Company Life: Going professional, the transitions

90 posts in this topic

The problem is that it disrupts the look of the thread and the continuity. I prefer the uniformity of type, but with bold used for emphasis when needed. Another problem is that the kids will go wild with this if we allow it. We never have, and I would much prefer that we don't start now! Sorry, vagansmom!

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Hehe, no problem, Victoria, I do understand. Henceforth, I will suspend my creative urges while on this website.

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Thank you! :)

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Back to the discussion and helicopter parents - the information below was taken from the Oregon Ballet Theater School web-site. I admire that they are actively working to teach the students to advocate for themselves as part of their training and progression. :thumbsup:


"Students progress in their training by developing work ethic, discipline, strength, and technique. Not all students do this at an equal pace. Most importantly, technique milestones must be reached before progression can occur. Placement and progression to the next level is by recommendation of the Faculty only. We do not place or advance students solely based on their age or on their level at a previous ballet school. Parents are asked not to approach teaching staff with questions about their student's progress nor is it appropriate for parents to question current level placement or recommend graduation to the next level. Students, on the other hand, are encouraged to interact with staff at appropriate times or schedule appointments if they have questions or concerns with regard to level progression, technique, injuries, etc."

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I've spent the last week poring through every word of this thread, the "nudity in ballets???" . . . . thread, to find a way back into this topic after some strong "opinions" took us off course. Along the way, I realized that I need to find a good motto to put after my signature, as I found a lot of great advice in three of the mottos found within this thread:


1) Victoria Leigh: "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass... it's learning how to dance in the rain!"

2) Clara 76: "A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor."

3) vagansmom: "The truth is rarely pure and never simple."


All three of these mottos speak to me about the need for adaptability and open-mindedness in the professional dance world.


Do you know what's not being open-minded? Putting quotes around words as a way of expressing judgment and derision, as I did for effect in my first sentence. The inflection that is conveyed when someone puts quotes around words when none are needed speaks volumes.


On the very first page of this thread (before it got off-track), cheetah wrote, "Realizing that while dance is an art, now it is a job - and has to be treated as such." Later, swanchat wrote, "The important thing for our dd is that she sees artistic value to what is put on the stage and as we all know, art is in the eye of the beholder."


That seems to bear repeating: Art is in the eye of the beholder. Note that neither cheetah or swanchat put the word "art" in quotes because they were affirming it as a valid concept. This isn't about the "other" topic (note the quotes: the hush-hush topic we must not speak about), nor the fact that my daughter is an "other" dancer (what exactly did hlm8791 mean by lumping all non-ballet dancers like that?).

to "use" the dancers in a way that they never intended to be used when they decided to become ballet dancers, rather than 'other' dancers

(If quotes mean "so-called," then I guess that makes my professional daughter a "so-called dancer.")


Over and over, parents of professional dancers offered up advice related to adaptability:

cheetah: "Adapting to dance styles (though still called "classical") for which you have no experience - and may not like at all."

Clara 76: "Yes, because of those natural gifts they may have an easier time getting a job. But do they realize that each and every spring, they may not?"

Momof3darlings: "But it is a job with all that entails including a lack of job security"

swanchat: "This is why it's important for young dancers to develop a curiosity for learning while in school."

GTLS Designs: "Keep an open mind, while being true to yourself."

Me: "being open to new experiences.."

vagansmom: "My daughter has often said that her top challenge....was accepting that she was still always auditioning..."


This is a thread about professional careers in dance and asking those of us who have that perspective what it's like, but it's devolved into a pre-pro talk about independence and helicopter parents. I posted about independence 6 years ago when my daughter was 18 - here. Going pro is about being adaptable. You can't in one post say,

No, we can't dictate everything, but when you(she) make decisions in life, you have to understand the whole playing field, not just that of your chosen career path. It's part of not thinking you are the center of the world. I certainly know that my opinions will not always be the controlling opinions in her life.

and then turn right around and say,

Although I may have seemed to be helicoptering, I know that dd will have to make all her career decisions and have her discussions on her own.


If pre-pro parents really want to hear what professionals and parents of professionals have to say about going pro, I would have lots more to say.


(And I may gather some thoughts to post on cheetah's other thread about that "other" topic.)

Edited by dancemaven
Removed link to a private forum thread

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Personally, I feel the issue about helicopter parenting in this case is on topic in a way. The challenge being that not all of us prepare our children to advocate for themselves until it's too late and this then becomes a challenge/change for some.


With that said, and with additional request from moderators and now Pierette the original question is this:

I wondered what were the top challenges/changes for those who have made the transition from student to professional?


I hope we can get back to it quickly. There are many here who have wonderful advice on the issue to share and many who want to learn as their children leave the nest. So thank you for bringing up some of the wisdom others have shared as reminders and let's get going with sharing those challenges/changes again. I will, as time allows, open a couple of other threads to streamline this one back on topic and bring up other topics that might need to be discussed.

