Jump to content
Ballet Talk for Dancers

Choices: Hindsight in College vs. Company


Recommended Posts

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?




I would be very interested in continuing to follow replies to this post. Alternately I would be interested in seeing a thread (from dancers and parents) about the consequences of either choice. By this I mean---I have been where "Nim"is now. Trying to find the crystal ball. In other words, seeking the wisdom and foresight to do the best I can to support and advise a high school senior. Now, some years beyond that difficult cusp/dilemma, I feel a lot less certainty about the consequences of the different choices. At best, there are possiblities/probabilities, and even these are shifting as we speak.


I do notice that most responses so far, if I am not mistaken, encourage going the company route. Few seem to endorse or even seriously consider the college option. Also, realistically though college will wait, college begun at 28, 38, or 48 is very different from the experience one enters into at 18.


I have personally witnessed a variety of paths as well as a variety of destinations. Maybe I need to be in another thread? Moderators, please help. I am officially asking for direction ... ??? Is there a thread where we can address these choices from a few years beyond this dilemma as hindsight rather than foresight. Is there never any advantage to pursuing college (even a few years) at a younger age?


How does this choice play out in the lives of dancers 5, 10, 15, or more years beyond the decision point?


What are the feelings of dancers who do return to college later during or completely after their professional dance careers? What are some of the programs out there (partnerships between colleges and dance companies like the LEAP program at Saint Mary's or the BFA program at Dominican College that works with LINES Ballet Dancers)?


Curious about what others think.

Link to comment
  • Replies 73
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

  • dancemaven


  • Momof3darlings


  • sgmca


  • marigold


dds, these are all very good questions. Perhaps each of them deserves their own thread for discussion, otherwise things get too convoluted and mixed up.


Some of these questions have been discussed before, but all bear additional discussion.



What are some of the programs out there (partnerships between colleges and dance companies like . . . the BFA program at Dominican College that works with LINES Ballet Dancers)?


Curious about what others think.


I know there is a recent thread regarding the issue of partnerships between colleges and dance companies for the professional dancers to take academics, but I don't have it right before me just now. However, I will say (as I did on that thread) that the LINES Ballet BFA program at Dominican is an undergraduate dance program and has nothing to do with the company dancers--in terms of them taking classes at Dominican. There are no company dancers enrolled at Dominican. The partnership between the LINES folks and the university is for a BFA dance program, not a LEAP-type program.

Link to comment

I've been watching dd's friends making their post-h.s. decisions, as we have a year to go before my own kiddo graduates and has to figure out her own best path. Currently, there is one graduating senior from her class who has been offerred a traineeship at a company known for taking a very large trainee class, and perhaps offering contracts to one or two after a couple of years. She will receive lots of great experience with this company and more training. It is unpaid. She will move to the new city and hopes to share an apartment with another trainee. Parents will be subsidizing this choice. (Who knows -- it may be less expensive than college tuition! :) ) Another of the seniors has been accepted to a grad-type program with a company (not trainee). Still figuring out details. She will also move to the new city, has been talking about taking a few college classes, if they fit her schedule. Also parent-funded. A third senior did the college audition route, and has been accepted as a dance major at a conservatory program. She's young (graduating at 16), so that factored into her decision of college versus company. Parent-funded. Her plans right now are to get her degree (BFA in dance performance) and audition then. One thing this dancer noted was the large number of auditionees for the college programs who are either former trainees or apprentices let go from their company contracts (due to company finances or whatever reason...)


Paths can change over time. Who knows? The college-bound dancer might end up doing auditions next year and leaving to take a company contract. She might stay in college, but change majors totally. The trainee may end up in college. It's hard for parents, because you want the next step figured out (i.e. "Kiddo has a traineeship w/company X...they will start moving her up the ranks as time goes by, and she will be earning money as a dancer in 2-3 years" or "Kiddo will attend college for 4 years, graduate with her degree, and move to NYC, where she will take the world by storm".) I think, as parents, our best gift to our kids is to be up-front with them on what we can afford (some families can fund a few years as a dancer tries the waters; some cannot), listen to their dreams/desires, and be ready for things to change.

Link to comment

As a mom with a dancer "5 years beyond the decision point", I can tell you that no matter where your dancer lands after high school, the important thing for them to do is to keep auditioning every spring. Even if your dancer enters a BFA program, I don't think they can just skip four years of auditions and then start being seen. Mine trained at a small local studio until graduation from high school. This school provided good training, but not enough classes a week. She attended competitive SI's and was asked to stay at a year-round ballet school at one of the SI's, so they were doing something right. My daughter received a possible trainee offer at 17 with a mandatory SI attendance in the summer after her hs graduation. She looked at the trainee schedule and decided she would need more classes a day to catch up from not having enough classes at her local school. She felt that she was behind in technique for her age, but refused to attend a college dance program at the time even though she had been accepted. So, she danced at another pre-pro school for 3 and 1/2 years. She received trainee offers every spring (tied to SI attendance) and turned down these chances for a trainee position to keep training at this intense school. We ran out of money for housing (she was on partial scholarship for tuition), and had to pull her out. She even worked a part-time job the last year and 1/2, and it still wasn't enough. She auditioned that spring for a BFA program, and that is where she is now.


