The Royal Ballet School: Reflections on a New Year in School
The post-COVID return to the dance scene has reopened opportunities for Royal Ballet School students.
Young dancers from around the world have now returned to The Royal Ballet School for the second half of the autumn term. These students are keen to enjoy the rewarding dance curriculums that weren’t possible amidst the COVID-19 crisis at one of the world’s greatest centres of classical ballet training.
Now that The Royal Ballet School is transitioning back to normality:
- Associate students have returned to weekly classes in all nine of the school’s UK centres.
- Diploma of Dance Teaching students have completed their COVID-delayed year 1 assessments.
- Dance teachers can now attend the school’s ‘Enlighten’ webinars and face-to-face ‘Inspire’ seminars.
- ‘Primary Steps’ workshops for year 3 children and after-school classes are now on offer at The Royal Ballet School’s partner schools in Bury St Edmunds, Mansfield, Blackpool, Dagenham, and Swindon.
So, with opportunities reopening across the board, how have Royal Ballet School dancers found their return to the studios?
The Post-COVID Return to The Royal Ballet School
In September, The Royal Ballet School welcomed its students – and a brand-new intake of year 7s – into the studios, introducing dance, strength, and academic programmes to get dancers back into a fulfilling routine. Over the past few weeks, year 7 students have been delighted to receive their first pairs of pointe shoes, year 8 students have been performing at the Royal Opera House in Wayne McGregor’s The Dante Project, and pre-professional year students have been working with The Royal Ballet on a performance of Romeo and Juliet.
Pairing Ballet Training With Academic Curriculums
Ballet training forms the basis of an education at The Royal Ballet School, but each student also studies a broad academic curriculum. While younger students complete their GCSEs alongside their ballet training, degree-level dancers pair their programme with A Levels in English Literature, Mathematics, French, and Art. Students who prefer research-based study may opt to complete the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) instead. And international students can take exams in their home countries’ academic syllabuses alongside their dance training.
Now that students have returned to school in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, year 7 and 8 students have completed their GL Assessments, and Upper School students have enrolled on to the school’s BA Classical Ballet and Dance Performance degree. The Royal Ballet School recognises that a career in ballet is typically shorter than other careers and encourages students to plan for a career after dance. The school also prepares students for secondary academic careers in partnership with Dancers’ Career Development, which hosts workshops and talks at Upper School.
The Royal Ballet School works to shape its students into strong, happy, resilient dancers. This is more important than ever in the face of the pandemic. The school underscores its high-level dance training and academic curriculums with a supportive pastoral care system to support students in all year groups.
The pastoral care system surrounds a House setup, which involves both day students and boarders settling into smaller groups of peers and enjoying social time together. The Royal Ballet School recognises that living away from home can come with its challenges, especially as students from all over the world come to London to train at the school. The pastoral staff guide students through any difficulties they may have and work to create a supportive home-away-from home culture.
Each year group enjoys pastoral activities that The Royal Ballet School tailors to their needs. For example, this term, year 7 students completed a transition afternoon, which focused on helping them make new friends while developing their confidence, commitment, and connection. Meanwhile, years 8–10 spent a day focusing on relationships and sex education. As students have spent so much time away from the classroom and their friends over the past 18 months, the school is keen to continue to dedicate time to meeting their personal needs.
It’s no secret that ballet is a demanding career, both physically and mentally. That’s why The Royal Ballet School prepares its dancers with world-class physical and mental health provisions. Students receive customised support based on dancer profiles that the healthcare team create at the beginning of each term. The healthcare team monitors each dancer’s lower limb mobility, spinal mobility and strength, force platform power data, and physical maturation data. The healthcare team and students use this data to create personalised programmes, which students can follow to track their progress. This support has been particularly essential for dancers following the COVID-19 school closure.
The school has also invested in a new force frame for its gym, which allows staff to achieve specific strength profiling to prevent dancer injuries and help students return to dance training after extended periods of time.
Students also attend sessions with the school’s Clinical Psychologist Huw Goodwin and Performance Nutritionist Louise Gubb, who closely monitor each dancer’s mental well-being and offer tailored dietary advice. Plus, students receive coaching from the school’s strength and conditioning team to help them maintain strong, healthy physiques.
Latest Updates From The Royal Ballet School
As The Royal Ballet School adjusts its COVID-19 measures to reopen opportunities to students, applications are now open[CM1] for the school’s UK Spring Intensive 2022. The non-residential intensive will take place at Upper School between 4–8 April 2022 and is open to students aged 12–15 years who can attend for one or more days.
Meanwhile, four student choreographers from the school’s pre-professional year have showcased their compositions in the school’s annual Ursula Moreton Emerging Choreographer performance[CM2] . Last year, COVID-19 prevented second-year students from choreographing pieces in workshops and performing these to an audience of friends, family, and other supporters. However, the school rescheduled the performance for this year, and the students have now performed to a small audience.
On October 19, students and staff celebrated World Ballet Day [CM3] by taking part in the biggest ever global dance challenge, Jump for Joy. More than 50 companies around the world participated, creating 24 hours of free content for social media sites. The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet showcased several of the school’s alumni during the day.
Throughout October, The Royal Ballet School also celebrated Black History Month[CM4] by highlighting the work of prominent Black dancers, choreographers, and companies in the global ballet industry. The school featured many of its high-achieving alumni on its social media channels.
The school is also making collective efforts to reduce its carbon footprint[CM5] . Staff and students have trialled various measures to reduce the CO2 it uses and, now that these trials have proven successful, the school is rolling changes out on a larger scale. Changes include refillable soap dispensers, larger toilet tissue rolls, and recyclable PPE boxes. To spread the word about these changes, the school’s Site Services Manager Emily Cordy has launched a Green Committee and #SmallChangeCampaign.
About The Royal Ballet School
The Royal Ballet School nurtures exceptional, versatile young dancers in preparation for The Royal Ballet, The Birmingham Royal Ballet, and other leading companies. Students perform on some of the finest stages in the world and learn from some of the best instructors.
Admission to the school is based only on talent and potential through an audition process. The school does not take academic ability or personal circumstances into account. 84 percent of the current students receive financial support [CM6] to attend the school.
The school has produced generations of internationally renowned dancers and choreographers, including Marguerite Porter, Darcey Bussell, Margot Fonteyn, Kenneth MacMillan, David Wall, Anthony Dowell, Stephen Jefferies, and Jonathan Cope. As new generations take to the stage, the school has also trained newer-to-the-scene dancers like Francesca Hayward, Marianela Nuñez, Edward Watson, Christopher Wheeldon, and Vadim Muntagirov.