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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Want to be professional, is it too late???

Guest Phantomsgirl

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Guest Phantomsgirl

I am new to this forum and I had a few questions? I am 20 yrs. old and have done about 4 yrs. of ballet altogether. I just started ballet up again and I am seriously thinking of putting all my time and effort into training to be a professional. I am 6ft though, but I do have a very slim figure. Any answers, opinions would be greatly appreciated.

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I believe it is too late for classical ballet- usually people your age have contracts with professional companies already for a few years.

Becoming pro requires many many years of consistant, everyday, high quality training and the older you get the less quickly you do learn.

Dancers on a professional track usually start serious ballet training at the age of 8- 10 years and start out with ballet lessons 4 or 5 days a week which later on moves to a 6 or 7 day schedule when they advance. Not to talk about the physical excellence most of them have - naturally perfect turnout, good feet, long, slim legs, a short torso and long arms from the very beginning.

It takes at least 10 years to train a professional ballet dancer- even people who start ballet lessons at the age of 14 are told it was too late to go pro. Go figure.

Nevertheless a late starter can become a good dancer with the right amount and quality of training- some even got to dance smaller roles in local ballet companies. A professional career is not the option for you anymore but you can become a serious semi- professional recreational dancer. Some late starters even became Pilates, Modern Dance and Preballet teachers- there are loads of options out there- except for becoming a professional ballet dancer.

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Victoria Leigh

Hello Phantomsgirl, welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers. :yes:


While Shulie is basically right, we actually almost never say never, in terms of people we can't see. It is not unheard of for a late starter to become a professional, but it IS very rare. The amount of natural talent, the quality of your training, and the quantity of your training all come into play, and it's really not something you can just decide to do or not, since it is a life of it's own, and requires an incredible amount of time and commitment.


The other problem is that you are so tall. While it is possible to become a classical dancer even being that tall, you would have to be a VERY exceptional dancer who can move right into solo roles, as you will not fit with a corps de ballet. You would also have to find a company with male dancers tall enough to partner you, and on pointe you are way over 6 feet!


Hate to be discouraging, but the odds are really not in your favor.

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I don't think that 20 is to old to start a career. In the US at least, most girls don't get contracts in thier teens. Its actually rather rare to get a contract much before 20, although many are apprenticing at 18-19.


6 feet tall is probably the biggest issue for classical ballet. There are some contemporary companies that like taller girls, but 6 feet is very tall.


Top notch training is necessary. That's 6 days a week, several hours a day, with very good teachers. Unless you're phenominal, it would be really difficult to have a career in ballet where you make your living doing it.


If you have nothing to lose by doing the training, then go for it. You could get the training, and then decide what you want to do with it. If getting the training means sacrificing everything, then it's probably not wise.


The life of a professional ballet dancer is difficult. You're poor, you're tired and sore, you don't have a long career. You often don't get cast the way you would like, and you have to do exactly what the artistic director wants you to do. The seasons are short, and you need many "filler" jobs while you're off season. Plus you need to maintain your training during those off times. It's not glamorous.


There are many people who do the training, and decide for whatever reason that a career is not what they want. But if the process of training is worth it to you, and many people gain a LOT out of it, then go for it. There's a ton of adults on this board who dance every day as a serious "hobby" or "lifestyle", who perform in local shows, and are quite content and happy (and obsessed).


Training comes first. If you have the means($$$ and time), start with that, see how it goes, and worry about the career stuff later.


For reference, I've been training for almost threee years as an adult who hopes to dance in a professional company (and I'm older than you). I already have an established career and education if the ballet doesn't work out, so it's not like I will ruin my life in the process. Nothing to lose except.... It has cost me about $15,000 dollars in savings. The personal growth has been worth it to me even if I never dance on stage.


And I'll say that it's very difficult to get paid jobs. I have a lot of natural talent and a "perfect" body, and am still trying to claw my way in. There's a ton of girls with natural talent and a "perfect" body. Many who are 18. Competitive is an understatement. It's very, very hard. Emotionally, physically, and financially.


I don't want to sound too discouraging. Just start with step one. The training.



edited...I posted at the same time as Ms.Leigh.

