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silvy

Ballet Company Of A University - What Advantages?

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Hi!

What would you consider as an advantage for a Universtity to have its own ballet company? (its dancers being professional dancers from outside, not students from within the University, and its funding being provided by the University itself). As far as I know, there are ones in some countries, but cannot see the advantages too clearly.... What would you consider them to be?

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Especially a built in audience...dance classes often have to go see performances and write a summary as part of their grade for the course; theatre classes might also have to go see a dance performance, especially classes like "movement for the actor"; universities attract the type of people who are more likely to be interested in dance than the general population so hopefully audience attendance would be higher than normal.

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In the US this is not uncommon for chamber music groups, some of whose members are faculty, but where other members are nearby residents. These groups tend to tour, if only locally or sporadically, and I'm not sure how much funding they receive from the universities.

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Universities with dance departments and performing programs are not uncommon.

Which universities, however, have arrangements similar to the one silvy describes?

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No colleges that I know of. I can definitely say no colleges in MS, USA, where I live. No ballet companies associated with colleges, period, in MS; the University of Southern MS has 2 resident student made up companies that are modern, the University of MS has a student musical theatre company (Showstoppers) and student company (not sure of name, but directed by Jennifer Mizenko) that sometimes does a satirized version of the Nutcracker called Mixed Nuts, MS State University has no dance company that I know of, and Belhaven College has a dance major but I'm not sure what type of company they have or don't have. They are in the same town as Ballet Magnificat!, which would be Jackson, MS and there is some assoication there, not sure what.

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Thank you for all your posts, and sorry for delay in responding (vacations, etc).

What I mean is rather the other way round, i.e., what would be the reasons that would encourage a University to have its own ballet company (and not the advantages for a ballet company to belong to a University). I know of a couple of examples in South America, but cannot see the ramifications too clearly.

Nevertheless, what you have answered has helped me gain a new insight into the matter, from another perspective

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silvy, this is a perfectly appropriate question to ask here, but you may get more concrete replies if you post in the Education forum on BalletTalk for Dancers. I know there are lots of past, present and future university-affiliated dancers there. :dry: There is one forum, Higher Education General Discussion, which is probably right up your alley.

In fact, the Higher Education Forum may already have some answers within those discussions!

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I've been meaning to chime in on this, but haven't had enough time till now, so at the risk of posting on the wrong site, here are a few more thoughts.

There are many schools with long-established artist-in-residence programs in visual and performing arts -- while some of those artists carry regular teaching loads (and I know of a few who are part of university administrations as well!), generally they perform more coaching or masterclass functions, organized around their art-making schedules. They are a connection to the real world for the students (and other faculty) as well as an inspiration. Their presence can help lend credibility to a school, with the assumption that school x must be a good place to study since artist y is affiliated with it. Since one of the difficulties with arts programs in college or university settings can be questions of rigor -- how "professsional" is the training -- these kind of residencies help answer those concerns.

(When I was first teaching at the University of Washington in the early 1980's Jacob Lawrence was on the art faculty -- he taught some of the drawing classes and would regularly bring his students to the dance department to sketch during class, not just working with live models, but live, moving models. It was an honor to have him there.)

In some schools, they also have a significant role as artists themselves, so that they contribute to the culture of the school and/or the community. This is particularly true of visual artists, but also of many musicians -- Helene mentioned chamber music ensembles, but singers often find a home in a school as part of their career (here in Seattle we're sorry to be losing Carol Vaness and Vinson Cole, who have both been on the University of Washington music faculty while they've been singing around the world, and are leaving for other schools. They've performed with the Seattle Opera, but have also sung in recital at the UW -- a real treat for local audiences.)

As is generally the case, dance comes out at the bottom end of the list right now -- there are significantly fewer college programs in dance than in the other arts, and they usually don't have the resources to fund resident artists (traditionally those funds have come from endowments, and endowments frequently come from alumni -- many college dance programs aren't old enough to have a large cohort of wealthy alums) There are artist-in-resident programs in some schools, but mostly they fund individuals rather than ensembles, and often look more towards choreographers than performers. What can happen is that a choreographer might be in residence in a school, and some of their ensemble might also have some kind of affiliation, with the rest of them there unofficially, taking class or using studio space to rehearse, but not actually a part of the school structure.

I believe that early in its life Ballet West was a part of the University of Utah's dance department, though I think that relationship is more tenuous now. (Indeed that school has nurtured several difference groups -- Ririe-Woodbury and Repertory Dance Theater both started at the UU, and Virginia Tanner's Children's Dance Theater operated out the school with teaching artists coming out the school as well). The performing ensembles at several schools are of a professional caliber, even if their members are not being paid, but the internal dynamics of those groups are very different than in an independent company.

As more schools create graduate programs geared to dancers who have already had a professional career (not to brag on my home town, but the University of Washington was one of the first institutions to take that step) the dancers that are "coming back to school" bring a kind of professional vibe with them, and often function much as artists-in-residence do. At the UW, their performing group (Chamber Dance Company) regularly presents some of the most interesting work in the course of the season, and gives the dance program there a higher level of visibility than it had before that program began. (they specialize in historic modern dance, which seems very appropriate to a company resident in a university)

What it seem to boil down to (no surprise to anyone in the dance world) is money -- ballet companies are expensive propositions, and most universities don't have the resources to devote to them.

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Thank you for such a thoughtful post, sandik :)

(Sad news about Cole and Vaness. I hope this doesn't mean they'll be performing less with the Opera. Cole, in particular, is one of the most underrated current singers, in my opinion.)

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I'm very sad about Vaness and Cole -- as I understand it, they're both scheduled to sing with the opera company in the future, and I don't think that relationship will change until the current artistic director steps down (he's been particularly important in Vaness' career) but I imagine the more intimate events, like recitals, won't continue.

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This thread sparked my curiosity, so I looked up Purchase College, State Universitiy of New York, which has a well-known dance program.

Like many colleges, their Conservatory of Dance (with ballet as one componenet) has its own student dance company. Rather than having a resident professional company, their site stresses (a) their 5-theater complex, the largest being a 1,372-seat house, and (b) the large number of visiting dance companies it attracts: Ailey, Taylor, MCB, NYCB, Pilobolus, Tharp, etc., as well as © proximity to the NYC dance scene.

Here's a link: http://www.purchase.edu/Departments/Admiss...tudy/dance.aspx

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