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Diva05

Vocational training between 11 and 16 in the UK

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I am interested to hear (particularly from any ballet teachers here) about training from age 11-16, for girls.

 

Is full time vocational school the best/recommended way? If not, what would you advise as an alternative in terms of weekly hours of training? Does anyone have experience of Upper School entry without full time training pre 16? 

 

Opinions/experience from parents very welcome too! 

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I have read of children who have been sucesful not having trained full time between 11 and 16 (I think there was a Genee finalist or winnder from KSD a few years back for example ) but I think it depends on a lot of factors.

 

Availability of high standard classes/teachers within a reasonable commutable distance of home

The money to pay for such classes

An academic school that is understanding in supporting this with regards to amount of homework etc given and the timescale given to complete it and/or compulsory after school revision classes etc

An academic school that perhaps allows a reduced number of GCSE's to be taken (8/9 rather than the 11/12 some schools till insist on) or to finish early to travel to dance classes.

An academic school that is understanding in regards to activities such as PE where the risk of injury might be increased.

 

I'm sure there are more.

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Welcome to the forum, Diva05.  Over the years I have seen plenty of upper school students who were not in full-time training during years 7-11 so it certainly can be done.  CAT schemes, reputable Associate Schemes and sufficient top quality local training can all combine with aerobic cross training and strengthening exercise to replace full time training.  

 

The main thing is to have the right local teacher/private tuition.  You could have 20-30 hours a week local training but actually fewer hours with a better teacher is probably more beneficial.  It’s not easy juggling training and full time academics though and if the student hasn’t boarded before it can be difficult to move away for the first time at 16, especially if accommodation is self catering.  

 

If a student has been at a good, reputable, established lower school even for years 10 and 11, the transition to dancing 5+ hours every day can certainly be easier from a physique and stamina point of view.  

 

It also depends upon which upper schools you’re looking at.  If Royal, I don’t remember any recent upper school graduates who weren’t in lower school training (excepting international competition winners) but I may be wrong.  

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I think the most important point to make here regarding this issue is QUALITY training over quantity. Dancing all day every day is not the answer. Those working in the field of dance science are particularly interested in this topic at the moment - essentially how to best utilise the time available to young dancers and this absolutely includes physical and mental rest. Once upon a time technique class was the be-all and end-all and everyone insisted that there was a certain format for a ballet class (barre, centre, pirouettes, adage, petit allegro and grande allegro) and that every element must be trained every single day. However, we're starting to be brave enough to consider that not everything needs to be trained every day, and in fact there may be benefits to mixing things up a bit! In sport this is known as periodization and any athlete or sportsperson, of any level, will know that training sessions will focus on a different element each time. 

 

What I'm attempting to get at in a round-about way here is that it is completely 100% possible to prepare a young dancer for entry to upper school at age 16 as long as their training is carefully planned, to address all aspects of a dancers performance (not just the technical). But it's not simply about 'getting enough classes'. 

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Charlotte Tonkinson attended the NB CAT and went on to get a place at RBS upper and now is an artist with RB :) My daughter was pleased to find this out when she got her place on the CAT 

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Posted (edited)
46 minutes ago, Diva05 said:

I am interested to hear (particularly from any ballet teachers here) about training from age 11-16, for girls.

 

Is full time vocational school the best/recommended way? If not, what would you advise as an alternative in terms of weekly hours of training? Does anyone have experience of Upper School entry without full time training pre 16? 

 

Opinions/experience from parents very welcome too! 

 

35 minutes ago, Picturesinthefirelight said:

I have read of children who have been sucesful not having trained full time between 11 and 16 (I think there was a Genee finalist or winnder from KSD a few years back for example ) but I think it depends on a lot of factors.

 

Availability of high standard classes/teachers within a reasonable commutable distance of home

The money to pay for such classes

An academic school that is understanding in supporting this with regards to amount of homework etc given and the timescale given to complete it and/or compulsory after school revision classes etc

An academic school that perhaps allows a reduced number of GCSE's to be taken (8/9 rather than the 11/12 some schools till insist on) or to finish early to travel to dance classes.

