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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Decisions: college-apprenticeship-career?


eleanor.marie

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What is the best way to go about making a decision when opportunity is knocking at every door?

 

I am going to be a senior in high school this year and for the fourth year a student at a pre-professional school. To give you an idea of my ballet standing, I take ballet and rehearse six days a week, pilates thrice a week, and have been accepted into the summer courses at PNB, LINES, Boston, and JoffreyNY (but haven't gone due to lack of funds unfortunately). I do want to dance professionally, but the question is when? I have several questions (that perhaps have been asked in all different places but not together:

 

1. Can a dance major better equip me for dancing professionally than a trainee or apprenticeship straight out of high school? What kinds of companies prefer that their dancers get a degree first?

 

2. Is there a way to tell whether or not a student can "make it" as a ballerina if she goes to a company right after high school? There is always that worry that in four years I wont be quite so marketable.

 

3. Is it common for hired dancers to go back to school while still dancing? How long do you think it would take to get a degree by just taking part time classes? Also, how do dancers in unpaid positions like apprenticeships and trainee programs afford to live away from home and possibly take some academic classes?

 

4. Who should I listen to?!?! I hear polar opposite opinions about what I should do from dancers, teachers and my parents.

One mentor thinks I should go to school later because I am "good enough" to build a career now. My parents insist that I go to school RIGHT AWAY because "otherwise won't go at all" and of course, that is what everyone else does.

 

More than anything I want to dance. I also love school (odd, right?) which I guess means I just love to learn. With the ideal grades and scores for college scholarships and a chance to dance professionally, how do I choose which opportunity to take? help please!

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Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers, eleanor.marie. :blushing:

 

I'm going to answer your questions, but will separate the parts of each question with a. b., etc. I have also edited out the name of your school for security purposes.

 

1) a. No, not in terms of a ballet company.

b. Modern companies.

 

2) There is no guarantee for anyone in the ballet world, but highly qualified professional teachers can

certainly advise you of your ability and potential for gaining entry in a company.

 

3) a. I don't know how common it is, but I do know that a lot of dancers do it.

b. Cannot answer that one, as it would depend on how many courses you are able to take each year.

c. Parental support. Possibly part time job, but that would be very hard if you were trying to dance and

take college courses.

 

4) a. Listen to professionals and try to keep your parents on board, as you will definitely need their support.

It might, IF your teachers feel you have a realistic chance, be a good idea to have them discuss it with

your parents.

Also, do your college interviews and auditions for several reasons, including keeping your parents with

you on your seriousness about college, whether it is now or later. This keeps your options open, and, if

you get an offer for a trainee or apprentice or second company position you can always defer the college

acceptance. Your parents need to understand about ballet companies and that if you can get accepted

into a good company right after graduation then it is wise to do it because these opportunities

are not automatic or guaranteed and if they want you now, now is the best time. Ballet is limited in

terms of the length of the career, and the sooner you start the better. College is not limited and you can

start that at any time.

 

I would suggest that if they are not totally aware of these things, keep reading this board for a while

then get them to read it after you have found all the threads that we have about this. There are a lot

of them! :)

 

b. It's not your choice until you have the chance to dance professionally. That is why you keep the doors

open, get your college acceptances, and audition for every company where you and your teachers feel

that you have a realistic potential. Get the invitation from a company and then make the decision. If

there is no invitation, then you can accept the college of your choice. If there is an invitation to a

company, then defer the college acceptance. Keep in mind, however, that it will probably take at least a

year, maybe even two or three, before you will be earning money enough to support yourself.

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Thank you for your help. I totally understand that there are options, its just the choosing that is so difficult. I will definitely introduce my parents to BT4D.

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Also consider this: When you pursue a post-secondary school vocational ballet track, you are not slacking off higher education. Career track ballet training IS higher education. It's the reason why so many external degree programs give you LOTS of life credit for pursuing dance to the level of actual employment.

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Mr. Mel,

 

I LOVE that point!!! Often times critics overlook the fact that they are indeed getting secondary education - and it's in the school of real life! In my profession, and I am not a dancer, they often say in job descriptions, 'college degree or real work experience for xxx comparable years'. It is definitely worth the time you put in, should count towards college, and often does, even out of the dance world!!

 

I'm going to remember to bring up that point to those around me who 'frown' on dancing straight out of high school.... :)

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While it may be difficult to go to college and then pursue a ballet career, it's certainly not impossible. I just graduated from a top 5 university with a double major (one of which was dance) and am now an apprentice at a professional company--not a huge company, but a respectable one, and many of the other dancers in the company also went to college. I am so glad I took those years to grow up, improve my technique, gain experience socially, and of course get an amazing education. Was I a bit disadvantaged in the audition process because I was a bit older than some? Maybe, but it was definitely worth it to me.

