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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Moving from Adult Open Classes to Classical Dance Division


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I've really enjoyed studying ballet, and thanks in great part to my private class, I execute the barre exercises quite well, my stamina can sustain minute/minute-and-15 second jump combinations; the "natural" lightenss and ballonne are still huge works-in-progress. Currently, I am taking Adult Beginning 1 classes ; my private class is more technical and therefore slower paced, but the difficulty level is slightly higher than the typical Beginner class. Next month, I will start attending Intermediate classes upon invitation from one of these teachers, although these are probably closer to Advanced Beginner.


But I truly want an even more classical, conservatory type training and am curious about the class levels offered within the juvenile divisions......because I want to develop more advanced technique in an environment that is more like a conservatory and much less of the lighter, easier-going ambiance that permeates adult classes (not that adult classes are goof-off sessions).



Could a teacher/moderator kindly advise on how I should start getting myself on to that track, such as which level I ought to join in consideration of my skills? How to approach school administrators about joining their pre-pro divisions? Other things I need to be aware of?

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My best advice would then be to to speak with the person in charge at the school you might be interested in, and see what they have to say. That would usually be the Academy Registrar, Coordinator, or Director. It never hurts to ask! However, you must understand that because ballet training takes starting very young, and training is usually finished by the time one is 21, schools that are working with students to develop professional ballet talent, may not have the time to focus on you unfortunately.


When people study as adults, it is usually more to study the art form; to get as good as is possible; perhaps to perform in local theatrical productions; but it is not to obtain a job in a professional ballet company, as that is not really possible, unless one is the second coming of Sylvie Guillem.


I just want you to be realistic- not idealistic, and I do want you to find a place for training that will believe that adults can get pretty darn good, in their own right. :cool2:


As far as payments- most schools will allow dancers to pay monthly payments, and training can be quite costly in the pre-pro divisions. maybe 3,000 per season.


If you don't get far with your current school, then perhaps head to a different school with more offerings for adults. From here, I'm going to be quiet and see what others have to say!

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Thank you, Clara 76. I truly understand that I am not on track for ABT or Joffrey, but I do want to have the opportunity to dance with smaller regional or civic ballet companies. My confidence in my skills, musicality, and potentials are quite well matched by the assessments that I receive from my teachers; so I know that I have the "package" to achieve that goal.


So, if I were to approach the school, what questions do I need to ask the person in charge, and what information do I need to have before even meeting with the school (I am hoping that you could share feedback about these pre-information :cool2: .)

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  • Administrators

Agnes, the problem is that all the schools that I know of that have pre-professional tracks would not have a class in that division for an adult student who is not already at the most advanced level. And some won't allow adults in their pre-pro classes even if they are at that level. The best that I can offer is what Clara 76 has already said, and that is to find a school that treats adults well and has serious classes for them. I'm sorry, but I'm afraid that your goals in terms of dancing with a company, even a regional company, are not quite realistic. Now, there is the possibility of working in some capacity with a Civic company, as they often need adults for the party scene in Nutcracker, or Court People in Act I Giselle, etc. But paying companies are looking for dancers who are already at the professional level by their late teens or very early twenties. :(

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Oh dear, that is a cold reality check :( ; but thank you for keeping me from plunging head-long into........... Then, I have to say that with or without performing with a regional company, I still am compelled to study ballet with the same intensity that I studied my university courses. You could say that, I am doing it for myself. And I am holding onto that hope that I will perform as a dancer in my own right, and not just as a supernumerary.

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  • Administrators

Agnes, studying with a great intensity and, hopefully, great enjoyment, is truly wonderful! You have nothing to lose by doing the very best you can and becoming the best dancer that you can be. :(

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The way the Pre-Pro division works is one of 2 ways: Either kids who have been trained in the academy, and are working at a very proficient level from years of training (taking 15-20 hours of training per week), are asked/invited to join a pre-pro level. Or, from an SI, a kid may be offered a chance to train with that school's pre-pro division for year-round. Lastly, some schools will do it through audition, but the student would have to already be at a very high level.


As an adult taking a few classes, a week, you are pretty far away from 15-20 hours of study required before even entering a pre-pro division. That doesn't mean you can't improve, and even become proficient, but the idea of Pre-Pro study is probably behind you. Now, as Miss Leigh said- supernumerary roles are needed, and if you have the dancer's body you will be in a good position to get some roles of that nature. :(

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Hi Agnes,


This isn't exactly what you describe, but I wanted to mention that my teacher is the closest thing I have found to being in a company or receiving professional training as an adult. He teaches 11 classes a week (that's 16.5 hours of class, if you have the time) over the course of 6 days, and he does choreograph a few numbers a year and will draw on his adult students as performers.


Especially if you are a regular student, he takes seriously any student who takes his/her study seriously, and he is very demanding and expects technical and artistic excellence from you no matter what your age. He teaches independently, so he is not a pre-pro school, but students aged from 12-20 in actual pre-pro programs will drive up to 80 miles to take class with him on top of their pre-pro programs when they have free time because of the quality of his teaching, and our own teenagers (with whom you will be in class) go to good SIs in the summer. The upper level classes are often at least one third men. We also have professionals in class and visiting international students sometimes.


One of my favourite things about him is that he is extremely sensitive to music and will not only instruct us in steps and technique, but will go so far as to explain how our port de bras or arabesque arm and fingers, for example, should vary between Chopin (ah, there, far on the distant shore is my love, but alas, I cannot go...) and Prokofiev (come to me, my love - I demand without hesitation or uncertainty!) We are all taught to recognize a tarantella, a mazurka, what country our music comes from, etc., and move appropriately. It's very detailed and inspiring instruction. If you google his name, you will find his students in companies all over the country.


