Summer Programs pt 6

Gallery: National Ballet School Audition Tour*


I have never seen so many students so stressed out about summer program auditions. It seems that the pressure to make it into a big ten summer program is higher than ever. It seems that 2016 is the year of the Summer Program, and a lot of students aren’t just set on School of American Ballet. It seems that the pressure is high for SAB, SFB, PNB, BB, and HBA. With these summer program auditions jammed packed, we realize how big of a “money maker” just the auditions are. SAB in the younger category had over 130 girls in OC, and even more in the older group. Rounding the number at 300, and each girl paying an average of $34 between pre-registration and pay at the door, SAB made roughly $10,200 at just the OC audition. Multiply that by 19 audition cities you are looking at $193,800. Now you have to take out travel expenses, studio rentals, and pay checks for the faculty conducting the auditions, but that is till quite a lot. Then once you get in, it costs roughly $5,825 to go to SAB. Of that, roughly $3,000 goes to the School of American Ballet itself. So, $559,000 goes to SAB based off 200 students. Now give and take scholarships, SAB is still making quite a bit of money. Now, SAB during the summer course doesn’t have studio rental fees, and just has faculty fees, and misc expenses. It is no secret that a lot f ballet companies and schools are helped by the stat. Most of them receiving their “rent” or “home location” as a donation or a part of a grant to help further the arts and education within the arts. So, you can roughly assume that even if half of the money made goes to faculty and staff (which is being really generous), SAB is still making about $400k on Summer Course. This money, I would hope and assume go towards year-round scholarships but who knows? Now, with this being out in the open, this will help you decide where to go for the summer.

When you are ages 12-14, scholarships might be few and far between, with the exception of exceptional talent and potential. Once you are 15+, scholarships are more common, as these are the students who will feed the year round program and eventually the company and school.

Here is what I recommend to my students: GO WHERE THEY REALLY WANT YOU!

If a school really wants you, they give you the most help. You have to really understand the concept of a summer program to understand what the best option is for you. Many of you parents have emailed me asking, “What is the best for your child, or where should my child attend his summer?” For those of you have received your acceptance letters, if you got into SAB, 9/10 chances are you should go to SAB, especially for those of you who are 12-14. If you need to focus on either jumps or turns, and you are 14-16, go to the Rock. If you are 16+ go to a school with a company that is offering you a full ride. If you didn’t get a full ride to a school, know that you are going  to have to work really hard at the summer course to prove that you deserve a spot year round, or can afford it.

Lastly, make sure you know what you are getting yourself into. Besides going away to become the best dancer you can be, once you are fifteen, the primary goal of a summer a program is for you to 1. get a scholarship to go away and 2. to be asked to stay year round so that you might eventually get into the trainee program that feeds the apprentice program that feeds the company. Basically a job.

Now that you have been accepted, you can focus on what to do once you are there.


*Candace Elliott, (

Intro to Summer Programs

The Guide to Summer Programs:

While Christmas is finally here, and Nutcracker is finally over… We now look at the bigger picture, and the next part of the season: SUMMER PROGRAMS!! With auditions literally starting next week, the stress is on. SO, here are some of the truths about summer programs:

  1. Summer programs are not a vacation.  While it might be fun to travel all over the US, the reality is that summer programs are designed for three purposes.
    1. The first is to get the maximum amount of training in while you aren’t in school. So, if you are looking at summer programs as a chance to catch up on technique, then audition away. Dancers drastically change at summer programs for the good and the bad.
    2. The second reason ballet companies host summer programs is to look at the work ethic of potential year round students. For those who are killing themselves dreaming of San Francisco Ballet, your best bet is to go there for the summer. Hopefully, you are around 14-16 with awesome technique. This way you can get asked to stay for the year, and hopefully make it into their trainee program.
    3. Finally, the third reasons companies host summer programs is because it is a huge money maker. If you don’t know the costs of a summer program, check out this post. Summer programs are a way to overflow a school, and make money. It isn’t a hidden fact that ballet companies aren’t doing well, so Summer Programs are a way to generate income to the school/company during the off season (January) and then again in the Summer months.
  1. Names don’t mean anything. While many prestigious schools boast awesome summer programs, it doesn’t mean it is the best training for you. You have to find the school that is right for you, and where you are at in your training. For example, you should not audition for SAB until you are completely sure you are as strong as you can be, technically. SAB is a finishing school, not a training school. If you are behind on your technique, CPYB is the best place to go and get your butt whooped for a month. If you are looking to broaden your horizons in ballet, LINES would be a great add to your resume. And for those of you who are looking for individual attention, go to a smaller program like Ballet West or Atlanta Ballet’s Summer Programs. If you are looking to work on turns, go to the Rock School for Education, and if you are looking to jump go to PNB.
  2. Have back up plans. Like any child applying for colleges, you have to have a plan. Everyone has their dream programs, but then pick others that you know you are going to get into, schools you might get a scholarship to, and schools that are affordable. Have options, because a lot of kids will hit two summer programs in a summer.
  3. How do you know you are ready for a summer program? You have to be mentally prepared because at a summer program the competition in the classroom is stiff. Everyone there is pushing for a year round spot and scholarship for the year. You will be hundreds or thousands of miles away from home, living in dorms, with a hundred other ballet dancers. While you make lifelong friendships, the reality is, they are also your competition. It is easy to become friends, but it is easier to become jealous and get inside your own head, sabotaging your chances of staying for the year. If you are at a smaller school, and you are the best one at your studio, this would be a great growing opportunity.
  4. Finally, use summer programs to see if this is what you really want to do with your life. Summer programs are a great stepping stone to see whether or not you want to pursue ballet professionally. While it is rare for a dancer not to go to a summer program, a summer program is usually required as a bridge between professional schooling and a home studio. Another small step towards dancing Odette in Swan Lake.

You can go to any company’s website or school website to see if they are doing a national tour. The dates are already published. Audition fees will apply. If you don’t have the money, you can call the school registrar and possibly have the fee waived.