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Boarding schools with decent dance programs?

yynnbbyynnbb 11 replies6 threads Junior Member
We are looking for boarding schools with decent dance programs- Ballet and other forms of dance as well. It is not easy to evaluate the quality of the dance programs by simply looking at a school's website. Does anyone have such knowledge as to what boarding schools provide good dance programs?
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Replies to: Boarding schools with decent dance programs?

  • stalecookiesstalecookies 112 replies6 threads Junior Member
    I think a good way to get a feel for whether the dance program meets your requirements is to communicate directly with the dance department.

    We looked at the dance programs at CSW and Concord Academy - they are both committed to offering a "decent dance program", but go about it in very different ways.

    We did not consider Walnut Hill School for the Arts because my child does not want to be an artist.

    What are you and your child's goals? Are you looking for a boarding school that happens to have a dance program, or are you looking for an arts school/conservatory that happens to have boarding students?
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  • yynnbbyynnbb 11 replies6 threads Junior Member
    edited May 29
    We are leaning toward boarding schools with decent dance programs. It is too early for my child at this age to commit to becoming an artist.... all I have found is she enjoys ballet, is passionate about challenging herself more, and is always finding ways to practice and improve even though she has been "trapped" at home. Eventually, she is asking for boarding schools with great dance programs....
    edited May 29
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  • doschicosdoschicos 26676 replies268 threads Senior Member
    St. Paul's School has the best dance program, IMO.
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  • Golfgr8Golfgr8 1630 replies24 threads Senior Member
    Please feel free to DM me on this topic. A few years ago we looked at serious dance programs at several boarding schools. My kiddo had studied dance for almost 10 years at the time. Her focus was on ballet, but also enjoyed jazz & modern. In addition, she had already choreographed dances at her old school - so was really interested in having that opportunity to choreograph.

    When it came down to the final grouping for dance the schools were (not in any order): St Paul’s School, Deerfield Academy, Emma Willard, Miss Porters, Andover. We looked at schools with dedicated programs and dance companies. We auditioned at SPS. We attended a dance preview session at MPS during the winter - had chance to dance with the girls. We had already danced with some of the students/instructor in a program at Emma over the summer.

    Do take the opportunity to speak with current dancers at each school you visit. Do try to take class with the Dance Company. We arranged for this when we signed up for school interviews/tours. We connected with both the admissions office and the dance program director.

    Here are some questions we found useful to ask each school:

    * Do you have a Dance Company?
    * What is the audition process for Company?
    * What is the focus of your Dance Company (eg more ballet)?
    * Do your dancers take class and get credit for it during the school day and also get EC for dancing after school?
    * How many hours a day do your dancers have practice?
    * What do your dancers do on weekends? Is there rehearsal - performance?
    * Does Dance Company or Dance count as an EC or sport?
    * What is the time commitment for Dance Company?
    * Can you still perform in dances without being in Dance Company?
    * Are there classes available for non-Company dancers to take?
    * What are the class offerings in dance?
    * Do you “letter” in Dance?
    * What opportunities do you have to perform both at school and outside?
    * How many performances each year?
    * What kind of additional strength, conditioning, physiotherapy available?
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  • CalliemomofgirlsCalliemomofgirls 413 replies16 threads Member
    @yynnbb As a mom of a very serious dancer as well as several others who aren't dancers at all, I've considered a LOTS of schools from both the dance and academic perspective.
    Bottom line: It would seem that you do kind of have to choose either the classic BS experience, or choose dance as a profession. Meaning if you choose classic BS experience, you are very likely removing the possibility of becoming a professional dancer. (Speaking generally; I'm sure there are exceptions.)
    That said, it sounds like your DD is leaning toward not looking to become a professional dancer. (I know you said that she is "too young" to commit to becoming a professional artist, but I might argue that 9th grade -- youngest age of most of the BS discussed here -- would be perhaps "too old" to be making that call, depending on the career desired. My DD made that decision at age 12 and she has been playing catch-up ever since to be honest. She is in 9th grade now.). (Again; there are exceptions -- I realize I am sharing very generally).

    Also, I'll caveat by saying that ultimately we decided against BS for my DD1 (dancer), but were full steam ahead for BS for my DD2 for totally different (non-dance) reasons (DD2 is more academically oriented and was looking for a whole different experience.).

    So, assuming you are looking for a place to nurture a hobby while in a boarding school environment, the most impressive recreational dance program I saw while visiting last fall might be Deerfield. Andover also had a strong dance program (but I didn't explore either very much because DA and PA would never have been a good fit for my dancer.). I'm sure other schools have solid recreational dance programs too but I just wasn't focussed on that aspect while touring in the fall. Also, I know that several of the all-girl schools have strong recreational programs, but we only explored co-ed.

