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Ballet Talk for Dancers

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OU alumna here:


There is definitely a preference for dancers who have body types that would be successful in the professional world. While I was there, we got a speech after Oklahoma Festival Ballet auditions each fall regarding our "physical look" as they felt we never kept up our appearance over the summer. This was especially true regarding incoming freshman ("We accepted you into this program based on your in-person audition, so how could you show up to start freshman year and not look the way you did in your audition?")


The faculty isn't blunt about it, the words and phrases are always sugar-coated, but the point gets across. They were never afraid to talk with dancers individually and send them to the nutritionist if they felt weight needed to be lost. In some cases, it was even felt that students would do better transferring to the modern department. Good dancers who lost weight over the course of their time were often suddenly cast in better parts than they had been (this happened to me once).


That being said, they stress health and strength. I also experienced the faculty worrying about eating issues with a certain student during my time there, and they were quite vigilant about keeping tabs on her and her nutritional intake.


In any program that is striving to churn out ballet dancers into the professional world, body type will be an issue. Luckily, the program doesn't stress one particular body type. As long as you're trim and toned in a manner that's appropriate for your body proportions, it's fine.

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As a current student, I would agree with glissade_jete - this is definitely a sensitive topic in the ballet world in general but it is definitely true that the faculty does prefer body types that will be "hireable".


Since I've been here, the atmosphere in general has created a certain degree of pressure to be thin and in the best shape -- I mean, the program does have a lot of intensity, especially when we're in season either fall or spring, and so I think most of us tend to be in great shape anyway. Though they aren't required for our major, the faculty does encourage us to take pilates and to cross train on our own time. And it's true, dancers who have lost weight often are suddenly cast better and looked at differently.


At the same time, the commentary in company meetings lately has emphasized keeping good nutrition - the faculty usually mention that it's important to maintain all the food groups and sustain healthy habits rather than "diet." While I've been here, they seem to be looking at nutrition and weight as a very personal issue and only intervening in the most extreme circumstances.


But as glissade_jete said, they're open minded to any fit body type and facilities like nice feet, natural extension, or turnout are welcomed but definitely not necessary to be successful here. The faculty likes to say that it's fine if you don't have loads of natural turnout or beautiful feet ("if you're not 'god's gift to the turnout world'"), so long as you use them cleverly and to your best ability to create lines, etc. I think it would be difficult for them not to expect us to be in tip-top shape as they are attempting to prepare us for professional careers.

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Thanks for the info glissade_jete and erinaballerina! That's reassuring! My audition was January 30th, hopefully I'll hear back positively soon...

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To the current students (or anyone who might know), do you know if dancers can join the major after the start of the year? DD auditioned in January and was not accepted. She was invited to audition again and was also told of other dancing opportunities that did not require an audition. The author also invited DD to email for recommendations on what areas to focus and improve over the next few months. Is this usual...the offer to discuss DD's audition results? Since DD really loves ballet and does not want to give up on it, do you think there is a chance she might make it in? If she can only minor in dance, are there any performance opportunities available?


Thanks in advance for your responses.

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When I was a student there, there were a small handful of students who joined late as ballet majors after initially having been declined spots. They all did the summer dance program to catch up the lost credits and took the highest level of ballet offered to non-majors in the interim.


I can't speak as to whether or not they received the positive feedback that your dd did in her audition results. I actually recall the dancers themselves being very strong-willed about getting a place and, at times, feeling frustrated and unsure. So I'd say your dd is in a good place. To me, having a heard about the acceptance deliberations that took place while I was a student, it sounds like the faculty was perhaps divided on your dd, or she was right on the cusp. Knowing how they felt about artistry above technique while I was there, I imagine your dd is a beautiful performer and must have just a couple of technical things they want her to tweak.


Absolutely have her take up the offer to discuss the areas that need improvement! Even if OU ends up not working out, the feedback can help her grow.


OU hasn't offered a dance minor in the past. After I left, they added a dance history minor. If the option to minor in dance was mentioned to you, it is extremely new and I know nothing about it. In the past, ballet performance opportunities were only offered to members of Oklahoma Festival Ballet, which was audition-only and open to only dance majors.

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glissade_jete, can you elaborate a little more on your comment about artistry over technique?

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To clarify about artistry above technique, I don't mean that dancers who are wonderful performers but have mediocre technique will be accepted. It means that having strong artistry can be what pushes you over the edge as far as being accepted or not, if you also already have strong technique.


As a student, I remember my class being told about a girl who had just auditioned who had one of the strongest techniques overall of the women who had auditioned. Unfortunately, the faculty felt she was boring to watch and her case was deliberated for a long time, after other acceptances/declines had already been decided. The school is looking to train hire-able performers and, as a professional, technique will only get you so far.


As I recall, the end result was that they gave the dancer the benefit of the doubt and accepted her hoping she was having an "off" audition day and that she would work on her performance quality. But the bottom line is that she was nearly not accepted despite her strong technique.


A lot of thought goes into casting, level placement, scholarship offers, etc, and the faculty LOVES dancers who can emote through their movements and not just be technical robots. Absolutely get your leg up, do your many pirouettes, etc, but only if you can first be musical, nuanced, and passionate.

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Thank you for the quick response and clarification. gilssade_jete, were you a student there recently? My DS is interested in OU - he's looking to double major or do an Honors College option. Do you have any insight on that?

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I graduated in 2009, so I'm not a particularly recent graduate. I believe there are parents floating around on these boards though who have current students.


