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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Career: After college?


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Another option to consider....My son auditioned for companies and applied to colleges. The acceptance letters and contract offers seemed to come at around the same time in the spring. He opted to dance, but picked his college choice, accepted their offer and then deferred enrollment. Not sure if this is an option for all schools, but was a good compromise between education and dance for him. He is able to take summer courses as an enrolled student towards their degree program.

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"For example: Ballet Austin now has a relationship with St. Edward's University in which enrolled dancers receive certificated learning credit for experiential learning in their careers in addition to going to school part time. Classes in our degree are taught by University professors but are offered at BA facilities. General education classes are our responsibility but can be taken at community colleges etc..."


My understanding from St Ed's is this is a pilot program and currently will not be offered for another class ...

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My understanding from St Ed's is this is a pilot program and currently will not be offered for another class ...


We do have a specific "cycle" of classes which will conclude fall 2010. Our understanding is that if it is successful and there I'd still enough interest (ie enough students for a class). That the cycle will start over again with a new group. This is not supposed to be a one shot deal. But obviously if the interest isn't there then there is no reason to continue it. Either way, the current opportunity is amazing.



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I know one person who joined a ballet company after an Ivy League undergraduate program. She's extraordinarily talented and gets lots of good parts, she's an essential contribution to the company. I also know someone who went straight through the ballet company route, then went to MIT, and now has a great career as an engineer. (Actually, he applied to schools at age 18 as tsavoie described, then deferred. But deferments don't last for 9 years, so by then he had to reapply. But he was accepted again, I would say almost certainly having been accepted the first time around helped him out.)


So it can work both ways.


I would estimate that the engineer person (who danced first) is going to have an easier time at this point; college can be a great way to do a "career transition," it's like hitting the reset button and you come out as a sought-after new graduate. It's going to be harder in the long run for the person who danced after college, she's going to have a harder time putting entering the (non-dance) job market with marketable skills so long after she finished her degree.


One must keep in perspective that big name and artistic fulfillment may or may not coincide. College will almost certainly broaden your horizons, and broaden your view of dance. In the end, you will probably not dance for a big-name ballet company. But you might also find fulfilling artistic opportunities that you value, that big-name companies are not able to pursue, due to their organizational structures.


Having tried it, I don't think it's a good idea to try to pursue an undergraduate degree while dancing professionally. I think it's best to first do one, then the other, in either order.

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In my experience many a young female dancer has been told that they are beautiful and progressing well but they are not yet quite ready for a company and maybe a couple or few more years of training are needed. The dilema is where to get this training. For us, the university route has been talked about very, very negatively but no real alternative was available. Ultimately we opted for the university path for my eldest and she is thriving and for this I am greatful. The training is excellent and she feels very good about not wasting time and continuing her academic education.


I look at company dancers, reading those company four line bios can be illuminating, quite a few these days are university graduates and they are good dancers who most certainly are not all corp dancers. I also know of boys who have gone to university programs and are still expecting to get jobs. Again, I'v read a couple of bios that indicate there are company boys who have been to university.


The big name companies who have large schools attached appear to take much younger dancers into their companies, even as young as 15 or 16. I know of some dancers who never finished High School. There is very obviously more than one route to take.


I used to have my heart go out to the kids who went the university route but not any more, they can still get jobs. These days, as I age, I worry about the ones who never got beyond 10th grade! They will have to retire one day, then what?


Citibob, I also know of dancers doing ballet minors at top end $50,000 a year universities. Who knows what they will do after college. I know of two surgeons who had lovely ballet careers. Ballet truly requires intelligent people, it is not for dummies.

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My biggest concern with the university route is not that it will not give sufficient training for a professional dance career. Rather my concern is the possibility of majoring in something that provides limited marketable skills after college. Beyond the world of dance, a dance major falls into this category. It typically shuts one out of a broad range of careers (and graduate programs), including just about anything having to do with math or science. This is not because of anything wrong with the major per se, but because of what classes were NOT taken in college.


A ballet minor is different, of course. It allows for enough time to major in something else. I can see someone majoring in biology, minoring in dance, then dancing for a career, and then going to med school. That all seems doable. But I cannot see entering med school after a dance major (since med school requires a biology or similar major). It would be helpful to know for someone looking to follow a similar path, what did the dancers Pasdetrois mentioned major in?


