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Ready for Apprentice at 17/18


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:D Would you say that after 5-6 years of intensive full-time ballet training that a male dancer would be ready to audition for an apprentice position in a company at the age of 17 or 18? Or would the male need to do another year or two of "finishing" at a school - I'm thinking in terms of strength for partnering and performance. I realize that each child is different and will develop at different rates both physically and technically, but if the male is relatively strong, with good technique, with performance and partnering experience???


Your thoughts??? :thumbsup:

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Age is totally relative here, dancemom. There is just no way to know if a person is ready for professional work without seeing them dance. There will be some 17-18 year olds who might be ready, and many who will not. The length of training, the quality of training, the intensity of the training, and most of all, the physical facility of the dancer will make a big difference in whether one is ready or not. I don't think one should even try to put an age factor on it. His teachers should know if he is ready or not, or at least ready to audition and see where he is. If they feel he needs more training, then he probably does, unless he is in a school where they might try to hold on to their one or two male dancers, but I would hope that is not the case.

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Thank you Ms. Leigh - I do agree with you about age being irrelevant and actual technqiue and facility being the more important factor. I think what I am more concerned about is the leap from dance school to a company situation - it is a completely different environment and requires a different degree of maturity and responsibility. And no, my son is not at a school where they want to keep their males dancers after Level 7 - they must move on. Right now, my son feels that there will be many choices after he graduates (all factors working out right), but he has expressed an interest in furthering his dance studies rather than leaping at auditions for apprentice positions. However, his thinking may change over the years.

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As a mother of a boy who is 17, turning 18 this summer and a senior in high school, I thought I would contribute one specific example. By the beginning of company audition seasion, our son was very clear about his intention NOT to audition. Despite having 9+ years of ballet training, he felt he was not "good enough" to join a company. He also wanted the luxury of devoting himself to ballet instruction without the stresses of a demanding high school schedule.


I was a little surprised at first (so it is good you are thinking ahead) but have come to see, that in his case he was quite correct. It certainly helped that his teachers agreed with his assesment. One said that although he could likely get a job now, he will have more possibilities given a year more of training and growing stronger. I like the term "finishing" as it brings up images of refining technique, finishing growing, and overall polishing.


On the topic of handling life in a company, one of the company members recently told me that his finishing year helped him transition more easily into his apprenticeship. Life in a company was demanding in ways he did not anticipate. If everything works out for our son, he will be living in an apartment next year but attending classes so it will be one step toward independence - hopefully making for an easier transition.

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My opinion is that a lot of boys could stand a couple extra years work beyond that needed by most young women—just to finish physically maturing if nothing else. I see a lot of young men in smaller companies with still developing musculature (particularly some big and/or tall young men) who just don’t have the associated strength, coordination, stamina, and refinement in movement quality that I’m sure they’ll develop later on. This includes those who still seem to have a bit of “puppy fat,” generally an indicator of continuing hormonal and body changes.


Given male dancers’ physical demands, particularly in partnering, I just don’t think it’s a good thing to rush it. (And it pains me to see young men struggle with lifts and complicated partnering.) I suppose a young man’s physical qualities could help guide him in his decisions, particularly if his physical characteristics strongly suggested his suitability for cavalier roles, or if he were more suited or interested in soloist or character roles.


On the other hand, a couple young corps men have told me they felt they needed to join a company to get the partnering experience they felt they needed to develop as dancers. At the same time, they all stressed the importance of getting as much partnering training as possible before joining a company as that is the area where they felt the weakest. I think a few of them may also feel some peer pressure to join a company at a time when many of their female peers are often more ready.


I’ve read several times that young men whose genetic background is from near the equator tend to physically mature more quickly than others. I have no idea how much of that is just genetic stereotyping or whether it has some basis in scientific study. But lately I’ve noticed a lot of young blond or light-skinned male ballet dancers, predominant in the companies I've seen lately, that just don’t seem anywhere near their finished physical development yet.