So, if you want to take a little drive north one of these days, come check us out!

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No, Anges and I live near each other and have been in PM contact.


(P.S., I'm a little embarrassed to be so ga-ga about him, but if anyone wants to come and visit our studio, PM me, and I'll send you his website.)

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Thanks Pirou! I'd almost forgotten about our recent communications. I do have the info about your dance studio in Culver City. I'll try to make it up there; it is about a 35-mile drive from where I live in Orange County.

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There are also (at least where I lived) small student companies without paid dancers who put on full length ballets....you might be able to dance with one of these companies. I don't know if any of these exist in California but its worth looking into. We had a mother of a couple of DD's who started taking ballet and was able to dance corps and demi-soloist roles. I can't remember if she had dance training as a child but I don't think she did. During my time with one such company I danced in Nutcracker, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Coppelia. We were made up of mainly high school and younger dancers, but there were a few of us adults who had never stopped dancing as we went through college and we were allowed to take advanced classes and dance solos and difficult corps work (snow in Nut., fairies in Cinderella & Sleeping Beauty, etc.). Best of luck to your finding a company with which to dance!

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Ok. So here's a real story from someone who's been there:


I've danced since very young. Danced at some well-known places. Then I injured my left knee. Took two years to come back from that. By that time I was 21. Picked back up with dancing for about a year then moved back to Virginia. For the next 5 years I worked on finishing my degree and working full-time. I was in the south-eastern part of Virginia and thought there was nowhere for me to dance at all. My Mom actually saw an ad in the newspaper for a silly little studio and I signed up. After being told I was too fat and old to be taken seriously I switched to another studio. I was taken more seriously at that studio but it was more of a competition school, not the classical training I was used to.


I eventually found a school that was somewhat comparable to what I was used to. The AD had no problem with placing me in her pre-pro division. Her daughter, however, had a major problem with it. The girls were always really nice to me and thought it was cool that I was "that old" and still dancing. The daughter made life really, really difficult for me. I am a perfectionist to the point that it gets me into trouble. The daugther rode me constantly, and I'm not talking about the good kind of attention. Nearly every class I had with her she made fun of me in some way. The only thing that did was serve to make me push myself that much further. I was eventually given a role in A Midsummer Night's Dream but had to forego it due to a second foot surgery in less than a year. The following season I was given two roles in the Nutcracker, party parent and a mouse with a good possibility of the Russian as well. I was understudying Chinese and Flowers.


And then.........I kept pushing myself so hard because of the daughter that my body literally could not take it anymore. During class one night I came down wrong from a jump and tore the lateral meniscus in my right knee. After knowing what the first surgery was like I chose not to have surgery on my right knee. By making that decision I, in essence, ended my dancing.


I don't know you but you seem like you would have the same mentality as me. I truly believe the only reason I was allowed to go into the pre-pro classes was due to my past training. If I had been an absolute beginner it wouldn't have happened. Even WITH that past training I was still passed over on a lot of things in favor of the younger girls. I'm not saying that you'll never be able to dance at that level and never get cast in anything, but don't have any really high hopes.



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I also started ballet as an adult (28 or 29 at the time; I can't remember), and I am now (eight years later) dancing in the vocational stream at what would probably* be described as a Pre-professional studio (e.g the school has classes during the day for students who get released from school for ballet, several students have got into the Australian ballet school, the English National ballet school etc).


Here's the dirt:

I LOVE the training that I get, and the high standards in the classes.

BUT realistically I cannot compete physically with kids half (or sometimes a third!) of my age.

I have to mentally work a lot harder, because my physical ability is less.

I spend 2-3 times longer at a level than the teenagers do.

I cannot devote the time to ballet that they do. Many of these students do 8-12 classes a week. I do a maximum of 3- I have a very intense job which often involves doing work outside regular workplace hours.

When the kids are preparing for exams, performances or big auditions, I do get less attention in class.

Places in pas de deux class are extremely limited- of course they are not going to waste one of those places on somebody with no potential of becoming professional. So I am never going to get to do PDD.

I am reaching the point where I am realising that there are certain things that I don't think I am ever going to be able to do (entrechats trois and up!), no matter how long or hard I try for.

At a previous school, I did do a performance in the corps with the teens. I worked so many times harder than they did, just to reach their standard and fit in to that higher standard.

I am the only adult student in these classes- it can be very hard on the ego sometimes to compare yourself to these wonderfully talented young things!


So while it is possible sometimes to dance in what would be decribed as pre-pro classes, it is not with the expectation that as an adult dancer I will reach the same standards as the teenagers in those classes. Time, my older body, the other pressures on my life, must all be taken into consideration also. But my aim is to be as good as I can be, within those limitations, and to be able to occasionally have that wonderful flying sensation of a fantastic pirouette, or grande jete en tournant, or a beautiful adage. And that's enough for me.


*Australia doesn't really call studios 'pre-professional', although there are certainly some that would meet those standards.

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Agnes, it's actually more possible than you might think. You haven't said how old you are; if you're closer to 20, it's much different than if you're closer to 30.


In any case, attaining a high level of skill in ballet requires, first and foremost, and incredible commitment of time. Far more time than most adults have available, given the need to make a living. If you do have that kind of time available (20+ hr/week for starters, more later), then you might find someone who will train you. Otherwise, it's really a non-starter. Most adult students, rightly so, are unwilling to re-arrange their lives to do what's needed in this respect.

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