How to be a professional ballet dancer

What Qualification Is Needed to Become a Professional Ballerina? | Work

By Chron Contributor Updated August 27, 2020

A professional ballerina may have a glamorous-looking career, but getting there is a difficult journey that usually starts in childhood. Ballerinas must be dedicated and must have the athletic and psychological stamina to stick with their career through adolescence and into adulthood. The competition to become a ballerina can be very tough; like other professional athletes, many try for positions that only a few can get.

Training Begins Early

A ballerina who starts training at a very young age, between 5 and 8 years, has a distinct advantage over ballerinas who don't start training until they are older. The Atlanta Ballet describes the typical course of study as one to two classes a week for young beginners and 10 to 15 classes per week starting around age 14.

Professional Study

A college education is not needed to be a ballerina. Ballerinas with professional ambitions should start taking classes at a local school at a young age and transition into a nationally known ballet academy by their teens. It's not called "ballerina school" since both girls and boys can train for careers in ballet. Some schools, like the School of American Ballet, accept students as young as six, while other schools, such as the American Ballet Theatre's Pre-Professional Division, only accept students aged 12 to 17.

By training with a national ballet academy, a student greatly increases her chances of being a professional ballerina. For example, the School of American Ballet provides almost all the professional ballerinas for the New York City Ballet, in addition to 36 other U.S. ballet companies. Getting accepted into one of these ballet companies requires an audition and tuition can be expensive. At the School of American Ballet, for example, fees range from $3,555 per year for the preparatory division to $26,135 for the resident program.

Professional Ballet Dancer Requirements

Ballerinas must be in top shape physically in order to make it as professional dancers. They must have impeccable balance and the physical stamina to dance for long periods. For example, at the American Ballet Theatre, students attend classes five days a week. The lowest level for the pre-professional school, Level 5, requires 14 hours of training a week. Level 7 requires 36 hours of training a week.

Most students need to be proficient in pointe shoes by the time they enter a national ballet academy. They also need the right body type to be a professional dancer. According to the School of American Ballet, ballerinas need to be flexible, evenly proportioned, and coordinated.

Persistence and Passion

In addition to physical fitness and skill, professional ballet dancer requirements include the emotional fortitude to withstand competition, long hours and criticism. Some dancers will face rejection after many auditions before they are finally accepted for a role. This persistence requires passion and a strong personality that doesn't get discouraged easily. Professional ballerinas must also be able to work in teams, as most ballet performances involve groups and relying on others.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to salary research by PayScale, the average ballet dancer earned $30,806 per year as of 2020, with salaries typically ranging from $21,000 to $78,000. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which makes projections for most civilian occupations, foresees little change in the number of opportunities for dancers through 2028. Like other professional athletes, ballet dancers have relatively short careers because of the physical demands of dancing. They face fierce competition for jobs, as there are always more trained dancers than job openings.

How to Be a Professional Dancer in 5 (Not So Easy) Steps

Posted By JBS Admin on Jun 15, 2020 |

Professional dancers come from many walks of life, with different sets of experience and backgrounds. Some have been studying ballet since shortly after taking their first steps. Others begin dancing as tweens or teens and soon find themselves consumed with dreams of dancing for a living. But regardless of how you get started, there are 5 steps you’ll need to follow if your goal is to become a professional dancer.

Train with the Best

If your goal is to become a professional dancer, the quality of training you receive will make or break your chances of making it as a professional. Many dancers start their careers in local studios or companies, but when you become serious about turning professional, it’s time to look for the best training you can find.

That’s where Joffrey Ballet School’s pre-professional training comes in. Our pre-professional dance trainee program is a full-time course in dance that prepares you for a career as a professional dancer. We offer two tracks: Ballet and Jazz & Contemporary. Both programs provide thousands of hours of dance training, performance preparation and experience, along with classroom instruction in Career Planning; Critical Analysis; Music; Anatomy; Dance History; Health and Nutrition and more.

If your goals are more long term and you’re not quite ready to make the leap into pre-professional training, a summer dance intensive offers an opportunity to enhance your training and gain skills rapidly, without making a full time commitment to training until you’re ready. And it’s a great way to “try on” full time training and find the school that is right for you.

