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Ballet Talk for Dancers

What Do You Do? and How Do You Know?


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Ballet is a thinker's art. It is also highly time consuming. So with those two things stated, it is important to remember that most of the people who can devote the time needed in a time consuming training format, will be high academic achievers. It is part of the way the journey continues. As the parent of a professional dancer, she has never been in a professional setting where the dancers were not also academically talented. The journey sort of goes hand in hand. And while the training may be physical in nature, it is those "smart" dancers who are successful in it.


Regardless of the choice a family or trained dancer makes, their academic facility will follow them. And if they so choose, can be continued in process. I just want to be sure those of you who are discussing being in this same "boat" realize that most of our dancers are in it with you.

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  • Momof3darlings


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Thanks so much for those links! The roadmap that I have in mind for my daughter is as follows: 1) continue in traditional day school with pre-pro training afterschool and on weekends 2) Attend SIs that offer the best possible training opportunities each summer, 3) During senior year of HS, apply to colleges/Universities (my daughter already knows that she will NOT pursue a dance major), 4) Also during senior year, audition for SIs that could lead to an opportunity for year round training (either as a trainee or top level of the school), 5) Sort through college acceptances and pick a program that will allow deferred admission if needed, 6) attend SI and express desire for year-round training. If DD is selected as trainee, or even a student in a reputable school, we would support her proceeding with ballet training; however, this support has an expiration. If no apprenticeship is offered after 2 years of trainee, or if she does not make the transition from school to trainee, then we would encourage her to go to college. Ultimately, it will be up to her, but this is my best-laid plan...


I agree with Momof3 that most successful ballet students are gifted academically. We have observed this time and again at our studio. All of the dancers that have gone on to receive paid contracts in the last 5 years were high-achieving students that attended a traditional day school program.

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I so appreciate everyone's input and thoughts on this topic: also timely for us and tremendously helpful. Thank you everyone!

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Victoria Leigh, your post is fabulous! My DD is one of those kids who academically could do anything she wants to but who has to dance.

We did insist on her graduating high school with University entrance requirements and she did very well but her academic results were definitely compromised by her ballet schedule.

She had just turned 17 when she moved to full time pre-professional ballet school the other side of the world, in a country with a very different language, culture and climate. The last two years have required a huge commitment from us financially and emotionally but it has been an amazing experience for DD. We, as parents, know that we will never reap a financial return from DD's dancing but sleep well knowing that we have encouraged and supported DD to pursue her passion. She likewise knows how fortunate she is to have our support and is extremely grateful.

I don't know what the future holds, I hope that all DD's hard work and commitment is rewarded with an elusive paid contract, she has just started auditioning for companies. I have also had to put my confidence in the school and trust that DD has the attributes, facility, work ethic and talent to gain paid employment otherwise they would not continue to train her.

The knowledge I have gained from this forum and particularly from the moderators posts has been invaluable whilst navigating through the rough seas and calm waters of this ballet journey. It has also helped me to enjoy the ride rather than focus on the destination.

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Keep in mind the decision to pursue further training and paid positions vs college is not necessarily an either/or question. It can be both.


Note that there are trainee programs where one can arrange to college credit if that program has an arrangement with a university.


Also note that there is the mixed path that my dancer is taking.


She had planned to do a post-graduate year at the pre-pro school where she was training. After attending an SI the summer after high school graduation, she received an invitation to join a trainee program. While in that trainee program, she continues her education, taking college courses at a distance from a university she had already been admitted to. There are various distance programs out there where courses can be taken online. Some can be done completely online, some like the program dd is in do have a residency requirement (meaning a certain number of courses must be taken in person on campus). Education does not have to end for these high achieving dancers. I love that one of dd's current mentors earned her degree while working her way up through a company. This mentor recently retired and is now teaching and working on a masters degree.

just as we often say they are many paths to Rome when referring to paths to getting a paid position, there are also many paths to getting a college education today!

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Reading with interest. Thank you to everyone who is contributing. We are yet another family with a DD pursuing a high level of ballet alongside a rigorous academic load.

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This is all so helpful. DD is 14 and we are pressing towards this very scary precipice.


Like all of the little bunheads mentioned DD has academic gifts identified by the school system.


To be honest her education has been effected, especially this year but her brain and intelligence and capacity has not. We are trying to figure out schooling for next year and have 2 options, online and a very pricey private option that will require us to take out a loan and seek support from family since we have another child going to college in 18-19.


I guess my thoughts are this--you can't have it all. I know that sounds silly and we aren't compromising her education, as we will likely pull the trigger and do the private school option (I am not a fan of a full online program for DD. She loves learning and loves engagement. She is taking one online class but the thought of a full time program that way is dreary for her.)


But I would be deluding myself if I were to think that serious pre pro training at a high level does not demand substantive time, energy, and thought. I think that pushing the hell out of her both academically and in dance can have repercussions. You can't straddle the fence in ballet or you won't make it. You have to be all in. I know that this is not what other people believe or what they want to be confronted with but IMO it is the case. There are costs.


For me the schooling is about credentialing and future career potential but it is also about EDUCATION. I agree with Momof 3. It's a thinking art. Also the education to me is protective not only because it provides a Plan B but because it balances her identity. DD has an intellectual life outside of dance and school. She reads a great deal and writes. She sketches. She has a life of the mind. And these are things that successful professional dancers will tell you are essential. You must have something to BRING to the art. Otherwise your are a technical robot and not an artist.


