Sunday, April 15, 2012
Professional Ballet Schools: What to Look For
What usually leads people to choose one school over another is either a future job opportunity with the school's company or quality of training. Before you send your daughter(or son) off to a professional ballet school, you should make sure he/she knows his or her goal. There are many things that you, as a parent, should be aware of, so that you may help your child make the right choice.
Too few schools offer in-house educational programs. Most schools will help you enroll your child in a nearby high school, or they will help you arrange independent study. Regardless of what your child's goal is a dancer, they should never be permitted to neglect their studies. Things don't always work out in dance, no matter how talented you are. The average retirement age of a dancer is thirty. Your child should not be limited to teaching ballet or choreography after retirement.
Company Hiring Practices.
Just because your dancer is a student at an official school, and quite possibly has been for several years, doesn't mean a guaranteed job opportunity. Most companies do hire from their school, but some only do so as a technicality; a student will be brought in for one year, or less, so that at hiring time, the company can show that they do, indeed, hire from their official school.
One simple way you can check is by reviewing the company's roster of dancers. A dancer's training is most always included in their individual biography information. You can compare the number of dancers who have trained at the company's official school, to those who have not, and come up with their hiring ratio. Remember, just because the official school has put their stamp on a dancer, does not mean the dancer was brought up through the school. As an outsider, it is hard to find these things out, but there are ways. Ask around, you and your dancer have the right to know.
If your dancer's previous training matches the bulk of the company's rep, there is a greater likelihood of success. A well rounded dance education is very important for today's young dancer; contemporary, jazz, ballroom, and flamenco are just some of the things you can supplement your dancer's training with. There are also non-dance activities that are invaluable to a young dancer's growth.
Aside from school-run student shows, most companies use students in their largest productions as dancers, supernumeraries, and understudies. For dancing roles, girls are often used more than boys, because of the larger amount of girls needed for a specific production, but they are typically last-cast. An example of such an occasion is a story ballet: The Nutcracker; it has many more dancing parts for girls. In most cases, girls gain solid stage dancing experience early on starting around sixteen. Boys, however, do not. They are often used as extras, but that is not valid experience. The best thing to prepare a young dancer for dancing on stage, is believe or not, dancing on stage. Classes alone at a professional school are not enough. Lack of experience can greatly hinder a dancer's career, especially when the dancer has been at an official school for many years, and is not hired by it's company.
Curricula vary from school to school. Some have very well rounded programs that include several forms dance, music, and acting, and by contrast, some offer only a few forms of dance. Choosing the right professional school depends on your dancer's ultimate goal.
Every professional school should have both merit scholarship and financial-aid programs. Boys tend to receive scholarships more often than girls do, although the latter is not unheard of.
Some schools have year-round, fully-staffed student dormitories which include cafeteria meal-plans, but most do not. As you know, cost-of-living varies greatly from city to city, state to state. Some dancers are ready to live on their own in apartments at an early age, but many are not. You don't have to have danced to help your child along in the path they have chosen. They might think they know everything there is to know about what they do, but it is to their benefit that you know some things too.