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Ballet Talk for Dancers

What good is it to complete a degree?


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Hello again, it's been a while :grinning:


Anyway, I have another question, which pertains to my boyfriend this time. He began a degree 10 years ago at the music conservatory in cincinnati. He had a a scholarship, etc, etc, and got an apprenticeship later on, when he had around 5 or 6 classes left to take, so about a semester's worth of work left to do on his bachelor's in dance. He is now nearing 30 years old, wants to move into teaching and choreography but his own professional dance career never took as much flight as it could have due to a knee injury (which also messed up his earlier dreams of playing soccer). So, my question to you all is, how much would finishing his degree, now more than 10 years later do for his current career outlook'? He's a great dance teacher and has tech experience, etc as well as the many ties and references he's made throughout his years in dance, but it's pretty much to a point now where he really needs to buckle down after one main concrete goal. What would you guys advise?

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From a teaching standpoint, a degree would give him one of the credentials necessary to be a faculty member of a university/college dance program, with full university benefits. Non-degreed faculty cannot be given the title of professor or asst. professor, rise to the administrative level, receive tenure, etc.


Depending upon the size/stature of the school, most college dance programs are looking for faculty who have both a degree and professional dance experience. There are faculty at college programs without the pro experience, but in looking at bios it seems to me that the majority of this group have very impressive academic credentials, including research, published works, etc. There are also those on college faculties who do not have a degree. These are most often those with impressive pro experience.


When they have both a degree and pro experience, it seems that the need for either to be amazingly impressive is somewhat negated. :thumbsup:

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What about for running your own company or dance school? He's teaching more and more classes at the local studio but still, it is only 4-5 classes (and sometimes privates), coupled with a paper route every other week, odd jobs around the studio and some money for dancing in some of the regional company's shows (nut and maybe the big spring performance). I know what I would do as far as keeping my fingers in the dance world, furthering my dance experience AND making sure I could not just feed myself but have some stability also, but I'm not him--only he can decide on a game plan, of course, but I'd say finishing the degree, even after all this time, would be the start of a good back-up plan. He says he wants to teach, well...if he finished his degree or even if he just applied based on experience alone, he could likely get a teaching position in a high school, teaching dance like he loves, rather than maintaining this paper route...adding money and experience and what he loves to do at the same time as he is trying to get more and more involved in the local dance studio where things certainly do seem to be coming together for him. But a degree? That takes time, commitment, follow-through and, yeah..a little extra cash, which is hard to come by of course but...when you weigh the options...community college classes=16 untis at around 24 dollars a unit=a nice degree in maybe a year or two tops (if he starts NOW) which, at the very least, would be a nice supplement to have even if he gets the red carpet rolled out to him at the dance studio. At least in my opinion. And...if he's wanting any kind of stability for himself let alone getting married and the responsibilities that entails.

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Speaking from a University point of view and not an arts points of view. I would say he would need to talk directly with institutions that he is interested in. After 10 years, at my institution, not many of the previous classes would be counted towards an BA/BS degree. There is a minimum number of credits a student must take at our institution in order to get a degree from the University.

It is unclear what degree you are thinking he might pursue. A teaching position in a public school typically requires a teaching certification and would require course work towards that from quite specialized schools, if it is a dance certificate.

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about a semester's worth of work left to do on his bachelor's in dance.



He's done all the work at the music conservatory in Cinncinati. Now, it would just be a matter of filling in those missing units...hoping that after ten years his inital work didn't expire!

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A close to finished degree will never be given the same credentials as a finished degree. If you are close to finish something, I always think it is better to finish it off than to let it go. If nothing else than for the papers. (they can be important some times :thumbsup: )


Anyway, in life, as far as I know, you will only miss what you have not done, what you have done might not help you, but maybe it will. That is a big difference sometimes between the ones who have something finished, and the ones who has not. Do not forget that any one who would think about hiring you (or your boy friend) or the parents coming with their children to a new school, would like to know why you never finished those last 6 months!!!

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Academic work DOES "expire." In all honesty, check the conservatory's website for more information. Contact the registrar if you can't find the information you need. Many times they will grant credit for "life experiences" but expect him to lose many credits. I'm going to guess he'd need 2 years to complete a degree after that length of time.

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I would also suggest contacting the head of CCM's dance department directly. The registrar will give you the University policy, which I don't know for undergraduates but for graduate students at UC (the University that the conservatory is part of) you have to be re-instated and pay a fine for each year that you are not enrolled.


The dance department would have to determine what classes would still be allowable and which would not, the registrar would not know this at any level of specificity.

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Thanks, ingve--your post pretty much echos my sentiments and thought train


Thanks, calamitous, for the info specific to the university.


I'm working on my ma myself, right now, having taught for two years, so I've done my fair share of examining the ins-and-outs of school systems, from secondary to grad. My second (or third) career should be in career advising, lol. I just wanted to get the professional ballet perspective , though, on what a BA re-started after ten years would even do for advancement or even just as a "back-up" for a dance-related career. Luckily for me I love french as much as dance so I'm happy persuing the language as a career with many, many possibilities if you present your candidature right. Him, I want him to be able to find a good, solid job that keeps him involved with dance. See, he didn't finish the BA in the first place because he got an apprenticeship (good!) but after that was not hired into the company, so he's done this and that tried to make it as a member of a different company and, well, that dream just never happened due to certain realities and the nature of professional dance.


