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Odessa

Questions about the Royal Ballet School at Covent Garden

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Hello. Would anyone be kind enough to answer some questions I have about the full-time courses at the Royal Ballet School for ages 16-18? I'm actually a writer, and would like to know this in regards to a character I'm writing. It doesn't focus on her time at the school, she's not the main character, and most of these points I don't actually have to address in the work itself; but I would like to know them for my own understanding of the character, and I really like to get details right. So I'd really appreciate any help anyone would be kind enough to give me. Thank you very much!!

 

My questions are:

 

1. It says on the RBS website that the courses at Covent Garden are three years long and begin in September. Is this the same as a university course, meaning it would begin in September 2014 and finish in summer 2017, with term breaks in the summer, etc.? If so, what month exactly does the course end in?

 

2. What sort of training background would someone need to have had to be accepted to one of the full-time courses for 16-18 year olds? Provided someone had been studying ballet from a young age and were an exceptional dancer, even if they'd had no training at anywhere prestigious before applying, is it possible that they could be accepted to the school?

 

I would also like to ask if anyone knows how different procedure at the school was back in the mid-1970s? What I'd like to know is:

 

3. Were the full-time courses for 16-18 year olds still offered then, were they the same length as they are now, and did they give academic training alongside their dance training back then the same way they do now?

 

4. Were scholarships still offered then with the same or similar conditions as they are now?

 

5. Does anyone know what teacher training courses they offered back then – are they similar to the ones they offer now? I'm especially interested in the Course in Ballet Education Practice.
In fact, any information about becoming a ballet teacher in the mid-70s would be really helpful, even if it doesn't involve the RBS!

 

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this, and I'd very much appreciate any help anyone would be kind enough to give me! :)

Edited by Odessa

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Hi Odessa - welcome to the forum :)   I can answer a few little bits for you and I'm sure some of our other members can help out with some of the "older" information.

 

1. It says on the RBS website that the courses at Covent Garden are three years long and begin in September. Is this the same as a university course, meaning it would begin in September 2014 and finish in summer 2017, with term breaks in the summer, etc.? If so, what month exactly does the course end in? Yes, you're right that it runs in academic years with holidays pretty much like schools in the UK.  The first two years are 1st and 2nd years and the 3rd year is generally known as the graduate year.  Students graduate (finish) in the July of their last year. Their last day is generally spent having the final performance at the Royal Opera House followed by a graduation gathering in the Upper School where parents etc attend and awards are given out.

 

2. What sort of training background would someone need to have had to be accepted to one of the full-time courses for 16-18 year olds? Provided someone had been studying ballet from a young age and were an exceptional dancer, even if they'd had no training at anywhere prestigious before applying, is it possible that they could be accepted to the school? If you're talking purely getting into the RBS Upper School, then yes, they need to be exceptional dancers.  About half the intake each year will come from the Lower School at White Lodge (Richmond Park), the odd student from other vocational lower schools like Elmhurst, the very occasional dancer who hasn't been to any of those (but that's rare) and the others will be international students - perhaps winners from some prestigious competitions eg one from Prix de Lausanne. 

 

All the UK students are eligible for MDS places so they're means-tested awards where the government pays towards the fees. They have quite a few scholarships for international students and some of those will be sponsored privately.

 

 

Can't help you with the 70s stuff, but there are some members who went through the school then or know people who did - same applies to the teacher training.  Good luck with your research.

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JulieW -- thank you so much; that's so helpful!!

 

Love your dog you've got as your avatar -- what breed is it?

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Guest BD19

Why don't you just ring up the school and ask them?

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Why don't you just ring up the school and ask them?

They probably won't know what breed Julie's dog is. ;-)

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Why don't you just ring up the school and ask them?

 

I didn't think of that, actually! I've been rather "off" ringing institutions up and asking them after my mum (also a writer) had to phone a number of places to ask them about procedure, and was told by almost all of them that they couldn't give her any information at all, about anything, because of "data protection". I could pretend just to be a ballet student rather than a writer, but I'm afraid my total lack of knowledge might betray me. I think the only place I've ever got any joy from when researching was the army...

