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US Universities with Strong Ballet Program


tutumonkey

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Moderators - please move this to the correct forum. I couldn't decide where to put it.

 

I was wondering which dance programs at US universities have the stongest ballet components? I've read some of the university threads and they seem to change from year to year. So, currently, which have the strongest ballet programs? tutumonkey :shrug:

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Tutumonkey, look up and down this forum and read entire threads on the schools in which you are interested. Remember, in one year, things don't change very much, or even two, for that matter.

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We are also on that path. for us the first four that come to mind are Indiana University,

University of Utah, University of Oklahoma and Unversity of Arizona which considers itself a complete dance program with equal time given to Ballet, Jazz, Modern.

 

Hushinfazen

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Butler University and College-Conservatory of Music at University of Cincinnati are also very strong in ballet. DD auditioned and visited both of these during her audition process last year as she was also looking for a strong collegiate ballet program. Good luck!

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Marzipan,

 

Thank-You for that addition! I am familiar with the Bulter program but only new of College-Conservatory of Music for their highly regarded Musical Theater Dept. What did you and your dd think of the Ballet Program?

 

 

 

Hushinfazen

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We live near Cincincinnati, and CCM seems to have both a strong program, and a known means of having their students "guest" in performances for regional ballet companies in Cincinnati and cities within an hour or two away.

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Posters, for reports on impressions, experiences, or just giving specific information on the various college programs, please post those on the appropriate individual program's dedicated thread. B)

 

Tutumonkey, as far as "which dance programs at US universities have the strongest ballet components", much like the answer to "which SI has the strongest program", the answer will be different for different dancers and their parents. What is "the strongest ballet component" will depend on what each person considers to be the elements of a "strong ballet component". For example, is it time spent performing, is it the nature and venue of the performances, is it the frequency of the performances, is it the manner in which roles are cast, is it the number of students accepted (or not accepted) to the program, is it the size of the program, is it the number of graduates dancing professionally, is it the number of students who leave the program early to accept a professional position, is it the program that incorporates more modern and/or jazz components, is it the program that melds modern and/or jazz into the ballet program, is it the program that focuses strictly on ballet to the exclusion of all other forms, is it the conservatory style program, or is it the BFA style program?

 

As you can see, for different dancers (and their parents), the answer to "which dance programs at US universities have the strongest ballet components" may actually have many answers depending on each dancer's preferred criteria.

 

Therefore, as balletbooster suggested, the best way for you and your dancer to answer that question is to do it for yourselves by reviewing the various threads listed in this Forum, visiting the universities' websites, visiting the campuses, and researching the programs and their qualities.

 

There have been numerous threads that talk about the "top 5 ballet programs", which traditionally elicited a listing (in no particular order) of Butler, IU, SMU, SUNY/Purchase, and Oklahoma. However, in more recent discussions, SUNY/Purchase is talked of as more of a modern program and other schools' ballet programs appear to be getting stronger, FSU and the Arizona school(s) for example. The only way to determine which ones appear the strongest these days --based upon your own criteria, needs, and preferences---is to review the threads and research the programs for yourself in terms of what YOUR dancer prefers, enjoys, and is looking for.

 

However, keep in mind that what is one man's treasure is another's trash, so any definitive listing really isn't possible--or even productive really. Much like the declaration that "If I can't dance in ABT, NYCB, Miami, etc, there is no point in dancing" is very short-sighted.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm going to take a different tack here and say that it IS possible to answer the question of "which dance programs at U.S. universities have the strongest ballet components," and additionally, I feel that this forum has lost sight in the recent past that this is a worthy topic to maintain. We can never come up with a definitive list, but I think there is value in offering up "Fab Six" lists that morph into top ten or whatever because it helps to remind us about the mission of this forum. In fact, given the way that the standards for the "Colleges and Universities with Ballet Programs" subforum have shifted significantly away from those applied to "2006/2007 Summer Intensives" subforum, I think the need to offer up such lists is even more important.

 

When it comes to college programs, the people in this forum seem to have forgotten that there is a difference between general college DANCE programs and colleges and universities with honest-to-gosh BALLET PROGRAMS. Cohesive ballet programs are distinct from merely offering ballet CLASSES as part of a program with a slightly different focus. The annual American Dance Festival, the Taylor School Intensive, the New York City Dance Alliance Summer Intensive and the Debbie Allen Dance Academy Summer Intensive offer ballet, too, as part of their programs, but we don't call those SIs "BALLET programs," now do we? Furthermore, you'll notice that we do not list "recreational" programs, or the summer "dance camps" that are sponsored by local studios.

