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British training at Lower and Upper Schools

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Regarding the fact that only 2 girls who have been at WL from year 7 have been accepted to US (alongside 2 WL girls who started in Y11 and 2 other WL girls), do we know how many WL girls who started in year 7 are still at the school, and out of those, how many actually wanted an US place? I seem to say the same thing every year when this topic comes up, but the number might not be as bad as it seems, especially since we know a higher number of boys have been given places in US. There is a fairly high rate of attrition throughout the lower school with injuries, assessing out and students simply deciding that dance or the school are not for them, and only a small number of students to begin with. If there were 12 girls who started in Y7, it is almost certainly not the case that the same 12 are vying for US places. Some probably dropped out before and of those remaining, they might not all have wanted an US place.

 

On the subject of the standard of training at UK lower schools in general, the UK does have a bit of a reputation, justifiably so in my opinion, to spend a lot of time on perfecting movements before progressing to more advanced work. Some posters have mentioned the balance between Dance and academic study, suggesting that foreign schools spend more time on dance at the expense of academic preparation. Obviously all schools differ in this but I do feel that a higher standard could be achieved dance-wise in the UK without any change in the amount of time spent in the studio by starting to teach more advanced work at a younger age instead of spending so long perfecting the basics.

Lastly, I would like to comment on people's different reports, both positive and negative about their time at vocational school. I attended a vocational school in Europe and a few years after graduating, got back in touch with a girl I had been close friends with during my time there. We lived in the same dorm, had mostly the same friends and all the same teachers (but were in different classes) but our feelings about our time at the school could not be more different. I remember hard times, but have only happy memories and still consider my time at the school to be the best of my life. My friend still felt traumatised by her experience of the school. My point is that two people living through the same thing can experience it differently depending on their personality, so what might bother some, would not bother another. That is not to suggest that there does not need to be a great deal more mental health support in vocational schools. I have no personal experience of UK schools but from others' accounts there does seem to be a huge need for greater support as well as a change in the "beyond reproach" attitude that some of the schools have.

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In terms of training, I note Steven McRae's comments in his Instagram Q&A this week.  He sees dancers as ARTISTS however believes that they need to treat their bodies as if they are athletes. 

 

Some very young dancers (e.g. 10yrs  and up) are training like aspiring athletes.  They are doing for example, a competitive rhythmic gymnastics program alongside an intensive ballet program.  Another approach is going semi-full-time at an early age.  You can view the schedule at the Master Ballet Academy in Arizona (home of some young YAGP winners).  A young dancer does the after school program plus (by audition) an Intermediate Pre-Pro schedule that means 3 half-days away from school.    http://www.masterballetacademy.com/class-schedule/.  The intensity of this approach may exceed recommended hours in order to avoid injury.  It is survival of the fittest!  I know in artistic gymnastics that, from my daughter's experience as a 9 yr old, they tried to avoid injuries by slowly adding hours over time and in a 3 hour session there was half an hour of warm up and then half an hour of warm down.

 

As well as injuries, some will be concerned about the impact on academics.  Some schools in the US and Australia etc will allow hours away from classes for the pursuit of Elite Sports or Art.  The child must show that they are still getting their school work done. Alternatively, there is homeschooling and Distance Education which are more established and supported in some countries than others.  It is a luxury but when done well, can lead to academic extension for the child. 

 

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Youth America Grand Prix.  An international competition.  A winner can be offered a spot at a top school or company.

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Has ballet ever been 'pitched' for a new sport in the Olympics? It seems increasingly to be going down the path of individual virtuosity & athleticism being the most highly prized attributes for dancers that there might as well be an international platform for this level of competition.

But I do question whether these 'sports stars' will be the same who will become the stars of a full classical repertoire with it's artistry, emotional engagement & team work needed for a story to be told....

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Yes!  The low pay and challenges of the corp might be unattractive to a child star.

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well, that's an eye opener!

