The Royal Ballet, Elmhurst and rejection

My daughter didn’t get into the Royal Ballet Mid Associates programme. I didn’t blog about it at the time. It was to be expected. They had only a handful of places and were holding auditions around the country. She was disappointed, though. We’d waited two months for the news and during that time there had always been that little glimmer of ‘What if?’. But it wasn’t meant to be.

After she’d got the news, my daughter disappeared upstairs. When she reappeared, she announced she would be applying to Elmhurst Extended Young Dancers. (Elmhurst is a similar school to the Royal Ballet, also in Birmingham, which holds weekend ballet classes for talented dancers.) The closing date was just four days away and the auditions three weeks later.

The application process was so much easier than the Royal Ballet – just a short form to be sent off by post and two photos. And it was cheaper too – only £15.

Something about discovering it so close to the closing date, with just enough time to get the application in, made it feel like fate. Maybe this was meant to be.

So we went along for the audition. Elmhurst isn’t right in the city centre, so it was a drive rather than train journey, not ideal for a nervous driver like me.

I was pleased to see the the kids auditioning were a normal build like my daughter, not like the very short, skin-and-bones girls who auditioned for the Royal Ballet.

The audition is like a class. Her group were all Year 7s, auditioning to join in Year 8. There were about 20 or 25 kids, including a handful of boys. They had previously auditioned three younger groups during the day. We had no idea how many places they had available, but as far as I could make out, this was the only batch of auditions they were doing. It certainly looked like she was more likely to get into Elmhurst.

I had started to picture the commitment of travelling to Birmingham every Saturday, of missing great chunks of time with my boys. It wasn’t ideal, but I would do it for my daughter because it’s important to her.

My daughter felt that she’d done well. There was nothing she couldn’t do and there were a few things she could do that others couldn’t do. Only one girl had stood out as being significantly better than the others.

The kids were told they would hear ‘very soon’.

And they were true to their word.

It was just four days later that we got the news. She hadn’t got in.

And she was devastated.

She cried and cried and cried. She’d really thought this was her chance. I suppose I hadn’t definitely expected her to get in, but I had thought there was a real possibility that she might.

It broke my heart to see her so sad.

‘I want to do this for a career and I can’t even get into a flipping ballet school!’

That’s really hard for her. The rejection is hard. The feeling that she might not be good enough is hard. She’s a very driven girl, with a much clearer idea of what she wants from life than either of her brothers, in fact clearer than a lot of adults. And I’ve always said I will support her in that. I’m not going to stomp all over her dreams and tell her she should get a ‘proper’ job or that maybe she’s not good enough for a career in dance or the theatre.

But I’m not a pushy mum. I wasn’t a dancer myself and I obviously have no older kids who are dancers. I have nothing to compare with. I’m learning about the world of ballet as my daughter learns. She was a late starter who didn’t start ballet until she was 6.

We didn’t know opportunities like the Royal Ballet Junior Associates and Elmhurst existed until she was older and many girls had already been training with them. Every year she sticks with her current level of ballet is another year she falls behind those girls who have had the extra tuition.  They’re the kids she’s up against in these auditions.

And that’s her disadvantage.

Not that she isn’t ‘good enough’.

She just hasn’t had the time and money thrown at her ballet training that many kids have had.

Until just over a year ago, she was only doing 45 minutes of ballet a week. Since the start of 2017, she’s been doing two hours a week and is in the most senior class at her ballet school, with dancers as old as 21. She wouldn’t be in that class if she wasn’t ‘good enough’.

I don’t think she needs to do any more auditions just yet. She doesn’t need to be hurt right now.

She can just keep on dancing and keep on working and she will make her own dreams come true when the time is right.

Ballet shoes, Daughter, Audition, Ballet, 365, The Royal Ballet Elmhurst and rejection

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. Aww! Bless her. It must be so hard for her. I am so sorry it didn’t work out.
    She is an amazing young girl and sounds so determined. I am sure she will go far with her dancing when the time is right xx

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    • Thanks very much! That’s exactly what I think. She just needs to stick at it and keep working hard and it will all work out for her. x

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    • You should try a ballet school called YDA in Shepherds Bush they do an associates class on a Saturday & are amazing.My daughter has been there the last 2 years.She got to the finals for a Year 7 place with the RBS so from 850 to last 66 but was not one of the chosen 12.She never got a place with the JA’s. She also had a no from Elmhurst but YDA offered her a place at their vocational school which is lovely. But we cannot afford it so sticking with our local teacher. Your daughter could also try Central for associates on Saturday, Tring & London Junior Ballet for some other ideas if she wants to.Keep going! even Darcey Bussell did not get into the RBS in year 7!!!

