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Ballet Talk for Dancers

A and B Plans: College & Company together


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Another little boost towards obtaining college credits can occur if a company makes an arrangement with a college or university to give the dancer fine arts credits for their professional performance career. My daughter just signed a contract to dance with a new company (a touring musical, of all things, but she'll be the dancer :thumbsup:) next year. Since most of the actors/singers/dancers are in their early to mid-20's, they have an arrangement with Connecticut College that will award the performers fine arts credits for their work. I don't know much about it yet, as my daughter is so new and hasn't yet attended meetings where this will all be outlined. I assume that, besides recognition of them as performers, the course will also include some amount of written work. I will post more when I learn more.


It would be great, wouldn't it, if performing arts companies everywhere make such arrangements with colleges?


Edited to add a little more detail

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Former students of The Harid Conservatory who are currently performing with large and small companies in the US are also enrolled in undergraduate work with university programs in their cities of employment. The companies have made arrangements with the universities to help the dancers in the coordination of touring schedules and course deadlines. I know quite a few who are working toward their BA in this manner. Bravi! :thumbsup:


I am not sure where I read this, but I do believe it was the NYTimes a few years back about the program ABT has with NYU. I believe NYCB has a program with Fordham.


We also have one student who is currently performing in Europe while studying for his masters at IU. He is a member of BT4D as well as BT, maybe he might have sometime to say a few words about his experiences? :thumbsup:

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As mentioned in the Ballet Austin thread, BA has created a degree program with St. Edward's University. Dancers will be given credit for their dance experience which goes toward their final degree. Two classes were offered this spring - each 7 weeks long. The dancers and apprentices who are enrolled (including the director), meet once a week with the instructor at the studios for three hours after rehearsals. The students must pick up some general education credits on their own which I think many will do during the summers at the local community college.


Because the apprentices are often in company productions in addition to their own, this program can make life very busy for them but it seemed like all managed and enjoyed it. I have to assume it adds to the company atmosphere since dancers interact in a very different way than in the studio. So while it may not be the traditional 4 year college experience I think it is defintely is beneficial on many levels.

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  • 11 months later...

***if this is in the wrong place, I apologize! please feel free to move it.


I am a Junior in high school, and am planning on graduating college as a ballet major before auditioning for companies. Even though I am pretty set on going to college (for many reasons), would it be beneficial to go to a few company auditions, just to see what it would be like?

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The problem with doing college first, especially all the way through to the degree, is that you will be a little bit old for starting at trainee or apprentice, and it would be difficult these days to get a full corps contract without having done any trainee or apprentice work. Possible, but not overly probably. You might think about auditioning, and if you get something, then deferring college for a bit. Or, do a year or two of college, as long as you are in a very strong program where you will continue to improve, then audition. You can always finish college later.

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If I might be so bold as to offer another viewpoint from a different vantage point. Whether a college-graduate dancer at age 20-22 is too old to secure a trainee/apprentice then a corps contract is probably more dependent upon the actual company and type of company than it might once have been. Certainly, there are college-first graduates that have done and are doing that. (the caveat being, as has been noted in numerous threads elsewhere on this Board, those college-first grads are vying for the same entry level jobs/positions as straight-from-high school 17-18 year olds). In my and DD's research, it does seem that contemporary ballet and modern dance companies have more college-first graduates than do the more traditional classical ballet companies. We do have theories on why, but that's off-topic.


Here's what I would really like to add to this thread: If you DO decide to go to college first, be sure to understand what it is you are going to college for and understand what is a realistic expectation for your college training/education. It makes a huge difference in both what you actually get out of the program and your degree of happiness with the program. Once upon a time in some thread, Major Mel explained why more college dance programs are more modern-focused than ballet-focused and, as I recall, he explained it was a result of the underlying philosophy of higher education's purpose of questioning and exploring more philosophical aspects of life, etc. That explanation really hit a chord with me and has helped me understand the role of college dance programs much better than I did before. By and large, one should NOT think of a college dance program as vocational training.


