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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Can dancers who begin training in their 20s become professional dancer


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I'm posing this question here because there is really no one at the studios where I dance for me to ask. Let me explain...


I start taking a ballet class at a local studio when I was 24. The man teaching the classes was a ex-principal dancer with a major company in the States, so I trusted his input. After a few classes he told me I had the ability to become a professional if I really wanted to. I was a competitive figure skater for over a decade, and he claimed that that experience would help me advance quite quickly.


In the three years that have passed, I've followed this teacher through several different studios, as he has to move frequently because he is temperamental and difficult to get along with. Because of this, he's had difficulty developing a following. All along he's been giving me classes at a discounted price, claiming that I need to be training 5-6 days per week in order to get into a small company. The discounted classes seemed to be mutually beneficial for both of us: I was getting to dance a lot and not spending a fortune and he had a steady student in class.


Recently, I've become increasingly fed up with his practices and I've started seeking out classes at other studios and it is getting expensive. I was willing to spend the money to dance when I thought it was leading to a job at a company, but now I'm beginning to think that he may have been lying to me in order to keep me in class. Now, my teacher has mostly beginner students at 8-11 years old and the class is going at a very slow pace. The teacher says I should keep taking the classes because he likes having me there so that the kids can follow me.


So, is it possible that I can turn this into a career? Should I spend the money? I currently dance 6 days a week and only study ballet. I've been in pointe shoes for about a year and am pretty comfortable in them. I'm starting to work on pirouettes en pointe. I have three years of training under my belt.


Essentially, I love to do ballet. If it turns out that this isn't a viable career option, I'll keep dancing, I just won't break the bank trying to afford a million classes.


Sorry if this is a bit all over the place. I was trying to get give you a very lengthy version of my story.


I appreciate everyone's input. Thank you.

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I was waiting for somebody else to comment here, but here goes....


While it is certainly possible for dancers who start in their twenties to go professional, it is highly unlikely. Why? Because it is highly unlikely for even the most talented student starting as a child and getting excellent training to become a professional. Add into the equation the years of training which an adult starter has missed and is trying to catch up, plus the fact that most adults are trying to balance work with their ballet training, and it gets even more unlikely.


Now, how does this apply to your situation? Somebody reading your story over the Internet can't see you dance, can't see how much potential you have. We can't see your turnout or your lines. So we can only offer general advice.


You say that you've been attending classes with other teachers. What do they say? How does your level compare to others in those classes? How do you compare to pre-pro track teenagers? Because they are going to be your competition when auditioning for jobs. What is the best ballet school in your city? Go and take class there, or go and watch their students perform. Are you on a level with those students? or if not, can you see yourself progressing to that point within one to three years?


If your teacher is serious about training you for a career, have the two of you sat down and mapped out a plan for your progression? Specific timelines to develop certain skills? Ways to measure your progress? A timeline for when you'll be ready for auditions? Because my teachers do that with the teens who are on track for a career.


I'm a bit concerned that your teacher has you in classes with quite young students. If you were dancing with teens that would be more challenging for you, and more appropriate for your plans for progression.


Ballet is a tough business. There is nothing wrong with dancing because you love it (and you will find many many adults here who love ballet, and who dance purely for the love of it, myself included). And the people on this board will 100% support any adults who are trying to make that jump to pro level. But we are also quite realistic about how tough this business is, and in the current economy even the best trained, most talented dancers are having problems getting jobs.


I hope that this isn't too negative in tone, I don't want to discourage you, especially if you have the drive, talent and determination to make it. But you're obviously questioning your situation, and nobody on the Internet can honestly say 'yes, you can do it!' without actually seeing you dance.

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To put in perspective...you started dancing at 24 and have been dancing for 3 years...so that would make you about 27? Most dancers retire something in their mid-30's?


Look at the pre-pro schools in your area. How does your current schedule compare to them? Most girls take 6 tech classes/weel, plus a seperate pointe class most days, and rep/variations. They also learn other styles like jazz, modern, or character. How much longer until you can compete with the highest level of these students.


No one wants to discourage you and we have not seen you dance. It is a long hard road and even those with the best training from a young age still have trouble making it as a pro.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Dear arialimes,


I would really like to know how you are doing and what your plans are now. I'm kinda on the same track as you, just turned 27 and working to be a pro.