 

So to claim that we don't get into comparing SIs to each other and saying which have the strongest programs overlooks the fact that we are already applying a higher set of standards to the SIs that we DO list. We basically list the SIs with national reputations for providing serious ballet training. When it comes to college dance programs, we've stopped doing that.

 

In Ms. Leigh's Mission Statement, she says, "We believe that everyone should have the top quality training available if they are going to put their time, energy, love and passion, and of course money, into this art form. Our knowledge and expertise lies in the schools and programs that offer this kind of training. When we discuss SI programs and College and University Dance Programs, we tend to think only in terms of the best programs we know. We are not here to recommend less serious programs, as we are not familiar with them. We are not going to recommend 'recreational' programs, basically because we just don't believe in them. Good ballet is good ballet..." When students from recreational dance studios are able to get into a college dance program with no other reputable training credentials to speak of, how can you still call it "good ballet"? While the ballet teachers on the faculty might be highly qualified, if the pool of students they attract did not take the study of ballet seriously beforehand, then I hope we can agree that it is probably too late for them to make up for lost time, especially for the women. They can graduate and go on to become professional dancers, but it's doubtful they will be professional ballet dancers.

 

Therefore, I think such factors as time spent performing, the nature and venue of performances, frequency of performances, manner in which roles are cast, number of students accepted (or not accepted) to the program and number of graduates dancing professionally are all worthy ones to consider in determining which programs have the stronger ballet components. To these I'd add the caliber of ballet skills of the students who apply to the program, how far and wide the applicants come from, and the strength of the ballet training at their home studios. You can judge this factor right at the college auditions. And, of course, you must also look at the quantity of ballet classes a student can take relative to other styles as well as to required academic classes, whether a student can concentrate in ballet, and/or the quality of the ballet training: how placement is handled and whether you can come out of the program and be "company ready."

 

As for some other factors that have been mentioned - such as whether the program also offers concentrations in modern and jazz versus a focus primarily on ballet, or whether it's a conservatory program versus one that requires more academics - those are more "flavors" of college ballet programs that don't obscure the fact of whether or not they offer strong ballet components. For example, since the University of the Arts offers a concentration in ballet through a conservatory style program, it can certainly be said to offer a cohesive ballet program. However, since most of the students seem to come from recreational and competition-style studios, the caliber of ballet skills of the incoming students was much lower than most of the other programs my daughter applied to, with the exception of the one modern-based program on her list. Therefore, I would never put UArts on one of our "top ten" lists. Meanwhile, Indiana's program is organized as a B.S. in Kinesiology degree, but the folks in this forum deem it as so strong in ballet that they consistenty put it in the Fab Six listing. [And I believe that was University of South Florida and not FSU that was #6.]

 

Even though my daughter was not looking for primarily ballet focused programs such as Butler or Utah, she nevertheless sought to find a triple-emphasis program with strong ballet components. Given what she went through to discover these qualities on her own, I think such a general listing would have been extremely productive. As a high school junior, she took ballet classes at the University of Michigan as a guest student, where she found that she was better than most of the college freshmen in her class. The following year at UArts, she was again at the top of her freshman class in ballet. At the University of Arizona, she found herself in the middle and finally challenged. The challenge has paid off in that she now feels company ready. (A great audition with one company this summer has really boosted her confidence.) Good ballet is good ballet.

 

If we can be objective when it comes to overall quality in SI programs, I think we can also be objective when it comes to giving a general "thumbs up" (or not) regarding the ballet components of a college dance program. Do they ever perform en pointe? How often? What choreographers do they use? Would you put the performances up against some professional companies you've seen? How impressive is the performance venue? And so on. The more hits a program gets in terms of ballet, the better it is as a ballet program. Meanwhile, I wish we'd either rename the Colleges and Universities section to reflect that we're including anything that offers ballet classes, or find a way to distinguish between those that actually have "serious" ballet programs from the others, whether they may be strong overall dance programs or just a way to keep dancing while getting an undergraduate degree. To continue calling it "Colleges and Universities with Ballet Programs" is dishonest, I feel, given the mission of this forum.

 

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Aside to Moderators: Can this thread be moved again to "Higher Education General Discussion"? The alphabetical listing under "Colleges and Universities with Ballet Programs" should be for college names, shouldn't it?

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We can sense your frustration Pierette, however, the information on the forum is only as good as the parents and dancers with first hand knowledge of both the good and bad being willing to post such on the forums. The information here has never been researched and provided by a team of people (such as the moderators and administrators) but rather we rely on our membership to present their first hand images of each program on it's own regard. You've mentioned that in posts before and each time I have sensed that you feel we as moderators are the beholders of the information on those forums. That has never been what this board was or is. It is member information that keeps it going.

