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Career: Jobs and US Trained Dancers


dufay

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I know I must sound like a broken record, but feel the need to chime in again that there are American dancers training outside of the US....hence if you took the proposed exclusion to the nth degree you would in fact be discriminating against some very talented US citizens.

 

Off the top of my head I can think of one dancer who trained at The National Ballet School in Toronto who's now with the ABT Studio Company...it's a bit early in the morning, but perhaps once my brain warms up I'll think of more.

 

That being said, we could probably debate this issue for some time...in the end I think the Artistic Directors will choose the best "fit" for the company of the dancers who audition (at least I HOPE that's the way it works).....

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As long as they remained US citizens, there would be no problem. The Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees equal protection of the laws to all American citizens. Free Trade agreements currently assist US/Canada transactions, but we're talking here about a hypothetical "nth degree" situation.

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dufay wrote:

One big difference I perceive when I see them perform is the acting ability, and the ability to project a character so completely. I wonder if this is part of the problem here? So much emphasis on technique, and not on the complete dancer?

 

I really think this is so true of a lot of dance education in the US. It's been our experience that schools here emphasize either technique or performing/acting skills, but rarely both together. The most satisfying and enjoyable performers to watch have both.

 

As to how other systems in other countries produce or encourage this, I can only comment on what we saw during our time living in Australia this year. The acting ability in the Australian Ballet company was stellar, from the principals down to the corps. The technique ranged from rock-solid to brilliant. The result was some really exciting and interesting dancing.

 

What we saw in the Aussie dance schools were curricula that focus primarily on classical ballet, but also require character, jazz and tap from young ages. There was low-key performing at Eistedfodds (multi-art festivals) and one or maybe two full-scale productions at the school itself each year. Good students start private classes much younger than we see in the US (although of course a good private lesson is only as good as a good teacher and a good student with good rapport :) ).

 

I think for an American-born dancer to also develop good acting skills, they either have to be born with it or seek out the training outside the dance studio. The majority of dance schools don't seem to provide it.

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Are there any statistics how many American dancers are hired by European companies?

 

Having looked at casts from UK-based ballet companies, I have to say that there are equally foreigns dancers (I mean non-UK dancers) in companies. As Skittle has stated above, the audience is looking for the best cast and not for national identity (and I agree).

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chauffeur,Dec 13 2004, 02:38 PM]

dufay wrote:  I think for an American-born dancer to also develop good acting skills, they either have to be born with it or seek out the training outside the dance studio.  The majority of dance schools don't seem to provide it.

 

Are you refering to smaller dancer schools or is this equally true for "famous" US schools?

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I may be way off-base, but it has seemed to me over the past few years that dancers in this country show a lot more consistency from the center (waist) down than they do from the center up through the head and arms. Sometimes it drives me absolutely nuts, seeing so many different stylistic things going on.

 

I'm just speculating here, but is it possible that there is too much emphasis in this country on the lower half of the body, i.e. center on down through legs and feet?

 

Another thing: I personally like to see every part of the body fully engaged, but I think every dancer that doesn't seem to fully engage every muscle in the upper body--arms in particular--has been trained in the U.S. I don't remember the last time I saw one with that problem who was trained overseas. I'm not sure that "fully engaged" is the right way to describe it, but I feel like my attention tends to drift downwards with these dancers. Their arms move through the correct positions, but... I'm sorry, but I don't really know how to describe it.

 

I don't think the problem is as prevalent with males; I'm not sure why.

 

Another thing: It seems that the opportunities for male dancers to work in this country are huge, so the proportion of foreign-trained males doesn't seem odd to me at all. Why not come here, where there is so much opportunity? Actually, that goes for female dancers too. There are an awful lot of companies in this country.

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I notice this discussion is about "US trained" dancers. What about citizens of other countries who have been trained for many years in the US. They are still considered foreigners and some companies, like PNB state that they will not be considered. Is this about the training provided in the US vs dancers trained elsewhere in other methods, or about keeping foreigners out in order to provide more jobs for US citizens?

In fairness, National Ballet of Canada also says in their web site that they prefer Canadian citizens. Perhaps nowadays the paperwork to hire foreigners is too daunting for companies to deal with, unless they are hiring the supreme talents.

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Perhaps nowadays the paperwork to hire foreigners is too daunting for companies to deal with, unless they are hiring the supreme talents.