An academic school that is understanding in regards to activities such as PE where the risk of injury might be increased.

 

I'm sure there are more.

I concur. I couldn’t put it better myself as I was just trying to type a response. 

We were fortunate (compared to other stories on this forum). My DD attended a local school. Fully supported by staff generated mainly by just one very understanding tutor who happened to also be Deputy Head Teacher and a past pupil of the same ballet school . Every little helps!  Attended local ballet school every hour she could. Literally an 8 min walk from the school. Ballet classes could be as few as 5 pupils in senior classes. Just one ballet teacher who celebrated 60yrs teaching ballet at the same school. It just all fell into place. Incl access to festivals and Am Dram productions. 

Now settled in US. 

But with so many variables it’s so hard to say which way is the right way. It’s what right for the child/parent/siblings. 

 

Just remember the reality check list. 

1) Mother Nature. - What may appear the perfect ballet body (whatever that maybe) may not still be there at puberty. What happens next? 

 

2) GCSE’s. Something none of us can escape. Teens need to ‘bank’ the best grades they can possibly gain. In the widest range of subjects. They are after all just one serious injury away from a career change. 

 

3) Assessed out. A phrase no one ever wants to consider that it will happen to their child. It does and be prepared.  What next? 

 

4) Finances. Can the family maintain the financial commitment (yr7) not just today but tomorrow and long into the future. Without jeopardising the siblings and their future.  Funding is there but it’s the hidden costs that need to be factored in. Travel uniform insurance etc. 

 

5) Family dynamics.  Self explanatory. 

 

Very fascinating topic 

Edited by balletbean
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Posted (edited)

My DD is one of them...never been to vocational full time school and we never considered it. She loved her “normal life” at local college where she was also very academic and enjoyed that no one even knew she did ballet (including teachers). She loved the "double life". She was even in school athelitcs club (as she is fast runner) and she refused to have ballet limiting her normal student life. 

She juggled ballet training of approx 25hrs per week with her studies (it was exhausting especially the Year 11, but we live in central London so it was manageable). It is quality rather quantity of the training I would say. She had amazing set of GCSE results last year and 3 offers to UK upper schools and 2 from overseas. She decided to take offer from overseas.
 

Edited by FlexyNexy
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25 minutes ago, Anna C said:

Welcome to the forum, Diva05.  Over the years I have seen plenty of upper school students who were not in full-time training during years 7-11 so it certainly can be done.  CAT schemes, reputable Associate Schemes and sufficient top quality local training can all combine with aerobic cross training and strengthening exercise to replace full time training.  

 

The main thing is to have the right local teacher/private tuition.  You could have 20-30 hours a week local training but actually fewer hours with a better teacher is probably more beneficial.  It’s not easy juggling training and full time academics though and if the student hasn’t boarded before it can be difficult to move away for the first time at 16, especially if accommodation is self catering.  

 

If a student has been at a good, reputable, established lower school even for years 10 and 11, the transition to dancing 5+ hours every day can certainly be easier from a physique and stamina point of view.  

 

It also depends upon which upper schools you’re looking at.  If Royal, I don’t remember any recent upper school graduates who weren’t in lower school training (excepting international competition winners) but I may be wrong.  

I only know of one young lady who entered RBS straight into US. But that was about 11yrs ago. Worked professionally with different ballet companies for about 8yrs. Now at Medical School. Once a dancer always a dancer. Just swapped a performance theatre with a surgical theatre.  But still takes ballet classes in her spare time and teachers Pilates. 

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If close -ish to London Emma Northmore’s Academy of Balletic Arts might be an answer as she is deliberately offering high standard ballet teaching for those in “normal” school with a view to being able to access upper schools at 16. 

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1 minute ago, FlexyNexy said:

My DD is one of them...never been to vocational full time school and we never considered it. She loved her “normal life” at local college where she was also very academic and enjoyed that no one even knew she did ballet (including teachers). She loved the "double life". She was even in school athelitcs club (as she is fast runner) as she refused to have ballet limiting her normal student life. 

