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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Career: Uses of Ballet Background


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One of the things that performing artists often find that they are unexpectedly good at is sales. After all, we have to sell ourselves all the time when we go onstage! And these aren't LITTLE sales jobs behind a counter at a department store, but large-scale, high-ticket sales, selling everything from ballet company bookings to custom executive aircraft! :shhh:

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Coffee asked about the path to being a critic - which two in my family have taken (although VERY differernt paths). The theater critic, however, would be about 90 were she still alive and her path was unplanned as to its outcome. What she was born with was formidable - aside from a keen intellect, - a passion for all the arts, and also a voracious reader throughout her life. She grew up in New York City and saw everything. From a diary entry in 1935 (the ballet tie-in) "The ballet has come and gone and I've just begun to catch my breath. I love them all so much. They were only in New York for twelve days, thank god - I don't know what I'd have done if they'd stayed a week longer. ---- and I stood for ten performances - thus consuming all the reserve stamina and capital of both of us." Another entry is about the Abbey Players coming to town; another about listening to opera on radio. It was a couple of decades later that she became a critic.


She did have an excellent high school education, but she dropped out of college after a year or so, and as she told it, rarely attended classes while there. Into her early 20's at least she aspired to be an actress. All I heard from Thanksgiving table anecdotes is that she was a very accomplished screamer for radio.


For several years she wrote for the Take It or Leave It radio program out in Hollywood, also known as the $64 (not 64,000) dollar questions. And at some point once back in NYC was invited to be the assistant to the editor of a magazine, which as she told the story, she accepted on the condition that she would "never have to write a word." At some point however she was either asked to write book reviews and/or to handle the book review section - doling the books out to the various reviewers, etc. At some point they needed a sub reviewer, and I forget if it was to fill in an absence of a movie or theatre reviewer. But she must have done a good job of it, because sometime after that off-broadway became her beat for many many years - which she would always say was the best beat in town.


Her path was anything but intentional, but anyone who knew her would say she ended up exactly where she was meant to be.


Now the music critic (my sibling) studied voice as a teenager, studied music at a fine arts college and tried to make a go at it in NYC - I think she hoped for musical theater. Left after a few years, various jobs, back to college to get a MBA, worked unhappily in business and sales for some years, then, during a period of unemployment turned to free lance writing, which at least had a better hourly return than the temp jobs she was taking. Gradually worked up to the equivalent of full time. To support her self she had major corporations as her accounts - whatever writing they needed - ghost speeches, brochures, in-house training manuals, anything. On the side, she started to meld her two loves, writing and music, and began to write and market to magazines articles about music, profiles of musicians, etc. Eventually a theme emerged, and she began to plan a book - which I believe took at least 5 years from concept to publishing. Meanwhile, she had also placed making music back into her life, with voice lessons, city chorus, etc. THEN, various articles and book behind her, she approached city newspapers re: doing music reviews. One gave her a trial, and now she does them with fair regularity. Definitely a lot of work and not a lot of money! (i.e. NOT a living at this point). Depending on what is being performed she does a lot of prep before attending.


Is a straight line possible? My sister's college dorm hallmate studied cinema in college, wrote reviews for the college newspaper, was hired by one city paper almost directly out of college, not too too many year later it was "oh - there's ---------- byline in the New York Times!"


I hope it may fall into place as quickly as that last scenario for you, coffee.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I've noticed some threads on several different forums on the board that are asking questions about this subject so I thought I'd move this fairly long thread on to Cross Talk. This way perhaps everyone on the board will be able to discuss the subject and get feedback "across the board" from a wider range of posters. :grinning:


It's an extremely worthy topic and one that deserves to be discussed. Ballet is something that so many people love and dream of pursuing professionally, but one's realities often change as life unfolds. The change in goals or aspirations can happen at any age... It can also come along at the end of a dancer's professional life...when they may decide they'd really like to do something different.


I think a thread like this offers students, dancers, teachers and parents a great opportunity to discuss the options available for someone who is in the process of changing the focus of their lives that's been so dedicated to ballet up until this moment. :D

Edited by BW
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Guest serenade389

This is a great thread. I'm 15 years old and have dreamed of becoming a ballerina for a very long time, but did not truly receive proper training until I was about 12 years old. I also do not have the conventional "ballet body" as well, which would make it hard for me to get into a company. I'm not saying that I'm giving up on my dream, not at all, but I'm beginning to really start thinking realistically about my ballet career. I'm going to strive for my goal and work as hard as I can, and if in the end there is not a place for me in the ballet world, then that's alright because I have enjoyed every minute of my training and have gained some much knowledge and insight from it :wink:

