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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Interlochen


Ed McPherson

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Hi Ballet dragon-

 

I can't thank you enough for your detailed response!

 

Your information is much appreciated as we navigate through some major decisions.

 

One of our hesitations was the number of dancers compared to other majors. However, it seems that a close knit group of dancers could in fact be beneficial. Other programs we have looked at have more of a even disbursement between the art forms. For now, I have one further question, does your DS report that they do enough strength training (such as pilates or other types of conditioning) to help with injury prevention. The website indicates they do offer strength training that enhances their dance curriculum. However, we were hoping to get more specifics on this.

 

I am sure I will post again with further questions as they come along. :)

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I will ask DS for more details but this is what I know about strength training. Yes, they do have strength training, but I don't know how much emphasis is placed on it. DS comments about strength training from time to time, but it might be a men's conditioning class. I don't know about the ladies.

 

I do know that Interlochen is building a state-of-the-art athletic center right now. It should be open in the fall 2016. The blue prints show that it will be amazing, with dedicated space for dancers to cross-train and condition. But, I can't comment on specific changes to the curriculum. I would suggest that you contact them directly about this question. All of the dance teachers are VERY approachable. Don't hesitate.

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One more comment I wanted to make about injury prevention,or at least their culture of injury prevention:

 

One day in class, my DS came down wrong on a jump, and bruised his toe. His teachers made him sit out of class the next day. There is nothing my DS hates more than having to sit out and watch dance class without dancing. "I mean, come on! It's just a bruised toe!"

 

But his dance teacher patiently explained to him that it wasn't the bruised toe that was concerning. Indeed, he expected that DS would be dancing the next day. What WAS concerning was how DS's body would subconsciously protect his bruised toe, and compensate by moving in different ways. This overcompensation could lead to a more serious injury. That's what the teacher was concerned with.

 

This was like a "ah, ha" moment for DS. He rarely gives me the whole story about how his day went, but this was one of those phone calls when he recounted his interaction with his teacher, and then reflected on how grateful he was that his teacher cared enough to sit him down and talk to him.

 

Perhaps this is typical of other pre-pro programs, but DS had previously been at a studio where you "dance through the pain", and that dancers were guilt tripped into rehearsing pieces even when they were injured. Until that moment, I didn't realize how twisted and irresponsible that was.

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Hi Ballet Dragon,

 

Thank you again for your help answering our questions!! Your comment regarding the culture of injury prevention is an excellent indicator of a quality program that is looking out for the well being of their dancers.

 

Can you give us an estimate on the amount of homework your DS has each night? Do you know if the dancers get any sort of study period built into their day?

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Balletart -

 

First, the class schedule for dancers allows for 4 academic courses each semester. They meet for longer periods three days a week: either Mon,Wed,Thurs or Tues,Wed, Fri. In comparison, DS's previous high school had a block schedule where they had the same schedule every day with classes Mon-Fri. Just the change in the schedule helped him with time management.

 

Second, DS said that the homework cycles in 2-week deadline cycles, so that there is opportunity to manage their arts requirements and their academic requirements over a longer period of time. The homework is rarely "due tomorrow". This gives students an opportunity to work around their arts requirements, and manage their time effectively to get all academic requirements done and turned in on time.

 

On average, DS says that he spends 1-2 hours a night on homework. Some students take a little more time, like a solid 2 hours each night, but DS prefers to do more homework on his weekends so that his evenings can be more flexible (in case a last minute rehearsal gets scheduled, or the like).

 

There are study halls every night. These are voluntary, but can become mandatory if students are struggling with their time management. There are also teacher-lead tutorials twice weekly after dinner. DS said that these are very important, and dancers take full advantage of these. You can meet with the teacher, and get clarification about anything related to the class.

 

DS also said that in the sophomore year, that classes are pretty standard. Junior and senior years become much more flexible so students can better select the classes that they think meet their interests and have a time commitment that they feel they can handle.

 

Lastly, the dance department cancels afternoon classes when they have performances, going to a performance schedule where they are free from 1:00-about 5:30. Then, they will have a full warm-up class prior to the performance. This gives them a couple of hours to get some homework done when they are performing in the evenings.