She juggled ballet training of approx 25hrs per week with her studies (it was exhausting especially the Year 11, but we live in central London so it was manageable). It is quality rather quantity of the training I would say. She had amazing set of GCSE results last year and 3 offers to UK upper schools and 2 from overseas. She decided to take offer from overseas.
 

Fantastic. Exactly the same for my DD not that we lived in London.  

I dislike it so much we people really believe that teenagers decide to dance because they aren’t very good academically. Never further from the truth. They are focused disciplined and highly intelligent. Using their time very wisely. 

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I have a friend who went to RBS upper school from a little BBO school near home back in the 80’s. Possibly different back then but still an achievement! 👍👍

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On the other hand, my Year 7 DD is having the time of her life at vocational school. She is surrounded by like-minded people, children and adults, is being taught by world-class teachers and has an enrichment programme that makes her excited to wake up every morning. She may or may not grow up to dance for a living, but there is not a shadow of a doubt that right now it is the right place for her to be. The academics are at least as good as they are at the state comprehensive that she would have gone to, and in most subjects, better. The sacrifices mentioned earlier are all true, but DD is in the right school for her. 

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 My daughter is 11 and started at vocational school last September. She is a lively, sociable girl and LOVES having lots of other children around.  I think she would have found it hard to juggle a regular secondary school with the amount of dance hours needed to train to reach the required standard at 16. Not saying she wouldn't be committed, but having her dance and academic life all in one place means she has more 'down' time to relax with her school friends, (aka watching inane Youtube videos and shopping for anything scented or fluffy) rather than trying to cram extra hours of dance in, plus the longer vocational school holidays gives her more time with family and friends at home. 

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Yes, it is possible indeed @Diva05

But don't forget that the training/lessons have to cover a lot from:

1)ballet(+pointe, +repertoire later and partnering/pas de deux).

2)Then character,

modern,

national (historical).

3)Then conditioning and gymnastics. 4)Then other artistic/academic as follows:

drama,

music,

history of ballet/theatre,

stage make-up.

5)Then theoretic:

Physio/Nutrition/Healthy dancer programme.

6)Then one of the most important and exciting thing is: Stage practice! On professional stage within professional company, alongside pro's and famous!

 

This above thing is, of course, without doubt can be fully achieved only at vocational school as it provides all necessary basis to mould a Ballet DANCER at the end of Lower school.

Don't forget that most upper school taking in ready 'material' and only adding that final polish, masterly, virtuosity and individual artistry!  By the end of Upper school it is a Ballet ARTIST.

 

But, if someone's really try hard, they can get some parts of this huge puzzle on their own, and as people saying this happening from time to time! So everything is possible. 

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New Zealand doesn't have any vocational schools at age 11. The only real option is to go to one of a handful of private ones that integrate dance and education for Year 9, 10 & 11 before auditioning for full-time training. Having said that, a brother and sister from here have been accepted into RBS this year! The girl is Year 9 and going to WL and her brother is Yr 11 and going into US. NZ has many dancers going into pre-professional full-time training without ever going to vocational schools (I know of teenagers currently training in Australia, Amsterdam, Houston, John Cranko, Rambert). As others have said, quality of training is the vital thing. The young girl actually said that after dancing in American summer schools and at Princess Grace, Monaco, she realised how good her training has been (as obviously you can feel a bit apprehensive going to another country, particularly to a prestigious school).


It's only from reading this forum's posts that I've come to understand just what an achievement it is for these two (and think how awful it would have been if only one of them had been accepted!).

 

To get back to the original question, if vocational school isn't an option/wouldn't suit your family, I don't think it has to stand in the way of a dancer's progress.

