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College-level dance programs proliferate

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dancemaven

2dds, I, for one, am fascinated! I can't wait for the next installment!!! (It's almost as bad as waiting for Harry Potter. ---no, I'm serious.)

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Robin G

Do you stop to realize that most will not have a large dance career? All this passion and effort. We see our kids obsessed with the dance career. There are many avenues to dance but very few will have Susan Jaffe's career. Do we want our kids to strive to be starving artists?-I thought I'd stir up the pot a bit! :ermm:

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2marzipans

Hi, PK -

 

As far as if we want our kids to be starving artists, no. Happy artists,... yes! My daughter knows she will never be Susan Jaffe, but would be content with a corps job at this point. Everyone knows this dance profession is short-lived and low-paying. Some of our kids are not deterred by that. I've always believed that if you're happy to go to work in the morning, it matters more than the paycheck.

 

To 2dds - my daughter is attending a four-year college part-time, not a community college. Although, that would have been another good option.

 

2marzipans

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balletbooster

2dds,

Thank you for sharing more of your daughters' journeys. I now understand a bit more about where they are in the process and that helps me sort out some of your earlier suggestions. Like dancemaven, I too am anxious to hear how they both fare as they continue on their quest!

 

And for the record, your disagreement with my post above is a slight rewording of my earlier comments. You said,

 

I would not necessarily agree with balletbooster that combining college and dance is primarily for dancers who are "not particularly focused on a professional career."

 

But, I was not speaking of dancers who go to college as a whole, but rather about those who choose to attend a highly competitive academic college, without a dance major, that requires them to supplement their training with outside classes. My actual comments were as follows:

 

My sense is that this is a solid plan for a dancer whose top priority is a degree from an Ivy League or other highly competitive college, who is still interested in ballet, but who sees a pro ballet career as a secondary priority.

 

I hope that your dancers reach their goals. If/when they do, they will help set a track record for this particular course of action that will encourage others who are similarly motivated to give it a try as well! There are indeed many roads to a dance career. The more often dancers go down one particular road and find dance success, the less risky that road will appear to others who are just starting down the path. For now, your dancers are helping to blaze an infrequently used trail and hopefully it will be one that leads them where they want to go and then others will surely follow!

 

:ermm:

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2dds

In response to dance_through_life's post

 

As one of the dancers, I thought I would contribute my two cents. I go to an East Coast prep school where the college matriculation list reads like a top 100 listing of colleges. Because of this, I often have felt like I'm in a pressure cooker trying to balance my academic goals with my dance goals! I dance 20+ hours a week, like I'm sure your children do, and I know for me this complicates the college question further. I often wonder if I didn't go to such a rigorous academic school and instead attended a residency program, if I would be more company ready, or vice versa, if I didn't spend all my time dancing and get home much later every evening than my classmates, if I would do even better in school/ have more time for community service/ leadership roles at school that would help me gain admission to more selective academic colleges.

 

One piece of advice/reassurance I can give is to let you know many colleges "get" ballet. (Some don't. You probably want to avoid these.) Your years of commitment and level of dedication (the hours and hours) will help you distinguish yourself from many other applicants, and be recognized for the tremendous commitment it is. Just make sure you apply to the places that appreciate it. We were in exactly this spot, (both dds) and worried specifically about not having time for the community service and leadership sections on an application. :blink:

 

Here are some very specific pieces of advice on this. Think outside the box about ballet. You may have already exercised leadership roles in ballet. Ditto community service. Does your school/company perform any outreach performances? Have you ever had a plum role (leadership-like)? Did you ever help studio mates with homework (tutoring-like). You may have to help admissions officers appreciate your efforts in ballet that are the equivalent of the standard high school activities. Also in an info session (I think at the University of Pennsylvania), the presenter described two types of highly desirable applicants: "well rounded and well pointy." We all know what well rounded is with it's broad diversity of activities, but you may not have heard of "well pointy," an intense commitment that is more narrowly focused, especially if it is sustained over a longer period of time. Voilá! Classical ballet. The Univ of P speaker said "well pointy" was equally valued, and they are not the only college that uses such assessments. Admissions officers are on the alert for students padding resumés with a broad assortment of activities, none of which hold the student's attention for very long. In this case, especially at non- dance schools (a far less popular destination for committed dancers who are more likely to attend colleges with a dance major and a ballet focus), your ballet commitment will be more rare and make your application stand out. Ballet requires a commitment above and beyond a desire to enhance a college app. So breathe easy on this one dance_through_life :thumbsup::D This is one place where your dual loyalties can pay off instead of feeling like you are not doing enough on either front. :)

 

 

This conflict makes me feel like I'm being pulled in two! I have no idea what I want to do with my life, however as I get older I feel like all I want to do is dance.