A certain number of common majors are known to provide limited or difficult job possibilities after college: English, Philosophy, etc. Pairing one of these with a dance minor would also risk one hitting a dead-end after the dance career.


Ballet academies, not matter how expensive they are, are a still a LOT cheaper than universities. If someone just wants professional dance training, ballet academies seem like the way to go --- not only do you get the required training for less, you also keep your options open for what you will do with your college education later. And yes, there are ballet academies that will train people over the age of 18.

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Although, there are many jobs out there where the companies don't really care if your degree was in basketweaving so long as you have one. :)

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Citibob, I couldn't agree with you more! A ballet degree in the big bad world isn't quite as sustantial as some. Most ballet majors appear to have double majors, it's hard but possible to achieve and does take quite a bit longer. As I'v looked at company dancer bios, all who state they have attained degrees have gained a double major.


I also agree with clara76, from the days when I did hiring and firing, I looked at the applicants education and achievements and unless they had advanced degree's it rarely mattered what that degree was in. Even school teachers and nurses apply for jobs way out of their education field. All a bachelors really means anymore is that the holder of the degree has staying power and see's the task through to the end.


Citibob, as far as med school goes, I know a practising physician who got a bachelors in history, he just took the pre med courses as well but actually graduated in history. As dancers love ballet, this doc loved history. When all is said and done I feel a double major is essential for ballet majors. University can give you an education but you need to be trained for something as well. You need to be marketable. It gives choices and in this day and age choices can only help. They tend to put you to the top of the pile when applying for jobs. It's one of the reasons I really wonder what the dancers who left HS but never graduated will do. The world only can hold so many ballet teachers

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The world only can hold so many ballet teachers


This is kind of off topic, but I'm continuously amazed at a certain paradox. On the one hand, we have a vast oversupply of well-trained dancers, and those who do go on to professional careers retire usually in their early 30's. On the other hand, there is still no shortage of substandard ballet teaching going around. Why the disconnect?


Anyway, I believe that for the dancer who quite high school to dance and ended up in the top of the dance profession, and has good people and teaching skills, that there will always be places in the dance world for that person. But we know that is exceedingly rare. And I've seen more than my share of people who were absolutely world-class dancers, and who had a lot to offer ballet organizations after they left the stage, but who still floundered in their post-dance career.

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Citibob, I think you may agree with me in my opinion that to dance well, even at the top of the profession says nothing about the individuals ability to teach. Teachers are born. Good teachers are rare and I believe that is why we have a plethera of poor schools. Even some teachers with strong followings because of their illustrias careers are often mediocre at best as teachers. I think we've all come across those we felt would offer a lot and been sadly disappointed. SI's seen to have these individuals en mass. The great dancer teaching a week of classes and each and every kid going 'what was that'. This is why those who fail to get any education, not even HS graduation worry me. Your right, this is off topic but it does tie into the original question by illuminating the necessity to be educated whether you dance professionally or not. If jobs are not forthcoming initially I do not believe it is a bad move to dance in university. Just double major and if that contacrt comes along half way through your studies, you can always go back later and finish up.

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A reminder that this is not a chat board. The last 7 posts (with the exception of one very short one by Clara 76) are just two people talking back and forth to each other and not really answering the original question anymore. :)


The original question is, is it possible to dance after college. And the answer is a loud resounding yes!

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One that comes to mind off the top of my head is Sarah Wroth who was accepted to the Boston Ballet after attending Indiana University.

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A friend of my daughter went to Indiana University, then joined San Diego Ballet. A major concern seemed to be age as she began as an apprentice. Have you considered online courses at the universities you are considering? In your freshman year most of your courses are liberal arts/requirements...the majority of universities do offer these online...just a thought. Good luck to you.

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In light of what NMSH is said, another option - highly dependent on the geographic location - would be to dance with the company offer, and take classes, maybe not as a full time student, in the area of the company. Especially for the "basic" requirements that seem to take up a good chunk of the first two years, regardless of what your field of study is.

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James Sofranko, a soloist with the San Francisco Ballet, graduated from Juilliard.


Also, there's no reason not to attend a university with a strong ballet program, supplement the university with classes at a local studio (assuming there is a strong local studio which often there isn't) and then maybe spend one or two years at the university before joining a company. some might call it dropping out but if you want to make it into a major ballet company, age is a significant enough factor, and after retiring from the company you could effectively pick up where you left off.

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