I'm just wondering what your plan is, when will you audition? Do you have a certain level you want to achieve before auditioning? How and with which companies will you audition?

I'm struggling with these questions...


I am taking 6,5 hours of dance each week (ballet, jazz, modern and 1 hour salsa), which is definitely not enough.. Unfortunately there are limited high level ballet classes for adults where I live. I also train at home every day for about 1,5 hours of muscle and stretching exercises..

Any tips from anyone are very helpful! Does anyone know dancers that have become pro at a later age?

Replies are very much appreciated :)

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Hi Arialimes and Wietske, (and Wietske - Welcome to BT4D's! :) )


I can only share my personal opinions and experiences - the truth is no-one ever knows if a dancer will be a professional until the ink is drying on the contract!


Honestly, I have only ever seen one dancer ever become a professional in her late 20's, and she had trained from age 3 and was in a pre-pro program for many years. She had a serious injury at age 20 which is when most dancers tend to enter companies, but landed a contract after returning to ballet in her mid 20's and training for another few years. That particular company was a small one, and was specifically looking for some more mature dancers to fill out the company.


This is NOT the norm. This is a highly, highly unusual way to get your first pro job! So - no, nothing is impossible, but some things are more probably than others.


There is a fairly tried and tested route to getting into a company - pre-pro training --> SI's --> traineeships/aprenticeships --> lucky few score a job in the corps de ballet. This isn't just because "it's the way it's done", it's because there is a lot of learning, a lot of training, a lot of strength and a lot of fitness needed to be a dancer. It doesn't come quickly, and a gradual build-up over many years is required. Remember dancers in a company work 8+ hours a day, you're dancing en pointe for 4-6 hours a day, possibly 6 days a week. It's not for the faint-hearted! Also, companies sometimes look for young dancers whom they can develop into the style they want, once you've established your own technique and 'style' sometimes it doesn't fit with everyone and you don't get a job because you don't have the right "look" or feel they are after to fit in with the rest of the dancers. Sometimes you are too tall, too short, too young, too old, too brown or blonde - it's endless!


Now - all that said doesn't mean adult dancers can't have a great experience in the ballet world.


There are great benefits to both your physical and mental health doing ballet! Having a challenge is great, having a dream is awesome - I am a big believer in never giving up. If you want to dance - DO IT!!! It may be that you dance with an amateur company - there isn't any shame in that. If you love being on stage then find somewhere you can be! Find a school with a ensemble company, audition for Nutcracker's or other performance opportunities as they come along, maybe even do a competition - whatever works for you. Most people find that the joy of ballet is in the challenge, the execution and the performance. I don't know any dancers who got into ballet for the money ;) So find ways you can be fulfilled through dance at every opportunity.


If you want to try for a pro career and can afford the training in both time and money, who is anyone to stand in your way? Give it a try! But please have realistic expectations. Aim to be the best dancer you can - if that lands you a professional job then good on you, but no-one, not even a dancer training for years is ever guaranteed or can "expect" to dance professionally - there are just far too many unknowns, very few jobs and a lot of very talented dancers all trying to get that elusive contract. No teacher - EVER - can know who will make it and who wont. We have our suspicions sometimes, but there are no guarantees in ballet.


Aim high. Don't give up. Have a dream. Work! You will end up the best dancer you can be. And find the joy in dancing wherever it is.

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Thank you everyone for your feedback. None of it was too harsh. I cam here looking for some honest advice.


Wietske- I train 6 days a week. Each day I take 1.75 technique class. I take a one hour pointe class once a week and use my pointe shoes one or two other days a week at the barre during my technique classes. I'd really like to do more pointe work but money has become an issue. I hope to audition in about two years. I'm looking at very small companies only.

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Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers arialime and Wietske. Glad you found us, and I hope you find lots of information and camaraderie here.


As for becoming a professional dancer in your late 20s. Hmmmm ... I think it depends on what you mean by 'professional' and what sort of cultural environment you're in. In continental Europe, for example, I know dancers who are still dancing professionally in state-funded companies into their forties.


However, most dancers who earn their livings in classical ballet -- or companies that mostly dance a ballet repertoire -- have been training full time (or age-appropriate equivalent) since they were 11 or so. So, to be blunt, my experience in the performing arts world generally (I work professionally in a different area) is that it is highly unlikely for you to gain permanent work in that field. But really, you never know till you try: you need to audition, basically.


