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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Southern Methodist University

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I love SMU and the dance program.  For me it was the perfect department as I had always loved ballet and jazz and the program offered the opportunity to take both at the same intensity as a program that is perhaps ballet only or modern only.  I feel personally that I have improved so much since getting there and am so excited to return in two weeks.  The teachers are wonderful and this year we have a new ballet professor coming who is a Balanchine repiteur so we will be getting the opportunity for the next years to do many classic balanchine works, we also have a graham authority on faculty so we perform many graham works.  SMU performs mainly classics although once or twice a year a new work will be done.  With rehearsing and classes its possible to dance upwards of 7 hours a day which is plenty in my opinion.  I am a dance performance major and french major and find it relatively easy to work my schedule, but all dance majors are busy all day with the academic classes and dance-related classes(other than technique).  In terms of more academic dance classes, we have to take 2 music classes, composition, labanotation, 2 dance history courses, kiniesiology, etc.  I'd be happy to answer any other more specific questions!
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Yes, this is very helpful.  Thank you.


Did you by chance look at SMU or U of Utah as it appears as though you are from that side of the country?  If so, would you be willing to provide your and your dd's general impressions?

SMU is 32,000 a year. DD has a bunch of her guy friends who got some scholarships, that are attending there. We do know of a girl, who got fantastic scholastic scholarships, and she is on the SMU "dance" team, and takes some dance classes.


Utah has two separate dance arenas. You are either a ballet major or a modern major, and you cannot do both, or from what I understand, from previous people who have received degrees from there, mix the dance genders. Thats okay for some people, but for DD it is best for her career if she goes to a school that has both, and also from our perspective, be able to double major, or minor in another area.


We have a young lady from our studio, who is in the Ballet Austin program as a trainee this year, and is taking classes at the University of Texas. UT has a growing dance department, but not anyone from our studio is looking at UT for

dance degree.



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  • 2 months later...

I was just browsing through BT and noticed this forum. I attended one of SMU's performances yesterday. I have lived in Dallas for a little over 7 years and I have seen the dance department grow by leaps and bounds.


Myra Woodruff, a former Graham dancer, is the dance department head. She also taught for a number of years for Bejart. Leslie Peck has just arrived this year. She formerly danced with NYCB, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Houston Ballet, to name a few. She works for the Balanchine Trust staging Balanchine works all over the world. She also was a ballet mistress for Richmond Ballet and has taught in the University of California dance department. This year Danny Buraczeski is artist-in-residence. I could go on and on, but let me say that you are going to work with top flight people in this dance program.


Yesterday's performance consisted of "Valse Fantasie" by Balanchine which was well danced and shows how far this school has come in the ballet department. Next was "Sweet in the Morning", a revival of a stunning solo by Leni Wylliams, an African-American choreographer. "Diversion of Angels" was the offering from the Graham repertory. Needless to say with a former Graham dancer heading the department, you are getting the real thing. After the intermission was the reconstruction of an Agnes de Mille work, "The Four Marys". Gemze de Lappe, who was a former de Mille dancer and currently stages many of de Mille's works, worked with Glory Van Scott, who was in the original cast of "The Four Marys" when it was done for ABT, in this staging for SMU. The cast was terrific. This may not be a super-major piece by de Mille work, but it is one that should not be lost. The program closed with Buraczeski's "Swing Concerto", an excellent concert jazz piece. It really made a connection between old world folk dance and modern swing dance. Costumes for all ballets were gorgeous.


The performances go for two long weekends giving the dancers at least 8 opportunities to perform these works. That's more than a lot of regional professional companies get to perform a single program.


I just returned from teaching ballet at Steps in NYC and one of the young men who took my class had graduated the previous year form SMU. He is currently appearing on Broadway in Twyla Tharp's "Movin' Out". Not too shabby.


Give this school a good look. It's expensive, but a great school.

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oyoy...great to know that this program is doing so well! But I am particularly happy to hear that The Four Mary's has been revived! I was there when that was done, as I was the understudy for the Mistress of the Plantation, or whatever she was called. I never did the role, as the ballet was not performed but that one brief rep at Lincoln Center, however I will never forget the rehearsals because I was so totally in awe of Carmen DeLavellade! I'm not sure I ever really even learned my role because I was so busy watching her! :o Judith Jameson was also in that cast. Quite a piece of history in that work! :yes:

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Myra Woodruff was my modern teacher when I was at Rudra! She is a fantastic teacher, and to be quite honest, I would pretty much recommend the program based solely on the fact that she heads it! :wacko:

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  • 1 month later...
Guest arabesque07

One of my ballet teachers is an ALUM at SMU. I have talked to her about it a lot ever since I considered possibly going there. She really seemed to love it. Another dancer from SMU was featured in the Dance Spirit magazine a few months ago. My dance teacher knew her. It seems like a great program and I would love to go there but between distance and tuition, it's not seeming likely. :)

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Don't be put off by the high sticker price of tuition. SMU has LOTS of money for scholarships and grants and is very generous. If you are interested, you should pursue it and see what they offer you.


