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About the Change

Ballet School Auditions

        ...comes with the territory

by Margaret Lumley

Part 2 of this piece

Dance schools page

School fees and funding

Margaret Lumley follows a mum and daughter through the process of trying to get into a senior ballet school. This is written from the mothers perspective and to say its very hard is a massive understatement...
A year ago I remember sitting in the stage door waiting room, hanging around for my daughter at her Senior Associate class. I could not help noticing another mother who looked grief stricken - she had just heard her daughter had not got into the Royal Ballet Senior School. Her hopes of a ballet career had died. This story is repeated year after year at audition time, but when it is happening in your home the reality hits hard and the fall out affects everyone.

At first, I just did not think the same could happen to us. I know that everyone's child is special: but my daughter is so beautiful, 5'5", weighs 71/2 stone, studies at a vocational dance school has got honours in her ballet exams and has been a senior associate of (Royal Ballet School, (RBS) for 2 years. You would have thought she was 'in the frame' I was so wrong.

Many are called - few are chosen and my daughter isn't one of them

The moment that every ballet mother dreads happened. Her first rejection.My daughter didn't make it to the final audition of English National Ballet School. She is devastated. It is her first bitter taste of ' failure' and she sobbed her heart out for hours behind her bedroom door. The pain of watching this happen to your child when you can do nothing about it is truly awful and I would not wish the experience on anyone.

She liked the school from the Spring Course, she liked the audition, she liked the teacher taking the class. They didn't like her. The audition was about 2 hours long and they didn't do anything difficult. Had the decision been made when they had to do the splits 3 ways as part of the bar stretch or after the double pirouette from fourth (the most difficult step) or the releve passe in the centre on pointe? There were 7 boys and 9 girls and they had to dance in 3s and 4s. Could they see her?

Suddenly hard work, brilliant assessments and desire are not enough. Or were they simply just spoiled for choice on the day? Would it be better if students were told why they had failed just to stop us mulling over the possibilities.

There is a perception that if you do not get into the Royal Ballet Senior School you can always go to ENBS. If you cannot get into ENBS you have no chance of getting to the Royal. Then where do you go? Central? London Studio Centre? Abroad?

Is she disfigured?

We don't really know why she didn't get a call back. We speculated: I asked one of her teachers. Suddenly, her feet (though never suffered an injury and are extremely strong) don't have the massive arched insteps that look beautiful on pointe. Oh and her back is... perhaps a little too long? What does this mean, is she disfigured? Has she been rejected because of something she can do nothing about- her basic anatomy? She wants to believe that an ugly duckling can turn into a swan. I walk on eggshells just waiting for the next rejection. I just wish she did not care so much.

Where does she go from here - The Royal Ballet School?

Gailene Stock is too new at RBS for most teachers to be able to accurately predict what she is looking for. Her teachers say 'she has something' - but is it the same something that the RBS want. She was physically inspected by the panel (Ms Stock, her husband, Jay Jolley and Nicola Katrak) even when she did her demi plie in front of them she could 'feel' the 2 black marks against her. Her back and her feet again- but at least she knew. The audition lasted an hour, again splits 3 ways after the barre -but no pointe work.This was the easiest audition. There were 3 boys and 20 girls - she had seen most of the girls around the ballet circuit and I recognised the mothers. Are they finding it as hard as me, dealing with this situation where I am not in control, where I cannot deliver the thing she wants more than anything else in the world - a chance to dance.

We might as well try Central - everyone else is.

Great minds think alike. Most of her senior associate classmates turned up to the Central School audition in Leeds. No-one had heard from the Royal- I felt relieved at least she had not been rejected. This audition was certainly the most challenging. A long barre, lots of exercises to show strength, slow adage and not just splits but having to let go of her leg once she had got it stretched up to look like a lamppost. (A pose that if attempted would hospitalise most of us). Revealing pointe work and a chance to dance solo with a grand jete en avant. This lasted 2 hours and all the girls had definitely had a work out.

She liked the audition- but did they like her? We don't know yet and every day I dread the thud of the letters on the mat.

It's like being the mother of an addict.

Being the mother of a ballet girl is like being the mother of an addict- who needs to feed a ballet habit, her daily 'fix', even in holidays she has to do class or rehearse. I am her 'enabler', the total support service provided by all ballet mothers of chauffeur, wardrobe mistress and pointe shoe provider.

The letter arrived.

A few days later, a letter from Central arrived. I didn't know whether it was a good or bad thing. I could hardly open it but when I did there was no mention of 'regret'. She had got a call back- thank God. To us it was like winning the lottery - I just wanted to hug the teachers who had made the decision.

More to follow......
Part 2 of this piece

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