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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Southern Methodist University

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I am wondering if anyone has any information about the dance minor at SMU?  My daughter would like to continue to study ballet in college but does not want to major in dance.

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For those who might be interested in SMU's BFA in Dance Performance program, they have developed a new video describing the program.  Go to YouTube and search for "Why SMU Dance is Different."

My DS is the male dancer who was interviewed for the video.  He just finished his freshman year there.  It was a fantastic year for him.  Happy to answer questions. 

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Anyone have any recent input into the dance audition process for SMU.  My daughter will be a freshman fall 2020 and is just beginning the audition process.  Any info would be helpful. Also, does anyone have any insight into auditioning at SMU vs some of the satellite auditions?

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shepmomAZ,  I provided a description of my son's audition two years ago on this forum.  Just look back a page or two.

I am aware that their on-campus audition hasn't changed. Dancers will take a ballet class, followed by shorter modern and jazz classes.  All of the faculty observe these classes. Then, the faculty conference together to determine who will remain to do a solo and interview.  At my son's audition, about 1/3 of dancers were called back for the solo.  The day ends mid-afternoon.

My understanding is that at satellite auditions, there is only one teacher that adjudicates, and there is no guarantee whether the teacher will be a ballet, jazz, or modern teacher.  I believe all dancers are allowed to do their solo, which is videotaped and brought back to SMU for the faculty to view.

SMU also auditions at dance competitions, such as NYCDA, as well.  I do not know the format of those auditions.

I would encourage her to do an on campus audition, even if it means you have to fly in.  The audition process provided good insight into the program, and ultimately helped my son decide to attend there.  Let me know if I can help.

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Anyone have any recent information on or experience with the SMU ballet program?  I have a daughter who is a junior and is interested in SMU for ballet?  So, any tips on applying, auditioning or general information or reviews would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks!

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My son is a junior at SMU right now. He is double majoring in dance performance and philosophy. Virtually all dance majors double major. It's a selling point for them that they accommodate double majoring. Happy to answer any questions for you. I've posted before on this thread, and I don't think much has changed.

SMU has a triple threat program with ballet, jazz, and modern equally emphasized in the first two years of the program. Students must take all three. In their junior year, they are able to specialize more into their area of specialty. The ballet training is strong, but their ballet performances tend to be more contemporary ballet (think Complexions Ballet). They do not do any storybook ballets. 

In terms of applying, they hold an audition very early in October. If possible, I would encourage your student to aim for that audition. SMU offers early action, so it is possible that students can be accepted to the university AND the dance department in the fall. The audition is a full ballet class, followed by a modern and jazz combination. After that, the teachers meet and make a cut. Those that continue will do a solo and interview. The solo can be whatever dance form the student wants. I saw girls in pointe shoes, jazz shoes, and barefoot go into their solo, and the interview is just a few questions. 

Just based on my son's perceptions, strong technique is just the prerequisite. It appears that what sets accepted dancers apart from others is a pronounced sense of musicality. 

Feel free to post more questions.

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Ballet dragon, 

thanks for sharing your information/ knowledge with us! Do you have a sense of job placement for graduates?
Just got acceptance, and trying to sort out which place is best fit in this covid-no-travel-video-audition-year is no joke! Wish the colleges would bump deadlines until after our kids could get vaccine since it’s so very close for safe travel! Sorry I digress- any thoughts that you have are appreciated! 
Do you happen to know if any dancers use the learning center? 
is the ballet sufficient to keep competitive for ballet companies post graduation? Or are most kids headed in a different direction? Thanks so much!

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Hi @2busy

I don't have any specifics, but my sense from my son (currently a junior) is that graduates have been successful in their post-grad endeavors whether that be academic or dance. For those interested in auditioning for companies, one of the things that my son has really appreciated is the access to top choreographers. They really facilitate networking within the dance world. I would reach out to Ryan Cole, the Meadows admissions counselor, who is a real sweetheart for more details about recent grads.

I don't have any personal information about the learning center. But, I'm on FB group for parents and I haven't heard of any complaints. 

