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What is the easiest to deal with?


pointe2perfection

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I have read so many threads regarding "my dd doesn't have turnout" or "my dk lacks in the feet area" or my dk isn't the right height" and so on and so on. I am curious, since I highly doubt that there is "the perfect dancer" in very many of our beautiful children, what is the easiest to deal with in terms of trying to fulfill the dancers dream of becoming professional. Turn out and feet can be improved to a point, but that varies between dancers. Height is what we are blessed with - no changing it. What seems to be the area that might be slightly forgiven if the rest of the package is what a company is looking for? :D Any ideas?

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What seems to be the area that might be slightly forgiven if the rest of the package is what a company is looking for?

 

I would think that the question you posed would be different depending on what director was viewing this normal (yet imperfect) and I'm assuming well trained dancer body. Since there are nuances specific to each company.

 

As well, I would think that any one of your items could be forgiven under the right circumstances. We can all look at famous professional dancers who may not have had one or the other. But in those cases, there was something magical that "replaced" the fact that maybe the feet weren't perfect. They had that something else that made you just say.....so what to those ideals!

 

All in all, this journey for our DD/DS's is a shot in the dark. You train, and train hoping to get the best body and ability you can. But in the end, it's being in the right place at the right time with the right package that is needed at that particular second in time!

 

vj

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Actually, a while back I had been thinking of this kind of a question myself - but never got around to posting. I was thinking more about what schools look for, though: not companies. There would be so many factors there, I wouldn't even want to venture....

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mom2, you are quite right there! Schools and companies are NOT necessarily looking for the same things. Whatever the AD's "ideal," they most often are looking at what works for their company at the moment they are looking, as momof3darlings correctly notes, which is highly variable within certain parameters...

 

There are some thing that everyone wants; girls with exquisite feet and legs, come to mind as an example, but clearly there are professionals who do not have the best feet and legs! If it is a major company and the dancer does not have exquisite extremities, then if she gets hired it is because something or more likely everything else is exquisite, body, extension, face, technique, expressiveness, port de bras, and so on (not to mention as momof3 also aptly noted, "magic"). In more "minor" companies (and for this discussion let's consider this to be the smaller more regional companies), the AD may not have quite the choices the directors of the major companies may have and then they try to do the best they can with what's being offered. You may, in these companies, see girls who not only do not have perfect feet and legs, they may also be heavier or shorter or taller, etc., than the director would find ideal.

 

The same sorts of things apply to the men as well, although the list of attributes is different.

 

I know someone who has been teaching ballet for more than 50 (!) years. She often describes bodies as "major company" bodies and "Not major company" bodies. Which I think covers it pretty nicely without suggesting that anyone cannot dance. I believe that one way or another EVERYONE can dance, but not everyone can dance everywhere!

 

To get a handle on the difference, you should try to take a look at Gretchen Ward Warren's fabulous "Classical Ballet Technique" (usually available used at alibris.com, barnesandnoble.com and/or half.com).

 

Additionally, AD's also need to consider injury rates (EVERYONE gets injured, but people who are ALWAYS injured are a financial liability [workman's comp. issue, need for ready replacement issue, etc.]), the likelyhood a dancer will be interested in staying for more than one season, visa issues, ad. inf. Many AD's do NOT like to hire dancers directly out of school into main companies because they do not know how a very young professional will respond to the pressures in a company (which are very different from those in a school), how they will deal with the freedom of being away from a structured enviornment (home or boarding school, they all have rules regarding "down" time, whose room/house you can go to, what time you have to be in, etc. This is clearly NOT part of being employed in a professional capacity), etc. These are not often voiced issues, but they exist none-the-less. Also, they have to consider what they feel that a dancer's future will be in their company: is this dancer someone we want to promote; is he/she never going to get out of the corps - will that be all right with him/her in a few years, etc. AD's also often want to get personal feedback on a dancer from the dancer's references. Being a "team player" often counts, a good work ethic ALWAYS counts, does the dancer come in drunk/drugged? And so on...

 

In the US, it is an underlying cultural assumption that we can grow up to be anything we want to be if we just work hard enough. Clearly, ballet violates this basic American tenant! If the instrument you were given is highly imperfect you will NOT be a principal dancer at NYCB or ABT or SFB or a whole lot of other places no matter how how much you want it or how hard you try, etc.