 

The SI forums are vibrant yes, but possibly because that is the largest contingent of resources we have available. There are a host more dancers and parents going through the SI circuit than there are in Ballet related majors in colleges nationwide. And parents in the age groups of those dancers seem much more willing to share their first hand knowledge. Therefore I disagree with you that we hold them to a higher standard. But rather just have more information.

 

As dancers enter the college and professional ranks, they and their parents post less but read more naturally due to higher stakes for them than just the choice of many SI's to get training. Many times a career hangs on what one says or does. Therefore you would see a trickling off of information as dancers move on to different aspirations or at best a different focus to what ballet will mean to them in later years.

 

However, to address some of your questions/statements:

 

say that it IS possible to answer the question of "which dance programs at U.S. universities have the strongest ballet components,"

Yes, it is possible to say, however, we don't do comparisons on programs here. It is up to each parent/dancer to look at the information in all the threads regarding programs. Visit, research and then determine what is best for them. Not everyone who comes here looking for college information is looking to dance ballet after college. Many just want to dance ballet during college. And as much as the Fab 6 has changed over my tenure here I would venture that the Fab 6 changes as often as the department head does. Nor does a degree from one of the top ranked colleges guarantee that a dancer won't start in the Trainee/Apprentice ranks just like others from smaller programs or even straight from high school. Yes, the changes might be greater. But so much as changed over the last few years that it is no longer a given.

 

When students from recreational dance studios are able to get into a college dance program with no other reputable training credentials to speak of, how can you still call it "good ballet"?
This would be a question for members of the college audition path. Credentials can be deceiving. Graduation from a reputable program means you had good training. It doesn't necessarily mean you are a better dancer than someone from not as well known program but who had a strong team of teachers and host of natural talent. Hopefully the two shall mesh. However, not always.

 

Meanwhile, Indiana's program is organized as a B.S. in Kinesiology degree, but the folks in this forum deem it as so strong in ballet that they consistenty put it in the Fab Six listing.
Indiana's modern program is with a B.S. in Kinesiology degree. Indiana's ballet program unless it has changed this year is in the Music Department and carries a different degree. By folks in this forum, I'm assuming you mean the members discussing the colleges. Again, the information in the forums is only as good as the members with first hand knowledge who are willing to offer up such knowledge. If your dancer auditioned for this program and found that it should be listed differently then we hope you have already posted such under the Indiana forum info.

 

To continue calling it "Colleges and Universities with Ballet Programs" is dishonest, I feel, given the mission of this forum
A consideration of a name change is possibly something to consider. Dishonest? Now that is a good bit over the top! The College forums have opened up more options in them due to requests by members. Those members have taken the time to write an adminstrator or moderator in pm of their concerns and desires to broaden the scope of what dancing after high school means to them. Pointed posts blaming the boards rarely gets the attention that was desired in terms of making change.

 

I am happy that your dancer has now settled into to the program at UofA and now finds it to be a good fit, and good program for her. We hope you will continue to share details of that program in the UofA forum as well as the other places she has attended or visited. Your first hand knowledge of the program has been a wonderful asset and your perceptions along the way will I'm sure will help many a dancer entering the program and then settling into it as home.

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The information here has never been researched and provided by a team of people (such as the moderators and administrators) but rather we rely on our membership to present their first hand images of each program on it's own regard. You've mentioned that in posts before and each time I have sensed that you feel we as moderators are the beholders of the information on those forums. That has never been what this board was or is.

But you ARE the beholders - the keepers and watchers - of the information in these forums. You're doing it right now and so did dancemaven before you and so have other moderators done so in the past. The strength and success of these forums is due to the fact that they are moderated, so no complaint there. However, what you're failing to see is that the moderation is being applied very inconsistently and it keeps changing on us so the member-generated information is becoming ever harder to use. In your case, you're not accurately representing the rules of the Higher Education forum when you keep reiterating that the source of information in these forums is first-hand knowledge. You used the phrase 5 times above, concluding with a statement that pretty much tells me to just share information about the places where my daughter has attended. However in the Rules for Feedback sticky, balletbooster states in #2 that "Anyone can post anecdotal information they have about a college program, as long as they state it as such." Dancemaven did something similar. She noted that, in the past, "There have been numerous threads that talk about the 'top 5 ballet programs,' but that "The only way to determine which ones appear the strongest these days... is to review the threads and research the programs for yourself..." Why have things changed "these days"? Why can't people keep offering up their latest and revised appraisals of what they consider to be the strongest ballet programs? As the listing of colleges grows ever larger, the moderators now tell us that the members can't help each other do some sorting and selecting based on various criteria.