If you think you will plan to go to college in a dance program for a year or two 'for finishing', before hitting the company audition circuit with the intent of landing a contract, you may end up unhappy all the way around. It is not that a college dance program will not prepare you for company auditions (if you've chosen your college program well), but you may not feel as ready as you would like after only one or two years. That is because college programs are designed to be 4-year programs---with a distinct and planned progression of classes built upon a specific foundation. There is much more to college dance programs than merely going to class and receiving corrections. There is a depth of introspection, self-reliance, and inner growth that is introduced, coaxed, and nurtured. Keep in mind that college dance programs exist in a University/college setting because there is the 'higher academic education' philosophy included as part and parcel in the development of those programs. To expect to reap the benefits of a 4-year program in only 1-2 years is to set yourself on course to be both frustrated and disappointed.


Not to mention, very costly. College dance programs are not inexpensive---and certainly they are expensive if you are using them merely as a training program for one or two years and leave without the benefit of the actual degree. Most college dance credits (unlike academic credits) don't transfer among programs. That is because the individual programs have their own foundational expectations and progression of study and they are not interchangeable from one program to another.


My thoughts would be that if one thinks they only wish to go to college for a year or two as 'finishing years', then one would be better off going to one of several post-grad training programs---and hold off on college until one is ready to commit to the 4-year full course of study/training. Those post-grad programs ARE set up to be one to two year vocational training programs and are significantly less expensive than a year or two of college tuition.


DD is currently in a BFA college program. She had initially insisted that she was definitely on a 'dance first, college later' plan. After graduating high school a year early (while attending a company related release time training program), she went to a full-time post-grad intensive training program with every intention of remaining for the full 2-year training. That Fall, we visited several college BFA programs (primarily to satisfy me that she had options). In the spring of that year, she realized she DID want to do the BFA program. One of the questions we specifically asked at each BFA program was whether it would be possible to come and go from the program if she should obtain a contract at some point prior to finishing the 4 years. Each program director looked at us kindly, but firmly told us that there was a reason the program was set up for 4-years and that to leave early really was neither advisable nor encouraged. (So, if nothing else, don't be expecting career counseling/help prior to your senior year! LOL) The first time we were told that, I thought 'well!' Hrrumph! But after hearing it over and over, I began to understand that perspective and rationale more and more.


In addition, we learned that many of the programs we met with did not permit their underclassmen dancers to work with companies, choreographers, opportunities outside of the dance program. Again, that seemed at first blush to be unduly controlling and short-sighted, in terms of providing opportunities for career networking. But upon more reflection, we understood how those outside hours would cut into the precious time the dancers had to focus on their dance studies in the program AND their academics. As a rule, dance majors in college don't end up with many free hours after all the dance classes, rehearsals, workshops, and academic classes are factored in.


Perhaps the best example of the over-reaching philosophy of college dance programs is this (paraphrased) statement from the AD of DD's program: "This program is not designed to get you jobs and contracts, this program is designed to produce intelligent, educated people who may also obtain contracts." Does that mean that the program does not strive to produce company-ready dancers? No. Many have already been offered contracts as undergrads (but thus far, have turned them down in favor of finishing their degree). Thus, we fully expect there to be graduates with professional contracts, just as in every other program.


That sent quite a mumbled wave through DD's freshman class. As the year has progressed, it turns out that many of the freshmen dancers had come to the program with the intention of only staying one or two years before going after contracts. They are antsy and unhappy, feeling they have not progressed far enough to feel as comfortable as they want at company auditions. They chafe at the curriculum of the dance department. They want someone to push them (rather than taking the initiative to push themselves). Everything they say they want is really a description of a post-grad training program.


Some of them didn't know what they wanted until they came to college. They have been able to better articulate what they want now and can go looking for a better match. Others still don't know what they want because they won't look within themselves. They still want someone else to tell them what they should want. Others came without (apparently) doing much research into the focus of the dance at this program. Those that came to the program with a better understanding of what they wanted and a clear understanding of this program are a great match for this program and are quite happy. The most unhappy are those who had come planning to only stay a year or two and those who expected a different focus.


