The Royal Ballet School runs weekly classes for children at a small number of venues across the UK. They run Junior Associate classes for children in Years 4, 5 and 6, Mid Associate classes for children in Years 7 to 9 and Senior Associates for Year 10s and above.
Regular readers will know that my daughter is a talented ballet dancer, so we were very excited when her teacher recommended that she audition for the Royal Ballet School Mid Associate course. We knew that the chances of getting in were ridiculously small (something like one in a hundred), but we were just happy that my daughter’s teacher thought she was good enough.
The application process starts in October, for the following September. Sadly, we’d missed the boat for entry in Year 7, so we had to focus on Year 8. As well as filling in an application form, you have to provide photos of your child in a number of ballet poses, which is easier said than done.
‘My leg is too high.’
‘My arm isn’t the right angle.’
‘My feet aren’t turned out enough.’
‘My head isn’t up high enough.’
‘My tummy isn’t tucked in enough.’
There is A LOT to think about when you do ballet. All of these things and more have to come together at the same time. But eventually we got the photos right.
Ever the optimist, my husband was convinced she could do it. And that rubbed off on me a bit too. We know the odds are stacked against my daughter, but we always allow ourselves to think ‘what if?’. We only know one person who has got into the Royal Ballet and I can honestly say she is a better ballet dancer than my daughter. But she has had a lot more tuition. Would my daughter be as good if she’d spent a lot more time in classes? I think maybe she would.
My daughter feels she is a better dancer than she was when she auditioned nearly three years ago for Junior Associates. She’s learned much more about using her face as she dances. But I’m sure the other girls are better too.
Her teacher gave her one word of advice – smile. That makes the panel notice you. Obviously they need to notice you in the crowd, or you really have got no chance.
We were excited when we arrived in Birmingham for the audition. But my heart sank a bit when I saw all of the impossibly teeny tiny girls doing impossible stretches. In the real world, my daughter looks slim. At the Royal Ballet, she looks big built and very, very tall. I felt a bit crap.
My daughter didn’t feel crap. She wasn’t fazed at all.
She did some stretches herself and I was reminded yet again of what a brilliant dancer she is.
She attached a number to her leotard and ran off to her audition class, head and shoulders above most of the other 27 girls.
I felt a bit sick. It was raining and very cold. I wandered aimlessly around The Bullring, then went back to the venue to read my book, until the other parents got too noisy for me to concentrate. Sometimes, an hour and a half goes very slowly.
But suddenly they were back.
My daughter had done well. She’d done exactly what her teacher had advised. On the first exercise, she’d smiled, and she was the only one who did. The judges watched her. And they watched her several more times. With 28 girls to look at, it would be very easy for them to miss some of the kids.
There was an exercise where they were required to hold their balance. Some kids had to hold it for longer. She was one of them. They wouldn’t make them hold it for longer if they weren’t interested, would they?!
My daughter was very happy with what she’d achieved. She knew she’d done her absolute best and nobody can ask any more than that. She knows it’s very unlikely that she will get into the Royal Ballet, just because they want so few kids.
But there is still that small glimmer of hope and I couldn’t be prouder of her.