 

This sounds very much like my older dd, who has had a renewed dedication to dance since graduating from an Ivy league school. She pursued dance as an undergraduate, and while it was difficult to juggle academics with dance—you are already used to this drill. It may even be a bit easier as you have more control over your schedule in college. Also recent publications and research have shown that college students with strong and satisfying extra-curricular commitments, tend to have higher college GPAs. Be aware this dual commitment in college will continue to affect the number of other extra curriculars you can commit to during your undergraduate years. On the plus side, you will always have a built in excuse that lets you beg off any activity you feel lukewarm about, but don't want to offend enthusiasts (aka your friends).

 

Older dd is still hoping to find the right dance niche for herself, and enjoying the luxury of focusing primarily on dance with a bachelor's degree tucked in her back pocket (does wonders :thumbsup: ). You need to know, you will be in the minority at auditions (it helps if you look younger as dd does--also graduated HS at 17--also leaves age off resumés unless specifically requested), but you can offer certain other things in terms of attitude, maturity, and how you work, that are a byproduct of the extra years of life experience, practice in learning how to think critically (big direct benefit of liberal arts education, which can also enhance creativity and self-confidence). Will this shorten your dance career by 3 or 4 years? Maybe. Can you live with this? Will this make it harder to find a job? Maybe. Can you anticipate and mitigate the effects of this? Study your companies and pick those that seem most comfortable with college educated dancers. Do you have to have your (first) job with one of the top 5 (by some arbitrary definition) companies, or could you be happy at a smaller or less well known regional company? At least for a start. Think of it like looking for companies that seek shorter or taller dancers--the kind of tweaking all classical dancers do when targeting companies; The odds are tough for everyone, and there are no crystal ######. In this case customizing your audition curcuit will be enhanced by the fact that you have the kinds of research skills (developed in college) that will help you locate the best fit for you. Older dd has been specifically advised to highlight her Ivy League experience on certain (modern companies) resumés as these specific ADs are known to appreciate this.

 

So, for me college is a chance to get the best of both worlds. Attending a prestigious university like Columbia or Princeton that also has a decent dance program allows me to get a good education, in case I pursue that and improve my dancing if I decide to dance professionally. I know how difficult it is to become a professional, so for me college will be a back up if my professional career does not work out. My uncertainty may lead to a problem down the road if I do decide to pursue dance and find out I am not good enough to join a company, but I have to take that risk because I'm not sure what I want out of life as of right now. Sometimes I think I'm crazy!

 

It is a path that is crazy-inducing and leaves you wondering if you are totally off base—maximizing nothing and hurting your chances at both dance and academics, because you are spreading yourself too thin. Try to convince yourself to stay calm. You are not crazy insane, just crazy ambitious. That's something to be proud of as long as you remain grounded and realistic. Having more than one big dream is not a crime. Remember to make room for yourself in your own head, even if (especially if) your environment is making you feel like an oddball. No need to be elitist, but you do need to stop beating yourself up for taking another path. Just this realization and remaining mindful about the fact that you are making different personal choices can help ease the pressure cooker feeling.

 

But it's worked for some people that I know, and thus far I have been able to handle it (Junior year), maintaining all A's and earning good SAT/ AP test scores. My sanity, however is another matter. If I got a nickel every time I broke down in tears from stress... I'd be quite wealthy. But things have worked out in the end. And only time will tell if my "balance" of school and dance will pay off.

 

 

It sounds like you have a very good attitude toward all this. It is hard; it will be a struggle. Here are a few more specific tips on how we coped (and didn't :wacko: ).

 

There were times when we felt we were risking either dance or academics or mental health. Then we made adjustments to ensure basically intolerable phases were as brief and manageable as possible. This is the essential tweaking that makes such an ambitious plan possible. Also each individual will decide when and where to do the "tweaking." The other thing to realize is very few things are absolutely make or break. Decide what you can live without for a time, and then do it (just make sure it's not always sleep!). I empathize/sympathize with you dance_through. Junior year is IMHO the toughest, although senior year—a series of deadlines, followed by anxious months of waiting—is in many ways more stressful. Your ability to maintain those grades and that dance schedule is remarkable. Be sure to pat yourself on the back regularly and surround yourself with people who admire, understand, and appreciate your efforts. When you feel overwhelmed, remind yourself you are climbing a very steep trail, expect to be winded, remember why you made the choices you did, and take pride in your sweat, tears, perseverance, and ambition.

 

Continue thinking outside the box. Is there anything you can sacrifice (tweak) to make things easier? Several times my dds sacrificed a performance season, or chose to go for fewer or lesser roles as a way of finding a little more sanity and sleep. In the long run, this didn't matter so very much, and was a brief sacrifice (a few months over the course of a years long effort) that helped us get through a rough patch. Another choice we made was for older dd to two AP classes instead of three in her senior year. Sometimes you are so in the habit of always pushing to the max, it becomes just that, i.e. a habit. Younger dd had to change studios when rehearsal schedules kept changing in ways that conflicted with an essential (we thought) community college evening science class. Younger dd also changed high schools from one with an over ten hour school day (less afterschool homework and she had 45 minute "early" release) to an independent study program.