So, if you are not sure what you want, do both college and company auditions. But do spend a lot of time soul-searching and trying to get the best understanding of yourself, your wants, your preferences, and your goals that you can. Then, take a good amount of time to really research the college programs, the post-grad programs, and your company options. Figure out which ones are best suited to getting you from here to there. Keep in mind that your actual here to there itinerary may be fluid and you will want to keep as many alternate routes open as possible. No route is set in stone and being adaptable and flexible is your best bet.


And best wishes on your journey of self-discovery!

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Wow, dancemaven...beautifully and thoughtfully expressed. :thumbsup: I think this post could be used to "close" a lot of threads. Thank you for taking the time to post it.

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Thanks for this post! What wonderful information, insight, and perspective you've shared! I'm going to print this out as I will probably be referring to it in the next years.


My ds (age 14) was just offered the chance to study in a pre-professional program in Europe in the next couple of years. We're very proud of him as he is a late starter, but he is a hard worker and has come a long way in a short time. He's a young 14 though, physically, although he's mature and dedicated. He doesn't quite know which direction he wants to go as he has several talents and passions career-wise.


Your post really helped me clear up some things in my own mind about the dance direction though! It's especially hard not being a dancer to figure these things out. Thanks so much again!

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thank you so much, Victoria Leigh and dancemaven, for your insightful advice and input. Dancemaven- when you put it that way, my decision to postpone a professional career for four years to get my degree seems a little bit better :thumbsup: . I feel that sometimes the "company after high school, or no company at all" mentality cannot be true, but other times it seems like that is the only way to go if I want a contract with a reputable company. But, like you suggested, I will do some soul-searching. College seems like the best bet for me right now, especially after actually seeing college dancers in action (I recently auditioned for Mercyhurst). I think what I need to do is stop asking, "Which college will get me into a company?" and start saying, "OK, I want to get into a company. Which college will give me the tools I need so that I can get myself into a company?"


on a side note, I think it is admirable that college dance programs emphasize that college is four years long for a reason. If all college dancers with professional aspirations just popped in for a year, then said, "Oh, sorry, I'm a trainee with Such-and-such Ballet Company now, I'll finish my degree when I get to it", then what would be the point of higher education for dancers at all?


again, thank you for your responses, everyone :thumbsup:

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I am soaking all of this info up like a sponge. You are basically echoing the same philosophies that my DD has been giving me for the past year since she told me she is uninterested in college at this point and instead would like to make a go for a company after HS. In my mind it is hard to get out of that "must go to college"mentality and while that may seem the prudent thing for students wanting a vocational education as you say (and great wording there) it may not be right for my child. I have slowly come to grips with that but receive a lot of strange looks (even at the dance studio) when I tell people that my daughter has no interest at this time.


It is nice to know that there are those out there that share my daughter's point of view. We are in good company here, thank you so much for all the great info.

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  • 5 months later...

Our 15 year-old DD is studying at a full-time program, and things continue to go well. She is also an excellent student. She carries an extremely heavy ballet schedule, and I have questioned her on a number of occasions on whether home schooling might be a better option for her/give her a little more flexibility with her time. She is adamant that she wants a regular high school experience, and her dad and I completely concur. She also tells me her plans are to try and become professional in a major ballet company AND do college part time at the same time after high school and says she has plans already on what she wants to do as a second career after dance. Academic excellence and higher education is hugely important to our family, (and the fact that my husband is even willing to consider the idea of DD possibly not attending college full time immediately out of high school is highly out of character for him and a testament to his evolving support of her ballet aspirations). I realize that next year (her junior HS year) is when we'd probably start needing to make college trips and get more serious about that option, and me as the parent who lives on site with her where she studies full time would be the one to make that happen. I have NO idea how the heck we'll manage college visits with a schedule which has her dancing seven days a week or what colleges to even consider for that purpose if she really intends to try to do college part time to begin with.


I guess what I'm really looking for is input on: How practical is it really for someone to try and do both? Anyone out there have experience with this as far as attempting college work at the same time a dancer might be an apprentice/trainee/corps member (that is, if they're lucky enough to be offered such)? Any of you achieve a degree while dancing or have DKs who have and/or even post-grad degrees?