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    • I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter. My daughter attend the biryhen ballet open class in Leeds these are ballet runn by teacher of the Northern ballet and there is no audition the children are learning as much as they would in the, associate classes, there is chances to dance with northern and audition for the cat (center for advanced training) with northern ballet. My daughter dos t want to be ballet dancer but she goes for fitness and 5he fun.

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      • That sounds really good! Unfortunately we don’t have anything like that in our area. My daughter does have an alternative career in mind, but her heart is really in ballet and the theatre. I sometimes wish I’d been more savvy myself, so she could have gone for these opportunities at an earlier age, but I just didn’t know this stuff existed!

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  2. Have you considered a summer school?
    This would give your daughter the chance to experience full time training.
    My son was a JA and then a full time student at both The Royal Ballet school and Elmhurst.
    I have seen photo’s of your beautiful girl, the panel who welcome you in have sadly already made up their minds who they are interested in.
    Both The Royal and Elmhurst want short torso and long limbs, and neck.
    If you don’t have a classic physic, you will never fit the brief. However beautiful the dancer.
    My son had only been dancing for 23 mths when he won a scholarship to the 3 top ballet schools.
    A lot of those auditioning will be training for up to 20 hours a week.
    The year between being a JA and starting yr 7 at White Lodge, my son was training one – one for 10 hours and 6 hrs in a class every week. Plus 3 hours JA class.. Plus a private Pilates class.
    His choice, I’m not a pushy Mum either and it was a huge financial sacrifice.
    He is almost 17 and no longer wants to dance professionally.
    He now takes photo’s of ballet bodies in an urban setting.

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    • Thanks very much for this. I know a friend of hers did a summer school and didn’t enjoy it, although my daughter is more confident than her friend, so she would probably enjoy it.
      Certainly when I saw the other girls auditioning for the Royal Ballet, I felt that my daughter didn’t stand a chance because of her size. In ‘real life’, she is slim, but compared to those girls she looked very big.
      She currently does two hours of ballet a week – and until just over a year ago was only doing 45 minutes a week!
      Well done to your son for all his hard work and you for all your sacrifices!

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      • Tring do a wonderful summer school.
        Worth a try as they offer excellent dance training but with musical theatre .

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        • That sounds really good, thank you! I will look into that as I could see her in musical theatre – she has a lot of stage presence and really shines on stage.

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  3. I’ve been wondering how your daughter got on with her Royal Ballet audition. So sorry to hear that she didn’t get in with them or with Elmhurst and that she was so disappointed. Rejection is such a hard thing to deal with, especially when you have your heart set on being a dancer as a career. I am sure that your daughter will be able to make her dreams come true one way or another though – she certainly sounds like she has a lot of determination which will help her with that x

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    • Thanks very much. It was a real disappointment to her, but she is bouncing back from it. She works so hard and is very determination, so I think she will make her own dreams come true in her own way. x

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  4. Ahh so sorry to read this. I think that as she gets older and is applying to professional productions, she will come into her own. We have a family friend who is a professional dancer, works as the lead with some incredible companies. Only started learning ballet at university. She definitely shouldn’t be despondent about doing it as a career.

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    • Thanks very much! I think she will get there if she really wants it as she’s so hard working and determined. That’s very inspiring to read about your friend! X

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  5. Aww that’s sad to hear, especially if she has her heart set on it. I guess you have to just support her and you are doing the right thing by protecting her, but also encouraging her to seek her dreams.

    Kay xx

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    • Thanks very much, I really appreciate that! I definitely need to get the right balance for her and I don’t think putting her through any more of these auditions is right, but we will find an alternative!

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  6. Oh bless her, that is tough for her and for you to see her so disappointed. She is so dedicated to her dancing, I’m sure she will find success eventually and the sad thing is that rejection is a big part of that world, if you want a career in dance. The important thing is that she can keep picking herself up and trying again.

