Lesser known schools for dance?

Hello, does anyone know of any schools (East Coast) that could be good for someone (a boy) who is intermediate level ballet and interested in continuing ballet pretty seriously? I would like to dance about 15 hours per week, but I also want a quality education.

I know about St. Paul’s, Walnut Hill and Interlochen. I know that Choate has an arts focus you can choose, but none of the projects on the website were of dance. Many schools say they have dance, but then it turns out it’s low-level or beginner, or is non-traditional dance.

Even a school that allows kids to dance at a nearby studio during the week would be great to hear about.

Thank you!

Deerfield has a very strong dance program - a Dance Company and other opportunities for dance.

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Thanks, when I looked into Deerfield I got the impression it was more focused on theater dance than classical dance. I will look into it again because the school overall looks like a good fit.

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My kiddo looked at schools for dance - classically trained, but also into jazz & modern.

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Here are 2 to consider
Not East coast but Butler in Indianapolis

FSU Florida State University

Sorry, I should have specified boarding school for high school!

I know Mercersburg and Loomis have good dance programs, although I am not sure if they are good for boys.

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Have you looked at Concord Academy?

Thanks, looks like they have some dance opportunities! Trying to find a video somewhere of their dance company.

When kiddo applied to SPS and did an audition (not sure if they are still doing this), there was a gifted male dancer taking class at the same time. I believe he went to the Boston Ballet. Overall, I think SPS had the best Dance Company at the time…most serious and biggest time commitment. This is where things get tricky. Do you ONLY want to do dance as your EC? If you want more flexibility - the chance to do a sport or theatre, maybe another activity? Do your homework and actually talk with the dance director about the program!

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Unfortunately, in-person auditions seem to not be happening this year many places, along with even being able to tour campuses. It’s hard to get a sense of a school without getting a chance to be there. “Virtual tours” just aren’t the same.

SPS does have a good reputation for dance company, but with such low acceptance rates at many schools I’d rather not restrict myself.

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A few years ago, my kiddo also submitted a highlight video of dance performance clips that proved versatility, as well as training. I know it may seem over-the-top, but it helped. Got accepted to every school with dance :star_struck:


You might check out Mercersburg. My ballerina daughter is about to start there so we don’t have actual experience yet but she is excited about it. Definitely not ballet only but it looks like a substantial amount. Can dance all 3 seasons and looks to be about 2 hours per day. I think there have been a few grads that have gone on to some kind of dance career.

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Paging @Calliemomofgirls

Let me know how it goes there! Good luck to your daughter!

Thanks for the page @DroidsLookingFor.
@dancingboy26 – I think you have been given some good advice here!
A few thoughts to add:

SPS – would be my personal first choice if you want intense academics + very high quality ballet (not quite a true pre-pro, but in that ballpark). You might well go from intermediate to advanced if you go to SPS. (low admit rate though).

Walnut Hill – A little over a year ago, Boston Ballet took over the Walnut Hill dance program, making it a true pre-pro. An intermediate dance would not likely be admitted. (Caveat: maybe for a talented male dancer with potential it would be a possibility? I know several advanced female dancers who did not.). Academics would be much less intense than at SPS.

Interlochen – I have heard mixed reviews on the dance program, but also some really good things. (perhaps less raving reviews on the ballet front, but again – very anecdotal). But, if you aren’t planning on making ballet your career, does it really matter if the school isn’t giving you the training to go pro? I think it would be really cool to go to an Arts Boarding school like interlocken where you interface with artists of all sorts.

UNCSA – University of North Carolina School of the Arts has 2 dance programs at the HS level – a ballet and a contemporary program. Very well regarded, and I’ve know many dancers who have loved it there. (Bonus: it is very affordable!). Not sure if it’s “too serious” for your goals? But it’s definitely a great option.

Deerfield – we thought the dance program at Deerfield looked like a really solid program – probably the best “non-pro” dance program we saw when we toured a couple of years ago. (Note: I was touring with a different daughter, NOT my dancer, so I asked casually about the dance program but didn’t dig super deep.). Intense academics and low admit rates. But I think if Deerfield is a school you love, you could definitely keep up your dance in a variety of ways. (As @Golfgr8 has described. @AnonMomof2 also has a dancer there.)

