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BFA in Europe or the US

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My dd is a dual citizen (American/«European»). Her goal is to dance in a ballet company. She has been admitted to two college BFA programs in the US that are considered to be strong ballet programs. Since we live in Europe she is also applying to BFA programs here. However, in Europe there are very few strictly ballet programs that will take you at age 18, soon 19. So the programs she is auditioning for/have been accepted to are mostly 50/50 ballet/modern (Rambert, Palucca, Codarts, London Studio Center etc.).

I know we are not supposed to compare schools directly on this forum, but I would appreciate any thoughts you have on how we can decide which school/continent would give her the best chances of getting a job in a ballet company after graduation.

As parents, we really like the US BFA programs, because you can double major. The European programs are more conservatory style with 7-8 hours of dance a day. My dd is afraid that there is not enough hours of dancing in the US, but I don’t know how important that is.

Then there is the financial side of it, which is a big factor, as we don’t want her to end up with big student loans.

It’s getting close to decision time and the deadline to accept her spot at the US schools are even before the audition date at one of the European schools. 

Edited by Snowmom
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Hi Snowmom, 

I wonder if you could explain for those of us outside Europe why there aren't many strictly ballet programs in Europe that one can join at 18?  Is it because the university level starts earlier or later in Europe than in the US?  That might help others answer your question better.

I'm afraid I have no insights whatsoever into European schooling.  To me in the US it seems that those earning a college degree and then joining a classical US ballet company are in the minority and that more dancers in the US pursue a classical ballet company directly without first earning a college degree.  I'm not sure of any official statistics to validate that statement but that it is my impression.  In the US I don't think that a majority of dancers in classical ballet companies have earned college degrees (of course some have).  The only way I know to really research that information is to read the dancer biographies online at the kinds of companies your dancer would hope to join and see if it appears that a college degree is a feature for some/none/many of the dancers currently there.

I realize that wasn't your precise question, but it is relevant and all that I can contribute to the discussion in hopes of being helpful.

Best of luck to you and your dancer!  🙂 

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I’m not sure how it works in Europe, but in the US there are still a lot of non-ballet academics required for a BFA. Like almost two years worth of general education requirements that aren’t specific to the major. My daughter is at an 2-year Associates Degree program in Europe and it is classical ballet focused. They do offer a third year for a BA, but that is basically for becoming a ballet teacher. The program doesn’t offer classes applicable to other vocations. 

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I think Europe is similar to the US in the sense that most serious ballet students will be in vocational school and graduating around the age of 18-19. At that point they will go directly into second companies or main companies. At the age of 18-19, you are too old for most of the vocational schools and therefore the options are very limited if you want to study ballet.

I know of a few schools; Dutch National, Royal Conservatorie of Hague and Scotland that take students at an older age. Those are on my daughter’s list as well.

As far as we know there are not many other schools or universities where you can study ballet at this age. You are really considered to be too old. 
If you combine ballet with modern dance there are more options as I believe they look for more mature dancers when it comes to modern.

The fact that you have to take so many non-ballet related classes in the US college programs is my daughter’s biggest concern. She also realizes that most dancers don’t have a college degree. However, at this point it seems like that’s her only option.

AB’sMom would you be able to share where your daughter is dancing?




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My daughter is at Dutch National. She took a high school equivalency exam to leave school a year early because she needed a diploma to enter the program. Their two year Associate’s Degree program is run through Amsterdam University of the Arts. Most AD 1 students are 17 when they start. 

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Thank you for the info AB’sMom. It’s very useful to know that most of the first year students in the Dutch National program are only 17 years old. 

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There are kids that come in the second year and are often considered international guest students. Most of the  academic classes like anatomy, etc are taken the first year, so I think kids who come in second year are not awarded the Associates Degree. I think that’s why they’re considered guest students. If you have any questions about the program, I have found them to be very nice and helpful. 

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My DD (more of a contemporary/modern dancer than ballet now) has some friends who have completed BAs in the UK. Their programs were as AB'sMom described....3 years instead of 4 and focused on dance with no general education requirements.  That would be something to consider.  It would depend on what is important to your DD.  Shorter time getting a the degree allows dancers to seek employment faster, but there is no other training besides dance.

Price is always a consideration, too.  Tuition for universities in the US differ greatly, but are generally more expensive than outside the US.  I would not recommend taking out large loans to pay for a degree especially in dance, where the return in income is not high. 

Something else to think of...when DD was looking at universities, we noticed some said double majors were possible.  However, when we looked at the university course schedules the reality was HER double major would not have worked or would have taken a year or so of extra time to complete.  Some double majors are easier than others, generally sciences are more difficult due to labs.  You should also communicate with some current dance majors because a dance schedule is not always fully expressed in the university course schedule. They often don't include rehearsals, performances, and other extras that are often part of a dance major.  Once your DD has narrowed down her choices, it is a good idea to connect with a couple of dancers from each university.  You can usually get names/contact info from the dance programs.

I would agree with InTheWings, that most classical ballet dancers in the US appear to skip the university route and do post-secondary training with ballet companies (apprentices, trainees, 2nd companies, etc). The training ranges from pay for the dancer, unpaid, to tuition based.  Contemporary ballet and contemporary/modern dancers are more likely to have attended universities.  Dancer bios and the university info on where graduates are now, might be the best resources for this information.

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Remember that an EU citizen no longer has freedom of movement into the UK any more, after the UK exit from the EU. University students will eventually be regarded as International students for tuition fee purposes in the UK. There are some transitional arrangements for EU citizens to be accepted into UK degrees at the Domestic fee rate, but I think that finishes in the next couple of years. At the moment undergrad tuition fees for Domestic students in the UK are around £9.5k pa, but the International fees usually start at £12k pa (and better represent the actual basic cost of educating an undergrad in the UK).

Check the UK government site gov.org for details.

In the UK, there are several full-time pre-pro ballet schools which offer degrees in programmes which focus on dance eg. Central School of Ballet, English National Ballet School. These are typically called 'conservatoires' in the UK system.

There is a wider range of dance degrees offered at BA level, but these tend to focus on contemporary dance, and don't offer the full day of dance training your DD may be looking for. 

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Thank you for a lot of valuable feedback!

It is a good suggestion to try to get in touch with current students at the different schools where she’s been accepted. 

At some point she might have to realize that she is too old for ballet and go the modern route. She is just not there yet.

Redbookish - you are absolutely right about the high fees for international students in the UK. She has applied to Central and some other UK schools, but right now the US college programs are quite a bit cheaper because of the scholarships she has received.

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