Richmond Ballet’s Studio Company and Trainee Programs Immerse Dancers in Company Culture

Sponsored by Richmond Ballet
January 9, 2024

For many ballet students, the reality of company life can often seem mysterious. But not at Richmond Ballet, where artistic staff and faculty immerse dancers in its full-time Trainee Program and Studio Company in a professional environment and provide each individual with personal guidance.  

Richmond Ballet’s tuition-based Trainee Program introduces dancers to every facet of company life while continuing to develop their technique and artistry. All Trainees take technique class, rehearse, and perform alongside the main company in full-length ballets, including The Nutcracker. For dancers that are even closer to bridging the student–professional gap, Richmond Ballet’s Studio Company is a full-scholarship program with a monthly living stipend. Both programs have less than 20 dancers each enrolled to ensure that each student receives the maximum amount of hands-on corrections and personal attention from faculty and staff.

The Studio Company performs even more frequently alongside the main company, participates in lecture demonstrations at local schools, and also embarks on its own tour throughout Virginia each season. “These opportunities foster a great environment for dancers to work on their artistry, confidence, and stage presence, and bring both classical and contemporary ballet to parts of the Commonwealth that might not otherwise have access,” says incoming artistic director and current associate artistic director, Ma Cong.

Studio Company members are closely mentored by Richmond Ballet’s artistic staff who help them chart their next steps, whether that means providing company recommendations and support for traveling or gathering footage for auditions. Already accustomed to Richmond Ballet’s company culture, many Trainees and Studio Company dancers ultimately end up joining the main company in a seamless transition to professional life. In fact, currently one fourth of the main company dancers have come through either the Trainee or Studio Company programs.

The unique 11-month duration of both programs fosters uninterrupted, compounding progress for students. “It maximizes our training schedule while providing direct access to our artistic staff and professional company,” says Ma. “Students begin either program with our Summer Intensive, providing them with the best foundation and allowing them to get to know company repertoire, the faculty, and their fellow dancers before the performance season begins.”

Additionally, student life is enriched by Richmond’s vibrant arts scene. “There are numerous opportunities to see live performances locally, and we have the geographic advantage of being within driving distance of an international hub of arts and culture in Washington, DC,” says Ma.

Richmond Ballet Trainee Program and Studio Company

Program size: Trainees: 18 students; Studio Company: 10 students
Age range: Trainee Program: 17+; Studio Company: 19+
Performance opportunities: Main-stage productions with the professional company, Studio Company tour, in-school performances, end-of-year Studio Company and Trainee performance
Tuition: The Trainee Program is tuition-based, with merit scholarships and work–study options. The Studio Company is a full-scholarship program with a monthly living stipend.
Room/board: Students are responsible for securing their own housing.
Daily schedule: Coincides with the professional company’s schedule; each day begins with technique class. The program includes ballet, pointe, variations, men’s work, contemporary, partnering, and repertoire to further develop classical and contemporary techniques and performance skills in a pre-professional environment.
Additional opportunities: Both programs have opportunities to perform in area schools, as well as assist with youth community engagement and school initiatives in the organization.
Alumni: Richmond Ballet, Boston Ballet, Miami City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Houston Ballet, Ballet Zurich, Ohio Contemporary Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Hungarian National Ballet, The Juilliard School, Broadway, and more.
Important dates: January 20–February 25: Summer Intensive auditions; June 24–July 27: Summer Intensive; late August 2024–late May 2025: Richmond Ballet season

From their first summer intensive to their final bow, students from Richmond Ballet’s Trainee Program and Studio Company develop the artistry, confidence, and professionalism that today’s competitive dance industry demands. “Our students grow through lasting relationships with our staff, main company, and their fellow dancers that last throughout their careers,” says Ma.

Richmond Ballet Trainees and Studio Company dancers in The Nutcracker by Stoner Winslett. Photo by Sarah Ferguson, courtesy Richmond Ballet.