There is one major thing I think we did wrong. She should have tried to obtain a trainee position sooner when we had more money reserved to help her in her living arrangement. We were hoping that she could skip the trainee step and go into at least a paid apprentice position. Now she has great training at her BFA program, but now that we're five years down the road, money is very tight for SI's, future apartment security deposits, etc. She still wants to keep trying. The problem we have now is all the offers are coming with required SI evaluations, and we're running out of money to send her. I know at this point I wouldn't mind if she changed her major. As much as we would miss watching her perform, it would be a huge relief (for me and my husband, anyway) to put this dream behind us.


The bottom line is, give your kids good training after high school, but keep in mind that financing a low-paying dance position will drain your finances very quickly. That's why the trainee offers have to be reckoned with and considered. It becomes easy to feel comfortable in a training program or BFA program and think, "I'll just audition next year." Your dancers should try to attend SI's every summer where an offer can happen. My daughter didn't. She stayed at her pre-pro school's intensive because it was cost effective, and that may have been another mistake. It has been a little weird for her sometimes being an older college freshman, but she is doing well. Anyway, this is our experience. I don't know if it will help anyone or make you more confused. The best of luck to all the parents and dancers - we all need it!

Link to comment

thank you 2marzipans:


It really helps to hear first hand experiences of dancers and parents who have been through this and what your advice is! I was just thinking that trainee would be the last choice for us, especially if we had to pay for the position because it seems that there are so many accepted to trainees but few move up from there. Maybe I am mistaken but that is the perception I have. But now after reading your post, it sheds a new light on the whole trainee thing. My dd is hoping for at least an apprentice or paid trainee position, and if not then will consider the college route. That definitely may change when the time comes though! Its hard for me to fathom paying to be a trainee somewhere-- I guess I am the skeptic but I feel if a Company really has an interest in a dancer , they should at least let them train tuition free. They still need to pay for housing. I just wonder based on the small amount moving up from the trainee positions, how many of these offers requiring the dancer to pay are really offers of interest or just more ways to make income. :) One thing for sure it sounds like a tough tough world and reading more on this board has helped us realize that!

Link to comment

It is important to keep reading. The last few years, it has become more than apparent that there really is very little chance that a dancer (female, anyway) will be able to 'skip' the company-affiliated trainee position, whether paid, unpaid, scholarshiped or what-not.* THAT has become the entry point to a company opportunity (and not even necessarily the actual ladder). Furthermore, obtaining a BFA or college degree does not enable the dancer to 'skip' that entry point.


One should consider the BFA/college route simply as one avenue of the 'finishing' work in training. Some dancers need some more 'finishing' training after high school graduation. The question then becomes, 'Where best to get it?' The options are post-grad training programs, college/university programs, open classes, school affiliated trainee/apprenticeships. The answer is an individual choice and match between dancer and program dependent upon various personal factors including finances, needs, opportunities, etc.


The 'roads to Rome' are evolving and changing. It is imperative that dancers (and parents) keep abreast of the trends. Research should start several years before the actual options are upon the dancer and parents in order to have the best understanding of these options, their ramifications, and expectations possible.



*(Yes, there are those very, very few and far between exceptions, but let's not dwell on those. They are too elusive to count on or even factor into planning.)

Link to comment

well put dancemaven, and yes we plan to keep reading!! :) It is a constantly changing profession and this board has given so much insight!

Link to comment

One of the trainee programs that I am familiar with has seen many first year trainees coming out of college programs. The degree has given them no advantage in terms of the traineeship...they are still first years. And as far as I know none of them skipped the 2nd year requirement. So now they have four years of college, two years of additional training are getting close to being 23-24 before being considered for an apprenticeship.


Each case is individual and perhaps some of these dancers needed that extra time in college.


Also if they don't get an apprenticeship at least they have a degree!

Link to comment

And the dancer should keep in mind the nature of the 'target' company profile. It appears to DD and me that contemporary and/or modern based or leaning companies tend to hire the 'older' dancer, i.e., college graduates and typically do not have the trainee/apprenticeship levels to the degree the more classically structured ballet companies do.

Link to comment

Hello all! Well, I have been dancing professionally for 10 years now. At 18, I was ready to go to college, got lucky, and managed to get an apprenticeship with a regional company. I recently started taking some college courses at night for physical therapy, in preparation for my retirement. From what I've seen over the years, more and more of those who were not necessarily company-ready at 18 and went to college are now auditioning for company spots; I have seen very, very few actually get a company spot and get trainee or apprenticeships. For those auditioning out of high school, if you get a traineeship or apprenticeship, I'd try to get some kind of schooling on the side, if your schedule permits it. If I could do this all over again, that is what I would do; if I had done that in the first place, my transition into "the real world" will be much, much smoother. For those auditioning out of college, don't be discouraged- even if you are "only" at the trainee/apprentice level, your maturity and ability to handle stressful situations (pretty frequent in company life) is much better than that of a 17 or 18 year-old away from home for the first time. You've been away from home, and have a better understanding of money, etc. Just my two cents, from what I can glean off of the top of my head. This is a great thread!

