Student Handbook


School of the Minnesota Ballet Student Handbook

Artistic Director – Karl von Rabenau
Executive Director – Maude Dornfeld
506 W. Michigan St., Duluth, MN 55802
phone: 218-733-7570

The Beauty and Discipline of Ballet

A very old performing art, ballet traces its origin to the elegant dance in Renaissance courts of Europe. Because ballet is an artistic-athletic art form, its training is exacting, physically demanding, and mentally challenging, but the results are like those of no other training. Even for students who do not end up pursuing a professional career as a dancer, the results of the highly specialized training last a lifetime and provide benefits: an appreciation for the performing arts, great attention to details and a level of skilled focus in future interests, knowledge about how one’s body coordinates and functions through movement, and the empowering fulfillment of reaching goals through discipline and dedication.

Studying at School of Minnesota Ballet (SMB) teaches students more than just dance. Along with following a syllabus that promotes a clear path to improvement, we teach our students:

 ●  Concentration, and Perseverance

 ●  Discipline and Self-Control

 ●  Respect

 ●  Responsibility and Goal Setting/Achieving

 ●  Integrity

 ●  Humility

 ●  Confidence and Self-Esteem

 ●  Listening and Memorization Skills

School’s Mission and Vision

SMB’s Mission is to give students the finest training in the art of classical ballet and other dance disciplines, enabling them to pursue a career in dance if they wish and allowing all students to develop strength, discipline, and appreciation for dance.


Nondiscrimination Policy

At Minnesota Ballet, we believe that dance is for everyone, and that diversity enriches our organization and experience. Equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from the programs of Minnesota Ballet is provided to all individuals regardless of race, national origin, color, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, or disability in admission, access, or employment.


Progress in class depends upon regular and consistent participation. Excessive absence from class will slow the student’s progress, hinder promotion, and could prevent the student from participating in performances with Minnesota Ballet and/or School of Minnesota Ballet. Students are expected to attend every class in the level in which they are registered.

Students need to allow at least 15 minutes before class to dress and for girls to put up their hair. It is important to be on time for class; late students may be asked to sit out the class because there is not adequate time to warm up.

Students are expected to attend all scheduled classes; attendance is critical to a student’s development in the art form and for advancement in SMB. Excused absences are accepted only for medical or serious personal reasons. To be excused, students or their families must report all absences to SMB prior to class time. Students who are injured are urged to attend class and take notes. Poor attendance may jeopardize participation in productions, class placement level, or financial aid.

Each class level follows a carefully planned curriculum. Students are strongly advised against seeking outside training or outside private lessons, as these conflict with the curriculum of SMB of the Minnesota Ballet. Private lessons with current faculty members are permitted. Please see the Private lesson policy.

Dress Code

Part of the discipline of ballet class is the uniformity of dancewear; traditionally, each ballet level has its own color leotard. Dancewear fits snuggly to clearly show body positions and lines, making it easier for teachers to give corrections on technique. No underwear is worn under tights for ladies.

Hair is always worn neatly, off the student’s face. Dancers with long hair should wear it up in a bun or similar, secured style. Ponytail holders, pins, and hairnets should match the student’s hair color for a clean, blended look. For easy instructions on how to make a bun, please refer to bun making instructions.

All ballet students must follow the assigned dress code at all times. Male ballet students must wear black tights, black or white technique shoes, white socks, and white T-shirt that is tucked in. All female ballet students in Creative Movement through Ballet 7 must wear pink tights and technique shoes, and the designated leotard color for their class. At the discretion of the teacher, upper-level students, Level 6-8 may be allowed to wear leotards of different styles and colors for Friday evening classes and Saturday Repertoire classes.

All class wear is available and may be ordered online from or We also recommend Grand Jete in St. Paul or Step ‘N Stretch locations in the Twin Cities.

