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Ballet Talk for Dancers

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A friend of mine told me that she has heard that the top ballet universities are forming companies and if your student doesn't fit the mold they're looking for,  it's not likely you'd get in.  What are your thoughts on this?  

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Can you elaborate more on what this means? 

The top ballet programs already do not accept the students who do not fit the mold of that program. They all cast their own performances, except perhaps those that are run by students (as in choreography projects where the students are the choreographers). 

I feel like I am missing something or not understanding how this is different from what already exists. 

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This doesn't make sense to me either. The top ballet universities already all include their own "companies" which are often audition-only from within the ballet program, and students aren't accepted into the program in the first place if they aren't a fit for that particular university's "company." In the school I attended, the outcome of the "company audition" just ranked you as either an apprentice or full company member (and really this was just so you knew which course number to enroll in) and had no bearing on casting. If you were not admitted into the company for that semester, there were usually underlying reasons such as health.

But basically, an entire ballet program at one of these top programs IS a university ballet company. You take class, you rehearse, you perform. And like actual ballet companies, each university has their own style and preferences, which is why some students might be scholarshipped to one university program but then not accepted into another. So I wouldn't worry about what your friend has told you. It's not that it isn't true...it's just that it's always been that way.

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Oh.  That's a tough one for me.  My dd wants to attend a ballet program in college as she wants a degree and she could probably us more training time.  She would be a fit for a contemporary ballet company that doesn't shy from very tall dancers.  It's a bit frustrating to think even a college is looking at a fit for their corps.  

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I wouldn't say they're looking for a fit in terms of height or even body type (provided the dancer is in appropriate physical condition), necessarily. It's more about dancing style. For example, when I went to college, the faculty did not at all like dancers with extreme affectations (clearly Balanchine trained with the stereotypical mannerisms, for example) and preferred dancers who had a more classic style. Other programs love Balanchine-trained dancers. Meanwhile, other programs like dancers who are able to move in a more contemporary manner. It's really more about technical style. It has nothing to do with a "four short, soloist-level females graduate this year so we need to accept four short and very talented women to replace them" type situation.

There's definitely good programs out there that veer toward contemporary ballet or do a bit of both, and if her dancing style is what the program is looking for then her height shouldn't be an issue. I danced professionally for several years after I graduated and met many other professional dancers who had attended some of the top university ballet programs and height-wise they were all up and down the spectrum.

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This has been a perceived thought for a couple of universities for a long time.   One such university used to use it in their discussion with pending auditionees.  Whether it continues to be true or not, you will never really be able to determine unless someone on staff tells you.    When a university says their performing group is run "like a company in every way", this can include a look to it's dancers that extends beyond technique and talent much like companies you may know about.  This will change from year to year and Department Head to Department Head.  Much like company auditions, this is only a theory and picture in time.  Any dancer or any situation can change that picture...graduation, quituation, etc.  

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I'm not sure I completely follow what your friend was saying, but based on DD's limited experience with auditions she feels like the top college programs are looking for dancers who are very close to company-ready and who appear to be hireable upon graduation. Whether that is accurate or not, I do not know. But that has been her sense of it thus far.

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And possibly some universities with top ballet programs have students with trainee/company experience who are now looking to get the degree so that those girls who are auditioning out of high school looking for the next level of training but in a college setting are facing that kind of competition. 

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