Seraphine

Why do universities have ballet programs?

41 posts in this topic

Ballet dancers have to be able to also dance modern and contemporary work.

Very true- at least in one of our dd's professional company experience, the older more experience dancers were frequently the ones who were cast for these works. In many of these works there aren't the large corps requirements of the classics so if dancers can already dance modern/contemporary well, then when a new work is being set, a university trained dancer might well be at an advantage.

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I find this information surprising because a dancers career is already so short. Shaving off 4 healthy young years doesn't seem ideal. Good to know though.

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Contemporary and modern ballet are taught in many professional schools. Contemporary classes and repetoire are recognized as important parts of a student's training. May we please stick with facts not individual experience. Most residential programs, worldwide offer these classes.

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All very good food for thought. Does anyone happen to know if there is a difference between boys and girls in the trend toward more professional dancers coming out of college programs?

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I recommend making it a habit to read dancer program and website bios.

 

I think that reading bios is key.

 

For a # of companies, corps members don't have college degrees but they usually have apprentice, second company or trainee experiences. To me that is more consistent in the bios that I read than BFAs but I am reading Houston, ABT, NYCB, SFB, PNB, Boston, MCB. .. .I might be off.

 

When I hear the term "baby ballerinas" I think of the 3 Russian dancers who were 9-15. http://russianballethistory.com/thebabyballerinas.htm

 

I think of the term "baby ballerina" as that, not a 16 year old but I guess it's all relative.

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I think there are a handful of very talented dancers who can "fast track" through 1-2 years of traineeship into the corps of one of the top tier companies and reading those bios can make you feel like that is "the way it is done". For those dancers it is! In each of the big company trainee programs each year there are a few taken into that company's corps. But, many more dancers stay in the trainee mode for a while and end up in positions at other companies-the very same positions that companies are hiring talented dancers post solid college ballet programs into.

 

College can be a choice for someone who wants to get the degree while they continue to train, keeping the door to those jobs still open if they work hard (and can stay focused and stay on top of their game). For some, the degree right away is not as important (or not in the plan at all), so the journey through the trainee experience is an opportunity they need/want now and that route to the contract (if they can stay focused and stay on top of their game) makes more sense for them at the time. Unless you are one of the "fast track" dancers (full/large scholarship to top tier SI's, trainee offer with scholarship to top company in junior/senior year with signal given to dancer (or dancer's teachers) that they are "really wanted for the corps in 1-2 years"), most people, college degree or after one (or more) trainee/apprentice positions, end up competing for the same openings.

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The answer to the question is the University gets a lot of money through tuition, etc. Many, many, many dancers will go to University when they do not get contracts at age 18/19, as stated above. They continue their training for four more years in the hopes of getting into a company. Personally, I see many still hoping for that corps contract with a major company at age 23, and it is not in the cards. It's a lot of money pursuing a dance career, and, in my opinion, not worth it. If you do not get a contract at age 19, you should ditch the idea of ballet and pursue another interest. Very, very, very few dancers are getting that first company contract at age 23. They get traineeships/second company/apprenticeships or corps at a very small company, and end up with very little to show for all of the time, talent and treasure spend attaining a well-paying job. This is my view and opinion, and I know there are people who do not agree. However, it is such a gamble to pursue ballet as a profession these days.

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It's just not that simple or clean cut. While contracts in the professional world are certainly very difficult to attain, the road to getting there can be quite varied. First of all, there are no statistics that can prove that companies are only hiring 18-19 year olds. Actually, I think there are many who prefer to wait until the dancers have a bit more maturity and life experience, in addition to more training. Many go the trainee/apprentice route, and many go the college route, but not necessarily for all 4 years. I don't believe that one can say it is not worth it to go these routes for those whose passion is to dance if they have the talent and the training to become a professional dancer. Ditching their life plan at age 19 only makes sense if the talent and training are not there. Of course it's a gamble, but life is a gamble. How many people do you know who make a living doing something they love to do more than anything else? Being a dancer who is we are. It's not a job that we go to every day because we have to make a living. Yes, of course we do have to make a living, and know we will never be wealthy, but we are doing what we have to do. Dancers have to dance. If they don't have that kind of focus and commitment, then they will never get to the point of even trying for a contract.

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My observations about a non-audition college dance program with which we had some affiliation was that about 90% of the students were not earning a livable wage as dance performers after graduation. They were mostly doing some dancing, with some pay, and then a "real job."