I am not setting up this whole thing as a Dance vs. College. It will be Dance and College always.

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I want to caution you or any parent, learningdance, from buying into the idea that you can't straddle the fence and make it. That is a mindset that others put out there and then we grab on and believe it because if we don't then we feel they won't take us seriously. DD has many friends and acquaintances through dance, many dance at some of the best companies in the nation and even overseas. Some went to big named residencies, others through well known schools and they all had vibrant lives while training. Yes, they might have given up some things when schedules didn't work out. But most of them really did mix ballet into life and did not take the approach of standing on only one side of the fence. In other words, they straddle quite well.

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Thanks Momof3. .


Those are my ideas that really relate to my DD. I guess that my point is that the capacity of any one child to do any number of things really well is different.


In my local high school I can't imagine a child training pre professionally becoming 1st in her class. Our high school sends 2-3 kids to Ivies each year, 2-3 to service academies, and 20 % to in state schools with acceptance rates that near 15%. The kids locally are taking multiple APs and then the kid at the top took about 4 APs online during the summer. So unless you are superhuman and can devote 20 hours a day to ballet, school, and homework, it's not really doable in my community or at least not for my child.


We are straddling, believe me. I am fighting hard for an appropriate education for DD, one that will academically challenge her but not bore her terribly, as I believe a full time online program would. That's my struggle right now. I am opposed to an online program because she has told me she doesn't want that fully and she is taking an online class now. I am looking into a program that provides face-to-face classes that will support her as a dancer but it's a private school and we will likely need to take out loans because we have a Jr in HS who is college bound and we must save for that child.


I do appreciate the challenge to not give up. . . it all feels so lonely at times. No one really understands and in my community there is likely a lot of judgement and criticism behind the scenes. The stakes are high and I know it. I am crushed with the concern about what to do.


(And I am likely pre menopausal. . . so you can add that to the mix as well ;)

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learningdance, I understand your worries. We were recently told by a college advisor that DD should plan to take 9-12 APs to be competitive when applying to college. 9-12! That is 3-4 per year. Doing the math, if one thinks 1.5 hours/night homework per AP class as per typical estimates, when does the student sleep? It is truly daunting, even when you don't throw serious ballet into the mix.


I, too, am looking at options for next year, with mostly brick-and-mortar but with a couple of online courses with more flexible schedules and due dates. It seems that those online only students we know spend anywhere from 3-6 hours/day on school, depending on the rigor of their curriculum. Brick-and-mortar is at least that many hours, plus an additional 3-4 hours of homework. But DD doesn't want to switch to online only, so here we are. Exhausted.

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Non-DD was an elite athlete that trained 29 hr/wk in dryland drills/conditioning and diving welll during the school year for her club sport. Summers, the hours were closer to 38-40/week. As a high schooler, she choose to add the high school team's early morning work-out of 1.5 hours M-F to her schedule. Her sport was every bit as mentally challenging as it was physically challenging.


She attended a bricks-and-mortar high school all four years, graduating at the top of her class (8/ 900) with all A's. She took AP classes pretty much her entire high school curriculum, except when the required course was not an AP. The only thing she did not do was elect to do the Internationale Baccaulareate Program. After researching and attending meetings and discussing with upperclassmen with significant extra-curricular activity, we determined it was not something that was useful to her.


To accomodate her elite club sport, she did leave school campus a period early, which is pretty much what prevented her getting any closer to the Valdetorian/Salutorian spots. Students ahead of her (positions 1-7) often had at least one B on their transcript, but they had more credit hours because they did not leave that last period.


She felt all the way through high school that she had a well-rounded opportunity and loved her large public high school. She was able to attend club meetings because they were held in the early morning home room or zero period (or whatever those were called).


She was out the door every morning during the school week at 5:00 a.m. to make 5:30 -7:00 a.m. practice. She returned home at 8:30 p.m. each evening. She was in bed by 10:30 every night. She kept her own hours and her own homework schedule. She never complained. She was disciplined and focused.


She went to an Ivy college and was a varsity athlete in her sport. She felt the schedule at college was "so easy!" She was well-prepared and loved her college years.


Sometimes, I think we parents spend a bit too much time worrying about what our kids can/cannot do. I'm just saying, despite it taking some focus and discipline, it IS possible for these types of kids to do it all and do it well. It may depend on first giving them the chance to find their balance and see that they can succeed in doing it. Obviously, it may be too much for some and adjustments will need to be made as appropriate.

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9-12 APs is insane. The vast majority of colleges and universities do not require that. If the Ivy League is the only thing your dancer is aiming for, then sure, they need a very robust transcript along with a lot more. But come on! That is just feeding the frenzy and seems irresponsible of that counselor.


learningdance, my dancer is trying to maintain both worlds too (brick and mortar school along with as much dance as she can manage). Her school has worked with us this year to help with her afternoon schedule, and we are optimistic that we can make it work next year too. This is my dancer's choice, and she is confident that things are going to work out for her, one way or another. Maybe she gets to be a trainee somewhere, and maybe that will lead to a paying job. Maybe she'll get to dance in college, and that will lead to something. She's trying to keep her options open for as long as she can, while addressing her known needs for community and face-to-face interaction with teachers.

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