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Ballet Talk for Dancers

The Real World


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Having absolutely no experience in the professional world of ballet companies, big name and regional, I have a question regarding company dancers. My "real" world ballet experiences are limited to studios, and I would like some words of wisdom from those in the know. Thus far, in my dancing kids experience, roles in performances are given to those dancers who are the best for the part, as it should be. The problem occurs when some of those dancers miss MANY rehearsals, in many different productions. It always seem to be the same kids. Some excuses are reasonable; some are not. My intellectual response is, that wouldn't be tolerated of a professional dancer. But is that true? Dance is so subjective. Are companies, like schools, willing to give some dancers leeway, if the alteranative is the dancer will leave? Do companies put up with that kind of behavior if the dancer is exceptional? :rolleyes:

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Dancers without a good work ethic are highly unlikely to make it far enough to get into a professional company, and if they do, they are most unlikely to last any length of time. Companies will not put up with that any more that any other work situation. Probably less so. Dancers are not expected to dance while injured, but they are most likely expected to be there, as well as to be in treatment for the injury. Illness happens, and as long as it is not chronic and way too frequent, that would be excused. However, perhaps due to the fact that injuries happen, I think dancers are generally very healthy and have learned to work through most minor illnesses, if they get them at all. The only rehearsals or performances I ever missed in my life were due to injury, and one illness which was acute appendicitis. And when that happened I was in full make up, hair done, and costume for first of 3 ballets that night. Obviously, I didn't make that show :unsure:

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Tutumaker--I have no experience with professional companies, but in my limited experience with studios and regional dance companies, the difference may not in reality be work ethic but desire. In a studio setting, there are good dancers who want to dance professionally and have the work ethic Ms. Leigh describes.


But there are others in a studio setting who are good enough to become professionals however, in reality want to become a doctor or lawyer and thus choose other activities which will pad their resume in that direction whenever those activities come up. These are those talented dancers who choose not to become professionals.


The problem you describe is as much the administration of the studio who allows these students to continuously be cast even though they do not committ to the part. At some point, the best person for the part is the person who will work hard to achieve it. Idealistic I know, but it would go a long way to develop a better work ethic for all dancers in a studio to use an understudy ever now and then when a dancer is absent too frequently.


I am though having a hard time fathoming this since I have to pull my own DD's kicking and screaming to go to anything that conflicts with their dance schedule.



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I recall somebody getting fired for missing rehearsals and the cause for termination was "breach of contract". Then the General Director of the company sued her for her entire yearly salary, so there she was, out of work and a defendant in a civil suit. Not my idea of fun. The union got her out of it, but she still had to pay a lawyer, and find another job!

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I don't have experience of professional companies, but my dd's school has a company attched to the school for students in the vocational level, with occasional former students who are professional working with the student dancers on performances. The studio has a strong emphasis on performances being part of the training needed to dance professionally and as such is pretty strict on being there on time and attending all rehearsals unless injured. My dd has now taken part in two annual performances.


My dd is one of the worst time managers I have ever met in my life :blushing: and these experiences are very good for her. Last year she saw a student from her class dropped from a part, as she was missing too many rehearsals without good reason. While my dd attends every rehearsal, her issue is getting there on time. I used last year's performance to impress on her the fact, that a professional company would not accept lateness and that being late for classes, rehearsals and performances isn't just her issue - it impacts on others and shows disrespect.


Well, we still struggle with the clock to get to classes on time, but she did end up being ready on time for every rehearsal and performance last year! We have set being on time as one of her personal challenges to overcome this year!

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My observations of dd's experience indicate that work ethic on the professional level definitely has an effect on the progress or lack thereof of individual dancers. Further, there have been strong indications that in the competitive environment of that particular professional company, work ethic is one discriminator between otherwise nearly equally talented dancers.


Attitude, drive, and desire are all attributes that are generally (if kept within ethical boundaries) perceived as being very positive in any professional environment.

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Guest prokofiev

(knock, knock)


At my school the AD announces at the auditions that everyone auditioning is making a potential commitment to the production whether they are chosen as a company member or as a student with a small part. During rehearsals he reinforces the importance of everyone attending every rehearsal for which they are scheduled, and has pulled people (even soloists) from productions for missed rehearsals when their excuses were not sufficiently grave. Vocational or professional.


As a working musician, I can't imagine not living up to commitments and contracts, and I don't know many professionals (in any field) who succeed without a solid work ethic and respect for their colleagues. (After all, you're not just letting the AD down by missing, you're also wasting a lot of other people's time as well.) If you choose to participate in something, you need to be there on time and prepared. Whether or not you feel like it, and whether you're going to be a pro dancer or a lawyer (or both :shrug: )!

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In the company my daughter is apprenticing with, two dancers (both with featured roles) were let go this season because of excessive and/or unexcused absences.

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Guest PAmom
Do companies put up with that kind of behavior if the dancer is exceptional?  :thumbsup:

TutuMaker, I know of a company whose penalty for certain things (unexcused lateness or missing a call/rehearsal) is a monetary fine the dancer must pay. To address if this is overlooked if the dancer is exceptional, allow me to point out that the fine is not a flat fee but a percentage of the dancer's weekly pay. A 10% fine is going to sting anyone who is habitually missing rehearsals, no matter how exceptional they are.
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