Andover – another low-admit high intensity school with a solid dance program. I’ve seen a number of excellent dancers go through Andover! (again, it was a different daughter who visited Andover, so didn’t dig deep.). (I have too many kids. Correct.)

Mercersburg –
I have 2 daughters at Mercersburg and never visited before becoming a family (covid times and other logistics), so I have not yet seen the dance facilities or explored the dance faculty or program. However, it is supposed to be fantastic, and if it’s half as exciting as what I’ve seen on the theatre/performing arts front, well I believe it. Also, there is so much about Mercersburg that I love that there is no question that I would put it high on my list of schools to check out if I had a dancer looking for a boarding school.

Oh Loomis! We did tour 2 years ago but I don’t know that I remember details about their dance program. It supposed to be good. So worth checking out too! Academics probably a notch less stressful than Andover/Deerfield.

Choate – I know nothing. We did tour 2 years ago, but I have no info on the dance program.

Hope that helps a tiny bit?

ps. I just realized you said you wanted “lesser known” schools for dance. Of course, most of what I mentioned would not be lesser known. Maybe Mercersburg would be.

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All great suggestions. We personally know dancers who have been to SPS, Interlochen and Mercersburg, also UNCSA HS (who did not like it, left for SAB and is now a professional). And one starting at UNCSA for college. My kiddo hasn’t started yet at Deerfield but will be in the advanced ensemble. She is coming from a large pre-pro school affiliated with a strong regional company, so expects the ballet to not be at that caliber. However, she is not looking to dance professionally and is excited to do other genres. The kid we know who went to Interlochen loved it and is starting college as a dance major. Their ballet performances online look Amazing. We haven’t spoken to the others about their experiences( except the one who is now a pro dancer). I believe Interlochen and Mercersburg are a bit easier to get into (provided at Interlochen your dance audition is good.)

Masters has a very strong dance program, offering multiple levels of classes as well as the co-curricular Dance Company. The director of the dance program is classically trained. I believe they bring in additional choreographers from New York for other styles.

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Thank you for all the suggestions, I have looked into everything suggested!

My current thoughts are that Interlochen is great, but does not give full financial aid, even with merit scholarships (85% of need max). I know others who have applied and the acceptance rate is high, but affordability is low. Academics are also second quality to arts programming.

SPS seems like a great dance program, but long story short my mom read Chessy Prout’s book. I will be lucky if she let’s me go anywhere after that. If it truly is a “bro” culture, that’s not for me and I don’t like the idea of mixed grade housing. I just want to dance and have interesting classes.

Deerfield speaks to me (and my mom) as far as culture and safety, but I’m not sure if dance would be at the level I wish to have for ballet. Professional dancing may still be in my future, it’s too early to tell. I can always do summer programs, but need to maintain and keep learning throughout the year.

Andover - probably too much homework, I don’t want a pressure-cooker/hyper-competitive environment. Also, not much info available on their dance program.

I am coming from a pre-pro school, so some of the schools suggested don’t show performances at the level I am looking for. I want to at least maintain and also have partnering. Even though I am not “advanced”, most boys are not advanced in middle school. The advanced choreography in men’s repertoire requires near adult height and musculature. Girls develop much more quickly, so there is a gender lag in what is safe to attempt.

Academically, I want good, thought-provoking and engaging coursework but not 4 hours of homework a night. Are SPS and Deerfield at the level of PEA or Andover in that regard? Dance in physically demanding and I don’t want to burn out.

We will need financial aid, so traveling and visiting lots of schools is not in the cards.

Thanks for all the responses!

I will have a better idea of how Deerfield’s ballet classes are in a few weeks. But, they do have private ballet lessons you can sign up for by term, and the extra cost of that is pro-rated by your percent of financial aid. I do believe they have ballet every day (as long as you do it as your co-curricular as well as an academic period). There is no possible way it will be equal in caliber to the former Principal dancers (from big name companies) who taught my daughter at her pre-pro. But hopefully there will be solid technique.

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