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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Southern Methodist University


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I'm a recent SMU dance grad and I finally have time to fill this out so here goes...

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ADMISSION

 

Describe the audition/application process. Students must apply to the university and audition for the dance division. Try to attend the Dallas auditions as you have the benefit of being seen by the entire dance faculty. At the regional sites, only one faculty member is present for the audition and he/she videotapes the audition for the rest of the faculty to evaluate.

 

How many dance majors? Approx. 60-70

 

How many dance minors? Approx. 8-12

 

How many applicants to the dance program annually? I'm not 100% sure, but probably over 150/200

 

How many Freshman are accepted? Typically no more than 40-50, but there is a waitlist that students can and are removed from every year.

 

Of those, how many are 1st year post high school Freshman? (separating those from ‘older’ freshman) Maybe 1or 2 but most years everyone is straight out of high school

 

How many men in the program? 13 my senior year

 

Must students be accepted to the college or university before applying to the dance program, or vice versa?

No, but you have to apply for admission before the university deadline

If admission to the school is not required before applying to the dance program, must ANY paperwork be in process, before auditioning? I don't believe so

 

Are the entrance requirements for dancers the same as all other applicants to the school? Yes

 

Does the program seem to have stringent body type requirements? Heights are all over the place from short to very tall. No one body type is prevalent.

 

Are there scholarship/financial aid opportunities specifically for dancers? Yes

 

 

GENERAL

 

Describe the studio/performance facilities. 2 large studios, 1 smaller studio. All have marley. Bob Hope theatre is our performance venue and it is very nice.

 

What is the approximate number of performance opportunities each year? There are 2 brown bag series a year which are informal student performances at lunch time in the main lobby of the arts building, 2 Hope shows/ year which are guest/faculty choreographed performances, Sharp Show (everything is done by the senior class with a faculty advisor), and the best-of student choreography and MFA degree program show alternates years. That totals about 26 performances a year

 

Who choreographs/directs the above performances? see above

 

What ratio of ballet, modern, jazz or other forms of dance are included in these performances? Its fairly equal, but for some shows a lot of it has to do with what student want to choreograph

 

How is casting done? Auditions, which can be invite only. It is not a walk in the park to get cast in the Hope Shows, which are the biggest and most desired castings. Seniority can play a roll in casting.

 

What is the climate of this program (supportive/friendly or highly competitive)? Supportive friendly, yet competitive because everyone is of a very high level.

 

Is there an elite upper division touring/performing company within the department? Not really

 

Are there choreography projects available for students? YES LOTS

 

What opportunities are there to see dance performances or teachers from outside the school on a regular basis? Plenty, many companies tour to Dallas as well as Texas Ballet Theatre, Dallas Black Dance Theatre

 

What nutrition/health counseling is available? All available through SMU Health Center

 

What medical facilities/physical therapy is available? There's an arrangement with athletic training staff and with an orthopedist who would come to campus once a week for anyone who was/got injured.

 

Describe the culture at this program (warm, cold, competitive, nurturing, professional, etc.) It's competitive because of the talent in the program, but everyone is friends and supports each other regardless.

 

Is there anything unique or that might be helpful regarding the audition process or the audition itself? GO TO DALLAS. You have a chance to shine in front of the entire faculty. Ballet, modern, and jazz are all components of the audition. Listen and follow exactly what the teacher demonstrates, particularly in modern and jazz. There are demonstrators for each portion so if in doubt follow them, they know what they are doing! I was one of them and always made sure I was as perfect as I could be so people could follow along. After the class, there is a cut. Unfortunetly, most people will be cut. After the cut, solos are performed. Make sure you do a solo that shows off your strengths. Look up and be confident.

 

PROGRAM OF STUDY

List ballet faculty members. Leslie Peck, Andrew Parker, and Shelley Berg

 

How often does each teacher actually teach class? Leslie and Andrew teach everday, Shelley teaches pointe

 

How many hours of ballet classes per week are required? 7.5 (5 days a week 1hr 20 minute class)

 

How many ballet classes a week are offered? There are 4 levels so 20 classes, but two levels run at the same time.

 

How many technique classes are required of those in other forms of dance (such as modern)? 2 years of modern 3x week, 2 years of jazz 2x week

 

What style of dance is the focus of this program (modern, ballet, other)? Ballet, modern, and jazz.

 

What dance requirements are there other than technique classes? History, Kinesiology, Composition, Notation, Pilates

 

What degrees are offered within the Dance program? BFA, MFA

 

Is there a separate Dance department? If not, from what department are the dance classes offered? yes

 

Is Pilates certification available through your program for dance majors? No

 

 

 

 

 

ACADEMIC ISSUES

 

How rigorous are the academics in dance-related, non-technique classes? From very rigorous to not so hard and fun

 

How rigorous are the academic courses? Depends on what you take

 

What is the ratio of academic requirements to studio hours? You are in the studio a lot more than in academics. You usually take 2-3 academic classes/semester

 

Are double majors allowed for a dance major? If so, is it practical to double-major? YES, I did and it was pretty easy

 

Can a student double major in one program in the dance department and another from a different department? Yes, but sciences and theatre are pretty difficult to do because of labs.