 

In college at one point older dd's maintenance level of studio time slipped below the minimum. Once this was recognized and corrected, it never happened again. Younger dd chose first semester college classes very carefully based on interest and crafting a schedule that would allow daily class. One dd's pointe work suffered during a patch of open classes. The problem was addressed by taking center on pointe, some private variations coaching, and adding rehearsals for a pointe performance as well as an all pointe SI. Some of these situations (and the solutions) were less than ideal, but they were not make or break. They also alerted us to pitfalls of certain types of "tweaks," and forewarned is forearmed (down the road). The constant vigilance is tiring, but the rewards can be great.

 

Congratulations on your success so far, and best wishes for the future.

 

Edited by moderator to fix quotes.

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2dds

Sorry, I posted again without even suspecting there were so many intervening posts. Balletbooster, please forgive the misunderstanding. I was not trying to reword or alter your meaning, but using statements in the sentence before the one you include. Probably too out of context, and the beginning of my sentence does misrepresent your position, but I did try to include your exact wording. I'll be more careful in future, and maybe I'll eventually figure out how to use the single and multiple quote features.

 

2marzipans, I remember reading that your dd had two years of college credit, and managed to graduate her from a community college rather than recognize her two years of credit after her part time attendance at a full four year school. No harm intended. I am still very happy for her, and find her path inspiring.

 

Dancemaven, you are very kind. I am so long-winded and go on so long. When I finally manage to bring myself to press send, I always imagine people being very tired of/turned off by these long sagas. Being compared to the interest and suspense of Harry Potter quite surprised me. :grinning: Thanks again for what can only be described as your great kindness and huge love of reading of any kind :yes: .

 

I also did not mean to say that critical thinking is exclusively developed in college and have tried to edit that obvious misstatement.

 

As you point out balletbooster, it will be interesting to see how this all works ouT. Thank you and everyone else for your good wishes. Honestly, this has been very scarey, and we have had more than our share of anxious moments and second guessing, what ifs...As the parents we have tried to be supportive, but at times I feel guilty and just hope these choices don't cost the dds the careers they might have otherwise had. We know how tough it is, even on the more conventional paths, and it feels risky to buck the conventional wisdom.

 

When all is said and done, I try to take heart from the fact that so far they have no real regrets. Their academic opportunities have been challenging and rewarding. Unexpectedly, they've also enjoyed many bonus dance opportunities that came as an unanticipated surprise. And yes, they still have hopes.

 

As to the starving artist syndrome, even this can be addressed creatively. Look at salaries plus cost of living (just check local craigslist entries). Some salaries in some locations could lead to a relatively comfortable existence. Also when I talk to older dancers who had long professional careers, they admit that the finances may not have been ideal, but celebrate the fact that they were paid (for many years) to do what they loved. Most of these dancers also look (and function) 10-15 years or more younger than their actual chronological ages. Amid the frustrations, doubts, and sheer hard work, my dds get a lot of joy from ballet. You can't neccesarily take it to the bank, but it does go far to make life worth living :thumbsup:

 

Maybe we are blazing a trail, although the variety of journeys described here, anecdotal stories I hear, the articles that start this thread, the experiences described in the October/November issue of Pointe, all combine to convince me that things are changing. I am hoping for the day when going to college (dance and non-dance) will be seen as one path among several, not the equivalent of jeopardizing that professional ballet career that is such a long shot under the best of conditions.

 

A lot of specific strategies made it easier just getting to the stage we have so far. BT4D has been so helpful to me in so many ways, I just wanted to share our journey with others here on this board as a way of giving back just a bit of what I've received.

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dufay

2dds- Your comments about universities/colleges that "get" ballet were heartening. There will be a large amount of blank space on the application- the only job, babysitting, a little outreach, trying to find time to knit for charity organizations, but really not much else but "ballet". The Canadian universities were appealing, as all they look at are grades and scores. None of the other stuff-ECs, jobs, etc- that figure prominently on US applications.

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dance_through_life

It's comforting to know that many colleges appreciate "well pointed" applicants. I actually have thought about combining dance/comm serve/ leadership, I was planning on organizing a small concert with some of the dancers from my studio to raise money for the Jimmy Fund, since I do the Jimmy Fund Walk every year. Thank you very much for such a kind and thoughtful post 2dds! Your older dd's story is very inspiring, and I too look forward to hearing more about how this works out for your children!

