Life at Upper School

‘The best advice I’ve been given is to make the most of every day’

Kiely Groenewegen, Royal Ballet School graduate 2016

The Upper School in Covent Garden is where our full-time students aged 16-19 train in classical ballet. Admission is based on talent, with around 100 students from 17 different countries attending the school each year.

Our Covent Garden building is connected to the Royal Opera House by an architectural landmark, the ‘Bridge of Aspiration’, allowing students easy access to The Royal Ballet studios for performance rehearsals. Find out more about the Bridge.

The life of an Upper School student

All students at the Upper School live at the School, either at Aud Jebsen Hall, our boarding house in Pimlico or in our 3rd Year accommodation at Jebsen House in Covent Garden.

The houses provide a safe and supervised environment where students can begin to learn the key life skills that will prepare them for working in a ballet company.

Students rise early, arriving at school in time to warm up before class begins at 9am. Ballet classes last 90 minutes and comprise of girls’ and boys’ classical study in the morning and pas de deux and repertoire in the afternoon.

In addition to developing dancers for international companies, The Royal Ballet School has produced many successful choreographers. Upper School students learn choreography and develop their own work, taking part in choreographic programmes such as the Ursula Moreton Emerging Choreographer.

There are short mid-morning and afternoon breaks and a lunch break in the middle of the day when students can relax in their common room, venture out into Covent Garden, or get a meal at the Royal Opera House staff canteen.

Upper School students study for a BA in Classical Ballet and Dance Performance. This three-year degree programme, accredited by the University of Roehampton, offers students the unique opportunity to train and study a structured dance and academic programme which not only equips them for a career in the world of dance but also presents a pathway for further study.

In addition, students have the opportunity to study for an A-level in Art, English Literature, French or Mathematics alongside their BA.

The Extended Project Qualification, (EPQ), is offered to those students who wish to adopt a more researched based further study option in place of an A-level.

International students also have the option to take exams in their home country’s academic syllabus, whilst pursuing their dance training in London.

As the career of a dancer can be shorter than some other professions, students are introduced to the idea of planning for a career after dance. We do this in partnership with Dancers’ Career Development, who hold workshops and talks at the Upper School.

The Royal Ballet School is unique in its links with The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet. Our students have many opportunities to perform with both companies throughout the year, dancing on the Royal Opera House stage alongside professional company members.

The highlights of the year are the Summer Performances, held at Opera Holland Park, and the Royal Opera House.