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Ballet Talk for Dancers
Momof3darlings

Audition season through our eyes

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LMCtech

Many of the SI's do clearly state that they are looking for a specific body-type. It seems to me that all types show up anyway.

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balletbooster

If the overriding factor is indeed body type, then why not line all the auditionees up and eliminate those who do not meet the standard (whatever the auditioner determines that to be). Then, only accept money and audition the remaining students? :) This is how it is often done at pro auditions and in some ways it is a bit more humane.

 

It does seem that if everyone is paying the same amount for the opportunity to audition, then the auditioners should give every student an equal opportunity to show what they can do. That only happens when they give equal time to each student and observe them both at the barre and in center, before making decisions. When auditioners are very obvious about their preferences early on in an audition and virtually ignore the majority of the class, it is hard for the students to feel that they were given an equitable audition. There are highly selective programs that do a very good job of watching and evaluating each student, both their technical ability and their body type. I think most students prefer this type of audition environment to one that tends to focus attention on just a few students from early on, even if the students' results are going to be the same when letters arrive.

 

As to LMCTech's comment that a variety of body types always show up, I would suggest this is likely because we all can cite numerous instances of those who do not have the ideal body type who are accepted to programs that are known to be very body type specific.

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vagansmom

I now have my cynic's cap :) perched firmly atop my head. Auditions are a source of revenue. If all dancers without the desired body type were cut before paying for the audition, then the program would be out quite a bit of money, perhaps enough so as not to be able to afford to pay a traveling auditioner.

 

To some degree, I understand the thinking of companies with a reputation for taking only dancers with a certain look. If that is a widely known fact, then dancers who attend the audition are doing so already knowing it's a long shot, if even that. I do realize, though, that there are lots of programs that don't advertise that fact.

 

The other part about those classes is that they still are great master classes and many students, especially the older, more experienced ones, try to look at them as just that and nothing more, with acceptance being the icing on the cake.

 

Unfortunately, regarding the comparison to professional auditions, most company auditions make the cut based on body type AFTER they've already collected the audition money :( . They usually let them get through barre, but some don't even do that. Most also collect dancers' photos before the audition too, so that's another expense the cut dancers does not recover. Those professional photos are expensive! I believe it was Sacramento Ballet, however, who kindly suggested to the dancers not chosen at the NYC audition last year that they take their photos back on the way out.

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balletbooster

Vagansmom I completely understand the financial element of auditions. I know that what I suggested is not likely to happen in MY lifetime! :) My response was really motivated by the comments that suggested that dancers were auditioning at their own risk, knowing full well what the company was looking for. I was simply suggesting that if companies wanted to make it crystal clear what they were looking for, they could do it in a far more fair and humane manner.

 

However, as I said before, there are lots of success stories of those without the ideal body type who end up with wonderful pro careers. So, someone gave them a second look and a chance to show what they could do, somewhere along the way!

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dancemaven
Many of the SI's do clearly state that they are looking for a specific body-type. It seems to me that all types show up anyway.

 

. . . . wait, I'm still looking for the "no one with BMI greater than 17 need apply" or the "Patricia-Barker-body types need not waste auditioner's time or take up floor space" . . . . I can't seem to find these clear statements. . . . :)

 

My DD and I do apologize for "showing up anyway" in an effort to broaden and/or maximize her training opportunities. :( After all, these were SI auditions, not company auditions.

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Victoria Leigh

Yes, I do think we have to keep that in perspective, DanceMaven! And I do agree that there should be differences in SI programs and company auditions. However, there does come a point where certain things do have to be addressed. And I would hope that auditioners for SI programs do have some understanding of the changes that young people go through, and perhaps the difference between a bit of adolescent 'baby fat' and a body that has matured and is more or less "set" in terms of structure. I have accepted a number of slightly heavy 14 or 15 year olds, especially if they are still at the 5 level and not 6 or 7. I have also accepted some at all levels who don't have the best bodies but they have the training, the strength, the passion, and they can dance! But at some point we have to address the issue, and where I do that is when the student is technically at one of the top two levels, which have pas de deux classes. I have to decide if the young male dancers will be able to handle a female who, even though technically strong, is just plain too heavy. It's a tough call sometimes. I have seen a lot of dancers, even this year, who are really nice dancers, strong and well trained. But, at 16 or 17 or even older, they are considerably over weight FOR A DANCER. At this point a decision has to be made and I don't like doing it, but, one has to think of the males, and also of the quality of that level class and the fact that they perform at the end of the program.

 

This is not unrealistic because these dancers at this age do have to understand that not only will they not make professional companies if they are not in the best shape for their body structure, but they will probably have difficulty even getting into a good college dance program. The better programs have become highly selective in recent years, and they are looking for the same thing that the top SI programs and companies look for in their dancers. But, it's never an easy thing to deal with, whether it is a lack of enough of the necessary facility for ballet or a weight problem.

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K8smom
Unfortunately, regarding the comparison to professional auditions, most company auditions make the cut based on body type AFTER they've already collected the audition money :) .

 

But a lot of company auditions are free; SI auditions, never.