Creative Movement–Ballet 6: Capezio cap-sleeve leotard style #CC400C

  • ●  Creative Movement-Pre-Ballet 3: light pink
  • ●  Ballet 1: light blue leotard
  • ●  Ballet 2: lavender leotard
  • ●  Ballet 3: royal blue leotard
  • ●  Ballet 4: burgundy leotard
  • ●  Ballet 5: hunter leotard
  • ●  Ballet 6: navy leotard
  • ●  Ballet 7 & 8: black leotard (cap-sleeve or CC100 camisole leotard)Jewelry, except small, pierced earrings, is not to be worn during class. Shoes should be neatly sewn with the same color thread. Dancewear should be clean and in good repair; damage and holes should be mended. Please do not use fabric softeners on dance attire because it damages studio floors.

    Please mark your student’s name on the inside of dance bags, ballet shoes, leotards, tights. Identification speeds the return of lost items.

    Street attire must be worn before and after class to enter and exit the building. At no time should a student be entering or exiting the building in leotard and tights.

    Dressing Rooms and Waiting Areas

    Waiting Areas must be kept quiet at all times for the benefit of those taking or teaching class, as well as for administrative staff working in nearby offices.

    Both Men’s and Women’s dressing rooms are available for student use. Please do not use the restrooms located on the Michigan Street level of The Depot as changing areas.

    The School of Minnesota Ballet is not responsible for lost or stolen items. Valuables should not be left unsecured in the dressing rooms. Please be respectful of everyone’s belongings. People disturbing the property of others risk being expelled from SMB.

    Lost and Found

    Please mark all dance attire with the student’s name in indelible ink. A Lost and Found box is kept in the Ballet’s reception area; items not claimed within three months are discarded or donated.

    Observation Days

    Once each semester, parents and friends are invited and encouraged to observe class during Parent Observation Week. You will be informed, by email, of scheduled observation dates.


Clear and respectful communication is necessary for the progress of our students and the development of their self-esteem. Should any families have any questions they are encouraged to contact their dancer’s main instructor via the email list at the end of this handbook. Please do not try to just “catch the instructor” in the hallway as they are responsible for the safe care of all students in their class and this may be a distraction from that important task.

We recommend that parents become involved in their child’s dance education. Please share the information from this handbook with your enrolled student. Disciplinary actions are time consuming and detract from the progress of everyone in SMB. It is requested that parents assist the School of Minnesota Ballet in resolving any matters of discipline with their child.

Any parent having a concern about a child’s class should first talk with the class teacher. Every effort should be made to resolve any issue with the instructor before contacting Jennifer Miller; [email protected] Should that not result in a satisfactory result, then families should contact Artistic Director, Karl von Rabenau, [email protected]

Concern for Health

The School of Minnesota Ballet prioritizes the health of its students. Students are encouraged to continue strengthening and stretching exercises they learn in class at home. SMB will notify parents of any concern it has about a physical or psychological condition affecting a student’s ability to participate in class. If any teacher notices the appearance of rapid weight loss or otherwise dramatic change in physical appearance or apparent mental well-being, parents will be called. Minnesota Ballet is not responsible for injuries sustained in classes, rehearsals, performances or other SMB activities.

Covid Policy

Covid policies are set with guidance from the CDC and St Louis County. These policies are regularly updated as recommendations and mandates change. These changes are communicated to families via emails to all School of Minnesota Ballet families.

Promotion Policy and Progress Reports

It is the policy of School of Minnesota Ballet that students are promoted only when they have demonstrated a mastery of the material in their current class level. Students are not automatically promoted after one year in a particular class, regardless of age. It is not uncommon for students to spend more than one year in any given class. Starting in Ballet 3 student ability, not age, determines class placement. Students missing more than 10% of their regular classes will often not be promoted, as adequate time has not been spent mastering the work.

