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glissade

Advice needed - future choices

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Just hoping that someone may be able to suggest a contact/source of advice that may be able to help my 14-yr-old daughter make some decisions about her future choices in dance. We're based in the South West but informed opinions from all sources would be very much appreciated - looking for inspiration, really! Ideally somebody who would be able to have a chat with my daughter about her choices post GCSE, especially with regard to University options vs vocational training, as well as best choices to make moving from experience purely in classical ballet towards a career in contemporary or musical theatre.

 

Any and all input greatly valued - thanks!

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Hello glissade,

 

Apologies if this sounds obvious but I think my first port of call in your case would be dd’s dance teacher and Associates teacher, if she’s an Associate?  They will have a much better idea of your dd’s strengths and areas for improvement and whether she has the potential to succeed in full time training.  

 

What is your dd’s ultimate goal?  Performing?  Teaching?  If performing, what sort of performing?  Ballet or Musical Theatre?  

 

Once she has narrowed that down, then you need to look at adding in other skills - Contemporary classes for ballet or singing, jazz and tap for Musical Theatre.  For a teaching career - something like the BABE degree at the RAD - she will need RAD Intermediate (or equivalent) at the very least so Vocational ballet exams are much more important if teaching is the aim.   

 

I’d say for a Ballet performing career, being in full-time training by Year 12 is a must.  For Contemporary or Musical Theatre, A Levels alongside top quality training (or a Foundation course if you can afford it) is fine.   When I say “full time training” for a performing career, I mean Vocational school rather than a Dance Degree at an academic university.  

 

I hope that gives you a starting point?  I do know of teachers/ex dancers in London who will assess a student’s physical facility and potential for full-time ballet training but I think narrowing down your dd’s eventual aims might be more useful to start with.

 

 

 

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There was someone advertising as an advisor, think he set up a thread. He said he would assess potential and offer advice 

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I'd echo AnnaC's advice.

 

Most university Dance degrees focus on contemporary/modern dance, and are to greater or lesser degree vocational - some focus on preparation for a professional career at the highest level (eg Laban, London Contemporary, Rambert)** others give a more all-round Humanities/Liberal Arts education via Dance eg Roehampton.**

 

I think the other place for advice is your DD's school teachers (as well as dance teachers). While they may be generally not hugely knowledgeable about preparing for a performing arts degree/profession, they will know what broad spread of subjects will give your DD the range of choices in post-GCSE education.

 

** There are others, these are off the top of my head, typing fast in my lunch break! ...

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Your daughter should be able to ask to see the independent careers adviser employed by or bought in by her school. If you are unsure how to ask about this, the schools website should name the school’s careers lead (statutory requirement to do so) and they should be able to point you in the right direction. 

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Hi. I invited my DD’s Dance School Principal home to have a chat over a cuppa. Away from distractions of the school and listening ears 😉

Very informative and helpful conversation. Weighing up going at 16 v’s 18 (post A levels). More importantly was it a viable option worth considering. It’s one thing to successfully gain a place at a vocational school/college but did my DD have the characteristics that would take her beyond the training and into the Performing Arts industry. It’s one thing to be a technically beautiful dancer (we’ve all seen them) but to have that drive ambition and sheer determination incl a very thick skin to survive. 
Obviously, ‘thick skin’ can grow over the years but worth knowing if the roots are there. 
 

We also had a conversation with a supportive teacher at school to gain an academic perspective on the situation. The Uni route was a serious contender as far as her predicted grades were but as far as a Degrees subject my DD hadn’t got a clue. Even choosing 3 A levels that didn’t interfere with her dancing was a challenge so it wasn’t that difficult to see where her mind was. 
 

Career teachers still do not understand that Performing Arts in all its genres is a career. So I would tread that path very carefully. 

Then there’s the question of:- 

1) Do they want a regular pay cheque every month with a job of regular hours, stop dancing completely 😱 or keep dancing just as a hobby and a way of staying fit. 

or

2) Travel the world, love what they do and get paid for it but not have the stability of long term income beyond their current contract.  
 

There were many conversations over a period of time to ensure there was an opportunity for us to both think things through before making any decisions and counting the pennies 😉

We weighed up academic route and for my DD and we decided that she would ‘stock pile’ the best GCSE grades possible for a later date, if required either by choice or by circumstances beyond her control. Exams do not have an expiry date.  There’s a life span to a dancers career but unlimited life in a more academic career, whatever that maybe. Friend performed in different European ballet companies for 8yrs and is now in Medical school, but takes ballet/Pilates in her spare time (as if medical students have such a thing😂). 
 

You can have it all, just have to prioritise what has age limitations and what doesn’t. 
Just don’t go through life with 

“what if mum had let me” coming back to haunt you in years to come. 
 

