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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Career: Graduation vs Contract


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We like to try and be prepared for any contingency. One thing that has occurred to us this year is whether there is a long-term value to graduating from a given school. I have in mind post-high school programs, particularly those overseas (Europe) such as Royal, Hamburg, etc. In other words - schools where students may go after high school to do some finishing years. We've seen some students stay the course and graduate. Others have left mid-way when contracts appeared. Is there a longer term value to the student in staying and being able to say they are a "graduate" of a given school? Or does the student accept the contract if it's presented, realizing there is more value in being a paid professional. One of DS' teachers would get very angry when a student left, saying that once you leave the ballet world as a "student" you can never go back. Is that true from others' experiences? Is it worth it to take the contract if it's presented? Or is there value in that "degree" - especially if the student wants to teach later in life?


I recognize that everyone's experience is different. But it would be nice to know what has worked - and what hasn't worked - for others. It seems like this is a decision that committs you to a path. If DS were to leave his school early, he would not be able to return. Certainly there are other opportunities and places to train, but it would be just another training opportunity; he wouldn't be able to say he had "graduated" from a given school. But does that really matter in the long run?

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Probably not, but, it's worth weighing the type of contract, too. If it's with a strong company, where he will get excellent training and experience, and hopefully move up in the ranks, then I would say go for it. If it's a small regional company, I think it needs to be more carefully considered. I don't think having the graduate status is critical to anything, but it does sound good, and might be helpful later on.

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As mentioned, it does all depend on circumstances.


I know of one instance where the diploma was needed for insurance purposes (Germany); a special situation but one which is of great financial value once the dancer is not employed full-time.


So, I would also look to see where the company is - in which country - and what the rules there are about insurance later on, if the dancer would perhaps stay in that country. (and, believe me, you _never know_!)



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I think it would all depend on the specific situation as well. My DD left before graduation in one pre-pro school to do a two year training program in a school she thought would be more advantageous to her career goals. She would not have considered leaving before graduation in the second school. Training wise she was very confident she would be a "finished" student and would be ready to start working on growing as a professional dancer after that. The individual dancer will hopefully be able to self evaluate and know when and where that shift should happen.

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I know nothing about the overseas market. But from personal experience in the states, it's worth weighing, what particular things might be lost out on because of student status at a school vs. being a pro if the contract is not from a company comparable to the dream company. But one in the dancer's mind as a stop along the way. Once a pro, even for a month, you are no longer a student when it comes to any competitions, performance opportunities or auditions that may occur. Those are not the end all be alls, but when DD gave up her first pro job at 18 to try for larger companies, she found out that those who had been Trainees during that year instead of corp had a very different set of opportunities still available to them. For example: YAGP, IBC as a student, Prix de Lausanne, RDA guesting with options for scholarships as well as the credentials and expectation you provide the company auditioner who still looks at students with "promise" and pros with expected "completeness". Nothing like walking in your first audition post contract (only 6 months) and having the person in charge saying, "all dancers still students this side of the room, all pros this one" knowing that this put you in a different category from now on.


While it wasn't a big deal in the end. It was an eyeopener for just a minute. Truly one of those cases of not being able to look back.

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Thanks momof3 - those are things we also didn't consider. We don't really know what will happen over the next 12 months, but want to be able to have a mature conversation with our son and help him weigh the pros and cons. He's still only 17 - and we would like him to graduate with his current school. I think that's what he wants, too. But he's also tired of having to rely on our support, and any contract offer can be very appealing if you are thinking short term, and not long term.

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Having a dipolma from a European ballet school counts for something in Europe without a doubt. European school and company directors, expect that students will graduate. If an American is able to get a job earlier than graduation sometimes arrangements can be made to have diploma in hand early.


In later years, having a European ballet academy/institute diploma can be useful when dealing in higher levels of schooling and company work. It is like attending Harvard or Yale but not graduating. The actual diploma may not seem important as a dancer, but it may be helpful to a dancer who is interested in transitioning into teacher, ballet master work and or directing a school or company in Europe.