Progress reports will be given to all enrolled students in School of Minnesota Ballet from Pre- Ballet 1 up to Ballet 8. A detailed written evaluation will be given to students in Ballet 4 through Ballet 8 at the end of the Winter and Spring semesters. The Spring evaluation will contain class placement information for the following summer and fall enrollment year. Please note, involvement in summer dance studies, whether at SMB or other ballet Summer programs, offers

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the best way to accelerate a student’s progress. Class placement for fall enrollment can be reviewed should a student participate in Summer dance programming.

Families are encouraged to read through the progress reports and are welcomed to contact the main instructor for their dancer’s class with any questions.

Attending Company Performances

Parents are urged to further their child’s dance education by attending company performances with their children. Ballet students greatly benefit from seeing the steps they are learning in class being performed in a professional production. Attending Minnesota Ballet productions will give students the opportunity to be introduced to ballet masterworks: classic full-length story ballets, as well as a wide range of classical to contemporary repertoire.


Important notices, such as weather-related closures, will be posted on the SMB Facebook page and communicated via email. A student and/or parent email address should be provided at time of registration. Please check your email regularly and notify the office if you are not receiving emails or have a change of email address. Parents, please refer to SMB Calendar for performance dates, school breaks and other important information.

Snow Day Policy

School of the Minnesota Ballet does not hold classes on days or evenings when Duluth public schools are canceled for extreme weather. Classes at the Depot will be canceled anytime the Depot building closes because of weather (weekday, Saturday, or evening). To verify closings, check the SMB Facebook page or look for an email notification.

While we will evaluate each winter weather event, in general, classes will remain in session during a winter weather advisory. A weather warning may provide grounds for canceling classes. Parents/guardians are always encouraged to do what is best for their family. Remember make-up classes are always an option if you feel weather will prevent you from getting to class safely.

Make-Up Class Policy

Students who miss a class for any reason are invited to take a make-up class. Make up classes may be taken in the level below a student’s current level. Students whose classes meet once per week may take a make-up class on a different day and/or one level lower.

The School of Minnesota Ballet does not give credit or refund for classes missed except in the case of a serious illness or injury that results in the missing of a significant number of classes. Please notify the Ballet office as soon as possible in such a case.

You do not need to call ahead or sign-up to take a make-up class. Students (or parents) must inform the teacher of the make-up class prior to the start of each class that they are there to attend a make-up class.

Make-up classes may not be done during Open House weeks.

Registration and Tuition Policies

Students cannot attend classes before their registration form is submitted to the Ballet office and tuition payment and/or payment plan has been made. Tuition may be paid in full at the beginning of a session or in monthly installments.


Registration and tuition payments are done online via

Studio Etiquette and Rules

We ask that students, family members and guests conduct themselves in a manner respecting the business and classes at School of Minnesota Ballet. Quiet, safe, and courteous conduct is expected. Please refrain from loud and distracting behavior in the Minnesota Ballet and School of Minnesota Ballet areas as well in the Depot.

  1. a)  Young children must not be left unattended or allowed to run in the Depot halls or play in studios.
  2. b)  Students are expected to be respectful, attentive, quiet, and courteous while on SMB’s premises. Not doing so will result in dismissal from class and phone calls to parents. Should a student’s behavior fail to improve, suspension or permanent dismissal from School of Minnesota Ballet will occur.
  3. c)  Family and friends are able to view classes in the studio by invitation only during Open House week at the end of each semester. If you do catch a glimpse of your child during class through an observation window, please do not judge your child’s work. Your child’s progress is best monitored by his/her teacher.
  4. d)  Parents should be prompt in picking up students after class. The studios are locked 15 minutes after the last class of the day.
  5. e)  A staff member must be present in a studio for children to enter the room.
  6. f)  At no time should students use the pianos unless invited by the teacher.
  7. g)  Permission must be granted for a student to leave the studio.
  8. h)  School of Minnesota Ballet locations are smoke-free.
  9. i)  Weapons or firearms are not allowed in any School of Minnesota Ballet facilities.
  10. j)  Students should remain inside the building while waiting to be picked up.
  11. k)  Students must put street clothes on over dance clothes when outside. Ballet shoes arenot to be worn outside.