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While not qualified to answer if you actually have a chance to have a pro ballet career, I would like to say that if you love to dance, train as much as you can and consider dancing professionally in other venues- A dancer with great ballet training is a huge asset in a lot of musical theatre, and a living can be made. Not to mention the fact that dancing in musicals can be really fun! :angry:

If you consider this, I'd mix in some other forms of dance training, especially theatre jazz, and why not see if you have a voice in that fabulous tall body of yours... Try some singin! I'm not saying you have to become a fantastic singer (who knows, you may be though!) but carrying a tune and holding a harmony can be important.

While I understand that is is not the ballet career you may dream of, you may find it to be a great alternative.

Just my 2 cents. :cool2:


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Guest Phantomsgirl

Thankyou to all who replyed, I was surprised how many people did reply even after one day. I really appreciated reading everyones opinons and advice. It is nice to hear from other fellow dancers. Musical theater is also one of my other passions, so thanks for the advice Sandi.

"Dance like no one is watching, sing like no one is listening."

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Guest Rick Heiman

20 may be too old in general to become a prima with a major ballet company, but it is certainly not too old to become an excellent dancer. I started over 30! I just kept at it, despite what people thought, or said...studied 7 years of ballet, and modern, jazz, ballroom, belly dance. Now I direct a small fusion dance company, teach, and perform around the U.S. and in Europe.


I'd say starting late, study as many styles as possible. There are always choreographers looking for versatile performers. You might not get rich, but if you push yourself to your own level of excellence, are punctual and reliable in rehearsals, a team player, and develop your ability to perform with total commitment and passion, you can perform- a lot!

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To reinforce what everyone else said...I actually know a girl who started in her late teens. She also went to college and got a degree (outside of dance). She dances professionally in a small company, and does ballet related side jobs like teaching. So...no...you will most likely never be a principal with a major company. But there are options. Especially if $$ isn't much of a concern. Of course, there are always options in other forms of dance. My best friend started out wanting to be a professional ballerina, but the competiton got to her. Even though she was amazing at ballet...her average proportions (she was not stick thin like her competitors) wasnt getting her no where in the big time professional world. But she really enjoyed modern and now she makes a living in a professional modern company. There is also jazz, broadway dance, and tap..which is alot easier to get into when your not a 12 year old waif. Of course, you can become a very good ballet dancer and be truly dedicated and not be professional....like many people on this board including myself. There are also numerous jobs in the ballet world that don't involve actually dancing (dance admin for instance). Actually, it's almost like being at a great party where major drama is going on..but instead of being a part of it you are sitting back enjoying your martini. Your still at the party...your just not involved in all the heady drama. By all means...follow your dream and see how far you can get. Like everyone has said...never say never. Read some autobiographys of some professional ballerinas. You may come to find that their lives as professionals are often alot harder and less glamorous than you thought. Do some research on major ballet companies and smaller companies and find out what they do look for. Good luck.

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Here's a picture of Ariana Lallone, a widely admired principal at PNB. It's Caniparoli's "Lambarena", a role she simply owns. :) I think she's an inch short of 6 feet tall. Don't know her biography much, but I don't think she come to the PNB school until after finishing high school.


I bring this up to say, it _could_ happen. As others have suggested in this thread, as long as the journey is worthwhile, the destination is not critical. If the bare possibility is enough to help you follow your own bliss, what's not to like? The worst that can happen is that you'll spend your youth doing something you truly love instead of building a career and retirement fund. Is that so bad?


Full disclosure - I took the other path; never took any dance class until I retired, at 56. Couldn't have done it if I had _not_ had the career and retirement fund. I can't pretend to say which is the better path, everyone has to make their own choices. But they are all worthy.

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Guest Phantomsgirl

That picture is really cool. Every time I see a picture like that, it makes me enjoy

what I do even more. If guys want to see a good movie about working hard in a sport even when there is little hope, you should see Million Dollar Baby. It is a great movie. :wink:

" Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly, Hold fast to dreams for if dreams go, life is a barren field frozen with snow."

Langston Hughes

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I guess it's time to do my "I have a tall daughter speech"...she is close to 5'11" & is an apprentice with a classical ballet company. Although none her height were hired by PNB right out of their professional division, 3 others as tall as she is all are now working dancers. While these kids all trained as dancers for years, & their height made it a little harder, it can be done! (My dd was Ariana Lallone's "mirror double" in a PNB production a couple of years ago.)

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  • 14 years later...

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