Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet Academy

Here's What Every Ballet Student Should Look for in Their Training Program

When you're looking for a ballet program to take you to the next level, there are a lot of factors to consider. While it's tempting to look for the biggest name that will accept you, the savvy dancer knows that successful training has more to do with the attention and opportunities you'll get.

We put together a few of the most important things for dancers to look for in a summer or year-round training program, with the help of the experts at Colorado Ballet Academy:


A clear path to job opportunities.

Like most programs, the summer intensive at Colorado Ballet Academy is the threshold to becoming part of the year-round school. (In fact, Academy director Erica Fischbach says that some past summer intensive dancers have been hired directly into the studio company.) But what makes CBA stand out are the clear stepping stones toward a company contract that include benefits like pointe shoes and an hourly wage, rather than a bill.

According to Fischbach, Colorado Ballet artistic director Gil Boggs chooses two to three trainees every year who receive large scholarships and a shoe allowance. Trainees understudy company roles in addition to their pre-professional training schedule and often end up performing in company productions. "It is a true trainee opportunity," says Fischbach, "because you are not paying to be here, and you get experience with the company."

Approximately six pre-professional students are accepted into Colorado Ballet's Studio Company each year, which is a paid position, says Fischbach. The Studio Company gets to dance with the main company extensively during the season as well as take on soloist and principal roles in their own performance series throughout the region.

Three teen boys in black tights and white shirts jump in front of large windows in a studio. They have one leg in passe, one arm in fifth position and the other hand on their hips

Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet Academy

Training that nurtures the whole dancer.

If you're moving away from home to train, look for schools that have opportunities to prepare your mind as well as your body. At CBA, pre-professional students have a weekly life skills class that includes talks on wellness and nutrition, injury prevention with Colorado Ballet company physical therapists, and a wide range of other offerings.

"We have a series called theatrical careers where someone from every department in Colorado Ballet comes to talk about their job and what led them there," says Fischbach. "As a dancer I had no idea how many people were working to make my career possible, so it's my goal to open our students' eyes to the people working around them and the opportunities in those careers."

Other sessions teach students how to write compelling bios, resumes and cover letters, or give costume-making tutorials, so students have the skills to handle a costume disaster on their own if they need to. The program also provides students with access to sessions with a mental health professional, and the company's onsite physical therapists and massage therapists at reduced costs.

Stage time.

At CBA, the amount of performance opportunities mimics company life in order to fully prepare students for a career in dance. They have two big shows: A "Fall Feature" and an end-of-school-year production at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House where the professional company performs. But it's more than a run-of-the-mill recital: Fischbach and Academy faculty adapt a full-length classical ballet. "It gives the students the opportunity to work on classical technique and artistry and to be a part of of a multidimensional production," says Fischbach. "They aren't just performing excerpts; they are contributing to the larger story."

The pre-professional levels also have a "Saturday Soiree" performance every five weeks in Colorado Ballet's black box theater. "Sometimes the choreographers are company members, ballet mistresses or local choreographers from outside of the ballet, so they get a nice range of experiences," says Fischbach. The series also includes a final performance of a student choreographic workshop where pre-pro students cast and choreograph new works on each other.

An appealing location.

Look for a place that will inspire you in and out of the studio. Every year, Fischbach takes the pre-professional dancers on a hike to kick off the school year. "I want them to start off knowing what is out there and how lucky we are to be in this beautiful place," she says. Denver is known for its breathtaking mountains and natural spaces, but also boasts a dynamic food scene, professional sports teams, and one of the most famous music venues in the world—Red Rocks Amphitheater. Summer intensive students get to take it all in during weekend trips.

Three teen girls in purple leotards and white practice tutus are in passe en pointe. They lean slightly away from their working leg, reaching towards the floor with one arm with the other arm up.

Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet Academy

Unique experiences.

