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Fab Six?


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As I was poring over the Colleges and Universities with ballet programs page, I noticed a couple of references to the "Fab Six" ballet programs, but even after a few rounds on the search engine, I couldn't find a list of these six schools. Could someone tell me this list, because apparently it is common knowledge, and as a high school senior I would like to investigate as many options as possible.


I'm really sorry if this has been posted before, but I couldn't find it anywhere :thumbsup:

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I coined the phrase based on Victoria Leigh's response on the College confusion thread in which she listed, in her opinion, the top ballet programs: "Indiana, Butler, U. of Oklahoma, SUNY Purchase, SMU, and U. of South Florida." She has since amended the list to include 10 schools that she recommends (see the standard hrs of class per week thread). Namely:


Indiana University

SUNY Purchase



University of Oklahoma

University of South Florida

Southern Methodist University

Texas Christian University

North Carolina School of the Arts

University of Utah


Personally, I think that the University of Arizona should be added to that list. While daily ballet classes aren't a fixed feature, they are certainly available, and I feel that the flexibility that this schedule allows is a bonus. Not only do UA dance majors routinely request "overrides" of up to 25 credits per semester (19-21 is more usual) in order to take more dance classes, but I love the fact that tuition remains the same for anything over 12 credits! On the flip side, you'll never hear of a UA dance major having to find supplemental dance classes at an area studio, as the program offers a packed schedule of advanced classes. This semester, my daughter is taking two classes of jazz in order to have it daily (MWF plus TTh).

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Yes, since I originally did that list I have learned of the University of Arizona program, and heard very positive things about it. :D

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I would also consider University of Cincinnati - CCM, which has daily ballet (except Sat) and each week pas, variations, pointe, etc. etc., relationships with Cincinnati Ballet, Dayton Ballet and Joffrey Ballet.

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I hear so many mixed opinions about SUNY Purchase, I am surprised that it is on the list as a top college for ballet. Why isn't Mercyhurst on that list? When we visited the school the dance admissions counselor said it was one of the top schools in the country for ballet. I know that they are trying to promote their own school and program, but can they give out false information?

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mygurl: We visited several of the "top" college ballet programs over the past year, as well as Mercyhurst. We had an opportunity to not only meet with the faculty but to observe (and my daughter participate) in ballet classes. While we did not see all of the schools listed on this thread, my daughter and I felt that Mercyhurst was a contender and quite competitive with some of these schools. When I say this, I am referring to the caliber of the advanced students, the facilities, the faculty, the program, the performances, the performance space and the classes themselves.


My daughter almost decided to go there but changed her mind in the end.


One note: They have a jazz teacher there who is beyond fabulous. I'd have to go look up his name on the website but he was awesome. He was so good, in fact, I didn't even watch the ballet classes in the other studios while he was teaching!!

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BalletNutter, thanks for the information. My DD has been accepted into the dance department at Mercyhurst, as we heard this weekend. She still has to apply to the academic side for admission into the school. We are still going to look at SUNY Purchase, and the University of Hartford's Hartt School, before any decisions are made. What schools did you look at? Also, if you wouldn't mind, what school did your daughter decide to go with, and why...

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Congratulations to your dd, mygurl!! Wonderful news!


My dd looked at a few of the "fab six" college ballet programs and also a few colleges that did not offer ballet majors at all but rather ballet classes to cover all bases in the event she one day changed her mind about majoring in dance.


Alas, that is what indeed happened when it came time for her to make a decision about where to go this fall. She decided to attend Indiana U at Bloomington where she plans to do a minor in dance through the kinesiology department. However, I have a hunch now that she's there, she may decide against the minor entirely and just take the non-majors ballet classes which are offered through the music school (which is the program everyone knows). She is really enjoying thoses classes and as an added benefit, she knows someone who is doing the same thing from a former ballet studio. The two are old friends and having a great time dancing together again. So far, it has been a great experience and she is eager to attend the ballet performances of the music school. In fact, she has to see the fall performance and write a critique for class. I wish I could go with her!! :o

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If you loook at the University of Iowa site, they state their dance program is considered amongst the top 10 in the nation. Ballet given an equal focus with modern at UI.

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I'm starting to think that there may be more than one top ten list. I guess it just depends, as with anything else, who you talk to, or in this case, what list you look at!!

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I really don't think that there IS any kind of official top any number list, in terms of schools with strong ballet programs. There are lists created by some of us who know about certain schools, but that does not make them the "Fab six" or the "Top Ten". It makes them the schools we believe have the better programs, however, we don't know all of the programs, either. For instance, I was not aware until this year that Arizona and Iowa have what appear to be considered very good programs. This is great that there are more good schools for dancers! :)

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Taradriver, the problem with these claims (and MANY college dance programs make them) is that there is no agency or organization behind these alleged rankings. Except for Carole Everett's book ("ARCO Performing Arts Major's College Guide"), I've seen no rankings of college dance programs. You won't find any in the other college guides, such as U.S. News or Peterson's, and even Dance Magazine's College Guide doesn't contain a ranking. So where are these claims coming from?


