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British training at Lower and Upper Schools

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Totally agree with Sadielou, Moneypenny & Kat09. Exploitation is rife in the dance world especially for those looking for their first contracts. 

 

We knew auditioning would be difficult but I was shocked at how little support there was from school and the staff. No guidance on best places to audition for each individual dancer’s style and strength. Very little effort to get their graduates seen in the last few years of school. 

I’m relieved to now be out of the dance world. Dd amazed at how much support there is from college staff regarding choosing appropriate university and courses. But if one more person says ‘what a waste, all that hard work, time and money and you’ve given it all up’ ....

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Having read all the above posts, I totally agree that the ballet world is in disarray.  There have been certain historical events which have impinged greatly on job prospects.  

 

After the Second World War the rebuilding of theatres was given priority in many cities to provide a return to Civilization and Civic order.  However, particularly in Germany there was not a pool of dancers trained at local ballet schools, so this is when many British and Commonwealth trained dancers spread across Europe.

 

Mid 1970s UK joined the Common Market - which meant that all other member Nationalities had to be accepted and preference could not be given in UK to British nationals (or Commonwealth nationals with British connection.)  

 

Then about 10 years ago there was a major economic downturn throughout Europe.  Many companies closed or downsized to Contemporary groups.  So, fewer jobs coincided with the rise BA Hons degrees funded by Student loans in UK, allowing many more dancers to embark on professional training.

 

A very broad brush overview, I know, but I would be interested to hear others comments.

 

 

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27 minutes ago, Jane said:

 

 

We knew auditioning would be difficult but I was shocked at how little support there was from school and the staff. No guidance on best places to audition for each individual dancer’s style and strength. Very little effort to get their graduates seen in the last few years of school. 

 

Gosh, that’s such a contrast to the general dance & musical theatre colleges where pretty much the entire third year seems to be about getting seen by agents and casting directors. 

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Some places give excellent support to their final year students,  pointing out suitable opportunities and giving hard but fair advice.  I appreciate not all - but equally not all are disinterested.

 

t's not all grim - if you are prepared to work in a less glamorous or prestigious company, in Eastern Europe there are opportunities, and many companies have a predominantly classical repertoire. Dancers are respected and theatres are subsidised.  Yes the salaries are low, but so are the living costs.  Even new graduates make enough to live on without a hand out, if they are realistic about accommodation.  It's when you can come home, or need to buy flights, there are problems.    

 

  

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Meadowblythe are you able to guide me as to which vocational ballet schools give ‘excellent support’ to their final year students for classical ballet please. 

 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, meadowblythe said:

 

Some places give excellent support to their final year students,  pointing out suitable opportunities and giving hard but fair advice.  I appreciate not all - but equally not all are disinterested.

 

t's not all grim - if you are prepared to work in a less glamorous or prestigious company, in Eastern Europe there are opportunities, and many companies have a predominantly classical repertoire. Dancers are respected and theatres are subsidised.  Yes the salaries are low, but so are the living costs.  Even new graduates make enough to live on without a hand out, if they are realistic about accommodation.  It's when you can come home, or need to buy flights, there are problems.    

 

  

My Dd and her peers auditioned at numerous Eastern Europe companies without success. One dancer from her cohort secured a month by month contract but that was through a contact not an open audition. 

The graduate year group prior to my Dds year seemed to have the same problems as her year. Prior to this we noticed most grads got their first contract in Eastern Europe.  

 

At some auditions Dd attended they were told there were no vacancies but the company had to hold auditions. Cynically Dd always believed that this was the case because the companies were partially funded by local government and having a few hundred dancers turn up in town for auditions was a huge boost for the local economy. 

Edited by Jane
To add final comment
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Posted (edited)
15 hours ago, Jan McNulty said:

 

I always understood that it was British and Commonwealth?

 

Seems almost frivolous to continue this line after the disrespectful and dehumanising experiences enumerated above, but of course Jan you're right. However when I said "furriners" I meant Persons From Abroad e.g. Spain or Italy, and there were certainly students from those countries in the 1950s senior school, acquiring "polish" in order to return home and embark upon a professional career. 

 

Was it when Britain entered the Common Market that "furriners" began to be accepted into the Royal Ballet companies?

Edited by Sophoife
Changed a couple of words

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Meadowblythe, I also would be very interested in hearing your take on the schools that provide the best guidance as we are beginning our search for an upper school.

 

Jane, I'd love to know what school your DC attended.

 

So many red flags all pointing to a career that involves a lot of struggling to even be seen.  Its getting harder and harder the more I read to know what the right decision to make is, however, in saying that, its better to go in with your eyes open.  Thank goodness for this forum and for all who post their experiences good and bad so that those coming up behind know full well what to expect.

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I only have experience of one upper school - happy to discuss via PM. 

 

The only point I was making was it is not universally bleak even for those who have never entered a competition or won any prizes.

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Posted (edited)
On 18/03/2019 at 02:35, Sadielou said:

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.

 

Thank you Sadielou for the report from the trenches!  I wish your DC all the best.

 

I found the topic: Investment in the Doing Dance forum helpful after reading the posts in this thread.  Really, ballet training is a very dodgy investment. 

