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Beezus21

shameless favoritism or is this how it works?

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Beezus21

Hello,

 

I have a question for all of you. My daughter switched ballet schools to a pre-pro school this year and we have been pretty happy so far. This school is a Vaganova based method school. So, the Nutcracker roles have been posted for this year already. I am happy with the roles my child's class has been given. However, the role of Clara is split between 2 girls and they are the same 2 girls as last year. I should add that they are very strong dancers- probably the top 2 in their class. Coincidentally, both of their families happen to be board members and contribute over 10K per year to the school. There has been a lot of chatter about how unfair this is b/c although they are the top dancers, others feel that other students should have a turn. Correct me if I am wrong, but the role of Clara does not require huge talent does it? Wouldn't it be more fair to pick other dancers? Or, is this one of those...."not everybody gets a medal" type things? I should add that although we are a prepro school, we do not have a company and the majority of our graduates go on to dance in colleges vs. companies.

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Momof3darlings

Hard to tell simply based on the role. In our pre-pro, you might be Clara for a couple of years. But when you talk unfair, this is what rings out to me:

 

I should add that they are very strong dancers- probably the top 2 in their class.

 

If they are the top two dancers in the school, and in your school Clara is the role given to the top two, then what does their parents donations have to do with it? Now, if they weren't the top two dancers in the school and the donations swayed the decision then that might be something to be upset about. While Clara in many schools is deemed the "best" role, I've never understood why except that it's the named role. Clara usually dances not much at all and other roles get to actually do much more.

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Beezus21

Sorry, I should have clarified- they are the top 2 dancers at their level not the school. There are plenty of more capable girls at the next level up where it would not be a stretch for them to be Clara (meaning they aren't too tall, too old, etc). As for the money, I assume like many, it sways the decision of the artistic director.

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gcwhitewater

Whether or not Clara is a demanding role is hard to answer without knowing the choreography. I agree with Momof3 that the appeal to most is that it is one of the main characters. If the directors choose the "strongest" dancers as you put it, there should not be a concern.

 

You mentioned the parental participation of the board and their financial support. I have always found that the perception of favoritism by the other parents is always heightened with both of those situations, whether or not there is merit in that perception. We actually dissolved our non-profit due to a similar perception. We had parents on the board and regardless of their students abilities, their casting was perceived by others as a reward for their parents participation. We did not do that to make it easier to cast, but to resolve the assumption that the students were receiving their casting based on their parents and not on their abilities.

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Danza2

Similar situation at my children's school. The same 1 or 2 girls are selected for all the lead roles in their age group and the process begins at around age 10 and continues on through the years.These two girls are not always the strongest dancers at the time the school decides to groom them into "principal dancers". There is no rhyme or reason as to why certain girls are selected. I truly beleive it is simply the AD and School Director's artistic preference.To watch this process unfold and work it's way through the levels down to your own daughters level, can be disheartening.I feel a school should make every effort possible to ensure that all the girls with equal abilites, passion and committment, recieve similar opportunities to grow as a dancer. Afterall, this is a school and not a company. This view is shared by many of the parents, including the parents of the "preferred" girls.

Edited by Danza2

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Danza2

The original post above has triggered some questions that I've been pondeirng to ask for some time. Maybe this should be moved to another topic, but the original post has caused feelings to surface so I hope this is ok. At what point should a parent make the decision to move her dancer to another school based on situations described above? It's a tough decision.The current school offers some of the best training around. One of the top professonal companies in the nation that also has a school is a reasonable commute. There are a few other schools within 15 -45 minutes away that have quality training, but not at the level of my daughter's current school. But these other schools would likely want to showcase and utilize my daughter and offer more performance opportunites. Are performance opportunites more important than training? If your child is complacent, should you allow her to stay? She is in a pre professional program and would like to become a dancer. But how soon, is too soon to move onto the the professional school?

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2in22s

I don't think it is because of the money...well not always. Most ADs don't give a darn how much someone has donated, they want to cast who they want to cast and thats it...usually.

 

When I paint a painting, I choose a certain color because I like it and it just "feels right". Sometimes, I don't care how much the comission is, if someone asks me to create something that is not aesthetically pleasing to me then I don't take the job...I just can't! Its an artist thing. Although, ADs will take your money and still do what they want. Big difference.

 

One AD we are friendly with cast the same girl as Clara two years in a row simply because she had done it before and didn't want to stress over whether or not the child would remember the choreography (a younger Clara is usually cast for this one).

 

I agree with Danza2, "I feel a school should make every effort possible to ensure that all the girls with equal abilites, passion and committment, recieve similar opportunities to grow as a dancer" but sadly, it just doesn't always work this way.

 

But there is "shameless favoritisim" to be found, in abundance, so I understand the questioning. You may never really find out the reason why.

 

Good luck to you.

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lemlemish

The OP asked if it would be more "fair" to cast other dancers this year. Even without the donation aspect, I'm thinking most schools (and companies) aren't really considering fairness as an important factor in casting when you are dealing with anyone over the age of 7....

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2in22s

shameless favoritism or is this how it works? The title of the thread.

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dancemaven

Danza2, training, training, training---especially in the younger years.

