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Ballet Talk for Dancers

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


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  • Victoria Leigh


  • Clara 76


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  • tab9496


You're very welcome! :)

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Yes, thank you Clara. I read that link this morning. It reinforces my growing awareness that dd needs more ballet per week if she wants to even major in dance in college!

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Yes! That is very true. In order to be accepted for ballet majors anymore, one must have the training.

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The whole college thing has me now thinking of another question...if one does not intend to dance professionally but wants to be a dance major or minor, exactly what does he/she do with that dance education after college? I guess in a round-about way I am asking if there are job possibilities for a dance major not in a professional dance company?

And also, would you experts comment for me on what percentages of serious dance students attend college vs. auditioning for companies right out of high school? Just out of curiosity, and certainly not looking for absolutes but an educated guess...

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tab, there are really no statistics on percentages of serious dance students doing anything, at least not to my knowledge. I don't even have an educated guess on that one. There are, however, a lot of things that dancers can do with higher education in dance. There are topics on this, but I have no idea where they are and don't have time to search right now. Will try to help you out later if I can find something.

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we are deep in the college search for dd and what we have told is to do what you want in college. She knows she wants to dance in college but not certain if it will be a degree. But when she asks what she will do with it, I point out that there are MANY college majors that don't do much for you. The top 2 majors in many colleges are psychology and biology - neither of which at a bachelors level can you do much with. But people seem to stress more about arts degrees.

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calamitous, you hit the nail on the head. Many professions require a master's degree to be certified these days anyway. Some even a PhD (e.g., physical therapy, one that my dd had been considering). I keep telling my daughter that she needs that bachelor's degree under her belt even if she wants to keep dancing. Later she can pursue a master's degree in anything that she wants.

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If anyone has a link to any thread here having to do with career options I would appreciate it. I have searched using words like career options, post-graduate jobs, etc. but have not come up with anything relevant. Thanks.

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  • 2 weeks later...

As the mother of a 21 year-old nascent-professional dancer (just out of college last May), it's been awhile since I frequented this section. But this thread is so spot-on with relevant and sound information that I have to comment, if just to "bookmark" this thread so I can direct personal contacts to it. (Yes, I realize I could have simply subscribed to the thread without commenting. :lol: ) My region of the country is full of "mom and pop" type dance studios and few of the dance moms around here grasp this need to scope out the possibilities for the future as Tab has done. I commend her for asking such good questions and for all the others who responded with such solid advice. I especially enjoyed Ms. Leigh's whole take on lyrical dance and Clara's apt observation that the "competition" world has twisted the meaning of "contemporary." My daughter is passionate about the works of such contemporary choreographers as Forsythe, Kylian, Naharin, etc, and she absolutely hates watching "So You Think You Can Dance" with me because of how they've hijacked the term.


Given the stellar quality of this thread, I hope I don't go and spoil it now by offering some of my own thoughts.


Having observed my daughter's path into the world of contemporary dance (as defined by those who are classically trained and not by SYTYCD), it is my sense that her fellow American dancers use the term to distinguish it from "USA's Modern" as dance that derives from living choreographers, as opposed to old-modern. True, contemporary ballet is classical ballet with a twist, but I think you can say that today's "American" contemporary dance is a true fusion of modern and ballet. It is Modern that has stopped rebelling against ballet and, instead, has embraced it with open arms - in fact, it insists that dancers be very well trained in ballet. Dancemaven was right to point out that you need to be highly trained in ballet in order to make it into contemporary companies such as Complexions and LINES.


Tab, my daughter also started Joffrey Midwest when she was 14, having turned down a full scholarship to return to CCA's International Summer School. Her later acceptances to places such as Jacob's Pillow and the University of Arizona should give you some indication that there's still hope for your daughter if she wishes to take her dancing to a higher level. And while my daughter can't make it past a second cut for some ballet companies (or a first cut for others), she is doing very well in New York at contemporary dance auditions for small companies. (They just don't pay well.) However my DD's mom-and-grandma home studio didn't go for "lyrical" dance and believed in more ballet in relation to tap and jazz. She also accepted Judy Rice's and Bill DeYoung's invitation (from Joffrey Midwest) to take classes at the University of Michigan's dance department, which she arranged to do during her junior year. (Daytime classes conflicted with her 9th and 10th grade schedules.) Having gotten a taste of dancing in that environment, my daughter refused to stick around town for another year, so she attended the University of the Arts the following year when she was 17. She then transferred to the University of Arizona - her 1st choice school.


