When The McDonald College was born in 1984, our philosophy was to educate performers (ballet dancers initially) whilst integrating performance training into their daily timetable. Our 35-year history is proof that our philosophy was not only needed and embraced, but above all, it has been and continues to be highly successful.
It concerns me deeply that ballet dancers are still being encouraged to leave school to do full-time dance training at ridiculously young ages. Whilst dancing all day, these students, some as young as 11 years of age, are expected to educate themselves by enrolling in distance education courses.
I recently met a father in the supermarket who said his 14-year-old child is doing full-time ballet but that distance education ‘is just not working’. I have to ask why? Why do parents allow an option which does not benefit their child holistically? There is no other performance training that promotes leaving school and cutting off most other options for their child.
I applaud Mr. Christopher Powney, Artistic Director of The Royal Ballet School in London, for insights regarding ballet competitions and academic education. I draw your attention to the full article (Ballet competition culture) from 7 November, 2018. Mr Powney says:
“This fast-tracking could potentially cause serious psychological and physical damage. Ballet institutions like ours are learning more and more about the body and mind of our students and constantly researching how to develop healthier and more resilient dancers. As educators, I believe we have a responsibility to these young people and as an industry, a duty to adapt or make changes when we see something potentially harmful is going on.”
“What about academic education? I have heard that some children have their academic education reduced to just a few hours a week. All children should have and deserve a good academic education. Fitting in any meaningful academic study surely becomes an issue if most of a child’s day is dedicated to ballet training. Not only will academic subjects help them after their dance career, but a thinking, educated dancer also makes for a far more successful artist.”
The College partnership with Voyager Tennis is predicated on the basis that elite tennis players must be educated with their pathway being to US Colleges.
Similarly, the College partnership with the Sydney Dance Company is predicated on our shared beliefs that dancers must be educated to Stage 6 level to be able to embrace all that will be asked of them, both physically and mentally.
It is time to acknowledge that a performer of any kind must be equally nurtured between their formal education and their elite performance training.
Maxine Kohler, MEd