 

Do you think the school would know about the 70s stuff? JulieW's pretty much adressed my other questions, but if they could help me on 1970s procedure, it's certainly worth a try.

Edited by Odessa

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Might be worth emailing them initially and then following up with a phone call, asking specifically about the 70s information.  I'm sure someone there would help.

 

Spanner you made me laugh with your reply - thanks :D

 

And he's a flatcoated retriever - only about a year old in that photo, he's now 5 and a bit.

 

I've got a Welsh Springer too - here he is (apologies for the large photo!):

 

1378389_10151967153139534_2004636477_n.j

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I thoroughly recommend Deborah Bull's short memoir 'The Everyday Dancer' - she was at the school during the 1970s and offers a very concise but illuminating account of what it was like and how everything worked.

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Pretty sure the upper school was only 2 years pre-1990 or so.

Not according to this: "In 1946 The Sadler's Wells Ballet moved to a permanent home at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. A second company was formed, The Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet. In 1947 the School moved from Sadler's Wells Theatre to Barons Court and general education was, at last, combined with vocational ballet training.

 

The Lower School moved to White Lodge, Richmond Park in 1955/56 and became residential, combining general education and vocational ballet training. The Upper School remained at Barons Court until 2003 when it moved to new studios next to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden."

 

Full article here on BRB's website: http://www.brb.org.uk/vocational-ballet-schools.html

 

I read it (correctly, I hope!) as Upper School remaining at Barons Court from 1956 to 2003?

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Not according to this: "In 1946 The Sadler's Wells Ballet moved to a permanent home at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. A second company was formed, The Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet. In 1947 the School moved from Sadler's Wells Theatre to Barons Court and general education was, at last, combined with vocational ballet training.

 

The Lower School moved to White Lodge, Richmond Park in 1955/56 and became residential, combining general education and vocational ballet training. The Upper School remained at Barons Court until 2003 when it moved to new studios next to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden."

 

Full article here on BRB's website: http://www.brb.org.uk/vocational-ballet-schools.html

 

I read it (correctly, I hope!) as Upper School remaining at Barons Court from 1956 to 2003?

???

 

Where there does it say the upper school course was 3 years long, rather than 2 years as I said?

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Not according to this: "In 1946 The Sadler's Wells Ballet moved to a permanent home at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. A second company was formed, The Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet. In 1947 the School moved from Sadler's Wells Theatre to Barons Court and general education was, at last, combined with vocational ballet training.

 

The Lower School moved to White Lodge, Richmond Park in 1955/56 and became residential, combining general education and vocational ballet training. The Upper School remained at Barons Court until 2003 when it moved to new studios next to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden."

 

Full article here on BRB's website: http://www.brb.org.uk/vocational-ballet-schools.html

 

I read it (correctly, I hope!) as Upper School remaining at Barons Court from 1956 to 2003?

 

Here we go, to quote from the ROH obituary for Gailene Stock: "In 1999 she took over from Merle Park as Director of The Royal Ballet School. Her many developments to the curriculum included ... introducing a third year into the Upper School to allow students to manage their studies with overseas auditions, furthering the School's touring opportunities, expanding the choreographic course and re-introducing a teachers’ course for professional dancers and a teacher exchange programme."

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???

 

Where there does it say the upper school course was 3 years long, rather than 2 years as I said?

Oh sorry, bbb!! My fault - I mis-interpreted what you wrote, and thought you meant that the Upper School only existed for 2 years prior to 1990!

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If you get hold of old copies of The Dancing Times magazine[lots are for sale on Ebay],the RBS usually took out a full page advert advertising their school .I have a few copies from the 1970`s and the Upper School has what is [was]called a Craftsmen`s Course. I think this later became their Teacher Training course.

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Yes, there used to be two or three classes in each year group, and the "graduate" class were considered the best.  There were also one year courses for foreign dancers to add "polish" to their training.

