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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Career: Strategizing for Junior Year


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Lady Elle,


SMU, along with TCU, are the two schools that we will be visiting in October! We have heard good things about the SMU program, and they do allow a student to double major! Is your DD's teacher a recent graduate of SMU? My husband and I have been strongly encouraging DD to pursue a double major, since it is so difficult to find work in dance. I know a double major can be very difficult to manage, but she is an excellent academic student with good time management skills (I think all ballerinas are!). We just need to make sure that it is possible to actually fit in all of the required classes; if it takes her an additional year to finish, we still feel it is time well spent.

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Not a recent grad - probably about 5 years ago. have fun!! I have several years before I have to start pursuing all this stuff!

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I have a question. As we go about looking into trainee programs and companies, how do we find out about height requirements? DD is just shy of being 5'3.

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Sometimes companies post height requirements when they advertise auditions. Emphasis on sometimes.


I can't say as I've seen anything from a trainee program regarding height specifications...

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  • 2 weeks later...

For those applying to colleges, whether it be for a dance or non-dance major, when should the Junior HS student begin obtaining information (photos, videos, CV) for the extra curricular portion of the college applications? The Common App opens up August 1 each year. Should student obtain all relevant info from home studio by the end of the Junior academic year?

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The Activities portion of the Common App is a fill-in form; it's not an arts supplement for sharing photos, videos, CV. There is no "Common App" arts supplement - each college will have their own provisions (or not) for an arts supplement. College dance programs will have their own applications, separate from the academic application. Certainly, you should use the junior year of high school to start reviewing what each college dance program asks for and make arrangements to create the materials in a timely manner. They'll say, for example, whether photos and videos need to be less than 6 months or a year old.


It's also a good idea to start targeting which dance teachers you'd like to ask for letters of recommendations and talk to them about their willingness to do so. However, each college that asks for letters of recommendation will have different procedures for submitting them that ensure they'll get matched up with the rest of your application materials.


I'm jealous of how much easier it is for this generation of dancers to make their own audition videos than it was for us 10 years ago. Given that, you should make sure it's as fresh as possible.

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  • 3 months later...
  • 3 months later...

I have a question. As we go about looking into trainee programs and companies, how do we find out about height requirements? DD is just shy of being 5'3.

Id love to hear if this was ever answered. Or how to find the answers. My daughter is a junior and wants to become a trainee after high school. I'm more concerned with companies that have a height requirement. My daughter is 5' 1 1/2". We know a gal that went to a trainee program and knew she'd never be invited to their company because she was too short. I'd hate to invest in time and money into a place where she wouldn't have a future. But finding height requirements for companies seems to be hard. Any recommendations on where to start?

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When dd was looking at websites for audition info for companies they often listed height requirements.

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  • 2 months later...

I realize that I never delivered on my promise to check back in to this thread as the academic year progressed, so here goes, even though I still feel in the middle of no where as senior year looms over us like some kind of Godzilla! I have also been hesitant to update since I'm not sure we accomplished much of anything this year. However, perhaps our experiences might strike a chord with someone. I'm also interested to hear how it went for other junior families?


DD has decided she is totally against (at this point) a BFA/double major in dance at college. We managed to fit in a couple of college dance program visits and cancelled a third (it would have cost much time and money, and if DD isn't open to the idea, that made little sense to pursue). I have, however, made a mental sticky note to myself that DKs can and do make complete changes in the direction of their thinking and goals, in order to mentally prepare myself for that last minute possibility.


So the rest of the year was one simply of wading through company websites, programs, descriptions on these forums and YouTube to see if there were any places that looked like realistic matches. We somewhat tried to match those findings with summer programs she auditioned for (although most of those under consideration did not come to our part of the country, so only video auditions could cover them). She also tried to contact people she might know at various places, but with somewhat limited success. I discovered that this forum was perhaps the best resource to get inside information, and that was often not evident on the threads themselves, but could be often discovered through private phone and PM conversations that unearthed a wealth of information (often in a response to a question I posted). We spent the winter school break checking out one particular geographic location, with a couple of trainee/company classes and going to see a company production. Those did yield an offer of a paid-by-performance trainee position next fall (which for various reasons did not feel right for her to accept this coming year, and the director graciously understood and encouraged her to try out again next year) at a very small company, and a small scholarship for a summer program with consideration for their trainee/school program next fall. Again, declined since the attached company made it known that she fell outside their physical requirements for their company program. But it was her first foray, in a small way, into that kind of scenario.


I do question her decision for this summer. She opted to send her arrow to the highest point possible for her in a larger, more competitive program that was not on a possible target list, rather than to check out a smaller program that might have been more realistic for her, and that offered her modest to quite nice scholarships. I'm not sure that decision accomplished much for her at this point in the journey, other than to rule out that type of program for her and allow her to see a bigger section of the talent pool that is out there. Again, mentally I have made another sticky note that her post senior year might require a gap year of additional experimentation and self-discovery before committing to one particular course of action since she hasn't been moving through the same audition circuits that most of your DK have been following since pre-high school, and her perspective and self-assessment has therefore been somewhat limited. I am also waiting to see if her summer experience brings any kind of epiphany to her in regard of what path to follow from this point out. I guess one regret I have about this year's summer program choice is that it is so big that individual feedback is apparently harder to come by. The teachers there that she did feel more connected with only taught her class a couple of times and the class was big.


I have to say that for me personally this has been a difficult year for me to squelch my own growing personal cynicism about this whole, 14 year dance journey, despite encouraging words from her home teacher. It is definitely DD's dream that is fueling this, and I often feel pulled along against my better judgement, like the owner of an eager puppy who is walking its owner on a taut leash to I know not where. I think next year in particular, assuming we continue along the same track, is going to feel more like a runaway train with me constantly wondering at what point disaster will strike, and how and what I'll manage to pull out of the wreckage; or whether, in fact, against all odds, she'll find a way to smoothly pull into some station, somewhere unexpected, while I still have my eyes shut tight.