    St. Paul's -- is an anomaly with their ballet program, which is run by Kate Lydon (from ABT). So I would not categorize this as a recreational program -- it's closer to pre-pro than recreational from what I saw. I actually DID meet with Kate specifically when touring for DD2 interviews as it's the only (classic BS) program that seemed like it could possibly support DD1 dreams of becoming a professional dancer. However, given the academic rigor of SPS, I did feel like it was a case of asking kids to do two really intense things that take a lot of energy and time. The dance commitment didn't worry me at all -- it was (if I recall) somewhere around 20 hours a week, which is less than most pre-pro programs for that age. But I worried that my DD1 would be so stressed trying to keep up with the academic side, and she would lose any social benefit (and that's assuming she would even be admitted of course). We did have a laugh about how well it would go over if she mentioned in her interview that she had no plans to attend college and wanted to move to NYC when she turned 18. So, for us, SPS wasn't a fit for my dancer, despite the relatively strong ballet program. But that is also because she isn't an overly academic kid so she would likely struggle with time management there. Some ballerinas/dancers are super academic, and if so, then SPS may be the perfect mix!

    Dance boarding programs are a whole different animal, and the academics come second, and are a mixed bag there. But, just in the interest of sharing info, the programs we have looked at (loosely) for DD1 are: Walnut Hill (note they merged with Boston Ballet this year so jury is still out -- could be great?), Nutmeg, UNSCA, Harid Conservatory, Kirov, Colburn, Bossov Ballet, Interlochen. (Note: definite mixed bag on the quality of dance training in this list FYI, but I'm trying to be thorough.) We've also considered out of state pre-pro programs that are NOT academic programs (so not BS at all, but usually pre-pro training + schooling -- so a whole different species altogether, but just to be thorough) -- The Rock, CPYB, Master Ballet. (There are others that are company-based, but I'm not even mentioning them here as that's perhaps too far out of scope.)

    Anyway! I hope that is helpful. (note there is a thread here on Dance, so you may want to search that term if you haven't already).

    TLDR: I think your daughter will have a number of great options if she is looking for recreational level dancing and the classic boarding school experience.
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  • busymommyof4busymommyof4 145 replies20 threads Junior Member
    My daughter dances at Mercersburg and loves the dance program and the director there. They had several girls earn scholarships last year to dance in college. My daughter is not on the track to become a professional dancer, but she loves the variety of dance she does now. She was previously doing ballet five days a week plus some additional contemporary and broadway classes pre-boarding school. The dance studios at Mercersburg are beautiful and I was very impressed with the fall dance concert!
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  • parentofnicekidparentofnicekid 49 replies3 threads Junior Member
    We went through this last cycle with my daughter who is at a pre-pro company in NYC (although will not pursue this professionally). She auditioned at SPS and we saw the Nutcracker performances at both SPS and Deerfield. SPS has the most rigorous program, although it isn't as demanding at the NYC companies (for obvious reasons). Deerfield was next, but their ballet program isn't as rigorous as SPS. Choate approached it more as a hobby. We were impressed by the teacher at St. Andrew's. He runs everything by himself and has a ton of energy and was a Principal Dancer, so he has a rigorous background. The program at SAS was definitely better than we were expecting (since the school is so small). I agree with busymommyof4 above about Mercersburg. My other kid is there and doesn't dance, but when we were touring we saw the facilities and ran into the Director. She immediately picked out that the sib was a dancer and they had a brief, very kind conversation. Choate and Mercersburg probably have the best facilities and D is second. SPS and SAS weren't as good. Make sure to go to performances and keep in touch with the directors and follow the programs on social media to get a sense of them.
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  • CalliemomofgirlsCalliemomofgirls 413 replies16 threads Member
    Thanks for sharing about SAS and MB. We considered both Mercersburg (did not visit because of Covid) and St. Andrew's (visited). Again because I was looking with DD2, we did not consider dance at all, so I am delighted to hear they have solid dance programs. These are two of the schools that "got away." Meaning, both DD2 and I just loved them, but ultimately she loved another school more. But gosh, I may be back if any of my younger girls want to go to BS in the future. They both feel special in terms of their community and culture. If I had any recreational dancers in my brood, I would definitely put these two schools at the top of my list to explore. (And, as I mentioned, they would both be at the top of my list, dancers or not.)
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  • Golfgr8Golfgr8 1630 replies24 threads Senior Member
    Just to add to the above....one of the big factors for our kiddo was the flexibility of the dance program. Kiddo loved dance but also wanted the full boarding school experience and to play a Varsity sport. So, at the end of the process, kiddo selected a school that

    A) Had a Dance Company
    B) Allowed opportunities to also participate in sports and/or other EC’s - at least one semester each year
    C) Allowed students performance opportunities even though not in Company
    D) Had student choreography experiences
    E) Provided classes and performances in different types of dance
    F) Had off-campus performance opportunities or travel opportunities
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  • Prepx3Prepx3 49 replies0 threads Junior Member
    Hello...lots of great advice above!

    My daughter danced for four years at Loomis Chaffee, and is continuing at her college as well. She did dance to complete her athletic requirement, and took classes in different styles throughout her time there and she absolutely loved her instructors at the school.

    Please feel free to PM me if you have any questions
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