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Ballet Talk for Dancers

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Early in the Fall, DD auditioned for the dance program at George Mason University. This program is primarily modern based, so while it was a bit of an outlier for DD, we felt it would be a good early audition and starting point. Pleasantly surprised, Christopher D'Amboise, who is on faculty as Heritage Professor at the university, taught the ballet portion of the audition. DD really loved his teaching and attentiveness. While Mr. D'Amboise is not a regular ballet teacher at GMU, he does teach Modern Dance and Rhythmic Analysis, and his presence seems to send an important message about the quality this program is striving for. Ballet is part of the daily schedule, although pointe and partnering are not offered.


The modern portion of the audition was interesting. Five teachers taught this portion. It is the program's philosophy that the audition is a two-way event. Their belief is that students should also be checking out the faculty, so by having a range of teachers/styles given at the audition, dancers could get a feel for the depth of the program. While DD found the modern difficult, she appreciated the approach and the styles represented.


The audition was 2 1/2 hours long, followed by a short tour and rehearsal observation of a piece created for some of the students by 2013 MacArthur Fellow, Kyle Abraham. Susan Shields, the program director, also made an excellent impression.


The faculty resumes, the companies who perform on campus, who host master classes, and who choreograph for the students are all noteworthy.


The first week of April, DDs acceptance was followed by a personal phone call from Susan Shields letting DD know how much she and the faculty wanted her to come to this program. Promise of artistic scholarship was followed up immediately with a very generous offer.


DD visited again on Friday, met with Ms. Shields and observed some classes. Discussion of how to maintain ballet skills, particularly pointe and partnering, were of most concern. Ms. Shields recognized this issue and supported DD's interest in taking classes in DC and working on her own. She stated that the incoming class is quite strong and has the largest pool of male dancers they have ever had, citing 5 of the 25 entering in the Fall were men. No promises were made, and we understood that this is a program that is continuing to evolve.

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  • 11 months later...

Did your daughter decide to attend GMU? This is a program that my daughter is considering for Fall 2015 so I am curious. At the beginning of our process, my daughter felt that GMU was a front runner because she wanted to focus mainly on modern. However, after experiencing ballet at other auditions it rekindled her love of ballet. She loves the faculty there but now is feeling unsure.

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Hi llc75: No, DD did not ultimately choose to attend GMU. While I do think she would have been quite happy there, she was called off the wait list for a school that suited her well and offered equal strengths in ballet and modern. It turned out to be the right decision for her. I wish your daughter well in whatever choice she makes. GMU has some really wonderful offerings and the energy behind the program is extremely positive.

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Thank you so much for reply! They do have a great program! Do you mind if I ask where your DD chose to attend instead? I know a lot of the dancers apply to the same schools so just curious as we are still making our decision.

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  • 2 years later...

Yes.  My daughter did their summer intensive 2 years and ultimately chose to go there for college! She is now in her junior year.

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Hi llc75, thanks for your post!  I didn't realize that they had a summer intensive--seems like a good program to look at for my dd.

Can you share any details about why your dd chose this program and how she likes it?

How does she find the academic classes (both dance and non-dance)?


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Sure!  After spending time at the intensives she already knew that she love the faculty.  Its a small dance program.  She liked that she would have a conservatory type program but still have a University experience.  She has enjoyed the academics both in and out of dance. They do give a nice introduction to the program at the audition and have current company members there to answer questions as well.  My daughter visited and shadowed a dancer for the day when she was first accepted to help in her decision making process.  The last thing I would add is that it is a Modern based program.  They do still have ballet everyday but the program itself is a very strong modern base.

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Thanks!  My dd is looking for a program with a modern/choreography focus, so that would be a good fit.

We looked up the summer intensive and unfortunately it looks like they're not doing it any longer--the site still has 2016 dates!  Too bad, it looks like a great program.

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Delayed response! :(  That is correct.  I forgot that they had not been doing the intensive anymore.  Well if your dd is looking for a modern/choreography focus, GMU would be worth keeping on the list of considerations.  Good Luck!


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  • 3 years later...

Does anyone have any recent feedback to share about GMUs dance program? My DD just recently added it to her list. 

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