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Ballet Talk for Dancers

A re-visit to "Measuring Success"


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Your question boils down to good teaching. Classical dance is different from Neo-classical dance. All dancers need to do classical, neo-classical, character and contemporary dance. Most professional ballet schools teach classical ballet as the basis for a future career in dance. The Balanchine Style is generally not taught outside of the USA. Therefore, the majority of dancers are not Balanchine trained. Most professional companies are dancing Balanchine, Petipa and others


There is a vast difference between the two choreographic styles of dance. The choreography can be danced by anyone who is trained in the vocabulary of dance. The difference is in how the choreography will look. The movements one learns in class becomes the movements of choreography. Speaking from personal experience, it was difficult to transition from a Balanchine training background to a more classical base. But, it is possible.


I would suggest you look into where the students of your school go after they finish their studies at your current school. If they are finding further study or jobs in companies with an inclusive repertoire, my guess is the training your DS is receiving gives the students an adequate background in ballet.


Their are quite a few training methods of classical dance. Vaganova is one of many. While Petipa, the father of our classical repertoire was choreographing, Vaganova schooling did not even exist. Vaganova schooling was developed in Soviet Russia, after the death of Petipa over a period of years by a group of former professional dancers who had a curiousity about and understood the importance of the breaking down of material to be introduced to students. Vaganova schooling is a living, breathing methodology that continues to be fine tuned. It is recognized by the methodology department of Vaganova Academy that the demands of choreography will always dictate the changes made in the teaching method.

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  • vrsfanatic


  • Momof3darlings


  • learningdance


  • Monet


We are not "quite" there yet, but we are beginning to get close to walking away from the original focus to a new one. Let's remember that this thread is about "Measuring success" of a ballet program for evaulation's sake not questions specific to measuring only one type of program. Like I said, we are close but not yet there so let's make sure we keep the original topic (and reading the original link) in mind. :angelnot:


There are many threads to discuss specific schools or specific methods and stylings.

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Agreed. Onward with the topic at hand. :)

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  • 10 months later...

I love what has been discussed here but feel that a true measure of success for all my kids will be when they are fully employed, can afford a roof over their heads, have food in their bellys and will no longer need me to put money in their bank accounts. 

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bbyblmrs - ditto what you said and adding "a job with benefits" - as in "a job with health insurance" -that's my measure of success for my kid

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I think measuring success looks differently depending on the age and stage of career.  I do not expect my 18 year old new to a company, with a paid contact to fully support herself to consider her successful.  At her age doing what she is doing and even getting paid at all I sure do consider that a success.  If she were not a dancer she would still be in high school most likely with no job or some small part time job, definitely not contributing the way she is and most certainly not self supporting.  So as her mom I say she is successful, with hopefully more success to come.😊

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Monet - I agree that each stage is different and each dancer different.  My DDs decided to spend a "gap" year at home before heading off on their own.  Some might say that put them behind but it's the exact right timing for them and that's what matters.  

Right now I'm considering DDs' current choice of trainee programs to be a huge success because of the positive environment created by the artistic staff.  DDs didn't always have that and just recently told me that they are so happy where they are now.  It's baby steps - they have a four week guest artist contract at another company for Nutcracker where they will be paid what looks to me like a starting corps member salary plus housing and shoes for the run.    

Long term, a paying contract that provides a livable wage and is flexible enough to allow additional income from teaching dance or something like yoga or pilates will be the end game.  We know this isn't the path to riches and may supplement their income for at least the first few years but that's the choice we have made.   

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I can't pay anymore money after my DD's 4 years of Pre Pro training.  We could do $500 a month.  We are tapped. If pre-pro doesn't really  lead to "pro" then it's all kind of hard to swallow. I might seem intractable but I still maintain that measuring success is  a 36 week AGMA contract with health insurance and a wage that permits DD to pay rent (even with a roommate), utilities, phone, clothes, etc.

I am sure this seems arrogant.

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Not at all Learningtodance. You are describing a real professional "endgame" to years of training. Schools are business that fill their classes with hopeful students and parents that foot the bill. At some point (maybe 15 years old) a parent has to step in and fully assess their child's vocational strengths towards a career in dance and steer them in the practical direction. It's true that lots of parents do not have the skills necessary to evaluate their child's talent and ability to be hired by a legitimate company. This can lead to fueling dreams that never lead to a contract, and their child continues  in dance way beyond what is emotionally and financially healthy. I believe this has always driven the ballet community, although even more so now that schools have cashed in on the the summer intensive workshop craze. There is nothing wrong with learning an art. The convoluted part comes in when students are accepted in year-round/pre pro schools when they realistically have not chance of securing a professional career. Ballet is ultra competitive. Yes a person can be one in a million, but most likely they they are one of a million and participation beyond a point, unless you are a parent of unlimited means, a child's talent may be just enough to keep them in a program (even graduate) but never pan out to an actual job offer. 

