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Northern Ballet open day, oh my!


Nimbus
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DD has been rather sheltered at her local ballet class, working through RAD (now Grade 6) she has been gaining strength, respectable marks and a love of ballet. Wondering what the next step would be we went yesterday to the open day at Northern ballet, neither of us knowing much about associate programs or what is expected.

 

She loved the day and managed well with the exercises until it came to the more complicated enchainments. Some of the steps she had never done before and with nerves kicking in struggled to remember those parts. Other dancers were obviously much more advanced in terms of flexibility and ability. She came away having enjoyed the session though knowing she was out of her depth at times.

 

The teacher had said the day would be more complicated than the auditions but we have been left wondering if she should apply or not. Hoping some of you more seasoned at this may be able to offer some advice?

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I would say it depends very much on how your DD feels about it. Remember that there are always many more applicants for associate scheme places etc than there are spaces, so "no" letters are rather more common than "yes" ones at every stage. Getting a no doesn't mean that you are a failure, but it can be hard for children to accept this sometimes. How old is your DD? If she is able to go along and enjoy the experience for what it is, but understands that many (probably most) of the children auditioning are not going to get places then there is absolutely nothing to lose from trying. It's not always the most technically accomplished children who get picked anyway - the staff may see potential that is just waiting to be unlocked. But if the experience has dented her self confidence and she feels she won't enjoy the experience of the audition, maybe think again. Sorry, that's probably not much help is it, but I think it depends a lot on your DD's temperament and you will be the best judge of that.

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Perhaps encourage her to audition this year for 'practice' and see what happens. My dd didn't get into NB associates the first time she auditioned, but did the second time.

 

Northern Ballet also offer some very good open classes for which you do not have to audition and it may be worth considering these. These would give her the chance to get used to the Northern Ballet style which is certainly very different to RAD.

 

Failing that Easter and Summer courses at Northern Ballet and other places are worth considering to get her used to working outside the regular RAD syllabus.

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It's the one in Leeds.

My dd (9) has been going to the open classes since November and as Glowlight says the style is very different from RAD. She really enjoys them, also the facilities and the fact they have a pianist for every lesson. DD is going to audition for junior associates but I think reguardless of whether she gets a place or not, she will probably keep going to the open classes as she has learnt a lot from them.

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Auditioning for various opportunities is always good practice - and the dancer/student should be encouraged to look at it in that way. I, too, would encourage taking open classes. This accustoms the student to hear a different voice, different dance patterns and different music.

 

A dancer must learn to quickly internalize new patterns and be able to perform them in short order. That takes practice just as technque does. Memory is (for most of us) an acquired ability. Help her to see that this experience is a good thing - it has shown her where she needs to work. And, also, auditioning for various opportunities is good experience even when the opportunity is denied. The dancer needs to learn from the experience and then move on.

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Hi Nimbus

We went yesterday too. We went in the morning (was yours the afternoon?). If morning my daughter was the tiny one in the black ballet shorts and burgundy leotard. My daughter is grade 2 ISTD and has never even turned before and was quite out of her depth at times but she absolutely loved the class and the teacher! She had a big beaming smile on throughout even though she couldn't do lots of it! I was really impressed with the teaching. She is still keen to audition and I think if they don't get in it is still a good life learning experience. My daughter is still only 9 and I don't think it would put her off if she didn't get in. She said yesterday she would just try harder next time! They did say they look for potential and not the grade they are on now or what they can do now.

Edited by eloise_please
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My contribution has nothing directly to do with dance, but since I was looking in here for once I thought it still might be pertinent. Over the years, I've taken part in a few recruitment "competitions" (as they so delightfully call them) for major international organisations, as much for the experience as anything else, since I didn't think it likely that I'd actually be able to up sticks and move to a different country to work for them. The first few times, I got through the preliminary rounds, and as I did so, acquired experience of what these competitions were like, and what the standards were, which made it easier to know what I needed to do to get through them. The last time, I even made it through to what must have been nearly the final round: a new experience, and quite a shock to suddenly find yourself facing a 15-member interview panel! I didn't get any further, but if I ever need to do one of these again I will now have the knowledge to know what to expect all the way through, and I expect that will help me in the way I approach it.