So I apologize in advance if this is all totally useless, too personal information. I just felt I had an obligation to deliver something to summarize the year and close my promise to this thread. Hopefully some of you have more useful things to offer in regards to the junior year journey? Good luck to everyone on the brink of the senior year!

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LovesLabor - thanks for the update and pulling this thread back to the forefront. DDs are a year behind yours in their journey so Junior year is now upon us. Technically they are young to be rising juniors so I believe a gap year will possibly be in their future. Also like you DD, my girls do not want to pursue the college route, at least not in any traditional sense. And funny that I believe they are in the same Summer Intensive program as your DD. Although their experience has been a good one, the size of the program is daunting.


I'm going to dig back into this thread and the links provided over the next week and try to start forming our gameplan for next season's auditions.

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I feel your pain, LovesLabor! We are right there with you. We've searched in vain for some handy dandy manual, but we keep coming back to 'not a clue' for what comes after this upcoming senior year (even what to do for senior year). We are all over the place with thoughts. Thank you for putting words to this quandary.

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LovesLabor, thanks for the update! It seems like everyone is in the same boat here. I feel like we did the best we could do over the past year, given her schedule. That said, I’m still scared to death about this upcoming year!!


We toured nine strong college dance programs throughout the year. From these visits, she was able to remove two of them from her list for various reasons. She does plan to audition at the remaining seven schools this year. It looks as though three schools have audition dates in the fall as well as in the spring, so we plan to take the earliest audition date possible in order to spread things out a bit. The other auditions are all in January and February, and hopefully we can double up some of the auditions over a weekend, since they are all in the same city, in order to save on travel costs. I’m not sure if that will be possible or not, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed!


This summer, one of the intensives she is attending was selected because several of her teachers over the years had mentioned to her that they thought she might be a good fit for their company, given that she has an equal interest/strength in ballet and contemporary. Trainees are selected from the summer intensive, so she thought she would attend that particular intensive to see if there appears to be any interest. She would consider deferring college for a year if something worked out, although whether it’s sooner or later, I believe that college is definitely in her future.


We also have headshots and dance photos scheduled for late this summer, as well as a time to film a dance video. She has also written a first draft of the common application essay, which will now need to be tweaked repeatedly after she gets some feedback from her English teachers this fall. I felt as though we needed to do as much as possible, since this coming year will be so hectic with college applications/college supplements, dance auditions, and a very busy senior year that is packed with AP courses. She is planning to pursue a double major in dance and psychology/pre-med, after we finally convinced her that a double major would be a smart idea given that only a very small percentage of dancers will ever find full time employment.


DH and I have also become a bit disillusioned about the long dance journey. This summer we toured an excellent school with very rigorous academic standards (important to us and DD) that has a good dance program, although according to our DD it is not considered to be one of the very best dance programs in the country. She has worked with one of the teachers from this school at a previous summer intensive a few years ago. DD absolutely fell in love with the school and the general feel of the campus, but stated that even though she loved it she couldn’t possibly go there, because it’s not quite strong enough in dance. Wherever she goes, it will be her new ‘home’, so she has to be the one that is happy with the decision. DH and I are just along for the ride, but it’s not easy being in the passenger seat. Our seat belts are fastened for what is sure to be a crazy ride!

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For DD, her Junior year has been wonderful. I find myself at a point where I am thinking, "wow, she might actually be able to do this". I have found that the more I try to figure things out, the less I know. It seems to be a very fluid path and there are turns that snake one way or the other. However, the more we stand back and relax, things just seem to be working out for DD. I would say I still have a healthy bit of skepticism and I do still question DD as to her desire to continue every day.


Over the past year, DD blossomed in both ability and personality. She missed out on a wonderful experience because of an injury, but she is set up to go for it this coming year. When the other opportunity didn't work out, something even better came along which not only solidified to DD her desire to dance, but it gave her such confidence in her ability and in her personality. It has affected her dancing in such a positive way, but to me the change in her personality is what made it all worthwhile.


DD has also had the opportunity this year to meet some wonderful professionals, aside from her instructors, that believe in her and are willing to "go to bat" for her. I look around and see so many parents/dancers trying to make a name or a path for themselves, but it seems the more they try, they get no where. Sometimes it is difficult to watch because you can get caught up in the rush and feel you are missing out, but we have found that if we relax, the relationships and opportunities are coming to DD. It really is her path and her desire so I have to sit back and believe everything will work out for her in some way.


DD had some great offers for the summer, but I feel she chose wisely. She didn't go for the big name, but instead decided to look into one of the opportunities that was given to her. She is learning a lot from the experience, gaining some wonderful friends, and finding out more of what she likes and doesn't like. She is also being challenged in ways that she didn't expect. I am realizing that things can and do change from one moment to another in this ballet world. Some things might not look like they are good opportunities at the time, but a dancer can still learn and grow from them.


DD has been told at her studio that this is her year and the instructors have been working since the spring to prepare her for the next step. She is excited and I am already sadden at the idea of letting her go, but she needs to spread her wings and fly. It should be an interesting year.

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If things had gone normally (and when do they honestly?), this would have been DS' junior year. Instead, at 16, he has 3 required credits left to graduate, no desire to go to a 4 year college, and is raring to start his dancing career. His dance teacher, bless her heart, says to me - "We really need to sit down and have a serious discussion about where he wants to audition this year and make a game plan.", to which I promptly had a minor mental melt down. :crying: I am not ready for this and feel so ill equip to send my first born out into the dance world.

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