I believe that SMU is hosting in-person visits. I hope that you can find a way to visit. Regardless, I am happy to answer any other questions. SMU has been a great fit for him.

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thanks Ballet Dragon! We just watched the streaming performance last weekend and it was AMAZING!!! loved seeing how the other disciplines would be stretching and growing for my bunhead! Those strengths they have in modern and jazz will certainly make them more well rounded for a professional company!! 

If you're up for a few more questions - that will probably help others in future, too:

Are all students cast in showings like last weekend or is it audition based? 

How big is the program- total number of students and how big are the dance classes? 

Do you take class with your grade or just based on your personal schedule needs?

thanks so much!!

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That's wonderful. If you watched on Thursday or Saturday evenings, my DS was the male dancer in the ballet Pas De Deux. 

Freshmen are not allowed to audition for the fall semester show. The department does this deliberately so that freshmen have more space to learn how to be successful in college. They staff the lighting and backstage sound crew during that performance so they understand what happens backstage. They may audition for the spring show, student choreo show, and all other after the fall show of their freshman year. All others audition for each show. Most dancers are cast in at least one piece, but it's not a guarantee. Sometimes a dancer is not cast in a performance. From my perspective, musicality appears to be the key.

I believe that there are about 80 students in the program, so roughly 15-25 dancers in each class. There are about 2-4 boys in each class.

Students take each class with their grade. However, if students have competing class schedules with their double major, they can petition to take a different level (either higher or lower level depending on their skill level)

Keep asking questions!

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Ballet Dragon - your insights are very helpful.  How would you rate the ballet training offered at SMU?  The Modern and Jazz are clearly strong but it doesnt appear from what I can tell that there are that many students at SMU who focus on ballet?  I was ondering if you had any insight into the numbers who are trying to pursue a ballet career and how strong the ballet training is?





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Ballet Parent Greenhorn - My DS was a ballet purist before going to SMU. He attended well known ballet intensives prior to starting at SMU. He applied to a number of colleges that offered a strong ballet curriculum with double majoring opportunities (those were his deal breakers). He picked SMU because SMU took a classical traditional approach to dance performance, rather than a more commercial approach. And he has not been disappointed. He also feels that the ballet instruction has been very good and would propel him to a career in classical ballet if that is what he wanted. But, he is a boy. I'm not so sure about the girls.

In terms of ballet careers, I know of one student in his class who was Vaganova trained with the Bolshoi in Russia and plans to audition for companies upon graduation, but I agree with you that she is in the minority, perhaps 4 girls in DS's class of 13ish girl dancers seek a career in ballet. There are a number of dancers that love ballet but also love modern. SMU teaches Martha Graham, so they might leverage both types of dance towards a career after graduation, in either/both/combo of ballet or modern.

One more thing about the ballet training - dancers take 2 hours of ballet every day, technique M, W, F and pointe (or mens) T, Th for the first two years. After the first two years, dancers can continue to follow this schedule for the 3rd and 4th year. There is always a ballet piece in the fall and spring performances and rehearsals are LONG. So, there is plenty of studio time. This year, Silas Farley (formerly NYCB) is the artist in residence. Two years ago, Dwight Rhoden (Complexions) was the artist in residence, so the program is attracting well known artists.

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ballet dragon, 

thanks so much for your insights- can i ask for clarification- on the ballet frequency- do you mean they take ballet 3x/week, and a technique class on pointe 2x/week for the first 2 years? i'm not following exactly, sorry!

Mine also has strong interest in continuing the ballet focus and improving the other styles, so it sounds like a good fit, but wanted to sort out the ballet hours. 

can you speak to Pas de duex opportunities? 

Thank you!!!

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A dancer from my daughter's studio graduated from SMU with a Dance Performance degree a couple of years ago.  After graduation she danced with a contemporary ballet company in Dallas and is now at a different contemporary ballet company in Tennessee.  She was strictly a bunhead going in as our studio is a classical ballet studio.  

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