Pre-Professional & Conservatory

Are you ready to take your dancing to the next level? Our nationally-recognized Pre-Professional, Conservatory and Men's Programs are for you, providing the highest quality classical ballet training available in the Chicago South Suburbs.

In the Pre-Professional, Conservatory, and Men's Programs, dancers gain the comprehensive classical training needed to enter careers in professional dance performance, be accepted to college level dance programs, and pursue a variety of career opportunities in dance-related fields. 

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Dancers accepted attend classes up to five days per week, working toward mastery of the intermediate and advanced levels of our Vaganova-style ballet training syllabus. In addition to classical ballet, pointe, partnering and other core classes, a rotating schedule of supplementary classes shape a versatile, well-rounded dancer. A range of performance opportunities in professional productions help students develop their artistry.

Our dedicated team of instructors are current or former professional dancers, bringing a wealth of experience to the classroom. Moreover, as we challenge each dancer to reach their fullest potential, their physical and emotional health is always a priority. 

Classes take place in Ballet 5:8's spacious 7,000 square foot building with four studios, ample mirrors and professional marley flooring. 

The year-round training program is attended by over 40 students from a range of Chicagoland communities and from across the nation. In addition to earning membership with Regional Dance America MidStates, students have regularly received admission and scholarships at prestigious Summer Intensive programs including at The Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet, Orlando Ballet, The Kirov School, the Joffrey Academy of Dance, Boston Ballet, Houston Ballet, Charlotte Ballet, and others.

We also boast a family-like atmosphere with small class sizes to promote individual attention for each student. We believe in the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between students, their families and our staff and all times. We are always a call or an email away and are happy to set up a meeting anytime.

Megan Acke, 


Because of the physically demanding nature of intensive classical ballet training, dancers must meet minimum technical requirements in strength, flexibility, coordination, familiarity with classical ballet vocabulary, and overall proficiency in order to participate in a safe and beneficial manner.

Entry and placement is conditional upon available space and the recommendation of program staff. To audition, request information below or register for an audition class. Interested students are also encouraged to audition for our Summer Intensive to receive consideration for both our summer and year-round programs.

July Audition

Dancers ages 12+ are invited to audition for the 2018-2019 school year:

Saturday, July 14 | 4-5:30P
Lou Conte Dance Studio, 1147 W. Jackson Blvd, Chicago

Dancers of an advanced level, ages 12+ are welcome. Ladies should wear a solid colored leotard and pink tights, and bring pointe shoes. Men should wear a white shirt and black tights/shoes.

The audition fee is $35; pre-registration is strongly encouraged using the link below. Walk-up registration is cash only.

Program Levels


Pre-Professional program classes are scheduled in the evenings, 3-4 days per week. Pre-Professional program classes teach crucial, foundational building blocks for advanced classical ballet training. Dancers are also guided through preparation for and the first few years of their training en pointe.



Conservatory classes take dancers through the most advanced levels of our training syllabus, utilizing up to 25 hours per week of training, Monday-Friday. Classes begin as early as 2:15pm, promoting the optimal physical and mental progression of the advanced student. 

Men's Program

Men's Program students attend men's classes in addition to their regular Conservatory technique classes, participate in pas de deux multiple times per week, and have opportunities to receive private and semi-private coaching from our male instructors. Merit scholarships are available. 


Ballet 5:8 Pre-Professional, Conservatory and Men's Program instructors and staff are all current or former professional dancers. They bring ample technical knowledge and professional performing experience to the program, challenging and enabling dancers to make the technical and artistic leap from student to professional. 


Julianna Slager

Ballet 5:8 Artistic Director


Antonio Rosario

Conservatory Director


Brette Benedict

Trainee Program Ballet Mistress


Beth Patterson


Sam Opsal



Emily Ratkos



Performing Opportunities 

Pre-Professional, Conservatory and Men's Program students have access to a wealth of performing opportunities in School of the Arts productions, Ballet 5:8 professional performances, and in outreach settings.

For Levels IIIA-IVB, performance participation requires a commitment to the Ensemble Program, including attending evening and weekend rehearsals in addition to technique classes. In the Conservatory, rehearsals as part of the Ballet 5:8 Studio Company are incorporated into the dancers' regular weekly schedule. Performance participation teaches crucial skills specific to choreography, rehearsal and performance and challenges dancers to use their craft as a way to share beauty, joy and meaningful stories with audiences in a way that looks "out instead of in."

