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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Focus of college offerings


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From reading topics in the College forum, it seems that colleges are more likely to offer programs with a modern, rather than ballet, emphasis.


Do others share this impression?


And why so many modern programs, when high school students are far more likely to be taking ballet classes?


At least in these parts, there are plenty of opportunities to take ballet, and only the occasional modern class to supplement the ballet.

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Perhaps people take more ballet in high school as ballet is the foundation for many other dance forms, and then if they are serious about dance, decide to pursue modern or jazz in college as they capture a larger audience than classical ballet. And directors of college dance programs probably suspect that the more classically oriented ballet students - and there aren't that many, in comparison, in the first place - are off doing apprenticeships or more prestigious college dance programs.


I really think it has a lot to do with pop culture and what is more widely accepted/attended - like I never really see classical ballet anymore. My college does not have a dance department, but we do have a large array of dance groups. Only a few of them claim to perform ballet among jazz, lyrical, hip hop, character... all of which have been so mutilated that I honestly can't tell the difference. And from that, only one or two pieces in the program is actually under the heading "ballet." And of these ballet pieces, I can't really claim that they are classical ballet or even "good" ballet, as they consist mostly of girls in leotards prancing about doing high-kicking tricks to some pop singer's music.

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My little liberal-arts college is modern-focused, and although I'd love to have more and more intensive ballet classes, the modern focus makes a lots of sense to me.


A really good ballet program requires a lot of resources - there need to be daily classes, technique, pointe, etc. This means you'd need more teachers, more studios, etc. This isn't worth it if you have only a handful of serious dancers, and my school has only a handful of serious ballet dancers (good enough for pointe, say). I'm sure that if there were more classes there would be more, but there still might not be enough to make it worth the colleges while.


Additionally, if people want to be professional, or even very good, ballet dancers, they need to devote a lot of time to it. My school is a liberal arts school, and you're required to take a lot of non-dance classes - not to mention that most dance majors have another, non-dance major. There just isn't enough time to spend on ballet. Thus, we'll never attract people who want to be ballet dancers.


Thus, it makes a lot of sense to me to focus on modern. There aren't the dancers or the financial resources to have a successful ballet program. Maybe at a bigger school that would be different.

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Hans and mayfair1 - while both of your explanations apply to most college and university dance programs. I'm at a loss as to why Juilliard doesn't have a classical ballet program in addition to their modern program.

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Of course, a lot of college preference for Modern Dance is founded on snobbery. Or at least there's the fig leaf they use to cover their Politically Incorrect Classism. The phrase, "dance fit for the academic and intellectual rigors of the curriculum" is eduspeak for "not ballet".

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A really good modern program requires daily classes, too. As far as I know, thedriver, Juilliard does offer ballet, although I don't know whether it has a separate program--I was under the impression that it just had a "dance" program, encompassing both modern and ballet, but I have a friend who is a dancer at Juilliard and I can check with her.


Editing to add this link with information about Juilliard's dance major, which does include ballet.

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Hans, you are correct Juilliard does have only one dance program, that is suppose to be for both classical ballet and modern dance students. Since female dancers can be accepted into the program without having trained on pointe, but must be proficient in modern – I’d say Juilliard is really a modern dance program. DD and I observed two classes last winter. Both were upper level classes one pointe and one modern. The dancer students in the modern class were phenomenal and some of the pointe class students were also strong but many would be considered intermediate level at most ballet studios. I could be mistaken, but I don’t think pointe is a required class for female students at Juilliard.

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Juillard is an interesting example. Clearly, they could provide a high caliber ballet program if they wished -- but they choose to focus on modern instead.


Dance companies named after cities (Boston, San Francisco, NYC, Washington, etc.) are all ballet based, so I don't think the modern focus is based on audience preference.


Also, where do all these college students taking modern come from? Did they attend "Dolly Dinkle" schools? Have they never taken dance before? Are they defectors from ballet?


Just think of all the summer ballet programs for ballet students -- many of these students must attend college, but I find it unlikely that they all give up ballet for modern at age 18.

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My DD is not near college age at 13 but has been steadily working on her ballet. She does get modern once a week and does music theatre dnace which could be jazz I guess. THis summer at her SI it was recommended that she look at modern based programs and schools, but for a 13 year old these are difficult to find. From what I can see most of the modern programs expect kids to be late high school to college. Yes, I know NCSA has a modern emphasis SI for younger, but their year round contemporary starts for high school juniors.


I assume from this, I am either really bad at searching so I am not coming up with more programs, or the modern program assume kids are coming from ballet or starting much later. I wonder then if part of the modern emphasis at the college level has to do with the reality thta many want to cotinue to dance seriously but will not or physically cannot make it in ballet once they are older.


I don't kniw if this is the reality, but it is the unspoken message I read into the shift. This is not saying modern is not very challenging or lesser than ballet, but maybe more forgiving as Dks get older- college and beyond.

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Oh gosh :wub: this is a sore subject at our house. One ballet student (DD) tried to give up ballet at 18 for modern and it just didn't work out for her. We don't know where all of these kids came from to take modern at college since modern is rarely offered at studios around here. Many of the kids accepted into this college program don't appear to have much training. Go figure? Anyway DD is rethinking her possibilities again and may be on the move.

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Just think of all the summer ballet programs for ballet students -- many of these students must attend college, but I find it unlikely that they all give up ballet for modern at age 18.


This is a great question to ponder. I've wondered too. All those kids, studying ballet seriously, taking class nearly every day of the week -- what happens to them after high school? There's gotta be gazillions of them.

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Guest jeanielake

it's a historical question: why is modern taught at colleges? modern was taught first at small liberal arts colleges because that's where the moderns went to spread the gospel: bennington, colorado college, etc. for summer workshops and to perform. modern fit in with the liberal arts focus of the exploration of self, evolving to concern itself with the issues of the day, political and artistic. (feminism, psychology, among others)

now, post ballet boom boomers who have kids of college age (babybaby boomboomers?) are lucky to find programs all over the country that teach one or the other or both, and good ballet seems to be everywhere. check out the indiana videos elsewhere on this site (link?) to see the expert level of technique.

--And retired ballet professionals are lucky to have the opportunitiy to teach in an academic environment where they can have job and life security: health benefits, pensions, etc.

what a wonderful world!

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Thank you jeanielake for a nice bit o' history. For more history I'd suggest a visit to The National Museum of Dance in Saratoga, NY, but if you can't get there you might like to check out their website: www.dancemuseum.org - click around on it. I had the pleasure of visiting several years ago. :wub:


calamitous, I think you've hit on part of the reason so many (but not all) college programs have a modern focus - that the majority of students attending do not have the facility for pursuing ballet as a realistic profession.

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