Despite some decrease in the “age-anxiety” in the ballet world, companies still want to hire their dancers young to help finish their training and mold them into versatile professionals in their repertoire.
That combined with the fact that the majority of auditions for pre-professional programs, summer programs, second companies and ballet companies in the U.S. occur in the January – March time period, it is wise to consider graduating in 3 ½ years and spending the spring of your Senior year traveling to audition everywhere possible. There is no way to attend many auditions if you are still in school; if you wait for the following spring, you have lost an entire year.
Strategies to do this:
1. Take APs your junior and senior years and pass the exams with a 4 or 5.
Schools vary on how many credits they will accept but many will give credit for up to 9 credit hours for a 4 or 5 on the exam. These may count toward your core curriculum or general studies programs.
2. If your department offers summer school, attend after your freshman or sophomore years to complete some of the required courses in dance moving you forward in the progressive curriculum.
3. On the alternate summer, take one or two required academic courses at a local community college for transfer credit.
If you do two of the above successfully, you should be a semester ahead by Fall of your junior year.
When I attended Butler, several dance majors each year finished an entire year or a semester early as I did – most to dance professionally. I only missed an optional Senior Production my last semester – ironic as I was to go on to be a professional choreographer. This idea is not one dance departments will advertise (colleges need and depend upon tuition). They often say it is possible though “not encouraged.” After being accepted to the dance department, discuss this goal in advance of choosing that dance program. If they will somehow not allow it, consider your other options.
This has financial advantages as well: Summer school is usually shorter and less expensive and community college decidedly less expensive, so you will be saving much of what you would spend on tuition and housing for that Spring semester. This can help to fund your audition trips and increase the likelihood that you will be dancing in a second company or main company by the time you are 20.
– Diane Coburn Bruning
Choreographer, and Director Performing Arts Division, College Match