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HappyGirl

RBS junior associates - insights please!

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Hello. I'm very new to all this - both this forum and the whole dance world in general, so please bear with me! My 8 year yr old daughter's ballet teacher has suggested that she auditions for RBS JAs. I'm hugely proud of her for this accolade alone but am also completely taken aback and a little scared by the whole thing! I didn't even know JAs existed until she mentioned it and nothing like this was ever on the agenda until now. Dd loves her ballet but it has always seen it very much as a fun hobby. She is excited by the prospect of auditioning and visiting Covent garden but realistic about the commitment involved if she were to be lucky enough to be offered a place. I've been doing lots of research and have read some really useful threads on here which have helped a lot but I'm still in two minds about the whole thing. It sounds like an amazing opportunity but also a huge commitment - both financially and time wise. We live a fair distance from London so it would involve a lot of travelling. Does anyone know what time the Covent garden lessons start as this would be a major factor for us? Also, does anyone know anything about bursaries and is there likely to be any consideration of travel costs? I know this all seems like I'm hugely jumping the gun but just need to be realistic. I'm thinking we might take her to the audition for the experience as that would be an experience in itself and we will always wonder if we don't but I still have so many questions. Thanks for reading and any insight anyone can give will be much appreciated!

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Hello Happygirl and welcome to the forum. I have no experience of JAs but plenty of people here do.

 

There are many threads on JAs here in "Doing Dance" so if you enter the phrase "Junior Associates" in inverted commas into the search box, hopefully they will come up.

 

As far as I know, I don't *think* there is any help with travelling costs or fees, but hopefully someone will correct me if I'm wrong.

 

What I would say is that given how difficult it is to get a JA place, personally I would audition anyway, for the experience - and if a place is forthcoming then it's a bonus. :-)

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Hi Happygirl - I echo spannerandpony's welcome to the forum and advice that the audition itself would be a great experience for your DD - and she could well be offered a place! As you live quite a way from London, is there any possibility that a different JA centre would be closer to you and would therefore be less costly re travel?

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If you are lucky enough to get offered a place then you can fill in a means tested form to ask for financial assistance. We discovered this when ds was offered a weekly place over the phone (we had applied for fortnightly) and were sent a form when we said money was an issue. We got a third off the fees and a uniform allowance.

 

And one of my pupils who is a JA gets financial assistance too. 

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Hi I would also say audition for the experience it is a great day out the audition class is enjoyable and staff very friendly. My dd auditioned at 8 and was on the short waiting list for a place auditioned again a year later and was accepted! The class for years 4 & 5 at London centre started midday and lasted 2 hours, the teachers are fantastic, my dd learnt a lot and also got the chance to perform with the royal ballet company, perform at the white lodge. Summer fair. Good luck my dd loved every minute ! X

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Thanks so much for the welcome and the advice. I've spent a long time reading relevant threads on here already so good to actually participate! It's particularly useful to know that the yr 4/5 JA class at Covent starts at midday as that would be achievable - assuming it still does of course. There is a centre a bit nearer to us but dd's teacher is advising London over that one - she's ex RBS herself so knows what she's talking about. Someone mentioned applying for fortnightly and getting offered weekly - does that happen a lot? I'm thinking weekly would be way too much. It's good to know the audition alone is such a positive experience. I just feel like my head is going to explode weighing it all up. As I said before, this was never even vaguely on the agenda!! Thanks again.

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I too would audition for the experience, and as a fun day out with your DD, and then weigh up things if she is lucky enough to be offered a place.

London JA'S were a wonderful opportunity for my DS and i miss the Saturdays we spent just the two of us ( even the 6 am wake up call ). Well perhaps not the early start.

My DS took fortnightly clases for yr5 and was then chosen for a weekly boys only class for yr6. He successfully auditioned for Elmhurst, Tring and WL he is half way through yr7 at WL and has been offered yr8.