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balletbooster

Ms. Leigh, I appreciate your comments about wight issues and understand the realities of this situation. However, I wasn't thinking of dancers who are overweight. I was thinking more along the lines of dancers who do not have extra long limbs or whose torso is longer than desired or whose thighs are more developed or their chest is larger, or they are very short or very tall, etc. etc. etc. I'm thinking of dancers who are still very thin, with no issues for lifting in partnering class. But, they don't have the traditional 'Balanchine body'.

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Victoria Leigh

Well, in my opinion there are a lot of very good professional dancers out there who do not have the "traditional Balanchine body". Therefore, I see no reason to reject a student for that reason IF she has the training and technique to be at a decent level for her age. However, there are still degrees of appropriateness, and that will vary with each school and every auditioner. There are many dancers with very good and well proportioned bodies, good feet, strong legs, etc., but just not that "ideal" look, and that is fine. But, if a dancer is seriously out of proportion, or has really bad feet or no rotation, or something like that, then they will probably not be accepted by most auditioners. A very short dancer, with a long torso and short legs, for instance, unless she is really exceptional, is probably not going to be encouraged after the age of 15 or so. And do keep in mind that accepting dancers above that age in most good programs is a vote of confidence in their abilities in the professional field. If I don't see any way that a dancer is going to make it then I don't feel she should be encouraged by being accepted into the top levels in these programs. With the younger dancers there is still time and perhaps hope for enough changes to qualify them for the training. But later that becomes a lot more difficult. There are only so many dancers accepted into each level, and naturally the programs are going to look for 16-18 year olds who show the potential for a company, or at least for some kind of career in the dance world, perhaps via a good college program.

 

All of these decisions are very subjective, and always very difficult. I spend a lot of time considering each one after every audition, first determining if they are qualified technically, then where they would fit in the program, and then if where they fit is age appropriate. I have had to turn down a lot of dancers who I know could "do" the program, but in the long run I don't feel they have the either the body, the technique, the training, or the several other things that one looks for in terms of the top levels.

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balletbooster

Ms. Leigh, thanks for the thoughtful reply. I know that you take great pains to evaluate each auditionee carefully. You are one of the wonderful auditioners who works hard to try to make all the students feel like they 'get their money's worth' when they audition for your program.

 

This discussion began with a mom whose daughter didn't have that good experience at an audition, but instead felt that the auditioner looked almost exclusively at just a few dancers from very early in the audition. The point here is that there are programs that don't take the kind of time and put the same amount of thought into their decisions as you do and often the auditionees feel like they were short-changed.

 

My point was not about the final decisions that programs make about who they accept. I think most of us understand the realities of the ballet world. My point was about how auditioners handle the auditions and the way they make the auditionees feel during the class itself. There is a pretty wide variance in the 'feel' of an audition from program to program. :) It is possible to be selective without being rude and making students feel good about the audition can be done, without sacrificing the program's standards. Even when accepted to some programs, my daughter has chosen to turn them down, when she felt that the auditioners were snooty, ignored lots of students, etc. as it makes her wonder how the faculty/staff might handle themselves at the SI.

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Victoria Leigh

Oh, okay, I see what you are meaning here, and yes, I guess there really are a lot of differences in the way auditioners handle the situations. I feel that everyone who attends and pays for the class should get a class, and that means that they all get at least noticed, they all LEARN something, and as many as possible get some kind of personal attention. Sometimes I can get to all of them, sometimes not, but I try! I do think that some people consider auditions differently, though. They just want to watch and see, and I guess that's okay, but I find that I get in the classroom and I have to teach. I can't just not do that! But, I love doing it too. Wish I didn't hate the trips so much, because I really do love meeting all the people and teaching the classes. :thumbsup:

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balletbooster

That's why folks enjoy your auditions so much! :thumbsup: In a perfect world, all auditioners would share your philosophy!

 

At one of my daughter's auditions this year, the teacher gave lots of corrections to everyone. At one point she said, "If I didn't give you something that you could take away from this class and use to improve your dancing, I wouldn't be doing my job."

 

Not surprisingly, this program is one of her top picks for this year!

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BW

Amen and amen! :thumbsup::flowers::flowers::flowers:

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Momof3darlings

Just to throw in another perspective on the why's of our world. Can you imagine in our "sue" McDonald's because they make us fat, or "sue" your employer because it is a non-smoking facility, what might happen if a company blatently put on their literature that they would not accept anyone who was not the perfect dancer body? I smell a lawsuit even before the paperwork is signed.

 

The treatment of the dancers is in poor taste whether from a "snooty" perspective or an "elitist" one. What our DD's choose to do with that info is a life lesson albeit a hard one.

 

vj

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dancemaven

 

 

"My point was not about the final decisions that programs make about who they accept. I think most of us understand the realities of the ballet world. My point was about how auditioners handle the auditions and the way they make the auditionees feel during the class itself. "

 

In fact, this was exactly the heart of my original post. Ms. Leigh, as always, has given voice graciously to the hard realities of the world our DKs have chosen. I do agree that the DKs must come to terms with those realities and the subtleties of the audition progress must be acknowledged and heeded. Nevertheless, Ms. Leigh is also able to give an audition class in which all dancers feel welcome, valued, and acknowledged.

 

And in DD's experience, this type of class is worth taking whether or not she is actually accepted into the program.

 

VIVA, Ms. Leigh and all teachers/auditioners with her philosophy! :shrug:

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