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A and B Plans: College & Company together


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I am confused. I really want to be in a professional company, but college is also important. I would like to major in arts and ballet but be in a company once I get out of highschool. Is this possible? :ermm:

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I am confused. I really want to be in a professional company, but college is also important. I would like to major in arts and ballet but be in a company once I get out of highschool. Is this possible? :ermm:


Yes it is possible, and people have done it (but I don't recommend it, see Ms. Leigh's post below). I danced for a professional company as a graduate student.


The problem is that in both academics and dance, you get out of it what you put in. Both of them will shape your life if you put your whole self into it. In my experience, when you try to do both at once, you end up cutting corners on one or both endeavors. I've concluded it's easier to really make the most of your education if you're not trying to dance professionally at the same time.


It's also helpful to consider what your long-term career might look like. "A 2004 Teachers College report found the average retirement age for dancers to be just short of 34" (NY Times Oct 21, 2007) --- which is still young for most other careers.

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Sarah, it's not possible to go to school full time and work full time in a ballet company. It is possible to take a course or two while dancing, and there are some companies who have affiliations with certain colleges for their dancers to be able to do that. But going away to a college and taking a full load would not be possible. Many dancers finish their education later, after dancing. But, some dancers go to college and continue dancing in college, and then get a job in a company afterwards.

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  • 4 months later...

Please correct me if I am wrong, but I do not believe I have been able to find a thread about the logistics of part-time study for an undergraduate major while dancing professionally with a company. Has anyone had any experience with this? I have read in various publications about many dancers in top-tier companies that are doing this, but I was wondering what people have had to say about it. Any information will be greatly appreciated. :P

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I dont want to presume that Ballet West is a top-tier company, however, I took a semester of courses, and decided it wasn't for me. I did college before dancing professionally, to me it was difficult to go from the full time experiance to the part time. That said, a handful of my co-workers do take a couple classes each semester and are working towards undergraduate degrees.

I think it is easier to accomplish this in a setting where work schedules are posted prior to the start of the day, if not days in advance.

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no experience with this, but this is exactly what my DD's AD is recommending. She would like to see DD stay with this small regional company - rather than leaving for an out of state destination, either college or company. In our area there are several private and public colleges within a reasonable commuting distance. While I am savvy enough to take everything with a grain of salt, this avenue may actually be in DD's best interest. this is a small company, but in the past they have awarded college scholarship monies (to the local universities) to company members. This has helped them to pursue a degree locally. Some are full time students, some part time. They go to school, take class, attend rehearsal, and perform.


I love this company, but it is a small regional company, not one of the big ones. The one big company that I have read about on this board, that offers some kind of support to dancers who want to pursue an academic goal in the midst of their performing career, is Pacific Northwest Ballet.


Hope this helps...

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So far, it has been of great help! I am now nearing the end of my junior year of high school, (I skipped a grade and am already young for the grade I technically should be in) and have been able to realize that now, professional dancers do not have to decide between getting a quality bachelor's degree and continuing their career. As I leave high school, I am now 90% sure that I will be applying to colleges for part time study as I try to follow my passion in ballet. (After I defer a year or so to finish my ballet studies at a ballet school away from home) :P The fact that it seems very possible to get a decent degree at the same time as one balances rehearsals, etc. makes the future look a little less daunting. Thank you so much so far (and for future posts) for your insight. It is already starting to calm me down. :shrug:

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Keep in mind that you do not have to pursue courses that are "traditional." There are so many working adults that have returned to college that there are many programs that are in place that provide incredible flexibility. You can get a complete degree from some universities while doing only correspondence courses. And these are programs recognized by the Department of Education. (Not all of them are - so make sure you do your research.) Or you can combine corresponcence with evening or weekend classes. Or only do a few correspondence courses. When I did my masters, some of my courses met 8 Saturdays in a row - all day. This met the requirement for hours for one class. One class met Monday - Saturday all day in just one week. That was an incredibly difficult week, but I was really glad I had done it. This was a highly reputable university in my area. These options are increasingly available to undergraduate students, too. Look first at your local community college. They are likely to have very flexible programs (what comes to mind is you do the work by self-study but then meet one or two Saturdays during the semester - sometimes the students may meet on line.) And this is a great way to complete those basic courses, such as lab science, math, and English.

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My daughter dances professionally in a touring company. She is on tour most of the year, and when she is home, she's in the rehearsal studio. Also, she never knows her summer hours. Technically, they tour from September to the end of May, but in reality, she's on tour in Europe the bulk of the summers too as new tours frequently come up. Even when she's home and in the studio, her hours, 10:30 - 7:30, don't allow her to enter a real classroom.


So that makes it very hard to sign up for onsite courses! She's earning her degree rather chaotically, but it's working. She has several high school AP credits, so that's very helpful. For two summers, she managed to take different intensive summer courses that run for a concentrated, very intensive 3 weeks. She took two at a time. They don't allow more because they're doing a full semester's work in those 3 weeks. These courses are always in the area of what she believes her major will be: chemical biology and/or genetics.