What ever happens in the future I dont think that you would regret trying for JA'S. Good Luck on the start of the rollercoaster that is being Mum to a dancer.

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Hi I applied for fortnightly lessons when dd was auditioning for a yr 4 place but wasn't offered weekly! My dd was fine with weekly classes in yr 5 the classes do start off slowly and involve centre work stretching & strengthening exercises, they teach the children to really listen to the music. We were fine with weekly lessons and looked forward to our time every sat in Covent garden! There is a section I believe on the application form that you can tick re funding. Enjoy the audition experience and if your dd is fortunate to be offered a place maybe decide then.

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Hello HappyGirl.

We are also new to the JA classes. My DD started in September (year 6) and like you, we knew nothing about it until we were advised to audition by the dance teacher.

DD loves going to her fornightly classes and has a lovely time with girls and boys that attend. They have had the opportunity to go on courses in Covent Garden and as a parent I have learnt masses of information about the ballet community/world that I was ignorant about before we started this process.

You do get incredibally swept along by the whole thing, and you end up having to make some difficult decisions about your child's future, but I know that my DD will be gutted if she dosen't get a place at MID associates next year, as she loves the class.

I would say go for it and just enjoy the ride :D 

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Hi. Thanks again for the replies. It's nice to feel welcome :) . I guess the 'getting swept' along thing that a few of you have mentioned is part of my hesitancy about the whole thing. When talking it through Dd is very open about the fact that she doesn't really want to be a ballerina and that there are lots of other things she wants to do/try. If she were to get a place then I can just imagine everything revolving around the ballet and 8 just seems incredibly young to be choosing one particular path. So tricky!

 

Is it easier to get a place in yr 4 than other years. Dd's teacher suggested it was but I have read things that contradict that on here. I think I would ideally like to wait a year and see if she's still keen or even keener to try then but I don't know whether that would be a silly idea?

 

As for weekly v fortnightly - it's more about the travelling than the actual class to be honest. A 2 hr train ride there and back every Saturday would be pretty full on and tiring for dd but fortnightly might be ok. Does anyone know how they decide what they offer you if it's not just based on what you put on the form?

 

Thanks again.

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I think it would be best to try now as the odds are very heavily stacked against getting a place anyway! If your daughter loves the experience regardless of outcome then you know that in the future she may want to take her ballet more seriously.

 

There are far fewer year 4 places and my guess anyway at this age a fortnightly place will be regarded as more sensible anyway. I know that my ds was offered weekly because as he joined in year 6 it was felt he would benefit more and have more of a chance of catching up with those who had been jas for longer.

 

Incidently whats wrong with going to the centre closer to home? The Royal Ballet programme of training is the same in each centre and all have good records of students going to White Lodge or other places. I know of some years at WL for example in which nearly all the girls were non London JAs.

 

A two hour train journey is a bit much if you have a closer option. And even if you do tick the London box they may still offer a place in you nearest centre anyway.

 

I sympathise with your dds teacher to an extent though because going to Covent Garden is fab. But I dont think settling for a more local option would be the end of the world!

 

However theres really no point in worrying too much about logistics yet. Most applicants are unsuccessful anyway! And you can always turn down a place....

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I could've written that post myself hfb (no surprise there though, that happens a lot with us doesn't it!)

 

So, as we say in our house "What she said" :-D

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I agree with hfbrew. When my DD auditioned there were only 3 places available. DD got onto short waiting list, but was incredibly lucky that someone moved on or dropped out and then got a place.

We didn't apply for any of the vocational dance schools and only auditioned for WL because it was the same audition as MIDs, so it can be done!

I don't know where you live but the Bath JA is very good.

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Also worth looking at other associate programmes. There are some very good ones out there that give equally good training (sometimes better depending on your child). Being a JA is a lovely experience but not the be all and end all of everything.

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Thanks hfbrew - very wise words. I'm not surprised others echo what you said!