 

The SI forums are vibrant yes, but possibly because that is the largest contingent of resources we have available. ... Therefore I disagree with you that we hold them to a higher standard. But rather just have more information.

Again, they were held to a higher standard in the past and I believe this contributed to the strength of the forums even if the standards have changed. It laid a foundation wherein good information drew more good information. And while the standards might have changed, the moderation in the SI forums seems to have kept pace so that folks are able to make use of the broader information. Here is some of the evidence I quickly pulled up in order to give a snapshot of what I've experienced here:

 

1) It's not my imagination that the moderators once exercised more control over which SIs were listed. See this post under the "Alvin Ailey School" from Jan 12, 2005 (one of the Summer Intensive Classics threads) by fendrock. I had that same experience of having an Alvin Ailey post deleted because it was considered a modern program. Zap. Gone.

 

2) In this thread from Sep 9, 2005, SIs for the Non-Career Track Dancer, balletbooster explains why she split off the discussion: "Because of the focus of this board and the way we have our forums organized, we need to try to keep the discussions about the needs of career and non-career dancers separate." Don't you call that maintaining standards?

 

3) And for the height of irony, I found dancemaven's response from Apr 18, 2006 in Modern dance summer intensives? - and note that the emphasis is all in the original:

"As this is BALLET Talk for Dancers, we really don't delve much into SIs focused on other dance forms. The focus here really IS Ballet, so I'm afraid there really won't be much information on Modern Summer programs. Perhaps a google search would get you what you seek." Yet you patronize me for my frustration and accuse me of being "over the top" when I question the standards that are being applied to "Colleges and Universities WITH BALLET PROGRAMS."

 

Yes, it is possible to say, however, we don't do comparisons on programs here. It is up to each parent/dancer to look at the information in all the threads regarding programs.

We don't allow folks to say that Program A is better than Program B, but we DO allow the creation of lists to help winnow the field. These two lists in the SI General Topics show how the moderation has changed to accommodate the wider scope of the SI forums: Contemporary Summer Intensives (modern and jazz) and No-Audition Summer Intensives, Let's Make a List! And back in May of 2005, we also allowed members to weigh in on a list for NYC Colleges with Strong Dance Programs. That list is a model for what I feel we should still be allowed to do when it comes to discussing college and university programs. Note that the discussion on that thread is not trying to be definitive, there is a give and take (someone mentions Barnard, even though they "don't know much about the program," and later BW says, "I don't know if anyone from Barnard has ever gone on to perform professionally...") and, above all, no moderator steps in and tells the original poster to just go review the individual threads, thus throwing cold water on the discussion.

 

Credentials can be deceiving. Graduation from a reputable program means you had good training. It doesn't necessarily mean you are a better dancer than someone from not as well known program but who had a strong team of teachers and host of natural talent.

I think you've misunderstood what I'm talking about. I'm not introducing anything new outside of the individual program threads that is not being said within them. Just starting at the beginning of the alphabet, I found this said about Brown University:

"There is no formal dance program at the university. There is a modern dance group that students can audition for. I think they take class/rehearse a couple of times a week, depending on when the next show is."

 

This on Bucknell University:

"...their dance program is not enough for a serious dance student. Bucknell is a great liberal arts college that provides a rigorous academic program in many areas, but after investigating it for my dd, we couldn't recommend it for a serious ballet student with performing/choreography goals."

 

This on Columbia College in Chicago:

"...it is basically a modern dance program...

One more thought: the founder, Mike Alexandroff, felt very strongly in the concept of 'open admissions'. I do not know if this is still the policy. While that concept may work for some arts such as theater, I cannot endorse this for dance (with very few exceptions). How does one, with minimal training declare oneself to be a dance major at 18-20? This meant that there were (again, I do not know if this is still the case), many low-level technique classes and upon graduating, many students who were still at the 'low intermediate' level"

 

And this on Cornell by His Majorness, Mel Johnson:

"The Dance Department at Cornell states outright, 'The majority of dance courses taught are in modern, primarily influenced by Cunningham technique.' I find the scrupulous avoidance of the term 'ballet' in 'classical dance technique' rather suspicious as well, and people I've known who went there said that they had to seek ballet classes in the surrounding community if they wanted to maintain or improve their ballet technique. Clearly, the Cornell program is not aimed toward career ballet dancers."

