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Choices: College vs Company Auditions HS Grad


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Hi......This probably does not belong here, but I didn't know where else to put it........I have a couple questions: 1.Do most dance students audition for dance companies while they are in their senior year of high school, and, if hired, do not go to college?


2. If the dancer does not feel quite ready to work for a dance company at 18, do they lower their chances of dancing professionally if they go to college for four years and then audition for a company at 21 or 22 years of age, even though they may, by then, be a better dancer than they were at 18?

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Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers, Nim. :thumbsup:


Actually, your questions really should have a thread of their own, although these subjects have certainly be addressed before. Short answers are: 1. There is no definitive answer! :P Seriously, many dancers do audition for companies in their senior year, although I'm not sure I could say most. Only those in pre-programs who have reason to believe that they are company ready, at least for a trainee or second company position should be auditioning. If they are hired they usually do not go to college, however there are some companies today who have affiliations with college programs so that their dancers can study a course or two at a time and still be a full time company member. Some dancers do all of their college auditions and interviews, and then if they get a company job they defer the college offer for a year.


2. There are no statistics on dancers who go to college for 4 years and then audition, or for those who go to college for a year or two or three and then audition. Some have done it, one way or the other, and many have not. Many have gone to college later. I think that the odds for someone doing 4 years in college and then getting into a ballet company are not terrific unless they are in one of the few exceptionally strong college ballet programs, like Indiana for instance. There are a few others which have had dancers graduate and dance, too, but I don't think that the numbers are as good as for those who defer college and do more training in a professional program.

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I think that the odds for someone doing 4 years in college and then getting into a ballet company are not terrific unless they are in one of the few exceptionally strong college ballet programs, like Indiana for instance. There are a few others which have had dancers graduate and dance, too, but I don't think that the numbers are as good as for those who defer college and do more training in a professional program.


I was smiling and feeling pretty good about things as I read this wonderful thread - but ouch - Ms. Leigh - this one cut to the heart. What follows is off topic in a way, but an example of the stresses and fears we all deal with. If there is a better thread or it needs a new one to go along with Nim's post then please direct me :wacko: My technological skills seem to failing me - as I have tried to include part of your post above and then not sure how or where to begin this as a new thread?


We have just finished about 3 months of serious research into college programs with strong ballet programs (such as Indiana and the other "Fabs"-with so much help from BT4D threads) in response to my 15 yo dd's (hs sophomore) declaration that she wants so very much to take her training and her "art" as far as she possibly can and dance professionally AND that this would mean we needed to think about her current academic life and stresses in a very rigorous, college prep high school differently.


So decision #1 - After many conversations and lots of research (including serious talks with ballet teachers for reality check... is this a pipe dream or is it a possiblity) have decided that she will be completing her remaining two high school years online so that she can have the flexibililty to train more, take more class and even take class with a local professional company 3X a week and still enjoy and take challenging academic courses (just fewer of them and on a time flexible schedule). I suppose this is much like deciding to send dks to residency programs...we will be the housing in this case and so she'll be home, but home studio training is very good and adds bonus of class with professionals!


Decision # 2 - Move away from the attitude of findng a super strong liberal arts college where she could "also" dance to find a college program that would best prepare her and pave the way for her to dance with a professional compnay, but still end up with a college degree. We were sort of imagining it (college BFA Ballet performance program/degree) as a "trainee" position, in the college program, rather than with a company, with the college degree as the bonus, or as "plan B", or the after dancing "next thing", or in the event of injury or change in focus etc...Always in the back of my mind was the question...am I limiting her chances by insisting (or at least strongly encouraging) that she get a college degree? She will be 17 when she graduates high school - so also I've been feeling like 4 years in college is a great transition to "adult life". I suppose time will tell for much can change in the next two years. And then of course one must audition for entrance to the top college ballet programs, companies, and the like...so its good to have a multitude of plans. Once again BT4D has helped me broaden my perspective, in an informed manner - I come from an academic background; the world of a ballet dancer is so foreign to me. I feel like a fish out of water, but you all have welcomed me to your "pond" - thanks! My world view is changing as I find myself actually considering that she might defer college as another option - whew.

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I fixed the quote for you, tcook. :wacko:


I think that you are wise to realize that there are options. Deferring college is certainly one of them. Keep in mind that college can be done at any time, a ballet career cannot. If she gets into one of the really top college programs she might be able to graduate and still do it, but don't get totally married to that idea, because if she has the chance for a trainee or apprentice or second company position, college would not be the same thing.

