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.