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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Career: Jobs and US Trained Dancers


dufay

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the most disciplined American residency programs remain at a disadvantage in their ability to train due to legal, financial and parental pressures

 

:shrug: Please, I must state that I am not discussing my particular job. I am having a discussion regarding the state of ballet training in the US. The fact that I stated

I know how much I have changed in my approach to discipline just in the past ten years.
is not a reflection upon my school. Please I ask that many of us are having conversations that may not effect one's livelyhood, but many of us are. This is a discussion, that perhaps could be misinterpreted and have far reaching implications. This conversation is most interesting, however I am not speaking of any particular school.

 

I know very hard working, dedicated, qualified teachers in the US. I am not pointing the finger anywhere in particular. :lol:

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Sorry, I didn't mean to imply anything specific to anybody. It seemed to me that nearly all the ideas suggested have been acknowledged as possibly playing a role by more than one person. For example, I read several posts discussing the power of cash, e.g. "cash is king" (parental pressures), the control gained by various states through financial investment (financial pressures), and the concern about potential for allegations of abuse (legal pressures; and though POB was given as a specific example in one post, the discussion applied to U.S. schools.)

 

Plus, I meant what I wrote earlier:

And as far as ballet goes, I feel strongly that this country has a inordinate number of excellent teachers.
and a couple parents shared their childrens' great experiences with teachers. So far, no one has mentioned teachers in anything but a positive light.
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Don't forget my point - that there are jobs here. The rate of professional companies per capita in some parts of this country rivals Sears, Roebuck.

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So far, no one has mentioned teachers in anything but a positive light

 

Remember that one person's meat is another's poison. There are parents who would never send their DKs to residencies at age 12 and there are parents that think some of the residence school environments are brutal and cruel. I feel my DD has been blessed with the instructors she has had...others would never subject their DKs to the rigors she has experienced.

 

Regards...CDM

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I have really learned a lot reading this thread, but reading it has raised a

number of new questions for me, mostly around the idea of what constitutes

the "best" possible ballet training. One in particular follows from Victoria's

comment that:

...Education IS important, however, with a dancer it really does need to be second priority...

I understand exactly what you mean in terms of the dancer's physical development,

and in terms of the sadly all-too-truncated career expectancy for a professional performer in

dance. I think this would be true in many domains of physical endeavor, including world-class

sprinters, gymnasts, and so on.

 

Like you, though, I know that ballet is even MORE demanding than sport because it is

an art, and thus requires a level of personal awareness and creative expressivity and wise

humanity that mere sports do not. I know that we are generalizing here, in our discussion

of trends and characteristics of training programs, etc, but yet I find myself reading and

wondering if a dancer from a very narrowly focussed, regimented, very highly disciplined

program is "better" as a performing artist, or merely as a performer than a dancer that has

received a less focussed, but more well rounded education as a person. (all other things

being equal)

 

Again, I know that we are generalizing, and I also know that I am naive about the world

of professional performing ballet companies -- OK. But do you see what I mean? Is there

something beyond sheer physical prowess and training and drive and discipline -- a breadth

of lived experience from the world outside and beyond regimen that compensates for,

and can supplant "mere training" by producing a more mature artist?

 

I'd like to think so... but reading this thread makes me wonder if that's just my fantasy.

 

Thanks for some fascinating reading.

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Good question, DPR, but not sure I can answer it! :D There is certainly something to be said for life experiences, in terms of developing maturity and having more to relate to in terms of depth and of course acting. However, while the students in the very regimented ballet schools might be missing a few life experiences, I think they are exposed to a lot of things that students here, in general, are not, such as all of the arts, history, literature, etc. They also grow up seeing the professional company performances on a very regular basis. They know all the ballets, the music, the stories. They are completely "at home" in the theatre. (Speaking more of the European schools. Some of our residency programs are not connected to a company.) It is a way of life that is different, but, if they have chosen it, then it IS their life. There are a lot of things that they don't have to deal with, like homework but no time to do it, transportation, finding the right school, parents having enough money to pay for the training as well as the willingness to drive them back and forth, college applications and trips to interview and audition for college programs, etc., etc., etc. But, the residency schools have their down side too, especially in terms of being away from the family. And, at least in this country, I think most senior students in residency programs also go through the college application process, since they never know if they can get a position in a company or not. In that sense, they are in the same place as dancers from non-residency programs in this country.

