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British training at Lower and Upper Schools

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It’s a complex question. Is it because we are a small nation and the  right bodies/ talent is small in comparison to Australia/ USA / Russia?

iI feel this argument doesn’t really stand up when you look at France, who’s population is not too dissimilar and, as I pointed out earlier, Paris Opera doesn’t seem to have the same issues Then there’s the training, I feel there is quite a bit of discrepancy between the way parents UK want their child’s training to be ( slow, safe practice), what most UK teachers desire for the training of their pupils and then what Directors worldwide want at 16. There are of course plenty of dancers out there who have come through the slow, careful route and  now have a successful careers, with bodies intact ( or relatively so) but it must take more time, reaching a peak around 18/19 rather than 14/15. I have no personal experience of PO, but in interviews, I have read that it is a tough place to train and not particularly pleasant.... (welcome to be corrected on this point). Just trying to work out why it works over there and not here.

 

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19 minutes ago, Tiaramum said:

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

 

Wow @Tiaramum that sounds like you have news worth celebrating?? (Whatever you decide to do). If I'm understanding right then huge congratulations to your DD 🎉

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9 minutes ago, MAK said:

Wow @Tiaramum that sounds like you have news worth celebrating?? (Whatever you decide to do). If I'm understanding right then huge congratulations to your DD 🎉

Thank you MAK x

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34 minutes ago, Tiaramum said:

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

 

 

Wheras I have heard that certain other schools may be interested in building links to visit the school to watch class and speak to children who have been assessed out to discuss their options.

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4 minutes ago, Picturesinthefirelight said:

 

Wheras I have heard that certain other schools may be interested in building links to visit the school to watch class and speak to children who have been assessed out to discuss their options.

That's reassuring. Thank you for sharing that.

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1 hour ago, Tiaramum said:

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

 

There were a few pupils assessed out of WL at Hammond and I know of others at Elmhurst in past. I think being assessed out can sometimes happen quite late in the audition season and this can make getting a place (especially MDS) tricky.

 

We never had a choice of LS places but for those who do I personally would be wanting a school where my DC had a good chance of getting to Y11 and where the LS was getting significant numbers into their US. Being assessed out before Y11 is mentally very tough and also academic issues.

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52 minutes ago, Picturesinthefirelight said:

 

Wheras I have heard that certain other schools may be interested in building links to visit the school to watch class and speak to children who have been assessed out to discuss their options.

 

The way I heard it was that the teachers approached the other vocation schools to try to help the pupils.  Some have already had separate auditions and /or gone straight to final auditions.

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2 hours ago, Tiaramum said:

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

 

 

Almost all children assessed out of WL will be snapped up by another vocational school (unless due to injury). Everything WL saw to begin with will still be there and even one year training at WL makes a real difference to technique. 

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As said in various posts above, many talented Uk dancers often with 5 years of vocational training under their belt are being totally squeezed out at the higher levels. The top vocational schools in this country have no qualms about advertising their world wide auditions on all social media outlets.To the uninitiated it would seem that there is a dire need to fill spaces in these schools, but as parents and teachers on this forum know the situation is the exact opposite. I have personally been through the horrible, gut wrenching experience of assessments  with both my own children and my students. We too have listened to their teachers tell us that the chance of them getting places at the Upper level of training, would solely depend on the amount of places available after the Director had given places to foreign students (again before the schools own assessments). I can not help but wonder how these teachers can allow their students to be callously tossed aside year after year without questioning themselves and the training afforded to these students. My heart goes out to all parents and students currently going through this. The sad truth is that the training in our lower schools is not up to international standards and for many years several of our schools have simply got by on their brand names. Many parents of lower school students come to realise this quiet quickly but are caught in a catch 22 situation. If only enough parents could get together and protest, things could change, however as the ballet world is so small and parents are petrified to mess up any chance their child may have, this will never happen. I made a fuss towards the end of my child's training (we had nothing to lose as we had already made the decision to go elsewhere) but even with only one month of schooling left, I was hauled up in front of the Director like a naughty school child and literally told to get back into line if I wanted my child to graduate and perform at the end of the year. Still haven't gotten over this experience ! It is so sad that this same topic rears its ugly head year after year.