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So far, DD and I have not met any dancers who have taken more than a couple of classes while dancing professionally but I'm sure there are exceptions. Some companies do have relationships with universities to make that possibility more feasible.


Recently read an interesting Interview in the Sept. issue of Dance Spirit magazine with Lauren Fadeley , "At just 24 years old, Lauren has already achieved something that most people never even consider a possibility: a professional ballet career both before and after college." This doesn't address concurrent company and college aspirations but may shed some light (and raise more questions!)... there are so many options and approaches and every individual has their own most-appropriate path.

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It is very admirable that your DD has a plan both for dancing, college and post dancing. Even if those plans don't stay the same throughout, that focus will keep her on a positive and upward moving path. There are a good number of dancers in college part time and dancing. The key that I'm not sure you brought up is there is part-time as in 12 hours and there is part-time as in a couple of classes a semester so she will need to solidify what she means by "part-time" because those differences between 5 credit hours and 12 are huge. You also haven't mentioned what her chosen degree will be in college which can swerve the college search in one direction or another. A dance degree? Well we know those colleges to apply to well. But medical degree, well that's something different.


Since you've mentioned major ballet company as her goal, in reality, she will be auditioning for companies first and foremost and then after she hopefully secures a position will find a college nearby where she can attend. Unless you plan to visit every college near a major professional company and also pay enrollment, housing deposits and the like she may really be taking the cart before the horse in terms of what will happen her Junior and Senior years. Remember she will still be attending company auditions at the time that fees are due. But the cart before the horse, simply because the odds of getting those positions are low. So if you bank on a college in NYC but then secure a job in Timbuktu, it doesn't do your planning much good. Not because it can't happen, it certainly can but it is virtually impossible to plan ahead for. But again, because you said major professional companies I'd say we have to get her one of those positions first and then look at the colleges nearby if she truly is a fit for those places straight out of high school. She can apply to those colleges in the fall and start in January should that all work out.


As studioj has stated, the vast majority of dancers will be taking a few classes here and there. Some others will be taking more but usually because of arrangements with the company and a school. To add to that, those we've found who were taking more than a few classes were from families who could afford to not only supplement living expenses but also college tuition. Not every family can do both, many have to choose one or the other at least for a time.


So I guess, I suggest that your daughter make several plans. That is what we did and while it drove us absolutely batty during her Junior and Senior year, but it did mean that come August or September of the next year that she had either Plan A, B or C in place and ready to roll.

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A horrible truth that everyone needs to consider...if your dk decides NOT to carry a full load at college...IF you have health care, chances are your dk will no longer be use your health care. An additional cost/consideration to bear in mind! :cool2::wink::yes:

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Because I have seen through others (at least one who was a trainee at a company), that it's very difficult to pursue college part-time because of ever-changing rehearsal schedules, on top of classes, I offer one other option to consider:


I think I have posted here in the past on our experiences with my dd applying to colleges while still a HS senior, then going the deferral route with her college of choice to devote to ballet training full-time at a trainee program. You can probably view my past posts and see.


But I will say -- though this may not be the preferred choice for all HS students who are in pre-pro ballet programs -- your dd should strongly consider go through the college search & application process while he/she is still in HS and academics, writing and test-taking skills are still fresh in their mind. This includes: taking the SAT and SAT IIs (at least two SAT IIs req'ed by many college that offer a strong academic program) and/or ACT w/ writing; getting those terrific teacher recommendation letters; and writing those many application & supplemental essays. And if using the Common Application, also completing the Supplement Arts application to highlight his/her wonderful ballet/dance talent (if applying as a non-dance major).


It's alot of work to research & apply to colleges, and it's probably much easier to go through this process while your dd is still in HS, versus later on. Then, if your dd decides to pursue a pro career, beginning at least with a traineeship or apprenticeship (which seems to be common), your dd can ask his/her college of choice to defer for at least a year. If, at the end of the year, the ballet career doesn't work out as expected, they have an excellent fallback plan and have the college of their choice waiting for them. And if the ballet career does work out, they can turn down college (forfeiting a small application deposit), or ask for a 2nd year deferral.

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