Gain Versatility and Performance Experience

At Joffrey, one of our mottoes for our pre-professional trainees is to “be the dancer that has it all.” What we mean is that a professional dancer needs more than just strong technical skills in a single discipline to be successful as a professional dancer.  

Why is versatility so important? It used to be the case that dancers focused mainly on a single discipline because that is what the majority of roles required. Today, dance productions tend to be more “multi-disciplinary,” often incorporating multiple styles and disciplines in a single production or role. For instance, a ballet dancer could be called upon to incorporate elements of classical, modern and Latin dance in a role. The dancer who will be hired for that role is going to be the one with the training to excel in all of those disciplines.

So, when developing yourself as a dancer, look for opportunities to gain versatility and experience that could benefit you later by being willing to try new things and step outside the box. A summer dance intensive is a great way to do this, and that’s why Joffrey offers intensives in so many different styles.

With us, you can study classical or contemporary ballet, latin dance, jazz, tap or hip-hop. You’ll gain performance experience in our in-studio performances and student showcases in professional venues. You’ll gain versatility in a short period of time that you’ll need in your future professional career, and who knows? You just might discover a new passion in the process.  

Have Realistic Expectations

One of the toughest decisions a dancer has to make is to determine which career preparation track to follow: studying dance at a college or university, or enrolling in some form of pre-professional training. There are pros and cons to both forms of training: college might allow you to pursue other options as well as dance, providing a backup plan of sorts for when your dance career ends. 

Yet, while a backup plan is nice, dancers also have to accept that dance is also a time-limited career, one that favors younger dancers. Finishing high school and college, followed by a year or two of pre-professional study puts you well into your twenties by the time you finish. Most dancers will retire when the wear and tear on their bodies takes its toll, usually in their 30s or 40s if they are fortunate. For dancers that choose the college track, that means a career of 10 to 15 years, at best, plus being at a possible disadvantage compared to the dancers who got their start younger, when their bodies were stronger and more resilient. 

By combining high school completion and pre-professional training, dancers can extend their careers on stage and get a much younger start, but there is a risk if their careers come to a premature end due to injury or other factors – or never really get started at all. 

For these reasons, dancers need to be realistic and ask themselves the tough questions about their ultimate life and career goals. Are you willing to forego the college experience in order to extend your career and improve your dance prospects? Do you have a plan for what you will do when that career ends? Dancers who want to make it as a professional need to consider not just their dance career, but their ultimate life goals.

Put Together a Professional Portfolio

Okay, so let’s say you’ve got the training. You’ve got the talent. You’ve got the versatility. And you’ve asked the hard questions about your chosen career path. You’re ready to take the next steps. That means putting together a professional dance portfolio.

At Joffrey, we offer career planning and work with our pre-professional trainees as they near the end of their time with us to put together their portfolio. The portfolio includes a resume or CV (short for curriculum vitae) and professional headshots. Dancers should also curate what used to be called a dance “reel”; a video of dance clips showing your best skills. These can be shared electronically via file sharing apps, on a disk or thumb drive as a video audition. 

Your resume should include your name, contact information (phone and email), a complete listing of your dance training and education, your representation (if you have an agent) and your union status. You should also list your training and performance experience: all schools attended, years of training and levels attained with each school, and specify your performance experience and roles. Dance competition experience and placement should be included as well.

For your headshot, professional photography and makeup is also very helpful. And while your dance clips don’t have to be professionally produced, you’ll make the best impression if they are well lit, well produced and show your dancing off to best advantage. 

Take Care of Your Body

Remember when we said that the average dancer’s professional career would likely end in their 30s or 40s? That’s one of the hardest truths about choosing to become a professional dancer: your time on stage will likely come to an end sooner than you might wish. Often, this will happen because your body simply can’t handle the strain as you get older.

However, the good news is that while aging is inevitable, you’re not helpless against it. You can extend your career through careful attention to your nutrition and conditioning throughout your career.  Younger dancers benefit from the fact that the human body typically gains muscle through one’s teens and twenties. However, at around age 30, this starts to change quickly as the body begins to lose muscle mass at a pace of about 3% to 5% per year. 

So if you want to be as strong as possible in the later portion of your career, don’t delay in paying attention to diet and strength conditioning.

