The next step: Pre-professional ballet program prepares dancers for careers in the spotlight

Tari's pre-professional dancers Lincoln, Jillian and Ava. Photo by Aaron Cox.

Countless little girls dream of becoming ballerinas. They put on tiny tutus and strap on slippers, pirouetting and pliéing to their hearts’ content. But for a much smaller number, that dream becomes a drive—a passion to pursue ballet at its highest levels. It was with those young dancers in mind that Tari’s School of Dance recently launched its new pre-professional ballet program.

The program is the brainchild of longtime Tari’s instructor Ivy Delk, who herself trained in the Atlanta Ballet’s pre-professional program before dancing professionally around the country. At Tari’s, Delk was already serving as director of an award-winning ballet corps that competed locally, but she saw a need for a curriculum for dancers interested in engaging in more comprehensive training.

“Our school had not been known as a ‘ballet training school’ but rather a competitive dance school that produced college dance team dancers and professional dancers who have worked in Los Angeles and New York,” says school owner Tari Trosclair. “I wondered if we would have the interest in order to support such a ballet program. However, Ivy has fostered a love of ballet in so many of our students that we did in fact have students who were interested in a more intensive program for ballet.”

Delk says that from the start of her teaching career in Baton Rouge, she noticed that students interested in getting the high number of training hours needed to prepare for auditioning for professional ballet companies were having to bounce around to nearby cities to try to cobble together their own curriculum. “I’ve long had a dream of being able to fill that void,” Delk says. “And with the local interest in ballet having grown considerably and with a core of committed students who could show what is possible, it just seemed like a logical decision for us to take that big step and offer another level to those wanting to get everything right at home.”

For its first year, the new pre-professional ballet program at Tari’s has enrolled 12 students in two levels; the younger dancers in Pre-Pro 1 have a serious interest in ballet but aren’t yet ready to narrow their focus, while those in Pre-Pro 2 are fully devoted to ballet and maintain a rigorous schedule. Pre-Pro 1 students dance about 16 hours per week, but the weekly time commitment for Pre-Pro 2 students ranges from 25 to 30 hours. Delk’s instruction comes mostly from the Royal Academy of Dance and Vaganova syllabi, which offer techniques she says are “very clean and pure and mold a well-rounded dancer who is able to adapt and excel in many training programs and professional jobs.”

Dancers in the pre-professional program may be invited by Delk to compete at Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest nonprofit international student ballet competition and scholarship program. In addition to the yearly Tari’s recital, Delk hopes to also provide additional performance opportunities for these students such as staged excerpts of ballets and a small series of shows. 

“My primary goal is to produce happy and successful dancers,” Delk says. “Like any other elite sport, it is extremely difficult and requires sacrifice, but it is absolutely realistic for students to have a career dancing ballet.”

For more details, follow the Tari’s Pre-Professional Program on Instagram at @prepro.tsod.