Except under extenuating circumstances, there are no refunds on tuition. A finance charge of

1.5% per month (18% per year) will be added to tuition not received by payment deadline.

Students will not be allowed to continue classes or participate in activities or performances if

tuition is not kept current.


Parents whose children have an illness or injury keeping them out of class for an extended time


should notify the office. Tuition refund or credit is solely at the discretion of SMB of Minnesota


Families with two or more students enrolled in SMB will receive a 5% discount on combined


tuition total.


l) Students who drive should always walk with a friend to their car(s). m) Cell phones should be turned off before students enter studios.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

A limited amount of financial aid is available to qualifying students per year

Those recipients wishing to continue receiving financial aid in Semester II contact Karl von Rabenau before the start of Semester II, stating the need for continued financial aid and state any change in the family’s finances. A strong attendance record during the previous period of financial aid is mandatory for the continuation of financial aid.

Need-based financial assistance is also available through the Depot Foundation’s Arts for All Scholarship Program. For more information, please visit the Depot Foundation’s website at:

Saturday Samplers

Saturday Samplers, held the Saturday before the start of Semester I and Summer Term, are ideal opportunities for potential students to try a class at no charge. Faculty will be available to evaluate new students for placement in the most appropriate level. Returning students are invited to use the Saturday Sampler as a warm-up. Parents may watch the sampler classes and register their children before, during, or after the classes.


Registration forms for School of the Minnesota Ballet include an agreement of permission for SMB to use photos of students in classes and/or performances to promote SMB and Minnesota Ballet. Students may not take photos/videos on the Ballet’s premises without prior permission from SMB staff. No photos/videos may be posted to social media without prior permission from SMB staff.

School Committee

Under the auspices of Minnesota Ballet Board of Directors, this committee assists with performances involving students from School of the Minnesota Ballet. The committee is always looking for volunteers willing to help with events. If you would like to help, please contact the office, which will pass on your contact information to the School Committee chair.

Summer Term

The Ballet is always an exciting place in the summer. Present students further their ballet training, and new students have the opportunity to study at one of the finest ballet academies in the state. Ballet 4 students who are ready to prepare to go on pointe take the pre-pointe class to ready them for this important milestone in ballet training.

Older students explore and enjoy other dance forms such as character (European folk dance, included in many classical ballet works), modern, jazz, musical theater dance, and work on


. Those wishing to


apply can contact our Artistic Director, Karl von Rabenau, at [email protected]


flexibility and core strength in exercise class. The eight-week term runs June through mid- August, with the week of the Fourth of July off to allow for family get-togethers and trips.

Summer Intensive

Following the Fourth of July week off, School of Minnesota Ballet’s 5-week Summer Intensive begins. Ballet 4 through Ballet 7 experience all-day training in technique that pre-professional students should have.

Upper-level students from outside the area also study in the intensive, bringing their enthusiasm and eagerness to augment their training. At the end of the intensive, the students present a wide variety of dance in the student summer showcase, which is performed outside on the Library Plaza stage. Younger students are urged to attend the showcase to see the dance techniques they will study in coming years and to appreciate the creative efforts of the older students.

Performance Opportunities

a) Student Summer Showcase

On the last day of the Summer Term/Summer Intensive in August outside in the Library Plaza, Ballet 4 and higher students demonstrate ballet, character, jazz, and modern dance.

b) Sugar Plum Faire
Advanced students make presentations at the Sugar Plum Faire in early November. c) Dance Day at the Depot

To celebrate National Dance Week toward the end of April, SMB offers a special afternoon of dance. Ballet 4 and higher make presentations in the Depot Great Hall to family, friends, and visitors, and there is social dancing for all.

d) Spring Showcase

In May, the annual Spring Showcase demonstrates the development of all SMB students, including Creative Movement, ABLE and Open Division classes. Students spend class time beginning in the spring to work on the choreography developed for their skill level.