However, it's worth thinking about the idea of dancing as a performer more widely. Here in the UK, there are a number of small companies that work in the contemporary field. There are dance-in-education opportunities as teacher/artists. There are jobs as itinerant dancers in musicals, pantomimes and so on.


So I think you need more strings to your bow: take singing lessons, get involved in local amateur dramatics, get stage experience. Think also of NON-performing careers using your dance training.


But, bottom line for performers is, if you are expecting audiences to pay to watch you perform, then performing is really not about your own self-expression: it's about communicating something new, and meaningful, with appropriate technique as well as expressivity.

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But, bottom line for performers is, if you are expecting audiences to pay to watch you perform, then performing is really not about your own self-expression: it's about communicating something new, and meaningful, with appropriate technique as well as expressivity.


That is a very good point Redbookish - thank you for the reminder!

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Thank you all for the welcome, encouraging words and advise! I am very excited that I have found this amazing forum!


Of course I am not into dance for the money :) Bút if I want to put all of my time daily in ballet/dance I would also have to make some money with it in order to survive..

I know my changes are limited, especially for classical ballet, which is the highest goal for me. Even if I don't succeed I will NEVER regret spending all my time and money in ballet, I never felt happier then I am now. Unfortunately, I don't make much money so I can't afford private lessons, which I think I really need...


I am not really a late starter though: I started ballet when I was 4 years old and actually got accepted in the Royal Conservatory of Dance in The Hague when I was 10. For me this meant living with a guest family and I was just too scared for that at that age. After that I always thought I had missed my change, even at 13 I thought it was too late. I kept dancing until I went to study abroad, although I never had high level training, my classes were at amateur level. After 4 years I came back and started dancing again, at the same school but with a new teacher (who is amazing!!) and of course the yearly recital came along, and it just made my heart ache.. It reminded me that I HAVE to dance. So here I am, exploring my options :)


Thanks again, if I ever get a contract I will definitely let you guys know!

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Arialimes, do you still suspect your teacher to be lying about becoming pro in order to keep you in class? Or did you regain faith and still working hard for your goal?

Just curious.. Will you let us know how things are going with your potential career?

Good luck anyhow!

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  • 6 years later...

Goiter, you may have missed it but the original question was posted back in 2013 and the original poster is no longer actively posting.

I see that you are a new member so I would encourage you to take a look around at the various forums and get a feel for how things work. We would love to learn more about you and your training, please head over to the Welcome thread and introduce yourself.



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  • 1 year later...

Hello all I have enjoyed reading all of your comments. I am a beginner ballet dancer whose been doing it for a year now & I just turned 21 years old. It was a dream before to be a professional dancer but now I’d like to chase it to see if I can make it a reality. For now I am a community college student so I’m only able to dance 3hrs per week due to my schedule. After I graduate in December I will look to make dancer my full time job. Taking as many classes as possible. Can someone give a a prediction of the road I will go down doing so. Dancing 6 days a week. What are predictions ?

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21st century has a new level of attention. Digital stages and social media fanbase. The theaters and opera houses are still open and looking for talents. You have the will you will have the way. Maybe not in the best ballet studios but who knows? Do your best and enjoy!

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6 hours ago, Somali P said:

 For now I am a community college student so I’m only able to dance 3hrs per week due to my schedule. After I graduate in December I will look to make dancer my full time job. Taking as many classes as possible. Can someone give a a prediction of the road I will go down doing so....

Hi Somali P and welcome to BT4D, please feel free to head over to our welcome forum and give us some more details about yourself and your training.

No-one can predict anything in this life so I wont even try! That said, if you look at ballet training in a fulltime ballet institutiion (Vaganova School, Royal Ballet School, Australian Ballet School etc.)  Those students train 6 days a week for many years to develop the strength, technique, and artisrty required to become part of a company.  As an adult, you have the advantage of a more developed brain and life experience, but there are never any shortcuts in ballet, and the body must be developed correctly through slow and steady progress.  Even very talented late starters like Misty Copeland and Rudolp Nureyev took a number of years training before they reached the level where they could look for jobs.

You will need to take the well worn path of every other ballet student.  Serious training, a bit af talent, a lot of determination, and a handful of luck!

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