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Ballet Talk for Dancers

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I'm a freshman at vassar currently, so I don't know everything about the dance program yet but could probably answer most questions. I'm taking intermediate ballet here, which meets twice a week for an hour and a half. The classes are rather large. The accompaniest is amazing though and I think that the teacher is good. Then there are optional pointe classes of 3 different levels that each meet once a week. I'm taking intermediate pointe which in a few weeks will be an hour long (we're building up to it). There is an amazing dance company here which is very serious and also a dance club which is a little less competitive and with a more hip-hop focus. let me know if you have any questions.

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  • 4 years later...

My DS is a freshman at Vassar and he couldn't be happier. He agonized over the college vs. ballet decision, and finally decided on college. I wasn't sure how much dancing he would do, but he has ballet classes five days a week, and he loves John Meehan who is the ballet teacher and director of the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre. The teachers are willing to work with any student as much as they want to train, and Mr. Meehan helped my DS get a job in a local production of "The Nutcracker". Although the school has no dance major, only a dance concentration, they have been extremely supportive of my son's dancing endeavors. One student recently left mid-way through sophomore year to try to get on with a company, and the school was supportive of his leave of absence to do so. Please let me know if you have any questions about the program, and I will try to answer them.

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  • 4 years later...

Anyone know if the VRDT company does ballet on a regular basis? I understand they do modern mostly, but there are hints that they do some ballet. It sounds like a wonderful company.

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My son just graduated and was a member of VRDT for four years. PM me with any questions you have. It is a wonderful program, and they do ballet on a regular basis (as long as they have the dancers to dance it!) While my son was there, John Meehan brought in Edwaard Liang (from Ballet Met), Brian Roeder (from ABT), Miriam Magdaviani (from NYCity Ballet) and Merrill Ashley who worked with him and another dancer on Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. Mr. Meehan also usually choreographs at least one major ballet number himself and is willing to do more. It just depends on how much time the dancers are willing to spend. He will work with the dancers individually at their level and do as much or as little as they want to do. Several dancers from VRDT are now dancing professionally after graduation.

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Please let's share on the open thread so everyone researching the program may benefit.

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  • 2 months later...

Hello Nutmeg,

Sorry, I did not realize you responded. : ) I was wanting to know more about the VRDT program. How often do they perform? How many hours on average a week do they rehearse? Are the rehearsals on campus? They take Vassar dance classes in addition? Do they do pointe work for ballet at least 4 times a week? My daughter has danced since she was little and currently dances about 15 hours a week with two performances a year currently. She dances in summer intensives in the summer. She would like to continue dancing at a high level in college, but not major in dance. School will be the focus. Looking for the right balance with high academics. This looks very promising. Please do share your experiences. Especially about the hours and the amount of ballet.

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OK--talked to my DS to try to get the answers to some of your questions. There are ballet classes five days a week (Mon-Fri). Ostensibly, the Mon-Wed-Fri classes are for advanced students while the Tues-Thurs are for low intermediate, but advanced students who want to have more classes can and do take the low intermediate classes as well. My son was not positive how many of these involved pointe but he thought it was only two or three. I'm sure John Meehan would be happy to answer this last question.


With respect the the VRDT rehearsals/ performances: these are completely separate from the daily classes. The main VRDT performance occurs at the Bardavon Theater in downtown Poughkeepsie in February or March. At this performance, there is generally one ballet rep (which often involves solo variations), two faculty reps (the VRDT dancers are divided into two groups--one dances a piece choreographed by Stephen Rooks and one by Kathy Wildberger) and then there is usually a guest choreographer who comes in and sets a modern piece. The rehearsals for the modern rep are usually over October break so you have to be willing to stay on campus during this time period if you want to be in the modern rep. Recent past choreographers include Doug Varone, Larry Keigwin, Bill T. Jones... The ballet rep has sometimes included pieces from the Balanchine Trust (Merrill Ashley is a friend of John Meehan's and will come to set the piece if John feels the talent is there to perform it) or from guest artists (ie. Edwaard Liang). The rest of the pieces are choreographed by students. Usually there is a performance in October where the students showcase how their pieces are coming, and the faculty ask questions and critique, which is always interesting to watch. The student pieces are all performed at "Final showings" in November, and then the faculty decide which student pieces will be included in the Bardavon performance. (There is also a "Spring Showings" in April which is not associated with VRDT, but often has ballet variations coached by John Meehan).


As far as rehearsal time goes--everyone attends rehearsals on Monday and Wednesday evenings for all the main pieces--usually these are 2-3 hours). The student pieces rehearse whenever all of the dancers can get together, so additional rehearsal time is very much dependent on how many student pieces your dancer is in. (The faculty monitors this and makes sure dancers aren't over-extended). An average number of rehearsal hours for those in the student pieces would be 2 hours. (So total rehearsal time of 6-8 hours a week on top of the dance classes).


It is a small nurturing department that allows students to dance as much or as little as they feel they have time for. I hope that answers some of your questions!

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Oh--and all rehearsals are on-campus, except for the week before Bardavon when students are bused to the theater for rehearsals.

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  • 3 weeks later...

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