Student Performance [Spring Showcase] Policies

The Spring Showcase gives students the experience of learning choreography created specifically for their class, rehearsing it, and performing it on the Ballet’s home stage. Attending class in the weeks before the performance is even more important than usual. In rehearsing, students learn to pay attention to the many demanding details of ballet technique applied to choreography.

Students should arrive at the DECC Auditorium with makeup on unless there is specialty make- up involved for their role.

Children should use the following items in moderation:

  • ●  dark eyebrow pencil
  • ●  mascara
  • ●  light rose or pink blush (no red)
  • ●  a natural-looking lipstick (no red)
  • ●  no eye shadow
  • ●  long hair in a bun unless another style is requestedThe Student Performance and its staging rehearsal are typically held on the same day, unless otherwise stated. Performers should arrive at the DECC Auditorium 15 minutes before their call times.

    Students should use the backstage door of the auditorium, located on Harbor Drive (up the loading dock stairs on the left), unless otherwise specified.

    If dancers do not have time to eat before coming to the auditorium, they should bring a bag lunch. Students appearing in only the first half of the performance may come into the audience after intermission if they have a ticket, have removed their makeup, and have changed into street clothes.

    No photography or video of any kind is allowed at either the rehearsal or the performance. There will be a digital download of the performance available for purchase.

    Minnesota Ballet Production Auditions

    Performing in Minnesota Ballet productions is a very important part of what School of Minnesota Ballet has to offer its fully enrolled students. It is a privilege for any student to participate in these professional performances.

    To audition for roles in these productions, children must be current, registered students of SMB age 8 and older by September 1 of the performance year. Ballet 5 and up students must attend a minimum of 3 classes per week in order to qualify for auditions in Minnesota Ballet productions. More advanced students may audition for supporting and corps de ballet parts. To be considered for a role, it is mandatory to be at the audition.

    Those chosen to be in the production are required to be at all scheduled rehearsals. Because this is a significant time commitment, children should not audition if they cannot make the time commitment required. There are no excused absences from rehearsals.

    Minnesota Ballet takes the Nutcracker production on tour, typically in late November and/or December. Advanced students of the Duluth cast who are needed on tour will be notified in advance.

    Auditioning is an important part of a dancer’s training. Auditions for Minnesota Ballet Productions are in-house, which means that most auditioning students have already demonstrated their abilities in class for their teachers and in student performances for the faculty. Students should not be discouraged if their part of the auditions seems short.

The best way to approach auditions is for students to prepare the way they do for class: arrive with ample time to dress and warm up, long hair in a tight bun, wear clean leotard and tights in their class colors.

Students should listen to instructions carefully. They should notice details of the combination they are learning, such as the head position. There is a great deal of acting in The Nutcracker. If students are auditioning for a specific role, they should try to capture the spirit of that role. They should dance as if this were a performance.

If students aren’t selected to audition for the role they want, they shouldn’t broadcast their disappointment. They should do the best they can at the role they are chosen to audition for, and they will be noticed!

There are bound to be disappointments in the casting. Please understand that casting is by group decision—the Artistic Director and senior teachers. Students may be too young, too inexperienced, or for another reason unsuitable for the parts they have their hearts set on. Students’ attendance history in class will also play a role in the casting of this production.

Many dancers wait years for the roles they really want—if they ever get them— meanwhile, there is much to be learned from developing every role to its fullest.

Nutcracker Rehearsals and Performances

Rehearsals are a very important part of a dancer’s training and are conducted in a professional manner. All cast members are required to be at all rehearsals, even if they are not in the cast being rehearsed at that time. Instructions and notes are given at all rehearsals; dancers also learn from watching dancers from the other cast perform the roles they will dance.