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Actually that's the reason I even referenced the topic, Momof3, because self advocacy is a big challenge we've seen several dancers struggle with. Dealing with things like late paychecks, breaches in contracts (i.e. work hours, pay for overtime, off time, etc.), last minute notices of out of town performances, mistreatment, verbal harassment, etc. These are tough topics for many adults to deal with, much less someone new to the world of work, as many of our DKs are. It takes a lot of experience to learn how to handle these situations diplomatically. Student workers can come home and talk to mom and dad - or even have mom or dad deal with the issues. Our dancers can't.


Note: I'm not implying any of these have happened to my son personally (for those that know him) but they are certainly topics I've seen come up. And I wish I had prepared my own DS on the best way to deal with such issues without the "bull in the china shop" mentality :)

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I will never feel that I have all the right answers about ballet training. What we focused on was raising a well-adjusted, emotionally and intellectually intelligent person who happens to dance. Well, not just happens to dance. I knew that we had lost her to ballet after her first Nutcracker. Instinctively, I knew she would leave the nest way earlier than planned. We fought it. Every August, we begged, pleaded and presented dd with a list of other opportunities. My husband steeled himself For the August mother/daughter fights that centered around my begging dd to find other interests. Even then, we understood that our job was to help her learn to solve her own problems, recognize unhealthy situations, learn to feed and care for her body and develop an outward, accepting outlook for diversity and different ways of looking at life. I told my children that I would love for them to be happy but my real prayer was for them to be resilient.


Ballet dancers cannot control many things: the whims of an AD, strange choreograhy, casting disappointments, non-renewal of contracts, companies who don't honor their contracts; but they can control their reaction to these things and must learn to recognize when they are in a situation that is not healthy or conducive to being the best artist they can be. They must be able to see the disappointments and challenges as opportunities for growth. They do learn to form friendships for support but they also understand that these friendships may be disrupted when contracts are not renewed the next season. Ballet life can be lonely and a dancer must learn to find comfort in solitude and joy in spending time with people who are interesting and respect their art.


I just spent the evening with my dd and her friends. It was an evening spent in lively conversation about a range of subjects: Camus, to being a "rat" at the POB, Australian life, and challenges and opportunities of living so far from home. There was no sniping about other dancers, no airing of the company "dirty laundry." These are busy people who simply dont have the time to wallow in negativity. These young artists are interesting and have a lot of valid perspective on the world! It was a honor spending the evening with them. They all have parents who care and worry but without exception, all the parents trust these young adults to make their own good decisions. For parents whose kids are 15, know that in 4 short years, your dk may be on their own. Don't hover! Teach!

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Dear Pierrette, Swanchat, Momof3, himself,millvalemurph, etc...

As a parent of a preprofessional, I appreciate all the posts, even the controversial ones, as we all have different views/experiences and interpretations. Thank you for being honest and open. Please continue, and Pierrette, please mention your other thoughts. All is helpful as we negotiate these waters and learn to swim, and at times, to tread water!

Hovering is responsible parenting at one stage and not at another. Toddlers need to be hovered over to protect them! I now have three children over 15, and one who is 12. My parenting has been challenged as my husband and I learn to let them go and grow. I do feel it has been a faster tract towards that for my dancer than for my nondancers. But, even that is gradual, and at 16, her dad and I are still give her advice, mostly when solicited, but sometimes when not, and at times, we say no. I appreciate the mention of driving, as I think that is a "letting go" that all parents experience once that license is obtained. Their "first job" obtained as a preteen or teen is another great learning experience. I know the pain felt when the decisions made by my children are not the wisest and they suffer, or that they have to handle painful/awkward situations/decisions or rejections. I am learning when to speak, how to speak, and when to be quiet. It doesn't happen overnight and I have made mistakes. And, though we have taught extensively, bad decisions were made at times. Gracefully riding the rough spots with forgiveness/intelligence. That is also learning.

This post has helped me to discuss proactively with my daughter the road she is considering travelling. Thank you.

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My DD was home from her degree course in contemporary dance over Easter and we had a great time together. Just once when I expressed an opinion about a dance matter she replied that she didn't need me to tell her what to do. I pointed out that my mother - her grandmother - who had just celebrated her 90th birthday, still expresses her opinion on things I do. We agreed that open discussion is actually best - we are each entitled to our opinions, and older generations will always want to give the benefit of their experience. We can't help doing this but our kids (whether dancers or not) will always need to find their own way and make their own decisions! Funnily enough I have found over the last couple of years that if I say something she is not too keen on, but then back off, within a couple of days she can sometimes see where I'm coming from and agree after all.

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I've been doing my best to gather my thoughts around my busy work schedule, and just when I had decided to focus on a particular issue and start composing a reply to this topic, my DD wrote something on her Facebook wall that perfectly expressed what I was trying to say. I had to wait until last night to get her permission to share what she wrote. Here it is:


"Actors and nearly all others in the performing arts are professional job-seekers" - Paul Russell, casting agent. I agree; when people ask what my day job is I say I'm a professional auditioner. The cons are obvious: constantly looking for my next job and always for lower pay than "normal" jobs. Pros include: being flexible to what life throws at me (unlike those who are used to working for a company their whole adult life), I'm not shocked when a contract ends, and I have more stamina and practice when it comes to job-hunting than the average "normal" job type of person.