 

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Happy to be corrected, but isn't it now the legal case that in the UK our young people must remain in some form of full time higher education until they are 18? Is this part of the reason wy we cold be seen as 'taking it slow/er' or 'pacing the training' as opposed to other nations training were there are not the work age or insistence to remain in education age limitations?

The days of Margot Fonteyn dancing lead roles at 14 are long gone....but then in those times it was often the case that education ceased for many at 14 & they entered the world of work. I do seem to recall Ferri/Durante & others all joining the actual RB company aged 15 even in the 1980's....I don't think even in then that would've been allowed for a British youth? Again, happy to be corrected!

So it seems to me the playing field has never been exactly even....& lets all be realistic also that quite often advanced skills/experience directly relate to how much training an individual has had which in turn often directly relates to opportunity which in many instances directly relates to how much cash can be thrown at it!

Cynical? You bet!  :wacko:

 

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Another point is there are thankfully regulations/restrictions in place to safeguard CHILDREN in education in UK.....hopefully limiting hours trained & ensuring their safety & physical/mental health is well looked after whilst training in ballet or any other area of education.

I bet this can not be said of all types of training accessed by some of these overseas 'Wunderkinder'

Some real double standards here....

So, we want the uber trained 'childbride' as long as we are not responsible for the lowering levels of acceptability for child welfare....

A bit like turning a blind eye to the sweatshop labour producing the designer brands wouldn't you say? We still buy them so are we equally culpable for the standards endured by those workers?

Any amazing talent coming in from abroad should only do so from a background of safe & balanced training. I don't want to see a child dance 32 perfect foutees en pointe but with the vacant & hopefully genuinely naïve inability to show expression & 'act' the role of a woman such as the major story ballet roles require.

Please let children worldwide be children! These hot housed kids in my opinion are as badly served in this as those forced to walk miles daily to simply collect water for their family survival.

Harsh? Maybe

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Not harsh at all.

 

For every "wunderkinder" as you call it, how many have fallen by the wayside without the educational back up we insist our kids have in the UK. Or have suffered injuries/mental health problems from over-training?

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Exactly Pictures! And also, how many of these, once away from the control of pushy parents/teachers & out in the big wide world making their own life choices actually continue in dance or at least end up fulfilling the grand expectations put onto them so young?

 

Our UK youngsters do benefit in the most part from a balanced all round education with excellent dance training also available via many routes....

Please do not lets write them off as being behind their overs trained peers or lacking in standard/experience by age 16! They may well 'get there' by age 18/19/20 & then go on to have a long career of their choosing! And hopefully have a happy childhood behind them to recall too!!

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3 hours ago, Tiaramum said:

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. 

 

That isn't the case - other schools do take assessed-out WL students, and are happy to have them. Sometimes students will have auditioned there previously anyway and been offered a place, which wasn't taken up due to going to WL instead. 

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13 hours 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.

Well, one was 'returning' student, one british, but trained and lives abroad (so, no british trained), one british, and one to join in y10 from Australia (competition one).

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14 hours ago, KeepDancing!! said:

 

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?

I'm agree. It's just not making any sense as training in GB is weak in comparement to Worldwide, but why then worldwide students going to UK, especially at 16+.... Just because of the school name, or route through school to 'Rome'? Well, there's so many 'Rome' companies out there.

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8 hours ago, balletcoach said:

Well, one was 'returning' student, one british, but trained and lives abroad (so, no british trained), one british, and one to join in y10 from Australia (competition one).

 

The ‘returning’ student has trained in UK for the past 2 years, auditioning again, along with everyone else, having spent less than 1 week at RBS. Therefore 2/3 are British trained.

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23 hours ago, Tiaramum said:

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

 

 

Although my son was assessed out, if you think about it logically, the chances are that it won't.  If 10% of a year leave, 90% won't.

 

Whatever happens you have WL on your CV.  My son's view is that if he hadn't attended his first school, even though he wasn't that happy there, he wouldn't have the technique to be where he is now.  Possibly the name on the CV helped too - there were a lot of ex-students from that school in his first company.  But if he hadn't been assessed out he would have lost his love of dancing, and doubts if he would have continued,  the school  just wasn't right for him.