 

Your're right. The paperwork has gotten horrendous since 9/11 and also companies have to be able show that no U.S. citizen can fill the spot. That's difficult.

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Are you sure, werlkj, that ballet companies are subject to this necessity of proving they can't fill the job with a U.S. citizen?

 

At least they can't "out source" them! :P

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Oh to dream that we could get Ballet Dancers on the "free trade" agenda..

DD had a meeting with a Immigration Lawyer who basically told us getting a Visa is a lost cause.....hence my current mental breakdown....

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BW, it does sound unreal doesn't it. But that was the response I received from an administrator at Ballet West to a question I raised in a discussion about a year ago. Apparently, to hire a foreign national, the job description has to be very, very specific, in effect tailored to the individual in order to facilitate the hiring process. Apparently that can be quite difficult.

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Is it my imagination or has this thread made a 180 turn? The initial post stated that (too) many positions in American companies are being taken by foreign dancers and the most recent stated that it is next to impossible to get a visa to work in this country....ummm.

 

The initial discussion could be a very interesting thread if pursued. Ms Leigh touched on some of the issues but only very lightly.

 

It is certainly not difficult to get a visa to work (dance) in Europe.

 

Regards...CDM.

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Yep, it did kind of get off topic. Let's put it back on, if there is anything more to be said on the original topic. I really don't think getting a visa to dance in this country is much of a problem. If it were, we would not have so many dancers from so many countries working in so many companies. :P

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As usual, I neglected to clarify why I made the comments I did, and I apologize for leading the discussion off-topic. However, I'll try again. I brought up difficulties in working in the U.S. for a reason, and there is ample information on the Web about changes to immigration policies in response to 9/11. I know little to nothing about immigration law so if someone knows more, please speak up.

 

There is quite a difference between a visa, particularly a work visa, and a green card. Yes, lots of dancers are here on visas, but work visas have expiration dates. My understanding is that ballet companies encourage the dancers they hire and want to keep to begin working towards getting their green card as soon as possible (which requires effort by the company, as you'll see below.) Also, it seems logical to me that an AD would want to hire a dancer that would have a future in his or her company. But this is a lot of work, for both the company and the dancer. So, why are companies willing to take the risk and make the effort?

 

By the way, according to the Immigration and Nationality Act, employment-based immigration "generally requires either that a foreign national is one of the best in the field of endeavor or that there are no qualified US workers available to fill the position offered to the foreign worker. "

 

After a foreign dancer receives his work visa, he/she can begin working to get a Green Card. I believe there are two categories apply to those applying for work in professional dance: Category EB-1A (Extraordinary Ability) or EB-2B (Exceptional Ability). EB-1A has only slightly less stringent requirements than EB-2B. But look at those for EB-2B, which stipulate the applicant and company must:

 

Submit documentation that at the individual's work experience during the past twelve months did require, and how the intended work in the United States will require, exceptional ability:

 

- Documents attesting to the current widespread acclaim and international recognition accorded to the alien, and receipt of internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence;

- Published material by or about the alien, such as critical reviews or articles in major newspapers, periodicals, and/or trade journals (the title, date, and author of such material shall be indicated);

- Documentary evidence of earnings commensurate with the claimed level of ability;

- Playbills and star billings;

- Documents attesting to the outstanding reputation of theaters, concert halls, night clubs, and other establishments in which the alien has appeared, or is scheduled to appear; and/or

- Documents attesting to the outstanding reputation of repertory companies, ballet troupes, orchestras, or other organizations in which or with which the alien has performed during the past year in a leading or starring capacity,

AND

- A copy of at least one advertisement placed in a national publication appropriate to the occupation (and a statement of the results of that recruitment) which shall:  Identify the petitioner/employer's name, address, and the location of the employment, if other than the employer's location AND describe the job opportunity with particularity AND state the rate of pay, which shall not be below the prevailing wage for the occupation.

 

Yikes! So, going back to the original question: Why are so many foreign dancers working professionally in this country, especially if a company and the dancer have to go through all this work. Given the range of human nature, besides all the foreign "10s" (as Victoria Leigh put it) who are dancing in this country, it seems to me that there are probably quite a few "10s" that may not have wanted to go through the process. That's an awful lot of "10s". Does this country generate a proportional amount? I have no feel for that answer. Does anyone have an idea?

 

And here's a wild idea: Maybe competition wins are whole lot more critical to getting a job than generally acknowledged in this country.

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