Good Luck with whatever you both decide on

 

Ps My DD was also 14 when we started looking at dance as a career possibility after attendance at 2 SS’s. 
 

 

Edited by balletbean
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I would just urge a little caution when making the assumption that you can always take up a more academic career later in life. I had always thought that until I started looking a little more carefully at things when my DD was making her decisions. Of course there is no reason in theory why a dancer cannot take up a totally different career path later, but there is potentially one big practical reason why it could be difficult  - money.

I had realised that if you have "used up" your student finance  one one degree you wouldn't get a second lot for another degree, but until I started looking more carefully I didn't realise the same would apply after a level 6 diploma. When I thought about it, yes, it does make sense that of you have had a DaDA then you have had your share of the education money pot, but I had always assumed that if you self funded a Trinity Diploma you would be able to get student finance for an unrelated degree in the future. However, thanks to the wisdom of some experienced people here I learned that that isn't necessarily so. It seems crazy to me. If you are funded for your Diploma you can self fund a subsequent degree, but if you self fund the diploma there is no guarantee of funding for a later degree. That seems totally unfair to me, but apparently it is the case.

This may or may not be relevant to you, and of course the funding arrangements for education in general could change totally before you get to that stage, but I think it is worth knowing about in advance.

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Thank you so much for all of your replies - I'll work through my thoughts and return with a more complete response, but wanted to let you know in the meantime that I'm v grateful for your help! X

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Just to add in another consideration when your DD is thinking about the future and her options. Moving away from classical ballet does not necessarily mean a move to contemporary or musical theatre. The level 6 Trinity diploma comes as a qualification in professional dance or musical theatre. There are an awful lot of professional performers out there who are either paid solely to dance or to dance and sometimes sing as a backing singer to a lead vocalist in a number. My DD's qualification is in dance - that is classical ballet, contemporary, modern, commercial and tap. She had very few hours training in acting and singing whereas MT courses are pretty much 1/3 acting 1/3 dance 1/3 singing . And the longest time she has been between contracts so far is 5-6 weeks since graduating in 2015. 

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Indeed, that is excellent 2dancers mum. It does highlight another point, how would your dd cope with such an uncertain life, Glissade?  How would she earn money between dancing jobs, as an usher in a theatre, waiting or bar jobs, cleaning? Even from top training establishments only a minority find steady performing employment, if there are no dancing contracts is she interested in teaching or other dance related jobs?

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18 hours ago, Pups_mum said:

I would just urge a little caution when making the assumption that you can always take up a more academic career later in life. I had always thought that until I started looking a little more carefully at things when my DD was making her decisions. Of course there is no reason in theory why a dancer cannot take up a totally different career path later, but there is potentially one big practical reason why it could be difficult  - money.

I had realised that if you have "used up" your student finance  one one degree you wouldn't get a second lot for another degree, but until I started looking more carefully I didn't realise the same would apply after a level 6 diploma. When I thought about it, yes, it does make sense that of you have had a DaDA then you have had your share of the education money pot, but I had always assumed that if you self funded a Trinity Diploma you would be able to get student finance for an unrelated degree in the future. However, thanks to the wisdom of some experienced people here I learned that that isn't necessarily so. It seems crazy to me. If you are funded for your Diploma you can self fund a subsequent degree, but if you self fund the diploma there is no guarantee of funding for a later degree. That seems totally unfair to me, but apparently it is the case.

This may or may not be relevant to you, and of course the funding arrangements for education in general could change totally before you get to that stage, but I think it is worth knowing about in advance.

I totally understand but an academic route/career path later on doesn’t have to include a Uni and therefore huge costs. There are many occupations that now offer internships/scholarships incl bursaries to enable the individual pursue a career within the private sector. There could also be incentives by the Government to ‘retrain’ for roles within the Public Sector. 
Our local authority have recently offered retraining for potential Secondary School Teachers and Nurses. As these skilled staff are in desperate need. Bypassing their own Regulations that would exclude some candidates from applying due to costs as they had already accessed funding for previous Degree level courses/qualifications. 

My previous example was of a British dancer who was a graduate of RBS and now ‘retired’. 
Now settles in an American medical school very close to graduating. 


Times are changing so It’s just a case of knowing where to look when that time does comes.  And of course whichever country our darling children happen to call home by then. 🌎
 

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There are now a list of exemptions degrees which allow a second lot of funding to people that already had funding. Nursing has always been on there but psychology has recently been added. You can see the list on the student finance sites.

OU degrees are a lot cheaper, if you have to self fund.

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50 minutes ago, meadowblythe said:

could you post a link to the student finance site?

If you go on www.gov.uk they discuss options in England. They also have links to Wales, Scotland and NI. They list some of the exceptions there. (The OU also has a list of them). 

 

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I tend to agree with those who say that "the body doesn't wait." In certain circumstances - given the basic physical facility, and aptitutde for training. As well as everything mentioned above.