 

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15 minutes ago, meadowblythe said:

 

Although my son was assessed out, if you think about it logically, the chances are that it won't.  If 10% of a year leave, 90% won't.

 

Whatever happens you have WL on your CV.  My son's view is that if he hadn't attended his first school, even though he wasn't that happy there, he wouldn't have the technique to be where he is now.  Possibly the name on the CV helped too - there were a lot of ex-students from that school in his first company.  But if he hadn't been assessed out he would have lost his love of dancing, and doubts if he would have continued,  the school  just wasn't right for him.

 

Thank you Meadowblythe for that. I really appreciate hearing that - its reassuring

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On 19/03/2018 at 20:26, invisiblecircus said:

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.

It's not so difficult to find out. Look at RBS broshure (paper one, Summer perfomances each year). At the end you can see names of students, if you see  name* - it's mean they were JA's (so most likely y7 as well). Well... look at the names in US, especially graduating year - the little * dissapears. Most of those perfect and talented from God,  very carefully selected 'clay' to work and Craft with... dissapears. The problem is, perfect ones - often the ones who not madly fighting for survival (NOT ALL, of course, but from years of observation, even my students), then they might be let down as a consequence. And that is what AD has mentioned about not so long ago in some ballet journal as well.

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14 hours ago, balletcoach said:

The problem is, perfect ones - often the ones who not madly fighting for survival (NOT ALL, of course, but from years of observation, even my students), then they might be let down as a consequence. And that is what AD has mentioned about not so long ago in some ballet journal as well.

Fighting for survival? It's children we are talking about here.  

 

And the article in that ballet journal (the Dancing Times, it was) - well, that went down like a lead balloon with the students. One of them told me so.

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How sad to read all this. I had three years in the RBS US in the 60s and it was so different then. The White Lodgers automatically got into the Senior School and had their own truncated training all together of just two years - 3A and the Graduates normally.  The rest of us who were talented but not WL usually had to have three years of training.  We were very much in awe of those from WL!   You were only accepted into the company if you were British. I remember one talent was finally accepted because she found a long lost British relative!  The "foreigners" had their own separate classes and the standard was lower.  Topsy turvy world eh?

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This does indeed make sad reading. What is even more sad is that most of those graduating from ballet schools will really really struggle to get jobs, that is the truth of it. The job search is expensive and brutal, candidates are treated like cattle at some auditions and toxic is a word I would use to describe some elements of the industry. It is most certainly not for the faint hearted.

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14 hours ago, Dance*is*life said:

How sad to read all this. I had three years in the RBS US in the 60s and it was so different then. The White Lodgers automatically got into the Senior School and had their own truncated training all together of just two years - 3A and the Graduates normally.  The rest of us who were talented but not WL usually had to have three years of training.  We were very much in awe of those from WL!   You were only accepted into the company if you were British. I remember one talent was finally accepted because she found a long lost British relative!  The "foreigners" had their own separate classes and the standard was lower.  Topsy turvy world eh?

 

From the memoirs of people who were at Sadler's Wells in the 50s, there were certainly foreigners in both the Junior and Senior Schools in Colet Gardens; I wonder when the British-only policy was enacted? Was it when the Wells became the Royal company?

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16 hours ago, Dance*is*life said:

How sad to read all this. I had three years in the RBS US in the 60s and it was so different then. The White Lodgers automatically got into the Senior School and had their own truncated training all together of just two years - 3A and the Graduates normally.  The rest of us who were talented but not WL usually had to have three years of training.  We were very much in awe of those from WL!   You were only accepted into the company if you were British. I remember one talent was finally accepted because she found a long lost British relative!  The "foreigners" had their own separate classes and the standard was lower.  Topsy turvy world eh?

Maybe, during the period that ballet was trying to re- energise itself, looking more towards contemporary influences and post Balanchine, and with dancers now appearing from Russia, that foreign dancers appeared more exotic and appealing? 

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5 hours ago, Sophoife said:

 

From the memoirs of people who were at Sadler's Wells in the 50s, there were certainly foreigners in both the Junior and Senior Schools in Colet Gardens; I wonder when the British-only policy was enacted? Was it when the Wells became the Royal company?

 

I always understood that it was British and Commonwealth?

