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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Is it too late to start again and potentially go professional?


Krislyn

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I started dancing when I was 9, and I trained primarily in ballet and lyrical through the end of high school (so until I was 18). In that time, I took a pre-point class, but did not go onto point. It has been about two and a half years since I stopped dancing, but I am considering starting again. I know it will take time to get to the point that I am en pointe, and even more time before I can reach a point to realistically consider pursuing a professional career, but I was wondering if it would be possible? 

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I’m so glad to hear you want to re-kindle your love of ballet.

But I have to ask, why do you want to be a professional? That won’t attest to your love of dance, in fact only doing something for “the money” might suggest that you don’t actually love it.

If you are mainly interested in performance opportunities then perhaps you surprised to hear that many dancers perform in amateur companies, though it’s not wildly popular many companies exists. And many adults perform with their local studios as well.

The term “professional” is open to interpretation, who knows, perhaps in 5 years you’ll be able to book a local gig where they pay you for the day. But it’s unlikely that you will be able to make a full-time income this way, allow me to explain why:

You have training in ballet technique, but  not pointe, which suggests to me that your training was not at a pre-professional level. There’s nothing wrong with that, but for the most part there is a difference between taking dance classes in your youth for recreation, and taking dance classes in your youth to be a professional. So you’re training is likely behind, you might need 5 years of pre-professional training in order to be anywhere close to your “competition”, aka the dancers competing for the same company spots as you. (I’ve never met you though, so of course I could be wrong, maybe your technique is perfect).

Speaking of the competition, think about how many dance schools are out there preparing pre-pro dancers, and then think about how many people actually pay to go see the ballet. Even by modest estimation the problem is clear: there are way more people who want to be ballet dancers than there are company position. Many dancers who go through pre-professional training don’t even get a job. So you’ll have to be better than the majority of them. Also, most of the contracts they are competing for are unpaid apprenticeships.

So, doing some math, you’ll need to train for about 5(+-2) years at a pre professional level (after you find a school that will take you at your age, dance collage might be an option). You’ll be able to work part time but I don’t think it will cover your cost of living and tuition so I hope you have some savings and/or a person who is willing to fund you. On top of that maybe another year as an unpaid apprentice. All of this for a very small change that you might land a company contract by the time you are 27ish. Can you afford to train full time with minimal income until you are 27?

 

Like I said, I’ve never seen you, maybe you are an amazingly talented dancer with perfect technique. I guess the only way to find out is to go to class, and then in a year or two go to a summer intensive or an open audition and see how you compare with the other dancers who will also soon be looking for professional contracts… 

Or of course (crazy idea) just dance because you love it? Don’t make your decision around whether or not you can become a professional in what is probably the most competitive industry after professional astronauts. Idk maybe it is crazy just do do something that brings you joy? 
 

Side note: can anyone tell me why people trying to re-start ballet always ask about being professionals? Am I missing something? Becuase sometimes I don’t understand peoples aversion to being passionate about your hobbies. Is it embarrassing to have hobbies? Help I’m so confused.

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Welcome to Ballet Talk fr Dancers, Krislyn. Glad you found us! You'll find a lot of serious adult dancers here.

It's tough to begin again. I hope you've found a studio which offers you safe and nurturing teaching. We adult dancers need encouragement and teachers who are positive about the joys and values of ballet for everyone!

ChasseAway your post is really interesting. And I, too, wonder about the desire to be a professional. 

I think that to try to reach a high standard of proficiency in ballet (and dance generally) is a fantastic ambition. But there are hundreds of young and fully trained young dancers aiming for professional jobs as dancers. So you would be wise to be realistic.

Krislyn, work out what it is about ballet that you love, and what drives you. Focus on that, not whether you'll be a professional. Because otherwise, your study of the art form will be laced through with disappointment and possibly bitterness; that's not good for you! There are many many adult dancers for whom training in ballet is a serious pursuit, not just a "hobby" they dabble in. I hope you can find a studio that supports this. I have a local studio, which keeps my body tuned in to ballet technique, but when I'm working in large cities (eg London or New York) I make a point of taking much more demanding classes which keep me trying to reach a higher level.

We can't see you, so it's hard for anyone to answer your initial question. But realistically - and to be brutally frank - it's highly unlikely you're going to be able to make your living as a ballet dancer. But there are many other ways to work in dance: in contemporary, in extra backing dancer work, in dance education & outreach.

You might want to read this thread, where another Ballet Talk for Dancers asks a very similar question to yours:

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I didn't know there were opportunities to perform in a nonprofessional manner....I thought that in order to perform, you'd have to be professional, even with smaller companies. 

 

I will definitely look at this other post as well! Thank you both so much for your responses. 

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Good luck! I hope you find some good training, Krislyn, with opportunities to perform. Keep in touch & let us know.

As you can see by reading the Adult Dancers forum, you are not alone!

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