The Royal Danish Ballet School
The Royal Danish Ballet School
Founded back in 1771, the Royal Danish Ballet School is exceptional in the sense that the Royal Danish Ballet is one of the few companies in the world where both dance classes and academic classes are taught within the theatre building. Besides receiving classical ballet training, students also attend a normal in-house academic programme corresponding to that provided by the Danish public school system.
If selected to become apprentices, students will be enrolled in the HF (Higher Preparatory Examination) programme, which is offered in cooperation with Falkonergården High School in the context of a ‘Team Danmark’ scheme. This scheme applies to Danish-speaking students. Special guidelines are issued for international students.
There is something totally unique about being a ballet child in a world of theatre, music, dance and movement – which also involves homework, costumes and fairy tales as well as ballet classes, rehearsals and performances. Becoming a ballet dancer requires years of training in a programme of study filled with experiences and opportunities, and to some it is a choice for life.
The ballet school has about 110-120 students, ranging from pre-schoolers (grade 0) to students in upper secondary classes.
The Royal Danish Ballet School is located in Copenhagen, Holstebro and Odense and, in addition to these venues, features affiliated talent centres in Aarhus, Sønderborg, Holstebro, Ålborg and Esbjerg.
On 1 August 2011, the ballet school opened an all new pre-school class (grade 0) while introducing an innovative course to prepare the children for compulsory education and give them a strong platform for creativity, motor skills and academic achievement. On top of this, the ballet school launched a new apprentice programme in 2014 where the apprentices pursue upper secondary education in the HF programme alongside with their ballet classes.
In that fashion, the Royal Danish Ballet School provides a fully integrated school education made up of regular academic school classes combined with ballet training from grade 0 to the HF level.
When the children start pre-school learning, they are enrolled in an all-time school programme and will only be required to pass an assessment or examination after completing grade 2. This ensures a continuous and safe school life where ballet skills can be taught through joyful play and the students can acquire a range of other creative, muscular and rhythmic skills for the benefit of a potential career as a professional ballet dancer or to provide a solid stepping-stone to other schooling, elite sports activities or artistic work.
From grade 3, students are admitted to the regular academic school. However, this is a most irregular regular school! Class sizes are low, and everyday school life differs substantially from that experienced by other Danish children. First, students must attend morning ballet class, and then they proceed to hours of academic lessons later in the morning and way into the afternoon – often interrupted by rehearsals. Some of the students return to ballet class in the late afternoon, and, not infrequently, they perform on stage in the evening. A small example of the quite unusual schedule at the ballet school is the fact that morning assembly where students sing together is traditionally held every day at 1:20 pm. But all this creates a very unique school life – a truly magical daily routine.
Students from grade 3 and above are taught classical ballet every morning from Monday through Friday – from grade 4 also on Saturdays. The daily classes are necessary to build up the students’ muscles, making them strong and flexible. In grade 4, the girls get their first pair of pointe shoes, and the boys start athletics training.
From grade 8, the students are also taught modern dance or other dance styles a couple of times a week. In ballet class, the students are divided into teams according to age and level.
Moreover, the students gain both experience and knowledge of stage life as the Royal Danish Ballet is one of the companies in the world where children participate most often in ballet performances – particularly in Bournonville’s ballets.
In grades 8 and 9, the students are part of Kompagni B. In this company, it is the students themselves who are in charge of the technical setup, performances and choreographic duties. Besides being the world’s first-ever children’s company affiliated with a national ballet school, in-house focus is 100 per cent on the children. Members of Kompagni B are personally responsible for defining the company’s policy and values and for proposing and developing its repertoire and performance venues.
When ballet students have completed their grade 9 and, therefore, have passed the final examinations of the Danish public school system, the next step is the apprentice programme.
The apprentice programme comprises an advanced ballet course to upgrade the students’ classical dance technique, aligned with a qualifying youth education. Apprentices receive at least 20 hours of ballet training per week as well as instruction in other dance genres, mental training, choreography, etc. The training provided to the Danish apprentices follows the same principles as that provided to apprentices from comparable leading companies worldwide, for instance in Paris, Hamburg, London and Canada.
The ballet school gives its students a solid foundation in their lives – not everyone becomes a professional dancer, but they will have an altogether magical time and will develop self-discipline and learn to stand up in front of an audience. In addition, they will develop an enduring love, enjoyment and understanding of the performing arts.
The ballet school is not “merely” an all-day school, but also a comprehensive school. Pre-school learning provides the foundation, the intermediate and secondary school levels build on top of this, and everything concludes with the HF programme.