While I was there, the faculty LOVED Honors students. All dance students are assigned a dance faculty academic advisor, but dancers in the Honors College were automatically assigned to the School Director, Mary Margaret Holt. Ms. Holt (referred to as "MM" by students and staff) is now Dean of the College of Fine Arts, so I can't speak to what the current advising situation is. A couple professors from my time have also since retired, so there's a lot of new energy there that I'm not familiar with.


I graduated a semester early summa cum laude with a BFA, a Spanish minor, a honors from the Honors College. I could have graduated earlier (I feel in two and a half years!), but my parents were helping with tuition that wasn't covered by scholarships, and they weren't able to swing lots of extra summer classes or more heavily-filled general semesters. I had also AP-ed out of most of the gen-eds and took advantage of home-state community college courses.


I loved doing honors courses, as it was nice to be around intellectuals from all different degree backgrounds. To graduate, seniors have to complete a capstone project, and honors students have to complete a senior thesis. Generally, students submit the same project to both departments, but I actually opted to do separate projects. One of the honors faculty members actually approached me to ask if she could be my honors mentor for my thesis paper, which I thought was a great honor, so I wrote a paper completely unrelated to dance for her, and I completed a dance-related capstone paper for the School of Dance.


The Honors College is an added expense, as it would be anywhere, as there are certain honors-specific courses you MUST take to graduate with honors. For the remaining honors credits, I took the honors-options classes for courses I otherwise already needed (to kill two birds with one stone without paying extra tuition).


OU made a big stink while I was there about the difference between double majors and dual degrees. A double major is when you get two degrees from within the same college. For example, while I was there, a dancer got a BFA in ballet performance as well as a bachelor's in studio art. However, both degrees were under the College of Fine Arts, which meant many of the general-education requirements were the same. Therefore, a double major is considerably easier to achieve because the non-major classes overlap.


A dual degree is when you get two degrees from totally different colleges. This would be, for example, getting a BFA in ballet from the College of Fine Arts, and a BBA in accounting from OU's Price College of Business. This can get hairy depending on the second degree you choose because, often, the gen-ed courses are different, meaning the student has to take a great deal more classes to graduate on time (not to mention the added tuition expense).


However, dual degrees are possible. I graduated with dancers who had degrees in foreign language, pre-med tracks, and pre-PT tracks. For the most part, dancers did minors. I minored in Spanish (as well the the Honors College, which is essentially a minor in itself), and others chose things like business, marketing, or communication.


Some degrees are impossible/nearly impossible to mix. Things like engineering and architecture have too rigid a schedule to harmonize with dance. The pre-med/pre-PT students always had a rough time making schedules because they had to fit in labs.


Luckily, OU offers the summer dance option, which helps a great deal. You could potentially knock out a credit for ballet technique, modern technique, Oklahoma Festival Ballet, and rehearsal and production, or any academic class you want.

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gilssade_jete, thank you! This helps a lot. The pre med track or any science major seems difficult at any school because of labs. You mentioned AP credits- did a 3 or 4 get you credit in the gen-eds. Do all degrees even dance require some freshmen english, math science and foreign language? You'll have to excuse my ignorance about gen-eds -my college degree was combined with my graduate degree so I had no choices and did not have to pick any general classes)

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Hi glissade_jete!

You are always so thoughtful and thorough with your posts & responses! We learned so much from you prior to our DD attending OU, you were tremendously helpful! And you continue to follow the same tradition! I just wanted to say hello and thank you for continuing to respond on Ballet Talk. It is/was beneficial & comforting to talk to you and draw from your experiences. I hope you are happy and well! Thanks again! Blessings to you! deb

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I don't know if OU sends different letters but my DD's also encoraged a return audition visit, additional communication to receive feedback, as week as other information.

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Thanks for the kind words, momdeb. I hope your daughter is doing well!



sheahuang: The accepted AP scores depend on the subject matter, and each university will have different requirements. I'm not even positive I remember what scores I got on the AP exams I took. I did get a 5 on one of the language arts AP exams which, at least at that time, completely covered my English requirement. Otherwise everyone has to take the two intro English semesters (composition, or something).


I believe my AP scores got me out of American history, but not American government, but this is one I may be completely remembering incorrectly.


Of all the universities I applied to, OU was far and away the most accepting of AP scores, and oftentimes a 3 was acceptable for credit. I found that other schools generally wanted 4s or 5s, and some schools didn't take the scores at all and just allowed the student to enroll in the honors section of the course.


I do believe all degrees require the same basic gen-eds, but the level and subject matter can vary. For dancers, I believe if you could prove you took two years of the same foreign language in high school you could be exempt from college classes. Dancers also only needed the most basic math course. The basic year of English was required, in addition to history/government. We also needed two sciences, one with a lab and one without. We also needed two arts humanities (Understanding Theatre, Understanding Dance, Understanding Music, Understanding Theatre).


However, with different degrees, colleges can get more specific within the gen-eds, which is why scheduling can be trickier. For example, each degree might want a science with a lab, but one could specify a biology class and one could specify a meteorological class.


Absolutely check what the current AP score requirements are for the university, however. Even the required classes for dance majors have changed since I have been there.

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glissade_jete - thank you so much for your thorough answers. I was able to locate a chart on the OU website for what scores were accepted. A 3 gives you credit in a lot of classes but there isn't much difference between a 4 vs 5. It's good to know that about the language art exam and how much the APs can get you to fit your other classes in.

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Hi everyone! I will be a freshman ballet major at OU in the fall of 2016, and I had a few questions on Greek life. Do many ballet dancers participate in Greek life? I am very interested in joining but I know that I will be extremely busy in the fall. Would it make sense to join spring semester, (if possible) or even sophomore year? Alumna, let me know your thoughts on Greek life v ballet! Thank you!!!

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