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Ballet Talk for Dancers

What's next?


therese

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Hello.

 

I have a dancing son who is a junior in high school. We are just beginning to look around and see what our options are post-high school graduation. My son is not a strong student but is a great dancer. I am having him go through the motions of getting into college, but that is not where his heart is (or my pocket-book). So what are the options? I seriously have no idea where to look next. Would it be a conseratory? A company?

 

We would like to stay in Pennsylvania as he will be awarded a $40,000 scholarship for post-secondary education for having attended Pittsburgh Public Schools for 12 years. But, if that can't happen, we will figure something out. I just have no idea what to do.

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Will he be ready to audition for a professional company when he graduates from high school? What about a second company/traineeship (these are often unpaid...). In PA, what about the Pittsburgh Ballet School Grad program, possibly with academic classes at a college in Pittsburgh. Or to CPYB in Carlisle...

 

Dance majoring in college is also an option to be sure...but although $40,000 is an incredibly generous scholarship, if he's full pay for the rest of his college education, it won't begin to cover many college programs, especially those with strong dance majors. Start researching schools that offer a dance major or minor.

 

What does he want to do "when he grows up"? Be a professional classical ballet dancer? Has he talked to his dance teachers to see what they feel would be his next step?

 

It's good that you are starting the research and thinking now. Include lots of talks with your son, about where he sees himself, about the realities of money, future, etc. These can be some great conversations.

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Therese - you have gotten some great suggestions from miodus and msd. When my son was a junior, he decided that he wanted to pursue dance as a career, but we didn't know how best to go about that either. (I don't know if that is what your son wants, but if he does....) So, I'll share what we did. Of course, there are probably many different ways to the goal, so take what you can from our journey and then forge your own path!

 

My DS's goal for the summer between his Jr and Sr. years was to attend SI's and get as much experience as possible. He attended Magnus Midwest (now Magnus Northwest) and then Juilliard, then trained with Sara Knight in NYC. After asking for evaluations, most of the teachers thought he needed more training before trying to join a company.

 

So, in September of his Sr year, he trained with his partner for ballet competitions, and also filled out college apps for schools with classical ballet programs. In December, he sent out videos to dozens of professional companies requesting an audition. Then, when audition season rolled around, he auditioned for the college programs, summer intensives (with companies attached to them hoping for a year round offer after the SI) and professional companies (in both cattle calls and invited auditions).

 

By April, he had had been rejected by many ballet companies, decided on his SI, and accepted a scholarship to a great dance school. He figured if he was offered a year round position in the second company (attached to the SI), he would just forfeit his deposit for college and continue dancing. However, this changed In May, when he received a call from a ballet company in California, offering him an apprenticeship. He deferred his college acceptance, attended the SI, and then moved to CA and started dancing for a paycheck!

 

All that to say...there is not single "right way" to do this. You do ALL you can to give your son as many choices as possible. Some may work out, some may not.

 

We did find that the video is a very important part of the audition process - my DS's eventual job offer was from the video ONLY - he never auditioned in person for the AD prior to receiving a contract. We had packaged a resume, the video on a cd, and a request for an audition and mailed them to dozens of companies. We also posted the video on YouTube on a "private" setting. Then, when emailing companies that accept digital requests for auditions, we included the link for the video. My son also kept a cd and resume in his dance bag. A couple of times when he was taking classes, instructors would ask him if he had a resume/video - and it was much easier to hand them one than to remember to mail them one later! A side note: keep a notebook with a list of all the different companies/contact people you mailed stuff to. Then make notes re: email responses, from whom, telephone calls, etc. You think you will never forget the nice auditioner at xyz company...but in a month or two, they all run together!

 

Best wishes to your DS!

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Thanks so much for your post tropicfive - a really practical outline of what to do. This is so helpful!

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There are quite a few helpful threads in the Careers and Higher Education Forums, including dedicated threads for college/university programs, trainee/apprenticeship, second companies, and post-grad programs. Nose around and drop in on prior discussions, ask questions, and revive threads that strike a chord.

 

We recently had another member start a thread with pretty much the same questions. :thumbsup:

 

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Therese - Thanks for asking this question. My DS is a freshman in high school and has recently decided that he wants to become a Professional Baller Dancer. We have known for many years that he wanted to dance professionally and he has now narrowed his focus. Again same situation, not interested in college but we are making him go through the motions. Our plan is to do SIs every summer and then after his Junior year start auditioning for companies. The videos sounds like a great idea to get more exposure to more companies for minimal time and cost. I have come to terms with the college option, so I am really just focused on trying to prepare him for company auditions.

 

Hopefully there will be more posted suggestions here. Good topic.

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Thanks for all the help! I have a pretty good idea of where to start now. I think at this point its tough for him because he isn't fully developed physically..a "late bloomer" so to speak. He is also not a strong student academically. He does "ok" but I am not sure he is college material.

 

We are already at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre school and have been since he was 5. That said..he is ready to move on. Ballet is becoming less and less his thing, nor his talent. Too bad for now. He needs the classical training, much to his dismay! We have started the typical college process and are looking at Point Park, the University of the Arts, and Slippery Rock. Money is definitely an issue for us. So, we will just keep moving along and see what happens.

 

Making a video and sending it out is a great idea!

 

As far as SI's go, he danced at Joffrey Contemp in LA last year and was just accepted on scholarship at the Dance Theatre of Harlem for this summer. I hate to say it, but he has experienced some subtle discrimination based on his race (he is biracial)..DTH is where he really wants to go....

 

Thanks again!

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Wow, sounds to me as though your son has some bright, shiny options! Can that $40,000 be used in one year, or does it have to be divided? Because that would go nicely to cover a year at Point Park or UArts. Then, during that first year, when lots of commercial venues hold auditions at Point Park, or your son could dash up to NYC on the train from Philly, he'd snap up a contract with a production company (cruise ships, Vegas, etc) and start making money soon after.

 

If I'm assuming correctly that your son is open to other dance styles, he could earn a living right out of high school. He could even apply online using the private YouTube videos that tropicfive mentioned.

 

Start planning your son's college tour during his spring break now!

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Thanks Pierrette. The gist of the $40,000 is that it covers any unmet financial needs over a period of 4 years and must be used within 5. He will probably be spending this summer in NYC or Philadelphia...we will start going to look at schools this spring., beginning at Point Park next week. It just seems really overwhelming at this point. I can imagine its hard on him too..taking ACT prep courses, dance class 6 days a week, six hours a day, company rehearsals, SI auditons, and last but not least, homework.

 

His interest in ballet is quickly waning and moving toward modern/contemporary...all tough decisions for a 16 year old BOY.

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You're describing a typical pre-pro dancer's schedule, which is why my advice has always been to take full advantage of spring breaks all through high school for college touring. It's always best to visit college dance programs when they are in full swing: observe classes, try to see a performance, and talk to the students. Keep in mind that his senior schedule isn't going to be any lighter and will include even more auditions.

 

When my daughter was a high school junior, she was auditioning for early admission to Juilliard and UArts the following year, along with visiting/ pre-auditioning for University of Arizona (to transfer to after that), PLUS doing SI auditions, being a guest student at the University of Michigan with rehearsals for shows, etc. Yes, it was overwhelming. But our efforts eventually paid off.

 

P.S. Congrats on hitting 30 posts! You can PM now. :)

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Awesome! Well, being a single parent of 3 school age children doesn't help the matter. We are going to pick 3-5 schools for him to look at, both conservatory and college and go from there. Thanks for your help!

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