When we arrived for my daughter’s workshop at the Royal Ballet, we were given a form to apply to audition for ‘Junior Associate’. Junior Associates of the Royal Ballet are in years 4-6 at school and they train with the Royal Ballet pretty much weekly. The Royal Ballet trains 1,000 Junior Associates a year.
Imagine that… training with the Royal Ballet! How exciting and what an honour!
But is it the right thing for my daughter and our family?
My daughter loves her ballet and all of her dancing. She clearly has a lot of natural talent, as well as a great ability to learn. But she’s used to dancing in a low pressure environment at local dance schools with people she knows. She’s used to being the best in the class. A big fish in a lovely, warm sea.
Is she ready for travelling every week and the discipline and hard work that come with the Royal Ballet? Is she ready for not being the best? And am I ready for it?
And I have another concern… Body image and anorexia.
Because ballet dancers are all tiny things with tiny little bodies and sometimes they have to starve themselves to achieve that ‘perfection’.
My daughter is pretty tall for her age, but she’s also pretty slim. When I see her in her swimming costume or her leotard, she looks skinny – smaller than most other girls. When I saw her in a room full of other year 3 and 4 wannabe ballerinas, I saw a girl who was tall and a bit on the curvy side. The application form even asks what her height and weight is – and what my height and my husband’s height is.
I questioned this and it was glossed over. Apparently this is something that only really applies to the older girls after puberty. They don’t want 6 foot female ballet dancers. But do they want 5 foot 8 or 5 foot 6 ballet dancers?
My daughter is keen to audition, despite there only being a 10 or 15% success rate. But how would she take the rejection?
But what if there was no rejection, what if she got in? What an amazing opportunity for her.
But what if she got in and she started to feel the pressure to be a little bit slimmer? Eat a bit less, exercise a bit more. I’ll be honest, this scares me. Because ballerinas that don’t fit the perfection mould can’t be ballerinas. That’s an awful lot of pressure to be putting on an 8 year old.
My husband is perhaps the most keen of all of us for her to do it. As a football coach, I know he would love my younger son to be scouted for the local team (and it’s my son’s dream too). This is my daughter’s equivalent. Scouted for the Royal Ballet. He might not have a son playing for the academy of the local team, but imagine how proud he’d be to have a daughter dancing with the Royal Ballet. But he’s just as proud, as I am, that she has even been given this opportunity.
It’s a difficult decision with a fair few pros and cons. Luckily we’ve got a few more weeks to make it.