 

I might ask dd's teacher about the other centre again. She was very set on London or nothing when I spoke to her about it initially but I guess doing it elsewhere would have to be better than not doing it at all if it came to it? I totally see the draw of Covent Garden but the other centre is probably an hours drive away over a 2 hour train ride so quite a big difference. Can they choose to offer you a place at any centre even if you don't tick it on the form then?

 

I guess the big thing for us is that had dd's teacher not mentioned it we would in no way be thinking along these lines so it feels a tiny bit like we're being pushed into it. I don't mean in a bad way but it is completely outside of anything we were thinking or planning and dd has not even talked about doing more than one ballet class a week. She is loving her ballet but she also equally loves her other clubs so it's not what I would call a real passion. I'm sure it could become one though - don't get me wrong!

 

Thank you all so much for your thoughts. They really are helping the decision-making process. It's very much appreciated.

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I would definately consider a centre nearer to your base, as the travelling and expense seems to come up quite a lot in your comments, and like has been said there are very good classes in other parts of the country. My grandaughter had a weekly round trip of 150 miles in the three years she was a JA, and is now making a round trip of 400 miles weekly in MA's, but she loves every minute of it. Go for it, any audition is not a waste of time whether successful or not, the experience gained alone will be worth it. There will also be plenty of opportunities from other centres to visit WL and the ROH to see the pro's rehearsing, etc.  

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Hi Happygirl,

Based on our experience a long travel is exhausting on top if a class, which at 2 hours, is already long for a little one. So I would strongly recommend applying to closest centre. Help with travel costs may be limited to this as well....

 

Regarding if your dd enjoys ballet enough to enjoy it why not try and increase hours at ger local school and she how she gets on. I think it could be a valuable experience even if she has no intention of being a dancer. (Lucky you...)

 

Good luck!

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Actually I think they are unlikely to offer London places to candidates if there is a centre nearer their home unless there is a very strong reason why they cannot get to the closer one.  All the teachers are lovely so it doesn't really make much difference which centre a child attends.

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I would definately consider a centre nearer to your base, as the travelling and expense seems to come up quite a lot in your comments, and like has been said there are very good classes in other parts of the country. My grandaughter had a weekly round trip of 150 miles in the three years she was a JA, and is now making a round trip of 400 miles weekly in MA's, but she loves every minute of it. Go for it, any audition is not a waste of time whether successful or not, the experience gained alone will be worth it. There will also be plenty of opportunities from other centres to visit WL and the ROH to see the pro's rehearsing, etc.  

It should have read 250 not 400 miles.

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Goodness vonrothbart that is a lot of travel for your granddaughter. Worth it if she loves it though I guess. You're right, travel, or rather the cost and time involved is a big factor for us. It's not that i wouldn't want to do it for her I just have to factor it into other priorities in life - like the fact dd gets horrendously tired anyway, my son who loves our family Saturdays and a host of other things. I'm well aware some might think I'm being a bit selfish. I will definitely be looking into the centre nearer to us and speaking to dd's ballet teacher. I've just looked on RBS website and deadline/audition is sooner for that one too so might not be a bad thing! Has anyone got any experience of Eastleigh? Do you think dd's teacher is favouring London because of the Covent garden factor and proximity to WL and opportunities to be part of RBS productions etc or are there likely to be other reasons? I'm really not sure. Less than an hour in the car over 2 on a train is quite a big difference whatever.

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I've no personal experience of JAs, but I wonder if your DD's teacher is maybe basing her view of the different venues on how things were when she was a student herself? It's possible things have changed significantly and maybe the scheme has developed a lot. I've recently been looking at potential university courses with my daughter, and some of the places she is considering are universities that were not at all well regarded "in my day". It turns out they are highly sought after now, and I was basing my opinions on out of date info. Do you think maybe your teacher is thinking that way too? Certainly there are people on this forum whose children have attended the various venues and they all seem to have been equally happy. It sounds as though your more local venue would be a great deal more convenient and less stressful for your family. I wouldn't rule it out if I were you. Best of luck, whatever you decide though.