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I don't know whether you had a look at the history section on the RBS website but that is quite useful and gives some good information

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Guest BD19

I went to the RBS Upper school. Just email the office, explain who you are, why you want the info, it's not like you're asking for personal details on anyone, it's just age and fees. It's not that big a deal.

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Well Id recommend arranging a visit to the White Lodge Museum too as there is a wealth of material to be found there and Im sure you will find there someone that will answer your questions or point you in the right direction.

 

And do email the school, nothing ventured nothing gained! Many questions are best answered directly by the person or institution that one is enquiring about, third hand information isnt always reliable.

 

And BD19 I do wish you would share some of your experiences as someone who has been through the system with all its highs and lows.I sense that you are only too aware of how hard it is not only to become a professional dancer but to remain one! Your insights could be very valuable to many on this forum who are perhaps still mystified by it all.

 

One thing that Ive learnt from this forum for sure is that many people really do need help understanding the world of Ballet if they havent been immersed in it and trained from an early age. It has helped me as a teacher to be prepared for and answer questions from students and parents alike sympathetically rather than dismissively. Its very easy to forget sometimes that not everyone lives and breathes Ballet!

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There is a wealth of experience on this forum - whether from parents, professional dancers, students, teachers etc etc. There's nothing wrong with coming on here and asking the questions. The school will be able to give the facts, but hopefully some forum members will help with sharing their experiences.

 

This is a forum where people have "conversations" - long may it continue.

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Thank you so much, everyone – that's so helpful!

 

Jane – that link is fantastic! Thank you so much!

Likewise, hfbrew – I would love to arrange a visit to the museum; I'm hoping to get down to London sometime this year for some other research, so I'll definitely  go when I have the chance.

 

Spannerandpony – LOL! I made the same mistake as you!! My heart turned to water when I thought they only started the upper school two years before 1990 – it was like, "I'm sure that's not what I read!"
And bangorballetboy – thank you so much! It actually says on the RBS website, "The final three years of study for more senior continued to be based at Barons Court", so it's really helpful to have your "insider knowledge"! Two years is actually more helpful to me as a writer anyway…

 

Marianne – 'The Everyday Dancer' sounds absolutely ideal! Thank you very much!

 

thequays – thank you so much! That's such a fantastic idea!

 

Pas de Quatre – thank you for telling me that about the classes; it's really brilliant to have these extra bits of detail.

 

Nutcracker – I have had a look at it, but it was a little vague. For example, where it says, "general education was combined with vocational ballet training" – it was like, "…how general?"

 

BD19 – I hope so. After a number of bizarre conversations with institutions where they've said they couldn't give any information because it "contravenes confidentiality" (it's like, "Whose confidentiality?!"), I have a little less faith; but I'll draft up an email to the school now. I must admit, though, half the trouble I have with contacting places direct is that I always get embarrassed by the inevitable, "What are you writing?" questions that (quite reasonably!) get asked. I'll steel myself…

 

JulieW, you have such beautiful dogs! I have a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and she's a handful as it is! You very much have my respect for being able to handle two big dogs!! I love the way your Springer is standing on your foot…they love to do that, don't they?

 

Anyway, I'm so grateful for everyone's help! Thank you very, very, very much, everyone!!

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Very sorry to bother everyone again, but I wrote the RBS an email last Friday, and have had no reply at all. As my questions are extremely qualitative, rather than quantitative, any telephone conversation would likely be very long, and therefore very expensive; and sadly I'm not financially solvent enough to afford it this month (nor can I buy The Everyday Dancer yet for the same reason)! But naturally, I don't want to put my writing on hold till I can finally afford that long phone conversation (and that's assuming, of course, that they'd help me; which I rather feel is in question after my disappointing email experience!), so, I'd be very grateful if someone could help me…

 

First of all, I'd be extremely grateful if someone could settle for me the issue of this two-year or three-year length of the upper school in the 1970s, and what ages the upper school was for. The reason I ask is because on the RBS website, it says "The first five younger years of the School moved to White Lodge, Richmond Park in 1955/56 and became residential, combining general education and vocational ballet training. The final three years of study for more senior continued to be based at Barons Court." However, the quote from the ROH obituary for Gailene Stock that Bangorballetboy provided is pretty much indisputable; so, am I misinterpreting the quote on the RBS website?
Oh, and on the subject of residential – was the upper school also residential in the 70s?

