Student Dancers Wanted for Moscow Ballet Nutcracker

Moscow Ballet is looking for students to perform with the company for its perennial classic Nutcracker in multiple locations across 22 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces. These openings are a unique opportunity for young dancers to gain audition and performance experience with a professional company at a young age. The company is looking to fill the following positions:

  • 12 Party Guests (ages 8-11): 6 girls and 6 boys (or girls dressed as boys)
  • 10 Mice (ages 8-11 or 12): No taller than 5’
  • 12 Little Snowflakes (ages 7, 8 and 9): Must have ballet training
  • 12 Angels (ages 8 to 11): Graduated heights from smallest to tallest; No taller than 5’
  • 4 Butterflies: Older, taller girls from 12 to early teens; Off Pointe unless very strong on pointe.
  • ACT II Variations: Corps de ballet with company soloists. No taller than 5’2”.
  • Spanish: 2 young dancers ages 8-10; 2 older dancers ages 12-16 Pointe optional
  • Chinese: 2 young dancers ages 8-10; 2 older dancers ages 12 –early teens Pointe optional
  • Russian: 2 young dancers ages 8 – 10; 2 older dancers ages 10 –early teens (allegro dancers)
  • Arabian: 2 older dancers ages 12 -16 (Involves floor work) Pointe optional
  • French: 2 young dancers ages 7- 8

To see details and requirements and schedule an audition in a U.S. town near you, visit http://www.nutcracker.com/Audition_Dates.php and follow the simple instructions to register. Canadian auditionees, visit http://www.nutcracker.com/Audition_Dates.php?canada=y.

Update 8/17/11:  Check out this article, out yesterday, about young dancers performing with the company in Romeo & Juliet and other ballets.

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Finding the Best Ballet Training for Men

I was recently pleased to find out that one of the readers here is the dad of a young male dancer. Balletboydad commented yesterday on the 2011 Summer Intensives post: I wish to have more insight on strongest schools for male instruction going into next summer. My son is 13 and has received scholarships to the schools he has auditioned for. He has gone to Boston Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet and is currently at Jose Manuel Carreno’s 4 week program.

First off, Balletboydad, welcome here! I am sure you noticed I’ve catered this site to females dancers in training – my strongest area of knowledge. Though I hope to study in-depth in the future about the specific needs of male dancers, right now there are many others more qualified than me to handle that topic. That said, you are always welcome here! And I will do my best to answer your question and direct you to other resources that I think will be most helpful.

You’ve probably already discovered that the best schools for males are generally those with a Men’s Program. These programs are tailored in that instead of simply sticking guys in classes with the women all day, the women and men are divided for most of the day, perhaps after one technique class together in the morning. Men study men’s technique, strength and conditioning, batterie, men’s variations, men’s character dance, etc. In the most traditional programs, the only time that men and women are together is for partnering or newer techniques like jazz. (I recall that when I attended BBS many years ago, this was how they ran.) Other programs have men’s classes that simply meet 2 or 3 days a week.

As for specific schools, those that have developed reputations for having some of the strongest men’s programs include Houston Ballet Academy, School of American Ballet, San Francisco Ballet School, Pacific Northwest Ballet School and Miami City Ballet School. Boston Ballet School has an excellent reputation as well, and I hope it lived up to that for you. Also check out Ellison Ballet, Nutmeg Conservatory, and Patel Conservatory/Next Generation Ballet. Carreno’s school is a bit young to have developed a reputation yet. I don’t know much about Pittsburgh’s men except that I’ve heard their numbers seems to be increasing in recent years.

I’m sure there are many young men who would be very appreciative of hearing your son’s review of the SIs he has attended, which can submitted at Ballet Talk for Dancers, http://dancers.invisionzone.com/. There is a ton of information there on U.S. intensives, though unfortunately fewer from a male perspective. Your son’s feedback could help other young men like him to make the better choices for their training. You will also find a very useful male dancer’s forum at Ballet Talk as well.

I recommend for 2012 that your son audition for as many schools as you can reasonably arrange, and see where he gets in and gets scholarships. Then take a day and, with your son, have a call with each school about what they can offer him. Get to the specifics of their men’s training and any other features you are looking for, e.g. nutritional oversight. Most programs will be happy to take a half hour to chat with a dedicated young man and his dad about what they can offer. Keep good notes, and then sit down together and compare programs with an eye to not only finding the highest quality programs but also which ones appeal to your son’s gut instinct. I think you will find you’ll narrow the list quickly!

There are some fantastic resources out there for men that may be able to offer more experienced insight than I can. I hope you’ll check out these sites and pose your question to their authors as well:

http://boysballet.wordpress.com/

http://www.balletformen.com/

http://www.tightsandtiaras.com/

http://mysoncandance.net/

Finally, let me to commend you on supporting your son’s pursuit of dance! Not all fathers are willing to do so for their sons. You are a wonderful example for other dance dads!

