It is an Olympic year, and like all major competitions, there are favorites going in. Favorites that are based on long-standing wins, countries that have dominated certain sports, and underdogs that have risen to the make the Olympic team… But these are not the Olympics… This is ballet.
Ready, set, go… Like any race or any competition, there is anticipation, adrenaline, and favorites. It is the mindset of the competitive human nature, survival of the fittest, or whatever you want to call it that causes ballet to evolve. No one will ever admit it, but it is true… Every school, every ballet company, everyone in ballet is always trying to show one up. Without this unspoken competition, ballet would not evolve… It even happens in the classroom, one person does 3 pirouettes, and another will attempt 4 to get approval, to get a nod, or get a correction… “Anything you can do, I can do better…” It is that mindset that ferociously drives ballet competitions, and how a dancer performs in the classroom. Most dancers claim to only compete with themselves, but that is a lie… They are also competing against the hundreds of other ballet dancers out there, hoping to get a job, or a spot at a top school… It is just like applying for colleges.
Every June, shortly after all of the schools have their year end performances, and after major companies announced their new rosters, I sit with a large cup of coffee and write. Before I go into the lists, which if you are that anxious for you can scroll down and skip this. There has to be some clarification about these lists… They are solely based on my opinions and statistics that I gather. And, yes I am extremely biased, but I am extremely honest… But there is something greater than just ballet schools and the alumni they produce… This year and the next few will prove, that the power of the ballet competition is becoming a stronger power player, now more than ever. Additionally, the power of social media is influencing the tides of the ballet world and you must wonder, how this is going to affect ballet as a whole. In fact, it has already started…
But this year was a spectacular year in the world of Ballet Schools and Ballet Competitions… and as a result the list it has shifted the list from last year…
1. Royal Ballet, London, ENGLAND (ballet school/ finishing school)… This year Royal Ballet’s graduating class kicked ass… No one could touch their graduating class, even if they combined with ABTII, Royal Ballet’s graduating class was close to flawless. With their students joining top companies around the world, I believe every one of their graduates landed a decent contract… Not to mention one of their students won the YAGP. But this is no surprise as Royal Ballet Upper School is filled with competition winners, their upper levels are always made up of international competitors. This school, even though the lower school is amazing, the reality is, that the upper school is a finishing school for exceptional technicians. (click here for the school) (Last year’s graduating class contracts…)
2. Vaganova Ballet Academy, Saint Petersburg, RUSSIA (ballet school/finishing school) has had a bangin’ year for their graduates. Their lower classes have a stunning group which is actually kind of diverse in ethnicity… More now compared to before. Social media superstars attending the academy from Japan, Italy, the US and more… This is probably credited to their principal/director Nikolai Tsiskaridze and his recruiting and social media exposure of the technique. (Website, but kind of sparse)
3. Escuela Nacional de ballet de Cuba, Havana, CUBA(ballet school/finishing school): This school has always been known for making powerhouse dancers, especially men. And for some reason their men are some of the best turners in the world. It is insane. (website)
4. John Cranko School, Stuttgart, GERMANY (ballet school/ finishing school) Pretty much hardcore Vaganova ballet training except it is supplemented with amazing modern and contemporary technique… Making it one of the best schools in the world, and a reason why prize winners from competitions choose that school. (website)
5. Bolshoi Ballet Academy, Moscow, RUSSIA (ballet school/ finishing school)- It is motherland Russia… do I have to say more? Bolshoi Ballet Academy is actually the Moscow State Academy of Choreography and is the affiliate school of Bolshoi. They are also partnered with the US to host summer programs here, and is affiliated with other schools around the world, including Brasil. (US Website)
6. Small schools all over Japan (ballet School) These schools are killing it at competitions and making a mark in the Asian market of ballet training.
