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Ballet Talk for Dancers

The journey


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I agree so much with what is being stated. There is a point in a child's life where they have Plan A and B firmly in their brain as something we smile and agree with but know is unattainable. (Professional athlete and Neurosurgeon at the same time?) Then later in their youth, as they have to make choices they understand that one has to give up some things to get other things so they may develop a Plan A or B that revolves around "if this..then this". Reality has to be mixed in there somewhere as in the example of Professional Dancer and Professional Classical Musician. Maybe it's not impossible, but because the two demand almost all of who you are for a time, not probable.


If they are blessed enough to find themselves living the dance dream in some capacity post high school (either in a company or in college) , they will be in a position to be learning and knowing themselves. Several dancers at DDs company are retiring from dancing and their Plan B was law school. That was their Plan B when they were in high school also. They kept the same Plan B. For others, like DD, her Plan B involved something she has now changed her mind about, so she's doing the things to develop a new Plan B in the interim.


In reality, I don't see DD's work toward a Plan B any different from her friends who went into college with those sort of degree plans where you know up front that the undergrad degree must be followed by a more focused grad degree. (Sociology and Communications are two degrees in our area we see like that) So in the interim of finding the end road of where their degree will take them, these students re-define who they are and what they are thinking. I see the dance journey in this regard no different. My niece who graduated from SMU in Communications (one of those cum laude thingys, can't remember which one) worked in that field for a time and when she married found that she LOVED all the processing you do to plan a wedding. She was also a dancer but didn't major in dance. She has turned that new love of wedding planning into a very successful and lucrative 2nd career as a Wedding Consultant in Texas. That was never in her plans or thought originally. Maturity and circumstance had the idea fall in her lap and she ran with it. This type of thing will happen for every dancer who studies to the degree ours have studied because they are smart, they've been trained to be both disciplined and resourceful and they have drive to be successful. It's crazy for us as moms in the interim, but they really will be okay. That doesn't mean while the transition is going on they won't be a bit of a basket case for a time. That part of things is normal. It's a bit of mourning what wasn't prior to moving on to what will be.

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Quote: " I do recall visiting a noted art school once with another sibling and was surprised to learn they didn't require an extensive portfolio, just because they said so many high schools didn't have enough of a fine arts program to provide preparation."

Yes! I have a daughter just like yours in terms of interest Marigold! She loves ballet and that is her plan A, but loves art, design and music, which is her plan B. We did some research on design schools and found a number that didn't want a high school portfolio for admission, but wanted you to design something just for admission based on a question or idea. One I remember was Parsons in NYC. This so surprised my dd who thought she would never get into a design school because she hasn't done a lot of fine art class work in high school due to the demands of dance.

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It's crazy for us as moms in the interim, but they really will be okay. That doesn't mean while the transition is going on they won't be a bit of a basket case for a time. That part of things is normal.


I completely agree with you Momof3. We also view changing Plan B to be like changing a college major or postgraduate plans. As long as a Plan B is rattling around, we don't get too stressed. One thing we discovered during dd's first year as a professional is that it's really hard to do a lot of school well while tending to the career. She bit off a bit more academics than she could chew. It became terribly difficult to study academics, choreography, stretch and sleep. Bless her heart, she tried but after a lot of soul searching, she decided that now is the time to concentrate on her career and she scaled back the academics. It really is hard to be the master of all trades.


Right now for dd, plan B is a college course per summer and one per year.... basic courses online. This will give her the foundation to spring Plan B into plan if and when it becomes needed. Also included is one classic novel every couple of months as well as an opera or two and other culturally rich activities. She also works in a few ice hockey games (her favorite sport!) In other words, we tell our dd that free time should be used for rest and relaxation and personal enrichment. Honestly, almost every serious professional ballet dancer I've ever known is focused, driven and intelligent. They know how to get things done and they will land on their feet, even if the landing is a bit bumpy.

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Regarding plan A and plan B scenerios, dd had an assignment for school to interview a person in her "chosen" occupation. She interviewed a principal dancer at a respected ballet company who had danced since graduating high school. This dancer had been accepted to college and had gone to a program for the summer, was asked to join the second company and thought, "why not try it?" She deferred her college admission, and has never stopped dancing for the last 10 years. She is married to a professional dancer, and her attitude is "as long as I can do it, I will and will address the "plan B" when it is over" She tried to take academic classes while in company and found she couldn't do both to the level of excellence that she desired. So, she is just taking it, "one day at a time".

It was very freeing for my daughter to learn this from her...but her desire to dance just makes it so hard to take it "one day at a time"...or as the golfer said, "be patient and see happens" And, I admit, it is even harder for me!

Thank you all for sharing your adventures on this wonderful thread!