My DD is a student there now but would not be if it weren't for the generous scholarship. Their Meadows School of the Performing Arts is outstanding, but many of their other programs (liberal arts, business, engineering) are also exceptional.


Good luck!

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I worked at SMU for a few years before moving back to the East Coast. I would second bluebirdmom - check for scholarships. The school has an incredible fundraising program and the few dancing students I met had very good dance and sometimes even academic scholarships. They also have a work study program that didn't seem overly demanding, though a lot of those positions were only available if you proved financial need. There are a lot of small local businesses within walking distance of the campus that provide additional part-time employment opportunities for students. Beautiful and modern dance facilities with lots of performance opportunities (there are several theaters on campus) and gorgeous campus. Meadows School of the Arts has a good relationship with the community so performances are well attended - there are some patrons that attend every performance and have been doing so for many years. The performances we saw demonstrated very good dancing, though they were usually split 50/50 between classical ballet and modern. Good overall academic rating, too. Class size is small. Plus, a lot of funds have been donated and spent in the last few years to enhance the science facilities and curriculum.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Has anybody some (first-hand) experience with the MFA in Choreography at SMU? Thanks for sharing

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  • 1 month later...
Guest czamutt
SMU just called me today and informed that they'd be moving their Chicago audition from Jan. 22 to February 26...this is quite unfortunate. I won't be able to audition any more, because thats the date of my school's musical, and that cannot be missed. It wasn't my first choice though, but it is still to bad that I can't audition. It definitly gives me fewer options.


Hi, Coffee. SMU is really outstanding! I'm a parent of 2 dancers and a board member of their student/pre-professional company (Tuzer Ballet in Richardson, a Dallas suburb). Two of our former students are juniors at SMU and both have solos in SMU's upcoming Raymonda Variations (wedding scene).


If you're a really good dancer, especially in ballet, call or e-mail the SMU dance department and arrange an audition in a different city or arrange to come to Dallas. I'm originally from Hoffman Estates and River Forest (OPRFHS alum). Airfare between Chicago and Dallas can be as inexpensive as $250 round trip. Heck, I've gotten many free tickets on Southwest from my regular job, I'll give you and your parent 2 tickets if they accept you for an audition here in Dallas.


Leslie Peck, a Balanchine ballerina, from NYCB is an Assoc. Professor of Ballet at SMU. She taught at Indiana U. (we have a Tuzer student there) where Amanda Schull (lead in Center Stage) was one of her students. Then, she taught at UC Irvine and got rave reviews from her students.


A little trivia: another Balanchine ballerina who retired a couple of years ago as a Principal, Helene Alexopoulos, is now teaching at Barnard College in NYC as an adjuct preofessor. She's a 1976 grad from OPRFHS and is a winner of our school's Tradition of Excellence. Balanchine asked Helene to study at SAB after seeing her dance at his ex-wife's school in Chicago (Maria Tallchief). Mary Elizabeth Mastrontonio is a '75 grad as is Dan Castellaneta (voice of Homer Simpson).


I wish you success wherever you study. Dance is a beautiful art form.

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Welcome to BT, czamutt!


As dd, hubby and I are now officially on the pre-college tour, your input is much appreciated. Everything we've heard about SMU's dance program has been wonderful. It is high on dd's list. Thank you for posting!

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now when you say if you're a really good dancer you should audition, what exactly does 'good' encompass? do you need to be at a high intermediate or advanced level? or is that just if you want a scholarship? do you have any idea if they would accept video auditions? i don't really know anything about this program besides the fact that it's one of the three on the list of about thirty my college counselor gave me that seems to have the type of dance program i want to be part of.


ps i've been dancing for about two years and am no where near what would be classed as pre-pro intermediate.

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AmericanlostinUK, from what I have heard from those who have actually auditioned, this may not be a good fit for you. You might want to explore colleges that have recreational dance programs rather than those as selective as SMU. Good Luck!

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I concur with DON HO's post. My d is at SMU in the dance program.

She came from a pre-professional school in a major city where she was in the top level ballet. She's been dancing since very young. Her number of years of experience is the norm, not the exception. The dancers in the SMU program are technically advanced and the auditions are quite selective.


I know there's a video tape of some of their performances that SMU had us watch a few years ago when she was first thinking of colleges. It gives you a real perspective on the overall quality level. Perhaps if you contacted the Dance Division at Meadows, you could ask if there's a way to see a video. It's so very difficult to understand where you might fit in (or not) until you can see it with your own eyes.


This might be a good way to gauge whether the college is one that has a Dance Department that will work best for you.

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  • 4 months later...

When I went to see a "Brown Bag Series" that the dance division put on- it was mainly modern. It might have just been this preformance but it seems that the dance department leans more towards modern. Though the one ballet that they put on was very good.

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