Thanks for your insights and opinions as I'm trying to be the best advisor to him as I can and find some peace in my own mind. I KNOW it would be a pain for him to restart now. so would it be better to just claim "life experience"? My mom, as a mechinal engineer without license regrets to this day that she doesn't have that --- piece of paper. Even with how well she does and all she knows the fact she never actually got the piece of paper holds her back as far as salary and prestige although she is known to be excellent in her field, even made an associate despite the uncompleted degree.


When my boyfriend saw all those years ago that he wasn't making it in the company, even when he took a tech job which , yes, enhances his experience, couldn't he have even taken one class or something? Good grief, I can even do that with papers to grade, tests to right, curricculum to pick, classes for which to seek university approval AND I dance (performaing troupe at my church) and, and, and.


I guess you guys can get the idea: I'm extremely goal-oriented, methodical, and place a high importance on academics--maybe the actual classes don't mean much, but what they say about your follow-through is priceless and can only look good on your resume. I want to be very careful though and not push my wishes on him. It doesn't do any good if he feels he "has to" or whatever to please me. There can certainly be many roads that lead to the same goal but why he didn't do this years ago is a mystery to me--now any shot of a professional dance career is pretty much over, he'd have fines and money out-of-pocket to complete a degree that's so old maybe he should just not even bother (degree begun 2006...completed 09? what impression does THAT give?)


Oh, BTW--the 5-6 classes remaining unfinished can be in anything BUT dance (he's mentioned wanting to take a lighting class and working back up to speed on his high school French). He did finish all his dance at the conservatory, not the other classes that would allow him to finish the BA. I was thinking he could take, rather inexpensively, classes to transfer at the community college here although, yes, he knows his transcipts have been locked up and we'd have to see exactly what the conservatory would say about completion. I know there's a fee, but would they make him take additional classes on top of the ones he's already missing?

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I think they will make him take whatever classes he has not yet taken that are the requirements TODAY to receive the BA (these may be radically different than what they were 10 years ago). You can likely go to the college website and find the BA requirements for his degree and determine which courses he has not yet taken.


Also, as others have eluded to, most colleges require the last 30 credits or so (the equivalent of one year) to be earned at the college awarding the diploma. So, at this stage in the game, I do not think he will be able to take the remaining courses at a community college and transfer them to the pending degree.


He really needs to get a copy of his transcript (they cannot keep these from him, unless he has outstanding fees that were never paid) and then make an appointment with an advisor in the dance department. If he can find an advocate in the dance department (perhaps someone who was there and remembers him), he will be much more successful in getting the help he needs to finish his degree with the minimum amount of time and money. If he has completed his dance requirements however, they are not likely to give him life experience credits for core classes that might be missing in areas such as math, science, etc. But, he might get credit for a humanities class or something that could be related to the work he has done in the arts over the last 10 years.


The only way to find out how the school will approach this is for him to make an appt. and find out! He'll need to want to do this as much as you want him to, however. The time and money that will be required to make this happen while making a living wage will be his and the motivation must be as well. Best of luck to you both! :thumbsup:

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Going right back to very basics, a BA shows a prospective employer that you can carry a long-term project through to completion.

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Have him make an appointment with CCM ASAP, transcripts in hand, even if from the same school. He'll never know what's required until he asks. And he should get everything in writing and keep his own copy.


Every school has their own policy on when classes expire. In some cases, courses in literature may not expire but sciences do, for obvious reasons.


Good luck from someone who took 9 years to finish her B.A. Was it worth it? Absolutely!

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I have to back Mel on what he said. To complete a degree shows staying power. In truth, I think most of us who aquired a bachelors degree will agree that it doesn't buy you much but would we go back and not get the degree, absolutely not. However, it can buy a resume going on the 'to be considered pile' rather than into the discard bin. I hear a lot of former dancers who believe a degree is a worthless piece of paper, then there's the other group who envy the young kids of today who are getting a good academic education, being college ready for the day when ballet is over for them.


I know another young man close to 30 who after a decade in college still hasn't graduated. This situation your friend finds himself in is not unique or limited to those in the arts. To complete his degree may just help this young man move on. He may discover in himself that he can complete the long-term project! Self knowledge is all important! I know how strongly it is felt that 'our' young man finish his degree. I really do believe that to get so close and then abandon the degree is negative. Encourage him to do that last semester or two. I have girls friends who are going back to college to finish degrees they abandoned decades ago. The achievement they are experiencing is awe inspiring.

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Please have him contact CCM Dance dept. and ask to speak directly to Michael Tevlin. If you leave a message I am quite sure he will call you back! He is a wonderful person - and would be able to fill you in on what is necessary to complete the degree - it may be entirely possible to finish the CCM degree online or through correspondence if it is only academic courses that need to be completed. Also look around your local community for scholarships - for instance, I belong to a philanthropic sorority that hands out $1000 each year to a local non-traditional student. Good luck!

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