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For our part, this has been a process of accepting what we didn't want to accept. Our daughter, her passion and her gifts mean that she will take a different path. We have no doubt that one day she will have a college degree and perhaps even an doctorate in something but she will do it in her own way and in her own time. For her, she keeps her grades high and intends to apply to college and defer if she gets the contract that meets her criteria. As parents, we supply what she needs for all of it. We started this process thinking she could go to college, major in dance and dance professionally. As she has progressed, we realized that a ballet career is for the young and have come to understand that the academics can be done in our dd's own way-either while dancing or after. You are only young once. This is not an easy place to come to by the way.


edited to add:

This perspective comes from 2 academically oriented parents. Dad is has all the teaching awards possible at an Ivy League school and mom started a whole professional specialty in nursing! We come from the other side of the brain...but passion is passion... it doesn't matter which side of the brain or what the passion is!

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Thank you so much Ms. Leigh. I think I went wrong when I hit the reply button and then deleted parts of your post to get to the bit I was referring to before typing in my reply.


Swanchat - thanks so much for sharing this part of your journey. This has come as quite a mind-shift for us, the parents of a dd, both with post undergrad degrees in engineering and science, neither of us with much experience with the Arts beyond "audience" member, and then with a dd who also excels in academics (I am not complaining here at all, just...of course I saw & experienced such a a different path). I keep thinking that 21 is still young and how super to have that college degree "too", but I do want to be clearly seeing the picture for a young aspiring ballet dancer so I really appreciate your comments and Ms. Leigh's admonishment... college can be done at any time, a ballet career cannot. In my own little world I really did not think this would be the case - but then I also have to see that even now, the dual demands and stresses of balancing rigorous academics with rigorous dance training have been very taxing and dd's life is in fact out of balance.


I see another intense period of research coming (at least that is something I know how to do!)... and we will now begin reading through the many threads about trainee, apprenticeships, companies etc....under this very, very helpful career forum. I have already practically memorized the Colleges thread :)


Curious to see how others out there will respond to (and have responded in the past) these thoughts?! I get the sense that this equation is shifting a bit, particularly in the U.S. as more and more college programs emerge and place grads into professional companies and as the number of excellently trained dancers keeps increasing, hmmm???, but for now (and likely quite a bit of time to come) we must be open to all the opportunities that might present themselves.

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If you daughter is 15, you still have time to come to a decision- maybe I should say she does, actually. Listen to her, support her and offer up all the options there are for her. Do not down play college, conservatory or a professional program. Know that it is hard but try to stay neutral. I was at the same place you were three years ago and at that point I would have sworn that she would defer college to take her shot. But things change a lot in a teenager's life, even in a very dedicated teenager. When the time comes to really start the decision making, take her to all the options and have her listen to people who have "been there". Nothing helps more than a college visit, a day at a pre-professional program or an auditon to help make things clearer for her. And applying to several options gives her options. College can be easy to defer. Many kids start college a year or two later for lots of reasons.

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Yes thanks, openess and really listening to dd seem to be key - I've had to bite my tongue many times as my "solution" was automatically..."how about cutting back on dance". One day it finally dawned on me that this was more than an "extracurricular activity" - a passion and something that gives her so much joy.


I am very thankful for this "village" - its so great to hear from so many others who have wlaked in our shoes so to speak!

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This board is such a wonderful place. DD is a high school junior at a pre-pro school and I get asked about her college plans. When I tell people DD hopes to get a traineeship or apprenticeship instead of going to college, you'd think I said "DD has decided to throw her life away and live in a cardboard box". One mother of a much younger dancer actually said to me "my dd is quite academically advanced so will be going to college", intimating that my dd was, perhaps, not very bright. I have found my dd's dancer friends (and dd) to be very bright, incredibly mature for their age, and more focused than most(regardless of age). We are looking at colleges, but it has been made very clear to us that this is a back-up plan. The older I get, the more I recognize that life is long - too long to live with regrets. There are so many reasons why my dd won't make it - economy, too tall, injury, not the right fit, etc. - but it won't be because she wasn't out there with everything she had. - and maybe someday she'll realize how incredibly lucky she's been to do what she loves - and have parents who supported her dream.

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This relatively new process of going through trainee ships, II companies, apprenticeship prior to a full corp contract is making dancers older when they reach the relative security of a company contract. As my DD's grew we parents talked about the age of dancers taken into companies and some were very young, some as young as high school sophomores when they enter II companies. We had dancers from our school just 15 years old when these opportunities were offered and accepted. In these instances HS was approached very differently by the individual families. Some kept academics as a priority with their dancers taking AP classes where others went low end classes but still with the requirement that HS graduation was essential. Sometimes it was delayed and in a couple of cases I saw 20 year olds who still had a senior year to get through. It's all a matter of priority, expectations and ability both as dancers and in academics.


Because of the new older dancers, the college graduate who has truly kept up on a pre-pro level as a dancer are showing up in companies as they did in earlier decades. Read the bios of company dancers all over the country and you will find them. Dancers in their early twenties getting II contracts.