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Ballet Dragon,

 

It sounds like the academics are very conducive to the schedule of the dancers. Your detailed response is extremely helpful as we continue to navigate through decisions...thank you! We like the fact that academics do not seem to be compromised and that our DD can continue to train at a level that challenges her.

 

I am not sure if you looked into other residential programs for your DS. However, if you did, did you find the dance curriculum at Interlochen to be comparable to other year round academic programs such as UNCSA and Walnut Hill? As far as hours of training and performance opportunities go they seem to be comparable to us.

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Balletart -

 

We only visited Interlochen before making a decision to attend. We visited Interlochen in October, at the very beginning of our search. We really had no idea what to expect, except that the school had come highly recommended by another family with boy dancers. But, the experience that we had was really fantastic. DS attended a math class, where the teacher put him in a group to work on a problem. He just jumped right in, the students included him in their deliberations, and I got to watch active learning being played out in the math class. His experience auditioning with the dance department was out of this world. It was like in the movies when the clouds parted and the rainbow comes out. Corny, I know. But, it sold my DS (and me) that this was the right place for him.

 

Also, a little off subject, but Interlochen is within driving distance for us. A LONG drive, but still do-able. This entered into our decision process, because although our DS is very self-sufficient and has been away for out-of-state SIs for several years, he still needed some parental TLC from time to time, and it was good for him that we were able to see him for performances and other events about every 6 weeks.

 

After that, I did compare with other programs you listed above, but only what I could find on BT4D and on their websites. We didn't visit or communicate with the other programs. What I could find, and did read about was that the programs seemed comparable to each other. They all seem to have the same values (academic and dance), and appear to have similar priorities of developing not only a strong dancer, but a confident human being.

 

That said, I suspect that while their programs are similar in their online appearance, they probably have different vibes. (speaking from my experience visiting a number of small liberal arts colleges for my older daughter who is now a freshman) I suspect that if you are having a difficult time making a decision, that you should spend a day visiting all of the schools that you are considering (if you can swing it financially). Again, from my college visiting experience, I was amazed how a school that my daughter thought was her dream school (from its reputation and the online presence) ended up being a complete non-starter when we set foot on campus and it just felt all wrong.

 

This is a big decision, Balletart. You're asking all the right questions. Do you think it would be helpful for your DD to chat with my DS by telephone? If so, I can temporarily post my email address. (I don't think you have pm privileges yet.) The moderators can take it down once you got it. Let me know.

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Hi Ballet Dragon,

 

Your insight is much appreciated. We are discussing a trip to Interlochen to get a real feel for the overall environment and campus. We understand there is a spring performance at the end of May. However, we would like to reach a decision prior to that so we are discussing a visit in mid April instead.

 

I think it would be extremely helpful for my DD to speak with your DS by telephone. If you temporarily post your email address, I will jot it down and be in touch. Thank you.

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  • 5 months later...

Post-graduate plans for 2016 graduates -

 

Barnard College - 1

Boston Conservatory - 2

Columbia University - 1

Cornish College of the Arts - 1

Dominican University of California - 2

Indiana University - 1

Mercyhurst University - 1

Point Park University - 1

Purchase College State University of New York - 2

University of Wisconsin, Madison - 1

Webster University - 1

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  • 3 months later...

ADMISSION

Describe the audition/application process. Either visit campus for live audition, attend audition on audition tour, or submit an audition video. I believe you can also be invited to the academy after attending camp.

How many dance majors? 41

How many dance minors? 0

How many applicants to the dance program annually? Not sure

How many Freshman are accepted? I'm not sure how many are accepted but his year we have about 6

How many men in the program? 13

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 at all

Are there scholarship/financial aid opportunities specifically for dancers] Yes, lots of scholarships available! Many of us would not be here without them.

GENERAL
Describe the studio/performance facilities. Currently we have 1 very big studio and 3 small studios but the dance building is about to be renovated and added to so there will be another big studio in less than 2 years. We usually perform in corson auditorium which seats 952 people.

What is the approximate number of performance opportunities each year?

