selective and each genre has its own specifications. We all have a choice when our children audition for these schools, if they dont have at that time what the school is looking for then that is just the way it is. Dancing alongside many other sports is full of rejections. Sometimes our kids are actually not good enough for some establishments or companies. There will always be somebody better.

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Polunin, although the same age as Muntagirov, was never in the same year as him as he (SP) was accelerated by two years after he joined the RBS. He therefore joined the RB two years earlier than VM went to ENB, which was in 2009. At least one male student was taken into the company that year (2009). Whether or not the RB made an error of judgment is irrelevant now as VM is now a principal at the RB and is doing very well. The RB probably did him a favour as he learnt a lot at ENB, forming a memorable partnership with Daria Klimentova and dancing leading roles from early in his time with the company.

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Fonteyn also didn't have flat turnout or wonderful 'banana' feet. I fear she would not have made it through JA selections these days!

And interesting to note that it seems more and more at year 7 WL are only taking JAs (for girls anyhow).

 

 

 

 

On the Royal Ballet school Annual Report thread figures back this up - 95% of students taken into WL last year were JAs. (International students made up the other 5% I believe). The head of outreach who picks JAs also does the prelim auditions for WL year 7 so appears he is choosing JAs for finals, so obvs JAs make up the people who get places. 

If you don't have the JA body you are already out of the running, which was what this thread was all about originally when it was on the associates results thread. 

 

What is also worth considering is that this year I believe 4/5 students were assessed out of year 9 WL, and someone else posted on upper schools thread that of the original wl cohort taken in year 7, only 2 of those have got into US this year from yr 11.

 

Perhaps it doesn't remain that it is all about the body as students get older, and other factors come into play?

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I'm equally bemused by the stats amos73 and have been for a long time.

 

2 from the ones who started off at WL year 7 and probably earlier in JAs making it to US. That makes me question their selection process from the word go. 2 from the many JAs in the many locations nationwide who have been chosen for their promising physiques.

 

If their selection process is so right, how is their success rate so poor, or is an approximate success rate of 1% from JA to US successful? Are the rest of the US made up of international students? (Apart from the Tring boy we know about).

 

I have to wonder about all of those DCs who have had their dreams broken so early, especially those poor children assessed out in year 9. They have been taken away from their school, their friends and their second home. Somehow at entry for year 7 or Upper School when the odds are against them it doesn't seem quite so harsh.

Getting a place elsewhere for year 10 is so hard as the other schools would have to possibly assess out one of their own to make space for one of these children :(

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 I thought the teachers seemed very caring, and I would say having just done finals for lower school here in the UK, this is the general standard of my dd and her peers who were all auditioning.

 

I would be interested to hear more from you ballet coach about 'what's happening after entry...Especially those very important first 5 years of training.' This to me seems the crux of an interesting discussion about training in this country, but not perhaps for this thread! Maybe you could start a new one?

 

Thank you for posting though, having just done the rounds of final auditions I thought two things after watching this film, specifically - a) the painful waiting period was removed, although of course it was painful for them to find out on the day, and B) the feedback given to Olga was so detailed and precise that I was impressed as again it seemed to be a sign of the caring attitude taken. 

 

Do you mean the Russian teachers seemed very caring?

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I do not think it is ALL about the body but I do believe it plays a significant role. Most classical ballet dancers will have all the ballet body criteria. I don't believe that you absolutely have to have all of the ballet body requirements but you do have to have the basics, and without the traditional classical body getting into a vocational school and landing a contract will be far tougher.

 

I do think that you do need all the ballet body criteria for major ballet companies like Royal Ballet, hyperextension perhaps excluded.

 

It is not just about the body, but also artistry and musicality, and of course perfect technique.

 

4 years ago there was an article on theguardian.com 'Will they make it to the Royal Ballet?' I believe it states only a quarter of Year 7 students will make it to the Upper School, and that out of one dancer's group who went to White Lodge with her only she made it to the company. However, in recent years every Royal Ballet Upper School graduate student has gotten jobs with ballet companies.

 

Puberty changes things, and you need to take care of your body to keep it in good shape, but any girl or boy who wants this enough will do this if they realise how important it is.

 

A ballet body is something you can't control, although you can take care of it and sculpt and tone it, but technique and arguably artistry and musicality can be. Younger students should focus on their technique, artistry and musicality, but by the time a student gets to Year 11, there needs to be some awareness about their body in order to have the best shot at a career.

 

Fonteyn was a wonderful dancer, but she did not have the ideal body and perhaps technique and many would say that she would not make it as a ballet dancer had she been born in this era.

