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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Interlochen


Ed McPherson

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Based on my experiences from 2002-2004

 

ADMISSION

 

Describe the audition/application process. Dancer may either attend audition tour, or visit campus. I believe you may be admitted via video however the administration will strongly recommend if not require a campus visit.

 

How many dance majors? 45

 

How many dance minors? 0

 

How many applicants to the dance program annually? Unknown to me

 

How many Freshman are accepted? Again, I am unsure. I would say probably 10 are accepted each year, however only 3-5 usually attend. I think most freshman don’t feel ready to leave home so soon.

 

How many men in the program? 7-10

 

Are the entrance requirements for dancers the same as all other applicants to the school? Yes.

 

Does the program seem to have stringent body type requirements? Not particularly.

 

Are there scholarship/financial aid opportunities specifically for dancers] Yes the numbers used when I attended were, 70% of the student body receives some form of scholarship/financial aid and the average award is more than half the cost of tuition.

 

 

GENERAL

Describe the studio/performance facilities. VERY nice, the main studio is has natural wood walls with lots of windows and a vaulted ceiling, it is in my estimation 60x40 ft, the same size as the stage. The dance building houses 3 smaller studios, two of which have windows on 3 sides that over look a lake.

 

What is the approximate number of performance opportunities each year? 3 faculty and 1 student produced.

 

Who choreographs/directs the above performances? Resident faculty direct and do a fair share of the choreography, the Spring and Winter ballets are generally composed largely of guest choreography.

 

What ratio of ballet, modern, jazz or other forms of dance are included in these performances? The fall full length is always a classical ballet, the winter and spring ballets are generally more contemporary forms of ballet and styles.

 

How is casting done? mix of seniority and ability. I have always been more comfortable with classical ballet than contemporary forms of dance. The faculty stretched my comfort levels by putting me in contemporary pieces. My senior year they let me do a little more of what I wanted to do.

 

What is the climate of this program (supportive/friendly or highly competitive)? The faculty (artistic and academic) are very friendly. They all generally live on the campus, a different section though, so close relationships are formed.

 

Is there an elite upper division touring/performing company within the

department? The school is a member of Regional Dance America so in the springs it attends those performances if they do not coincide with graduation.

 

Are there choreography projects available for students? Yes, required of seniors.

 

What opportunities are there to see dance performances or teachers from outside the school on a regular basis? Not many, The Interlochen Arts Festival brings 2-3 dance companies in each year. When companies come to perform they often take class with the students. The director might give a master class or two as well. I remember working with Sean Curran for a few days when his company came through.

 

What nutrition/health counseling is available? Yes, if the student seeks it.

 

What medical facilities/physical therapy is available? fulltime nurses always on campus. Massage is available on campus.

 

Describe the culture at this program (warm, cold, competitive, nurturing, professional, etc.) The dancers make only 45 of the 450 students so while the department has its own culture there is also a very distinct school culture. The school is a very nurturing place, with long winters and close quarters everyone gets to know each other and their teachers. I remember a speech someone gave at the opening commencement my senior year, they'd noted that aside from taking a walk in the woods there was never anywhere to hide when you were having a bad day.

 

Is there anything unique or that might be helpful regarding the audition process or the audition itself? Nope, enjoy yourself.

PROGRAM OF STUDY

 

List ballet faculty members. Mark Borchelt, Wendy Masterson, one fulltime position open. The departments policy is to have 3 fulltime faculty and to always have one guest.

 

How often does each teacher actually teach class? Each instructor teaches at least one technique class a day. Then will teach any auxiliary classes like partnering or pointe along with any rehearsals they have going.

 

How many hours of ballet classes per week are required? Students are at the studios from 1-6pm Monday to Friday.

 

How many ballet classes a week are offered? 5, one a day during the week.

 

How many technique classes are required of those in other forms of dance (such as modern)? Depending on the guest artists that is in residency and whether they are focusing on teaching or setting choreography as many as 3-5 or as few as 1-3 a week. Technique classes run from 1-4, rehearsals from 4-6.

 

What style of dance is the focus of this program (modern, ballet, other)? Its focus is ballet but there is a very strong belief that ballet dancers should be comfortable with the fundamentals of modern and contemporary dance styles.

 

What dance requirements are there other than technique classes? Rehearsals

 

 

ACADEMIC ISSUES

 

How rigorous are the academic courses? Very, the school suggests that all are taught at an AP level.

 

What is the ratio of academic requirements to studio hours? 3/4:1

 

Can a student double major in one program in the dance department and another from a different department? No

 

Are non-majors allowed to take technique classes? No

 

JOB PLACEMENT

 

Is career counseling/job placement assistance offered? Yes, you can get an incredible amount of guidance if you begin to plan early and ask for assistance along the way. If you wait to plan the help you will receive is limited.

 

If yes, at what year does that counseling start? As soon as you show initiative.

 

What does the counseling include? Instructors will talk to students about what they would like from a career in dance. And then suggest a route that will take them there. Whether this involves a list of colleges or companies or both, instructors will make suggestions and help with planning.

