Home Business Insights & Advice Pre-vocational training for budding ballet dancers: The Royal Ballet School’s Associate Programme

Pre-vocational training for budding ballet dancers: The Royal Ballet School’s Associate Programme

by Sarah Dunsby
2nd Nov 23 5:47 pm

In 1948, The Royal Ballet School’s founder, Dame Ninette de Valois, created the Associate Programme. For 75 years, the programme has offered exceptional pre-vocational classical ballet training to gifted young dancers across the UK.

The Associate Programme provides weekly ballet lessons at regional centres. Associate students learn from skilled teachers and dance alongside other children who share their passion for ballet. In addition, the programme opens up a host of performance and career opportunities for those who take part.

Here, those interested in pursuing pre-vocational ballet training will find an overview of:

  • The Associate Programme at Junior, Mid, Senior, and Advanced levels.
  • Associate Insight Days.
  • The financial support available to eligible Associate students.
  • Additional opportunities available to Associate students.
  • How to apply for a place on the Associate Programme.

An overview of the Associate Programme

The Associate Programme enables children aged 8-17 who aspire to a career in dance to work on their ballet technique before they apply for full-time training. The programme also introduces young dancers to The Royal Ballet School’s System of Training.

Here are some key facts about the Associate Programme:

  • The programme takes place during the UK academic year, usually from September to July.
  • Associate students attend weekly classes at one of nine regional centres in Bath, Birmingham, London, Totnes, Leeds, Dundee, Eastleigh, Newcastle, and Manchester.
  • Each class lasts 2 hours and 15 minutes.

The programme’s curriculum includes:

  • Classical ballet, as informed by the School’s System of Training.
  • Natural movement, national and historical dance, and pointe work (to suit students’ age and development).
  • Exercise programmes. The Royal Ballet School’s healthcare team has devised and developed these programmes.

The Royal Ballet School’s policy is to provide training alongside the lessons Associate students receive from their local dance teacher. The School also invites Associates’ local dance teachers to observe an Associate class at a time that suits them.

Junior, Mid, Senior, and Advanced Associate Programmes

The Royal Ballet School runs Junior, Mid, Senior, and Advanced Associate Programmes for students who want to take Royal Ballet School classes in addition to their usual ballet lessons.

The School also encourages boys who are Mid, Senior, or Advanced Associates to attend the London centre for specialist male training.

Junior Associates

The Junior Associate Programme is for students aged 8-10 (school years 4, 5, and 6).

Junior Associates study:

  • Barre work.
  • Jumps.
  • Port de bras.
  • Centre work, including pirouette preparation.
  • Body conditioning.

Children don’t need any specific experience to become a Junior Associate. However, the School suggests that families speak to their child’s dance teacher if uncertain about whether they should take part. In addition, children should be able to travel to their nearest Associate centre for weekly classes during the academic year.

Mid Associates

The Mid Associate Programme is for students aged 11-13 (school years 7, 8, and 9).

Mid Associates study:

  • Barre work.
  • Allegro.
  • Centre work, including pirouettes.
  • Pre-pointe work strengthening and pointe-work (female training).
  • Body conditioning.

Like Junior Associates, Mid Associates should be able to attend their closest Associate centre for classes each week.

Senior Associates

The Senior Associates Programme is for students aged 14-15 (school years 10 and 11).

Senior Associates study:

  • Barre work.
  • Allegro.
  • Centre work.
  • Pointe work (female training).
  • Body conditioning.

Classes take place on Saturdays from September to July in Birmingham or London, and students must be able to travel to either centre. To be eligible for the Senior Associates Programme, girls at this age must be en pointe.

Advanced Associates

The Advanced Associates Programme is for students aged 16-17.

Advanced Associates study:

  • Barre work.
  • Allegro.
  • Centre work.
  • Pointe work (female training).
  • Repertoire.
  • Body conditioning.

To be eligible to become an Advanced Associate, girls at this age must be en pointe. Students must also be able to travel to The Royal Ballet School in Covent Garden for Saturday classes.

Associate insight days

Any young dancers interested in joining the Junior, Mid, or Senior Associate Programmes may wish to attend one of the School’s Associate Insight Days. These events allow students to experience a typical Associate-style class.

Booking is now open for the Junior Associate Insight Day in London on 25 Oct. 2023. Booking for this event closes on 2 Oct. 2023.

Booking for Junior Associate Insight Days in January and February next year will open in December 2023 and January 2024, respectively.

New places for the Mid and Senior Associate Insight events will become available in September 2024.

Financial support

The Royal Ballet School believes that no young dancer should feel discouraged to apply to the Associate Programme due to a lack of financial means. Qualifying families can receive tested financial means support for course fees, uniform costs, and travel bursaries.

Students who travel 75 miles or more to their Associate classes may be eligible for travel bursaries. These bursaries are available through the support of the Leverhulme Foundation and the Hine’s Fund.

Extra opportunities available through the Associate Programme

Besides weekly classes, the Associate Programmes offer a range of exciting opportunities for Associate students of all ages.

The School invites all Associate students to attend one pre-general rehearsal at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden during the academic year. Additionally, Associate students have the opportunity to enhance their training at a workshop held at Upper School in Covent Garden.

On top of this, Associate students sometimes get the chance to perform with The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, and other leading dance companies.

In October 2022, 15 Junior Associate students took part in a performance of Crystal Pite’s Light of Passage at the Royal Opera House. Pite selected the students after they took part in two workshops where the Canadian choreographer helped them practise movements and “moods and feelings.” The children rehearsed and performed alongside the Company dancers.

Training and performance opportunities also extend beyond the immediate Associate Programme. Many of the students who join White Lodge in Richmond Park, London — The Royal Ballet School’s home for students aged 11-16 — are Junior Associates. From here, students progress through full-time training, and many go on to join The Royal Ballet Companies.

How to apply for the Associate Programme

Applications for the Mid, Senior, and Advanced Associate Programmes open in September 2023 and close in October. Auditions for programmes starting the following September take place from November 2023 to January 2024.

Applications for the Junior Associate Programme open in February 2024 and close in March. The School holds auditions in the summer term for programmes starting in September.

The School offers an audition class to all who have submitted applications received by the closing dates. Auditions take place at the nine Associate centres.

Find out more about The Royal Ballet School’s Associate Programme.

About The Royal Ballet School

The Royal Ballet School has a rich history of classical ballet training excellence. Since 1926, the School has contributed immensely to the heritage of The Royal Ballet. Many notable performers and choreographers — such as Darcey Bussell and Steven McRae — are alumni of the School.

The School offers a world-famous dance education for talented young dancers at its centres in London. In addition, the School runs several pre-vocational programmes for children throughout the UK and offers digital content through its video-on-demand platform.

The Royal Ballet School’s mission is to share its expertise and resources with the general public. Thanks to the School’s efforts, more and more young people are accessing outstanding classical ballet training and gaining a passion for the art form.

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