 

Also, my questions about the 1970s are still, of course, outstanding – especially in regards to A. what academic training was given at the upper school back in the 1970s, and B. what training you needed in those days to become a ballet teacher (did you only need a qualification if you wanted to teach somewhere prestigious?), so I'd still be very grateful if anyone knows (and has the time to help me)!

 

Thank you very much (again) for any help anyone can give me.

Edited by Odessa

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Well I can help re ballet teaching as I can remember the 1980s when the RAD first introduced registration. To become registered you had to prove that you had teacher training and pass the teaching certificate. Without registration you could not enter students for exams. The ISTD did the same.

 

Prior to that anyone could merely learn a syllabus and enter students for exams which unsurprisingly meant very varied standards. Good teaching courses did exist of course but there was no requirement to attend them or proper recognition of those that did.

 

These days you can still legally teach dance even if you are not qualified and have not undergone thorough training. However the dance societies insist that only recognised teachers (those qualified and registered) can enter students for exams.

 

Obviously then, as now, the vocational schools would often employ ex dancers as teachers to pass on their extensive knowledge. They did not necessarily have formal teaching qualifications and this is true now too. However a dance teacher graduating from the RBS was sure to get work as were those ex dancers training on the RADs professional dancers teacher training course.

Edited by hfbrew
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Hope it is ok to quote from a book?

From A True Heritage the story of The Royal Ballet School and Companies by Anna Meadmore 

 

"In 1964 a full time teacher training course was introduced at The Royal Ballet School. Initially known as the Craftsman's Course, and given over a two year period, it was intended to encourage dancers whose eventual vocation might be teacher. The Craftsman's Course began under the general directorship of the Upper School, but it became clear that such a varied programme of study, now extended to three years, would require its own Director and staff. In 1971 Valerie Adams, who had taught on the Course since its inception, was appointed Director of the re-named Teacher's Training Course. By the time the Course was brought to a close in 2000, necessitated by the re-location of the Upper School to Covent Garden, it had created a significant network of 324 graduates in 26 countries."                                                                                            

 

We borrowed 'The Everyday Dancer' from our local library.

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Thank you very much, everyone, that's supremely helpful.

 

Jane and hfbrew, thank you so much for taking the time to give me those very detailed responses about training to be a ballet teacher. You covered exactly what I wanted to know. Thank you very, very much!

 

Jane – borrowing The Everyday Dancer from the library is a great thought, but sadly my local library charges me £5 to rent anything not in their very limited range that they have to order in, so it's literally cheaper for me to buy it!
BUT, I ordered The Everyday Dancer from Abebooks on Thursday (this month it was a choice between The Everyday Dancer and a much-needed new bra…and, yes, I chose the book), so hopefully it'll arrive soon…

 

Pas de Quatre – that looks great, thank you so much. I'll definitely put than on the list for next month.

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Hi all, I am very new to this forum. We live in Sydney Australia, My DD is doing a competitions in America in August and, her teacher wants her to go to London and Audition for RBS as well.  I have looked at the website and it seems to me that Auditions are over for this year. Does the school do private Auditions and do they ever take students at this late stage, can she go into 1st year even though she is 18 in October? I have been told by a lot of people she is the perfect physique for RBS, but is has always seemed like such an impossible dream that we have never bothered trying.

Thanks

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Hello Ausdance and welcome to the forum. As Odessa is asking for historical info for a book, may I suggest you copy your question and start a new thread? That way people will see your post and this thread can continue on its original subject.

 

If you have any technical problems doing that, let me know.

 

Thank you. :-)

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