 

How often do company director's visit the school for viewings? Never, there is an annual college master class. When I was in attendance it included; Cal Arts, The Hartt Conservatory, Cincinnati Conservatory Music, Cornish College of the Arts, University of Iowa, and Mercyhurst.

 

How common is it for students to leave the school to join companies prior to graduation? unheard of

 

Do any dancers from this program go on to professional performing careers? Teaching careers? Yes, a fair amount

 

Who are recent guest artists or companies who have been in residence at the school? The ones that i remember are Stephen Pier, Ruth Andrien, Sean Curran, Deborah Goodman, Michael Uthoff, Tina Curran, Sandra Kaufman, Adam Houghland, and Michael Tevlin. As mentioned before, Interlochen's policy is to always have a guest in residency. The full time faculty are all instructors of ballet, while the guests generally all specialize in contemporary and modern dance forms. If these names are unfamiliar a Google search will reveal more.

 

For students graduating from this program who do not go on to dance professionally, what kind of jobs/careers do they go into? Various traditional college degrees.

 

Other: I think its important to note an unusual aspect of the training at Interlochen. The focus of much of the training and instruction that goes on at Interlochen is very specific and technique oriented. However, there is a strong emphasis placed on personal growth and enrichment. I don’t think it would be unfair to say that a large part of the dance departments goal is not to create a beautiful dancer in 3 or 4 years but a beautiful learner, someone that will take what they have learned in high school and apply it to their next stage of life. There is a substantial focus placed on the process of learning and how to acquire, assimilate and use knowledge that is presented on a daily basis but that we so often miss. Interlochen doesn’t profess to create amazingly professional dancers out of high school, but instead tries to give each student all the tools they will need to do what they want with their dancing and their lives. The hope is that these are the educational skills that will transcend your dance education to be seen in some other areas of your life too.

 

To me this is what has set Interlochen apart. There are good teachers all over that will show you how to dance wonderfully, but its hard to find people that will help you to be a better steward of the process. If you feel that what each individual can bring to the process of dancing and creating dance is equally important as the achievement of pure technical brilliance Interlochen might be a place you would really enjoy.

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Ed, thanks for the post on INterlochen. I think you have captured the essence of the school. It is a unique and wonderful place! It was my daughter's first ballet summer program and we both recall it VERY fondly.

 

Thank you for sharing about the year-round program. :)

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  • 4 months later...
Ed, thanks for the post on INterlochen.  I think you have captured the essence of the school. It is a unique and wonderful place!  It was my daughter's first ballet summer program and we both recall it VERY fondly.

 

Thank you for sharing about the year-round program.  :huepfen:

 

Ed,

Would love to hear your input on IU. I know your extended Michigan family. Also agree with balletbooster! My daughter caught the "ballet bug" her first summer at Interlochen when she was a modern major. Interlochen Arts Camp was an awesome first experience for her.

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Welcome to the board kate45 - glad you found your way in and on here. Stop by the Welcome forum and introduce yourself, if you haven't yet! We look forward to your particpation in many discussions. :huepfen:

 

Ed has shared about Indiana University, as have quite a few others, and he has done so on the forum that is all about college programs. They're listed alphabetically.

 

We like to keep discussions about particular programs on their own specific threads to make it easier for people to find what they are looking for. :wink:

Edited by BW
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I'm an interlochen graduate too. I was going to fill out one of the survey forms, but I would say that Ed has done an excellent job of describing the place. I loved it because of the combination of academic rigor and busy dance schedule. I was looking for top-notch academic classes and a healthy atmosphere in which to dance, and Interlochen offered me both.

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  • 1 year later...

This has been interesting reading. I have a question. For the summer program, there is a choice of emphasis for either ballet or contemporary. The above poster stated that there is an emphasis on ballet.... for the full-time program, can a dancer choose either ballet or contemporary as they can for the summer?

 

Thanks.

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No, the year-round program is a ballet-based program. We have ballet every day, modern 3 times a week, and pointe and pas de deux each once a week. There are 3 full-time ballet faculty, Mark Borchelt, Wendy Masterson, and Nicola Conraths-Lange, and then we have a guest artist for modern.

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  • 6 months later...

If you want to audition for the year-round program can you audition when you go to tour the school? Or do you go to a regular audition?

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  • 11 months later...

I'm hoping someone will be able to update on the current "graduates" (if any) in this program and what their plans are for next year. If they have company positions, please let us know if those are trainee, apprentice, corp and then male/female. This information helps others track the true success of the program from year to year.

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We had 17 seniors:

 

2- Cornish College of the Arts

3- SUNY Purchase

1- University of Texas

1- University of Utah

1- University of Ohio

1- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

1- Boston Conservatory

1- Juilliard

1- University of Hartford/ The Hartt School

1- Barnard/ Columbia

1- University of Michigan

 

One is unsure, one is taking a year off and then attending Ohio University for something other than dance, and one deferred CCM for a year.