 

Even a dancer with all the gifts will never land a contract if they don't work, so provided everything else is in place, perhaps work ethic and attitude is most important.

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Nobody is saying that RBS selection is so right. They make mistakes. They know that. I have known students audition for 3or 4 years and not be successful and then finally get a place.

 

As i have said before ...what goes in at 11 can completely change in 5 years.

 

When you get offered a place at WL it is made clear that you are there on a yearly basis and will stay there so long as you make suitable progress, behave yourself etc etc. I feel that everyone goes in with their eyes wide open. Of course it's terribly upsetting when it doesn't work out but no promises are ever made. And let's be honest.....you have choice as to whether you want to audition or not. Nobody makes you.

 

RBS is not perfect .....far from it. There are many things about the school that are very frustrating when you're actually going through the system. But I do think it's unfair to blame their method of choosing students when absolutely no one can predict how a child will progress or whether their body shape will be suitable enough for ballet.

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I think it was three of the girls who have got into the upper school all the way through from Year 7, as posted on the Upper School thread, and six of the boys. Three might not seem that many, but it's virtually a quarter of the intake, and for the boys, it's a half. I think that could be considered a "success". Some years are better than others and will take more, or indeed fewer. It was also stated that some of those accepted places at other upper schools, even though they'd been offered a place at the RBS upper school. Other big schools, such as the Vaganova, also ruthlessly assess out. I can't put my hand directly on the figures, but I believe that only a minority of those get all the way through to the graduating class.

 

Very few students at vocational schools will make it as a classical dancer.  It doesn't matter how much you love dancing and how hard you work if it's no longer the right fit for you because your body has changed in a way that means it's no longer quite right.. It's not a personal insult, it's nothing you have any control over. There's no point pretending someone is suitable at 16 just because they were suitable at 11. Or they may indeed be still suitable, but someone else is more suitable. You're just setting yourself up for a fall later on. If you love dancing and you work hard, that's great. But are people going to be willing to pay money to watch you dance - not counting friends and relations - when they could watch someone else? That's what it all comes down to in the end. The vast majority of parents, unless they're dancers, won't necessarily know what good technique is, exactly what a good body for ballet exactly is and how those attributes need to combine. They may recognise musicality or artistry to some degree. But musicality and artistry in themselves aren't anywhere near enough.

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 Even a dancer with all the gifts will never land a contract if they don't work, so provided everything else is in place, perhaps work ethic and attitude is most important.

I wish this were true that those with the highest work ethic and best attitude were most rewarded but in my experience, sometimes the ones with "all the gifts" don't have to work as hard as it all comes so naturally. I have seen quite a few gifted students get away with murder e,g. not turning up to class, behaving badly etc, and still walk into a contract. I have also seen the most deserving of students who work so hard and have overcome many obstacles, fail to get a contract and it is heartbreaking. The biggest lesson learned through ballet school selection and onwards is that life isn't fair.

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Some of the statistics above are talking about girls only I do not know about the boys but possibly that is on the other thread. But there are 3 original year 7 WL girls going into RBS US in Sept this year, the other 3 WL girls going in are 1 ex MA who started in year 8, one overseas who started in year 10 and one overseas who started in year 11. There is also one British UK non vocationally trained, non associate (at any school) programme trained girl going to RBS US in Sept. I don't think it matters where the students stem from or what their path is. All parents do what is right for a student at the time in regards to personal circumstances at home, the DC wishes, financial circumstances, advice from their current teacher etc. All the schools have a really tough job at every stage in who they take, I agree with many comments above, the school cannot be blamed for not having a crystal ball vision about each student. They will make mistakes, but that never means it's not possible for those who dont make the 16+ cut to have a career, they just need to find a different path. Sometimes the schools may go for 'better the devil you know' , sometimes over time it will become more and more apparent the students physique and their particular school of training isn't a good match, but they are still deserving of the opportunity to carry on for other reasons. Every company requires a different set of physiques, musical theatre and neo classical choreographers look for a certain look. As always I think it is wise to encourage any child with a wish to follow a dance career to follow their dream but stay realistic and work on their development as a dancer as a whole. Not get hung up on their physique, do the best with what they've got etc. Personality plays a huge part too, it's a working relationship etc. I'm rambling really but all anyone can do is what feels right at the time. Edited to say On topic - I think it's a whole package that is required, body aesthetics are vital but it's the lines the body can fall into which is most important not necessarily the physical measurements. These lines are aided by certain physical factors of course but sometimes they can be attained through having a very good understanding of ones body and ability to work strength into it. Then there's the rest, musicality, brain, passion, intelligence- not necessarily academic but the sort of creative brain that 'gets' correction and choreography, spirit, attention to detail, personality...

