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Preparatory Dance

Do I have to audition?

In the Pre-Ballet Division (ages 4 – 7), students are welcome to join a class at any time before March, space allowing. Placement is determined by age and school grade.
In Levels 1 and 2, students may join at any time before March, space allowing and in consultation with the Director.
In Levels 3 through 7, students must have previous training and will be assessed by the Director of the Preparatory Dance program for placement in the appropriate level. Placement is determined by ability, not by age or level at a previous ballet school. Students who have been placed en Pointe in another program will be assessed for consideration of study en Pointe and placement in the appropriate level in the Preparatory Dance program.

At what age do students perform in Nutcracker?

Preparatory Dance students may perform in the Nutcracker when they are enrolled in Ballet, in the Primary level and above. These students must maintain excellent attendance for both classes and rehearsals and be able to actively listen and work as part of a group. Parents of performers support the rehearsal schedule by ensuring performers attend all rehearsals, and support the performance process through volunteer activities.

What is the time commitment for this training?

The time commitment starts at 60 minutes per week for students in Creative Movement (age 4) and increases to 11 – 15 hours per week for high school students who choose to participate in elective classes and the Cornish Preparatory Dance Company in addition to their ballet technique classes.

  • Creative Movement/Pre-Primary/Primary, ages 4 – 7: 1 day/hour per week
  • Level 1, ages 7 – 9: 1 – 2 days/hours per week
  • Level 2, ages 8 – 11: 2 days/hours per week.
  • Level 3, ages 9 – 13: 2 days per week – 1.5 hour classes
  • Level 4 & 5, ages 10 – 14: 3 days per week – 1.5 hour classes
  • Level 6, ages 14 – 18: 3 days per week – 1.5 hour classes
  • Level 7, ages 15 – 18: 4 days per week – 1.5 hour classes

Note: With the addition of Jazz, Modern and Company the Advanced commitment could increase to six days per week/fifteen hours.

Are there any male students?

Yes, there are male students training in Preparatory Dance, and we always welcome more!

What age is a good starting point for ballet?

The Preparatory Dance Program offers creative movement classes to children ages 4 and up. Ballet 1 (for students 7 – 9 years of age) is offered once and/or twice a week to the young dancer who is mature enough to understand the structure and demands of a ballet class.

At this level, the student is introduced to the basic ballet positions and begins working at the barre (a rail attached to a wall at about hip height, used by ballet dancers when exercising). Students often repeat this level.

When do you start pointe work?

Pointe work is the end result of slow and gradual training of the whole body and pointe readiness is contingent upon many factors. Students entering Ballet 5 may be considered candidates for pointe work.
However, the faculty assesses each student independently to determine if the student is a candidate for pointe study. Physiologic development, anatomic facility, strength of technique, hyper mobility of the feet and ankles, length and frequency of study, attendance habits, maturity and past injury are all taken into consideration. Students often begin the study of Pointe work at around 12 years of age. The study of pointe is not a requirement for advancement through the levels or participation in the performing company.

How many performance opportunities are offered?

Students in the Ballet 5-7 levels are encouraged to join the Cornish Preparatory Dance Company I (CPDC). Company members are required to take the ballet and modern dance. Pointe is not a requirement for participation in the company.
The company performs twice a year presenting The Nutcracker in December and then in the spring a mixed repertoire concert. Rehearsals take place on Saturdays and students must be committed to the rehearsal schedule. Students in Ballet 3 and 4 are eligible to participate in the Cornish Preparatory Dance Company II. All Preparatory Dance Program students may participate in our Year End Demonstrations in the Poncho Concert Hall.

What is your attendance policy?

The Preparatory Program is designed for the serious dance student. The acquisition of skill, endurance and the understanding of dance vocabulary cannot be achieved without consistent attendance.
Advancement in the program and Company participation and opportunities are impacted by attendance. We do take daily attendance and hold each student accountable for their ability to progress and succeed in the program. In the event of illness, family emergency or extenuating circumstances we ask that parents call the office and notify us of a student’s absence. Make up classes during the semester are encouraged.

Do you have a dress code?

Each level is required to wear the appropriate leotard style and color assigned to their level. Ballet tights are worn at all levels, except in the Creative Dance Primary levels.
Children in Creative Dance, Pre-Primary and Primary level wear pink anklet socks. Hair must be neatly tied back in a bun. Boys wear black tights, white short-sleeved t-shirt or leotard and white ballet slippers with white socks. CPDC members are required to wear canvas split sole ballet slippers in performance. Please check the complete dress requirements.

Recommendations for purchasing apparel?

Please visit Dress Requirements for a list of dance boutiques in the Seattle area that sell items that adhere to our dress code requirements.

Do you have an open house?

For new students, we encourage you to make an appointment and we are happy to give you a tour of our facilities and an orientation to our program at any time.

Do you have observation days?

Twice yearly we open the studios to family for class observations. Please visit our calendar for current dates.

How do I register?

A placement class for level 2 through 7 is required. Please call our Director ahead of time to make an appointment.
Students coming in to the program in the Fall semester should check the calendar for the open audition date. Students coming in to the program mid year participate in a scheduled class and then are placed in a level appropriate for their skills. As the Preparatory Dance program does not discriminate, we always accommodate the student who is interested in investing in our program if they are able to meet the demands of the schedule and have the appropriate skills to participate fully.

Is there an evaluation process for each student?

