Winner, winner chicken dinner. The list is in. The TOP TEN Ballet Schools of 2015.
There is always a great debate when it comes to rankings. Rankings for anything really are always surrounded by controversy, but we love them. While the list last year reflected the number of graduates from a school in principal jobs in 30 major international companies, this year’s list reflects the power, innovation, and the teacher’s that make these schools. This year we have seen the power of the ballet student. At the ballet competition circuit this year we saw super powerhouse and future stars premier to the world, and we were blown away.
BIG NAMES & BIG SCHOOLS
Harrison Lee took top prize at the Prix , he is from Australia. Gisele Bethea made another strong international competition circuit this year. She is a student in Arizona. And while these individuals took home top prizes, home schools like School of American Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, the Vaganova School, and POB made surprising debuts for their students.
One of the plus sides of big ballet competitions, are big ballet schools. Scholarships to the most prestigious schools that have made their place in ballet history. Unfortunately though, these dancers don’t make a school. Very rarely does a student start and finish their training at one school, in the US. Sure, in Europe it is more common because there are state schools that feed into the state supported ballet companies, and opera houses. So super stars don’t make schools, and shouldn’t be a factor when deciding the best of the best. Now, when looking at a school, you have to ask yourself, if you are in the US, is it a technical school or a finishing school. For example, School of American Ballet is a finishing school… Yes, it is technical, but the majority of their upper level students are from other schools. Most small studios in the US should be focusing on technique, like learning the basics of turn out, feet, and learning how the body works… This is like CPYB. CPYB you learn all the basics, but you leave to a bigger school, or professional school to finish out your training, and coaching. So this was also taken into consideration, which eliminated off a lot of the US schools from last year.
HERE WE GO… the moment you have all been waiting for…
If this was college football, well it isn’t. Haha. This is bigger than college football, this is ballet. Like football there are TEN SCHOOLS that everyone wants to get into. The only thing bigger than the school you get into, is the company you might dance for as an end result. In comparison, these are the Ivies of the ballet world, and you do have to have top marks to get in. Who are we kidding, you have to have everything to get in…
Like the Ivy League list… there are three schools that will always compete for number one in the world. International, and probably the most historical, they are the prestigious Paris Opera Ballet School, the Vaganova School, and the Royal Ballet School. It is hard to say which one of these schools is actually the best, because they are completely different styles, and create very different dancers. Last year these schools took the top. This year, we have lumped the three into one category, as the SUPER STAR STATE SUPPORTED SCHOOLS. It really is only fair that the three of them share number one and make room for other schools offering great training, and are more realistic to get into.
- Paris Opera Ballet School, Vaganova School, the Royal Ballet School (Upper School). Historically, the three of them have always ruled ballet, and unfortunately I don’t see that changing anytime soon. But, not everyone is meant to dance there. Not everyone is a super turned out French girl, or a leggy skinny Russian girl, and very few boys are going to become the power houses that the Royal Ballet School produces. (Remember, huge headliner names at the Royal Opera are mostly imports from winning huge competitions.) You can’t argue that each of these schools have a very specific style, and produce a very specific look… Regardless if I like the company or school or not…
- THE SCHOOL OF AMERICAN BALLET, founded by George Balanchine, SAB is probably the only school in the US that can even resemble a portion of what a state school has to offer. Sure, the Balanchine aesthetic is super specific, and the dancers are very… well American, but that is what is celebrated. The school produces great artists and the faculty nurtures dancers to become artists at a young age. Something the dance world loves. School of American Ballet is the feeder school to NYCB, which is oddly unique in the US.
Her voice is a bit much, she is the corps now… So holla for a dolla…. and how did she not know who the faculty of SAB were… did she just wake up one day and was like I am going to audition for this random school in NYC? You can also watch the first season of strictly ballet about SAB life.
- THE JOHN CRANKO SCHOOL, is one of the leading ballet schools, associated with one of the most innovated companies in the world. The Cranko school is known for international power house students. A lot of students after a big win, will decide to attend the Cranko School to hone their technique but most importantly developing the artistry needed to work as a dancer. Then they either join the company or move on. Oh the Cranko school is associated with Stuttgart.
