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Ballet Talk for Dancers

College: when the classes aren't strong


Guest mom

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We have a number of post graduates here at Washington Ballet. They are in the top level Release Time classes, plus a morning class 4 days a week, perform with the Young Dancers of the Washington Ballet, and with the company when needed, which of course varies from year to year depending on repertoire. Right now they are in Four Temperaments, which is the first rep of our season and opens Oct. 31-Nov. 4 at the Kennedy Center. Following that they will do about 27 performance of Nuts with the company, plus a bunch of "mini-Nuts" with the Young Dancers. Not sure about what they will get to do in the spring. But they are kept busy :)

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Guest unsoccer-mom

Boston Ballet has occasionally taken post-grad students into their program. A small number of last year's seniors have returned for a post-grad year. In addition, there are plenty of nearby colleges for part-time studies.

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Guest samba38

I wish there were some decent statistical data on what becomes of these post-grads. Many major schools take these kids, perhaps give them some break on tuition, perhaps not. I hope they all have deferred admission to a college in their back pockets.

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You can always contact the professionally affiliated school you are interested in to get more specific information.

 

The school I work for prefers to take kids who are a little older and out of high school. Their commitment to the program is more consistent and we don't have to make academic arrangements for them. All around it's easier when they are done with high school. Some kids even to community college work while they are here.

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  • 1 year later...

Here's an old thread that I thought might be helpful to revive. :) I'm sure a number of the posters from back in 2001 have discovered things since their initial posts and perhaps they will share them with us, here.

 

If anyone has discovered some real, hard facts on any of these ballet companies, whether they are big or small, as to what their "trainee" or "apprenticeship" or "post grad" situations are, I'm sure we'd all like to know. Fortunately, I don't have to think about all of this yet, but I still do like to read about it! :D

 

It was very helpful to hear about Washington's program. :cool:

 

Anyone else? For those of you who have children who've gone this route anywhere, it would be interesting to get an overview of the paths they have taken.

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Thanks for contacting me about this old post. Lots has happened for my, not so young, dancer. She is now turning 20 years old! Hard to believe. She graduated from high school and is now in college. Yes she is still dancing ! She is auditioning for ballet companies as I write this but is also continuing with her college as a dance major (on full scholarship) and nutrition minor (4.0 grade point). She has danced in the Olympics, television commercials, a professional ballet company, modeled for a dance wear catalogue and her university ballet company. She has been a busy girl.

 

But you ask, "As a parent what do I think of the ballet world?" That is a very tough question. In some ways I dearly love it and I would hate for my daughter to choose to leave it. Yes, we are leaving that decision totally up to her. But, in reality I don't think she is a girl, young woman, who can live in poverty, and that is what the profession demands of young dancers. It is near impossible to find out what the pay is for dancers in corp at different companies across the nation. I know that dancers are required by the pay they receive to live in groups, dorms, shared apts etc because they are living below the poverty level. I understand that the dancer is suppose to do this because of their love of the art but as a parent I truly ache when I see my daughter's contemporaries progressing on with their lives, becoming doctors, teachers, lawyers,etc while she is still trying to get an apprenticeship job, that if lucky she will get paid maybe $150/month to $350/month!

 

We parents must know, in advance that we will have to subsidize our dancers through their dance career, then onto college and past that. This is a reality that must be faced.

 

So financially, dance is a disaster. If you go in knowing that and decide as we have that we can afford it, then great! The other negative of ballet for the beginner is that the protocol of ballet is very difficult for young women that has been raised to be free thinkers, or assertive women. The ballet world is as it has been since the beginning. For me that is difficult. The dancer is expected to bow to the directors physically and mentally. Always in fear of being replaced by a younger more flexible dancer. Its almost like servitude in my opinion, as if the directors are THE GREAT OZ! I could see it if the dancers were getting paid for the thousands they have invested in their training and dedication. I'm sure, even as parents we are tentative about speaking our true feelings to our dancer's teachers for fear of reprisal against our dancers. And our dancers only complain to us for the same reason.

 

Regarding selective dance companies, and their summer programs, we have been through the gamete. And after saying all this I must admit, I also have a young 13 year old daughter and she is heavily into ballet and wants to become a dancer, so here we go again. I love the art of ballet, but I do not care for the business of ballet.

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Mom, I understand your feelings. Several years ago, when we had reached the stage your daughter was at, still in HS and wanting to go onto a professional career, we had to make some serious choices. We could see there would be no money if our daughter danced with a smaller company and frankly with the cost of pointe shoes alone ($400-$500 a month) this was already too expensive hobby!! One we certainly did not want to see continue on indefinitely. Also we could see that companies seemed to like the greater possiblity of longevity/usefulness a younger dancer brought to a company. So, we made the decision to train well between the ages 10 - 17 and shoot for a job with a major company, at 17. We came to grips with the realization that college will always be there, dance may not. Were we, her parents, happy about this decision? No. But, we agreed with the logic of her thinking. Her comment when we talked about the positives and negatives of deferring college for later still rings in our ears, "When it's time to go to college, then I'll go to college."

 

She was also acutely aware of her preferred style of dancing and wanted to match the company she chose to dance with to her style. She also saw herself as more neo-classical and did not want a company whose rep consisted mostly of story ballets. By 15 she had positioned herself at a pre-professional school connected to a major company. By 17 she had her contract with a major that met her criteria.

