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Ballet/Good Ballet School for Gap Year


QUESTION: My name is Sophia and I am a senior in high school. I have been dancing ballet on and off for about 4 years (plus 2 summers). I recently started ballet again this summer at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, after 2 years of not dancing. I had stopped dancing 2 years ago, because I was told (at a new studio) that I am too tall to ever become a professional dancer (I am 5'11 and finished growing). At CPYB, the teachers were very nice about my height and there were many other tall dancers to help motivate me, but still whenever a teacher would ask us "who would like to be a professional dancer" I would not rase my hand because of this fear, as well as because I have lost a lot of flexibility and strength. I am currently going to a great dance school, except that there are no pointe classes easy enough for me to take, so I am not taking any pointe.

My question: I would like to take a gap year next year before college. I am applying to colleges with good dance programs, like Skidmore and Muhlenberg, Goucher, Kenyon (where my sister went), etc. I am hoping that, after getting accepted into a good college, a can take a year off. This is mostly for emotional reasons, and feeling like I need a de-stresser before I begin so that I won't get burned out academically (vs. thinking that taking a gap year will make me into a professional ballerina). I am hoping that you can give me advice about what ballet schools I should consider for this. I would just go to CPYB, except that I know that they would put me en pointe immediately. I think that I need a school where, because of my height, I can really work on my extensions and strengthening (so a school with pilates would be GREAT), as well as a school that will really help be to build on my pointe work while not risking hurting myself by going too fast too soon.

Lastly, CPYB was great because it is not at all expensive for such a great school. If I were to take a gap-year, it would really have to be at a school with similar expenses, and/or financial aid.

Thank you so much,


ANSWER: Hi Sophia. Try a search with "dance departments with beginner ballet". You get 27 million results, but look at the colleges offering beginner ballet, and those are the least likely to insist you must do pointe work if you're not ready.

In actual fact, if you audition for a dance department, and they require you to go on pointe and you're not ready, they won't accept you.

I don't understand why CPYB would put you on pointe if you're not ready. Or why any school would. Are you sure about this?

You can get some tips on strengthening your feet for pointe work at
And you'll see some flexibility exercises on that site. Perhaps you need to do some catch-up work on your feet.

I'm not an expert on which schools could be good for you - that is a huge volume of data that I doubt anyone could keep up with.

If you find a school that can train you to professional level, you don't need a college. Unless you want a degree. You must decide what is most important to you.

Ballet is a very emotionally demanding profession. If you are already stressed out, are you sure you can handle ballet? I'm not suggesting that you cannot, but this is for you to know for sure.

I probably am not sounding too helpful with this, but I wish you all the best with your decisions and endeavors.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for taking the time to answer my question,
   I'd just like to add that, it is not so much that CPYB made me go on pointe when I was not ready, as it was my ballet technique and my ability to do pointe not having been balanced. I would like to become much stronger en pointe, however, and that is why I added the criterion about a school helping me to advance en pointe. I do work with a thera-band, and know a lot about what I need to do to become stronger en pointe, it is just about practice. I guess what I meant to say is that I would like to find a school that is as nice as CPYB, but that has more options to take pilates (as I am a taller dancer) and pointe classes that focus on strengthening, as any school most likely would. If you still don't know of any schools off of the top of your head, then I can surely look one up :)

Thank you again for your time,


You're very welcome Sophia.

I am not familiar with schools in your area so I can't help anymore there.

Here's an article describing three very good foot exercises for control in pointe shoes:

All the best with your ballet!


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Dianne M. Buxton


I can answer questions about ballet positions, ballet movements and ballet technique, pointe shoes and pre pointe exercise, mens training, ballet diet, general health issues related to dance, artistry, performance, modern dance, rehabilitation from injuries, and teaching ballet. I have taught ballet, choreographed, produced and directed dance companies. For any answers related to health questions I will offer my experience, and give references to information, but I also automatically include "see a professional".


dancer, ballet and modern, choreographer, dance teacher, artistic director, ballet mistress, producer

I.S.T.D. Actra, Actors Equity


Graduate of the National Ballet School of Canada where I studied Cecchetti, Bournonville, Vaganova and Graham technique. Taught at the National Ballet School of Canada, York University, George Brown College and Harvard University.

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