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When is it "too late" to make career decisions?


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I apologize in advance if this topic has been covered before as I am new to the board. I did do a search but did not find anything, so here goes...my dd has been dancing since age 3, obviously just for recreation early on. She is now 14 and goes to a "mom and pop", actually more like "mom and grandma" type school where the teachers seem relatively good to the uninformed like me! One of the ballet teachers has danced professionally with the Boston Ballet, for instance. It is a small studio where she is now considered the second highest level of dancer there; the more advanced girls are 2 years older than she. My question is this: after reading so many topics on here about kids knowing at age 12 or earlier that all they want to do is dance professionally, and dancing upwards of 15-20 hours per week while being homeschooled, etc., at what age is it "too late" to decide on a professional career? My daughter has always danced for the love and joy of it, and also the social aspect as the girls at her studio are her best friends. She does, however, have some natural ability (according to her teachers), and she sees dance in her future in some way...perhaps as a dance major or minor in college, or as a teacher some day. But this is at age 14; what if she wakes up at 17 and decides she wants to try for a professional dance career? Is it even possible at that point? She currently dances about 11-12 hours a week, but her studio's philosophy is one of the "well-rounded" dancer, so those hours include not only ballet/pointe but also lyrical, jazz and tap. Any thoughts?

Thanks :D

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  • tab9496


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Tab, that is really a question that can only be answered with variables. There is no set age for anything, but training a classical dancer takes at least 10 years of intensive training, and that is not counting the early years prior to at least age 8.


Training a dancer involves of course the talent of the dancer, the physical structure and facility for ballet, but the devotion, passion, work ethic, and commitment. In addition, it takes top notch training. It won't happen without both the quality and the quantity of training.


All that said, there have always been exceptions to everything. However, the odds are way up there for not a lot of chance for someone who decides later to become commited and has not had the prior training necessary to be at the most advanced level in a pre-professional school prior to the time of high school graduation.


Continuing to dance for the love, fun, and benefits can be done as long as one is healthy, but in terms of a career, including teaching and even getting into a good program in college these days, one has to be both talented and very, very well trained and 14 is already late. Possible, for sure, if the ability is there, but late.

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Thank you, Ms. Leigh. Would you say those guidelines (the 10 years of intensive training) apply to other dance disciplines as well, or strictly ballet? My daughter loves ballet but also loves lyrical just as much (I believe!). I'm not sure if it is ok to ask this, but I have learned a lot over just the past couple of weeks since registering here, and I wonder if there is a site comparable to this but about lyrical dance. I would be interested in finding out about lyrical summer intensives for the future.

And could you tell me your thoughts about summer intensives for the dance lover who will most likely not pursue a professional ballet career? My daughter will be attending a 4 week program this summer; because she does want to pursue dance in some way as I mentioned, we want her to develop to the best of her ability. I made an assumption, perhaps incorrect, that attending summer intensives and improving her abilities would help with college programs and/or the possibility of teaching one day.

Thanks again.

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Our daughter came from gymnastics, supplementing that with dance, so she didn't start serious dance training until she was 10. She's been at a pre-professional school for about 4 years, and she's spent a lot of that time catching up to the other students, since they had been seriously training since age 5. It's been eye-opening and she's had to work very hard, but she's getting there.


Perhaps your daughter can try a more serious and intense program to see if she really does like ballet and then audition for summer intensives. Or if she wants to start this summer, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet doesn't require an audition, and I think they're taking applicants until March 1. That might be one way for her to see where her training is and if she has the patience to go through the basics to fill any training gaps. That "filling in" will be a necessary first step, and it might mean that she sees other girls her age or younger taking more advanced classes. But as Ms. Leigh pointed out, it's not an absolute. Everyone has a slightly (some, very) different path.

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Tab, there might be some argument with what I'm going to say, but in the opinion of all of the classical people I know, "lyrical" is not considered a recognized dance form. It is a compilation of jazz, modern and some balletic movements, usually performed to a vocal, and the kids enjoy it because it's a lot easier than ballet and because they feel that they can emote because the words tell them how to feel.