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Momof3darlings

Beezus--the top two in their level isn't necessarily a red flag either if that is the level that the ADs perceive "their" Clara coming from. As an example, at DDs home studio, once you were Clara you were likely Clara for more than one year. Not saying in your situation there isn't some unfairness going on, but simply because of a repeat casting doesn't necessarily connect the dots for us who don't know the whole situation.

 

I agree with gcwhitewater, the perception right or wrong can cause many problems. But "fair to pick more dancers" doesn't really enter into Nutcracker casting.

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julisha

I don't think moving to another school changes the favoritism thing because there is favoritism or some varying degree of it at every ballet school. It's not just in ballet, but also in other aspects of our lives. IMO, the quality of the training should be the most important factor.

 

The reality is that everyone will not get the Clara role, and those that do get it, may or may not go on to a career in ballet. I know of Claras at our school that quit ballet after they age out of the role, and the other dancers that did not get that role, went on to trainee positions and apprenticeships.Sure Clara is a high profile role, but it should not be the predictor of ballet success or failure. Agree with Momof3, the Clara role often involves more acting and a LOT of sitting and watching (isn't that much of Act 2?). Of course, I don't know what the chroeography is at the OP's school. There are other roles in the Nutcracker that have more dancing.

 

This topic is of particular interest to me, as our Nut auditions are coming up shortly and I'm trying to help DD with "managing expectations" when it comes to the Clara role and other roles. I think young dancers and maybe some parents (myself included) tend to gauge ballet potential, progress, skill, future success, etc. with what role you get in the Nutcracker, when the Nutcracker is only one ballet in the wide, vast world of ballet repertoire. I tell my daughter to look beyond Nut and focus on her day to day training. Don't become preoccupied with who is Clara and why (I know it's hard because all the girls are talking about it,nonstop). If there are roles that she wants to focus on, I suggest the corps de ballet roles like Snow and Flowers which she can aspire to as she advances in her training.

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buzzandmoo

Our experience with Nut has been mixed but overall fair as long as you take a few things into consideration. At our pre-pro school where there is no year end recital, many parents get VERY emotionally involved in Nut casting. The production is not a school production but one with the professional company attached to the school. After 4 years of this my DD and I have come to a few realizations.

 

Firstly, money does trump talent, in a non essential way. Especially in a school that really needs donor dollars.

 

The company really needs to fill those seats to fund the rest of the year.

 

Cute sells tickets.

 

It is SHOW BUSINESS!!!! I know we like to think of this as an art form (which it is) but it is a business. And as such decisions are based on business not fairness. Hard to take but that's life.

 

We are lucky this year. My DD got picked for a great role, not Clara which in our production is not a real dancing role, but a great dancing role. She is the youngest in the group and the person who picked her has some real criticisms last year that she work hard to correct. By getting picked it showed my DD that hard work does pay off. If this is the path my DD wants to pursue, she is going to have to learn to concentrate on those things that she has control over and work around those she does not.

 

By the way, "Clara's" generally have the role for two years in our production as well.

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julisha

Buzzandmoo, completely agree with your observations, as they have been what DD and I've seen in 6 years of Nut. What I really love about your post is your DD's example of working hard with given corrections to improve and seeing the results of that hard work by achieving a great role. This has universal life application, whether in the ballet classroom, the academic classroom or where ever. It's what I'm trying to share with my DD. Also agree that none of us can't change the "politics" of the Nut audition selection process, but our DKs can focus on our training, turnout, extensions, feet, artistry, etc-the things they can control that will untimately benefit them as they advance in ballet.

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gcwhitewater

Fairness is a subjective term which can be applied equally to several different points of view. I think we all can agree on that. I will use the role of Clara since it has been mentioned. Points of view: There is the student who has worked hard and feels it would be fair. There is the parent who has volunteered countless hours to their school's productions who feels it would be fair. There is the board member who has backed the organization financially who feels it would be fair. There is the parent who pays tuition and fees that feels it would be fair. I could go on and on with different scenarios and they all have validity based on each individual's point of view.

 

Ultimately, it comes down to the point of view of the Artistic Director. Hopefully your AD has considered AND implemented what they believe to be fair for the long term growth of each individual Artist involved in the production. That is not an easy task but one worthwhile if they are concerned with what is best for the "student" and not the parent or the finances. (Clarification: I like to refer to the students involved as an "Artist" since I feel it gives them more ownership in the experience so those terms are interchangeable.) Both are touchy subjects by the way, parents and finances. It is my opinion that if casting is based on financial gain or simply trying to keep all the parents and students happy, the students collectively suffer! Casting must be based on the long term growth of each individual Artist. If you don't think that is happening at your organization you should talk to the AD and get their perspective. If they cannot give you a reasonable explanation as to how their decisions are made, maybe you need to find one who is.

 

Personally, as an AD:

 

Money does not trump talent (ask my accountant)

 

I am not in Show Business...I am in the "education of dancers" business.

 

Each morning and evening I have to look at my image in the mirror and I need to be able to be comfortable with how I have treated my students.

 

Also, since this is in the parents forum, I should mention I have two children who dance so I am not just speaking from the AD point of view. If I was not the AD I would expect nothing less from another AD.

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