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I'm getting 'old' too fast! (Age and dancing).


Guest Arilyin

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Guest Arilyin

Hey,

While looking for intensive summer programs, I began to think. Why are there few to no summer ballet programs that will accept dancers older the age of 18, but who might not be too old to become professional? Age seems to be a problem when it comes to ballet. The message I got as a teen is that you have to be a prodigy (ie. rich with connections and families who are willing to live in trailors so you can dance) in order to make it. In many dance schools, this means starting pointe at 10, dropping out of highschool (or being home schooled) to meet the demands of a 12pm-4pm dance scedule every day, and paying anywhere from 200-500 a month. So the general message is, if you haven't made it by 18, you won't.

Is there any hope for the few of us who couldn't complete our dance training in highschool because of family or financial constraints? Basically, I've just turned 21 and female. I've danced on and off for 12 years, and reached a pre-professional level. At 17, I had to quit because of family issues (though I did dance on and off here and there). I tried shutting ballet out of my life, but the dream still haunts me. Yet, I've been dancing and dieting since June, when I met some ballet dancers who didn't start their professional carrears until ages 22-25. My current ballet teacher tells me that I still have a chance on a regional level. But finding excelled and serious training for my age (especially for the summer) is next to impossible(of course they don't know I'm older than 18 unless I tell them).

I find it almost hypocritical that many dance schools host their programs in college facilities, and encourage excelled academics, but do not allow college students to audition for their programs. I was also under the impression that there are programs for aspiring ballet dancers to finish college and then persue professional ballet. Does anyone know of these programs? If anyone has any advice, thoughts or comments, (suggestions for training etc), on either my situation, or the whole age situation in general, I'd love to hear them. Thanks,

A

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  • Administrators

Hello Arilyin, welcome to Ballet Alert Online, and the Young Dancers' forum!

 

It is a concern for the dancer with a late start, but I don't think that every program would reject you for age reasons if you really have the ability and the level to achieve professional status. We have accepted college age students in our summer program at Washington Ballet, for instance, as long as they are qualified for the top level of training in this program. I think there are others, though not all, who will do this too.

 

As to college programs, there are a number of very good ones which have degrees in ballet performance, and offer good training and a lot of performing experience. These have been discussed a lot here, so you might find some info on topics still open in the Young Dancers forum. Some of the programs that I feel are the most valid are the University of Oklahoma, SMU, SUNY Purchase, and Indiana. There are others, and it might help you to order the Dance Magazine College Guide from their web site.

 

Since you are new here, I would just like to explain that the Young Dancers forums are for questions to the moderators, who are teachers, and therefore we would really prefer not to be addressed as "Hey". Thank you! :)

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Guest Arilyin

Thanks for replying,

And I'm sorry about saying 'hey,' but how would you like us to address the letters? :)

As for summer programs, I don't know what kind of level I'm shooting for. Right now I'm dancing four to six days a week, sometimes doubling more than one class a day. Most of the classes are labled advanced, but I don't know how they'd compare to advanced class in an intensive summer program. How do I know what to shoot for? I go to ballets, but sometimes I feel that with enough rehearsal, many dancers could do what the dancers do in these performances. Would it help to watch an advanced class at Oregon Ballet Theater?

Also, do private lessons help in my situation? I think that I'm not strong on pointe yet (though I've been strong in the past), and none of these classes are pointe classes. I think a lot of my apprehension on pointe comes from a lack ofconfidence, and the fear of falling. (My only minor injury happened on pointe). How does one get over this? Would you suggest taking barre on pointe, or taking lower level classes on pointe? If so, how many times a week?

Any advice would be helpful please. You all are very helpful.

Thanks for being here for us :)

A

 

PS: Stamina. Is it okay to ask about high energy tips (for example, other exercises, foods/fluids, and sleep cycles?) I'm asking about tips to help you have enough energy to dance up to 4 hours a day in classes where the combinations are long.

Thanks again :),

A

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That's a lot of questions, Arilyin! ;) As to the start of posts, they are posts, not really letters, so they do not need to be "addressed" at all, unless of course you wish to address it to a specific person. On the Young Dancers forums, that would of course be me, (Ms. Leigh), or Major Johnson. Most of the posts are not addressed directly to either of us, however.