 

People were also accepted at Butler, Texas Christian, Marymount Manhattan, Ailey/Fordham, Indiana U, BalletMet's trainee and prepro program, Smith, Iowa, and a few others that I cant remember right now.

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  • 2 months later...

We just found out a few days ago that DD has been accepted to Interlochen. I'm over the moon, but waiting to find out if the financial aid package will be enough to actually allow her to attend. We're staying positive!

 

I have to say that regardless of the outcome, we've had an amazing experience during the application and audition process. DD's torn FHL (she's STILL in physical therapy 3x/week) prevented her from being able to audition properly. The dance department allowed us to submit last year's scholarship video for Lines along with a video of a performance piece from the 2008 VSA SI, in which she was the soloist. Communication has been amazing - from the operator answering the main switchboard to the new director of dance - Cameron Basden.

 

We're hopeful that financial aid will work out, and DD is excited about being able to work with Ms. Basden!

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Congratulations dances....I know this has been a terribly trying time for you both and am glad to see that she may be able to move forward. Please keep us posted.

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  • 4 weeks later...

DD is all moved in. Academic and dance classes are in full swing and she's adjusted wonderfully!

 

We drove across the country because it's incredibly expensive to fly into Traverse City, only to have to deal with dysfunctional truck. :rolleyes:

 

We arrived two days late - keeping the staff informed all along the way, and when we finally checked in we were both a mess: wearing the same clothing for two days, no shower, and a serious case of morning breath and bedhead. The upside is that we didn't have to stand in a single line and parking was a breeze!

 

During the live broadcast of convocation DD's name was mentnioned, as in "....traveled six days from Oregon to get here." The camera zoomed in on her and she was initially mortified, but thankfully showered and in her uniform and looking quite pretty. She didn't mind so much afterward because everywhere she went the students and staff wanted to hear about our adventures, and trust me...I don't use that term lightly! I even have photos of DD in the back of a police car because there was no room for her in the tow truck! It was a photo op that I couldn't resist.

 

I ended up 'stuck' on campus for a week and a member of the staff approached me (and another mom I was traveling with) and allowed us to stay in the hotel free of charge until our vehicle was repaired. By the time we got back on the road to head home, we were eating our meals with faculty and staff and joking about putting on uniforms and getting on the payroll. The people there are absolutely amazing....from the switchboard operator and mechanics to the residence hall staff and academic and dance faculty. The Dean even offered to let us stay in her home if we ran into anymore problems.

 

There are just under 500 students enrolled, with 26 dancers at last count: 21 girls and 5 boys. The dancers have the most demanding schedules. They have all their academic classes from 8:00 to 12:00 with lunch from 12:00 - 1:00 and dance from 1:00 - 5:45 followed by dinner, showers, hall meetings, clean-up, community service requirements, and homework.

 

There are two levels for technique class, A and B, and three levels for Pointe and Pas, 1, 2, 3. The Pointe/Pas levels are pretty even with about 7 girls in each. I'm not certain, but I think all 5 boys will be in each Pas class. The "B" level for technique is slightly larger than than the "A" level - by about 5 dancers.

 

I was able to watch a technique and pointe class and was very impressed. The dance faculty explain alignment in detail and even go so far as pulling out one of the science class skeletons to make sure they understand how their bodies work and having them pair up to give each other corrections in alignment while the teacher watched to see if they had a true understanding. Guo Ping Wang was a guest teacher for the first 10 days. He's quite an energetic dynamo and was sweating just as much as the dancers by the end of class!

 

Most of the dancers are returning students - juniors and seniors. There is one freshman and DD is one of two sophomores. Her roommate is a piano major from China.

 

I'm very impressed with the dance faculty, and very excited about what Cameron Basden will bring to the dance department. Most importantly, I feel good about the decision and believe DD is in a safe environment. She didn't dance for 4 1/2 months - giving her tendon time to heal, and we've transferred her PT to Interlochen. Every muscle in her body hurts, but the tendon isn't giving her any problems. She was gently scolded for taking the entire tech/pointe placement class because it was the first time she'd danced since the diagnosis - so that made me happy too! :)

 

After the placement the dance faculty conferenced with each dancer asking questions about previous training, the reason they chose to attend Interlochen, their goals while at Interlochen, and their future dance goals. Each dancer was also told what types of things they noticed during the placement class regarding strengths and weaknesses, incorrect technique etc.

 

I need to add too, that Ed McPhereson was very helpful in answering my questions off the board. He was very patient too, because my previous experiences taught me to ask very specific questions. There were three staff/faculty members at VSA who were also quite helpful in getting DD to Interlochen. I won't mention them by name, but I was very grateful for their offers to help. DD was unable to properly audition because of the injury and they made sure I had access to last year's audition information as well as some performance videos in lieu of a new audition tape...and photos....and letters of recommendation that were written while teachers were on the road teaching at different sites. Of course, Interlochen was incredibly accomodating by allowing DD to apply without a current video in the first place.

 

Yep, I'm feeling good about this decision, and I'm hopeful that we got it right this time.

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