Alberta Ballet School Offers Strong Ballet Training Without Compromising Academics

Sponsored by Alberta Ballet School
April 25, 2024

Alberta Ballet School believes that no student should have to compromise their education for their ballet training. For its Professional Division Grade 7–12 program, “it is our philosophy that education and dance training need to be equally prioritized so that all opportunities and pathways are there for our students,” says ABS director Ashley McNeil. Through its own on-site private academic school, students earn their high school diplomas, and, notes McNeil, “the education system in Alberta is well known around the world for its academic prowess.” The hybrid ballet training and academic program provides additional opportunities, like participating in the yearbook committee and student council—leadership and community-building activities that students in less holistic ballet programs may not have access to.

The half day of academics is complemented by a half day of rigorous dance training. The curriculum, developed by artistic advisor Diane van Schoor, former ballet principal of The Royal Ballet School’s White Lodge, has a classical ballet focus with training in contemporary, character, pas de deux, variations, classical repertoire, and commercial jazz, along with body conditioning and strength training for injury reduction. Rather than following a single teaching methodology, ABS “brought together leading experts to ensure that we had the essential valued elements from specific systems of training,” says McNeil. The faculty provides two evaluations for students per year, which assess not just the students but the curriculum itself. “Sometimes we adapt and adjust, but we all believe in [the curriculum] because of its strong focus on placement, alignment, and the carefully planned buildup of the work.” The school has a proven history of success: 80 percent of Professional Division Grade 7–12 graduates earn contracts at ballet companies in Canada, the U.S., or internationally. With strong academics under their belt, other graduates continue on to college or university programs. No matter their future pathways, all students will have extensive performing experience by the time they leave the program. Professional Division participants perform at least five times per year, including in Alberta Ballet company productions, like The Nutcracker.

The favorable exchange rate between Canadian and U.S. dollars also makes the program an attractive choice for American families, but, of course, the decision to train in another country is never purely financial. Alberta Ballet School recognizes that grades 7–12 are formative years, both socially and educationally. “Strong bonds are formed because so many students are away from home,” says McNeil, emphasizing that just under half of the school’s population is international. “Our school community is small enough that all of our students and staff know each other very well, and we’re able to support each other according to everyone’s unique needs.” Dormitory living is supplemented by social activities, like spirit week, trivia nights, cooking experiences, and fun challenges among students in each grade. The school’s home base, Calgary, is an energetic city, says McNeil, “but not so busy that it’s overwhelming for students.” She even assures the winter-wary that Canada is nothing to fear: “Calgary is so fortunate to have a weather phenomenon called a Chinook that graces us with warm air from over the mountains during the winter months. That means that winter is not as cold as you may think, or at least not all winter!”

Alberta Ballet School Professional Division Grade 7–12

Program size: 100 students from countries all over the world, including the U.S.
Age range: Grades 7–12, ages 12–18
Performance opportunities: 5 per year, including a dedicated contemporary dance performance and participation in Alberta Ballet’s Nutcracker. Alberta Ballet School is associated with Alberta Ballet and has multiple opportunities annually to be part of the cast of company shows.
Tuition: $27,600 CAD annually for international students
Room/board: The residence program is $10,000 CAD from September to June.
Daily schedule: Approximately 4–5 hours of dance and 4–5 hours of academics, finishing by 5:30 pm
Alumni: Notable alumni include Alberta Ballet dancers Melissa Eguci, Alexandra Gibson, Jennifer Gibson, and Yaroslav Khudych; former Nevada Ballet Theatre dancer Rachel Thomson; and dancer and recording artist Tate McRae.
Additional opportunities: International students enjoy a variety of local sightseeing and field trip opportunities, as well as the chance to visit the renowned Rocky Mountains in Banff, Canada.
Important dates in 2024: National and International Audition tour in September—dates, times, and locations to be announced. Start of 2024–25 school year: September 3.

To learn more about the admissions process for Alberta Ballet School Professional Division Grade 7–12, click here.

Alberta Ballet School student. Photo courtesy Alberta Ballet School.