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One thing that I am currently pretty interested in is Dance Specialty Physical Therapy. Having spent close to a year total in and out of PT after a knee injury, I learned a lot about anatomy and rehabilitation. I really enjoy it. One of my PTs was a dance specialist, and works with the Joffrey, and the other one started out knowing nothing about dance. By the end of my time with her, she knew so much and was so interested that she wanted to go out and buy tickets for Nutcracker, something she had never considered before (slightly off topic, but I guess I was exercising my job as recruiter there). I know it would take lots of extra work, and time, but I think it would be great to both rehabilitate dancers, and also, if I were to be lucky enough, get to be backstage during shows! The only part that really scares me is the dissection during school. :wink:

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I have been trained as a classical dancer but switched than to the academic side of dance. Although I have recently taken up daily training again, I do enjoy research dance much more than being a "proper" dancer. However, I must say that researching dance is as difficult as dancing itself! The former hurts the brain, the latter hurts the toes :wink:



Concerning theatre critic education: I would recommend a degree in literature + a postgraduate education in Journalism. There are some PG programmes which specialise in theatre critics, such as Central School of Speech and Drama, London. They do offer an MA Theatre in London, which is designed for future theatre critics. It is a very competitive field - I have been working myself as a journalist (not theatre but fashion) and its pretty rough and unfortunately not very well paid.

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In today's New York Times on the front page of the Job Market section there's an excellent article about a dancer who changed careers. It's worth reading...and it doesn't take much effort to register for the New York Times website if you haven't done so already. This article goes into the dancer's background (he was at Princeton when he finally started taking jazz and ballet) and the psychological side to his decisions, which are not necessarily what you might expect. He was helped by Career Transition for Dancers, which most of us have heard of, I'm sure. Check out the article by Besty Cummings called Dancer in 'Cats' Finds a 2nd Act in Law".


Here's a excerpt from the piece that relates to the organization:

"Dancers spend their whole life, from 5 or 6, having tunnel vision about dance and being a Broadway or modern or jazz dancer," said Mary Lou Westerfield, national director for policy at Actors' Equity Association, an actors' union that helped found Career Transition for Dancers in 1985. "We try to get dancers empowered to see if they hadn't been focused on dance what they might have done."


In Mr. Kriefall's case, that meant taking a series of professional and personality tests and career questionnaires that his caseworker at Career Transition had him complete. Dancers receive such help free if they meet the program's eligibility requirements of 100 weeks of paid performance over seven years. Those who qualify can use the service for life.


Since the group was created, 2,700 dancers nationwide have received career counseling services, most of them in New York, and 2,033 of them currently participate in career or other services the group offers, said Alexander J. Dubé, the center's executive director.


The age of the average client has recently dropped to the teens and early 20's. "This is the next generation of dancers, and they understand that when their career comes to an end, they need to have tools to jump-start and move into another career that is as fulfilling as dance," Mr. Dubé said. The average dancer ends his career at 29, he added.


The article goes into quite a bit of detail about Mr. Kriefall's specific story - it's a good one. :)


And don't think that it's only worth reading if you're already a professional dancer who happens to be thinking about your future - there are some good pointers for anyone, at any age, who might be thinking about alternatives.


P.S. Here's a link to Career Transition for Dancers.

Edited by BW
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There is a new book coming out soon about this very topic. I saw an advance copy. Very informative.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I hope this is the appropriate forum to post in, and that I'm not repeating something.


Suppose you have danced for many years, and do know a great deal about ballet. Not only about the actual dancing, but about ballet companies, history, beauty, etc... But unfortunately, you have not been able to dance professionally for some reason. What are some possible career options? Teachers, ballet critics..?

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What about dance research -as I do! :wink: I think that is much more exciting than teaching (no offence to ballet teachers who read this) :-)

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Okay, the thread is on the Buddy Board. I thought there was also another one on an open forum, but I couldn't find it. So, I will leave this one open for now.


In addition to teaching and choreography, there is, as Dance Scholar mentioned, research, and then there are a lot of other things, such as History, Criticism, Dance Therapy, Stage Management, Costume Design, Lighting Design, and Arts Management.

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That would depend on whether one has the means to continue, and also on how much encouragement one has received in terms of auditions. And how long one has been auditioning. Some dancers are not ready to begin company auditions until that age, others start at 17 or 18. If the dancer is a "late bloomer", or started training a bit late and has not done a lot of auditioning yet, then no, I don't think giving up is in order. However, if there are 3 years of auditioning with no results, then perhaps examining the situation would be wise. But even with the last scenario, 21 is not exactly "over the hill" yet! :wink:

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