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Ballet Talk for Dancers

My personal, and worrisome, situation.


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I won't fit the "16 & under" category for much longer now, but I figured I'd use it while it lasts.


This is my situation, which I am both nervous about and bewildered as to what is the best thing to do. I could fill pages with this story, but I'll try to keep it concise.


(I am also expecting that, in doing this, someone will post a link to a topic very similar to this one, and that I can gain advice in that manner; essentially, this is a "late starter" post, and I apologize if the administrators deem it redundant.)


I have been dancing for close to two years now; however, my first studio was unfortunately not serious, and so I think of my serious ballet training as having started about 10 months ago.

As I have said, I am sixteen years old, and live in southern California. I will be a senior this September, and will too soon be at the post-high school crossroads.

My mother wants me to go to college, but I have recently and honestly come to the conclusion that academics do not interest me much; I want nothing more than to dance and pursue a career while I am young and able.

My difficulty with applying to companies, is my level of experience. (To give you an idea, here's a few things: I dance 17 hours a week, almost all technique; I have solid double pirouettes; my developpés are above 120º to the front and side, 90º to the back; I have oversplits to the left and right, and 180º to the center. My worst aspects are my back, and my feet. I began pointe 4 weeks ago, and despite stretching my feet 30 minutes/day, have a hard time getting over my box due to inflexible ankles–genetics be darned.)


I am looking into college programs, both in-state and out-of-state, though I would rather take up a pre-professional program: I get the feeling there is no program that would take me, because there are so many other sixteen-year-olds at a professional level already.

But getting into a good dance department is no easier: I feel like I wouldn't have a chance at an Indiana U or Butler U audition...


What I need right now is advice, and recommendations. Are there colleges that do "placement," rather than "yes/no" admissions? Are there pre-professional/trainee programs that would give me a shot? I'm a hard worker, but my technique/rotation/turns/extensions/et cetera does not yet reflect it...


Thank you so much, in advance. I am very nervous, and any and all guidance is appreciated.

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Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers!!


Let's start with one thing at a time. It sounds like you're feeling a bit of the panic that kids go through around the last few years of high school. My son went through it, and I will tell you the same things I told him:


Breathe. Everything doesn't need to be decided today. I know it feels like it, but it doesn't. There are options and I want you to weigh them carefully.


Take the next few months to play with different scenarios in your head.

For example: if college was paid for by a rich anonymous donor- any college anywhere with the only rule being you can dance forever for your own pleasure, take ballet classes for the rest of your life, but you will not dance professionally, what would you do? Quick- how did you feel when you read that sentence? A sense of relief? A sadness but also a bit of relief? Completely devastated?


Another example: You convince your parents to use whatever money they had set aside for college for you on a ballet training program. You end up studying for the next 4 years because by your own admission you had a late start. You begin the audition process at age 21, realizing that for at least the next 2 years, if you are lucky enough to get a Traineeship or Apprentice contract, you will still need to be supported by your parents.


Trainees and Apprentices are usually on both company and school time, so having some sort of job outside of dance becomes daunting. Are you willing to go on 4-5 hours of sleep per night? Are you willing to dance all day, work all eveing usually at a restaurant or retail job, and finally drop into bed at 2 or 3 am, only to start the whole process over again at 7 am the next day?


You hit the audition circuit which means airplane tickets, delays getting into the next city, taxi rides to an unfamiliar facility, day after day after day for several months. Airplane fare costs money- lots of it, so you are still living off of that slowly diminishing sum of money your parents had for you. You are fortunate because during this journey, you did meet some very interesting people, and they offer your their couch (they found it on a street in New York City- it may or may not have bedbugs) for a few nights so you can attend several auditions within a few days.


You don't sleep well on the couch, and you're pretty sure you saw either a rat or a gigantic cockroach cross the living room floor in the middle of the night. You still head out the next day for your first (of 3) auditions that you need to get to. The first one you're cut after the plié combination; the second one they lined you up, looked at all of you, and cut all but 3 dancers- you weren't one of them. But at the 3rd one, you make it all the way to the end of the class only to have the AD tell all of you that he is looking for a principal dancer, and some men. Obviously, you don't fit either category, so off you go to the bedbug couch for another night.


Quick- how do you feel? Excited- this sounds like an incredible adventure- something you'll tell your grandkids about some day! Discouraged? Mixed?


And a third scenario: College, but a dance degree- maybe even a double major, or at least a degree that might offer you some sort of dance possibilities, along with some sort of financial comfort- better than the bedbug couch, but modest.


The simple reality of the ballet dancer's life getting started getting a job is pretty much how I've laid it out. I didn't do that for any reason other than to be sure you are armed with all of the realities that may occur if you decide to "chuck it all and go dance". You also may not win the financial support of your parents.