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It is interesting to read all of this and does begin to put me at ease with the thought of my daughter maybe someday pursuing a professional carreer in ballet. I am starting to think that if this is what she decides is her first love maybe college right after high school is not the be all end all. My husband has a different point of view. He is always saying, "Fine as long as she goes to college first." The more I research about the ballet world, this sounds like a career wrecker for me, but I know that he doesn't really get it (or maybe doesn't care because he doesn't like the ballet choice so much) She says that she does not want to attend a modern based university program but as far as I can see, there are not too many ballet programs that I see at Universities. Butler seems the biggest and best. Is this the only program where students upon graduation can expect to get accepted into a company? Realistically if a person goes to university is the ballet company dream basically squashed? I pointed out that, my husband who is so adamant about college doesn't even use his college degree in his career now. He is in a completely different field than what he studied in college. He says its the extension of ones liberal arts education and a place to grow as a person. Any thoughts or answers to any of these questions? Are there lists of recent University dance/ballet graduates and where they are going printed somewhere?

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I am not in the US, so I cannot comment on the situation there.


As far as I see it, there is a time for everything.


It is not often possible to get a job dancing professionally - especially ballet - starting much later in life, such as mid-20s or even later.

It is possible to start doing other things, not so physically demanding, then.


There are plenty of examples of former dancers, ballet and other, who went on later to study law, medicine, and myriad other disciplines.

There is no reason why one must stop learning if one does not go to college.


But, these are decisions which everyone has to make for themselves, of course. :)



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We have 'A Plan' with our DS which is based around the idea that you have some 45 years to work in a conventional job and be 'responsible' (I think he was overwhelmed at that figure- as were we once we realised it!!). Spending 8-10 years chasing your dream is a drop in the ocean. Lots of time for mortgages and going to university. Here in Australia, the universities love mature aged students (e.g. over 23!!) and there are many programs which enable them to enter university which give acknowledgement for other efforts like dance. So we feel very happy for him to 'have a go' with dance and see what happens before becoming a tiger biologist or whatever he decides upon! As a past university lecturer, I think higher education is wasted on most 17 year olds anyway :D - they dont really know what life is about and are too busy growing up. So our view is he should follow his heart, see what happens and come home for plan B later on. :nixweiss:

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There are dancers who dance in ballet companies after they graduate from college. Be aware that they start at the entry levels (2nd company, apprentice) most of the time. This means (especially in the US) that the pay is low or non-existent for several years. So, after pouring money into a college degree, are you willing to help support the ballet dream for a few more years? (There isn't one answer for this. It's different for different families).


Dancing professionally and working towards a college degree do not have to be mutually exclusive but it does require creativity and discipline. There are different ways to get a college degree these days and universities both in the USA and the UK are happy to work with professional ballet dancers. It's a matter of finding out what interests your dd and what courses she would like to pursue. Unless, the dancer is interested in the subject matter, it's incredibly difficult to study after a grueling day in the studio. Honestly though, if your dd is one of the lucky few who are offered a professional job at age 18/19 and is determined to give the job her best, she will most likely pursue the college degree in a part-time student manner. There just aren't enough hours in the day to do both well. Most ballet companies have summer breaks. DD is finding that it's fun to work towards her eventual college degree during the break. She takes online courses during the year but is only able to complete 1 per semester so it will take some time for that degree to happen.


I understand the conflict that happens when a teen decides that they don't want to go to college straight from high school. Family members just don't get it sometimes. We explained to our dd that college is much more than just taking the courses and gaining a degree. It's the time in life that young adults learn how to live independently; it's also an extension of adolescence. We made clear that dancing professionally meant that she was entering the world of adulthood much sooner than her peers. This meant no dorm life, no sororities, no college craziness. Every dk is different, but all that college "stuff" just wasn't important to our dd. Even now, when she takes summer courses at our local university, she is shocked at how "immature" the kids in her classes are. After 3 years at ballet boarding school, I don't think she would have tolerated all of the nonsense that happens in college life very well anyway. The life lessons our dd is learning as a dancer are important too! Universities recognize these life lessons and when dd decides to finish her degree or work on a post-graduate degree, I'm certain she will find one that will welcome her with open arms.

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Victoria Leigh

Burker, some excellent answers here, and hopefully by the time your daughter reaches the age of decision, your husband will wake up to the fact that college can be done during or after a career in ballet. However, I do want to add that there are quite a number of excellent college ballet programs. Butler is just one of them. The most highly recognized is Indiana University. But there are a lot more! Check out the Career and Higher Education forum. :)

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DD called from IU last night where she is taking two classes during a 6 week summer session before her SI starts in early July. She's taking extra classes so that she can graduate earlier with an outside field...which seems to be switching to a pre-med-ish bent. So in the fall she'll be taking a 5 credit Chem class, Spanish, Piano, a performance class (she attends and reviews performances) a ballet teaching class, in addition to daily ballet from 11:30-5:30.


