Classical ballet dancers often begin their training at the age of seven. If they become professional dancers, they must continue to practice and train throughout their careers. (© Kurov Alexander/ITAR-TASS/Corbis.)
Education and Training Requirements
Classical ballet dancers normally begin serious training by the age of twelve, with early training by the age of seven or eight. Modern dancers also need early, intensive training, but they usually do not need as many years of training as classical ballet dancers.
Proper training from the beginning is essential. A child’s body is very pliable. Bones are not fully grown and can be damaged by excessive exercise. Before enrolling in a dance program, students and their parents should consider the dance instructor’s philosophy, experience, and qualifications.
High school students who have exceptional ability in ballet may receive advanced training in regional ballet schools or in schools affiliated with major ballet companies. Some dance school companies select their students from summer training programs. In these schools dance training predominates, but courses in music, literature, history, and the visual arts are also included. Dance students should take courses in math, science, and English as well.
Most dancers have professional auditions by the age of seventeen or eighteen, but they continue to practice and train throughout their careers. Professional ballet dancers, for example, take from ten to twelve lessons each week for eleven or twelve months of the year and spend many additional hours practicing and rehearsing.
Students may receive additional training in dance at one of the sixty accredited dance programs approved by the National Association of Schools of Dance. In fact, there are more than 240 programs at schools around the United States that offer bachelor’s or higher degrees in dance. A college education is not mandatory for a professional dancer; however, higher education is an advantage for those wishing to teach in colleges and universities. In fact, colleges and conservatories usually require graduate degrees, but experience is sometimes an acceptable substitute.
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