On two other summers, she signed up for some 3-week concentrated courses, but had to cancel because new tours came up. She only lost her registration fee though; the rest was refunded. It can be a little frustrating, but over the years, she's adjusted to the thought that she may not actually make it into the classroom she signed up for; she doesn't let herself get excited about it till it actually happens.


During her touring season, she takes online courses in core curriculum studies. They are easy and don't require the lab work of her concentration area. She makes sure in advance that the online courses she chooses will be accepted by all the universities she might eventually apply to full-time to finish her degree. She has to do something daily online for each course, but not at a specific time of day. The flexibility really works. And she has deadlines for emailing work to her teachers. Although she feels these courses are nowhere as in-depth as those she takes on campus, they're an easy way to get the basic courses out of the way.

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North Carolina Dance Theatre offers a program for those high school graduates who are still seeking training but wish to work towards a college degree. While this isn't exactly what you are looking for, it may be worth taking a look at it. I don't know of anyone personally who has been through this program, but perhaps some other BT members do.


NCDT and UNC-Charlotte Collaboration


The University of North Carolina has an excellent reputation (this program is at their Charlotte campus), and it sounds like in addition to the ballet training you are given the opportunity to perform with the professional company.

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  • 3 weeks later...



I balanced a career as a dancer with full-time college study. At the time I was thirty and seeing the black hole of an eminent career end. (I danced until age 40, retiring with lots of injuries aches n' pains!) I had just been promoted to a more soloist principal level where I was dancing and got a full scholarship with a teaching stipulation attached at the University. Fortunately the ballet company was based at the university (no longer), but it made me very busy. 3 hours average of sleep per night if I was lucky, still I graduated and went on to teach college myself: it is possible, but exhausting.


I recommend the part time route, supplemented with internet and distance learning if you can. (There was no internet when I went to college.) When you retire, you can complete it and go on to a masters. (recommended).




*edited my moderator to remove TMI (too much information) on a public forum for students and parents

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For four years, I balanced part-time work, full-time dance and writing a dissertation for my graduate degree. I had no social life, of course.


Looking back on it all, I've come to believe that trying to pursue an education along with a dance career results in corners being cut, mostly in one's education. The dance career is the here and now, but the education is the foundation for the rest of your life. And if we're talking about undergraduate studies, the things one misses out on by not being "fully present" as a student are almost as important as the academics themselves. College is a lot more than the sum of courses, homework, midterms and finals.


So my short answer is if at all possible, do yourself a favor and find a way to attend college full-time and make it the #1 thing in your life for those four years. It doesn't hurt (in my opinion) to take courses while dancing, but that is not the same as enrolling in an undergraduate program.

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Texas Ballet Theater (Ben Stevenson) is another company that is working with the local universities enabling the company dancers to attend classes at the college level.


We have a friend who danced with the company this year and will be returning as a full company member this fall. He just graduated or is graduating in the next week or two. He is planning on taking classes this fall at one of the Universities - unfortunately, I cannot say if it's Texas Christian, or Southern Methodist.

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For most dancers we know today, a full time load is nearly impossible. That is if they want to have the energy to do what is their main focus at the moment and that is dance. And especially for the women who are not given as much leeway sometimes as the gentlemen in keeping their contracts if they miss a class/rehearsal for school, etc.


If a dancer is able to go to school full time, then that would be the optimal situation for sure! I just can count on my hands the dancers we know personally in today's time who are making it happen that way unless something is offered through the company. Not because they don't want to, but unless their parents are paying for their rent, food, and gas, it is just difficult to swing that many hours in the day because of their "other" job. Many blessings to those dancers whose parents can do that for them, but they are few in the 1st hand experience of the places my DD has been and even the dancers she knows personally other places. Part time, there are many able to make it work!


The reality of the dancers we know personally in today's economic times is that they dance, then work just to pay the bills and hopefully can add on part time school. In the least cases we've seen, the dancer has no parental financial support and the dancer is doing it all themselves. In the middle are those whose parents are giving them a monthly stipend from just rent to rent and groceries so they must work to pay other bills and have any fun money if they can make enough to have fun money. We've seen a very few who don't balance work and dance with a little school on the side not because it is what they want, but because it is what they have to do with the schedule they are given.


What Philip and citibob have outlined may be the optimal situation, but in reality for most, it more likely that part time can be worked out. Remembering that time writing the dissertation is exhausting, overwhelming and a definite time sucker, but there is leeway in when that time is that is not afforded the undergraduate schedule of taking classes. (my uncle lived with us when he wrote his dissertation and came home from work, took a long nap then woke up to write when most of the world slept several nights a week. It's only now with internet classes that an undergrad could take a class at 2am)


But back to the original question of part-time study. It is possible yes, if everything falls in place for the dancer. Meaning they have enough money to live (whether from parents, their dance pay, or a side job) and time left in their daily schedule. And a company schedule that allows for that time. You may have to search to find the one you want. But remember part time schooling can be one class a semester or 10 hours of classes. There is alot of leeway in that! Keep an open mind about where you want to dance and you may find that you open the door to do both somewhere.

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