 

It's kind of hard for me to know where you are in your training at this point, but it does sound like you have a few problems involved in aiming for a professional career now. Not saying it is impossible, but just that it will be very difficult. The loss of those years, the lack of pointe work now, and the fact that you have never attended a summer intensive and don't seem to have a clear idea yourself of where you are. I believe it might be time to look at your school and be sure that it qualifies as a pre-professional school. Also perhaps seek an evaluation from someone at Oregon Ballet Theater, if that is the professional company in your area. Would you qualify for the most advanced level at that school? Is that the best school in your area? If so, why aren't you studying there? Do they not accept adults in their professional division?

 

I'm a bit puzzled by your thoughts about going to ballets and thinking lots of dancers could do that with enough rehearsal. What ballets are you attending?What major professional companies have you seen?

 

As to the your final question, dancers often do some extra work with Pilates or a similar program, but food, fluid, and sleep cycle are the same for dancers as for anyone else who follows a sensible, healthy plan. Professional dancers tend to be "night people", but they have to be able to adjust easily to change in their schedule, since they must perform at night and often go to sleep much later than people with 9-5 jobs, but during rehearsals they are on a day time schedule. They need to be flexible in more ways than one! :eek:

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Guest Arilyin

Despite being senile, my current teacher believes that company is still quite possible. She's younger, but she's trained in the Vagonova concept, and danced with Joffery and NYCB. Her classes are challenging, yet I don't know how to tell if her school is good. Oregon Ballet Theater It's suppose to be good, yet I've heard parents and teachers complain that their students don't improve there, and that the school has a hard time sending students to other companies. I used to dance there, but it changed policies and began requiring auditions. 350 of us were initially cut.(I was 12, my classmates were 14-16, but I still had baby fat!) We were also mislead as our teachers told us we wouldn't be cut as the audition were for restructuring levels. Many of our teachers left OBT, and many of my friends dropped out, claiming that the new director was cruel. She's gone now, and I could ask for an evaluation, but the school won't accept dancers older than 18.

I've attended many intensive summer programs in the past. I've also been dancing on pointe once a week since July. Should I do more pointe? How do you get over confidence issues after an injury on pointe?

On my comment about "lots of dancers could do that with rehearsal," I'm sorry I was unclear. I meant that lots of dancers in my current advanced classes could perform those performances with enough rehearsal. I was trying to express my inability to judge how close I am to company level. I've also not been exposed to anything beyond the performers in Russian summer programs, ballets I've rented, and OBT. Since OBT changed, there hasn't been a lot of visiting companies in Portland.

Last, I may have an opportunity to go to NYC for 8 months starting Jan. My school has an exchange with Sarah Lawrence College, and even though it doesn't have the best ballet program in the world, their teachers seem to know a lot, and could probably evaluate me. I think being in NY would give me lots of chances to audition for several summer programs. Do you think this would be a good idea? There are a couple of schools I'm looking at, one of which is both Vagonova and accepts kids through college age. (I love Vagonova)

Last, when I audition, I would be looking at smaller regional companies. Do you know of any to keep an eye on? I will go anywhere :)Sorry this was so long.

 

Thanks again for the wonderful advice and I’d love to hear more :),

A

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Gee, I had no idea any of us old Joffreyites were gone senile, but then, the company is going on fifty(!) years old, so I guess I better get out my crutches for when the Grim Inevitable strikes! ;)

 

But seriously, you sound like you know what you're looking at; a good look at a professional company class will show you in a snap what the difference between them and even an advanced pre-professional division. It can't be described in words, a knowledgable viewer has to see it.

 

About the only way of coming back from an injury and overcoming fear is a lot like riding a horse - you fall off, get right back on. After awhile, you'll learn how to do it right, but expect rough spots along the way. Only the most fortunate avoid them altogether, and I think some of them are fibbing about how little trouble pointe first gave them. So yes, to at least one more pointe class a week!

 

There are worse programs than Sarah Lawrence, and being in Bronxville will afford you easy access to NYC, and schools there. You should avail yourself of the opportunity when you don't have classes at SL. If it all comes together for you to pursue that course of action, by all means, do it.

 

And don't be so absolutely sold on one method of pedagogy if an opportunity opens up elsewhere. Vaganova is a fine method, a good method, but it's not the ONLY method. A Cuban ballet master once said, "There is only one way to dance correctly; the purpose of all the different schools of thought on training are simply there to get the student to that point." A wise man!

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