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We're getting more and more input from people not ordinarily eligible for posting to the Young Dancer forums, but that's why we put in Cross Talk, just for times like this. The relevant posts are from people who've "been there, done that" in one way or another, so their input is too valuable to lose. Also see the Harvard thread in Colleges and Universities for important new information.

 

Remember that choosing dance as a post-secondary education is even more individual than simply finding the right university or college. We are here to help the student come to the right decision about what to do, but some face time with a professional education guidance counselor will give you more help in reaching that decision about what education course to follow in order to gain your goal. Be aware that you may have to do some educating of your own to the counselor (!), as not many of them are completely up on performing arts education, but give it a stab anyway.

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Please hop on over to the Higher Education General Discussion.

 

There you will find several threads on this topic, as well as many related threads on issues that are pertinent to your larger question. Get yourself a cup of tea, pull up a comfy chair and take some time to really peruse the Forum and the multitude of threads, experiences, discussions, advice, and observations that our wonderful posters have shared over the years on this Board. This is a continuing dilemma and question for both our young dancers and their parents.

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I agree totally with sgmca and I would like to add that when my dd was making her decision last year as to whether she should take the trainee offer with a ballet company or accept a college dance offer with a top ballet program she took many days to way the difference between the two. Her decision was based on what she felt that she needed as a dancer to grow. She chose the college route because she felt that the training would be more of what she needed to continue to grow in her technique. After seeing her dance in the spring performance I could see huge growth and I am now convinced that the college program was the best choice for her.

 

Perhaps if she had gone the trainee route, then she could be one step closer to landing a paid position or perhaps it would have just put her back in the same place that she was. I read alot of the success stories on this website and many young dancers spend years in trainee or graduate programs before landing a position that allows them to recieve compensation. You can debate this issue for hours as to what is the right step but in the end the dancer needs to do some real thinking about what is best for them to grow as a dancer.

 

Whether you find a paid position at age 18 or age 22, I haven't found anything to prove to me that going the trainee/graduate route as apposed to a college degree makes the process of landing a paid job any easier. The bottom line is that you will not recieve a paid contract either route until you are proficient as a dancer. It is heartbreaking to these dancers that do go the college route to hear people say that this is a waste of time. How could getting a college degree ever be a waist of time and for those that are thinking along the lines of what they can do after the days of dancing are gone, are in my opinion smart. Your dance career can end in a heart beat and with a back up plan it gives you anouther option to pay the bills. The college that my dd attends had a huge success rate with their graduates landing company positions so it does tell me that you can do both and be successful.

Edited by dancemaven
added paragraphs to for ease of reading only.
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You can debate this issue for hours as to what is the right step but in the end the dancer needs to do some real thinking about what is best for them to grow as a dancer.

 

This is the crux of the decision each dancer (and family) face. We must ALL keep in mind that, in the end, it is a personal and individual decision. Just because someone chooses a different route than you does NOT mean it is the wrong choice. Different factors go into these decisions for different folks and for different circumstances.

 

It is also important to understand two things when considering the college route versus the trainee/apprentice route:

 

1) College is more than a little expensive these days. Some scholarships at some schools may abound; other schools have very little to no scholarship money to offer. So, one cannot assume there will be scholarship money sufficient to offset the cost of a four-year college program. Student loans or loans of any type are expensive and must be paid back. Four years worth of student loans are a VERY heavy load to walk out with----especially if one is looking at a dance contract.

 

2) By and large, a college dance graduate will be entering at the same level as the fresh-out-of-high-school grad. That is, the 4-year college degree does not leap-frog the dancer into a corps position or any other contract benefit. So, the dancer is still looking at the same unpaid, low-paid entry position as she would have been looking at before college. Only this time, she/he may have significant student loan payments to add to the mix of expenses the parents will need to help subsidize. This may or may not be something the parents can handle at that point. And even if the college grad does not have student loans, the parents may have run their course in terms of how much subsidizing their finances can take.

 

So, I really don't think the 'company-first, college-later' advice has really been about anything much more than pragmatic considerations. It is not really grounded in an anti-education, anti-intellectual frame of mind. I've looked at that advice as being a real weighing of practicalities----including the short dancing time afforded to one in terms of physical years.

 

I, too, have known several college dance graduates who go on to classical ballet companies, not just modern. But, they do go in as trainee/apprentices just like their high school grad trainee/apprentice classmates.

 

So, financial considerations are something that simply can't be avoided when weighing all the options. Those financial considerations can sometimes be the deciding factor on whether a dancer can 'afford' to do college first--assuming there is a choice with a company entry opportunity being offered.

 

I certainly have no bias against college-first. My own DD made that choice and is half-way through a BFA in dance. But I do think we all need to remember that, in the end, the choice is very personal and very individual. What one person decides does not reflect on how another should decide.

