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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Politics in Ballet school?


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It seems in my Ballet School that there are a lot of politics that play in the way the casting was done for our end of the year performance Sleeping Beauty! There was no auditions and the parts were distributed very unfairly, yet there was no audition and we were promised the same amount of parts. I was just wondering if any of you were having the same problems at your school and what we should do about it?

- Megan

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  • Administrators

Unfortunately, Megan, this is not terribly unusual. School productions are under no obligation to hold auditions for parts, and the casting is up to the directors and teachers. There are often people who feel that the casting is political, and perhaps sometimes it is, but then again it might not be at all. There is no way that everyone is going to be happy all the time with casting, and what you do about it is either trust your directors and teachers and do what they feel is best for you, or go to a different school.


Casting in companies and schools is subjective, and there will always be some who think it is unfair. That is also subjective. It may be unfair in your opinion, but that does not make it a fact. One always has the right to ask why they were not cast in a particular role, and what they need to improve in order to be considered in the future. Ballet schools and companies are not democracies where things are done by vote ;) You are subject to a person's opinion, and whether you agree with it or not, there it is. The alternative is to not be there.

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Hi all!


This is just basically being written for AEdancer, Megan. However, for any of the rest of you who have been upset about their school show casting, or any other type of casting for any other shows...here's my take on the situation.


When I was in 7th grade, I auditioned for American Repertory Ballet's nutcracker for the first time. At the time, I was extremely small/short (about 4'10) and I was cast as a snowball. Part of this was because I was auditioning with younger children, and the snowball part was in my height audition. The other part of it I never figured out. The next year, I auditioned again, still in the same height audition, and I was a snowball again, but also a little party girl. I got to dance throughout the party scene and it was alot of fun. Why is this? The year that I was only a snowball, I was upset because some of my friends had more or better roles. However, instead of taking it for granted and saying "the director must not like me" or "I don't want to do this" I put all of what could have been my negative energy into being the best snowball there was. My goal was to get everyone in the audience to notice me. It payed off the next year, didn't it? I recieved a better role for working so hard with the first one I was given.


My 10 important things to know about casting:


1) Casting is a hard poccess. Directors and casting assistents go

through a lot to put parts together for people. Give them a


2) Casting isn't supposed to be "fair". Sometimes directors and

and casting assistents try to "spread the wealth" so to speak,

but sometimes they can't.

3) Casting isn't usually done by age.

4) Directors and those who have a say in casting don't make it a

certain way to bother or upset any of their students.

5) Casting hasn't much to do with whether or not the director

likes you. (i.e.--Just because you don't get the best parts in one

show doesn't mean that your director dislikes you, or your


6) Some parts in shows are only done well by certain people (Ex:

Clara in the nutcracker is done by a girl with a childlike face

whether she's 12 or 16).

7) No student owns the right to know why the director choses

casting the way he or she does. The only person who knows

is the director and people involved in casting, and it's not

meant to be known by students.

8) Students are put where they are meant to be, and where the

director thinks they will dance the best.

9) Nobody wants people to be upset, they just want the show to

look good, so just know that your contribution in that part is

where you look the best.

10) Casting is what you make of it! If you love to dance, there

really is no "bad" part is there? It's just one more part you

get to dance.


My advice to AEdancer, Megan, and anyone else with this problem is to make the very best of it, and show everyone how well you can do it. And remember, if you love to dance, that's what counts. 97 percent of the time an audience member who doesnt know about dance will look at you from the waist up because they love watching someone who loves what they are doing. People are put where they are meant to be, and where they can keep up, so do your best, it payed off for me, and it'll pay off for you too!

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Guest Dancing Angel

I have had a recent problem in my school production too. We are doing Carmen and my teacher told my in January that I was getting pas de deux. In March a girl in my class ( who always gets her mom to ask) went to my teacher and her mom asked her for a pas de deux for her daughter. Her daughter started to cry because she had said that she promised me that already. So she felt sorry for her and since my teacher and her mom are friends, they probably talked about it and she gave the pas de deux to her daughter. I got so mad and angry because she promised me and it was my first pas. My mom went to talk to her and they argued. After a while, she couldn't give it back to me but gave me a simple solo. I'm still upset about it and sometimes I think about leaving my school. Life is always going to be like that.

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  • Administrators

Dancing Angel, your situation does not sound as much like politics as it does an extremely unprofessional and immature teacher who makes promises rather than posting a casting list and sticking with it. Once casting has been set, it should not be changed unless there is an injury, or if for some reason the person cast is just not up to handling the role. "Promising" things to students is a very bad idea. Life is not "always" like this, but one thing you can learn from it is that until you see it in writing, it is not necessarily so. Unfortunately promises are sometimes idle thinking out loud, and spoken before enough thought and planning has gone into the decisions.

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Guest Dancing Angel

Thank you Ms. Leigh for your comment. However, my teacher is leaving our school. I was thinking about changing schools but I don't have to now.

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yeah thats pretty much what happened in my case, Dancing Angel I was promised a part and now like two weeks away from the performance they are giving my part to someone else!Same thing also the parent of the girl given my part wrote a letter to the director. Thus showing when you want something complain.

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  • Administrators

No, AEDancer, I really don't think that is the way it is done, nor the way it should be done. You earn parts, you don't ask for them. If you do not trust the casting, realizing of course that no casting is going to make everyone in a school happy no matter what one does, then perhaps you need to have a discussion with the director in terms of why you were not cast in the roles you thought you should have. As I said before, promises should not happen, and very rarely do, and I doubt seriously that they happen in a school professional enough to pull off a production of Sleeping Beauty.