 

 

And finally (bet you are all glad it is "finally" :flowers:),

momfo3darlings: But in the end, it's being in the right place at the right time...
cannot be over emphasized!

 

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Regarding the issue of major company vs. minor company: Often major companies are filled with corps members who possess what BalletAuthor mentioned as "major company" bodies but, because of the star system (NYCB a notable exception), they don't get to dance as much as dancers with "Not major company" bodies who fill the ranks of smaller companies. Smaller CAN be better if a dancer is looking for a lot of dancing.

 

Momfo3darlings, I love how you expressed it. You wrote a nice succinct (something I'm rarely able to do) articulate post about this.

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Moderators - I'm not sure this is the right thread to be asking this question - so it may need to be moved.

 

What is "extension"? Is it the same as "flexibility"? Is it true that DKs especially DDs lose flexibility/extension when they reach puberty? How important is it to a dancer's career? Can you improve flexibility/extension? How? :flowers:

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People usually relate flexibility to extension, however it also exists in the feet, the back, and in the area of rotation in the hips too. Some people are born with a great deal of natural flexibility in certain areas, but maybe not in others, and some are born with very little or a great deal in all areas. The most natural body for dance has it in all the joints. I do not believe it is true that if they have this naturally that it will be lost during puberty. Not at all. In fact, I find that most students, even those with excellent natural flexibility for extension, will not reach their full potential in terms of extension until well after puberty.

 

Ballet inherently develops and increases flexibility. All the additional stretches they learn in ballet classes, plus those from Pilates or other exercise programs, can aid in increasing flexibility. Flexibility in terms of extensions also requires strength in order to control the extension, and to maintain it for slow controlled movements like adage. That is one reason it takes longer to develp in ballet, because in a naturally flexible child the strength will usually come later. This is particularly true for the long, thin child. Shorter, more compact bodies will develop the strength earlier.

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Ballet inherently develops and increases flexibility. All the additional stretches they learn in ballet classes, plus those from Pilates or other exercise programs, can aid in increasing flexibility.

Ms. Leigh, Is it correct to assume that regular ballet classes will improve the DKs flexibility and extension. You mentioned Pilates and “other exercise programs”. What are other exercise programs a dancer could take to help maintain and improve flexibility and extension? Should a child perform stretching exercises without being sufficiently “warmed-up”? An instructor has advised my DD to stretch on days she does not dance. Is this a good idea?

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I can address the last point somewhat. One should NEVER stretch without first warming up. On the days when your daughter doesn't dance, she should give herself at the very least a light warm-up (jogging around the room for a few minutes or something, maybe basic barre work up to and including rond de jambe par terre).

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Regarding the issue of major company vs. minor company: Often major companies are filled with corps members who possess what BalletAuthor mentioned as "major company"  bodies but, because of the star system (NYCB a notable exception),  they don't get to dance as much as dancers with "Not major company" bodies who fill the ranks of smaller companies. Smaller CAN be better if a dancer is looking for a lot of dancing.

ABSOLUTELY!!!!!!! I couldn't agree more completely!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :flowers:

 

What I said wasn't intended to be an evaluation of which places are the best to work or why and had NOTHING whatsoever to do with potential job satisfaction...It is just that at times MOST (and I know that there are a huge number of exceptions, especially when the dk's are old enough to actually be looking for jobs) dks seem to want to dance at ABT or NYCB, etc., and one cannot expect to be able to dance in the corps with either of those companies (to name 2 of several) without what is labeled as an "appropriate" body-type.

 

What pointe2perfection had asked and what I was attempting to help answer was:

  I am curious, since I highly doubt that there is "the perfect dancer" in very many of our beautiful children, what is the easiest to deal with in terms of trying to fulfill the dancers dream of becoming professional. Turn out and feet can be improved to a point, but that varies between dancers. Height is what we are blessed with - no changing it. What seems to be the area that might be slightly forgiven if the rest of the package is what a company is looking for?  Any ideas?
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thedriver, yes, it is correct to assume that ballet classes, IF properly taught, will improve flexibility and extension. However, all dancers eventually learn to do a lot of extra stretching. Keyword....LEARN. They should not stretch unless they have been taught HOW to stretch, and, as Hans said, ONLY when warmed up. Therefore, they have to have enough training to understand how to warm up and how to work on their own. This does not usually happen until they have a few years of study, and that is not counting the years between 4 and 7 or 8.