 

Academic learning can be done at any time of life in all sorts of ways. There is FE and "night school." 

 

The Open University, for example, enables module by module study. Yes, they now charge the same fees as all other universities (because State/Government funding for teaching in HE has been almost totally withdrawn) but you can pace the study to fit around working in full-time employment.

 

The main things at the moment are to balance the  information you have about your daughter's potential, abilities, and level of achievement in dance now, with her aims at the moment, and with information about her academic abilities and likely achievement. Her dreams need to be founded on a base of realism. Her teachers - both dance and academic - are best placed to help you here. We can't see her, and so don't know whether it's worth throwing all her plans into dance, or keeping a balance.

 

You can go onto the UCAS website and search for particular disciplines and see the degrees available. I really think doing this, together with consulting teachers who know your daughter (both dance & academic) will be far more useful than paying for or chatting to an adviser who doesn't know your daughter. You could also keep an eye out for Open Days and so on, at FE colleges, and even universities in your area - for example, in the West Country, Plymouth University runs a pretty practical dance degree - mostly focusing on contemporary dance. You could lookout for student showcases to see what they do. And so on.

 

And there's loads of experience here on Balletco from people who've been exactly where you are with their dancing children. 

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I think one of best things is to realistically judge oneself by dancing amongst the peer group a DC is hoping to join.... so attend relevant auditions/apply to selective short courses 

YBSS springs to mind (they might still have scholarship audition dates?

CAT schemes if geography allows or performance based opportunities (LCB if young enough/NYB/EYB)

I think I would council against paying for advice other than as part of training feedback. 

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Many thanks again for all of your replies. I have found them all thought-provoking and insightful, and I'm very grateful. I think that balletbean hit the nail on the head in describing the way she and her daughter explored the options available to them .... thanks for posting that info, balletbean! And the info about diplomas from 2dancersmum is extremely helpful too - thanks, I'll look into that!

 

My daughter has been a member of both the RBS and Elmhurst associate programmes since being a JA, and has many friends who are now at vocational school. She has quite a realistic appraisal of her own abilities in comparison and is clear that she doesn't want to (or would be able to) pursue a career in classical ballet. We're not looking for an appraisal of her abilities or potential at this point - just some clarification on how the different options from this point forward could possibly pan out.

 

I was hoping to find some general views on the options available for her, including specifically what life would look like if she continues to dance as an amateur rather than a professional whilst studying for an unrelated degree at University.

 

14 is a tricky age .... a turning point in many ways, and yet still on the cusp of adolesence. My elder daughter, at a similar age, found enormous help in being able to talk to a diverse range of scientists in her area of interest. Their willingness to talk to her about their own areas of expertise in relation to other fields of study enabled her to clarify her ideas and opt for pathways that inspired her. Perhaps that is largely a feature of science-related study (especially in the drive to encourage girls to take up STEM subjects) and I'm being naive in hoping that anyone could give such an overview of the dance world.

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24 minutes ago, glissade said:

I was hoping to find some general views on the options available for her, including specifically what life would look like if she continues to dance as an amateur rather than a professional whilst studying for an unrelated degree at University.

 

 

Well, we certainly have DC on here who have gone down that route, and appear to be perfectly happy to have done so.  I've added some tags to the top of the thread: have a click on those and see whether anything appropriate comes up.

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Thanks Glissade for adding more info; I am sure you will get some helpful replies with advice from others who have been in same situation!
I do know of many who through teens stayed in main stream education & then chose at 18 to apply to full time dance focussed courses - most of the post A- Level ones chose degree courses eg. RAD, Rambert, Laban. Some focussed on a teaching career, others performance & some wanting  to combine dance with other academic studies (one we knew of wanted to move into dance physio, another dance photography). Known too of several very academic young people who have gone to Uni & joined various active dance clubs & ballet & other genre classes - both on campus & in the uni city at large. There is so much more high level adult ballet out there these days.... if money an obstacle, maybe with your DD’s experience she could offer free teaching assistance in return for free classes for herself? 
I realise this is all somewhat in the future for your DD but might be helpful to do some research on dance available at sixth formschools/colleges that are of academic interest (there are also private school places like Bedes & Moorland which perhaps try to provide both? At a cost of course...) 

Attending short  courses/masterclasses & go watch college/uni productions to assess facilities, the standard/likely styles current cohort are presenting to get a good indication of what’s out there! 
Often I’ve seen young people go on to enjoy their dancing far more & even improve as dancers by actually reducing what they did & following other paths & dreams....ballet & dance can become their special ‘me time‘ for fun/fitness/friendships & anyone with a strong dance background seems already well adapted to time management, multi tasking & coping well with the demands of uni/college life which helps whatever their route....
Good luck! 