Be the Dancer that Has it All With Joffrey

Training, experience and versatility, realistic expectations, a professional portfolio and a commitment to nutrition and conditioning are just five of the factors you need to make it as a professional dancer. If you’re ready to learn more about how to succeed in this career path, contact Joffrey today to learn more about our pre-professional training and summer dance intensives.

JBS Admin (69 Posts)

Founded in 1953 by Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, Joffrey Ballet School maintains the vision of its founders to transform passionate dance students into versatile, individualistic artists able to collaborate and evolve fluidly in a fast-changing society. With an accredited dance program that offers two core areas of study – ballet and jazz/contemporary – JBS is known for its diverse curriculum and has the largest summer intensive training program in the country.

How to become a prima ballerina

October 30, 2020 at 10:00 am

Tips from a Japanese woman who conquered Yekaterinburg

Miki Nishiguchi started ballet at the age of three in Japan Photo: Vladimir Zhabrikov © URA.RU

Getting on pointe shoes, learning how to move beautifully and achieving serious career heights on the theater stage is the dream of many girls. How to get into the world of ballet, what and where little ballerinas are taught and what comes out of it, specially for URA.RU told participant of the Bolshoi Ballet, leading soloist of the Yekaterinburg Opera and Ballet Theater Miki Nishiguchi.

At what age do you want to become a ballerina and when is it too late to start?

Japanese Miki Nishiguchi came to Yekaterinburg in 2013 — immediately after graduating from the Academy of Russian Ballet in St. Petersburg

Photo: Pavel Kirbyatiev © URA.RU Russian Ballet named after Vaganova (Petersburg). Of course, I did not immediately get up to the machine. First there were stretching, exercises to the music. She graduated in 2013 and was immediately accepted into the troupe of the Yekaterinburg Opera and Ballet Theatre. As part of the troupe, she toured the cities of Germany, Israel, Italy, Serbia, Estonia, as well as in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

If you want to learn ballet professionally, you need to start from 6-7 years old. At 10-11 years old, you can already enter choreographic academies and colleges. It is important not to waste time. For those who want to professionally study ballet at the age of 12-13, it will already be very difficult to catch up with their peers in technique.

What qualities should a future ballerina have?

- Love for ballet is the most important thing. It is she who helps to endure and overcome all the difficulties and hardships associated with this profession. It is also very important to believe in yourself! Do not be afraid of professional criticism, be able to notice mistakes, work on them and correct them. This is the path to self-improvement.

Where to train?

If you intend to connect your life with ballet, you should learn the basics from the age of 6, and at 10 you can already enter the State Choreographic Academy

Photo: Vladimir Zhabrikov © URA.RU

— You can start in a private studio. But if you want ballet to become your profession, it is better to enter a state academy or college. In such schools, the curriculum includes more hours for ballet classes. Not only classical dance, but also special disciplines - folk dances, modern, acting. In a private studio, a child will be taught to dance, but in order to get a job in the theater in the future, you need a diploma of a ballet dancer.

- What do mentors look for? What kind of children are weeded out?

- Many girls say they dream of becoming a ballerina, but often this desire is imposed by their parents. Only the teacher will determine whether the child has the ability to do this. Even looking at a 4-year-old child, one can already appreciate his capabilities. The teacher evaluates turnout, step, rise, musicality.

How much does ballet education cost?

- Studying in a public school is not as expensive as in a private one. The state bears most of the costs. The pupils are provided with a boarding school, pointe shoes and swimwear for classes are also given free of charge. But, for example, in Japan, where I learned the basics of ballet, the situation is different. I had no choice, because there are simply no public schools where you can learn ballet. My studies cost my parents a lot.

Training will take up almost all your free time. You have to be ready for this

Photo: Vladimir Zhabrikov © URA.RU

What will you have to sacrifice?

— When I started seriously studying ballet, there was little free time. In the morning there are lessons in a regular school, in the afternoon and until late in the evening - classes in a ballet class. Still need to do homework. I remember I wanted to take a walk with my friends, spend time with my family, but I had to sacrifice all this. Now nothing has changed. Ballet still takes a lot of time. He practically does not remain in his personal life. But, in fact, when we want, we all have time. Many of my colleagues, for example, are pursuing higher education online.

Is ballet hard?