For rehearsals and performances at the DECC Symphony Hall, students should be dropped off 15 minutes before their call times at the backstage door on Harbor Drive (up the loading dock stairs on the left).

Students should go directly to their dressing room without entering the auditorium. For safety and security, children in The Nutcracker cast are not allowed during rehearsal in the auditorium, lobby, backstage, or anywhere else unattended.

If students are invited to see parts of rehearsal they are in, they should sit quietly in the auditorium.

Before performances, cast members should not be in the lobby in makeup and/or costumes once the public starts to arrive. Young dancers should remove stage makeup before going out to the lobby or leaving the theater.

Children cannot bring food into the theater rooms because it will stain their costumes. Water is acceptable. Greasy foods will be confiscated. Students will be responsible for the replacement cost of any costume damaged by food or drink.

When children are not on stage performing, they must stay backstage in their assigned area. Children should bring some quiet amusements to pass the time. Many belongings are

misplaced backstage in the excitement of preparation. Children’s names should be marked inside ballet shoes and all clothing.

Jewelry and valuables should be left at home. Neither the Ballet nor the DECC is responsible for lost, stolen, or forgotten personal items.

Nutcracker Makeup for Children—Children should bring their own makeup to dress rehearsals and performances (there will be someone to assist in the dressing rooms).

Children should use in moderation:

  • ●  dark eyebrow pencil
  • ●  mascara
  • ●  light rose or pink blush (no red)
  • ●  a natural-looking lipstick (no red)
  • ●  no eye shadowGirls must wear their hair in a bun, unless otherwise instructed.

    Student cast members must be in proper makeup and hairdo for dress rehearsals as well as for performances.

    It takes many volunteers to help with the behind-the-scenes work at The Nutcracker productions. Parents of children in the cast are asked to help with at least one performance— making sure that children are in makeup and costumes and under control backstage, selling souvenirs, ushering, or packing costumes after the last performance.

    Parents are asked to write their names on the sign-up sheets posted in the Depot lobby or to call the Ballet office. Volunteers will receive instructions. Ushers are asked to arrive an hour before the performance and will be able to sit in any unsold seats for the performance.

    Importance of Mastering Technique & Applying Corrections

    It has been said that only a dancer bound by technique can find the freedom of movement. In other words, a strong and proper technique is the key to dancing. It is a teacher’s goal to help each student attempt to find that freedom. Though that goal is lofty, for the actual perfection of technique is impossible—there is always something that can be improved upon. This striving for perfection is the reason for the constant flow of corrections, both verbally and physically, throughout the ballet class. Corrections are a teacher’s most effective tool in helping a dancer towards a good, solid technique. It is up to the student, however, to apply the given information.

    As a dancer, there can be a concern when we aren’t getting a lot of corrections. As a dancer’s experience grows, they will notice that the students who become better dancers are those that apply all corrections, whether given directly to them or to other students.

    The education of dance is a partnership between the efforts of the teacher and those of the students. If the partnership is successful, the results should be evident on stage—the ultimate test. The dancer with a good understanding and mastery of technique will be the one who is able to find and enjoy the true freedom of movement.

Contact Information

Karl von Rabenau Jennifer Miller LilaAnn Coates-White Ashley Carter

Maude Dornfeld


Suzie Baer
Brooke Bero
Linda Carrillo
LilaAnn Coates-White Becca Ford

Nancy Gibson Jennifer Miller Ken Shiozawa Sean M. Sullivan Karl von Rabenau

Artistic Director School Coordinator Principal Teacher Office Manager Executive Director

Guest instructors and members of Minnesota Ballet teach classes at various times during the school year. Workshops are also offered during the year. Refer to emails and bulletin boards often for up-to-date information.


Thank you for choosing the School of Minnesota Ballet. Please contact us at any time with questions or feedback. Enjoy a great year of dancing with the School of Minnesota Ballet!