What is the difference between a "professional" ballet school and a "competition" style dance school?
There are several fundamental differences between these two types of schools and it is important to know how to differentiate between them. Both schools offer valid forms of instruction but with very different short and long term goals for the student.
Competition schools are mainly focused on other dance disciplines such as jazz, hip hop, lyrical, tap etc. While they do offer ballet classes, sometimes even taught by professional ballet dancers, the curriculum is not structured to develop professional classical dancers. Much of their energy is directed towards dance and team competitions that take place both locally and nationally. The amount of time and money necessary to have a successful competition season can be off putting to some but many students find it a rewarding and fulfilling experience. Graduates from high-quality competition schools have been known to go onto professional careers as dancers in commercials and music videos, shows on Broadway and in Las Vegas, or as teachers for other competition type schools and workshops. These dancers are often also successful as cheerleaders/dance team members and are awarded dance scholarships to college.
Professional ballet schools in the US are rarely associated with the competition circuit. There are a few "ballet only" competitions that are starting to become popular with Americans, but these are mostly used as a vehicle for advanced dancers to be seen by company directors in the hopes of being offered a job with a classical ballet company. In fact, the top prizes at these competitions are usually a one year contract to dance with a major company or a scholarship to study at a world famous ballet school. Professional schools like North Ballet Academy are focused solely on educating the next generation of classical dancers and all of our efforts are directed towards this goal. The schedule must reflect enough repetition to ensure growth in each level, the instructors must all be current or former professional dancers, there must be a syllabus that is closely followed by all teachers so that instruction remains consistent from class to class and year to year. There should be performance opportunities each year as ballet is a performing art, but the main focus should be in the classroom. Students from professional schools either go on to complete their studies at world class institutions or go right into the corps de ballet of a professional company. These dancers are also often rewarded scholarships to college and those who choose not to pursue a professional career are usually extremely successful in their chosen field because of the wonderful work ethic, discipline and self-esteem studying classical ballet fosters in each student.
Understanding what kind of experience you or your child are looking for will help you decide which type of school will best meet your needs. When shopping around for a dance school, don't be afraid to ask questions about the training methods, the teachers and the overall cost/time commitment. Many
professional schools also have recreational tracks for students who do not wish to study ballet in depth and competition schools often have non-competition classes as well. The benefits to studying all
disciplines of dance are immeasurable and having a positive relationship with your dance school makes the experience even more fulfilling!