The School of American Ballet

Uncategorized Aug 07, 2019

I often post pictures and post Instastories of our youngest daughter, Shelby, at Lincoln Center before her ballet class which often leads to a lot of people wanting to know more about what she does and why she’s there. 

Shelby is a student at the School of American Ballet which was started by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein in 1934 and is now a training ground for the New York City Ballet. SAB shares the Rose Building in Lincoln Center with NYCB and the Julliard School. There is never a shortage of creative students and professionals in the Rose Building!

At the age of 5, Shelby auditioned for the School of American Ballet. We didn’t tell her it was an audition, only a ballet class I thought she would enjoy taking. I feel like there will be other times in her life that she will have to deal with the pressures of an audition, at 5 year old she can still just have fun. There are several auditions in different locations across the 5 boroughs but the one that fit our schedule best was held in Harlem. A couple of hundred other kids were also there to audition and upon signing in she was given a number and asked to line up with 20 other kids. They went down the hall while the parents waited in the auditorium. About 25 minutes later she came bounding back in with the other kids and was all done with her audition. The amazing faculty of SAB know what they are looking for so seeing the students skip across the room, point their foot and lift their leg to the side is all they need to see in order to know if the child has what it takes to be a part of the school. Approximately 700 children audition each year for around 100-125 spots so they have to be decisive.

It took several more weeks before we heard back from the admissions office, but one afternoon in May we received an email that Shelby had been accepted into the prep division for the winter term (which runs from October until June for the youngest students). She would need to buy a white leotard, tights and ballet shoes in order to attend an hour-long class twice a week.

Parents are not allowed to watch class until the very last class of the year so it’s hard to speak on exactly what happened each day she was there, but I can say that I was incredibly impressed when I finally did get to see the fruits of her studies. As a former dancer and dance teacher, I can appreciate the care they take to really train their dancers. They progress slowly from one exercise to the next and never move on until the foundation is perfect. This creates muscle memory and a foundational technique that is so crucial to a ballerina’s success. Some students (and parents) could get frustrated with the slow pace but SAB has turned out some of the greatest ballet dancers so trust the process, even when it’s hard.

In the prep division you do not get feedback from the teacher on how your child is doing. In my mind I thought of this year as an extended audition - they saw something in her at her initial audition but this year would be to see if she really had what it takes to be successful at SAB. We were told that at the end of the term, each child would find out if they are asked to come back and move up a level, asked to come back and repeat the same level or asked not to come back. I honestly had no idea where Shelby would fall in the end. In May we received an email that not only had Shelby been asked to come back but she would be moving up a level!

I don’t know how long Shelby will be at the School of American Ballet - if she will choose to try something else or if they eventually will decide not to move forward with her - but we will enjoy the time we do have there. No matter what she decides to do in the future, she is getting unmatched lessons in technique, grace, poise, discipline, patience and hard work. So, for now, we will purchase a red leotard for her new level and continue to travel to Lincoln Center twice a week so our little ballerina can live her dreams.


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