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Ballet Talk for Dancers

College Issues for Male Dancers


mumsie

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I'm new to BT4D, so here goes...

 

My DS is a high school senior and is interested in pursuing a career as a ballet dancer. I, and more importantly, his teachers believe he has the training and capability to do so. His teachers have advised that, in addition to auditioning for companies, he should have a "backup plan" and pursue college enrollment. I have found the BT4D Colleges and Universities information to be extremely helpful. Thanks to all who have posted!

 

My questions (so far) are:

1) Even though he might have a better shot at scholarship help, should he avoid schools where he would be one of a very small number of male dancers when compared to the number of ladies in the pas classes? He is in that situation now, but I am comfortable with it because his teachers are very cognizant of the potential for overwork and injury, especially when he's working with those who have had little to no pas experience.

2) Can/should I expect that the college instructors will be equally vigilant?

3) What about the impact of being a "party of one" or a small group on the amount of class/rehearsal time?

4) Any suggestions about questions to ask that would give insight on these issues?

5) How important for a male dancer is it that there be male ballet faculty?

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Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers, mumsie!!!!!

 

He's still got a few months to make decisions, right? I want to point out a 3rd option which would be that some companies will only offer Trainee positions or that type of thing (Second Companies etc.) which will likely not be enough for him to live on for the year or 2 that these positions are usually held prior to being offered a full company contract.

 

He may want to take some time to bone up on some skills that he can use outside the classroom, like the kind of skills that Temp agencies need. Food service is a big area for these kids as is PC work (data entry, etc.).

 

As far as college goes:

1) Even though he might have a better shot at scholarship help, should he avoid schools where he would be one of a very small number of male dancers when compared to the number of ladies in the pas classes? He is in that situation now, but I am comfortable with it because his teachers are very cognizant of the potential for overwork and injury, especially when he's working with those who have had little to no pas experience.

The answer to that one would be that as long as the college situation were as careful as the current situation, then it could be fine, but optimally, he'd get into one of the 3 or 4 top ballet colleges, which have established policies.

 

2) Can/should I expect that the college instructors will be equally vigilant?

Not necessarily. But the same can apply to any one of the small non-union companies out there too. A professional dancer needs to know how to say, "No". Your body is all you have so learning to listen to it and tend to it when it needs tending is important. I wouldn't rely on anyone else to really help with that.

 

3) What about the impact of being a "party of one" or a small group on the amount of class/rehearsal time?

Again, my hope would be that he would apply to and be accepted at only the 3-4 colleges that have larger programs with other male dancers

 

4) Any suggestions about questions to ask that would give insight on these issues?

This one I will leave to our membership who have gone through this process!!

 

5) How important for a male dancer is it that there be male ballet faculty?

I think, very.

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Thank you for your quick response and helpful suggestions and perspective, Clara76! I'm looking forward to hearing from other members!

Edited by mumsie
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Mumsie,

 

My son had to make similar choices during his senior year of high school. He really only started training seriously around age 16, although he started studying ballet at 13. He knew he was not ready to audition for companies right out of high school. In fact, he finished high school early, moved out, and began training more intensely at a company-affiliated school.

 

He did audition for universities and was awarded either full or very, very generous scholarships at what many consider to be the best schools for ballet. This is not meant to slight those schools in any way, but at his age and late start to ballet he did not think that the programs were rigorous enough to help him achieve his goal of a career in ballet. I wouldn't worry a lot about overwork in pas class because of a small male population - at that age a dancer should know his body well enough to know when to stop. Having men's technique class is VERY important and I think that is where a small male population might be a disadvantage. Having a male teacher is also quite important.

 

My son left the company affiliated school after 1.5 years and is now training in a very small, but INTENSE pre-professional program. He feels that he has made more progress both technically and artistically in this setting than he could have in a university. He will be auditioning for companies this spring.

 

Not knowing your son's technical level, the choices my son made may not be applicable to your situation. It was certainly difficult to turn down free rides at excellent programs. His feeling was that if at age 20 or 21 that he still did not have a company contract he could then go back and pursue a college degree. His reasoning was that the window of opportunity for a dancer in terms of how long the body will perform at a high level is much shorter than the window of opportunity to pursue a university degree.

 

So, for my son, additional training at a very rigorous pre-professional program was his choice. Good luck with your senior!

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Thanks, Little-duck! I found your response very reassuring :). My son started in ballet at the tender age of 4 or 5 and has progressed from there, so in that sense your experience is a bit different. That said, I've heard the same thing from him about the window of opportunity....especially for guys. I expect he'll be doing university auditions this school year and company auditions in the spring. (We're trying to ensure that he's got a "Plan B" if he doesn't get a contract.) Best of luck to your son as he pursues his goals! :ermm:

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Why "especially for guys"? I thought it was easier for guys in someways and that they would not necessarily lose out by postponing joining a company.

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Why "especially for guys"? I thought it was easier for guys in someways and that they would not necessarily lose out by postponing joining a company.

We (ds & I) have been told that guys generally are done dancing by age 30 - 32, while the gals can expect to dance 4 - 8 years longer than that.

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I have never heard that - does anyone else have any information regarding this?

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My goodness - I certainly hope a male dancer's career extends beyond age 30-32! Where did that statistic come from?

 

What I meant was that the training in the late teens is critically important for an aspiring ballet dancer (male OR female) and in my son's case he felt like the best training for him was at his current program and not at a university. His rationalization was that he could always go the university route if he was not able to get a job as a ballet dancer, but it would be a lot more difficult (if not impossible) to secure a company position after 4 years of college where (for him) the training would not be as rigorous and he would have the added pressure of academics on top of dance classes. Again, this is not a slight to anyone in a university ballet program, it is the path my son chose after careful consideration of the different training options available to him at the time.

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