Back to Blogs

You don’t need to be professional at 18. Take your time with Ballet Auditions!

Robert Fulton - Aug. 17, 2023, 7:40 p.m.

In the world of ballet, where grace meets athleticism and artistry, the topic of age is complex and ever-evolving. Aspiring dancers often find themselves worrying that they are already too old to achieve their dreams and that they need to go professional the second they graduate high-school. However, the dance community is witnessing a paradigm shift in the way age impacts a dancer's path, leading to new perspectives and opportunities.  Nowadays, a dancer's journey to professional can be spread out over several years and one should expect to be landing a contract in their early 20s.


The Evolution of Hiring Practices


In the past, ballet companies would scout and hire young talent straight out of high school, sometimes even at the tender age of 15. However, this practice began to show its limitations as the physical and mental demands of professional choreography and long hours took a toll on these young dancer bodies. Recognizing this challenge, the dance world started reevaluating its approach.


After deliberation and evolution of the process, a consensus emerged: refraining from hiring students immediately after high school graduation. Instead, new programs like Trainee Programs and Second Companies emerged, acting as bridges between classroom training and professional careers. These programs focus on preparing dancers physically and mentally for the rigorous life of a professional dancer.  They are also a good way for a director to shape young dancers to their likeness and have an extended period of time to see their work ethic.


A Gradual Transition


This shift in hiring practices has empowered dancers to view their post-high school journey as a more gradual transition into the professional sphere. No longer is there an intense rush to land a company contract immediately after graduation. Dancers have the opportunity to invest time in further training and refinement before embarking on their professional careers. This change has alleviated the pressure on young dancers, allowing them to explore different facets of their art and grow into more well-rounded performers.


Embracing Cross-Training and Wellness


The dance world is also benefiting from advances in cross-training, nutrition, and sports medicine. These factors have extended the potential lifespan of a dancer's career, enabling them to start and finish their professional journey later in life. The integration of disciplines like Pilates, yoga, and strength training has become commonplace, fostering resilience and longevity in dancers' bodies.


From a dance medicine perspective, the understanding of brain development and emotional needs in teenagers has played a significant role in shaping this shift. The notion of allowing dancers a few more years of emotional maturity and familial support before they step into the professional dance arena has become more widely accepted. This holistic approach is promoting healthier, more sustainable career paths for young artists.


Is it worth it?


At BalletScout, we say that overall, yes, these post-grad programs are worth it.  They will help perfect your technique, give you more performance experience, and let your body and mind develop before taking on the rigors of a professional career.  It will also help you build your resume and give you a better shot at ballet auditions.  Make sure to look out for the programs with prestigious faculty, high placement-rates, and a high inter-company promotion rate.


Are there downsides?


There can be several downsides with these programs.  First, they can be a bit exploitative; the company is using trainees for unpaid labor.  Second, they may not just be unpaid, but the dancer may find themselves paying thousands of dollars for these programs.  Third, since they are newer programs and used for helping the company, there is always the chance that you won’t get the training or resume building that you need.  Finally, we always recommend that you try to move vertically each audition season.  Try not to move from trainee to trainee (unless the second trainee program is more prestigious), and instead try to move up in the ranks after completing each program.




The dance world's reconsideration of age's impact on careers reflects a positive evolution. Dancers are no longer racing against time but are, instead, embracing a more measured and comprehensive journey. The acknowledgment that dancers can flourish with the right training, mentorship, and holistic support is reshaping the landscape of ballet careers. Age is no longer a limiting factor but an integral part of the dance narrative, contributing to the diversity and depth of the art form.  So attend your ballet company auditions, but don't stress if you don't get hired right away!