- We have serious physical exertion, injuries happen. But ballet is art. Not only technique is important here, but also what you want to express with your body, convey to the audience. There are competitions in ballet. Young artists take part in them. This is an opportunity to demonstrate yourself, to look at others. A chance to get an invitation to the theater troupe. But at the competition it is important to show not only technique, not only what you are superior to others in, you must remember that the performance should hook the audience. If the dance is without a soul, it will be boring to watch.

How is a ballerina's day?

In 2018, together with her partner Alexei Seliverstov, the ballerina took part in the Bolshoi Ballet project on Russia Culture TV channel

Photo: Vladimir Zhabrikov © URA.RU Did you get up on the wrong foot today? Several hours of rehearsals, after which something always hurts. But all this is worth one of the most important points. At the end of the performance, you get applause from the audience, and this is a great happiness. I am happy to do what I love.

Tips for parents of future ballerinas. How to educate an artist without going too far?

- Parents should be attentive to their child, help him, believe in him. My parents have always supported me in everything. It is necessary to ensure that the child complies with the sleep schedule. It is necessary from an early age to teach a child to eat right: less sweet and starchy foods, more vegetables and fruits. And it is also very important to meet a good teacher!

How to become a ballerina | About

What does it take to become a ballerina

Which girl has not dreamed of becoming a great ballerina, a famous dancer in her childhood? How many have fulfilled their dream? Of course not. Why? You say that these are just childhood dreams, nothing more? Not certainly in that way. Of course, these are dreams, someone dreams of becoming a ballerina, someone an astronaut, someone a doctor, a teacher. But, if it is never too late to become a teacher or a doctor, a driver or a pilot, or maybe a scientist, then you need to prepare for the profession of a ballerina, and professionally, from early childhood.

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I do not argue that many parents take their children, especially girls, to classes in dance clubs, ballet studios, art schools. But is this enough to become a professional ballerina, dancer in the future? Of course not. In order to really become a ballerina, it is necessary to enter a professional choreographic school in early childhood, at the age of 9-10 years, i.e. upon graduation from elementary school. You need to prepare for such an act in advance.

How to become a ballerina at 8,9,10 years old

The selection to the choreographic school is quite tough, sometimes, more than a dozen people apply for one place. Entrance tests are held in 3 rounds.

The first round - the physical features of the physique (external), professional data are evaluated: body proportions, eversion, step, rise, jump, flexibility is a must. Both girls and boys should be slender, preferably with elongated limbs. The head should not be large.

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Girls should not be tall, fragile and graceful. In addition to the physique of children, the physique of the parents is often evaluated (in order to have an idea of ​​\u200b\u200bheredity). After all, it also happens that from a very thin girl - a full-bodied tall girl grows up. And, in this case, she is waiting for professional incompetence. Because ballet is, first of all, not a solo dance, and it will not be easy for such a beauty to find a partner.

2nd round - health assessment - medical commission. Future ballet dancers must be absolutely healthy. After all, they are waiting for huge physical exertion. In addition to the general education program, children receive specialized education. Their whole day is subject to a strict schedule. The main place is occupied by a classic machine. And this is the hardest work.

And, finally, the 3rd round - an artistic commission that evaluates the musical, rhythmic abilities of children: hearing, rhythm, memory and prof. data - danceability. But even if you passed all the tests and entered, then to the cherished goal - to become a ballerina, still oh, how far. One of the important points upon admission is that you need to consider whether the child is ready to live in a boarding school? After all, there are not so many choreographic schools that train ballet dancers, and, of course, they do not exist even in many large cities. Will a little girl (boy) be able to part with her mother? Not all children realize this before the actual separation from their parents. Of course, many children who really rave about ballet are ready for this.

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Well, they did, they withstood the most difficult competition, friends appeared. Now, I’ll definitely become a ballerina, the little girl thinks. And again, this is not always the case. As I wrote above, the work on the way to the cherished goal is huge, sometimes you need to overcome physical fatigue and pain to continue to practice. Constantly work on yourself. Every day. This is not a circle with a visit 2-3 times a week. And hard, hard work. Only those who have a really steel character, great willpower can withstand. Others leave. Those who remain become real ballerinas, ballet dancers. Albeit not always prima, soloists. But to become even a corps de ballet dancer is a great work, talent and patience. Yes, every ballet dancer is talented.

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