Junior associate students performing outdoors at a summer fair

Igniting a spark: the Junior Associate Programme 

When Jenny Hall submitted her musical and dance-loving son’s video audition to become a Junior Associate (JA) with The Royal Ballet School, she had no idea of what was to come. 

Three years later, Dylan leaps out of bed at five thirty every Saturday morning, dresses himself in his Junior Associate uniform, and travels to Covent Garden for a morning of ballet classes with some of his closest friends. 

Whether performing in Don Quixote with The Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House or the White Lodge Summer Fair, attending Associate workshops, or taking extra classes with the School’s teacher training students, Dylan has seized every opportunity with open arms. 

Jenny kindly shared a parent’s perspective on the JA programme and what it’s like to see her son thrive. 

Dylan in his Junior Associate class (second from front)

Can you tell me about Dylan’s dance journey?

He started when he was two, purely on the basis that his sister was in ballet. I was waiting outside, trying to get him to the park, and he refused and howled outside the room because he wanted to go in. I was worried he would be an absolute nightmare, but the teacher was encouraging and said to let him come in. He took his shoes off, sat down, stretched his toes, and never looked back.

Fast forward to the present, and you have been bringing Dylan to his JA classes for three years. What has it been like training with us in London? 

He has absolutely loved it. I’ve seen a real change from Year 4 to Year 6. I think he’s gained a lot from being an Associate, including knowledge of what it means to be a dancer.

Associate students smiling and performing at the summer fair

Dylan performing at The Royal Ballet School’s Summer Fair

What is Dylan’s favourite aspect of the programme?

One of the things he loves is the fact that he gets to dance with boys. He also enjoys the structure, which is very different from his other ballet classes. He quite likes that they do a bit at the barre, then they come to the centre, do their exercises, and then return to the barre. He said it doesn’t feel like two and a half hours as he finds the whole time really engaging.

He said the other thing he likes is the goal setting and the idea that they can set a goal at the beginning of the lesson. Nine times out of ten, he feels he has achieved his goal and can develop a new goal for the next lesson. 

You mentioned he loves dancing with fellow boys his age. Can you tell me about the friendships he has formed? 

My word the friendships are beautiful. He has a WhatsApp group with his JA friends, and they all leave supportive comments for each other. When one of the boys performed in a big show in the West End, they all sent messages like ‘congratulations’, ‘this is amazing’ and ‘you were fantastic.’ 

The supportive network amongst the boys has been something else; they will be lifelong friendships no matter where they go and what they do. 

Igniting a spark: the junior associate programme 

Dylan in his Junior Associate class

From a parent’s perspective, what has been the best part of your JA experience?

The biggest thing I have noticed is the inspiration and the opportunities that he has been given. He would have never had the chance to dance at the Royal Opera House and be inspired by so many dancers there. 

His love for ballet has been ignited. I have loved seeing him grow and develop his passion from what I saw as a very energetic little boy who enjoyed dancing, clearly had a bit of rhythm and could sing and act. Somebody has really captured his passion. He comes home, and he wants to improve; he wants to do well and wants to be able to achieve. That attitude will set him up for life; no matter what he does, if he wants to achieve it, he will. 

What would you say to parents considering the JA programme for their children?

Try the audition and give it a go. I would say to go and enjoy it but be prepared for the exercises and homework. If they’re prepared to take on board all the work that they’re given, I think any child will fly. 

If your child enjoys ballet, the chances are they’ll have that passion ignited, and there are so many opportunities for them. Dylan has had experiences that we would never have even dreamt of. Often, one can think that these schemes are predominantly for girls, but this Associate programme is just as much for boys as it is for girls. 

It may seem like an expensive programme, but when you look at the additional extras you get, when I think of the White Lodge Summer Fair, all the extra rehearsals they had, performing in Don Quixote, and our Friday classes. We’ve also had all the workshops, and they went to see the pre-general Cinderella performance, so the cost is very reasonable. 

If you get a place, then embrace it. Take on board everything you can because there’s so much to learn, and it really could ignite a little spark, which is what it’s done with him.    

Junior associate boys in a ballet class at the barre.

Applications for the School’s Junior Associate Programme open Tuesday 27 February. Sign up to our newsletter to hear about upcoming auditions and training opportunities.