So, my point is that a) she didn't just wake up at 17 and decide that she wanted to dance professionally. She's been working towards that since she was 12, seeking the best training she could find - or, to put it more precisely, what we managed to scout out and then she opted for the more-challenging option each time. And b ) if you live in an area that's weak in the "Pre-Pro" offerings, I see no other option than to allow your child to leave home at an earlier age. My daughter begged me to allow her to audition for Interlochen Arts Academy or to accept the invitation to VSA after she checked the year-round option at the SI audition, but I refused. We couldn't afford boarding school and still send her to college, which I knew she wanted to do. So, for her, sending her to college early was a decent compromise.


Tab, if your daughter comes back from Joffrey Midwest with a stronger desire to aim for a professional dance career, you may need to re-examine her current dance studio. I sincerely hope I'm wrong, but I've seen too many bios of the teachers at some Dolly Dinkle studios where their summer intensive training at the major company-affiliated schools was deliberately worded to give the false impression that they had been members of the company. They get away with it because the parents are too ignorant about the world of professional ballet to know bad training when they see it. As I said, I hope I'm wrong, but your daughter will certainly get a taste of excellent training this summer. Please encourage her to make good use of the connections while she is there by having her ask everybody where they have studied (or are planning on studying): students as well as teachers. The guys will work with all the levels and may already be college age or are applying for colleges; teachers should be asked for their recommendations of good programs; the other girls may know of older dancers who went onto other programs. Every tidbit gathered is valuable for your daughter because the information is coming from other dancers and not from you and what you heard from "other dance moms."


Finally, I hope you're taking your daughter to as many professional dance performances as possible. You should view that as a key component of her dance education.

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I can attest to much of what Pierrette describes, and especially her words:

but I think you can say that today's "American" contemporary dance is a true fusion of modern and ballet. It is Modern that has stopped rebelling against ballet and, instead, has embraced it with open arms - in fact, it insists that dancers be very well trained in ballet.
It's very true that modern has finally accepted and "embraced" it, as Pierrette says. My daughter danced for 5 years with a contemporary company that I have loved ever since I first saw them when my DD was just 4 years old. Because I've seen them over a span of many years, I've gotten to watch as they added more and more ballet dancers to their company. While there are still a mix of modern and ballet-trained dancers there, the choreography and performances definitely changed over time to reflect the ballet dancers' strengths. I've had conversations with the AD's where they've each stated that a well-trained ballet dancer can be taught any choreography.


This year, my daughter has been dancing in a touring musical. This past December, they needed to hire a new partner for her, and held auditions in NYC. It was obvious to everyone that the auditioning ballet dancers who attended were better dancers than those who came from the modern background only, and could be taught the choreography easily, and so, of course, they hired a ballet dancer.


And just one note about the term "contemporary": Often, ballet companies whose repertoire isn't limited to classical ballet, will refer to their work in the contemporary field as "contemporary ballet." I like that term; I think it's the most accurate.

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Ms. Leigh, Pierrette, and vagansmom, thank you once again for your replies and very insightful comments.


And I have one more question specifically directed to Ms. Leigh as I see you are here in Georgia. Do you have any thoughts on the Governor's Honors Program as it relates to dance? I am seriously considering having my daughter audition in the future, depending on your approval of the program!

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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?


Tab, in some ways your daughter sounds more like mine than the many offspring on this board who are already professional bound and have known that forever.


My daughters (now 17 and 21) also danc(ed) in a more "mom and pop" kind of place -- a really good neighborhood studio that focuses on ballet but also offers wonderful modern, and a weekly jazz class too. They, too, aim to produce a "well-rounded dancer" -- but their definition has less to do with mastering many types of dance, and more to do with keeping a healthy attitude.


I guess I want to urge you to follow your child's lead. At about the same age, I worried that this studio could not give my daughters what they would need should they want a shot at something bigger. I offered the chance to train at a larger, better known (but still local) school. Both kids turned it down. It seems that our little studio was fulfilling their needs at the time, which included performance opportunities and a comfortable social situation.


My older DD went off to a college that has a minimal dance program. She has been very happy taking a daily class -- some semesters it's ballet, some semesters it's modern -- and training and performing with the modern company. In some ways, this is the college counterpart of her old studio: not a lot of intense training, no need to compete with tons of very gifted dancers to be in a show, just a nice, comfortable niche in which she can do what she loves best. (And meanwhile, she is majoring in Cognitive Science, which is a sort of a cross between Psychology and Biology ... :grinning:)


If your DD comes back from Joffrey Midwest wanting more than her studio can offer, find it for her. If at some point, you feel the training is lacking and you want to protect yourself from later recriminations, investigate alternatives and offer them to your DD. (I made my older DD take one class a week at the alternative studio for a couple of weeks just to try it out.) She will know what the right thing is for her.

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tab, I have not been in GA very long, and I'm afraid that I don't know anything at all about the Governor's Program. Sorry. :wub:

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