 

This is her fourth season dancing with this company. Her apprentice year she made $1850 a month with a 39 week contract. Of course, we still had to subsidize her rent that year. She now makes about $30,000 a year as 4th year corp. She lives with all the amenities of any young professional and though money is tight at times, she is making it on her own.

 

She has not experienced the "climate" in her company that you describe. Pershaps this is one of the differences between a very busy, larger company and a smaller company? I don't know. Her AD and BMs are warm, responsive, professional and very encouraging to all the dancers. As we, and our daughters, know all too well, ballet is a very competitive career. Sometimes the competitive atmosphere inside a company makes for an unhealthy existence for not only the dancers but the art form as well. However, within her company, the competitiveness is tempered with an equally strong familial atmosphere. Older, more experienced dancers help along the younger, less experienced dancers. Everyone seems to respect each other and appears to get along very well. She has been very happy there.

 

Mom, if your daughter really wants to dance professionally, IMO the time is now and I would suggest she throw herself into the bigger ponds instead of the smaller ones. A dance career is often a short one, so best to make the most of it while you can!

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Thank you mom and Justdoit. I really appreciate your both being so open in your posts. It's very helpful to hear from at least two different parents who are going through these "next steps" or who have launched their careers as well. :cool:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Justdoit, in your last post you mention the fact that your daughter does not feel the "servitude" that mom refers to in her post. I, for one, am very glad to hear this as I have to imagine are most of us parents.

 

This brings up, to my mind anyway, the variety of ballet companies out there - whether they are in the USA or other countries far or near. I often wonder if there isn't, at least in the United States, a tendency for many to only consider the "big names", so to speak, in the ballet world?

 

Any input on this in your daughter's career path? You did write that she decided to aim for one of the major companies and I'm wondering how this all played out for her... I realize there may well be subtle differences between "major" and "smaller" companies. :) Anyone else have any input?

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BW, I think I understand your question, so here goes. We equated a major company if it was in possession of several attributes. For us, and I qualify that "us," a major possessed a larger budget which would directly relate to larger salaries; a major company performed more and would provide national and international touring opportunities; a major would have a large and varied repretoire including work with choreographers, and, a larger number of company members (50+). This may seem rather bias, but it was 1997 and there was no BA around then for us to discuss some of our conclusions!

 

I think student dancers who really want to dance will try to get a job wherever with whomever, small or big. At least this is what we witnessed during our daughter's two years at her pre-pro school. A lesson to us was how few who get to this level, actually get a job! Somehow, we just thought there were enough positions each year for everyone. Talk about naive. I read on another thread that there are only about 750 full-time ballet dancers nationwide--didn't know that.

 

For our daughter, we were told by her teachers that many companies would be interested in her, including the one attached to the school she was attending at the time. And, this was her company of choice for several years.

 

But, funny things happen, you know. She decided to do a few auditions her last year at the school, just for the fun of it. After her first audition, she called us so excited and said, "If he (the AD who gave the audition) offers me a contract, I'm taking it!" We thought this rather strange since her goal and company of choice had never changed in the past 4 years! Besides, with only 2 contracts available and 300 dancers auditioning what were the chances she'd get an offer? Two weeks later she did and she took it without ever consulting with us! Later, I questioned her about what appeared to me to be a decision made "on a whim." Her response, "I've learned to trust my instincts and this just seemed right. Besides, it's OK to change your goals."

 

And, you know something? She has never looked back, second-guessed her choice or said, What if? So, I guess her instincts were right!

 

But, there is much ahead to still learn in this business of ballet. She wants her career to be "fulfilling." She recognizes that may be achieved either in her current company or she may have to go elsewhere to achieve the career fulfillment she seeks. She is still a young dancer at 21 and the next few years will be decisive ones for her.

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You and your daughter are certainly amoung the lucky few. Just imagine the number of BFA students nation wide that graduate each year and are auditioning for positions that just aren't there, and thats after four years of college! Add to that the number of highschool seniors graduating from schools of the arts, public high schools that promote their performing arts majors as "pre professional, on top of that add all the private conservatories(Nutmeg, Harid, Interlochen, etc), then all the pre-professional schools affiliated to companies, then on top of all that add all the private studios nation wide that have students seeking employment in the dance field. Your daughter sounds as if she is a very talented, gifted, hardworking young woman who has achieved her goals. A goal that has taken her many places most young dancers only dream of. Good for her, and for you.:D

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Justdoit, many thanks for the overview on your daughter's student to professional ballet path - she's done very well and it sounds to me that both your daughter and her parents deserve our congratulations. :cool:

 

mom, it does seem just a bit overwhelming doesn't it? I'm assuming that you read that article referred to in the post by balletmama in re dancers and the NBA - it underscores your points.

 

Well, we all have to make our choices - whether to support or not our children's career goals and, at times, I do get a bit queasy and take a large gulp...but I have to say that I'd rather mine be doing ballet than some other more common things with her spare time. Yet, I do know that having a professional career in ballet is a whole lot different than having her goal be to become a UN translator, a physical therapist, a NASA engineer, or an investment banker....

 

I suppose each family and its dancer has to grapple with this issue periodically and it's good to get a reality check and try to go forward with eyes, wide open...if we can.

 

This is what drew me into reading Ballet Alert and Ballet Talk in the first place - a desire to understand a path my child has taken that I heretofore knew absolutely nothing about.

 

I really thank you all who take the time to share your dancer's stories. :D

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