Students in the program receive a written evaluation in the New Year. In addition, the older students may schedule a conference once a year with their teacher or the director of the program.
Once students reach high school additional counseling is available to the student who is interested in pursuing a career in dance or wishes to continue their training at the college level. This mentoring helps prepare students for the next phase of their life.

Do you ever have Guest Teachers?

Yes, we have guest teachers.
Some of our previous teachers include:

  • 2012 – Dale A. Merril (Professor of Dance at Chapman University, Spectrum Dance Theater), Adam Miller (Pennsylvania Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet), Summer Lee Rhatigan (London Festival Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, San Francisco Opera Ballet, Oakland Ballet, Lines Ballet, Director of San Francisco Conservatory of Dance)
  • 2011 – Patricia Lent (Cunningham), Summer Lee Rhatigan (London Festival Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, San Francisco Opera Ballet, Oakland Ballet, Lines Ballet, Director of San Francisco Conservatory of Dance), Holly Farmer (Cunningham), John Passafiume (Summer Dance Lab), Iyun Harrison (Alvin Ailey)
  • 2010 – Patricia Barker (PNB), Summer Lee Rhatigan (Lines Ballet, Director of San Francisco Conservatory of Dance), Edmund Stripe (Ballet Master, Alberta Ballet), Alexandra Dickenson (PNB), Lauren Grant (Mark Morris Company)
  • 2009 – Betsy Cooper (Dance Chair at the University of Washington)
  • 2008 – Naomi Glass (former Preparatory Dance Student, Houston Ballet Company)
  • 2007 – Bill Evans
  • 2006 – Stephanie Saland (NYCB), Vincent Cuny (PNB)
  • 2005 – Dennis Marshall (ABT, Director of the Pittsburgh Ballet School
  • 2004 – Magali Messac (ABT, PNB)

Is there a summer program?

Summer at Cornish provides a great opportunity to explore the visual and performing arts in a unique college environment. The program offers an exciting array of courses.
Our small classroom setting ensures individual attention from faculty and the opportunity to become well acquainted with fellow students. Flexible enrollment options make it easy to tailor the program to busy summer schedules and diverse course offerings encourage cross-disciplinary explorations. Courses will be held at both our historic Kerry Hall campus on Capitol Hill and at our Main Campus Center in downtown Seattle.
In the Summer at Cornish Dance program, teachers from the Preparatory Dance program are joined by guest teachers to provide students with a rich program that expands the offering of ballet, pointe, modern, creative movement and pre-ballet to include jazz, musical theatre, hip hop, composition, improvisation, pilates and world dance.

Where do your students go after they graduate?

The Preparatory Dance Program boasts illustrious alumni.
Among many of the fine institutions to which our students have been accepted are American Musical and Dramatic Academy, Arizona State University, Armitage Gone!, Barnard College, Atlanta Ballet Pre-Professional Program, Bill T. Jones/Arne Zane Dance Company, Boston College, Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama, Colorado Ballet, Cornish College of the Arts, Dayton Ballet, Florida State University Honors Program, Fordham, Graham Company, Harvard University, Houston Ballet, Interlochen Arts Academy, Lines Ballet/Dominican University BFA Program, Mark Morris Dance Group, Miami City Ballet, Mt. Holyoke College, National Ballet of Canada, N.C. School of the Arts, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Pearl Lang Dance Theatre, S.F. Ballet School, Simon Frasier University, Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, University of Miami Department of Theatre Arts, University of Southern California, and University of Washington.
Many Preparatory Dance Students spend their summer at summer dance programs throughout the United States. These programs include Alvin Ailey, Burklyn Ballet, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Chicago Ballet, Houston Ballet School, Julliard, Joffrey Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet, Princeton Ballet School, San Francisco Dance Conservatory, Summer Dance Lab, and Walnut Hill.

What are people saying?

Dance at the Cornish Prep Department has been an extraordinary friend and teacher to me over the years. It has been my comfort when my roving mind wanders or obsesses or abandons me all together. It has been a shoulder to cry on when my heart aches or family passes away and a place to rejoice in times of delight.
Thank you so, so much to the entire faculty in the Prep department. I owe you all so much and you have no idea how much you have impacted my life or how much happiness you have brought me. — Ecm Student

I always look forward to those few hours several days of the week where I can be in an atmosphere that lets me be creative and expressive. The dance studio provides for me an open space, a blank slate. Walking into that room is always thrilling because it reminds me of my own potential. Dance has taught me that hard work is very rewarding. — AL Student

When I walk into Cornish it’s like a second home to me. The teachers are like mothers in the way that they teach us new things and help us learn from our mistakes. — NW Student

I have observed older girls taking younger ones under their wing and younger ones looking up to older ones. If the spirit at Cornish was “every person for themselves” or if the “healthy competition” I observe was really just flat out competition the great mentoring that goes on wouldn’t exist. Part of our daughter’s education at Cornish includes being guided by older role models and to take on the responsibility to be a role model herself. We feel this rounds out the already great experience of a strong dance curriculum, music appreciation and teamwork during class and performance time. — AHW Parent

The look of a trained ballet dancer on a stage or on film is so much more natural and appealing than that of who haven’t studied ballet. I have to continue taking the high-caliber ballet classes offered at Cornish in order to retain that poise and physical confidence so desired by theatre directors. — MS Student

From Cornish I have gained lots of things, some are friends, a wonderful technique and the chance to work with some amazing teachers. — MA Student

Preparatory Dance