Just a quick look at website & yes, it does look like UK is behind the curve in this.....there seemed to be in addition to US locations for competitions where scholarships are awarded, another 7 international locations; 2 in Europe - Barcelona & Paris. Where's London or Birmingham? I see in each of the 7 competitions (& I dare say from the US locations too) several places either short or long term are offered to train at RBS.....yet looking quickly through at recipients to all the various schools from these 7 locations, I think I spotted just 2 UK girls & 1 UK boy.....Are Brits just not entering or are they substandard? Does it require schools to send them or for them to win preliminary rounds? & who funds the no doubt huge costs to get there to participate?

This seems parallel to classical music competitions.....I had no idea of anything other that he Prix de Lausanne.....yep, I have much to learn :o

 

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On 18/03/2018 at 13:09, Anna C said:

 

 

5 hours ago, Peanut68 said:

 I see in each of the 7 competitions (& I dare say from the US locations too) several places either short or long term are offered to train at RBS.....yet looking quickly through at recipients to all the various schools from these 7 locations, I think I spotted just 2 UK girls & 1 UK boy.....Are Brits just not entering or are they substandard? Does it require schools to send them or for them to win preliminary rounds?

 

 

I know of a British girl recently who was at one of our vocational schools, had tried another school unsusessfully on a number of occasions. Decided to enter Paris YAGP (own expense, obtained private coaching from one of our top recently retired RB ballerinas - nothing to do with the school she attended).  Won a prize at the competition and then miraculously was immediately offered a place at the school she previously wasn’t able to get into (the school in question only seeing her a few months before hand!). Was she any different, greatly improved, changed physique? No of course not, just more attractive because she’d won a high profile competition! 

 

In my experience and hearing from past entrants of various high profile competitions these competitors can be working on their solos for about 2 years in intensive, pre selected programmes for the sole purpose of entering those competitions. No British school would devote that time and effort into it and I don’t think they should - I would prefer a well rounded dancer/human being.  We are in the business of developing children into happy, successful adults not creating automated, brow beaten clones who can perform a perfect 3 minute solo for a market of under paid, under appreciated artists.  

 

I for one do not want to see our ballet training turn into a competition fest.  However I strongly object to the ADs going and selecting these said students but don’t value their own, home grown talent and give them the chance to develop a bit later.  The system is rotten at the core.  It leads to lazy teaching, reliant on the fact the teachers were professional dancers but are in fact not great teachers.  They swam about as if they are untouchable and berate concerned parents who don’t know any better yet are not good enough at their job.  

 

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5 hours ago, Peanut68 said:

well, that's an eye opener!

Just a quick look at website & yes, it does look like UK is behind the curve in this.....there seemed to be in addition to US locations for competitions where scholarships are awarded, another 7 international locations; 2 in Europe - Barcelona & Paris. Where's London or Birmingham? I see in each of the 7 competitions (& I dare say from the US locations too) several places either short or long term are offered to train at RBS.....yet looking quickly through at recipients to all the various schools from these 7 locations, I think I spotted just 2 UK girls & 1 UK boy.....Are Brits just not entering or are they substandard? Does it require schools to send them or for them to win preliminary rounds? & who funds the no doubt huge costs to get there to participate?

This seems parallel to classical music competitions.....I had no idea of anything other that he Prix de Lausanne.....yep, I have much to learn :o

 

 

My dd won a scholarship to attend the YAGP semi final in Paris last November from the Cecchetti International Ballet Competition in Florence. We had only heard of it from the documentary 𝙵irst Position. She went for the performance experience and is now one of only 3 UK girls attending the finals in New York in 3 weeks time. The final list of competitors came out yesterday. This will be Dds third international competition outing. It has been an amazing experience dancing with others from all over the world in masterclasses. Very expensive though 😓

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Wow congratulations to you and your dd Cotes du Rhône! Huge achievement and all the very best for the finals x

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8 minutes ago, Harwel said:

 

In my experience and hearing from past entrants of various high profile competitions these competitors can be working on their solos for about 2 years in intensive, pre selected programmes for the sole purpose of entering those competitions. No British school would devote that time and effort into it and I don’t think they should - I would prefer a well rounded dancer/human being.  We are in the business of developing children into happy, successful adults not creating automated, brow beaten clones who can perform a perfect 3 minute solo for a market of under paid, under appreciated artists.  