- LA ESCUELA NATIONAL DE DANZA, in Havana, Cuba. Controversy. While we left this school off the list last year, a huge heat came onto us. So, let us take a look at the school at National Ballet of Cuba… Just because it is an important moment in dance diaspora, doesn’t mean that it is a good school… Ironically, if we are talking about dance diaspora, we should really look at Russian Immigration changing the world’s perception of ballet through the various wars, and conflicts. But, that is neither here nor there, we are here to talk about schools. While major dance companies have Cubans in their companies, the Cuban school is basically intense Russian training, with a focus on turns… and men. If you look at these high ranked, high profiled ballet Cuban super stars… they are all men. After seeing National Ballet of Cuba in Los Angeles, I wasn’t impressed by their women… Creating strong technical powerhouses, the school produces more men than women. (Many of you wrote in saying I left them off the list last year because of socialism, pff. And those who said it is the most important diaspora in dance, maybe not so much, but maybe over the past 50 years… )
- THE AUSTRALIAN BALLET SCHOOL, our friends down under are definitely pushing their way to the international front. With some of the best PR campaigns I have ever seen, the Australian Ballet is a reflection of their school. With a new campaign called project assemblé, the Australian Ballet school will soon have a residence for their students. Despite popular belief the Australian Ballet School is not supported by the state, well it is partially supported by the state. You can audition for the school for placement, but beware, it the application alone is $83 USD.
- SAN FRANCISCO BALLET SCHOOL, has truly stepped up their game. With their ranks at the company being filled with some of the most promising ballet dancers of our time, all of these students at least spent two years in the school. San Francisco has always been the West Coast’s center for ballet, but even more so as this season ended. SFB is becoming much more than just a school, but it is becoming a breeding ground for exceptional talent. Rightfully so, since San Francisco Ballet School claims the nation’s oldest professional ballet school. SFB has now rightfully produced a future superstar choreographer, Myles Thatcher who makes his NYCB premier at the Fall2015 Gala. It is more likely for a dancer to go start to finish at SFB than any other school. SFB has turned into a breeding ground for ballet superstars over the past ten years and is causing many students, and competition winners to go there.
- NBS, National Ballet of Canada’s School. NBS is a healthy structured school in which students really are prepared for the real world of ballet. Additionally last year, we talked about their program that bridges the last year of school and the first few years of professional ballet life. The school itself has lost some recognition on the international circuit, as they haven’t had a huge international draw lately…. Also in Canada other schools have risen to the occasion allowing more options for Canadians to train at. Mainly speaking about GOH Academy that produced international power house Alex Wong. (They were on the list last year, but so many of you wanted to know why Royal Winnepeg, and GOH Academy were left off… Frankly put, when it comes to NBS, you just can’t compete with them.)
- THE JUILLIARD SCHOOL OF DANCE, for those students who are 18, and haven’t found a company contract, there aren’t very many places to go. The Juilliard School of Dance is one of a few exceptionally ranked programs. Another is NBS, number 7 on our list.This University offers dancers a B.F.A for 24 exceptional students. Their program is rigorous but their alumni have joined numerous companies both within the US and abroad. I really, really, really want to encourage dancers after 18, to not give up. There are places to dance, or continue your dance education without feeling like the oldest one in the room. There are various universities and programs that help continue your training and transition into professional life.
- THE SUNHWA ARTS HIGH SCHOOL, South Korea is becoming a powerhouse in producing international ballet super stars. So, is it the rice? No. The Sun Hwa Arts High School is the premier school for young people in Korea to attend. Most of these kids are trained to compete on the international level, and then they transfer schools. As mentioned in a previous post, Korean males are required to serve two years to the army, unless they finish first or second at an international competition. Their training is basically Russian training mixed with extreme stretching technique. Much like the Cubans, an integrated Russian technique refined for a specific body type. A lot of the Sun Hwa girls end up at Kirov DC, which is associated with Universal Ballet of Korea. Why are they on the list? Because it is important to recognize that a lot of Russian based schools have created a technique based off of a specific, ethnic body type. In this case it is a longer but narrow torso. So many girls at the prix finals were from SunHwa.
- Royal Danish School of Ballet This school reminds me a lot of School of American Ballet… Obviously not the same technique, they couldn’t be more different… This school though has a very specific technique, and very specific style. They produce crazy jumpers. Ironically, the company director is from NYCB. The school is small, according to their website it has roughly 60-70 students ages 6-16 and paid for the by the state.