 

Pilates is highly recommended for dancers, however some also like Yoga. There are other programs around which are variations on the theme of Pilates, but I don't know much about them.

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What seems to be the area that might be slightly forgiven if the rest of the package is what a company is looking for?

Please remember that we are answering the question regarding companies not SIs... That said, all of the teachers/pros on this site can cite current examples of major dancers with weaknesses. Sometimes that very weakness forces the dancer to develop other strengths beautifully!

 

Though the gentlemen have some leeway in this, I would say that poor feet will be hardpressed to find their way into a major company. Every company, through their AD and repetoire, emphasize certain technical qualities.

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the orthopodist for the Royal Danish Ballet (as well as the Danish national soccer team). The night before the meeting I had watched on television as the artistic director, the first ballet mistress and Dr. Larsen selecting 5 and 6 year olds for the Royal Danish Ballet School.

(edit) he said that it was much less hurtful than the way we go about selecting and training dancers in the US.  The School or not and no one is telling them if they do not get in that they cannot train elsewhere, BUT hundreds of years of experience had taught them that if the body was not suitable the children would only get hurt and/or wouldn't get jobs and have to quit and by then they would be UPSET and it would be much harder to deal with all around.

 

I can really see his point especially since I have some kids right now, whose parents and kids hang on and hang on they are fighting a loosing battle, perhaps harming their bodies.

BUT what about the kid who has true star quality that will beat the odds and be something really special. That kid gets typed out by the Danish.

How many stars of the past did not have the perfect, body, turn out, were too old to start dancing (Nureyev comes to mind) that had that something special that surpassed all technique. I have had students who I was told would not make it because of one thing or another whatever and I knew otherwise. They had that special something and I truly believe that is what the audience is looking for. To me moved, inspired, excited by dance. And within certain paramaters, some dancer surpass good technique and body type, they have that certain something (and the passion and the drive to make it happen) that you just cannot take your eyes off of. That is what I want when I go to see a performance. :gossip:

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BUT what about the kid who has true star quality that will beat the odds and be something really special.  That kid gets typed out by the Danish. 

How many stars of the past did not have the perfect, body, turn out, were too old to start dancing (Nureyev comes to mind)  that had that something special that surpassed all technique.  I have had students who I was told would not make it because of one thing or another whatever and I knew otherwise. They had that special something and I truly believe that is what the audience is looking for.  To me moved, inspired, excited by dance.  And within certain paramaters, some dancer surpass good technique and body type, they have that certain something (and the passion and the drive to make it happen) that you just cannot take your eyes off of.  That is what I want when I go to see a performance.  :gossip:

ABSOLUTELY! I agree and I believe that the good doctor would agree with this too, but...The Royal Danish provides comprehensive and brilliant ballet training, an academic education and room and board for these students for 11 years or so which is a HUGE investment on which they are entitled to get the return of having produced dancers they hopefully are interested in employing.

 

They do occasionally hold auditions at the RD, so although a dancer rejected in early childhood might not have been able to train in the school it does not automatically preclude their dancing there as an adult.

 

Dr. Larsen noted that the RD's evaluation did not prevent the children who were rejected from seeking training ELSEWHERE, if they (or their parents as these were young children) so wished.

 

I know that there a lot of ballet programs in Copenhagen and all throughout Scandinavia so there is no reason to believe that a dancer such as you describe would not simply go elsewhere to train.

 

Also, I think that the qualities you describe are not necessarily particularly evident when dealing with 5 & 6 yo's. Hard to tell with a child that age if he/she has

...that certain something (and the passion and the drive to make it happen.)
. Therefore, it makes sense to me to go with the things you can quantify at that age, especially given the length of time over which they have had to do the quantification; turn out, feet, flexibility,potential height, musicality, etc., than trying to ascertain what kind of passion a small child has for something with which they have almost no experience.
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