 

Dds British school has not prepared her for the competition. Not one private coaching class. Just her normal training and the solo she danced in her school competition. She hasn’t done bad on that though 😂

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6 hours ago, Peanut68 said:

So how come Japan & other places been mentioned under same umbrella?

 

 

6 hours ago, Peanut68 said:

well, that's an eye opener!

Just a quick look at website & yes, it does look like UK is behind the curve in this.....there seemed to be in addition to US locations for competitions where scholarships are awarded, another 7 international locations; 2 in Europe - Barcelona & Paris. Where's London or Birmingham? 

 

 

UK candidates, as well as other international candidates from countries who do not hold preliminary rounds, travel to one of the countries that does. It's expensive, but worth it if you end up with a scholarship to a top school or a professional contract.

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1 hour ago, Harwel said:

 

 

I know of a British girl recently who was at one of our vocational schools, had tried another school unsusessfully on a number of occasions. Decided to enter Paris YAGP (own expense, obtained private coaching from one of our top recently retired RB ballerinas - nothing to do with the school she attended).  Won a prize at the competition and then miraculously was immediately offered a place at the school she previously wasn’t able to get into (the school in question only seeing her a few months before hand!). Was she any different, greatly improved, changed physique? No of course not, just more attractive because she’d won a high profile competition! 

 

In my experience and hearing from past entrants of various high profile competitions these competitors can be working on their solos for about 2 years in intensive, pre selected programmes for the sole purpose of entering those competitions. No British school would devote that time and effort into it and I don’t think they should - I would prefer a well rounded dancer/human being.  We are in the business of developing children into happy, successful adults not creating automated, brow beaten clones who can perform a perfect 3 minute solo for a market of under paid, under appreciated artists.  

 

I for one do not want to see our ballet training turn into a competition fest.  However I strongly object to the ADs going and selecting these said students but don’t value their own, home grown talent and give them the chance to develop a bit later.  The system is rotten at the core.  It leads to lazy teaching, reliant on the fact the teachers were professional dancers but are in fact not great teachers.  They swam about as if they are untouchable and berate concerned parents who don’t know any better yet are not good enough at their job.  

 

 I know who you are referring to as she was at my nieces school. She didn’t win - she was placed in the top 12. She was also invited to New York finals but the school she moved to wouldn’t allow it. I’m not sure it was the competition that got her in. I think the problem is the same staff sitting on audition panels Year in Year out. If they don’t like you in Year seven they are unlikely to like you in Year ten! And this particular entrant was offered places all over the world - without winning. So are the competitions the exposure our dancers need?

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1 hour ago, cotes du rhone ! said:

 

My dd won a scholarship to attend the YAGP semi final in Paris last November from the Cecchetti International Ballet Competition in Florence. We had only heard of it from the documentary 𝙵irst Position. She went for the performance experience and is now one of only 3 UK girls attending the finals in New York in 3 weeks time. The final list of competitors came out yesterday. This will be Dds third international competition outing. It has been an amazing experience dancing with others from all over the world in masterclasses. Very expensive though 😓

Huge congratulations to your dd cdr- although I dread to think of the cost ...

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7 minutes ago, Dancermum2003 said:

  I’m not sure it was the competition that got her in. I think the problem is the same staff sitting on audition panels Year in Year out. If they don’t like you in Year seven they are unlikely to like you in Year ten! And this particular entrant was offered places all over the world - without winning. 

 

This.