There are no intensives in lyrical, to my knowledge. She would be FAR better off taking serious ballet and modern, and very good jazz and forget the rest. Any well trained classical dancer with a good facility and some jazz and modern background can do just about any form of dance asked of them by a good teacher or choreographer. Again, in my opinion, lyrical was developed for competitions, and I don't mean the major ballet competitions like YAGP or Prix de Lausanne.


As for summer intensives, good training is good training, and the best for everything is a background in GOOD ballet. However, it can't be done with just summers. She will be better at EVERYTHING if she gets the best possible ballet training first.

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I don't know if I can post in this section and if not moderators please feel free to do what you need to do, but I was reading the post and wanted to make a comment as a parent of a child who is 11/12 (at the end of this month). My DD has said since she was 4 that she wants to be a prima ballerina. She tells us she wants to dance with the Paris Opera, but since we aren't French we are still trying to figure that one out, lol. We have homeschooled since the beginning and it really has nothing to do with ballet although it does helps with our scheduling. She certainly isn't dancing 15 hours/week. They are at a pre-professional school and her class dances for 7 hours/week with one hour long pointe class. I just don't think that most kids this age are on that fast track even at a pre-professional school. At DD's studio, slow and steady wins the race.

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" the odds are way up there for not a lot of chance for someone who decides later to become commited and has not had the prior training necessary to be at the most advanced level in a pre-professional school prior to the time of high school graduation."


I know this sounds stupid, but I have admitted I have a lot to learn! What makes a school a "pre-professional" school? Is it that they are affiliated with a professional company? Or that they have a certain syllabus and levels? Please help me become clear on this.

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Thanks, everyone, for the responses...but of course they raise more questions, or just thoughts!


Latte, to clarify, my daughter will be attending Joffrey Midwest this summer after auditioning in January and really liking the audition. We have read many threads on the various programs including this one and decided this will, hopefully, be a good fit for her as she is a very hard worker and we assume she will enjoy the reported intensity of this program. And honestly, since my daughter is not as "serious" about dance (and by that I mean that she is not training at the level many of the kids on this board are in pursuit of a professional career), I didn't even realize that kids can have serious training starting at age 5!

Courtney, thanks for your input as well since my daughter is definitely not at a pre-pro school.

Gotalot, I'm with you. This board has been very eye-opening. I have known for a while that my daughter most likely does not have the desire to pursue a professional ballet career, but it is very enlightening to read about those who do and the effort and hours it takes. I thought 12 hours of dance was a lot, silly me!


And finally, Ms. Leigh, if you find yourself back at this topic, I guess I'm not really sure of the difference or questionable interchangeable-ness (I think I just made that word up) of the terms lyrical, contemporary and modern, if you wouldn't mind briefly clarifying for me.

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Modern: Started in the early 1900s, Modern is a dance form that rebels against the classical ballet form; that is, Modern dancers dance in bare feet and use movement that is more grounded in nature, in direct opposition to ballet's use of pointe shoes and airy lightness. Modern has a curriculum codified by pioneers of the form such as Martha Graham, Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, and Lester Horton.


Classical Ballet: Curriculum based on several hundred years of steps and technique; characterized by the articulation of the female's feet and legs, and the male's deft partnering and gravity-defying jumps and turns, and upper body expression in both. Started at court, this dance form has evolved technically and artistically.


Contemporary Ballet: No set curriculum. This is Classical ballet with a twist; where normally a pointed foot might be expected, a flexed one may be inserted. Typically using contemporary as opposed to Classical music, contemporary ballet is more of a style as opposed to a form.


Lyrical: As of this writing, no set curriculum. There are poses that are considered to be 'Lyrical', such as the standing open-crotch shot, usage of elements of both Modern and Jazz, and Lyrical is done to music with words. While there are some balletic-type movements in Lyrical, it is not considered a bonified long-lasting art form because it has very limited development potential.