"I think I can really do it!"

"Well, you go girl! I'm exhausted just thinking about it!"

"Oh, mom..."

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Thank you everyone for all of your thoughts and advice! I just LOVE BT4D! I had looked at Indiana U as I had heard that before, but when I researched it online I only saw a degree in contemporary dance. Now after revisiting the website and searching "Ballet degree" instead of "dance degree" I found what I had been looking for. Thanks Miss Leigh. I know its early and I am not even sure she has what it takes, or will really be willing to make sacrifices when push comes to shove, but, I am trying to educate and prepare myself so that I may assist her in her quest for happiness whatever that may be. I have also begun to invest a lot of money in this and what to make sure my investment is done right. My whole family is affected by her desire to pursue this, which is ok to some extent, but she needs to learn that the sacrifice on her part will have to be far greater than it is on the rest of us. I want to open her eyes as much as help her reach her goals if they are what she really wants.

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lol Denipark! Oh to be young again!


I'm a little late in replying but Swanchat, so true on that maturity issue. My daughter came home to visit her friends who were entering their final year of university. She came to the conclusion that she didn't miss a thing by not going to college after high school. Her friends were sneaking alcohol into the football game and doing some other crazy things. Also, she went away to a residency during part of her high school years and I really think that those years at her residency were her "growing up years" because of the demands placed on her by the ballet company and having to live independently. By the time she had her first professional job, she had no problem adjusting to a more adult life.


I do think that serious ballet students in high school are more mature anyway, just my opinion.


Burker, my husband felt the same way as yours. He never really took my daughter seriously until she left for her first professional job. Then he knew she meant business! And she could also support herself. He would laugh when he told his friends that she was "off the family payroll".


If the dancer is not able to secure a job or does not feel ready to audition for a job by the end of his/her senior year of high school, then perhaps college is a good option. They can still audition for companies in the spring of their college years and work on their degree until they get picked up. Dancer not academically inclined or wanting to pursue other training? Another option is to look into training programs for post high school students. You can find information on these programs on Ballet Talk as well.

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Our family has taken the same view as have swanchat and lsu. They said everything that I would say. Many college students don't know what they want to do with their lives, and that's sometimes as true on graduation day from college as it was when they entered as freshmen. Our DKs have purpose and dedication to something. burker, quite a few dancers do complete college in a dance degree program, with or without an additional major, and then go out and get the trainee/apprentice/second company positions that others got when leaving high school, so it's true that some additional time of financial support is probably necessary in the plan, but it does work out for many, and some AD's like to hire older dancers who have some college education. Indiana University and Butler are 2 that have good placement rates, but there are also University of Oklahoma, Univ. of Utah, Juilliard,Cincinnati College and Conservatory of Music, Mercyhurst, Point Park, and a few others that you will see in company dancer bios.

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Burker, please do take a little time and visit the various pertinent Forums in the Career And Dance Education Section of the Board. There are a number of Forums there that will provide you with a working knowledge of the questions at issue, various approaches, paths, and a whole Forum with dedicated threads for the various colleges and universities with dance programs.


Here's an interesting article that may also provide members with some food for thought: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lightsey-darst/dancer-income-wages-lifestyle-_b_1556794.html?ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

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Thanks for posting that article, dancemaven. I had seen it and wondered if it had been posted. Just want to say that between the time of around 14/15, when students show a complete commitment to pursuing this field and the age they are when they become juniors, which is really 16/17, there has to be a VERY quick and proactive gathering of information about options, realistic expectations for prospects and eyes opened wide by both parents to be supportive of their child. These students work so hard towards this point and it behooves all the adults in their lives to do their homework and invest their time to understand what really goes on to accomplish a professional career. My point is that there really is a very small window of time for parents and dancers to educate themselves about this and it best not to expect any one or even a collection of dance teachers to come forward and explain it all. This board does have a wealth of knowledge and serves as a stepping off point for furthering this quick and intense educational process for parents. Such big changes go on in every aspect for the student's development, but also, once they have arrived at age 17, there is a pivoting wake-up call regarding the types of factors that influence job opportunities offered by a company - so much different than advancing through levels of a school or collecting summer intensive acceptances. That information is easy to put aside when students are even a few years younger, as it may not seem relevant. Those couple years go by in a blink. The sooner adults around a young person of these ages respects the seriousness of this endeavor and recognizes the difference between it and a hobby, the better. Just a comment from a perspective in the middle of the pivoting process! Glad to see so many are on here reading during those earlier years before it might seem relevant. :)

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