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I have had direct experience of Eastleigh - with pupils there and also before it moved there from Poole.  The teacher is exceptional, as good or better than those in London!

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We used to go to Easttleigh and the teacher there was wonderful - every bit as good - we only moved to London for Boys only classes once DS was older , and so we could do home work on he train ????

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My daughter started as a JA in Eastleigh, she then moved to Bristol for MA's and now attends London as an SA. All our experiences have been very positive. I understand that the same teacher is taking the JA classes at Eastleigh which were excellent

. Now my daughter is older she copes with the train journey to London every Saturday, not sure she would have from the age of 8 ! Good luck if you audition!

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Well HappyGirl as most on the forum will tell you that travelling to Juniors or mids is only part of it, in fact along with quite a few other parents and dance children, my D and GD are in London as we speak for the final auditions for WL tomorrow. The travelling doesn't trouble either of them, but luckily her best friend travels with them as she is also a MA, and who incidentally is in the final too, it could change soon though.

Edited by Vonrothbart

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Apologies to those who have heard my children's stories before, but Happygirl, I hadn't heard of JAs either when our local teacher asked if my son wanted to audition and now about 13 years later he's a professional ballet dancer.

 

However my daughter was a JA straight after him and she's now at vet school, so we're not mapping their lives out by letting them audition or go to JAs. She loved JAs, and was very sad not to get into WL or MAs at the time but it all turned out fine :-)

 

And youngest son was on the waiting list, didn't get a place and will soon be heading off to uni.

 

My two did fortnightly classes - weekly would've been too disruptive for us and too expensive - not just the fees (they're quite good value), more the train fares!

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I think the key question is whether your daughter is genuinely keen to be a JA, and for the right reasons. Yes, auditions are a great experience, and the children have a wonderful time. However, going for the audition "just to see what happens" could easily be the first step in getting swept along. If your daughter gets a positive result from the audition, it is so much more difficult to make a rational decision when the euphoria has set in.

My advice would be to really try and find out whether she really wants to try for a place. The classes are all about classic ballet, and focus very heavily on technique. The classes are long (approx 2 hours) and for a small child they can be boring and monotonous if they are not totally focused.

My daughter was a JA from yr 5 and loved her two years there. We attended another centre (not London) and the teacher was wonderful. There is certainly no advantage at all in terms of level of teaching, in choosing London over another more convenient centre.

If you do decide to take the plunge, I would say go for the convenience factor. Explain politely to your daughter's teacher that both expense and travelling time are important factors in your choice of venue.

My daughter's JA days have formed happy memories for us both, and apart from the teaching there are other very positive outcomes for parent and child. We both formed strong friendships which have stood the test of time and distance. Neither of us saw the travelling as an inconvenience, as we always had fun. My (rural) girl got an eye opening taste of city life (and has learned to love it), and train travel has become a familiar experience for her - prior to her being a JA we had always travelled by car!

In summary I would say, try and find out whether your daughter genuinely wants to be a JA to improve her ballet technique. If she is at all unsure, or if you think she may struggle with the 2 hour classes then delay your decision until next year when she is a little older. In our experience it was easier to get a place for year 5 than year 4, so putting it off for a year will not disadvantage her, and in another year she may be more certain one way or the other.

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Thanks bestfootforward - your words rang SO true with me! Part of my concern about the whole thing is whether dd really - I mean really, wants to do it. As you say, we need to sit down and talk it through and try to work out it it's what she wants. As I've said before, she loves her ballet but at the same time openly says she doesn't want to be a ballerina so I'm just not sure how she views it. It's very young to know so she'll need some guidance but I want her to have some day in it and don't want her to feel pushed into it. Interesting what you say about there being more spaces available in y5 that y4 too - I'm starting to wonder whether it might be better to carry on as we are for now and see how she's feeling about it all next year.

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