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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Southern Methodist University

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My daughter has studied with both Leslie Peck and Andrew Parker and she loves them both (not at SMU but in other settings). Andrew Parker is a very good teacher. Dd said he does a great job of finding ways of giving corrections to help you understand what he is looking for. His classes are very musical and fun. Ms. Peck is amazing with the little stuff, the details of your dancing. She is also authorized by the Balanchine Trust to set Balanchine pieces. Don't know anything about the program at SMU except that it is highly respected, and a degree from SMU, at least in this part of the world, will open a lot of doors... maybe not necessarily dance world doors, those you have to open with your dancing, but doors to opportunities post dancing..

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I graduated in 2008 and can chime in with some information. The faculty tends not to change very often. The ballet faculty is excellent, in my opinion. Leslie Peck, Andrew Parker, and Shelley Berg are the ballet faculty and they are all different and wonderful. As dancemaven said, trainee/apprentice is the entry level position for most companies. When I was graduating, I was seeking a trainee/apprentice position with a ballet company and I was successful. There is a strong focus on artistry in the program, be it in modern, jazz, or ballet classes. You will not go there and dance the Nutcracker or a full-length ballet, but you will be trained to dance with a professional ballet company if that is what you want. The program is what you make of it-if you want to join a ballet company, join a modern company, or not.


I can give some of the ballet rep for the last few years:

Birthday Variations-Gerald Arpino

Serenade- Balanchine

Holburg Suite-Arthur Mitchell

Octet-Twyla Tharp

End of Time- Ben Stevenson

Vile Parody of Address-William Forsythe


Valse Fantasie-Balanchine

Raymonda Variations-Balanchine

Concerto Barocco-Balanchine

As well as works by ballet faculty members.


That list doesn't include the modern and jazz rep performed (which includes work that is in the rep of many ballet companies).

A few posts back, I listed where many dancers went after graduating.

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Thanks for all the valuable information! WOuld you be able to give any idea on what percentage of dancers graduating are offered company positions? How many freshman do they accept? Was it really challenging to dance that many hours and still maintain good grades? thanks again for your insight.

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The percentage of dancers graduating offered company positions is really hard to guess. It is important to realize that not every dancer graduating WANTS to dance professionally (in any university program). Some want to pursue graduate studies, some advance into their second major's field, and some dance professionally. If my memory is correct, I can say that every dancer in the last few years who wanted a position with a ballet company, received a position immediately following graduation. The dancers who are pursuing contemporary careers also have very good company placement.


The average graduating class is about 10-15 students and the average freshman class is about 15-20. I believe they usually accept about 35-50 dancers.


It can be very challenging with the number of hours you are involved, but as long as you stay on top of your work you are fine. I took at least 17-21 credit hours every semester and managed everything.

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My daughter has concerns about the social atmosphere at SMU. As we are a middle class family, she is concerned that she won't fit in at the University. I'm assuming that students from all walks of life are enrolled in the dance program, since it is highly regarded nationally. Does anyone have any information on the diversity level and attitudes about finances at SMU? DD definitely wants a university with a great deal of ethic, race, and financial diversity. This is the major reason she is worried about auditioning. Other than that, the dance program seems to have most of what she wants in a school.

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The dance department itself is very diverse. I was in the Honors Program which was also very diverse. The university as a whole is getting more and more diverse. Most of the students who attend the university are from middle class families. There are so many organizations and ways to be involved on campus that have nothing to do with socio-economic background-Student activities, various religious organizations, service organizations, etc. Greek life is popular on campus (about 30% of students are greek). About 50% of the dance majors rush. I was in a sorority and loved it, I had best friends in my sorority and best friends not in my sorority. I worked during my time at SMU and that was pretty common among students too. Yes, there are students from wealthier families, but there are wealthy students at any private university in the US. The school is a private university, so it is expensive. It is not a huge university, about 6500 undergrads.


I will say I had 2 deposits paid on May 1 and went to orientations at 2 universities, one extremely large and diverse state university and SMU. My parents were worried about SMU and made me send in the 2 deposits. At orientation, at the state university I was left to register by myself and couldn't get into any classes but dance classes and left orientation registered for 11 hours. When I went to SMU orientation, I met one on one with an advisor who got me into every class I wanted and even went and spoke with the chair of my 2nd major program so that I could skip prerequisites. They continued to be that flexible throughout my four years there. It was that individual attention that sold my parents on SMU.

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I actually worked at SMU. I can't speak to the dance department but have some info on the school in general.


When we did our new employee orientation, we devoted a section of our presentation to "myths" that surround the university. Two of those myths were (1) that the school was a place for the wealthy and (2) for caucasian only - that the school had no diversity. The reality is that there is a very diverse student body, and while there are certainly some students from families that are very well-to-do and a lot of the children of alum attend, this is not representative of the entire student body. The school has worked hard to change the perception of the student body but there are those that really refuse to see the school for anything else. I never understood why - perhaps because it is located in an area - University Park - that is very, very wealthy. I recall doing a freshman orientation (Mustang Roundup) and one of the girls in my group had the same concerns. Initially quite standoffish - she felt like she didn't fit in, mostly (she admitted) because she would be working her way through college - but by the end of the weekend she was well integrated.


I knew quite a number of students on work study, receiving financial aid, recieving scholarships, working part time to offset college expenses, etc. And I knew qutie a number of students from countries all over the world. Our student worker/assistant was from South Africa - a highly entertaining and intelligent young man! The students are very accepting of each other and there are plenty of student groups and activities that will match any student's interest.

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Thanks for these responses. As a prior student of a private university, I have nothing but good things to say about my education, financial aid, and individual attention that I received as well. I will pass them along to my daughter and hope that she decides to audition.

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I loved working at the school. It has a beautiful campus and is located in a very nice area. There are actually directives - for lack of a better term - that ensure that the campus will maintain its current look. In other words, all buildings must follow the architecture of the orginial buildings. It's easy to get around without a car. There are a lot of housing options. Students that don't particpate in Greeks have a lot of options for socializing. It's an expensive school, but there's a lot financial aid available if you look in the right area. The school has a massive fund raising effort which helps! Good luck with the decision.

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Can anyone here give information on what a typical weekly schedule is for a dance major at SMU? I'm mostly interested in ballet, so I want to make sure that I would still get my daily (or almost daily) dose of ballet classes, as well as pointe and partnering.

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Still looking for a response! Can anyone comment on the ballet classes (number taken a week) as well as pointe, partnering, etc? I'm a junior so I really have to decide whether or not I'm interested in SMU very soon. Thanks!!

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dolphingirl, perhaps we have no current SMU dancers participating on BT4D at the moment. Often the college dancers simply have no time to be particularly active here. I know my DD has little time to check in or respond these days.


In order to get an answer to your question, you may need to check with SMU's website, dance department, or whatnot. Then share with us what you learn! :)

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Ballet is offered 5 days a week and I believe is required 5 days a week for two years. MWF are technique classes, TTH are pointe classes. Partnering was once a week, though they may have changed the schedule. Modern is 3 days a week and Jazz is 2 days a week. All dance classes are at least 1h20 minutes


The dance theory classes would vary based off of what year a student. Examples are dance history, dance composition (4 semesters required), kinesiology, music classes, etc.


Look at access.smu.edu to see the current class schedules. There is a guest feature that allows anyone to search for classes.

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Thanks everyone! I will definitely contact the dance department for additional information (once I finish with my spring performance, SATs, AP tests, etc....what a crazy time of year!) and I'll share what I learn!

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