This is what I meant when I said in my first post that the top challenge for professional dancers is the on-going pursuit of employment. As an aside, I feel the need to clarify that young professional dancers are still going to need to turn to their parents for advice, referrals, and assistance with navigating through the whole gamut of grown-up bureaucracies such as Worker's Comp, filing tax returns, health insurance, reviewing contracts, banking and credit cards... you name it. As many have pointed out, a dancer's life can be rather lonely, so there may not be many other people your young dancer can turn to to help figure out their options. But I see the independence issue as THE top challange for PRE-pro dancers who are serious about going professional. By the time they actually become professional, the independence issue should be old hat - not a brand new challenge to cope with.


Part of the on-going pursuit of dance employment is defining for oneself what it means to be a professional dancer. My daughter has known many classically trained ballet dancers who, when they couldn't get an apprentice or trainee position with a decent-sized ballet company, simply gave up becoming a professional dancer and went into other lines of work. Other dancers prioritized the ability to stay put - either to be near a boyfriend, or maintain an apartment in a particular location - so they accepted nominal dance pay combined with other jobs. My daughter started by auditioning for ballet companies, had her first contract with a contemporary ballet company, but then went wherever there was a job offer, which meant accepting a cruise ship contract. It turns out she loves the work and enjoys the lifestyle, which allows her to audition "full time" between contracts. This audition season, she managed to land a short chorus singer/dancer contract with a regional theatre company that fit in nicely before her next cruise contract with her third cruise company. She chose this contract over a bunch of others mostly because of all the Mediterranean ports it goes to, but also because of the quality of the shows on this ship.


My daughter leaves for rehearsals at the end of the month. Today I had to dash out from work in order to pick up her immunization records because the staff doing her medical clearance decided at the last minute that they needed that information. These things happen. It's why I say that parents of professionals are still needed to lend assistance. But my daughter invested a ton of emotional energy into figuring out what path to take next based on which option was best for her.

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Congratulations to your daughter's success Pierette! It seems that in addition to being constantly in audition mode, a professional dancer would do well to approach their career as actors do. Actors audition, sometimes are given opportunities and sometimes not. They choose whether to participate in a project based on many factors; among them career promotion, the quality of the project, availability. While some dancers graduate from school and get a job in a company and stay there until the end of their career, many will dance for several companies and they choose to move based on some of the same factors. It helps to maintain a view of yourself as an independent contractor who chooses to dance at a certain company at a certain time. This is where it helps to maintain contacts and friendships. It's important to know what's going on out there so a dancer can be in the best place at the best time for his/her career.

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Folks, who knew tempers and hurt feelings could run so high regarding this discussion. The thread's focus was, and should return to, the sharing of experiences that our members who have gone before into the realm of professional dancer (in the context that we here on BT4D typically discuss and our BT4D aspire to be) can share as a head's up to those that come after in an attempt to ease the transition from student to professional, from child to adult. Forewarned is forearmed---at least that was the intent.


Between this thread and a similar thread on 'costuming', several recent posts have been removed due to tone and for calling out other members, often repeatedly. Such posts serve no purpose on these threads and do not add to the discussion. It would be a shame to have to close this thread because a few folks take offense at the focus of the Board or others' everyday usage of specific words in the overall context of this Board or because someone else's proverbial line in the sand is something different than theirs.


There is no reason this thread should be considered controversial or actually be controversial. Head's up scenarios experienced and shared are someone's personal experience. As in the SI forums, take the experience shared and do with it what you may. But DO NOT call out or challenge other members about their experiences. Yours may be different. Share those and move on with the discussion.


Now, please, let's do get back on topic: what experience, circumstances, situations can those that have gone before offer to give those that come after some help in that transition?

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Another important bit of advice I've heard my daughter say to younger dancers is to not let a small overuse type injury go untreated! It sounds like a "duh!" statement, but often when dancers are on their own in a company, they neglect this. This may be because they don't have medical insurance and are worried about how to pay for it. It might be because they don't want anyone to know in case they lose roles or aren't considered for a role if they have an injury. They'll often try to gut through the pain, but the risk of chronic injury is so great that it's unwise.


Daughter has said over the years that she feels she never had a major overuse injury (so far) as a professional dancer because she's taken care of the problem while it was still a small one.

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That sounds like a good reminder, vagansmom, especially since short and long term injuries have such major effects and their timing can be so disappointing and disastrous. In cases where injuries are due to smaller problems that were neglected, I am getting a sense that, at the higher levels of schools, there is not much sympathy from the faculty. Dancers are expected to take care of themselves well to prevent disruption at performance times or the missing of many classes during the year. I know that younger dancers often don't realize the impact that continuing to dance through discomfort might have.


Speaking of caring for our dancers' facilities, dd loves shoes and seems to adore the ones with what I would consider skyscraper heels! :whistling: I am always shaking my head "no!" How high can a professional dancer go without endangering her feet? Have you seen your dds become more practical?


Second question: Sleep? Have your professional dancers discussed with you how many hours they need to be rested and keep their mind absorbing well, while they may be expected to learn several pieces of choreography in a day to perform and/or understudy?

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