 

So, I'm not sure one will produce a better artist than the other, as it certainly has happened from all methods and systems. When it comes down to it, there is so much of that that is innate and natural to some people that I think it will happen, barring something stopping them from receiving the support and the training.

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DreadPirateRoberts:

You bring up something I've thought about A LOT over the years, mostly in regards to top classical music soloists, particularly concert pianists, vs ballet dancers. If a moderator would put your comment in a unique topic, maybe we can get a discussion going about this!

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This is a fascinating discussion and just to add my two cents from a slightly different perspective:

One of the reasons foreigners do well in the US is because, to paraphrase a song, if we can make it in the US, we can make it anywhere. As an Israeli, I see my compatriots disproportionately represented in many fields in the US – in music, in high-tech, in graduate degree courses and even as university faculty, etc. I would attribute at least part of that success to the combination of (a) a strong cultural/national identity which enables the self-confidence necessary for success and (:D the knowledge that coming from a small and rather obscure place, success has to be proven outside local borders. This combination seems to be the case for other foreigners, especially the Asians.

Another factor – and I’m not really sure how this ties in – is the democratization of education, including ballet, in the US. Reading Suzanne Farrell and Allegra Kent’s autobiographies, you get a real sense of how it was New York or nothing in the ‘50s and’60s, and in a way you can see how that make-or-break mentality influenced them as dancers. These days, you can get a fantastic (or not so fantastic) ballet education from sea to shining sea, so perhaps aspiring dancers do not feel that they have to take that plunge, that decision to give it their all, at an early stage in their life. The later they take that plunge, the more difficult it is, at least psychologically.

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This is a very interesting thread, and the question initially raised has no easy answers, but does anyone else feel the American culture places less value on the arts than European or Asian cultures, and perhaps this translates to many students here being less committed to pursuing dance as a career? As a parent, whenever I tell someone my daughter would like to make dance a career, I am usually met with a blank stare in return. I'm sure my daughter must experience this attitude much more often than I do. I know an inability to make this commitment doesn't apply to all students--I've seen and known the exceptions--but maybe the pool of dance students with the drive and desire to excel at the highest level and the willingness to make the necessary sacrifices is proportionally smaller in the US because most of our students are simply reflecting our society's values.

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All this discussion about training and teachers and the nature of the American ballet student is very interesting, but really the reason companies are hiring dancers from outside the US is because many of those foreign dancers have no opportunity to dance in their own countries so they come here because there are more opportunities. For instance, there are at least two very good good ballet schools in Spain. There is no professional classical ballet company there, so they all go to america or Britain or Germany to dance.

 

It comes down to a simple answer really. Why are so many foreign dancers being hired? Because the artistic directors like them better.

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but does anyone else feel the American culture places less value on the arts than European or Asian cultures, and perhaps this translates to many students here being less committed to pursuing dance as a career?
This is absolutely a major contributing factor to the question at hand (IMHO). There are many teachers that teach ballet in this country but very few instructors/programs that teach the art of ballet.

 

but really the reason companies are hiring dancers from outside the US is because many of those foreign dancers have no opportunity to dance in their own countries so they come here because there are more opportunities.
...although there are dancers from the U.S. who have chosen to dance in Europe as well.

 

Regards...CDM

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LMCtech wrote:

It comes down to a simple answer really. Why are so many foreign dancers being hired? Because the artistic directors like them better.
:D I guess that really says it all. :firedevil: Thankfully, they like some locals, too.
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There are LOTS of American dancers in Europe! Lots and lots.

There are surely more foreign dancers in Germany than there are German dancers. Always were. In the big schools, too: more non-Germans.

 

-d-

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I just can support the opinion of Diane. There are a lot of Foreigners in German companies and in the United Kingdom. I would say it is normal competition and a dancer must be aware of international competition. It is certainly not the easiest way for a European dancer to audition for an American company. I dont think that EU dancers take away dance jobs from US dancers, nor do I believe that a German company should have a German-only-cast. The company director should choose the dancers which fit best into the company in terms of artistic ability, and not based on nationality. I dont have a problem at all with US dancers in a UK/German company - as long as they fit into it.

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The company director should choose the dancers which fit best into the company in terms of artistic ability, and not based on nationality.

 

Speaking both as a dance patron and a dance parent, I completely agree! Someone choosing dance as a career has "a tough row to hoe," as the old saying goes, but dancers know that going in.

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