Help Florence to stay at The Royal Ballet School

Flossie’s story

Our daughter Florence Fraser is 12 years old. Last September, after only dancing seriously for one year, she was offered a place at the prestigious Royal Ballet School, White Lodge, one of the top dance schools in the world. The teaching she gets there is second to none and it will help her realise her ambition of becoming a professional ballerina. But because of the economic impact of Covid-19, we cannot afford her fees, which means her hard-won place is under threat. 

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Why is specialist tuition so important?


To become a professional ballerina requires specialist coaching from a young age. At the school they receive the best ballet teaching but also conditioning coaching and physio treatment from practitioners who understand the immense demands on young bodies from their specific training.

Ballet is a taught skill. Of course the child must have natural talent, but so much of the technique is learnt through hours and hours of practice in the studio. What appears graceful and effortless on stage will be the result of years of rehearsal and tuition in the hands of highly skilled teachers. But none of that is free.

There sadly isn't the same amount of money available to help these young athletes as in other sports, but the school does its best to help parents afford the fees by offering means tested places to all children. 

51864266_1602584056763948_r.jpegWhat appears effortless requires hours and hours of practice in the studio 


What is so special about the Royal Ballet school?

The Royal Ballet’s residential school in Richmond Park, London is without doubt  the top ballet school in the country and every would-be ballet dancer wants to go there. Each year, the school holds auditions for a new intake of eleven year olds. Over 600 hopeful children apply - and not just from around Britain: it receives inquiries from children in Europe and further afield, including Russia, Korea, Japan and Australia.

In short, competition for one of the few coveted places is fierce. The final auditions take place each spring and last two days. To get even that far is an amazing achievement. Each youngster will need to show not only great dancing potential but they must also demonstrate enormous strength of character to handle the pressure of two intensive days of auditions. 

51864266_1602584109955441_r.jpegFlossie arrives for her audition at the Royal Ballet School's White Lodge site


Inevitably most of the boys and girls will go no further. Their dream of winning a place at the Royal Ballet school ends here. But out of the hundreds who have auditioned, a handful - just over 20 - will be accepted.

For those few children, the dream has come true - though the reality will not yet have sunk in.

Flossie says she will never forget the moment when, a few days after her audition, a letter arrived from the Royal Ballet school. With bated breath and her heart thumping wildly, she read an agonising opening paragraph that gave nothing away about the school’s decision: 

"Thank you for bringing Florence to our White Lodge Final Audition to be considered for a place at The Royal Ballet School. The Selection Panel enjoyed seeing all the talented and enthusiastic young finalists and we hope Florence enjoyed the class and her visit to White Lodge..."

Then came the second paragraph and the news she had hardly dared hope for:

"We are delighted to let you know that the Artistic Director would like to offer Florence a Year 7 place at White Lodge …"

She shrieked with delight and jumped up and down on the spot. And so did we. Every parent thinks their child is special but here was confirmation from people who had never met Florence until a few weeks earlier that she was an exceptional young dancer.

Joining the Royal Ballet school

A few months later, in September 2019, we loaded up our car with everything Flossie might need (and quite a lot of stuff she definitely wouldn’t but insisted on taking anyway) and headed to White Lodge, a neo-classical Palladian building from the early 1700s that is surrounded by trees in the heart of Richmond Park. Here along with other boys and girls aged 11 to 16 she would live, sleep, eat, study and, of course, dance. 

In a superficial sense, White Lodge is the same as any ordinary fee-paying private school. But it differs in one crucial way - regardless of how poor or wealthy their background, the children are here because of their outstanding ability.

Since then

That day we wiped away our tears and left the park, our car horribly empty. Flossie, though, barely looked back as we drove away, she was too excited at the new friends she would make, the new life that was about to start.

The first term flew by. She loved every moment and after the Christmas break couldn’t wait to get back to school.

Then came Covid. And with the arrival of this horrible disease has come a brutal realisation that her idyllic life is beginning to crumble and the wonderful opportunity she has worked so hard to achieve is in danger of being taken away.

The costs

Full fees at White Lodge are about £30,000 a year. The places are means tested so most parents pay quite a lot less but they are still expected to come up with a considerable amount. On top of that are dance courses during the Easter and Summer holidays, which she should take to maintain her fitness and training. We must also pay for dancewear such as leotards and pointe shoes.

We were just about able to meet these costs, but coronavirus has halved our family income. Flossie’s mum is a professional freelance violinist and has not worked since March and as Britain appears to be heading into a second wave of coronavirus, there is little chance of her situation improving. Yet the school fees still have to be paid. 

Please help

She has worked so hard to win a place at the Royal Ballet school, it would break her heart, and make a career in ballet impossible if we had to pull her out.  That is why we would be hugely grateful for any donation that would help her stay at White Lodge. Please help Flossie fulfil her potential and keep alive the dream of becoming a professional dancer. 


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Donations

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  • Anonymous 
    • £10 
    • 19 hrs
  • Rosemary Mcbride 
    • £100 
    • 1 d
  • Julie-Anne Gillett-Smith 
    • £20 
    • 1 d
  • Emily Isaac Johnson  
    • £20 
    • 1 d
  • Fiona Quiney 
    • £20 
    • 1 d
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Organizer

Alistair Fraser 
Organizer
Rotherfield, South East England, United Kingdom
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