Link to comment

The last post from dnznqueen reminded me of something I heard last year at the audition for U of Arizona. I remember an interesting quote from one of the teachers that talked to us after the audition, I believe she was Melissa Lowe? She said that the dance world is definitely changing in terms of going the company route right away or going to college first. She said this change is happening quicker in the modern/contemporary field, but that the ballet world is slowly following. Mainly that companies are now recognizing the advantages they have in hiring college grads for basically the same reasons that dnznqueen said. More maturity, training, better to handle stress and the fact that they've lived away from home for more than just summer SI's. I find it interesting to look at the bios of company dancers. There are so many of them that have college BFA degrees from many different colleges.

Link to comment


Just thought I would add a comment.

Our dd is just a freshman in college and she is dancing approximately 40 hours a week (dance class + company class + rehearsals).

She says that the dance department is excellent and that it is run similar to a company.

She is currently an apprentice but she can understudy and be as involved as she likes (and she likes!!). She is learning, improving, and her confidence is growing.

Anyway, my feeling is this, if she does not make it into the dance world when she graduates she has still fulfilled a dream.

The university is providing her with auditions, great training, rehearsals, performing opportunities and she is loving the entire college experience!

And, of course, she will have a degree to go along with 4 years of doing what she passionately loves, DANCING. I am thinking this is a win/win for her. She still dreams of dancing professionally and I hope that dream will come true. We will wait and see. Thanks for letting me share. :clapping:


Link to comment

Just to throw out there in discussing "hindsight" that there is a group not yet being recognized in discussion and they should at least be thought of if you are the parent reading and hoping to garner some advance help with decision making. There is the dancer for whom the choice involves dancing professionally or college with a different degree. Not every dancer wants a dance degree and for many, they settle for that as a way to keep dancing post high school while they hope for better job prospects later. This is in no way meant to disparage a dancer who does want a dance degree. But just to put out there that the choice is not always so cut and dry because of the nature of both the fact that most ballet oriented programs do not allow the high level classes for non-majors or sometimes even minors. And the fact that most do not allow time for an outside minor. Hopefully there is someone out there who can answer for thiis type of dancer, while this was not the path that my DD had to take, it is the road she was faced with in her decision making. So had she gotten a dance degree and still had to audition as a Trainee, I wonder what kind of hindsight she would have had in her decision making. Again, because it wasn't a dance degree she wanted.

Link to comment

Not quite in the "hindsight" position yet, but in the situation mentioned by Mom of 3. My DD, a very smart HS Junior, and Pre-Pro student has recently announced that she wants to major in dance in college and is looking at the top tier ballet programs. My husband, aghast at the loss of what he thought would be his engineer or scientist daughter, has decreed that he will only pay if she does a "serious" double major. No discussion. DD and I started visiting colleges recently. At some, there is no possibility of a double major. At others, Indiana and Cincinnati to name 2, it can be done, but the response is always, "it will be tough". Particularly with a science major, like Chemistry, it will involve working around lab schedules, which are often in the afternoon, when ballet classes or rehearsals are. Just, saying, there are options for those that want to have a major besides dance and still dance seriously in college. My DD is looking at a tough 4 years ahead, but I figure if she wants it (ballet) bad enough, she will figure out a way to do it. Even if she is lucky enough to be able to dance after college, she will have another degree to fall back on when the dance dream ends.

Link to comment

moasq, in response to you and your husbands concerns about the serious second major, it is not just a tough four years... probably a tough few years after that as well to really take the academics needed for a true second degree. Dd is in her freshman year at IU right now. She is able to take two academic classes and a lab this semester with her ballet classes. She has a lab two nights a week and piano, two semesters of which are required for ballet majors, two nights a week along with academic classes in the morning and dancing all afternoon, 11:30 to approx 5:45. She is getting her BSOF (bachelor of science in an outside field) in kinesiology. She will have the BSOF when she graduates, however, she will still need additional classes as prerequisites to get into PT school someday. With the ballet schedule and the number of credit hours they are "worth" a dancer has a difficult time taking additional classes during the school year to truly "double major" (cannot go over 18 hours a semester without permission and then depending on the major you have to find the class times). Not sure how many doors a BSOF will open as it is, if I'm remembering correctly, only 27 hours in your outside field. My dd will try to take a "May-mester" at our local community college to get a class or two out of the way each year, but summers also need to be spent dancing to further her training and keep in shape.

Link to comment

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...