The Ballet 5:8 Studio Company is a proud member of Regional Dance America MidStates.

Regional Dance America is a National Association of Dance Companies fostering the growth and education of dancers, choreographers, directors and dance companies in every community across the United States and Canada. Pre-Professional Program students in levels IV and higher have the opportunity to attend and perform at the RDA regional and national conferences each year - read more

Featured Alumni

Libby Dennen

Ballet 5:8 Senior Company Apprentice

Additional Information


Registration is open May - August for the term beginning in August; mid-year applications are handled on a case-by-case basis as space permits. Registration links are available via email upon acceptance to the program.


Full-Term Enrollment

Enrollment is by full-term only, or two full semesters (36 weeks of classes). To allow for maximum student benefit, families are asked to commit to the entire class term at registration. As a result of attending classes consistently throughout the year, students have the opportunity to learn, review and repeat concepts taught in classes in a manner that promotes longterm retention and the best possible return on your investment! Students are also required to attend a minimum number of summer classes and intensive programs in order to maintain their level placement and level promotions from one year to the next.   


We are proud to be a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with a commitment to keeping our programs accessible to aspiring artists from all backgrounds and walks of life. We work to keep operational costs as minimal as possible and rely on the generous support of donors and foundations, as well as ongoing school-wide fundraising activities in order to keep tuition low. Our tuition rates for dancers in the Pre-Professional and Conservatory programs, who attend between 5-25 class hours per week, can be as much as 1/2 that of similar ballet training programs. Detailed tuition and payment information is available by request


Some financial aid, work, men's and merit scholarships are available. New applicants will be notified of any men's or merit scholarships that they may apply and/or qualify for. New students wishing to apply for aid based on financial need must submit our financial aid application form.* Because available financial aid is limited, new applicants are encouraged to apply no later than June for the following school year. 

*Application for financial aid is not a guarantee that any aid will be awarded.


In addition to ongoing corrections in class, dancers in each level receive individualized evaluation from their instructors periodically throughout the year. Near the end of the school year, instructors formally evaluate student progress against syllabus standards in each level during Exam Week. Exam results are graded and distributed to students and parents along with individual feedback and level placement for the following year.


Click below to read/download the current handbooks:

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Are there levels within the Pre-Professional, Conservatory and Men's Program?

A. Yes. There are four levels in the Pre-Professional Program, three in the Conservatory, and two in the Men's Program.

Q. How is level placement determined?

A. By ability, not by age! Dancers must complete each level of syllabus and pass their comprehensive classical ballet examination before moving to the next. Examinations measure student proficiency in a wide range of areas including proper placement, coordination, knowledge of the syllabus material, ability to correctly perform the syllabus material, musicality, and artistic performance.

Q. Is there housing available for Pre-Professional, Conservatory and Men's Program students?

A. Yes! We do not have a formal dorm-style residence for students, but we do work to place incoming dancers in housing situations suitable to their individual needs. Students who are old enough can share an apartment with other Ballet 5:8 dancers. We also work to find host families for younger dancers whenever possible. 

Q. How do Conservatory students attend academic school? 

A. There are several options for dancers who need to complete their high school academic studies. Many area public high schools allow early release and many Ballet 5:8 students have used this in order to attend Conservatory classes beginning at 2:15pm. Other students study online through accredited courses instead of attending classes at a physical school. 

Q. Do students eventually take on positions with the professional company?

A. Yes, some Ballet 5:8 Conservatory Program graduates are now dancing with the professional company (Libby Dennen, Senior Apprentice). For dancers wishing to pursue professional careers, the Conservatory is typically a stepping stone to a college-level trainee program such as the Ballet 5:8 Trainee Program. Other Pre-Professional and Conservatory graduates have gone on to attend college dance programs including those at Hope College and Grand Valley State University.

Q. Can dancers get out of certain classes if they need to work? 

A. No, students are required to attend all scheduled classes, rehearsals and performances. Dancers who do not fulfill this requirement may not be able to successfully graduate from their program. We recommend that dancers who are in high school plan to receive support from family or others, since the time commitment needed to attend Ballet 5:8 classes and attend to academic studies is usually too intensive to allow for also working a job.