:flowers:

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I'm having a little problem in understanding the thinking that people are reading on this board that college is a waste of time. I really do not believe anyone has said that. What the teacher moderators have said is that we have reasons to feel that the trainee/apprentice route is usually better, but we always qualify that because it is not true for everyone. We always advise doing the college applications/interviews/auditions, even though we do also say that college acceptance can be deferred for a year if one has the option of a company position, or lead in to a position. We also say that college can be done in conjunction with dancing, although it will generally take longer.

 

Our main reasons for this thinking is that one has a relatively short career as a performer, so starting younger makes sense. It is also true that college can be started at any time, whereas a ballet career as a performer is very difficult to achieve and, going the route that is expected these days of trainee/second company/apprentice can take two or three years. If one is 22 when they graduate, that is going to not only be hard to accept a trainee position, but they will be older by the time they get a paying contract. That puts the parents in the position of supporting them not only through college, but afterwards until they can achieve a full company member contract. Not that this can't be done without the preliminary routes, but I think it is less likely each year. More and more companies are doing this because of budgetary reasons. They get good dancers for way less money.

 

We also qualify our advice in this by stating that only those highly qualified by the time they graduate from high school can achieve even the trainee positions, and the dancers do need to know, from their experience and their teachers, if they are considered highly qualified. We can't tell them that because we can't see them! I wish we could, really, as that way we might be able to help them more. :flowers:

 

Editing to add that I was writing when dancemaven posted, and I think we were both on the same train there, especially in terms of thinking of the financial situation. No one here believes that education is a waste of time, that is for sure!!!

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I am so tired of getting on here and reading that going to college means you failed.

 

Sgmca-As much as I'm on here, I have absolutely NEVER heard anyone say this and would love to have any posts with this on them sent to me through pm. I don't believe you'll find them though unless it came from a member's personal perception. I have heard people say that getting a contract after college may be harder if the college does not have quality ballet and enough hours to keep you technically strong (which some of them do not). And I have heard people say that these days you are likely after college auditioning for the same Trainee/Apprentice spots as high school grads which is in the majority of issues true, the exceptions likely could have gotten a higher position before college but just chose otherwise. With all the good and bad that either choice may bring. What has been stated about college is that alot of times college life gets in the way of dance so that the dancer ends up not staying on the same path (as outlined by a former member from IU) very specifically.

 

But I have NEVER heard or seen anyone say that it is failure to not dance straight from high school. It is fairly easy no matter what path you choose to come here and have a personal perception that the other road is the golden one. There would not be phrases like "grass is always greener" if this was not easy. But let's not blame "here" when in reality there have not been alot, if any statements like the above one made "here". It has never been us vs. them in that regard here so let's not make it that way now. So unless someone is going to pm me with post links, we will get back to answering this question:

 

What is the best way to go about making a decision when opportunity is knocking at every door?

 

I am going to be a senior in high school this year and for the fourth year a student at a pre-professional school. To give you an idea of my ballet standing, I take ballet and rehearse six days a week, pilates thrice a week, and have been accepted into the summer courses at PNB, LINES, Boston, and JoffreyNY (but haven't gone due to lack of funds unfortunately). I do want to dance professionally, but the question is when? I have several questions (that perhaps have been asked in all different places but not together:

 

1. Can a dance major better equip me for dancing professionally than a trainee or apprenticeship straight out of high school? What kinds of companies prefer that their dancers get a degree first?

 

2. Is there a way to tell whether or not a student can "make it" as a ballerina if she goes to a company right after high school? There is always that worry that in four years I wont be quite so marketable.

 

3. Is it common for hired dancers to go back to school while still dancing? How long do you think it would take to get a degree by just taking part time classes? Also, how do dancers in unpaid positions like apprenticeships and trainee programs afford to live away from home and possibly take some academic classes?

 

4. Who should I listen to?!?! I hear polar opposite opinions about what I should do from dancers, teachers and my parents.

One mentor thinks I should go to school later because I am "good enough" to build a career now. My parents insist that I go to school RIGHT AWAY because "otherwise won't go at all" and of course, that is what everyone else does.

 

More than anything I want to dance. I also love school (odd, right?) which I guess means I just love to learn. With the ideal grades and scores for college scholarships and a chance to dance professionally, how do I choose which opportunity to take? help please!

*edited to add, I was posting at the same time as Ms. Leigh without knowing she was posting.

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I think college is a wonderful thing for those who can afford it. Unfortunately, there are many of us who cannot if we have done the many yrs of pre-pro training required to become a dancer. DD was sought after by a few top tier dance programs, but at 50K per yr tuition just wanst do-able for us. Being a international student just way to exspensive for her/us...She is very fortunate to be offered acceptance into the LEAP program in NYC..this way she can dance pt, teach most days/nights and get a education! Many roads lead to Rome, but sometimes life lessons lead to Greece or other destinations..

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4. Who should I listen to?!?! I hear polar opposite opinions about what I should do from dancers, teachers and my parents.

 

Listen to your own heart!

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