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Dancer Feature: Professional Division Students

Rebecca Hunter, left, and Camille Anderson, right.

For the typical teen or young adult, weekdays consist of school, a job, or perhaps a combination of the two. But for students in Texas Ballet Theater School’s Professional Division, their days focus primarily on dance training, supporting each student’s goal of becoming a professional dancer. The TBTS Professional Division is an audition-only division intended for advanced students, offering full-day training in both of its programs: the Professional Training Division (PTD) and the Studio Training Company (STC).

Rebecca Hunter, 20, spends six days a week training as a third-year student in STC. A native of Detroit, she relocated to Dallas-Fort Worth to join the program, which draws young dancers ages 16-21 from across the United States. Despite being more than 1,000 miles from home, Rebecca had a smooth transition – after all, she attended TBTS’ Summer Intensive for four years before joining STC.

“I was already very familiar with the training style and teachers,” she said. “The family environment also helped with my seamless transition.”

Those faculty members and the artistic staff were a major factor in Rebecca’s decision to move to Texas and accept her offer to join STC. Additionally, she was interested in the repertoire she would get to learn as well as the opportunities to perform alongside the professional company.

Camille Anderson, 15, is a second-year PTD dancer who also values the Professional Division faculty, citing them as her favorite thing about her program. “I love how they constantly push us to be the best we can be while still nurturing and guiding us along this journey,” she said. “They truly have our best interests in mind and are so incredible!”

The faculty and her fellow students helped Camille when she transitioned into the program last year. While she already lived in the DFW area and did not have to relocate, she did have to adjust to a new school and a completely new type of schedule. A sophomore in high school, Camille balances her academic and dance studies. Fortunately the PTD program, designed for dancers ages 14-18, has dedicated time for schoolwork to help with time management.

The two programs follow a similar daily schedule. The morning starts with a technique class, followed by an hour-long pointe or variations class. Afternoons are typically spent in rehearsal, though the current environment created by COVID-19 means rehearsals and performances look different this fall. Staff have created new opportunities as well. “Having virtual options has given us great opportunities,” Rebecca said. “Mr. Stevenson has coordinated master classes for us with teachers from all around the world!”

These master classes are just some of the many elements that make TBTS training unique. In addition to ballet, students also spend time on strength training and other dance styles, such as jazz and modern, to become well-rounded dancers. Faculty also emphasize artistry in dance, which comes through in ways like a dancer’s facial expressions and emotional connection to the audience. “It helps take my dancing to the next level,” Camille says of the focus on artistry.

Both Rebecca and Camille dream of performing principal roles as professional dancers someday, and Camille is interested in becoming a choreographer as well. Their time in a pre-professional program like the TBTS Professional Division puts them one step closer to making those dreams come true.