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dancemaven

As to those 'well-pointy' students, I have a story: We visited Stanford with our younger non-dd this summer, tagging along on someone else's college visit. I thought sure the Admissions assistant giving the information lecture had misspoken when she said "There is a mistaken belief out there that Stanford is looking for well-rounded students." Surely, she misspoke, I thought, but she went on: "We are not. Stanford is looking for lopsided students." She further explained that Stanford looks for students who are capable of demonstrating focus and discipline in areas of interest to them. Those are the types of minds Stanford wants in its student body.

 

Given that our kiddos each have a singular extracurricular activity pursued at the elite level, we were thrilled---and relieved to know that at least Stanford was looking for 'lopsided students'!

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ddm3

Dance Though Life - I want to wish you luck as you make your decisions about colleges and your future dancing goals. You mentioned a few colleges such as Columbia and Princeton and I would like to point out that there is another huge benefit to those colleges because of their close proximity to what many believe to be the hot bed of dance in the U.S. This is definitely something to consider, especially if you aren't sure what companies truly interest you. We never realized just how amazing it is to live in NY until my daughter moved there a mere 2 months ago. The exposure to the vast number of companies and dancing styles have given her so much to think about. She is so inspired and speaks with great enthusiasm whenever I speak to her. We know a young woman who is living in the city while enrolled at Columbia. She spent the last year in Europe dancing in a company. Her life has taken on a slightly different direction to say the least, but she is very happy with her life in NY. She is planning to dance in a company again when she finds the right circumstances. Contrary to popular belief, I believe there is no rush. One can go to college and still have a career in dance. I hear it more and more from people in the business that many companies prefer to hire dancers who are mature, they are not so interested in the prodigies any longer. I am not just talking about modern or contemporary companies, but also ballet companies. So, try not to feel too much pressure during your last few years of high school. Enjoy this time in your life and the years to come!

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jsn

I understand your point, dance maven, but I also think dance_ through_ life has a great idea that even those colleges that want lopsided students appreciate. It is wonderful to share your passion in a way that helps others and adds to your community. Our dance company performs for nursing homes and does an outreach performance of the Nutcracker every year for the homeless or underpriviledged children. The colleges my dd has interviewed with have all commented that they love the fact that she has used her dance as a means to do community service. I think what Stanford was speaking to was that they don't want students dabbling in a little of this and a little of that, but if you can take your passion and show both leadership and community service, it is awesome! :( Go for it dance_through_life! ....

but do it because it is a good thing to do, not because you want a star on your resume. It sounds like a great idea to me.

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dance_through_life

At my studio we also do those outreach performances for nursing homes, hospitals,etc. It's so amazing afterwards because all the older women say "oh I used to be a dancer!" and they tell us about taking dance when they were younger and how much they enjoyed watching us. That's kind of where I got the idea to use dance to help the community etc. Another thought I had would be how great it would be to actually perform AT children's hospital in boston, but I have to look into that a little more. Thanks for all the great responses!

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dancemaven
I understand your point, dance maven, but I also think dance_ through_ life has a great idea that even those colleges that want lopsided students appreciate. It is wonderful to share your passion in a way that helps others and adds to your community.

 

I'm not sure what you might have thought my point was, but I do want to make clear that it was NOT that 'lopsided students' should have their heads stuck in the stand and be oblivious to the world and opportunities around them.

 

Actually, my 'point' was only the chuckle I got out of my surprise at hearing a Ivy-League level school say quite emphaticallly that they were NOT looking for 'well-rounded' students, contrary to all the media hype that has all the high school kids and their parents crazed when it comes time to submit a 'resume'. After all isn't 'well-rounded' the best sort of compliment one would expect to receive as a high-achieving student--as opposed to the stereotypical 'science nerd' or 'mathematical geek'? I was relieved to hear that just being a dedicated student of academics and an in-depth explorer of something of interest to the student was a 'good enough' starting point for an application to Stanford. And yes, I did understand that their search for 'lopsided students' meant they weren't looking for resume-building, schizo joiners/doers.

 

But it was the way she said it that tickled me. :lol:

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jsn

Sorry dancemavin if I offended you :) I actually did know what you meant, but was afraid dance-through_life might have misinterpreted it, as I think many applicants do. I actually became aware of this phenomenon in the top academic schools when my older daughter was applying to colleges and we took her to a consultant. She, by personality, IS well-rounded and the consultant made her feel pretty small about the fact that her number one passion was people. I called my husband and told him that we didn't need to worry about daughter number two who was totally consumed with dance anymore (we were worried that she was missing out on so many other aspects of life) because that was who the colleges were looking for. Of course, I also told the consultant that we weren't interested in making our first daughter anything that she wasn't, we just needed to find the school where she could bloom for who she was...which she has! This college process is so personal and that is why it is important to find out about the programs available and how it all works at the school with academics. The good news for all our dk's is that many colleges are now expanding there Performing arts programs and they are appreciative of the work/time dancers put into their art form.

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dancemaven

No offense taken. :)

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