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Ballet Talk for Dancers

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After going through several college dance auditions with my dd this season, I think I can provide some perspective here. There are simply too many talented girls (boys are a different story because of the lower numbers) vying for too few slots. There are MANY talented dancers not getting accepted into the college dance programs. Many of them are good at all 3 types of dance where that counts, like UA.


At UA, I know for a fact that they are going to take 20 some students out of 400+ auditioning. The same holds true for most of the top ballet programs as well. With those odds, you can easily conclude that many, many very talented dancers will not get in. And, you've got to figure that many of the very top students are auditioning at many of the top programs -- it's basically a lot of the same talent pool going up against your child at each school.


I am no expert but my opinion is that those who are getting accepted have that "something special" that the auditioners are looking for. Too many have "clean" technique and amazing experience and resumes. So it is perhaps the way they "attack" the dance, the joy in their dance, those kinds of things, that separate the many gifted dancers out there in the eyes of the auditioners.


I don't know what it was like in the past with college dance auditions ... but today, right now in 2005, it is extremely, extremely competitive. It is a reality check for the prospective college students who have dreams of majoring in dance in an academic environment. No matter how you slice it, only a few will get in to the top programs ... and a student's excellent high school academic record of balancing a rigorous dance schedule with rigorous courses does NOT matter in the end. The only thing that gets a student into a top college dance program is the dance audition at that moment in time -- pure talent.

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No matter how you slice it, only a few will get in to the top programs ... and a student's excellent high school academic record of balancing a rigorous dance schedule with rigorous courses does NOT matter in the end.  The only thing that gets a student into a top college dance program is the dance audition at that moment in time -- pure talent.


If that is the case, then many more talented dancers will end up in programs other than the so-called Fab 6, making all the rest of the programs more competitive. Auditioning all over the country is expensive and I am not looking forward to it, as DD is a junior. This is not going to be a fun year . . .

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Taradriver, since your daughter is a junior and possibly interested in Univ. of Arizona, I can't emphasize enough the value of UA's "pre-audition" for high school juniors. If you arrange an individual audition (taking 3 classes alongside the students) as my daughter did, then she has the advantage of being seen for more than one "moment in time" - possibly over two days for the classes, and then twice in one year (when she goes back as a senior for her real audition).


Yes, this is expensive, but an extended visit to any college (more than just the audition weekend when there are no classes to observe) is vital. Plus, we got to schedule this pre-audition over my daughter's Easter break week, which was far less hectic than Nutcracker season in the fall!


P.S. I agree that the caliber of the talent that a program is able to attract is part of what enhances a school's reputation. In time, I am confident that Arizona will be added to the "Fab" list (which appears to have risen to 7).

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Happened to be at a college fair last night; spoke with the UAz rep. What she said was that the dance program has become "crazy difficult" to get into. The numbers bandied about in earlier posts support this.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Taradriver -- that is correct about UA's dance program acceptance numbers based on what we learned there during our visit last fall.


I think it's very interesting what you wrote in an earlier post -- that the non-"Fab 6" programs are becoming more competitive. I just read a post on the U of Michigan thread that indicated that Michigan dance only took 15 compared to their normal 25. Wow! I think you have something there.

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Just wanted to comment that the U of A is having performances this weekend and the weekend of May 6. If you're from out of town, you might consider attending the May performances.

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More news on the Arizona front. Susan Quinn is taking a sabbatical next year and it now seems almost certain that the dept. head, Michael Williams, is as well. Our local dancer who was going to start as a freshman has decided not to go. She has been told by another jazz faculty member that the ballet faculty will be taking over administration of the program if Michael goes, and there will be a growing ballet focus in the program.


This dancer went for orientation in the spring and reported that all the other dancers were small girls, thin, with strong ballet backgrounds. She is an incredible ballet dancer with pristine technique, but is very athletically built. She said she felt out of place.


Anyone else heard anything? :)

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I don't know anything about the sabbaticals, but Jory Hancock has always been the head of the department. His own performance background is ballet, but the program prides itself on its triple emphasis.

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A friend of my dd's is attending as a Freshman this year. She is not paricularly small or thin, but she is an incrediblly strong and beautiful dancer. They used to state on their web site that strong ballet is a must, but I don't see it there anymore. The program has had 3 areas of focus: jazz, modern and ballet.

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Yes, Susan Quinn is taking a sabbatical. And ditto what joyellen said about Jory Hancock being the long-serving head of the department with a ballet background, plus the fact that the department prides itself on its STRONG triple emphasis. My daughter has had no problem getting plenty of classes a week in ballet, modern and jazz. There is never a need to supplement the college dance classes with classes at an outside studio.