These are all things to consider as you write down the pros and cons of seeking a ballet career.


Now, let's open our minds for a bit: Have you considered other dance forms? Not that anything in the arts is much easier, but there are college programs that can be more accepting and more tolerant than the ballet departments can be. My personal advice would be to cast your net- far and wide, if you want to do a dance program in college. Take a look at some of our threads here on different programs that offer dance, and see if anything interests you.


Start a journal and keep track of the pros and cons of each one of your options. When you have compiled as much information about what it might take to gain you entrance into the ballet world and what it might take to get you into a dance department that looks interesting, talk honestly and as unemotionally as you can with your parents so you can find out what they might be open to. Keep your grades up as well as your chores so that you are as mature as possible during this process.


It's also possible that you could start a college program, and on a holiday, happen to audition for a company you had never thought of previously, and that could work out. Or you keep training and luck into an apprenticeship. While you are an apprentice you decide to start some college classes at a local college, and slowly but surely, you earn your degree.


And even though many parents may not like it, there is also the possibility of you deciding not to go to college now, and end up down the road in your late 20s deciding it's time. However, in that scenario I do want you to look up what it takes to live in whatever city you want to live; projected college costs 10 years down the road because you will probably be missing out on any scholarships; what jobs you might be qualified for.


Your situation is not optimal, but sometimes the impossible becomes possible. The one thing I can tell you is you can always dance, and you can always do college. It's just up to you to figure out what will work the best for you.

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Parent wandered in to YD Forum by mistake and a post was removed. Parents, PLEASE, if you feel compelled to post here, use the 'CONTACT US' button or PM a Moderator instead with your comments. :thumbsup:

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  • Administrators

FYI - The response, above, by Clara 76, has been made a Sticky, and resides in the Career General Discussion forum. It is entitled Career Paths.

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Clara 76, I would like to thank you deeply for your response–it is extremely informative, comprehensive and prompt. As Miss Leigh has pointed out, it deserves to be stickied.


I am unsure as to whether or not you meant your scenarios to be purely rhetorical, but I would like to respond to a few of them, if only to put a few boundaries on the diversity of options you have presented.


The first example, in which my college was paid for (hallelujah!), I can safely say I would be miserable if I couldn't pursue a professional career. It was almost a knee-jerk reaction to me to decline taking ballet ONLY recreationally.


As to the trainee/apprenticeship route, I may sound brash here, but the life of dancing-all-day, working-at-night actually appeals to me more than almost anything. Having a full, productive schedule fulfills me like nothing else. Again, the obstacle here is my level of experience...


Nor does the audition circuit daunt me, if I felt in any way like I was prepared or like I had even the slimmest prospect of succeeding–which, I honestly do not feel I am, or do.


From what I can see now is that the college route is probably the most likely, within the next... few months, considering when applications and auditions start.


And when I say this, I don't mean to sound elitist, or condescending of other dance forms: I only mean to say, that I have tried many other kinds of dance, and I love nothing like I love ballet, both classical and contemporary. I am indeed looking into triple-emphasis/broader programs... but if a BIG "emphasis" on ballet is not possible, I remain dubious to the personal benefits of attending. (Again–sorry–I really don't mean to sound stuck-up!)


I have already begun tracking dates, locations, costs et cetera for programs. It's exciting and nerve-wracking and quite frankly, I don't have a college fund. All the money I'd saved went into a summer intensive in July. My parents are hoping that my 4.2 GPA, 32 ACT and AP classes will get me good financial aid in college: a hope that seems not a little far-fetched in this highly competitive academic world...


"It's also possible that you could start a college program, and on a holiday, happen to audition for a company you had never thought of previously, and that could work out."

I like this sentence. It seems like the most likely thing in my future. Understand, nobody in my family (on my mother's side, and my older sister) has gone to college, so it's important to my mom.


I think what I fear most is that no college will take me. Or, if some college DOES, that the amount of time spent actually dancing won't be comparable to the amount of time spent if I had been in a traineeship or apprenticeship... does that make sense? Like, the quality of career preparation.


I guess what I can do now is work hard and look into eevverything and hope for the possibility of the impossibleness of this becoming more possible...

again, many thanks.

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Do the research. There will be a college program out there that takes you and is a good fit for you!!! I just know it. :thumbsup:

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I recently attended the end of SI performance at the University of South Carolina, AD Susan Anderson. She will be emphasizing ballet as the neccessary building block to other dance forms, my paraphase of her July 29th comments. She earned her MFA for work at UC-Irvine; here's their link (you said above you are from So. Cal); which had me thinking to pass this along.



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