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Jwolfenden - agree.  But it's also one of those careers that is started at such a young age, I feel there is something to be said for a young dancer figuring out for his or herself that a dance career isn't going to happen.  Otherwise, they'll always wonder "what if".  I don't feel my dd has a very good chance of any company work because of her height and build but she's gotta try or she would always wonder.  She is also a teacher and a choreographer so if those are paths she ends up pursuing, then she'll still be extremely grateful.  Many dancers are tough and might have contracts that don't pay the bills or provide insurance but they make it work and are very happy to do so.  Our definition of success ultimately doesn't matter.  Their definition of success is what matters. 

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Just a reminder, this thread is about Measuring Success of Dance Programs not Company Life.  So, in this thread and on this topic, yes you may not consider your investment a success unless a contract comes.  But this thread is not about Success in terms of Adult living.  

I would equate the topic of this thread more to whether your dollars/time spent would equate to success much like a high school diploma and college acceptance would.  If we want to discuss whether Trainee programs or Apprentice levels are success, please start another thread on that.  Any of you can do that and I'm sure we'd have a great conversation.  


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In measuring success I would consider my investment into ballet training a success in the same way that I would evaluate a college program--Does it lead to a job that can sustain my child as an independent wage earner?

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I must respectfully disagree with the idea of an "endgame" to training as learningdance describes. Although I understand the financial strain that pursuit of this art form requires (with not one, but two DDs, believe me, I am well aware!), it is just that--pursuit of an art. There are very few companies in the US which can claim to provide all of the criteria outlined; by those criteria, only the top "three letter" companies would fit the bill, at least for a first-year corps level dancer. I liken it to parents who send their children to a private school calling their child's education a failure if he or she doesn't get a scholarship to an Ivy League school.

Perhaps my irritation with this mindset stems from DD having a roommate last year whose parents' attitude was primarily that if a dancer who graduates from the program gets a paying job, then the program is/was a success. As audition season approached, my DD was derided by the roommates' parents (as was I for allowing her to do so) for choosing to audition for second company positions that did not come with a regular paycheck. The father flat out told me that his daughter "better make good on my investment" and that he would not allow her to accept a position that did not involve a regular paycheck. She did ultimately find a second company spot with a regular stipend, so I guess that could be considered a success. Could DD have auditioned for that company and possibly have gotten a regular pay check instead of a show/shoe/mileage stipend? Sure, but she would have sacrificed her art to do so because that company did not fit with her aspirations or vision.

In a post on another thread, Eligus said, "Being paid for your work is not what makes you an artist." We have always considered the journey what is important, but we have also considered our family's budget and finances (both short and long-term). Do I hope that DD can fully support herself one day? Of course! Do I think she should do it at 18? I really don't--many of her friends are just starting college, which is waaay more expensive than us paying a portion of her living expenses. 

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Although I appreciate what others have expressed, I have to agree with Blanche. If the measurement of success of a dance program is that the dancer ends up with a job that pays a living wage, then clearly most of our DDs/DSs are set up for failure. Even in those 3-letter schools, many graduates do not end up with contracts. Ballet training starts so young and obtaining a contract depends on so many uncontrollable factors that have been delineated in several previous posts.

As a parent, I am motivated to continue to make the investment because (thankfully) I can afford it, my daughter is highly motivated to train, and we love to watch her dance. Therefore, the quality of our lives is enriched.

So, honestly, my measurement of success is a program that consistently produces healthy, inspired, life-long learners with proper technical skills and knowledge of ballet. Professional dance career or not, such programs will impart valuable life skills and a love/appreciation for artistic movement and music that will help propagate this beautiful art form.

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I have to agree with Blanch, thank you for your wise words.  Expecting our kids to be earning a paycheck that fully supports themselves as well as full health benefits after graduating 4 year of pre-pro training just seems completely unrealistic and not a good measure of how successful their training was.  Most students are 17 or 18 when then graduate from their program and that is pretty young for self sufficient success.  I liken it to my son who attends a private college prep high school.  I fully believe he will be prepared to take the next step twards college but I no way expect that after he is handed his diploma will he be earning a living to support himself nor do I feel he needs to go to an Ivy league school to be successful.  I understand the ballet world is a completely different world, however raising well rounded human beings in this world is important and giving them realistic ideas and timeframes of success is part of that.  

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