The summer intensive chaperones at Colorado Ballet Academy aren't your average RAs. The academy employs Colorado Ballet company dancers to come up with weekend activities, get students to and from the studios on the light rail, and deliver lunch catered by local restaurants. The result is that CBA summer students spend time with professional dancers to cultivate mentors, ask questions about the trials and excitements of a pro dance career, and get advice.

Star power.

The Academy's summer intensive is directed by American Ballet Theatre luminaries Amanda McKerrow and John Gardner. "Their personalities are so generous and inclusive," says Fischbach. "They are directly involved with every single dancer. They know everyone's name and training history, and at the end of each day, they see all the students off to their dorms with high-fives."

Students also benefit from learning repertoire directly from the dancers who performed it—and from the individualized attention that the faculty members provide. "They have a gift for inspiring every dancer to unlock artistry they didn't know they had," says Fischbach. "Every student feels like they are an important part of the intensive. They leave with an immense sense of accomplishment and confidence."

Latest Posts


Jayme Thornton

Roman Mejia Is Carving His Own Path at New York City Ballet

In a brightly lit studio high above the busy Manhattan streets, Roman Mejia rehearses George Balanchine's Allegro Brillante. Though just 20, the New York City Ballet corps dancer exudes an easy confidence. Practicing a tricky sequence of triple pirouettes into double tours his breathing becomes labored, but his focus doesn't waver. He works until he finds the music's inherent rhythm, timing his turns evenly and finally landing them with a satisfied smile.

Since joining NYCB in 2017, Mejia has had the chance to take on ballets ranging from Romeo + Juliet to Fancy Free to Kyle Abraham's hip-hop–infused The Runaway. Though he often finds himself the youngest person in the room, Mejia is rarely intimidated. He's been immersed in ballet since birth. His father, Paul Mejia, danced with NYCB in the 1960s, and his mother, Maria Terezia Balogh, danced for Chicago City Ballet and Fort Worth-Dallas Ballet. Both of Mejia's parents and his grandmother attended the School of American Ballet. Now, Mejia is quickly building on his family's legacy, creating buzz with his shot-from-a-cannon energy, rapid-fire footwork and charismatic charm.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

A Letter from the Editor in Chief

Hi Everyone,

These are challenging times. The social distancing measures brought about by COVID-19 has likely meant that your regular ballet training has been interrupted, while your performances, competitions—even auditions—have been cancelled. You may be feeling anxious about what the future holds, not only for you but for the dance industry. And that's perfectly understandable.

As you adjust to taking virtual ballet class from your living rooms, we here at Pointe are adjusting to working remotely from our living rooms. We've had to get a little creative, especially as we put our Summer Issue together, but like you we're taking full advantage of modern technology. Sure, it's a little inconvenient sometimes, but we're finding our groove.

And we know that you will, too. We've been utterly inspired by how the dance community has rallied together, from ballet stars giving online classes to companies streaming their performances to the flood of artist resources popping up. We've loved watching you dance from your kitchens. And we want to help keep this spirit alive. That's why Pointe and all of our Dance Media sister publications are working nonstop to produce and cross-post stories to help you navigate this crisis. We're all in this together.

We also want to hear from you! Send us a message on social media, or email me directly at abrandt@dancemedia.com. Tell us how you're doing, send us your ideas and show us your dance moves. Let the collective love we share for our beloved art form spark the light at the end of the tunnel—we will come out the other side soon enough.

Best wishes,

Amy

Bethany Kirby, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet

Ballet Company Costume Departments Jump Into Action, Sewing Masks for Coronavirus Aid

The novel coronavirus pandemic has forced ballet companies worldwide to cancel or postpone their seasons. But it's not just dancers and artistic staff that have found their work at a standstill. Costume departments, a vital component in bringing performances to life, have also hit pause. However, costume shops around the country, including Tulsa Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet and Miami City Ballet, have figured out a creative way to utilize their resources to give back to their communities during this challenging time. We touched base with Tulsa's team to find out what their experience has been like.

Keep reading SHOW LESS