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Professional ballet training - Age 16 or 18?


Sharry01
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My DD wants to be a professional ballerina.  She has been attending classes since age 6, been a Royal Ballet Junior Associate and attended a vocational dance school (when she was 13).  Though she couldn't get used to the boarding (and is now back home) she still wants to pursue this path.  However not sure to let her try again at 16 or wait until she is 18.

 

ENBS, Central School of Ballet, Rambert, Royal Ballet Upper School all offer vocational training at age 16 and I always thought this was the best path if you wanted to try and get into a professional ballet company.  However, I have noticed that London Studio Centre (for example) offer a BA in Classical Ballet (or you can choose musical theatre) which starts at age 18, along with other providers - this course looks fantastic.  You would then be aged 21 when you completed this.  Surely, if this was too old to then apply to a company, why would they offer this course?   Of is it that the majority who do a degree in dance then go onto teach dance rather than perform?

 

Just really wanting to know if you really have to go at 16 or if my DD could wait until 18 and still pursue her dream (and then not be too old to try and join a company)?

 

Thank you for your help.

 

 

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For ballet I would say 16 for full time training in terms of best chances of a job post graduation. I think musical theatre can be a bit more flexible. It may be that some students at studio centre enter the course from other full time training for performing experience or to obtain a degree.

 

There will always be exceptions to this rule but most have been coached intensively on a private basis. Summer intensives will augment any training.

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Generally speaking, I think that entering the stream toward a goal of dancing professionally in a ballet company at age 18 is a bit late.  Most ballet students with the aim of dancing professionally in a major company, are so scheduled up just with their dance training, there is no time for a college degree.  Many pursue a degree after dancing professionally - or sometimes are able to enroll in a college program that allows for them to study individually rather than sit in a college classroom.  I don't know about in the UK - but in the United States there are such programs often arranged by the company for its dancers.

 

However, some of the above depends upon what level of professional goals the student has.  If the goal is to join a major ballet company - that training takes priority over anything else.  If she waits until she is 18, she will find herself competing (auditioning) against younger aspirants who have more concentrated training.  But, if the goal is to join a company that is not a major company then her chances are better.

 

Being in the stream of  associate progrrams and auditioning gets the student "seen."  

 

Unfortunately, most of the time the student needs to make a choice between a goal of competing for employment with a professional company or a pursuit of a degree in higher education.  

 

A degree in dance will certainly aid the student if the goal is to teach - but then a resumé which includes a history of performing is a huge advantage.  That is why many times the degree is pursued after retiring from active performing.  A degree in dance can also lead to other avenues in addition to teaching.

 

Since my "world" is ballet - I can't tell you how this works out in musical theater or other dance forms.

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If her aim is classical ballet then Vocational school at 16 is a better bet, although ENB has said they do like 17 year olds too and I know someone who is 18 who has has just started in Year 1.  However, for musical theatre and contemporary going at 18 is fine, and many of these courses do not take them at 16 anyway.

 

Being realistic, you should check out the Graduate destination threads - only the top handful of dancers at the top schools actually manage to find classical jobs these days. 

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Yes 16 really for Classical. As said there are exceptions but few and far between. Rambert is  slightly different I think they do take 18 but in itself it is a slightly different route from " straight classical". Sorry if that is a strange way to describe it. Contemporary older is an advantage. Good luck.xx

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I too would say 16 for ballet.  Those final two or three years of full-time training are vital in order to transform a promising student into a candidate ready to turn pro. There are also so many extras that they get at vocational school, which they cannot get in a local ballet school - pas de deux for one.  It is a combination of quality and quantity which completes the training and it needs to be done when they are young enough to benefit from it.  Competition is fierce - nobody's waiting for you - your daughter should be trying to get an apprenticeship at 18, not starting intensive training then.

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I must say I've never seen graduate news from LSC - might email them - ENBS replied to my email eventually. Would be interesting to see what's happening to their ballet dancers. I know one young lady who has recently left there (think she was in the contemporary route) - she might be able to fill me in.

 

I agree that if your daughter's dream is to be a classical dancer, she needs to try at 16, maybe again at 17 and if she has no luck with classical schools she may like to try a slightly different dance career path at 18.

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LSC used to be known (I'm going back to the early '90's) for a really thorough all round dance education (post 16) with good graduate success .  Do they not accept students at 16 anymore ? I think my niece (then 17) auditioned last year, but opted for Rambert instead. The LSC teaching staff look excellent though, so I'd say it's certainly one to consider. 