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19 hours ago, Moneypenny said:

This does indeed make sad reading. What is even more sad is that most of those graduating from ballet schools will really really struggle to get jobs, that is the truth of it. The job search is expensive and brutal, candidates are treated like cattle at some auditions and toxic is a word I would use to describe some elements of the industry. It is most certainly not for the faint hearted.

We are on the audition circuit at the moment and it is indeed very expensive, brutal and toxic. Most European companies will only audition students of specific heights, boys under 5'11 are generally not even seen regardless of talent, same goes for girls that are too small, seems that 5"5 is the desired height, but the poor girls get it at both ends as they can't be too tall either. It would appear from our recent experiences that height is now more important than talent !  If you get over the height  hurdle and receive an invite to audition, it is in most cases a cattle market. With students (even those from the top schools) being routed out before the end of the classical class. Most companies are now asking for dance photos and videos of classical class and solos, as a pre assessment, presumably as not to waste the time of students that are an obvious non fit for their company. However from what we have witnessed over the past few weeks it would appear that most of these company's hadn't given these videos a second glance. It has been bad enough for us, residing in Europe, but others travelled from much further a field, only to be told goodbye and thank you after only half an hour of class. Three times one of my DC having survived to the end of a full days audition - classical class, pas de deux,  repertoire, has been told that he is too classical as the company in question would only be doing Contemporary rep for the forseeable future. Surely this could have been stated on the audition notice, and in the case of my DC it should have been very obvious from his audition video that he is a  very classical dancer. That is frustrating enough, but having survived to the end of auditions for two of the most prestigious German companies, one said that they hadn't decided wether they wanted, classical or contemporary dancers or those that could do both (why hold an audition until you know what you are auditioning for), and the other company's director didn't look up from his phone throughout the whole process, Both company's told those that made it to the end of the audition day  - 4 cuts in all, that they would email with news good or bad, within two weeks - 6 weeks later we are still waiting, along with the others that my DC knew from those auditions. After 3 weeks my DC emailed both companies to ask for news and one of the company's as to wether it would be worth re auditioning (as this company had started advertising another batch of auditions) but never heard another word from either one. One of our UK companies told all auditionees as they walked into the studio on audition day, that they had no contracts but for grant purposes had to hold annual auditions - Disgusting behaviour !  Not one company audition notice states the terms of the contracts available so in the main auditionees are competing for a job with no knowledge of what they are actually auditioning for or if the job in question even pays. The elation of being offered a contract can soon wear thin when you find out that the only contracts available are for apprenticeships and the pay amounts to 300 euros a month ! This seems to be happening more and more. Even one of the better known  junior companies only offers first year members 1100 euros a month, hardly enough to survive on in a major city, unless you have rich parents. Quite frankly it is little more than exploitation on behalf of these company's, a cheap and easy way to fill their ranks, None of the big European company's can perform the well known classical ballets without junior company / trainees and affiliated school students to swell their ranks. The school students (although of course gaining valuable experience) are usually paid zilch - this is the case at Het Nationale and the RB and no doubt many other companies. In my day the RBS students were paid by performance, even for walk on roles - So much for improvements ! It would just be nice if some of these companies could at least show a little bit of respect to the dancers that travel so far and work so hard and stop the exploitation of hard working students. I guess what I am trying to say, is that the worry surrounding schools, assessments and training is just the beginning, as the stress and the considerable financial strain seems to be never ending. It is definitely, definitely not for the faint hearted.

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Sadielou, I absolutely agree with everything you have said. This is the real truth of the ballet world for most and the experiences you describe are typical. I will quote an experience ... flights, two nights in a hotel, a nearly 5 hour wait just to get in the studio, because there are around 400 women auditioning, get in the studio and cut after 15 mins. These highly trained individuals are treated appallingly. 

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Posted (edited)

So much wasted time, effort , years of education - not to mention money - it’s heartbreaking - wishing all of your dancing young adults eventual success- unfortunately passion and talent alone do not pay the bills - exploitation- makes my blood boil !

probably controversial, but so many dance schools have sprung up , IMO there are now far too many graduates ,and this is fuelling the behaviour of the dance companies - a bigger and bigger pool of candidates chasing an ever decreasing meaningful contract opportunity.

Edited by Kat09
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