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Ballet Talk for Dancers

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Thank you Tonia22 for your positive comments.  We did all of the research we could on the dance BFA program at VCU (videos, curriculum, college confidential, college visit, alumni, etc.). You are right it sounds like a growing university, even a brand new fine arts building.  Now I am looking for some first hand experiences of the dance classes, schedule, study abroad, faculty, non-dance academics, etc.

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Following!  Thanks for asking, we are interested, too!


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You're welcome. I wish I could connect you with this mom. Let me see if I can message her and get some info for you :) She is a yoga instructor and my DD took privates with her for flexibility. 

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Ok so I got a response. So, VCU dance is primarily a modern dance and choreography program with ample performance opportunity. However the ballet component is strong and very strict. They also learn a conditioning and alignment system called EBAS which was created by Scott Putnam who is a processed and the ballet teacher there. Contact improv is a big deal and daughter liked it more than she thought she would. It's an intense program, she had ballet at 8 am during the next week. She had only 2 academic classes for her first semester. I am not very informed about the study abroad, I think talking to the school work he best if that's an area of interest.

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Thank you again Tonia22.  This was very helpful.  DD wants to head toward a more modern program but doesn't want to sacrifice her ballet technique.  She also LOVES improv.  After the her wonderful audition experience, I was hoping this might be one of those hidden gems and it is looking more an more like that.  She still has 3 more auditions to go, but VCU is moving up on the list...

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  • 4 months later...

Some updated info from DD's audition this past year:

Program: There are 2 programs at VCU.  There is a ballet program in conjunction with the Richmond Ballet.  Students must audition for Richmond Ballet trainee program too.  Technique classes are with Richmond.  There is also a modern and choreography program.  (Ballet class 4 days a week, modern 5 days a week, improv/choreo 2 days)  DD auditioned for the modern/choreo program all info. below is about that program.

  • About 80 students in the program. 
  • All dancers take class together on Friday (either master class or contemporary/modern)
  • Study abroad programs include France, Israel and England.
  • Other classes include: pointe, partnering (modern), improv, tap, African  
  • There are outside guest artists to work with dancers and lots of performance opportunities.
  • Not sure about the ease of a double major/dual degree as the dance schedule is very demanding.  There were about 15%-20% doing a double major (some had to go during summer, an extra year, or do online).

Audition day:

  • Began with a Q and A with prospective students and parents and 2 professors. 
  • Then, observed the end of the Friday class with all dance majors.  The new studio was very large to accommodate all dancers (at least 25 – 30 could dance without being smushed or bumping into each other).  We saw across the floor combinations and an ending phrase that they were building on from a past lesson. All dancers were proficient in modern and many moved very well. Special note that all students learned choreo quickly and easily.
  • There was another quick Q & A after the class with friendly, enthusiastic students answering questions.
  • There were about 20-30 dancers auditioning.
  • Audition was a ballet class, modern/contemporary class, and an improv class.  DD really enjoyed the improv, finding it challenging. 
  • Afterward, there were snacks as students waited for the interview.  Interviews were one on one with one of three professors.

Campus: First we got a mini tour walking from the new VCU Arts building with the extra large studio to the older dance building, which had multiple older studios.   I walked around more as DD auditioned. 

  • This is a city campus, in Richmond, VA.  Buildings were a mix of very old colonial/Victorian and modern.  
  • The campus is large but not overwhelming, it was about a 10 minute walk across campus from the new studio space to the older dance building.  Bikes were everywhere.  There were racks and racks right outside the dorms (didn’t see inside dorms).
  • There were many diverse students and professionals around campus.  Some were in animated discussions or were encouraging others to get involved in some activity or club.  Very vibrant campus
  • There is a mini Walmart on campus. The campus bookstore is also a Barnes and Noble.  There are many restaurants, food trucks, stores, etc. on campus or a short walk from campus.

Scholarships:  Great SAT/ACT scores and GPA get a good scholarship - specifics are on their website.  It will not cover out of state tuition, but it is enough to make it similar to in-state tuition, highest scholarship also includes money for room and board.  Also, VCU supports its arts programs, and has some money to give as merit scholarships for artists including dancers.

Overall Impression:  Unless you are a trainee with the Richmond Ballet, this is not a purely ballet focused program. So if that is what you are looking for, you should skip this university.  However, if you are looking for modern that doesn’t skimp on ballet, take a second look here.  I might return to the school to observe some classes of different levels and/or watch a performance for further research. The university itself is impressive in its ease and amount of information available online and communication with us as well as between the various administrative departments (saved us a lot of time and frustration).  DD did not choose this university mostly because she fell in love with another program.

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Thanks for all this information, Amie!  VCU is on our short list for sure, and this is all really helpful and encouraging.

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  • 1 year later...

Bumping this thread to see if anyone has any updates or more current information.  My daughter auditioned last weekend and loved it.  It seems like a place that strikes a good balance between technical training (department head is a former dancer at Houston Ballet and all the dancers take both ballet and modern 4x/week) and their creative (choreo etc.) track.  

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My daughter finished the first 2 years as a Richmond Ballet trainee in the VCU dance department and has really loved it. The ballet and modern classes have been challenging when she came "back to VCU" for technique this year and she is improving as a college junior. Richmond Ballet was off campus about a mile but now she is enjoying being so close to the VCU dance building and other classes and it is a very walkable campus. If your daughter is strong in academics she may be able to get a merit scholarship.

My daughter also had other good strong academic experiences since it is not a cutthroat school academically (including being a T.A., doing research in the psychology department and study abroad - Dance in Paris program). After a couple online classes and a few regular classes she easily got a psych minor in and all the Honors College requirements in addition to a very strict amount of B.F.A. requirements. The faculty is super nice, dedicated and top notch. 

That is the one weakness - there is not a lot of flexibility with the B.F.A requirements. If you look at the undergraduate bulletin it will say exactly what the curriculum is - it is ballet and modern 4 and 5 days a week every semester of every year --some juniors and seniors can knock ballet down to twice a week. You couldn't transfer there and meet those requirements without spending additional time. You couldn't "easily" double major but it can be done with good planning or spend 1 extra year for like one girl is doing for engineering. You can't come in and decide to be a dance major later without auditioning and there is no increased likelihood of getting into the dance major once you are a VCU student in something else. The dance major classes are dance majors only. 

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workmail, thanks for the info!  My dd is very excited about VCU.  Now we wait to see if she’s admitted and if some merit aid comes through!

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