Edited by allthebest2all
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I have often wondered whether they should take anyone in year 7 and just wait until year 9, with good associate classes in the meantime.

If my ds hadn't got a y7 place this year he simply wouldn't have been able to access enough classes or any specific boys training at home. He probably would have stopped before y9.

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RBS is not perfect .....far from it. There are many things about the school that are very frustrating when you're actually going through the system. But I do think it's unfair to blame their method of choosing students when absolutely no one can predict how a child will progress or whether their body shape will be suitable enough for ballet.

 

This! Thank you for saying this - it's a ray of common sense.

 

No one has a "right" to have their dreams come true, particularly not a dream so rare & difficult to achieve as becoming a professional ballet dancer in one of the world's major ballet companies. 

 

So to say that the RBS is mistaken in their selection because not all students they select at age 11 go through from the prep school, to the high school, to the company, is to blame the wrong thing. Bodies change, minds change, bodies are injured, pupils can't or don't want to work in the way they need to work to go through the whole RBS training.

 

And I think it's wonderful that we have several ballet schools in this country which are the envy of dancers-in-training all over the world. The UK education system is one of the jewels in the national crown (although successive governments are slowly wrecking the secondary and higher education sectors) and attract the best & talented from all over the world. It's great that  British values in art and education are so valued across the world.

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If their selection process is so right, how is their success rate so poor, or is an approximate success rate of 1% from JA to US successful? Are the rest of the US made up of international students? (Apart from the Tring boy we know about).

 

It is not as simple as that. I don't think we should measure success as who gets into US but rather who makes it as a professional dancer, which is why students are undertaking training in the first place.

 

My understanding is that RBS currently assess out in year 9 and year 10, but you will only be assessed out if you fail to make the expected progress or otherwise become unsuitable for further training. If you meet the school's criteria, you will keep your place even if they audition an external candidate who they like better. They will not assess out a current student who otherwise makes the grade just to make room for a promising new student.

 

At upper school it is not like that. Making the grade is not enough. You are competing with candidates from all over the world and won't be prioritised just because you went to WL. Some students who don't get an US place might have got one if they had been in a different year with different external candidates auditioning.

 

My point is that very many students who graduate WL but don't get into upper school go on to attend other good upper schools, and from there are recruited into companies and have successful careers, so we can't say that there was a problem in the initial selection process in these cases. Royal Ballet Upper School has had an outstanding graduate success rate in recent years, but lets not forget the number of WL graduates who take a different path at upper school but go on to have successful careers anyway.

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If my ds hadn't got a y7 place this year he simply wouldn't have been able to access enough classes or any specific boys training at home. He probably would have stopped before y9.

I know what you mean - that's exactly why my son went in year 7 and I suppose I'm thinking more about how much the girls change physically in those 2-3 years

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[quote name="atacrossroads" post="164511" timestamp=" if their selection process is so right, how is their success rate so poor, or is an approximate success rate of 1% from JA to US successful? Are the rest of the US made up of international students? (Apart from the Tring boy we know about).

:(

 

(Apologies for formatting - I'm on my phone!)

 

I've said this before and will say it again now, there are lots of talented young people dealing with a very difficult few months as not only are they sitting their GCSEs, they are contemplating the next step in their futures. It is my opinion that we should leave them to it, unless they personally want to share their news. While it may be interesting/perplexing to discuss, debate or speculate on various schools admissions/assessments it doesn't change anything, furthermore, let's not forget these young people who are currently in the middle of it all.

Edited by drdance
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My dd is an Elmhurst associate and auditioned this year for year 12 and did not make it to finals when we asked her associate teacher for some feed back she said she has beautiful technique but is just the wrong shape.

This has really knocked my daughters confidence in taking her training further.

Such a shame they have to be so blunt my dd is a size 4-6 and now feels like a elephant.

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Oh dear poinyfeet, I am certain the teacher did not mean your dd was too big. She could have meant a lot of things. Its really hard to receive feed back like this. It is interesting that she was the right shape for associates but not the school.

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Personally I think it's fantastic that schools which are partly funded through the public purse are accountable for the results they achieve and that their aggregate results each year are discussed/questioned, including in open forum. The young people benefit from that too I think 

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That is very upsetting for your daughter to hear pointyfeet. However, better to be told now than be led up the garden path only to find there are no job opportunities. Please make it clear to your daughter that shape does NOT equal size. I see lots of girls who are lovely dancers, tiny in physique but just not the correct physique for ballet careers.

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