Ballet in Film: Dance Academy

If you liked Center Stage, you’ll love the Australian series Dance Academy, which follows heroine Tara Webster (Xenia Goodwin) from her rural home to the fictional National Academy of Dance in Sydney. In each episode, Tara faces (mostly) believable challenges as she pursues her dream of becoming a principal ballet dancer. A former big fish in a small pond, she discovers quickly that her fantasies about life at the Academy must be discarded as the realities of intense competition and a higher standard become part of her daily life. She and her newfound friends – and frenemies – together manage the challenges of the Academy and the complexities of teen life with humor and, often, guts.

This is a must-see show for any aspiring dancer. The dance scenes are choreographed well and in a variety of styles, the characters are enveloping and the costuming is great. It’s slightly bubblegum feel keeps the show fun when topics get heavy. The downright addictive Season 1 (trailer below) has concluded but can be purchased at the ABC shop. Season 2 starts in December.

Is My Class Schedule Pre-Professional?

The word “pre-professional” is thrown around a lot. I mean a lot. There are a huge range of schools in the U.S. that use the word in their advertisements – sometimes when it shouldn’t be.  What does it really mean to be pre-professional? And what is a solid schedule for a pre-professional dancer?

First let’s define this somewhat over-used word. Pre-professional is used to describe dancers who are training specifically for a professional dance career. Pre-professional training programs are designed for dancers who show promise for professional careers. Admittance is typically by audition and these dancers are trained separately from those who train recreationally so that the classes can keep an accelerated or advanced pace. Pre-pro training is also sometimes called vocational training.

So how many classes are enough? How much is too much? Friends, there are many paths to Rome. I am going to lay out for you an ideal progression with an eye towards the female dancer with an above-average natural facility, but there are exceptions to every rule. If you read this and find you are not where you should be, think about what you want to change – and then figure out how to get there! I started late myself by many standards and in a small town. First I had to catch up to those my age, and sometimes I had to piece together a good schedule from multiple schools. Very often it’s up to you to make it happen!

It all begins with the first dance class (after finding a the right school of course!) There are varying philosophies on the age for starting ballet class. Personally I believe that the earliest age for ballet should be seven. In Russia, the national schools accept students for formal training at around ten. Whether starting at seven or ten, by the age of eleven pre-pro students may be taking daily ballet classes. Pilates, Gyrotonics, or another strength and conditioning program can begin at this age too. When I say daily ballet though… I don’t actually mean every day,  I mean six days per week. No dancer should train seven days per week – the body requires a day of rest to rebuild and recover the muscles!

By age 12, well-trained and naturally apt girls should be ready for weekly or bi-weekly pointe training. As a part of an advancing curriculum, character dance is a terrific add-on in this year for beginning to train in expression, acting and a bit of dance history in a different classical dance form. Hours should range between 9-12 per week. Also at this point, it is time to start auditioning for summer intensives. This will help students to get their faces further out in the dance world, network and explore other schools and potential companies.

With the beginner year of pointe behind her, a dancer at thirteen is ready for more classes and more challenge! Pointe should be studied 2-3 times a week now, always split across the week as evenly as possible. (Guys will often start strength training for partnering at this point.) Also the addition of newer dance forms like modern, jazz and hip-hop are great. The body should be technically ready to build off a solid classical base, and adding non-classical forms of dance as early as possible after that foundation is prepared will ensure that you become a much more versatile dancer. (Some extremely traditional teachers believe these classes are at best a waste of time and at worst harmful to classical training. I disagree with that very much.) A typical schedule at this level would be 12-16 hours per week.

By fourteen on this path, training can take 15-18 hours of classes per week. Girls should continue to work towards daily pointe classes by upping their schedule to 3 or 4 pointe classes per week. Increased mental maturity means that variations and repertoire classes can be added to the mix. These classes can be some of the most valuable for a dancer with her eye on a career in ballet. The choreography learned in variations and rep classes often follows a dancer for the rest of her career!

At fifteen, it is time for daily pointe classes… and pas de deux! (Many European schools begin partnering in early character classes and some U.S. school begin as young as 13, but typical U.S. training and also culture makes 15 a better choice here.) Twice weekly is great for pas classes, but weekly is certainly fine. A dancer at this stage should be training for about 20-25 hours a week.

In the last two years of training, cross-training might be introduced. (Think cardio and special exercises done during the dancer’s free time.) Training hours should increase to 24-30 per week. At the same time, performance opportunities should increase as technique becomes more established and artistry takes increasing focus. If you’ve been keeping track, our theoretical dancer now takes daily ballet class, daily pointe class, partnering, character, modern, jazz, hip-hop, variations or rep and a conditioning class – This translates to three to four classes per day, six days per week! And that’s not counting rehearsals (which don’t count towards technique training, in case you’re analyzing your own schedule), which would then be added on at the end of the day. I’m sure you can see why preparing for a professional career is considered such a serious commitment.

Now you’ve got a full-cycle layout of a training load for a pre-professional dancer. Does it sound exciting and wonderful? Or exhausting? Not everyone knows from the start if they want to pursue dance as a career. We can’t all be like Susan Jaffe, who dreamed about being a dancer and was sure from that day on! But if you are considering it, it’s really valuable to know what pre-professional training is like. Not only can you take a look at how much your would-be future competition is training, you can analyze whether you are getting what you need yet… and whether you want it at all!