There are three big performances in Corson Auditorium

1) The winter classical ballet (last year it was nutcracker, this year it was sleeping beauty). it is choreographed by our artistic director Joseph Morrissey

2) The showcase in March which is usually entirely modern and contemporary works is choreographed by a mixture of guest choreographers and the dance faculty

3) The spring performance is one half classical ballet and the other half a contemporary ballet of some kind. The classical ballet is choreographed by Joseph Morrissey. Last year we did act 2 of La Bayadere. The contemporary half is usually set by a guest artist. Last year we did Paul Taylor's Company B (set by a member of the Paul Taylor Company and alumni of interlochen), this year we are doing Agnes De Mille's Rodeo and Paul Sutherland will be in residence to set it.

 

There Is also a senior choreographic workshop performed in a black box theatre in which each Junior, Sophomore, and Freshman performs in 2 senior choreographed pieces. Each senior performs in someone else's piece and choreographs their own.

 

There is also a showcase in the dance building that is completely optional where any student can choreograph and ask whoever they want to be in their piece.

 

During Festival weekend which is the last weekend of the year, we perform (in Corson) a few things from our repertoire that we have already performed. Last year we performed act 2 bayadere from the spring performance and all of the senior pieces again.

 

 

In the beginning of the year there is Collage, which is a showcase involving performances of all majors, a few dancers might perform in this. typically there are two dance pieces selected to be in collage.

 

finally, there are plenty of other random performance opportunities. Occasionally students might be asked to perform in a band concert, or a singer/songwriter might ask their friend to choreograph a piece for their song and perform it at a concert. The dance faculty will help you make things happen if you ask. Students who express interest in choreography will be supported by the faculty to find opportunities to experiment.

 

 

How is casting done? Mostly ability and who is right for the part. Seniority is taken into account but not necessarily prioritized.

What is the climate of this program (supportive/friendly or highly competitive)? Very friendly and supportive. Naturally, things get a little competitive but not to the extent of it getting in the way of the close friendships between students.

Is there an elite upper division touring/performing company within the
department?
No, but there might be some touring opportunities. Last year a group of us went to New York to perform at lincoln center

Are there choreography projects available for students? Yes. Seniors are required to choreograph in the senior choreographic workshop. Any student may choreograph in student showcase.

What opportunities are there to see dance performances or teachers from outside the school on a regular basis? We get many guest teachers and choreographers. A few companies come to campus to perform and they often take class with us and their director might teach a masterclass. Last year Houston Ballet II came and performed, their director taught a class for both the interlochen dancers and the HBII dancers. This year Jessica Lang dance is coming.

What nutrition/health counseling is available? We get occasional seminars with guest nutritionists. We also may always go to our health services and seek help.

What medical facilities/physical therapy is available? fulltime nurses always on campus. Massage is available on campus for an additional cost. There is a whirlpool tub in health services. We also have a weekly kinesiology class in our brand new fitness center which is co taught by one of our ballet teachers and a personal trainer. The trainer also works with small groups of dancers outside of class time.

Describe the culture at this program (warm, cold, competitive, nurturing, professional, etc.) The dance department is a great mix of nurturing and professional. We treat our teachers respectfully but we also form close bonds with them and can always go to them for help.

Is there anything unique or that might be helpful regarding the audition process or the audition itself? Just have fun. The dance department seeks dancers who love to dance as well as having perfect technique.

List ballet faculty members. Joseph Morrissey (Artistic Director and Ballet teacher), Justin Koertgen (Ballet and Pas de deux teacher), Rachel James (Ballet, pointe, and kinesiology teacher), Nikki Conrath (Part time ballet teacher), Matthew Lindstrom (Modern and Composition teacher).

How often does each teacher actually teach class? The three full times ballet teachers each have a group/level of students. They teach their group ballet every monday, tuesday, and thursday for three weeks and on the third week they trade for just a week and then go back to their group. This allows the students to form a strong teacher/student relationship with their group's primary teacher but also get a week with a different teacher every three weeks. On Wednesdays the boys and girls take separate technique classes. On fridays the whole company takes class together (the teachers switch off teaching this class). Nikki Conrath teaches occasional wednesday or friday classes and also fills in if a full time teacher is gone. Matthew Lindstrom teaches composition to the seniors every friday and teaches each group at least one class a week.

