Joffrey Ballet School

What is a Pre-Professional Dancer?

As dancers progress past the intermediate and advanced levels, the question of “what’s next?” begins to rear its head. For those thinking of a career in dance, becoming a pre-professional dancer and entering a pre-professional training program is often the answer.

But what is a pre-professional dancer? What sets pre-professional dancers apart from the others? And how do you know if you’re ready to train at the pre-professional level? We cover these topics and more in today’s blog post.

What is a Pre-Professional Dancer?

A pre-professional dancer is, quite simply, a dancer who is training full time to become a professional dancer. At Joffrey, we also call them our full time trainees.

Dance is a unique career that thrusts young dancers into professional opportunities at a much younger age than most other professions. Unlike other career paths, a career in dance isn’t dependent on receiving a diploma or college degree. It does depend, however, on having the right mix of talent, connections and training to prepare for a successful career in dance. 

You supply the talent; pre-professional dance training programs supply the connections and training.

Pre-professional dance training is essentially vocational or career training. Trainees audition and are selected by a school that provides pre-professional training to prepare students for dance careers. This training is generally offered through conservatories or schools affiliated with dance companies, or through an independent school of dance such as Joffrey Ballet School. 

Am I Ready for a Pre-Professional Training Program?

Generally speaking, pre-professional dancers have already been training in some form of dance for several years and have passed through the beginner through advanced levels at their current dance school or studio. They may have performance experience through their current school or a local dance company, or they may be experienced competition dancers who’ve had success individually or as part of a team.

Once dancers reach this level, they may be nearing the end of their learning opportunities with their current dance instructors or coaches. In order to continue progressing, they need to look beyond their local studio or school for continued instruction. It is at this point that dancers will begin to consider their pre-professional training options.

Some signs that you might be ready for a pre-professional training program:

  • You’re currently dancing at a high intermediate or advanced level.
  • You’re between the ages of 12 and 20.
  • You have a passion for dance – you live, eat and breathe it (or wish that you could).
  • You’re tough – auditions and long days in the studio not only don’t scare you…you secretly love them because you know they make you a better dancer.
  • You’re talented. Maybe your dance instructor is telling you to think about going pre-professional, or maybe you’ve won your share of dance competitions and are ready for a new challenge. Either way, you’re talented and you know it.

Questions to Ask About Pre-Professional Dance Training

Of course, just because you have the training and talent to go pre-professional doesn’t mean that it’s the right path for you, or that any school will do. Some questions to ask include:

  • What about high school? Unlike college and other paths that require you to complete your high school diploma, a pre-professional dancer can begin studying dance full time even before completing high school. However, you’ll still need to be enrolled in a degree program to earn a diploma or completion certificate. At Joffrey, our pre-professional dance training program allows you to gain your high school completion certificate. Depending on your age and grade level when you join us, you can even work toward your completion certificate and your BFA while studying dance full time.
  • What about college? If you’re a high school graduate (or soon to be one) you should consider whether college might be a better fit. If you have other career aspirations besides dance such as teaching, business or management, or if your goal is to work in the dance field but not necessarily to dance professionally, you should carefully weigh whether college, a conservatory or a pre-professional program like Joffrey that allows you to earn your BFA might be a better route to your goals. 
  • Where will I live? Most pre-professional dance programs are hosted in schools or companies in large cities like New York. Housing in these cities is quite expensive so you will need to consider what living arrangements will be available to you. Some schools, like Joffrey, have their own dorms where dance trainees can live. Others may have hosting arrangements with local families. Some programs may require dancers to rent or share an apartment – this is by far the most expensive option.
  • How will I decide on a school? Each school and company that offers pre-professional training has its own unique area of focus and its own feel. Some are focused solely on ballet, others on contemporary or modern dance forms. Some, like Joffrey, offer both. Some programs are more formal, some are highly competitive, while others feel like family (we like to think Joffrey falls into the latter category). A great way to determine which school is right for you is to attend a summer dance intensive. 
  • How will I pay? Like a private high school or college, the expenses related to pre-professional dance training can be high. Tuition itself can be expensive; when you factor in room and board in cities like New York the cost is even higher. To offset this, some schools offer tuition assistance and scholarships.

What if I’m Not Sure?

If you want to dance professionally some day, but you’re not sure you’re ready to go pre-professional just yet, don’t worry. There are low risk ways to explore pre-professional dance training and find out if it’s the right path for you. One way is to participate in a summer dance intensive with a top school like Joffrey Ballet School. In fact, summer intensives are how many of our current and past pre-professional trainees got their start with us.

Joffrey’s summer dance intensives provide a sneak peek into the life of a pre-professional dancer. For a few weeks, you’ll be training full time, living on your own in the dorms and experiencing the rapid improvement in technique and artistry that training with world class instructors and performing alongside other top dancers can deliver. An added benefit is that you’ll meet some of our current crop of pre-professional dancers, who often spend their summers training with us. You’ll make friends and learn first-hand what life as a pre-professional dancer is really like. 

Take the Plunge into Pre-Professional Training!

Ready to take the next step and discover life as one of Joffrey’s pre-professional dance trainees? Contact us today for more information about in-person and online auditions.

Avatar JBS Admin (69 Posts)

Founded in 1953 by Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, Joffrey Ballet School maintains the vision of its founders to transform passionate dance students into versatile, individualistic artists able to collaborate and evolve fluidly in a fast-changing society. With an accredited dance program that offers two core areas of study – ballet and jazz/contemporary – JBS is known for its diverse curriculum and has the largest summer intensive training program in the country.


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Author: JBS Admin

Founded in 1953 by Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, Joffrey Ballet School maintains the vision of its founders to transform passionate dance students into versatile, individualistic artists able to collaborate and evolve fluidly in a fast-changing society. With an accredited dance program that offers two core areas of study – ballet and jazz/contemporary – JBS is known for its diverse curriculum and has the largest summer intensive training program in the country.

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