Edited by amos73
Edited to add clarity
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4 hours ago, Dancermum2003 said:

 I know who you are referring to as she was at my nieces school. She didn’t win - she was placed in the top 12. She was also invited to New York finals but the school she moved to wouldn’t allow it. I’m not sure it was the competition that got her in. I think the problem is the same staff sitting on audition panels Year in Year out. If they don’t like you in Year seven they are unlikely to like you in Year ten! And this particular entrant was offered places all over the world - without winning. So are the competitions the exposure our dancers need?

 

What changed for this girl then? Are you suggesting she got the place because she was seen by someone other than those on the panel when she auditioned and would perhaps have got a place if the person who saw her at the YAGP had been on her initial audition panel?

 

I think exposure certainly helps. When you're competing a solo at a competition, you're watched more closely than you would be in an audition when the panel has to watch a whole class. You're also performing familiar work that you've perfected, so you're really showing the best of yourself. It's easier to stand out and spark a director's interest than it is in an audition when you can become lost in a crowd of talented dancers.

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Reading some of these posts, it just backs up my opinion that very (or equally) talented children from less well off parents, don't get anywhere near the same opportunities. I know that's how it is, but such a shame IMHO. 

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Asking where are the "British" students in all these competitions - isn't it these that schools like the RBS don't send their students to because of the poor timing in relation to the academic year?

 

I reckon there are probably just as many competition winners/medallists touted as the "next best thing" who don't actually end up making it as there are those that do (not to mention the number of non-competitors who actually make it to the top!).  I can certainly think of a few who have pretty much sunk without trace, but whether they gave up or not I don't know.  It would be very interesting to go through the lists of top(ish) graduates from ballet schools worldwide and see how many of the "star pupils" have actually ended up doing "better" than their peers.

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2 hours ago, invisiblecircus said:

 

What changed for this girl then? Are you suggesting she got the place because she was seen by someone other than those on the panel when she auditioned and would perhaps have got a place if the person who saw her at the YAGP had been on her initial audition panel?

 

I think exposure certainly helps. When you're competing a solo at a competition, you're watched more closely than you would be in an audition when the panel has to watch a whole class. You're also performing familiar work that you've perfected, so you're really showing the best of yourself. It's easier to stand out and spark a director's interest than it is in an audition when you can become lost in a crowd of talented dancers.

I don’t know hercwell enough (or thinknits appropriate to comment on individuals). The point I’m making is that this wasn’t a ‘winner’ of a competition but she was seen by a teacher at the school (not the AD) and was given a place. This would imply that the original and subsequent panels at auditions (which are usually made up of the same people) obviously didn’t see what the teacher saw or didn’t like what they saw. AS Harwel  said ‘what has changed in those months! Except the observer!! 

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On 15/03/2018 at 21:57, Sadielou said:

Does anyone else find it odd that RBS have found the money to create a new post for Samira Saidi to "recruit the worlds most gifted dancers" ? - especially as competition entrants from both YAGP and Prix are already making up two thirds of each RBS US year group. Do we really need to pay somebody to find more ?  RBS even have an International scholars page, talented kids who are technically too advanced for White Lodge and have been promised US places if they want them when they are old enough. Several foreign students in year 1 are currently only year 11 age and there is one girl joining US next term who is only 14. The RBS year 7s have the same initial potential as those students from abroad, but are obviously not getting the training they need and deserve. Why are the RBS not embarrassed about the lack of home trained students coming through ? Why is nobody questioning this. Surely money would be better spent training the students they already have to the standard they obviously require. Anybody can cherry pick from the competitions, but it seems that very few can actually train dancers !

I think the answer is simple, in GB regulations.... not allowing teachers push to hard ( health&safety, 'child abuse',  etc...) And also WL students not allowed to take part in competitions in the first place as it can 'damage' them and disturb their studies. Take note, that those international competition winners mostly home educated, private over coached, hardly pushed children ('abused' in the studio 24/7). There are few who were not really talented 'ballet children' only some years ago, now are the stars, because of all said above + really extreem strive to succeed. 

I don't know what else it can be.