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13 hours ago, glissade said:

I was hoping to find some general views on the options available for her, including specifically what life would look like if she continues to dance as an amateur rather than a professional whilst studying for an unrelated degree at University.

 

Thing as that what 'life might look like' is going to be as varied as the individuals living those lives! There is a lot of development, learning and growing between 14 and 18/19, the age young people generally start university.

 

There is also - as other posters have said - a lot of gathered experience and a LOT of wisdom in this forum, from parents and dancers, about what decisions they made, and why, and how it's worked out. It's probably worth following some of the tags that Alison has kindly included to see if other people's experiences and questions chime with your own.

 

What are your DD's interests? What does she enjoy studying at school at the moment? What ideas for a career does she have? If dance is going to be a "serious hobby" then these other questions are going to be the ones she needs to explore. Again, these are questions that your DD, you, and her teachers can explore.

 

And as other posters have said, there are lots of university students who've studied dance to a relatively high level, but go on to do degrees in other areas, and keep dancing through university and beyond. There is a thriving adult ballet world, with some pretty major teachers developing wonderful teaching for adults via regular classes and workshops and intensives.

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Thanks, Kate - yes, I've clicked on the tags that Alison included and they have also been very helpful! And I'm very grateful also to the parents who have messaged me directly to share their personal experiences. It is exactly this sort of information that is most helpful at the moment - something that goes beyond the marketing and generic information on websites etc, and provides an insight into the lived experience of the options available. I fully acknowledge that these experiences are as individual as the people living and recounting them .... however, I don't think that hearing these stories is in any way counterproductive. My daughter's school runs a careers advice programme in which they invite professionals and uni students into school to talk to Years 10 and 11 about the paths they have taken in their chosen career and the choices they have made. My asking for information here from the wisdom of people in this forum is in this vein .... I'm not intending it to replace the advice we have already received from my daughter's dance and academic teachers, but to supplement it ..... which it has done greatly, so thanks again to all who have taken the time to share their experiences!

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I always advise people to dig into university websites to get beyond the (generally awful) UCAS-directed publicity bumf on the landing pages. Go to the Departments of the disciplines/subjects your daughter is possibly interested in studying and you should get a sense of what it’s like to be a student in a degree.  
 

It’s also often quite informative to look at the student union (or student guild) web pages to see the for-students, by-students experiences. 
 

and if you can cope with the Wild West of the internet, you can read “real student” experiences on The Student Room. I know my university’s PR people keep an eye on fora on TSR. The trick is to try to get past the PR, and find where students are talking about their experiences. 

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DD1 is a professional dancer (vocational school at 16+)  but DD2 took the university route. She was quite adamant that she wanted to continue to dance at university and although she chose the universities to apply to by course , on each open day she made sure she found out about dance opportunities. She actually gets more hours of dance and more variety than she did before she went to university and this year is dancing 5 evenings a week - ballet, contemporary, jazz, tap and street. Dance will remain a serious hobby for her though I do know that one of DD1s friends did a biology degree and joined the 'dance club' and after graduation it was the dance route she continued to follow - though unsure if she danced professionally or trained to teach dance.

 

So yes, I echo Kate's advice - if she wishes to follow an academic path with dance as a serious hobby at university, do look a student union pages and 'The student room'

 

14 is a tricky age and your DD could change her mind several times yet. I know DD1 was still set on classical ballet at that age and only widened it to 'dance' aged 18 and DD2 wanted to follow in her sisters footsteps when she was 14, had decided at 15 she would wait til she was 18 and by 17 had decided to go down the academic route instead.

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I'm following this thread with interest, as I also have a DD wondering which route to go for... Can anyone recommend/have any experience of any universities (mainstream courses, rather than dance, performing arts etc) where dance societies are particularly strong?

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17 minutes ago, Katia05 said:

I'm following this thread with interest, as I also have a DD wondering which route to go for... Can anyone recommend/have any experience of any universities (mainstream courses, rather than dance, performing arts etc) where dance societies are particularly strong?

 

This earlier thread (and quite a few more) come up if you click on the tags at the top of the link:

 

 

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5 minutes ago, Jan McNulty said:

 

This earlier thread (and quite a few more) come up if you click on the tags at the top of the link:

 

 

Ah thanks, Jan, that's brilliant! Just what I was looking for.

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23 minutes ago, Katia05 said:

I'm following this thread with interest, as I also have a DD wondering which route to go for... Can anyone recommend/have any experience of any universities (mainstream courses, rather than dance, performing arts etc) where dance societies are particularly strong?

 

Cambridge has an excellent Ballet Society which has no doubt been mentioned in the threads that Janet has kindly linked.  Oxford has a smaller Ballet Society but a very good and diverse University competition team (OUCD) which has ballet, contemporary, jazz, tap and hip hop dancers.  Leicester DMU hosts a big uni dance competition so I assume their dance team is thriving.  

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