Jazz: Developed into an art form by Jack Cole, Gus Giordano, and Bob Fosse. Has a set curriculum; characterized by body-isolations, knee slides, angled placement, and rapid directional changes.


While I suppose there are some places that would consider their training of 5 yr. olds to be "serious", one has to understand the brain development of such a young child, and how much of that "training" may actually make a difference. In my opinion, it doesn't make that much of a difference. (Don't throw things at me!)


Classical ballet training takes 8-10 years of solid almost daily training. It is no accident that most methods don't start this training until a student is 8 or 10. Body and brain development cannot be rushed.


You ask a tricky question because it does sound as though if she were to wake up at 17 and decide she wants to become a professional ballet dancer, her training may not be sufficient enough for that to happen. However, at 14, she could perhaps make up some for lost time. If her goals are to do anything at all with ballet (teaching or college), then she does need to get into a professional-training environment.


If however, her goal is simply to dance and have fun, and maybe take some classes while she is at college studying for whatever her vocation will be, then what she is doing is perfectly fine. :unsure:


Edited to add:

In NZ and parts of Europe (though I don't know exactly which countries), they have developed a "Contemporary Dance" curriculum. It is my understanding that it is essentially the same as the USA's Modern. Correct me if I am wrong.

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In NZ and parts of Europe (though I don't know exactly which countries), they have developed a "Contemporary Dance" curriculum. It is my understanding that it is essentially the same as the USA's Modern. Correct me if I am


Hi Clara, yes, in the UK, Europe, and the Antipodes, what s called "Modern dance" is usually called "Contemporary" -- no set curriculum as such, but in various clases & studios in the UK & Australia, I've studied the techniques and syllabi of Martha Graham, Jose Limon, and Skinner release-based dance.


Those interested, might look at the websites for London Contemporary Dance (major professional company & tertiary/HE training institution), or Northern Contemporary Dance (tertiary/HE training, with student company)

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Furthermore, you will also find that the dancers in many (most?) Contemporary Ballet companies (American, anyway) will have had a very strong technical classical ballet training background. The modern (and jazz) is layered over it. Study carefully the Complexions and Lines Ballet dancers. Their foundation is a very strong classical ballet technique.

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Thank you all for your comments and help.



To make sure I understand this completely, because in my mind, the words modern and contemporary are synonyms and basically interchangeable: in the world of dance, contemporary refers to a form of ballet and has nothing to do with modern dance, such as danced by the Alvin Ailey troupe. Correct? So when I see a "contemporary" summer intensive listed somewhere, it is a ballet intensive but not classical ballet.


And if someone wouldn't mind addressing gotalot2learn's question about what makes a school pre-professional? Faculty? Hours danced? Affiliation with a company? Or guide us to a thread that answers this question...

Edited by tab9496
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In the "Competition" world (not talking about the Classical Ballet competitions like IBC), Contemporary may mean any number of things, so you'd have to give us an idea of who the faculty is- then we'd be better able to guide you.


All of the companies such as Complexions, Hubbard Street, Alvin Ailey, etc., use dancers who have excellent Classical Ballet training, and usually start the day with a ballet class. They accept kids for their SIs who have strong Classical Ballet technique, and they do teach Classical Ballet at their intensives, but their schedules may not reflect a focus on Classical Ballet technique.


The dictionary definition of Contemporary may be more of an umbrella under which to group some of these dance forms, simply because they began in the 1900's, as opposed to Ballet which began back in the 1500's in Catherine de'Medici's court.


As far as whether a school is considered "pre-pro", there are threads devoted to that topic, and perhaps some of the parents here can help direct you, because I am not sure at the moment exactly where they are.


One of the things that can help parents is reading about Classical Ballet and it's history, which is actually quite fascinating. Remember that becoming a professional ballet dancer is similar to becoming a concert musician, or an Opera singer; it takes time, training, and talent. :wub:


Ah. I found a good one:

What constitutes a Pre-Pro school?

Edited by Clara 76
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