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    • Thanks very much, I think she will get there in the end if she keeps working at it, but not by this particular path. The rejection will be tough, which is why I think she needs a bit of a break from it until she’s older.

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  7. So sorry this isn’t working out for her right now. But I think as a parent you have the right approach. Child 4 did football, all his team mates trained with academies, had trials with top football clubs with parents pushing and pushing to get their kids to achieve. Child 4 was the only one who ended up training with a professional football club. He went to Birmingham when they were premiership aged 13 for 3 years. The commitment was difficult and required car not train. After a year he was dropped as a goalie from the youth club he’d been with since he was 7, none of the other kids went on to have a football career, neither did child 4, but he loved every minute of his experience which he achieved through sheer determination and not by us throwing money at him.

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    • That’s brilliant that he achieved so much and did it all thanks to his own skill. I’m sure if I’d thrown enough money at my daughter over the years she would have stood a better chance, but she will keep working at it and she will get there in her own time and her own way.
      The local academy has been mentioned to my son and I am quite proud that he doesn’t want it. He knows that 99% of kids don’t make it and, as he’s academic, he doesn’t need it. He enjoys sport – football, rugby and athletics – and is happy to keep them as a hobby.

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  8. I love this post Sarah because it says two things to me: 1) you are an encouraging mum who will do everything for her kids but won’t push them unnecessarily and you let them take the lead. 2) You’re allowing your daughter to learn a valuable lesson that is essential in life – how to fail and rise again. She will and I’ve absolutely no doubt that she will exceed hers and your expectations. She’s very talented and has enough drive for both of you!

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    • Thanks very much, that’s a lovely thing to and you’re absolutely spot on! My kids are encouraged with their hobbies and sport and I am willing to commit a reasonable amount of time (and money) to them, but they’re not pushed hard. I’m pleased to say she’s already bounced back from this and the next opportunity is always around the corner – she’s performing a solo she choreographed herself at the school’s song and dance evening next week.

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  9. Oh bless her. It’s so hard when they have to suffer such disappointments. As you know, Bunny has had a few disappointments lately. It’s crushing for them, but I think in a way, it’s also good for them to learn how to deal with disappointment so they can learn from it and use it to become stronger. I hope she’s not sad for too long. There’s plenty of years left for her to reach for her dreams Xx

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    • Thanks very much. It is hard for them, but she has bounced back! There is always something new to look forward to, even if it’s not quite as big as getting into a ballet school. I know it’s been hard for Bunny too, but I agree that it’s important for them to have these disappointments and to learn from them. x

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  10. I am sure with this level of determination she will make it one day.
    It hurts fir them to feel rejected and yes the fact she is in the seniors says she must be good.

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    • Thanks very much, I’m sure she will! And you are so right about her senior class. She’s actually the youngest in the class she’s supposed to be in too!

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  11. Your daughter is one of the most amazing and driven girls I know, she will get her dream. She deserves it and no one works harder. I don’t have the answers, but I do know she will have her dream, she just needs to go in another direction to get it. She inspires me daily, as do you x

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    • That is such a lovely thing to say, thank you! I’m sure she will achieve her dreams in some way. Her teacher is already talking about making sure she passes enough exams so that she can teach when she’s older, even if it’s just part-time in the evenings on top of another job. I think maybe the answer lies in musical theatre, rather than ballet, but we will see what happens! x

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  12. It must be very hard for her. I know she works very hard at her ballet. Hopefully after a break from auditions she’ll come back better and stronger.

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  13. Successful dancers are the ones who never give up. Have the technical ability but also the mental capacity to deal with disappointment and remain resilient. Dancers have to be tough to deal with it all. The earlier they deal with disappointment the stronger they are, the more determined and more appreciative of what they get. Summer schools are a good way to progress; Young Dancers Academy is amazing ( a hidden gem in London) and for experiences apply to London Children’s Ballet company in September/October. If you get intontgw compsny it is a great experience. Good luck – keep on encouraging without being pushy. The best way! to help your child achieve her dreams

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    • Thanks very much! I do hope she can achieve her dreams and I will keep encouraging her all the way. Unfortunately we’re not in London, or near enough, for anything based in London to be a viable option for her. Birmingham would have been OK for us, but sadly it was not to be!

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