I happen to think Carole Everett's rankings are outdated, as I feel that many dance programs have grown more competitive due to the sheer numbers of highly trained applicants, but I think her book is valuable as a complement to Dance Magazine's guide. The "fab" list compiled by this group may not be complete, but I think it comes closest to recognizing the programs that offer the highest caliber of ballet training that can lead to a professional career as a ballet dancer.


I'd like to point out that saying "ballet is given an equal focus with modern" is not the same as saying that there is an especially high focus on ballet that can lead to a performance career. I have no first-hand knowledge about UI's program, so I don't wish to be seen as knocking it. I just wish to point out how aspiring ballet "majors" should be reading descriptions such as these, in general, in order to highlight questions they should be asking themselves when they check out the programs. In the case of UI's website, they qualify this claim by saying that it's "In the studio area, ballet and modern dance training are equally emphasized." The question, then, is how much emphasis is ballet given in performances and how often do students get to perform on pointe.


Also, an aspiring ballet major (i.e., someone wishing to concentrate in ballet) is not necessarily looking for an EQUAL classroom emphasis in ballet and modern, but should be seeking out a program where they can opt for substantially more ballet over modern. I'd like to use the information posted on UI's website to clarify the distinction I'm trying to make.


Here are the University of Iowa's graduation requirements for a BFA in dance:

Out of 120 credits needed to graduate, a minimum of 58 credits must be non-dance and a minimum of 62 credits must be in dance. Their program requires 34 credits of core dance classes (things like Dance History, choreography and 6 credits of performance) and 28 of technique. Of this 28, 12 must be of ballet and 12 of modern, leaving 4 credits to apply as desired (out of a list that also includes jazz and pointe). Thus, 57% of all dance credits or 26% of all college credits can be in ballet.


In contrast, here are the University of Arizona's requirements for a BFA in dance:

Out of 125 credits needed to graduate, a minimum of 39 credits must be non-dance (43-47 if the student cannot pass the foreign language proficiency) and 80 credits must be in dance (with 9 of those being in theater and music). Their program requires 43 core credits (including those 9, plus things like Dance History, choreography and 8 credits of performance) and a minimum of 24 technique credits. Of this 24, 4 each must be in ballet, modern and jazz. They also require a minimum of 13 dance elective credits. Thus, at least 78% of all dance credits or 36% of all college credits can be in ballet.


Other factors must also be considered when reading between the lines of these claims. How many levels of ballet are offered compared to the other styles? UI offers four levels of modern, but only three levels of ballet (with their upper pointe class numbered on par with Modern IV, thus serving as a 4th level, I guess). UA, in contrast, offers "400-levels" (dance majors cannot take "100-levels" for credit) for ballet, modern and jazz, PLUS a 400-level pointe class and 400-level ballet repertoire. Finally, college-seekers must also find out how many extra dance classes - above the minimums - dance majors can PRACTICALLY load up on (not just in theory). The determining factors are maximum credits allowed, how much extra credits cost, scheduling of alternative dance classes and caps on class sizes. My daughter's case is a bit unusual, but she had no problem taking 29 dance credits and 16 non-dance, academic credits in her first year at UA. While UA recommends that dance majors take two academic classes a semester in order to complete their degrees on time, there are some students who only take one academic class and pile on extra dance classes, probably with the idea of not graduating and simply leaving the program when a company offer comes along.


Which, of couse, is the ultimate factor in ranking a program highly in ballet: how many of their dancers go on to become professional ballet dancers? If even a handful of their dancers manage to land with a ballet-based company SOMETIME down the road, I would personally say that they have a strong ballet program. Clearly this means that the program was able to serve as a stepping stone in some dancers' paths towards a professional career. However, the more that a program has a reputation for doing this, the higher their ballet "ranking" will be. Of course, other dance programs may do a good job of preparing dancers to perform professionally in other styles of dance, which certainly makes them worthy programs to consider, but this only widens the net of so-called "top" programs (not just "top" ballet programs) and makes choosing the top 10 all the harder, as places like NYU/Tisch and Point Park are now in the mix.


I don't mean to cause any hard feelings, but I do feel that the concept of a generic "top dance program" (meaning outside of the consideration of being tops in ballet) is a subjective one and that Dance Magazine has the right idea. Only the dance student can say what program is best for them, so this push for rankings and listings of pros and cons is misplaced. But when it comes to offering BT members a list of programs that are consistently worthy of checking out alongside any other programs that may meet a dancer's needs, I do think this group is capable of coming to a consensus of what ranks "up there" without including the entire list of schools from our "Colleges and Universities with Ballet Programs" section. The University of Iowa, Mercyhurst, or the University of Arizona may very well be fit for inclusion in such a list, but self-proclamations do not make it so.


P.S. Victoria Leigh added a new response on this thread while I was busy composing this which makes these points much more succinctly. :innocent:

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In searching out best college dance programs the Arco book and Dance Magazine recommendations are pretty helpful. If you are in touch with teachers from good professional schools they can guide you-as they've had many students go through making these choices. It is a known that IU and NCARTS, and Purchase produce dancers who enter ballet companies. In looking carefully at some college dance websites you can find out about the faculty and this is the most important consideration. Looking closely at schools we found some which promote their program as highly competitive did not offer the quality of training dd has had. The training should be as good as or better. So although there are not official rankings, the well recommended programs are known for their reputations from within the dance world.

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