High school seniors looking for colleges left me comments recently with some truly awesome questions. Among them was “What universities would you recommend for a dancer aspiring to dance with AAADT or Complexions Contemporary Ballet Company [or pick-your-company]?”
First of all, I must say I think classical ballet training is essential for any dancer aspiring to join a professional company. The strength and articulation developed, the attention to detail, the conditioning the body receives… I’m biased, of course, my first love being classical ballet, but this is by no means an uncommon opinion.
However, if you know a certain company holds a dear place in your heart, the best thing to do is to get on the company’s website and look through the dancers/artistic director/staff bios. My answer to the senior who posed the question above was: “If you want to look at what sort of dancers the company directors have been hiring, you should look at the company bios for both Alvin Ailey and Complexions. For instance, a quick glance through the biographies of the Alvin Ailey dancers revealed that many had graduated from the Ailey/Fordham B.F.A. program in dance. You can then look at the schools that appear — or at the curriculum of the schools as compared to Butler’s degree plan or to other schools’ courses.”
Obviously, going to a a certain school provides no guarantee of a job offer, but by looking at the dancers in the company you can get a sense of what sort of person the artist director likes to hire. I firmly believe jobs come in the largest part based on your actual dancing, on your performance during an audition. However, these are some questions I’ve been considering as I look at companies for which I plan on auditioning this spring. They would apply equally well, I think, to the college search.
- What sort of training do the dancers have? Are they all Balanchine? ABT? Taylor?
- What diversity of technique do the dancers have? Do their bios stress only ballet training, or do they list techniques as varied as tap, African dance, and flamenco?
- How much experience did the dancers have before they were hired? Does the director hire them straight out of high school? College? Do they feed in their dancers from an affiliated school? Do all their dancers have performing experience with other companies prior to being hired?
- Are any of the dancers college graduates? Though I think the practice of hiring only super young dancers (so they can mold them or whatever) is a bit antiquated, some companies still think twenty is too old. The good news is that hiring college graduates has been more of a trend.
I hope these questions help both dancers looking into professional companies and dancers looking for college programs that will help them prepare for their ideal companies. You can also look at a list of the companies Butler alumni have joined. (And there’s another one here for some reason.)