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Ballet Talk for Dancers

"Finishing" What is it exactly?

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I have seen term "finishing" used pertaining to dancers that move away to attend residential schools near the end of high school. I've taken it to mean advanced student dancers that are not quite company ready that need a year or two more of training. Is this what it means?


I'm wondering if someone can be more specific as to what that means. Does it mean that the technique of the dancer is mostly in place for pursuing a professional career, but s/he needs to fix one or two areas of weakness? Does it mean the quality of dancing is there, but not consistently? Does it mean that everything is in place technique wise, but the dancer lacks presence? Is it something else?


I'm trying to get a clearer picture of what this means and why it is necessary. From what I've gathered, the dance immersion experience offered by residential schools is the one thing that many small pre-pros, not matter how good, cannot offer, and thus, dancers need that final year in an immersion environment to become company ready. Is this a fair statement?


I'm also hoping to gain some insight as to how to tell when it is time to make the leap. Teacher recommendations form a huge part of this (in our case, we are getting some conflicting messages from DDs teachers as to when this should happen, they both agree that it should be part of her plan, but there is disagreement as to when). We are walking the fine line of keeping her at home until we are certain she is ready to be away, but not keeping her at home so long that we get in the way of her dreams.

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I am curious about this as well. DD goes to a wonderful small local studio however if she wants to dance professionally she is going to need much more than they can offer.


I am unclear what the difference between a residential ( including 4 years of high school) and finishing.

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Hmmmmm...... well, there isn't one easy answer. A dancer is, in many cases, "company ready", well before they land that first contract. If we are to compare to a European system, we could say that a dancer is not "company ready" until they have completed all of the Classical Ballet vocabulary, have polished it to the best of their current ability, have put on all of their bone density and are lean and mean, have learnt many current and past repertoire including variations, know how to partner in all Classical Ballet lifts, and have a complete understanding of classical and neoclassical and romantic period pieces.


For some that could occur earlier, and for others, much later. The innate sense of self and inner self-confidence brought about by a clear knowledge of what is needed to be a professional dancer could also be included.

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Here are a few older topics that address questions surrounding finishing years which may help you to understand a bit about what they are as well.


Finishing years: Technical and performance


Finishing years: How many?

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I love Clara76's definition. I am not sure I have ever understood this term either, but I like Clara76's very much.

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Clara 76,

Thanks. . I have to say that this is helpful. And I am a parent of a 13 yr old girl. Right off the bat, there's no way that DD could get that locally due to the partnering.


Honestly, it sounds like a really tall order. It is helpful though to have some really concrete things to discuss with teachers.

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Thank you Clara76 for the explanation, and Momof3darlings for the links. They were both helpful, and I think I'm slightly clearer on what finishing means.


I must confess that I was conflating finishing with residential school. Somehow, I had mistakenly thought that finishing was something that dancers who choose to stay home at a smaller pre pro needed to complete after high school as an alternative to attending residential school at the end of high school. For some reason I was operating under the expectation that the final year or two of residential school was finishing. :blush: Now I'm seeing that this is not the case, and many, if not most, dancers pursuing a professional career can expect to spend an additional year or two of finishing even if they attend residential school. I really hadn't explored the post secondary forums because they seemed so far in the future, and right now my focus is really on the two to five year range. Now that I've taken a look at those forums, I think I'm getting a more realistic picture.

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I agree with Clara76 for sure! Huge part of the puzzle.

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At this time, the job market is very tight. Until about 10 years ago, students in Residential programs were finding employment as early as their junior and senior year. Now, most professional companies have daytime classes for their upper level students. The companies are busy promoting the upper level students in their schools. Most every company is requiring students an extra year as a 2nd company member and the an apprenticeship. They do not want students with little to no practical stage experience. They do not consider most "pre-pro" performance experience as practical stage experience.


This is not the same as "finishing" years. Finishing is more about the development of a higher level skill basis than a particular school or teach is able to provide. It might also include exposure to renown professionals who may or may not have the interest to propel students forward with job recommendations and job placement. Of course, the student must be qualified, but who you know also never hurts if a student is qualified.

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Thank you vrsfanatic! I think I finally understand. Your definition of finishing, fits with what I originally understood. If I've interpreted what you've written correctly, then it is in fact fair to expect that if I send dd to a residential school, when she graduates high school, she will more or less have the technical aspects of her dancing in place (assuming she finishes the program, and assuming she is accepted into a top notch residential school). This is a separate thing from the trend of dancers needing to attend trainee programs after high school. This trend is reflection of the current job market, and should not be interpreted as dancers graduating from residential schools with serious deficiencies in their dancing and needing finishing.

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I think perhaps, that "finishing" might also be financially motivated as dance companies search for revenue streams, the summer intensive being one of them.


Some trainee programs take 20 or more kids, charge tuition and may have 1-2 openings in their company. The students in these programs are not "trainees" for their company, they are relabeled "advanced" students who will be used to fill out the corps in the regional companies. Perhaps the students gain valuable experience or perhaps they are being used. Caveat Emptor. As a parent, if I am still paying, then I need to know what it is I am paying for. "Traineeships" are not really training to be in said company's ranks.

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I wish I could find the words to sufficiently explain the "finishing" my DD received at her residential program!


She was technically strong when she went away and is a natural performer. (Yes, I know every parent says that, but it is true of her!)


It is all the tiny little details - the tilt of the head, the hands, even her breathing. She is no longer just a dancer, she is a ballerina. I suppose the most correct way to describe it is a refinement.


Could she have received that at our home studio? Not at that time. They have since created a program with the specific goal of "finishing" dancers and the younger students will be able to stay home.


I am sure there are small, local studios that beautifully finish their dancers and large, well-known programs that do not. ;-)

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  • 2 months later...

My dd just started at a finishing school and I have a few concerns. My dd is coming from a small school which provided very good technical training but no pas de deux. She's only had two summers of pas at her intensives. I am now hearing that this program doesn't have many pas classes. A lot of their training sounds like it will be coming from rehearsal of performances. Is this the norm?

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I believe it will depend on the individual school and how they use performances/rehearsals to make up for classes. Just as an example, DD's former school did have a good number of young men in their classes. Partnering was not a class in the school per se. But the director made it a big part of company productions, rehearsals and company classes on the weekends. She made sure that every student male or female had some partnering experience even if it wasn't on stage. She did create her productions where almost every male did partner on stage to the degrees that they were able to also dance at the level needed for the part.


If she is getting no access to partnering, I would be concerned. But if it comes through rehearsal and productions, it may be okay as long as she is getting personal time doing so.

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Thank you Momof3darlings. It does sound similar to what your dd went through. Thank you for sharing your experience. In my mind, I'm thinking that she needs a class, but practicing on more stage would make it more "practical."

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