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Should have added that tend to agree with 16 for ballet though I do know people from must admit 20plus years ago who got into some German Companies a bit older but competition may be that much more fierce these days.

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I am not doubting the replies given by people who know a lot about the ballet world but I am slightly baffled.

 

Is there such a physical difference between a 19 year old and a 21 year old (i.e. the age one would be after a 3 year course entered either at 16 or 18)?  You would have had the same training - why does it matter to a ballet company if a new dancer is two years older?
 

Even stranger that a vocational school may balk at the idea of taking a 17 year old as the it's the UK school academic calendar that determines when you can apply anyway.  Someone applying as a 17 year old may only be a 1 month older (born in the August) than others applying as a 16 year old (born in September) due to the 1st September cut off. 

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Good point Wish22. I don't think that, providing they have places, a vocational school would 'balk' at the idea of taking on a 17yr old who met their standards. Regarding the age which one enters a ballet company...It is such a short career and even for the very special graduates, the difference in their dance quality between leaving school and their first year in a company is substantial. I think that it's the need to maximise these talents and opportunities that necessitate the early entry into a classical career in dance. Not saying that you 'get in at 18 - or that's it'....but yes, it's the norm...In the past it was even younger of course, students with great potential would be snapped up incredibly young. x

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I always wonder what happens to boys who are late developers and are still small when they audition for upper schools in Year 11. I would have thought that they would be at a disadvantage and that that disadvantage might persist even when they audition for companies because, for example, they do not have as much strength for partnering work.

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I didn't phrase my second point fully.  I meant to also pose the question of why do vocational schools say they are happy to take students at age 17 or 18 if they have little chance of being a professional dancer as most opinions on here suggest you need to be in at 16.  Or is it only exceptional 17 and 18 year olds (rather than being at a comparable level to a 16 year old).  I hope you understand what I'm getting at?

 

PS. 'balk' was probably an extreme word to use, however someone did say the 17 and 18 year olds are few and far between.

Edited by Wish22
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They may be a bit older Wish22 but they'll still have had 3 years training when they graduate so the age doesn't matter too much. There were a couple of older international students in my son's year at Elmhurst. It's an interesting question you've posed about the advantages of going into classical training at 16 or shortly after....

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I think you also have to look at the gender difference. Boys will often get accepted at an older age (18, 19) into vocational ballet courses because they generally mature physically later. For girls it seems to be more difficult to be accepted once they are past 16/17 yrs. 

The age at which dancers are "company ready" has increased compared to 20-30 years ago because dancers need to have more skills and be more versatile than previously.

Many of the vocational training programs will allow students another year until they are ready to audition. A student may also take longer to complete their training if they sustain an injury which unfortunately is relatively common.

When it comes to the crunch however I think when auditioning for a company the actual age of the dancer (18 or 22) is a much lower consideration than many other factors (luck being one).

It is a very tough path to take from any direction!

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The main classical schools often have students a year below their normal academic age.

What do you mean Julie? What happens to their academic studies? Have they been accelerated or slowed down? I can't understand what you mean... Sorry I might be thick as it's very early...

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They were international students in these particular cases so academics wasn't an issue, but I've known some go to dance schools/colleges after a year at "normal" sixth form so they came out of there with AS levels then they might carry on A levels at their new school/college or just do whichever qualification is on offer - Diploma in Dance, Degree etc

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Re Eileen's question about boys not having developed at 16, we do know of a couple of boys who started upper schools at 17, having been told that the schools in question thought that they would benefit from waiting a year purely to be able to cope with the physical demands of the diploma course.

 

On the question of 16 years old or is it exceptional 17/18 year olds, I would have said that it is the school year that influences things as much as anything.  Some students starting what is in effect year 12 (1st year upper school) will have been 17 before term even starts in the September and many more will be 17 within a couple of months starting.  Others will be just 16 (July & August birthdays) and will complete the whole of their 1st year as 16 years.  So I think it quite feasible that some students could start in the September following their 17th birthday and not be exceptional. My DD has a summer birthday but she is closer in age to more students in the year below than in her own year.  Likewise I have known students from Scotland, for example, where the school year and system is different, start upper school before their 16th birthday.

 

This does however also follow that for courses like LSC's, actually some may be 19 or close to it when they started - practically the same age some are finishing their vocational training so that does strike me as quite a gap.

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