Here's another idea: Look at college basketball players (which I have to admit for me hasn't been for a least a couple decades...not since my 20s, I think!) Very, very few young men have the machine- or animal-like quality to their movement that they have later on. It isn’t until they are in their mid-20s that many of them begin to hit their peak. On the other hand, many college-aged female athletes are generally more often at or near their peak. In my mind, young male ballet dancers don’t seem much different than college basketball players in the speed of their development.

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Knock, knock...please excuse the intrusion as I have a DD, but I'd like to add a thought if I may: During Kait's first season as an apprentice (she's 18), I think that the most difficult adjustments for her were in the non-dance areas of her life. She chose a company over college, so she had no RAs, sorority house mothers, etc., to help out. Learning how to take care of herself, making sure that there was food in the house, making sure that she ATE the food, getting enough sleep, taking care of finances...all the usual issues that kids learn to deal with during their first year of college. There is no transition period if they go directly from HS to a company. She's doing great, but it was, I think, a hard adjustment at first. Something else to consider...

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To clarify why I decided to participate in this discussion, I have been thinking about this topic a lot recently. I've seen four different companies in the past few months and the young men, IN GENERAL (I'm stressing that), were nowhere near as strong as the young women. It has been quite noticable.


To clarify what I was basing my comments on: One source about genes and development was from Cecchetti, or possibly Petipa, though I think not. Obviously, things have changed a lot since the comment was made, but whoever it was, I remember he noted that when he went to Russia, he had to rethink his expectations for males as they developed so much more slowly "in northern climes." I read a similar comment again recently, made by someone in the Scandinavian countries. I don't remember where I read that either, though I think it was in the past six months or so, and I've checked a couple places — in a Richard Philp book and a sociological study "Ballet Across Borders" — but a cursory look didn't turn it up. Anyway, that's why I particularly chose to use the phrase "genetic stereotyping," despite and actually because of all the negative connotations inherent in the word "stereotyping," and tried to stress that I had no idea whether it had any scientific basis.


I still feel that many young men take longer to develop than women — not all, by any means — but many. Physical development alone occurs at different rates and times from male to male, and from female to female. It's seems ridiculous to restate the obvious, but men ARE a lot different from women...no snickering allowed. :-)


Seriously, I think the difficulties may begin with applying standard eight-year curriculi for both men and women and basing expectations on that. Or just the assumption that when young men and women are 17, they should also be finishing high school and, concurrently, their training. I just think we tend to rush, rush, rush everything in this country. (And before somebody hops on that statement, yes, I realize that a youthful impatience to grow up and get on with life could very well be common everywhere!)

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I also took great interest in, and forgot to mention, the comment above from Ms. Leigh, who said (emphasis mine):

There will be some 17-18 year olds who might be ready, and many who will not. The length of training, the quality of training, the intensity of the training, and most of all, the physical facility of the dancer will make a big difference in whether one is ready or not. I don't think one should even try to put an age factor on it. His teachers should know if he is ready or not, or at least ready to audition and see where he is. If they feel he needs more training, then he probably does,...

Also, Ms. Leigh, I thought your phrasing and choice of the terms "some" and "many" in describing the readiness of 17-18 year-olds was interesting. Whether you intended it or not, the implied meaning of "many," a numerous, though unspecified number, has more weight than "some," which is merely an unspecified amount. (No flaming for parsing!) Anyway, I agree.

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Guest PAmom
I think that the most difficult adjustments for her were in the non-dance areas of her life.

Those are the first things that came into my mind when thinking about older teens and starting an apprenticeship. Even if they are technically finished, life experience wise they may not be. Maturity in all aspects of a dancer's life is important. It will effect their performance in class and on stage.


Some professional companies have a younger troup or second company that will occasionally blend with the main company and their apprentices for classes and performances. They are paid professionals but still mainly with youger dancers and socially I think this can be important. Expectations of them are not exactly what they would be from a seasoned dancer in the main company, on stage or off. This is a nice stepping stone for a young dancer that needs to ease there way into the dance profession for the reason of being young emotionally, or even their dancing needing a year to be tweaked to the professional level. This is a way a way to get their feet wet outside of school yet not have the expectations that the main company would have.


t :sweating:

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