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Posted (edited)
On ‎13‎/‎05‎/‎2019 at 12:58, drdance said:

I think the most important point to make here regarding this issue is QUALITY training over quantity. Dancing all day every day is not the answer. Those working in the field of dance science are particularly interested in this topic at the moment - essentially how to best utilise the time available to young dancers and this absolutely includes physical and mental rest. Once upon a time technique class was the be-all and end-all and everyone insisted that there was a certain format for a ballet class (barre, centre, pirouettes, adage, petit allegro and grande allegro) and that every element must be trained every single day. However, we're starting to be brave enough to consider that not everything needs to be trained every day, and in fact there may be benefits to mixing things up a bit! In sport this is known as periodization and any athlete or sportsperson, of any level, will know that training sessions will focus on a different element each time. 

 

What I'm attempting to get at in a round-about way here is that it is completely 100% possible to prepare a young dancer for entry to upper school at age 16 as long as their training is carefully planned, to address all aspects of a dancers performance (not just the technical). But it's not simply about 'getting enough classes'. 

Just love that you have written this!

I recently had an accident and was unable to take my child to ALL their many dance classes. So whilst I was convalescing at home they just concentrated on Pilates and mat work exercises that they had been given by their associate teachers and the barre work from their JA class.

They also more importantly got out and about lots more with their friends to swim and climb and play, but mostly they had a chance to rest their mind and their body.

My child is Home Educated and their wish has always been to enter vocational training at Upper School entry level, knowing they would not be able to manage before this.

Up until my accident my child had been dancing at one place or another everyday. I thought in order for them to manage alongside their vocationally trained peers this was what was necessary.

i was wrong, they were burning out, their little body was tired and sore, their brain was overloaded and they began to see ballet classes as a chore not something they absolutely ran out the door to get to.

The only reason I could see this was because we were forced to stop.

what you have written has also been repeated by their JA teacher when I had a conversation with them after Easter about what my child wanted to do. It is most definitely quality not quantity and by no means everyday. The teacher also said to do things that compliment ballet like climbing, yoga, Pilates, having fun, performing once a year if they can. No competitions or festivals until they are at least Y9, but they are not necessary at all. My child has never done them, but I had been considering it.

 

When my child recently returned to their classes they were excited and dancing better. Their local teacher asked me what had changed as my child was dancing up a storm in class.

 

I have completely revised their plans from September, they will be starting London MAs with RBS and a Sunday classical ballet associate afternoon also. Other than this in the week it will be their RAD grade classes, but just two. They had been offered weekday prevocational training with LRBS, but I have now turned it down.

 

my Child is a better happier dancer when they aren’t dancing everyday. And I believe, but am no expert that it is absolutely possible to go on and dance without being on a residential vocational training.

Edited by alison
Changed a possessive
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One of my students will be heading to ballet upper school in September. They have danced with me since they were 2. They’ve consistently danced with me for about 7 hours per week (1 evening and a Saturday afternoon + assisting with younger classes), with associate classes once a fortnight and EYB/full length ballet productions and workshops thrown into the mix as well. In the run up to auditions we substituted a class lesson for a private lesson. And for a number of years an at home conditioning programme has been in place. Most recent ballet result was Distinction* 

At 11 vocational school wouldn’t have been an option- every child is different. If at home training is what’s best for your child then find a teacher who your child clicks with and who has a similar mindset and goal as you. There are many brilliant teachers out there, but not every brilliant teacher will be the right person to guide and nurture your child. Good luck! 

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I wouldn't automatically assume that all vocational Lower Schools in the UK are offering gold standard training for ballet. Some are more tuned to training general dancers .

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I really think it depends on your childs physical ability as to whether they can make it as a ballet dancer. If they have the correct facility then you decide what training suits your child’s mental welfare. (And your purse) It’s a very personal decision but in our experience because anorexia and eating disorders have had such a huge impact on my DD age group and her ballet teachers ( qualified and unqualified ) for us as a family I found after school ballet in a village hall with a fabulous teacher was best. Then at 14 years old once she was a bit more confident about her own journey she did her academic exams in a vocational environment so less travelling, food scheduled routine etc. 

Our Upper school choice was based on a teacher 

I’m afraid the concerns don’t stop once they are in work. 

 

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