Looking back to the late 70's and early 80's I knew dancers of that era who attained a high company rank yet they attended university programs prior to joining a company due to lack of readiness for a professional contract. I think this is the element you need to look at, readiness. The dancer who is taken in any capacity by a company straight out of high school would be wise to accept and work with the current system. You will find a lot of celebration on this site about dancers getting trainee programs and rightfully so. Dancers aren't being quite so mobile and leaving companies these days. We all see how few jobs are available and the dancer straight out of high school is realistic to look at the trainee level of company entrance as a great success.


There will always be exceptions to any and all rules but, for the most part I don't hear many high school seniors talking of even II contracts anymore. They are talking getting trainee programs. In reality it hasn't taken very long for young dancers to see the horizon differently. We will still hear students talking of only auditioning for the top five companies but for the most part the young dancers I know are being realistic and looking at trainee ships as a foot in the door. For some they are choosing university settings, but these are the dancers who aren't being offered a trainee position, or they see the university as a lateral position with the trainee ship.


Anyway you look at it this is a tight market and a hard one to break into. Plan 'B' is essential for all of us. There are no guarantees. We as parents need to help our children attain their dreams but we also need to have reality checks in place and they can not let academics fall by the way side. Sadly I have seen this happen also. The dancer who basically left school after around 9th grade. Ballet maybe the passion of our children but their academics are essential. A good HS graduation is as essential as good ballet classes. They don't have to dumb down academics to maintain a demanding ballet schedule, adjust it, yes, but honors diplomas and AP exams are still achievable. It's the rest of their lives that has to give, social life and vegging time. Their will be little time for either. It really is all about choices.


This post is all over the place and covering many aspects of this topic. Sorry if it waffles a bit. I think we could all write books on raising a dancer well. It's a hard and complex subject!

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ddsupportteam: I know the feeling and the look. When I tell people at the studio that DD does not want to go to college they look at me as if I am crazy. Other dancers tell my DD she will go nowhere. After the initial shock and coming to terms with DD's decision (swanchat I feel you) I have to applaud my DD for being so assured and confident. I will do what I can to support her in her endeavors but with the understanding that she will do what she needs as well to support herself. It will be a different experience but interesting nonetheless.

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I'll have to apologize to y'all, because I am sure I was one of those that gave quite a "concerned" look when dd's classmates expressed similar decisions about not attending college. Perhaps you will forgive me as I really didn't understand the lay of the land for pursuing a professional career in ballet.


Now that I am on the other side and am walking a mile (or more) in your shoes - I see there are quite a few pathways and that for many, taking an opportunity to dance as trainee or "professional" right out of high school makes sense. Now it is my professor father and mother who are giving me "concerned" grandparental looks and I so appreciate everyone's comments here.


I am thankful that there do seem to be many ways to approach this and each will need to be looked at in light of my dd's own unique situation. Very good point about an individual's "readiness" - something we'll not know until we are there.


Pasdetrois - I say hear hear to your encouragement for all of the young, wonderful dancers out there to finish their high school diplomas and finish them so that they will be as intellectually stimulating and challenging as they can manage (while still staying healthy, getting enough sleep, and enjoying both pursuits) - I am a high school biology teacher after all :) and I know how honors coursework or AP work in a subject that interests you has many rewards!


I do think that for most people, college at some point in their life, will be an important and worthwhile endeavor in their development intellectually and "professionally". (My bias as a former college professor perhaps coming through as I write this.) But I see no reason why college has to be between the years of 18-22.


Many of my European friends took a gap year or two before beginning college and I used to think that was so wise - as I felt that at 17 & 18 I really wasted my first years as an undergraduate - and didn't really appreciate the opportunities and hit my stride until I was a bit older. These days there are so many options for college coursework and eventual degrees - I'm not sure why this didn't dawn on me more quickly as I listened to my daughter's impassioned pleas for "more dance".


I am learning to be more open about all of the possible pathways, I am no longer secretly rolling my eyes and clucking my tongue at an announcement of "not going to college", and I hope my dd feels that we are fully supporting her as she reaches for her dreams.

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What has been interesting, as a tag along (dd is a h.s. junior this year) while a friend's daughter, a senior, goes through the decision/audition process, was her comment about how many dancers at college auditions are those who did try the company route right out of high school. They had a year or two of a traineeship/apprenticeship, then were not picked up by the company to continue their contract, sometimes due to the company's financial woes (cutting down size of company) or other factors. Her comment, in her opinion, was that for the colleges, one really needs to be "company ready"...just deciding to take a different path/timeline in pursuit of employment as a dancer.

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Although my DD is only in 9th grade, I am very interested in this thread. DD knows what her plan B is as she wants to be in dance medicine after her performance time is complete. How difficult is it for seniors to work in trainee/company auditions as well as college auditions? I'm thinking one would need to do both in the event no offer was made from a company?

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