 

It seems to me that the two situations aren't that different, although perhaps at a different level. If your DD is happy with going through these type of things "for practice/fun" and challenging herself to see where she stands relative to others, or where she needs to improve, I imagine it would be great experience for her, especially as she gets to see how other people do things (having only one teacher can, I imagine, get a little constricting after a while) - as long as she doesn't get downhearted. I think this could be one of those "life lessons" in developing a positive attitude that may well stand her in good stead in the future even if she doesn't end up making a career in dance.

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Thank you for all your lovely replies, its been reassuring to read them.

 

Eloise dd is a little older at 13 so will have been in the higher age group and your right the teaching was impressive. It made us both realise how restrictive her teaching has been, they are taught to syllabus with no other exercises done, it may mean they can pass exams but it is not allowing them to learn other things such as quickly remembering new step patterns or even how to improve a step such as practising it by flexing first and then pointing the foot.

 

The open classes are a good idea but unfortunately we live to far away to attend those but dd is putting lots of the advice given through the lesson now into her home practice, such as moving away from the barre and doing the steps in the center. She is also working on her flexibility especially through the the hip area. I've been impressed with how she has come away self confidence undented and determined to improve for the audition. She expects to receive a "no" letter but is looking forward to the experience of dancing there again.

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Nimbus - it is a good idea to take in as many workshops/open days as you can as this will widen your daughters ability to retain new choreography, adopting different teaching styles and learning how to adapt what she learns in the studio.

 

Not sure which part of the UK you are based but the Birmingham Royal Ballet do some great one day courses in the school holidays which are fantastic value for money, there is a session running in February.

 

As is often said on this board, exams are a great snapshot of ability at a certain time/point and does give you a guide with regards to 'level' but they arent highly regarded in vocational schools. Is there an opportunity to look at other schools in the area? Associate schemes are also a great idea, RB, Central, Elmhurst all run similar weekend courses.

 

Good luck :)

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I would disagree slightly with the point about exams being no good for learning free enchainments/step sequences. The RAD Inter Foundation does introduce free enchainements and as part of her lessons leading up to the exam my DD's teacher did throw in some long and compex sequences to test her vocabulary. The enchainement in the actual exam was a lot shorter and less complicated!

 

My DD is very lucky because she seems to have the dance equivalent of a musical "ear", so once she's marked a sequence with her feet or hands, it is "locked in" and easy to dance. It's been a great asset but if that isn't present in a child, it can still be practised in class if the teacher is willing to do so. But free enchainements were certainly part of the old Vocational RAD syllabus...I assume (and hope) that they are also included in the new syllabus.

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Nimbus: It's really a shame that your child's teacher is teaching only syllabus and no free work. This is a big problem. It is also a problem that there are no other options in your area. You mentioned that your daughter is doing "home practice." Unfortunately, this is not a good idea. Dance has to be learned under the supervision of a teacher. Even professional level dancers do not practice outside a classroom. Without this supervison the body learns incorrectly and then it takes even more effort to unlearn and relearn. I wish it were not so - but it is. There really is no substitute for a good teacher who is willing to take the time and effort to choreograph for her class. To put down her syllabus book - and forward he progress and solve the problems she sees in front of her through her own efforts.

 

The same is true for stretching - it should not be done without knowledgeable supervision.

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My DD is an Inter at NB, having been through their JAs. She found the JA lessons very basic (but excellent for building core strength) so your DD need not fear! Let her try the audition (again, not to challenging) as it is all good experience and I am sure that she will enjoy it :)

F x

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Hey I'm back by the way if anyone remembers me. I couldn't get round to setting a new account up until now. I only auditioned last year for the first time at the same age as your daughter and I too only study syllabus. The northern ballet open days are designed to push you and the auditions especially for associates are not as hard so don't worry there. I do have to admit the audition experience in itself helped contribute and I would reccomend trying out for the summer school also. I didn't get in to NB associates last year but was offered a place on the summer school. It was an excellent experience and I thorughly enjoyed it. Good luck with your audition. Trust me when I say it will not be as challenging. They are not looking for perfect dancers, sometimes its the rough diamonds that shine through brighter. I know a friend who has been in that situation.

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