JRSDancer, I deleted your post because you brought up names of schools and dancers, none of which had been previously mentioned by AEDancer. There was absolutely no need for any personal information here. The rest of the board does not know what school or people are being discussed here, nor should they.

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With the company at my school, I believe it is politics. But I don't think they do that with the school lessons. In classes, I moved up a level, And the people who stayed down, It was because of not picking up on the steps quick enough and such. But in the company, I was held down because of that reason and people who stayed down in the level moved up. I asked my teacher was there a reason I stayed down and I was told that was the reason. But it didn't make sense. But the person who moved up had parents in this group that donate to the company each month, And my parents aren't. So, I chose not to company this year. I would have liked to be in the company, But I didn't like the reason I was held down. Sorry, If the problem was fixed awhile ago, I just thought I'd add in my two cents.

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Guest ballet_shalom_forever

Wow, I hate to say but it sounds that the saying 'nice girls finnish last' rings a bell here. I can't imagine a teacher handing a part already promised to another dancer because the dancer wanting it is crying or students moving up because parents donate money to the school.

For the recital this year, i dont think there were auditions for the parts but we have a few very advanced students - level 4 (the Russian method) and they all got part that pretty much suited their abilities. The other students that aren't quite as advanced got smaller parts and the level 2's were mostly in the corps. In all fairness the girl who got the lead IS the daughter of one of the women that work at our school, but she is a very good dancer, like her sisters so they all deserve what they get.

I don't know if this is the "professional way" but i think it was fair towards most, if not all students.

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Guest Dancergal92

At my studio, The teachers play favorites, and that is how it is casted. If you are the teachers favorite, you get the best parts. I you are not the teachers favorite, then you get worse parts. There is this girl who is not a great dancer getting all these great parts because she is one of the favorites of the teacher. There are many other wonderful dancers at my studio who never get seen because they are not favored.

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  • Administrators

Teachers and directors generally cast roles in terms of which dancer, in their opinion, is the best for the role they are casting. Being "the best dancer" does not always mean that this dancer is the best for a particular role. And "best" dancer is a totally subjective opinion, anyway. It is usually not a question of "best", but of who is right in terms of what the role requires. There are some dancers who excel in lyrical roles, adagios, pas de deux, etc., and there are some who are "soubrettes", or smaller, quick, good allergro, bright and sparkly dancers. There are dancers who are better at grand allegro, and might be cast as Myrtha or in Big Swans. Every ballet has certain things which are required in the leading roles and the solos. Almost all directors will try to cast the people who are best suited for the particular roles.


Student dancers tend to think in terms of "best", and "strongest", or, who does the most fouettés or gets their leg the highest, etc. Casting goes way beyond this. I also find that many students do not have a realistic concept of their own abilities. Some even think that just because they might have been in a studio the longest that they deserve the lead roles.


I really do not think that there are very many teachers and directors who cast "favorites". They cast the dancers who can do the work. The ones who never miss classes and rehearsals and who LEARN from one lesson to the next. The ones who dance with musicality and intelligence. The ones who do not expect to be given something just because they show up, but who work very hard to earn their way into roles. Are they favorites? No, they are favored because they can do it. They have the physical equipment and facility, and have put in the work. Very hard for students to be objective about this, but it's the way things work.


There are exceptions to everything, and I'm sure there are some places where the teachers cave in to parents and political situations. This is not a good thing, ever, and shows a lack of strength and integrity on the part of the teacher or director. IF that is actually what happened. All too often this is only the perception of the students who did not get the roles, because they must find a way to justify to themselves and others and it's a lot easier to say the casting was political than to recognize that you might not be the right one for the role. It takes a great deal of intelligence and maturity to be realistic in this kind of situation.


(I am NOT accusing anyone here of not being intelligent, mature, or realistic, only stating that there are different ways to look at this situation, and it's POSSIBLE that some might have looked at it without this objectivity. ;) )

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Guest Dancergal92

I understand what your saying, but I guess it could be different from one studio to another, and to understand what one might say could only be understood through actually seeing it. :)

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Guest Medora

Well I can't speak for every studio in the world, but fair is fair at our studio. It's a general rule at our studio that we don't ask for parts in our performances, our teacher/director gives them to us. And normally the best person for the role gets the part they deserve. In our production of The Ugly Duckling, I was not given as big a role as the other two really good dancers in the company, but I can see that because of my size and the fact that I dance well with this other 13 year old girl there who is about my size, I was best for the part of one of the two other ducklings. I can't say if the other two girls who got bigger parts are better dancers than me in general because I don't compare myself to others, but even if we are on equal ability, I can see why I was the best for my particular role. And I enjoyed it very much!! I don't think the important thing should be what you dance, but how you do it. In my opinion you can still steal a show in whatever seconds if you dance your part really well. Not everyone at our studio is ever pleased with the casting and some think my teacher is playing favorites when they don't get the roles they want, but if you look at it objectively like Ms. Leigh said it's very easy to tell why who got what. And my teacher won't argue about it, if you don't like it, you know where the door is. We have lost a few people this way, but I think it's for the best when they leave, because it weedles out those with bad attitudes and such and just leaves those who really want to work and learn. :)

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Luckily for me, our school is extremely fair too. There aren't enough students in the highest levels to be able to make a fight about anything. Between maybe 6 of the highest level students(which would place about high intermediate or low advanced)there are always enough roles to go around, on the occasions that we do full length things, which is mostly nutcracker. For taht, we're splitting ReedFlute, Spanish, and sometimes Sugar Plum. The numbers of dancers in each change each year, and it gets rechoreographed each year too, pretty much, so it's always fair. I like that a lot.

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