It is better for me to view this training as a 'lifestyle' that we have chosen.  It must be positive for her 'overall' development if we continue to pursue this and finance it.  That is the test not whether she has a career in it. That is how I want to  approach this journey based on what I am learning.   Others will see things differently.

 

If my non-dancing DD goes to a job/internship interview and she  is told "there is no job" or she is disrespected then I would expect her to stick it out for the experience OR feel free to walk out the door.  This is something I wish to instill in my dancing DD too.  

Edited by DD Driver
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Posted (edited)

As Year 11 at White Lodge now know if they have places at Upper School will some sort of review take place of the training? Do you think the percentage that carry on at RBS is ever looked at by staff and considered? 

Edited by Dancermum2003

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You would hope they do review the situation but as the same issue (sadly) happens every year I have to assume the powers that be are not interested in training British dancers....☹️

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I also wonder are Y11 students and their parents adequately counselled about their chances and encouraged/supported adequately to apply elsewhere? I ask this because of the surprise there seems to be each year about low continuation rates?

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On 13/03/2019 at 22:37, balletcoach said:

 

 

25 minutes ago, sarahw said:

I also wonder are Y11 students and their parents adequately counselled about their chances and encouraged/supported adequately to apply elsewhere? I ask this because of the surprise there seems to be each year about low continuation rates?

I think the students get support with their applications/ photos / videos and solos to apply to other schools. They are supported in the time off they need to attend auditions. Lower down the school, help is given for summer schools if photos/video is needed or a solo, which is more than can be said of some other vocational schools.

However, the summer school needs to be one approved by rbs.

Can’t comment on counselling.

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So 5 WL girls are through to upper school. Sounds similar to other years. Don’t know about the boys. 

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Posted (edited)
40 minutes ago, Harwel said:

So 5 WL girls are through to upper school. Sounds similar to other years. Don’t know about the boys. 

 

Do you know when they all started at WL?

 

Any news of where the other girls have offers from?

Edited by junedancer
Added a further question

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27 minutes ago, Harwel said:

So 5 WL girls are through to upper school. Sounds similar to other years. Don’t know about the boys. 

 

I think it’s about double that for the boys. Most of them through to upper school. Well done to all of them and hope the others have success elsewhere soon. 

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28 minutes ago, tutugirl said:

I may be wrong ! But I think only 2 of the 5 girls started in year 7 .

 

This must be disheartening for those at WL, but hopefully the WL training puts them on a good place to audition successfully elsewhere.

 

I wonder why this is more of an issue for the girls than the boys other than generally there will be more girls in training than boys.

 

We suppose we also need to remember that there are a number who leave of their own volition for all manner of reasons.

 

It would be nice to see places being offered to those who have trained elsewhere in the UK.  Any news on other offers?

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There have always been a number of WL girls who change tack if not offered US, and go to Laines, Birds etc. for a more West End career. 

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I’m also curious about why it is more of an issue for the girls? 

 

I have 2 JA boys wanting to audition next year for year 7 and it does seem to be a more heartening outlook for the boys- I wonder is this actually the case or are there just fewer boys parents out there telling their story and sharing their journey ? The figures for upper school do seem to suggest the training for the boys stands them in better stead for an upper school place. Wish things were more transparent! 

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8 hours ago, Bluebird22 said:

I’m also curious about why it is more of an issue for the girls? 

 

I have 2 JA boys wanting to audition next year for year 7 and it does seem to be a more heartening outlook for the boys- I wonder is this actually the case or are there just fewer boys parents out there telling their story and sharing their journey ? The figures for upper school do seem to suggest the training for the boys stands them in better stead for an upper school place. Wish things were more transparent! 

RBS Boys training is no different to the girls. It is purely that there are fewer boys coming in from abroad and therefore the Director has more boys places to give.

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ENBS results have been sent. I know students with offers.

 

Have the Royal upper results been sent for non wl students?

 

I have heard anywhere between 5 and 9 boys from WL got offers at upper school, and 5 girls.Happy to be corrected if this is wrong!

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13 minutes ago, KeepDancing!! said:

ENBS results have been sent. I know students with offers.

 

Have the Royal upper results been sent for non wl students?

 

I have heard anywhere between 5 and 9 boys from WL got offers at upper school, and 5 girls.Happy to be corrected if this is wrong!

I think it is 5 girls and 10 boys. Happy to be corrected.

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Unless I'm missing something, I don't see why knowing how many have been there since Year 7 is a meaningful indicator of anything in itself.  I might be inclined to look specifically at the backgrounds of those who might have joined in Years 9 or 10 having not had any RB training previously, but look at (e.g.) Yasmine Naghdi who joined WL in Year 8 having been a JA and MA (?) and not got into WL in Year 7 - clearly if there are other dancers with similar backgrounds then "joining WL late" is not the same thing as "having a non-RBS background".

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Yes you're correct Ruth - I suppose as virtually all going in at Y7 are UK trained it gives an easy indicator of British progress without going into personal details of individuals.

I would imagine a significant number of those entering after Y7 are not UK trained. 

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7 hours ago, Sadielou said:

RBS Boys training is no different to the girls. It is purely that there are fewer boys coming in from abroad and therefore the Director has more boys places to give.

Boys are in short supply, so they tend to nurture them and hang on to them if possible. There is a huge surplus of girls so they can pick and choose whoever they like from all over the world.

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