 

And I just got to the letter "C"! So if these programs are not recommended as good ballet programs WITHIN the threads, why do we maintain the "...with Ballet Programs" as part of the forum title?

 

A consideration of a name change is possibly something to consider. Dishonest? Now that is a good bit over the top!

Please explain to me what I'm missing without insulting me. I quoted Ms. Leigh's Mission Statement, in which she says "We are not here to recommend less serious programs" and then we do by conferring the title of "Ballet Programs" over all of them. If we're going to open up the list to more options - which I personally think is great - then why isn't naming the subforum "College and University Dance Programs" more honest? Please don't quote me out of context and then knock me as though I'm against broadening the list.

 

The College forums have opened up more options in them due to requests by members. Those members have taken the time to write an adminstrator or moderator in pm of their concerns and desires to broaden the scope of what dancing after high school means to them. Pointed posts blaming the boards rarely gets the attention that was desired in terms of making change.

You're really not being fair to me. I'm delighted that you've broadened the scope of the Higher Ed forums. But while you note that "Not everyone who comes here looking for college information is looking to dance ballet after college," there are still others who ARE looking for a post-graduate career in ballet (or at least looking to improve their ballet while in college). And in all your behind-the-scenes machinations, it feels as though the moderators have failed to post a new memo that the "strong ballet" seekers are now on their own and can't ask for a bit of help in sorting through the ever expanding list including non-ballet "Ballet Programs."

 

You can't have it both ways. You can't admit that decisions were made via private messages to change the nature of the college section and then mock me as though the moderators are not the "beholders of the information on those forums." In a private message, you encourage me to be a "champion" for the "college portion of the boards," and then when I try to champion this thread to keep the topic open, I'm told to pretty much keep my comments confined to the "UofA forum as well as the other places [my daughter] has attended." You bet I'm frustrated.

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Pierrette, I'm sorry that you are dissatisfied with Ballet Talk for Dancers. We are doing the very best we can here. It is a very large board and a very large "job"....and we are all totally volunteers, just in case you did not know that. We try very hard to keep our information accurate and up to date. Knowing every single college program is way beyond our ability, and if we cannot depend on first hand, meaning the dancer or parent of the dancer, then we have information only on the few programs where any of us has attended/interviewed/taught.

 

Programs change, sometimes radically, from year to year, depending on faculty and department heads. Some of these we learn about and some we don't. MANY of the topics on colleges where the ballet is not a strong program were started by people asking IF these schools have good ballet programs.

 

SI forums are geared primarily for ballet. However, there are a few VERY strong programs which are more mixed in content, AILEY being one of them. Lines is another. The ballet content is very strong in these programs, but not the only focus. That does not, and should not prevent us from having them on our site. That was changed in early 2005 when the board administration changed.

 

In the future, if you are unhappy with Ballet Talk Moderators or Moderation, I respectfully ask you to take it up with me, or with another administrator or moderator. These very, very long posts, which are not about the topic itself, are very tedious, and not needed on the board.

 

Thank you.

Victoria

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I respectfully request that the board separate the forums into Universities/Colleges with Ballet Majors and Universities/Colleges with Ballet Programs. Having completed a search for such information last year, the separation would have been of significant assistance. My daughter had NO interest in attending any school where she could not major in ballet. Sifting through all the extraeous posts is very time consuming when I already have no time to spare. The time of life when one has a child searching for higher education options while completeing high school, taking SAT tests, taking AP exams, auditioning for SIs, auditioning for companies, auditioning for colleges, taking ballet classes at their studio and rehearsing for Nutcracker is the most trying time I have ever had, and all I was doing was providing transportation and the financial assistance. My daughter was simply overwhelmed! Making it easier to obtain the desired information would hopefully help future college student.

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That is going to be a long and very tedious project, tutumaker. We do not claim to be a primary source of definite information on college programs. We are another source, but I really think that the students need to look in the Dance Magazine College Directory, which comes out every year, for that information. Even better, go directly to the school's web site. We do and have listed the schools we feel have the strongest Ballet Major Programs. And, we have have listed others with majors that are also considered good programs. The other schools mentioned are ones that people ask about, and sometimes it ends up they are not strongly ballet oriented. I don't think anyone needs to read very far under any school to find that out.

 

I'm really not negating your idea, tutumaker, but right at this moment in time I think we might have a little problem with doing that. But, we will discuss it, I promise.

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The listings, as they stand now, are a good starting point. I don't really think they ever were intended to be anything other than that.

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