7. Houston Ballet Academy, Houston, Texas USA (finishing school): Houston Ballet Academy has grown over the past two years… I mean they have always been known to recruit incredible leapers and turners… but over the past two years Houston Ballet has been cranking out American dancers left and right with impeccable Americanized Russian technique… Truthfully, again I have never been to the school, or observed the full school… but it is on my list of things to do this year. Houston Ballet seems to be the only American school at the moment who is infiltrating the European market and European Competitions. (website)
8. Ellison Ballet School, NYC, New York, USA (ballet school) is definitely making waves in the ballet world, and they are producing a ridiculous sum of professional and pre-professional dancers. It seems everyone wants to go to this school now, and has definitely come a long way since my post two years ago. It is turning into one of the top schools in NYC and in the world. (website)
9. School of American Ballet, NYC, New York, USA (finishing school): Despite everyone always being so upset that SAB is always placed extremely high on the list… This year, wasn’t that impressive… But I will defend that their technique may not be classical ballet, but it is ballet and curriculum creates musical, precise and interesting dancers. (website)
10. Scuola di Ballo del Teatro alla Scala, Milan, ITALY (ballet school): Argued as the second oldest ballet school in the world, the students from La Scala are much like the students of POB. They only want to dance for their home country, but this year’s graduates seem to be spreading their wings and heading all over.(website)
Other schools that were considered:
National Ballet School, Canada
Australian Ballet School, Australia
Royal Danish School, Denmark
Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, USA
Ballet Academy East, USA
Sunhwa Arts Academy, South Korea
Real Conservatorio Profesional de Danza Mariemma, Spain
JKO School, USA
The Rock School,USA
Vienna State Opera Ballet School, Vienna
Paris Opera Ballet School, France
San Francisco Ballet School, USA
Princess Grace of Monaco Academy, Monte Carlo
Master Ballet Academy, Arizona, USA
And finally, here is the list of the TOP TEN schools in the US for 2016. (In no particular order)
- School of American Ballet (SAB)
- Houston Ballet Academy (HBA)
- San Francisco Ballet School (SFB)
- Ellison Ballet School*
- Boston Ballet School (BB)
- Pacific Northwest Ballet School (PNB)
- Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet*(CPYB)
- Master Ballet Academy*
- Jacquelyn Kennedy Onassis School (JKO)
- Ballet Academy East* (BAE)
*not affiliated with a major company
Now, by nature, and by history the following schools have regarded as the best schools in the world. They are the big hitters, those who have contributed to ballet history, and those who have contributed the greatest ballet stars. And for those who wondered what these schools are they are, in no particular order:
TOP 10 BALLET SCHOOLS IN THE WORLD BY HISTORY
- Paris Opera Ballet School
- Royal Ballet School
- Vaganova Ballet Academy
- Bolshoi Ballet Academy
- John Cranko School
- The School at National Ballet of Cuba
- School of American Ballet
- Scoula di Ballo del Teatro la Scala
- The School at Royal Danish Ballet
- National Ballet School, Canada
This Summer I will be teaching at Ballet Phoenix! For more information click here.
23 responses to “THE TOP TEN BALLET SCHOOLS (2016)”
CPYB is on the list…then you put it on the other schools considered list. Confused.
CPYB is not on this year’s list
Ah…David, it’s number 7.
But it is not on the list of top ten schools… It’s on the list of US schools
i proper do not care about ballet omg it is the least interesting of all dance forms
Ballet is the foundation of all dance types, so if you care about dance, you care about ballet because everydance style will always revert back to ballet.
Wow. Read some dance history. Ballet is an ethnic dance like every other dance form.
Glad to see Houston on the list! They are turning out some amazing dancers these days.
If you’re ever in Houston, I’d be happy to show you around the building! I’ll be interning here until the end of days lol.
Hi ! Could you explain why you didn’t choose the paris opera ballet school ?
Also how do you manage to follow every school and how do you get to see the students perform ?
Because I did not like this year’s graduating class…
I follow most major schools, and via their live broadcasts of their performances, lectures, and social media… Most of these students around the world post their classes on social media now, so it is very easy to see the different graduating classes. Additionally, I look where the graduates are moving on to dance. The problem with POB students is that if they don’t get into paris opera, most of them don’t continue to dance- it is like a lot of girls from SAB who decide if they don’t get into NYCB they don’t want to dance.
Are you following GKA? They’re training is so unique. I know it’s still a baby school so hard to judge because of lack of graduates.
yes I am. A former student of mine actually went there for a year of training last year- but unfortunately the size of the graduating class matters as well… Royal Ballet’s Graduating class is about 20 students, and all of them secured contracts. So, I really look at a a 100% success rate… And yes I know that these schools recruiting from the YAGP and other competitions to fill their ranks, but that’s a part of ballet life, whether we like it or not.
Ellison Ballet is an incredible school! I was truly impressed by their end of the year show.The caliber of training and of the students is very high, and they have had a remarkable success rate at both YAGP and with placing their graduates in companies all over the world.
If you had to choose between The National Ballet School of Canada, The Royal Winnipeg Ballet School and MasterBallet Academy. What would your order be and why?? Your input would be beyond help ful right now.
Thanks so much
For training…. Master ballet academy but they are less connected than the other two- so overall…. National, master ballet, Royal Winnipeg
Do you believe that the schools that are NOT associated with a major company at some point have some drawbacks, especially for advanced (i.e. aged 16-18 year old students?) And what would you list as the top ten programs for MEN?
Schools without companies are a huge drawback for students 16-18 because there is no where for them to feed into. The Top Ten Men’s Programs… I will list tonight.
I think when you look at what makes a successful school, it cannot be about winners of competitions as many national schools dont do them. It has to be about employment rate of all graduates within one year of graduation. It makes no difference if they have 3 star pupils who are winning a great deal. What matters is the employability of every graduate in the class. For example RBS has 100% at the moment. Australian BS has 96%. New Zealand BS has 75%. You cannot go past the success rate of the schools graduates getting into major ballet companies – its the only prize that matters. All good ballet schools will have this information on public record.
I agree with you-
What are your thoughts on Harid Conservatory?
Out of interest would you pick the school at SAB or JKO for young dancers to grow with?
Either … depends on the career they want