 

Is there a dance minor? If yes, please complete these questions: Yes

 

Are minors allowed to take major classes? yes

 

What is the ratio of first time or beginning dancers in the minor classes? None You have to be admitted to the dance program through the same audition as the majors

 

Are the minor classes significant enough that a minor can still dance after college? Maybe, but most don't want to dance after college

 

Are non-majors allowed to take technique classes? yes

 

As a practical matter, can non-majors get into technique classes (or are they filled with dance majors by the time non-majors can register)? Yes

 

 

 

JOB PLACEMENT

 

Is career counseling/job placement assistance offered? Informally, Yes. There is no set program. It's more along the lines of students asking for faculty guidance

 

If yes, at what year does that counseling start? see above

 

What does the counseling include? see above

 

How often do company director's visit the school for viewings? For the most part students must go out and audition. The faculty can put in a good word or get you an audition, but thats it.

 

How common is it for students to leave the school to join companies prior to graduation? rare

 

Do any dancers from this program go on to professional performing careers? Teaching careers? Yes to both. Recent Companies include-Ballet Met, ARB, Ballet Austin, Sarasota Ballet, Universal Ballet, Charleston Ballet Theatre, Hubbard Street 2, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Nicolas Andre Dance, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Martha Graham Ensemble, Amy Marshall Dance Company, Radio City Rockettes, Tokyo Disney, Shen Wei Dance Arts, Battleworks.

 

Who are recent guest artists or companies who have been in residence at the school? Joost Antoine Vroenraets of Gotra Ballet, Netherlands. Ben Stevenson, TBT. Alison Chase, formerly Pilobolus, Gemze de Lappe, Shawn Stevens, Yuriko from the Graham company, Douglas Becker, formerly Ballet Frankfurt. This year they also have some guest artists coming in.

 

For students graduating from this program who do not go on to dance professionally, what kind of jobs/careers do they go into? Med School, Law school, Finance, Arts Admin, Teachers. It varies a ton. A lot of students double major and go into a career following the second major.

 

In the end, I loved my time at SMU. It's a mentally, emotionally, and physically demanding and tough program. Not for the faint of heart. You dance A LOT, but you may not perform as much as you want because of the way casting works. The modern training is mainly Graham technique and there is a new Limon teacher this year. Leslie Peck, on the ballet faculty, stages Balanchine works.

 

I can answer pretty much any question and go into further detail if needed, but my hands hurt from typing. :angry:

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  • 5 months later...

I believe it is the end of February, beginning of March when scholarship awards go out. SMU tends to spread the wealth amongst many dancers rather than just a few students getting very large scholarships. Also just an fyi- Usually any academic scholarships will count against you when it comes to getting money from the dance department. Pam Henderson is in charge of all financial aid and scholarships for the dance department and is very nice and helpful. You should be able to get her e-mail address from SMU's website.

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Bubblegirl...thank you so much for filling in all the info about the SMU dance program. It is incredibly helpful to have answers from a recent grad. My dd was very impressed with everything about the program, receiving a warm welcome last Spring when she went to visit. She is the first from her arts high school to go through the process, so we don't have much to go by, but the audition process was seamless and well-organized. In fact after her visit last Spring we went to see another very well-respected ballet program and the experience was completely different. So much in fact that she had no interest in even applying to that program. I guess the saying that you get "one chance to make a first impression" works both ways!

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  • 3 months later...

Anyone with information on where this year's graduating class is going after leaving SMU, please share. If this placement is within a company, please also share at what level: corp, trainee, teaching, switch to contemporary,etc.

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  • 4 months later...

Anyone attending the November 21 audition at SMU? Do you know how many dancers they plan on accepting this year?

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  • 3 months later...

Does anyone know about the status of the current faculty at SMU. Are they all sticking around for a while. Just trying to evaluate the program. Also has there been any discussion on increasing their focus on ballet. They seem to turn out beautiful well rounded dancers, but I'm curious about opportunities for those dancers who are ballet focused.

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While I am sure that the faculty and the program is top-notch, the ones we know that have graduated recently, have moved into trainee ranks with other 18 yr old HS grads out there. Certainly not taking ANYTHING away from having a degree, but just something to think about. SMU education is very expensive!!

 

On a side note, for those of you in the DFW area, the Meadows Spring Dance Concert is March 20 and they are very fortunate to be performing in the new Winspear Opera House which is PHENOMENAL!! Generally, orchestra seating is well above what I can afford for a performance, but for the SMU concert it is only 17.50 to 22.00!! They will be performing "Serenade" as well as other pieces for the show. I can't wait to see some of DD's friends!

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Are you talking only about ballet placements in trainee positions? Perhaps this goes back to the question about whether or not the program has become more modern-focused. If so, perhaps the ballet training is lagging behind.

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The entry position in a ballet company is trainee or apprentice, depending upon the structure of that particular company. It is rather unheard of, in the last many years, for a corps position to be offered to a dancer as a 'first contract' in a ballet company, although I imagine there probably are some for unbelieveable phenoms. However, it would definitely be the exception and not the rule.

 

A college degree does not give a dancer an opportunity to 'leap-frog' over the entry positions to obtain a corps contract. That is not something one can reasonably expect that college degree to do for them---not at SMU and not at any other college offering a dance degree. It is simply the nature of the structure of a ballet company and a matter of company economics.

 

So, the fact that recent SMU graduates are receiving trainee/apprentice positions is, actually, a good thing. The fact that they aren't leap-frogging into a corps contract is a non-issue.

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That is good information to have, dancemaven. Thank you. Do you know anything further about the strength of the dance program at SMU for a student who would like to enter a professional ballet company? Do you have any firsthand knowledge of it?

Edited by tutu2you
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For those interested in graduate studies: SMU will discontinue the MFA in dance, but the faculty and Dean of the Meadows School are exploring the possibility of developing a new degree on the master’s level (possibly an MFA in performance studies).

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