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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Transitioning from Pre-Pro Training to a Non-Ballet College Major

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My Dd has been in advanced level ballet classes at various programs in NY and NJ since age 10, and in summer intensive programs for the last 4 years as her goal up until recently has been to pursue a career in professional ballet. However, this past year, her senior year in high school, she made the big decision not to pursue ballet professionally and has instead applied to various colleges as a non-ballet major.


The problem is this. She still has a passion for ballet and would like to keep her skills and body in shape so that she may participate in ballet to a lesser extent in college, However, she no longer has the time to commit to 5-6 days/week, nor does it make sense to continue to spend lots of money on a full-time program.


She would like to find a studio where she could take advanced level classes with serious students, 2-3 days/week, yet not have the class be so "company-ready" focused. We live in central New Jersey and would like something relatively close possibly 2 days/week. We have done the commute to New York for many years, and although she could consider going in to the city to take open classes, there is the expense to consider.


There seems to be a missing link in the training programs. It would be nice to have a "transition level" for those who are facing a similar situation.

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You're right, it is a missing link. When my older DD went off to college, she wanted just the experience you describe. She was a little shocked when the the local studio said, "Sorry, either commit to the full pre-pro schedule or take open adult classes" (which were mostly of the beginner or stretch variety, and were offered at 11 am or something).


I don't have any wisdom to offer, just commiseration. Hopefully someone else knows a studio near you that has a good 'recreational' track. And it may be that your DD just needs to hold on until she is in college and can take class there. One thing my DD realized once she was in college was that she wanted to take class with kids more her age and not with high-schoolers who were still chasing the dream. She eventually solved the problem by auditioning for and joining the modern dance company -- which had frequent classes/rehearsals -- and also taking whatever dance class was offered (usually one ballet OR modern class per semester). Younger DD chose a college with a wider range of dance offerings and has been happy with one daily class. Both of them had had a lot of modern training and were/are pretty content doing a greater proportion of modern than ballet. I think older DD was actually relieved to hang up her pointe shoes.

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When DD was looking at colleges the one place she liked that might be worth looking into for your DD was the College of Charleston. THey had a dance minor and were looking at creating a dance major. But the ballet instructor from what I remember had a studio a few blocks from the campus where the more ballet oriented students took classes. I seem to remember that there were some performing opportunities with him, but it was not a company program. DD LOVED Charleston and the college - which is part of the SC public system, but it did not have great scholarships for out of state students, and although she was accepted it was well out of our price range without a scholarship.

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Take a look at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. They have beautiful ballet studios, a ballet teacher running the program, a strong musical theater dept. (which means that there are also lots of other dance styles and terrific visiting choreographers) and have a very good academic program. I don't know if it still exists, but there used to be a small ballet company just a mile or so away that also had a pre-pro school attached. My daughter had worked out a decent ballet program between the college itself, the ballet studio, and private instruction. But I can't comment on how it turned out because in the end, she danced professionally straight out of high school and is still doing so nearly seven years later.

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If she's looking for something now, she might want to look at Ballet Technique in Hamilton, NJ. It's a small school with just a single studio. They do have some sort of a "professional training program" but, it is not the same level of committment as the other ballet schools in the area would require. We know a dancer there who recently left a pre-pro program. She wanted to continue to dance, but not 5-6 days a week. She wanted time to participate in school activities, sports, etc. I believe she attends about 3 times a week.


A nice thing for those looking for less of a committment is that ALL the classes at this studio are open classes. No need to commit. If you have time, you can go daily. If not, you go when you can. They have a few advanced classes in the morning, but most are in the evening. I think there is even a class on Sundays.

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Thanks for the sympathetic shoulders and words of advice. appreciate everyone's input.


As far as once she is in college, I think things will be much easier, and perhaps you are right in suggesting she just hang on until then, but she does miss the level of class she is used to. One of the colleges my daughter has applied to (for graphic design) is in NYC and although they do not have ballet classes in the college curriculum, she will certainly have her pick of open classes at various NY locations. The other college is University of Delaware, where they not only have a dance minor, but also have the Delaware Dance Company directly across the street from campus and many students take classes there. So, once she gets to college (fingers crossed for acceptances) she will have nice options. But during this senior year of HS she really wants to keep her training at the level she is used to, but do it less days/week.


Thanks for the studio suggestion in Hamilton, that sounds like what we are looking for, I will look into it. However, we are more toward eastern central NJ if anyone has other suggestions in that area?

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The real difficulty, and I'm not sure there is a way around it, is that a DK simply cannot maintain the level they are used to, only doing it less days per week. For the simple reason that it takes more days per week to maintain that level. So, I get why studios don't allow "drop ins" in the pre-pro program; inevitably, the kid who's taking 2-3 classes will fall behind the kids who are taking 5-6 classes. What is really needed is a studio that is big enough to have several open classes a week at an intermediate/advanced level, or a program that really is targeted at dedicated recreational dancers.


It will also take some flexibility on your DD's part. She may need to be willing to take lower level classes, and/or absorb that she can't do what the kids in her class who dance 5-6 days/week can do. But hopefully, she'll make the delightful transition my DD made into dancing for the pure fun and enjoyment of it, on a schedule that suits her, at her own pace, independent of anyone else's expectations.

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Esp. in large metropolitan areas, there seems to be more ballet schools nowadays catering to adults students, esp. those who used to seriously study ballet when they were younger. I know here in Orange County, there are many ballet studios who offer very good adult/open class programs that's slanted toward the int-adv/adv level dancers. As far as college goes, unless it's a school that's known for its ballet program/classes like IU, SMU, Barnard, etc., modern (not ballet) is going to be the dominant dance style offered. But if the college is in a metropolitan area (and hopefully w/ good mass transit if you don't have a car), then taking class off-campus at a reputable ballet school is a viable option.


Also, dks going to college as a non-dance major should expect that their academic classes & its associated work load will sometimes make it difficult to "take class" 2-3 times/week. But my dd who's a college freshman has still managed to stay involved with dance, and even performed in several performances last semester -- but it's all modern and all on flat. :-)

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We understand here also, but I don't know that I can offer any words of wisdom.


When my older daughter decided not to pursue ballet as a career (entering sr year in hs), then dance (into the sr year), it was difficult for her emotionally to even attend a dance performance, let alone take a ballet class. In the end, she did take class but not on a regular basis. She was lucky to be in a city with good training opportunities, and lived relatively close to these.


Eventually she explored modern dance, and joined a dance collective in her soph. year in University. She really enjoyed the dance work, and the friendships formed in the dance collective.


You never know where life will take you!!


Now this daughter is in law school, across the continent from our home. Her University town does have a ballet company, and a friend of hers from her residency days is in the company. This friend has been a great support to my daughter in her re-location. My daughter is, in turn, now experiencing dance more from the audience and encouraging her law school friends to do so as well.



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