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6 of Dd1’s friends entered YAGP (in Barcelona) and 1 is through to finals in New York and 3 others got scholarships to Bolshoi summer school. British students are entering although these were all Russian trained.

We could not afford it. Competition itself is not too expensive but no heats in UK so need to factor in time and travel plus tutus and pointe shoes. There is now the launch of the British ballet Grand Prix which is more affordable but just starting out.

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An additional factor to be considered when addressing the training of British dancers is the nature of teaching prior to entering vocational training. These are key years of emotional and physical development for young people where a lot of good or indeed damage can be done. The culture of fear based training needs to be stopped at any level. When the emotion of fear is online in a young dancer you will NEVER get the best out of a student. High levels of fear actually cause changes in functioning of the brain and regulation of levels of arousal. Over prolonged periods this can cause damage. There is no way you will get or even ‘aspire’ to get the best from a student when they are more terrified by the response of their teacher than anything else. This culture and throw away comments like “it’s just the ballet world” MUST stop or be stopped. Unfortunately, teachers who are guilty of such practices will be the last to admit this is the case. As a result, more needs to be put in place to safeguard students, inform parents/carers of their rights and encourage other teachers to whistleblow when they see this happening.

Unfortunately, there is a huge hole in the dance world when teachers are not registered or accredited teachers. I am not going down the line of who makes a better teacher (ex pro dancers vs trained teacher etc) but instead addressing this from the perspective of how do we safeguard students and indeed professional dancers if there is no regulating body to which a teacher is accountable. This leaves a cohort of teachers who are not obliged to practice via any code of teaching standards, ethics, safeguarding practices etc. Some may say it is up to a school/company etc to deal with situations like this but what if they do not? What if they deny there is a problem or, worst still, blame the dancer. It is not uncommon for faculty to act in a similar manner or become imbedded in a school/company where there are inadequate safeguarding/anti bullying policies in place in the first place? This is a tricky and heartbreaking dynamic as it results in a situation where there is the potential for abusive teachers to become untouchable. Most will know that social care will show very little interest in incidents of this level. 

How can this ‘loophole be addressed’? Additionally, how can parents/carers/teachers etc have more confidence in systems put in place by teaching regulating bodies and schools. Students need to be nurtured from a young age to give the best opportunities of a successful career. Surely, the emotional aspects of teaching must also be addressed alongside the technical standard of teaching the next generation of UK students. I have no doubt that the talent is there but the formula is much in need of an ‘honest’ and indepth review. 

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As this thread from last year was resurrected I took the time to re read it all from start to finish. It truly makes for sorrowful and depressing reading. In terms of all the issues that have been raised in the personal and sometimes harrowing posts people made under this subject I would expect it must all feel very raw yet again at this time of year as some UK students and parents face the pain and bewilderment of having been told their child is 'no longer suitable' for the training the school handpicked them for a year or two ago.

 

I personally know people affected by this. There has been a large amount of current students assessed out of various years at WL in the past few weeks, and from other vocational schools. In one case students were told in advance their places could be at risk pre assessment, as spaces had been given in an already full year to international students for September. This was also before any of the final auditions were held for potential entry to that year. At the final audition for that particular year there were a few UK students but a majority of international students. No Uk students were given a place. What message does this give out? 

 

For the students who have been asked to leave they now face the worrying time of trying to find a place to continue their vocational training in one of the other schools in the UK whose classes may already be full or close to. This is a problem which could be compounded by places at White Lodge being given to international students, meaning spaces haven't been made in the other vocational schools here in the UK. Once can only imagine that some of these very students may well have turned down places at the other UK schools for y7 in order to accept a place at White Lodge - and now find themselves in this situation.