It may be best to consider a career in ballet as one that encompasses more than a performing career. In Europe, the diploma does mean something.

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It's quite true in Europe, though I believe less so in the states. When my company first applied for a work visa for me, I had to provide numerous documents, (translated into the language....which was quite difficult to accomplish), and one of them was my "diploma from ballet school" and a listing of my coursework and grades! This was easily accomplished as I had a Butler diploma and simply had my transcripts translated. I wondered what I would have done had I not had this.....but of course there are many Americans working overseas that don't have university/ballet school diplomas and they manage. But there is absolutely value to it, especially in Europe.

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Thank you. This was the information we were looking for, especially since DS would like to work in Europe at some point. He's seen several friends walk away from school in the states when offers were made so is not surprised when he sees students at his school decide to leave mid-year - and there have been several. It sounds like there is value in trying to wait it out for one more year regardless of what he may encounter over the next few months. We definitely want him to consider the future, so this is something we will add to the conversation.

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Recently I learned that with the German schools in particular, graduation does have something to do with your pension down the road. Obviously, not a consideration that would affect any young person immediately, but if one is European with thoughts of staying on after retirement, then graduation (or not) could make a difference.


There is also vrs' observation that a graduation diploma might help in securing a teaching job in subsequent years.


That said, in the current climate one may just need to take the job opportunity.........every dancer's situation is so different!

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dbleon - I'm talking about a student that has finished high school but is studying in a post-high school environment. I don't know what else to call it. Similar to a student that goes to RBS for their three year program, or the two year program at Paris Opera (for international students.) Not university, but something from which you do, in fact, "graduate." Although we've found that term to mean a lot of different things depending on what country you're in! I guess professional residential program would apply in this case, but I didn't want to imply going to Kirov or Harid or some other local US school/residential high school. Does that make it clearer?

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Can I ask: do you mean graduation, or do you mean completion of high school?


You need to check this, because a 'high school diploma' would not be a diploma in the EU framework of educational qualifications which is being systematised across the EU under the Bologna Agreement (my job requires me to be conversant with this framework).


In Europe, with most countries having formal, national examinations at the end of high school, this is rarely (if ever) called "graduation." You (mostly) graduate from a university. You matriculate from high school.

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Graduation means high school to me. If a ballet school is not recognized by the State as a degree granting program such as in the programs at Harid, NCSA, Nutmeg, the term graduation often times is used very loosely. I have addressed the question generally referring to an American who has finished high school in the US (US diploma in hand) who chooses post diploma studies in a European ballet degree granting program such as RBS, Hamburg, John Cranko, Munich, Hungarian National, Bolshoi, Perm, etc. The various degrees offerred are all quite different. Some are similar to an associate degree, some a high school diploma/international baccalaureate and others a BA. Each family would have to ask those questions in relationship to how the situation effects their child. Vaganova Academy will not take foreign students who have not completed their country of origin's academic requirements. This is generally age 18 and above. Each country assigns the value of the diploma. As has been mentioned, the various degrees do have considerable value in their country of origin, but also when working within the EU. In the US, when applying for jobs directed by a European, these degrees won't hurt.


Memo may be able to tell us more about England and the value of the diploma in the US. I know she did mention it on a thread regarding England.

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VRS, I suppose my point was that 'graduation' in Europe has a quite specific meaning: graduation from a post-secondary level of education, not secondary (high school) education. Anyone from the US seeking to work or study in Europe (and I include the UK in this) needs to understand this. A high school diploma means the same as a baccalaureate, A levels, or Abitur. But we would rarely refer to receiving those qualifications as "graduation." Well, certainly not in the UK.


Although the European high school qualifications are generally standardised national qualifications in the way that (as I understand it) US high school diplomas are not. The nearest US equivalent are probably SATS results, and in my field, it is these academic results we'd look at, rather than a high school diploma, which isn't really a standardised qualification (for the purposes of my institution anyway).


In terms of getting company positions in the EU, performance at audition is still the first criterion for employment, followed by EU eligibility.

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