I don't understand where this girl got the idea that the UA dancers tended on the small side. Part of the appeal of UA for my daughter was that, at 5'5.5", she'd no longer be the tallest like she was at UArts as the average seemed more like 5'6". And from one comment that my daughter made, I also know that the girls aren't all thin: one girl needed to wear three bras under her costume for one performance. Even my daughter, while slim, has some heavy muscle on her. However, my daughter would agree that this incoming class of freshmen was chosen for their pristine ballet technique, much as they were the previous year.


But that doesn't mean that UA plans on downplaying their modern and jazz components. In fact, I think they fully realize that their triple emphasis PLUS their criteria of strong ballet skills positions their program very highly. My daugher's roommate happily gave up a wait-list spot for Juilliard once she was accepted to UA because of UA's strong jazz component. Her home company pays to fly her home to do Nutcracker, but she has a scholarship to study with River North Chicago this summer. That scholarship came about because the director comes to UA to audition students.


This dancer who has chosen not to attend UA: isn't she the one who is "very strong ballet dancer and is self-admittedly weak in both jazz and modern"? So why was she getting worried about what a jazz faculty member has told her when she seems to prefer ballet? In any case, I'm sure she'll do well wherever she's going and wish her the best.

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This summer at my SI, Alonzo King's Lines Ballet, Sam Watson taught for a week. His classes were so much fun and everyone enjoyed them. He's a great teacher!

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He's also an excellent choreographer! I'm glad you enjoyed his teaching. He is a real favorite of the students here at the UA as well.

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Here is a more detailed explanation of the three-area emphasis at UA from Pierrette, copied from another thread:


There aren't really tracks at the University of Arizona. (That's why my daughter chose this school.) Students just need to reach the highest level, for at least two semesters, in at least one style to graduate. Prior to that, they need a minimum of two classes (2 credits each) of ballet, modern and jazz technique (for a total of 12 credits). What they do with their remaining 8-12 credits of required technique (i.e., some students can kill two birds with one stone because they go directly into the top, 400-level) is up to them.


My daughter (and, I imagine, a significant share of the students) takes an overload of technique classes and has already reached the 400-level in all three styles and will continue to take all three styles. Being able to take an overload also means that students are able to bulk up on any particular style. So, if they wish to create a ballet focus, they could take jazz Fall and Spring their freshman year and fill the rest of their schedule with any ballet class that they have access to. For their sophomore year, they could get their modern requirements out of the way and, again, bulk up on ballet. The only students who would actually have an "equal" emphasis in all three areas their freshman year are those who are deemed entry level in all three areas and thus can't pad their schedule with different level classes. (But they could still add Pointe.) However, this program is known for recruiting very strong dancers, especially in ballet, so a sizeable part of the freshman class goes directly into the 400-level classes. This means that they have access to the 300-level ballet on T/Th, which gives them daily ballet.


So the faculty approval is for class levels, not for "tracks." If anything, Arizona prides itself on being a triple-emphasis program, so they're not about to discourage anyone from taking as many different styles as they want.

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I posted this on another thread...answering a question about tthe process of choosing college and Univ dance programs...


Since my daughter chose the Univ of Arizona as a freshman this fall, and some of her observations are included in here, I am posting here as well. Mods, feel free to delete...



My DD chose to attend the Univ of Arizona this Fall as a freshman dance major. In addition to Arizona, she auditioned for and was accepted into Tisch at NYU, Dominican (LINES), SUNY at Purchase and a few others.


After much travelling and observation, my daughter chose the Univ of Arizona. Here is a list of her reasons:

Most competitive audition...more than 400 auditioned for the program which accepted, I believe about 30.

Beautiful dance facility, nice floors, well lit and maintained.

A triple emphasis program demanding talent and skills developed to an equally high level in ballet, modern and jazz upon entry.

Faculty connected to dance companies and choreographers in the US and Europe.

A large group of male dancers (sigh!)

Opportunities to perform

Faculty provides opportunities for students to use high level thinking skills and the creative process in dance classes.

Program provides students with summer experiences in other parts of the US and Europe.

After observing classes for 2 days, she said: "All the best dancers I have seen are here and they are happy."


The Univ of Arizona gave her an academic scholarship and the dance dept gave her a very substantial scholarship as well. We kept this information from her until she made the decision to attend. We did not want it to "color" her decision.




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