 

As Royal upper school have their final auditions this weekend  it will be interesting to see a) how many non White Lodge UK students have made it to finals, and b) out of these and the current White Lodge students how many are offered places. I would like to hope it is a different story to last year, and that a large proportion of the original White Lodge cohort do get places, which might go some way to restore people's faith in UK training, rather than it be the case that the majority of places go to either international students (competition winners and otherwise) or International Students brought in for a year or two at the end of White Lodge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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11 hours ago, balletcoach said:

I think the answer is simple, in GB regulations.... not allowing teachers push to hard ( health&safety, 'child abuse',  etc...) And also WL students not allowed to take part in competitions in the first place as it can 'damage' them and disturb their studies. Take note, that those international competition winners mostly home educated, private over coached, hardly pushed children ('abused' in the studio 24/7). There are few who were not really talented 'ballet children' only some years ago, now are the stars, because of all said above + really extreem strive to succeed. 

I don't know what else it can be.

 

Ballet Coach, sorry I wasn't quite clear - are you saying you disagree with the approach taken by international competition winners, and that the UK method of not allowing teachers to 'push hard' is in your opinion a better approach?

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23 minutes ago, KeepDancing!! said:

As this thread from last year was resurrected I took the time to re read it all from start to finish. It truly makes for sorrowful and depressing reading. In terms of all the issues that have been raised in the personal and sometimes harrowing posts people made under this subject I would expect it must all feel very raw yet again at this time of year as some UK students and parents face the pain and bewilderment of having been told their child is 'no longer suitable' for the training the school handpicked them for a year or two ago.

 

I personally know people affected by this. There has been a large amount of current students assessed out of various years at WL in the past few weeks, and from other vocational schools. In one case students were told in advance their places could be at risk pre assessment, as spaces had been given in an already full year to international students for September. This was also before any of the final auditions were held for potential entry to that year. At the final audition for that particular year there were a few UK students but a majority of international students. No Uk students were given a place. What message does this give out? 

 

For the students who have been asked to leave they now face the worrying time of trying to find a place to continue their vocational training in one of the other schools in the UK whose classes may already be full or close to. This is a problem which could be compounded by places at White Lodge being given to international students, meaning spaces haven't been made in the other vocational schools here in the UK. Once can only imagine that some of these very students may well have turned down places at the other UK schools for y7 in order to accept a place at White Lodge - and now find themselves in this situation.

 

As Royal upper school have their final auditions this weekend  it will be interesting to see a) how many non White Lodge UK students have made it to finals, and b) out of these and the current White Lodge students how many are offered places. I would like to hope it is a different story to last year, and that a large proportion of the original White Lodge cohort do get places, which might go some way to restore people's faith in UK training, rather than it be the case that the majority of places go to either international students (competition winners and otherwise) or International Students brought in for a year or two at the end of White Lodge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am not disputing that there are obvious issues with the low number of lower school pupils graduating to upper school. If we compare to Paris Opera where most ( not all) seem to go through the whole system. However, I feel your account of acceptance of international students is a little biased. There were 3 new students accepted into yr 9  last September, all British and not competition winners.

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I have made this point before, but I can't help thinking that if so many students are assessed out then there is something radically wrong either with the training they have been receiving or with the selection process in the first place.

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5 minutes ago, valentina said:

I am not disputing that there are obvious issues with the low number of lower school pupils graduating to upper school. If we compare to Paris Opera where most ( not all) seem to go through the whole system. However, I feel your account of acceptance of international students is a little biased. There were 3 new students accepted into yr 9  last September, all British and not competition winners.

 

Hi Valentina,

 

That is very good to hear about the UK students accepted into y9 last September. Thanks for sharing that.

 

I was referring to students being told this year that international students had been given places for September start pre-assessment.

 

 

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I’m curious is there a gender divide present? Are more girls being assessed out/leaving than boys? And are the international students predominantly female? 

 

I worry that the dancing world as a whole treats female dancers, from JA level right through to professional level, as highly replaceable. I get told by other teachers all the time how lucky I am to have so many successful boys, but no one bats an eyelid at my incredibly talented and accomplished girls. 

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This is my worry about taking up a year 7 place, we've also heard rumours that if assessed out of WL there will be little/no chance of getting another vocational school. What happened to just going to one class a week. LOL

 

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