 

So, I think that it is really important to pay attention to what the majority of students in programs do after graduating and then consider if that matches your needs.

 

Also, I think that it is really important to think about the connections the dance faculty have, mostly which companies did they actually dance with and at what level and when? Someone who was a principal or a soloist at a company 5 years ago, would likely be able to make a call and have enough clout to really get a dancer looked at. If the connections are tenuous, then the faculty will not be able to help and I don't think that much really happens at cattle call auditions.

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In my experience I find that most of the dancers graduating high school, if they plan to dance, and choose to go to a college program in dance, will choose the programs which are audition programs.

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Victoria Leigh. Agreed entirely. Yes, to optimize chances the program must be a competitive audition-only program with a set of graduates who are doing what you want to do post graduate and if you want to be in a ballet co that also have connections to companies.

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There are plenty of amazingly talented and well-trained 19 year old ballerinas who are neither getting into companies nor given opportunities for trainee,2nd company,apprenticeships. I wish I knew the statistics - it would be staggering. Continue to train is encouraged, but how? It is very expensive to do on one's own fruition, and without an income. It takes 4-5 hours of training a day, at a minimum. If there are no offers for trainee, second company positions to help continue your training, consider that a message to think perhaps about other career options. If you need to dance, you can always dance on the side and focus on getting a higher education towards a skill that will lead to a higher income and a way to support yourself in the future.

 

I have looked at the statistics of graduating ballerinas from some major universities. They are not promising enough to forego a degree in nursing (for example), where your job outlook is much, much better. And, you can afford to take ballet classes to fulfill your need to dance and be who you really are, and, at the same, time help heal and take care of the sick.

 

There is a glut in the ballet world, and not enough positions for all these extremely talented, well-trained ballerinas to fill at this time. They go to University to keep their skills up, in the hopes they will be noticed. Even more, ballerinas are so well-taken care of now, and last much longer in companies. Yes, life is a gamble; but ballet as a career is a crap shoot. I have to say, go the University route, but make sure you have a solid Plan B outside of Dance. I would not gamble with a degree in Ballet. Your income at the small regional company level is so low, which is where 90% of the job offers are being given. However, males in the profession seem to be faring better in the ballet job market.

 

Many dancers I have spoken with have considered the lack of opportunity a blessing in disguise. They have moved on to fulfilling relationships with academia, and a sprinkling of ballet classes when they have the time.

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IMO a good university program has some benefits that a dancer starting out in a career may not get (unless you're in a training program or apprenticeship/second company with one of the more financially set companies). There iare better opportunities for learning pedagogy, dabbling in choreography - sometimes focusing mainly on choreography, you have good cross training facilities and sometimes physical therapy available to you at little to no cost (if working with PT students). You have a much broader opportunity for networking for sure. Have the ability to work with a variety of choreographers.

 

There are a lot of companies out there. Not just the "majors" or small regionals. There is a range in between as well. Yes, there is a lot of competition but you just never know when your aesthetic is going to be exactly what the company is looking for. If it's just not in the stars for someone to have a career dancing, at least with the college degree you can more easily move on into another career. College scholarships are out there and available for both academic and dance. There are many ways to deal with the expense just as you would for any other college major.

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I think we are getting more than a little :offtopic:

 

The original poster asked "Why does a university have a dance program? NOT "Why shouldn't I attend a university for a dance program?". OR even 'Why shouldn't I continue to dance after age 19 if I'm not yet in a company?"

 

There are many threads existing on the perennial questions of 'why dance at all", "when to stop", and whether it behooves one to pursue a dance degree or go straight through with training programs. A search is useful if any of you would like to continue your discussions of any of those topics. Simply revive one of the threads.

 

But, for purposes of THIS thread, let's please get back on Topic and consider the actual original question. :thumbsup:

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I'm a cynic, but I'd say universities have dance programs because there are people willing to pay to be a dance major. It's the same as why there are so many pre-pro ballet training programs out there.

 

There are not nearly enough dance jobs available for the number of 16-20 year olds training for a career in ballet. Only a small fraction of the young ballerinas training for a career will actually end up with a ballet career that pays a living wage and lasts more than a couple of years.

 

Yet, training academies and colleges are more than willing to continue to accept parents' money to train for a career that probably will never materialize because there's a glut in the market.

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