How many hours of ballet classes per week are required? We take daily (monday-friday) hour and a half ballet technique classes. Each group has Pas de Deux once a week. Each group usually has Pointe class twice a week (as well as wearing pointe shoes in center for some technique classes, in pas de deux class, and in rehearsals). Each group usually takes modern once a week. Once a week all seniors take composition and everyone else takes kinesiology (this is the only time we are split by class rather than by group a, b, and c).

What style of dance is the focus of this program (modern, ballet, other)? Ballet is the focus but there is a strong belief in versatility.

What dance requirements are there other than technique classes? Rehearsals. We also occasionally take other classes such as jazz. Last year we even took swing dancing for a week with a guest teacher.

ACADEMIC ISSUES

How rigorous are the academic courses? Pretty rigorous and advanced, but also are understanding of our intense dance schedules

What is the ratio of academic requirements to studio hours? Our academic time is from 8:30am-12:00. We then get an hour and 10 minutes for lunch/changing into dance clothes and warming up. Arts block is from 1:10-6:00.

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? Very rarely. This year we have two theatre students who are experienced dancers and they take barre with us a few days a week. Otherwise, there are beginning to advanced dance electives for non majors.

JOB PLACEMENT

Is career counseling/job placement assistance offered? Yes, the teachers are all very helpful. There are required meetings for seniors

If yes, at what year does that counseling start? Whenever you ask. A meeting is required when you're a senior

What does the counseling include? Help finding colleges, trainee programs, and companies to apply and audition for

How often do company director's visit the school for viewings? When Company directors come it is a master class, not an audition. College directors however, do often come and teach a class where students who are applying to the school will be considered. This year the on campus college auditions (for seniors) and masterclasses for the rest of us included Indiana University, Boston Conservatory, Mercyhurst, and University of Southern California. There is also a day where several colleges come and watch a class. The colleges that came were Alma College, Marcyhurst, Wayne State University, and Western Michigan State University.

How common is it for students to leave the school to join companies prior to graduation? never

Do any dancers from this program go on to professional performing careers? Teaching careers? Yes

Who are recent guest artists or companies who have been in residence at the school? The year before last Misty Copeland came.

Last year Houston Ballet II was here and various choreographers.

This year we have had/ will have quite a few:

-Carlos Lopez (American Ballet Theatre's ballet master) taught a master class

-Michael Spencer Phillips (choreographer) choreographed a piece that will be performed at the show in March

-Arturo Fernandez (Lines Contemporary Ballet's ballet master) taught a masterclass

-Deborah Wingert (Repetiteur for the George Balanchine Trust and former dancer with New York City Ballet) taught two masterclasses and some balanchine repertoire

-Aleksandra (Shura) Baryshnikov (dance improvisation teacher and daughter of Mikhail Baryshnikov) Will teach contact improv classes

-Megan Williams (Choreographer) will choreograph a piece for performance in March

-Fana Tesfaioris (Dancer with Alvin Ailey, American Dance Theatre) Will teach masterclasses in Lester Horton Modern Dance Technique

-Christopher Williams (choreographer) will choreograph a piece for the performance in March (I believe)

-Pablo Fransisco Ruvalcaba (repetiteur for Jose Limon Dance Foundation) will stage A Choreographic offering and teach classes on Jose Limon modern dance technique

-Jessica Lang (artistic director of Jessica Lang Dance, choreographer, and former member of Twyla Tharp's company) Will teach masterclass and company will perform

-Paul Sutherland (former dancer with the Joffrey Ballet and the Harkness Ballet, only Repetiteur authorized to set Agnes deMille's Rodeo) Will stage Rodeo

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

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  • 2 months later...

I want to begin with saying "Thank you" to all parents who provided valuable information on this board.

My DD is still very young, but this school seems right fit for her in the future.

She has been taking Vaganova ballet training and she loves the style. What kind of ballet style they teach here at Interlochen?

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Awoken - There really isn't a specific style of ballet that they teach. But, Joseph Morrissey, the dance director, was trained at Harid Academy which is a Vagonova ballet training program.

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Ballet dragon - Thank you. I was reading your insight on this thread. It helps me a lot not only for the information about this school but wisdom of a parent with older (than my child) child(ren). We live long, but doable driving location too. Also it is helpful to know that which college or university graduates go after they finish their years at Interlochen. Best wishes to you and your DS!

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