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Ballet Talk for Dancers

teacher's influence on auditions


freespirit

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Hello everyone!

 

We had an interesting Nutcracker audition this year, at least for my dd. At the audition watching the dancers were the ballet company's AD, his rehearsal mistress, the school AD, and my dd's ballet teacher.

 

My dd ended up getting the same part as last year, which is fine because the only thing better you can get is Clara, and she noticed the teachers and AD discussing her for a long time before making a decision-- so she knew that she was definitely being discussed for Clara.

 

It turns out, the company's AD wanted her for Clara, but my dds teachers talked him out of it (This is per the teachers involved). They said they are worried about her stress and strength at this critical stage in her dance education. She's a tiny 12-year-old who is very thin, has hyperextension and is extemely flexible. They didn't want the additional pressure on her.

 

On the one hand, I'm very, very glad to see they are more concerned about her well-being then a part in a ballet. On the other hand, if she had been from another school, and they didn't know her, she would've gotten the role. So I'm wondering, is it usual for teachers to have so much say in company auditions?

 

I'm wondering because while I want a happy well-rounded dd more than anything, it devastated her to not get the role when all involved said she nailed the audition-- and has a natural spark on the stage etc... Also, how in the world would you explain all of this to her???

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As a general rule, I think that whenever you have teachers or anyone in your DK's corner looking out for his or her long term health and interest - that is wonderful! and not to be taken for granted at all. Sometimes these major roles turn out not to be such a blessing, if they result in too much physical stress at the wrong time. I think that can be stated straight out to the student. It would be nice if the teachers would tell her/you directly what their concerns are, though, so you would not have to infer it. And then for your daughter to understand it as "among the considerations in casting."

 

Anyway, it sounds like she is well valued and is getting nice parts too - just not THE part that she wanted. :)

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Welcome to the whimsical, wonderful world of ballet casting! :dizzy::):huepfen:

 

When it comes to professional ADs and their casting of students associated with the school, I think it is common to get input from the school AD. They can provide insight into the students that the AD would have no way of knowing. This varies from company to company. I've also known ADs who don't discuss their casting with anyone and when it is posted, there is lots of head scratching when the pecking order at the school is juggled.

 

At our former company school, the AD did the casting by himself. No one else was even in the audition with him. Then, just before he posted the cast, he would go over it with the school AD. If she had any major objections, she would voice them. But, traditionally, even when she had reservations about his choices, she did not say anything. She believed strongly in the AD's right to cast the productions and trusted his judgement. Very often, a school AD and a company AD have very different goals and reasons for wanting certain dancers in parts. But, ultimately the company AD is responsible for all productions that are mounted by his/her company and so it is only fair that the AD have the final say in casting. In most company-associated Nuts, the school AD will not be involved in rehearsals at all. The production is fully staged by the company AD and so who he wants to work with is key.

 

In other schools I know about, the AD and school director work together on the casting of students, much like your school seems to do. It is nice when the school has some input, as it can both protect and help dancers when the AD has more information to work with.

 

Really, this is a good introduction into the way the ballet world operates. It will vary from company to company and from director to director. Students who want to be professionals have to learn that it is a VERY subjective business and the reasons a dancer is chosen for a part are not always as obvious as they might like. Casting will sometimes be disappointing and confusing and send mixed signals. Dancers have to learn to persevere and continue to focus on their training. This can be REALLY hard sometimes and poor casting has thrown more than one dancer and caused more than one to doubt their abilities and their future in ballet.

 

But, over the years, I've seen amazing ups and downs in Nuts casting. A dancer emerges that no one paid much attention to and steals the show. A new dancer comes on the scene, catches the AD's attention and the gal next in line for Clara is sorely disappointed. I've seen the gal who danced Clara last year, relegated to a very disappointing role the next year. And, a disappointing year for one dancer is often followed by a year where she gets the dream part. I've seen dancers labor at the same part for 3 and 4 years, only to all of a sudden emerge as a polished dancer and get a prime role or even get to dance some fill-in corp work with the pros.

 

Really, you have to look at your dancer's casting in Nuts as a journey over many years, rather than looking at each year's casting as if it stands alone as the defining key to her future in ballet. It is full of lots of bumps and turns and unexpected delights and disappointments. It is really a microcosm for the larger life in the ballet world. It can be really brutal and hard to take for young dancers, particularly at those difficult tween years, when they are struggling to find their place in a social structure that can be quite brutal on its own terms.

 

But, I think that talking to them about the subjectivity of casting and the need to continue to focus on their own growth and development is important. Deciding to be the very best party girl or soldier or maid or mouse or whatever they are cast in and then making it a goal to really shine in that role is where the focus needs to be. ADs notice all of this too. And, it all gets stored away for future consideration when the next Nuts comes around or other opportunities for student roles in pro productions come about.

 

'Wait until next year' isn't just a saying that is reserved for those beleagured sports fans, you know! :grinning:

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I would count your blessings, freespirit. You've got a teacher who's willing to put your child's long-term development ahead of any short-term thrills. You've been given valuable, objective information about her capabilities and needs. And you have the opportunity to role model her on how to handle disappointment and approach the future with optimism.

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Really, you have to look at your dancer's casting in Nuts as a journey over many years, rather than looking at each year's casting as if it stands alone as the defining key to her future in ballet.
:( Truer words were never spoken. It feels like a LONG journey too, when your daughter is still just 12. Because of the emerging seriousness of ballet training at that age, it seems to feel the longest from the finish line where every little thing matters a great deal.

 

My caution would be to talk about it with your daughter, but matter-of-factly and briefly. Don't belabor it, just a simple comment or two - with no great import in your voice - and then that's it. Oftentimes, moms of 12 or 13 year olds are really carefully thinking it all through and tend to think through aloud more than is necessary, or more often than necessary. So keep your conversation simple and upbeat, while acknowledging the disappointment. Then let it go and let your daughter concentrate on the "bird in hand", the role she DOES have. It's healthiest for your daughter and in the long run, for you too. :D

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There are so many lessons in those last two posts by vagansmom and balletbooster. I would only add that you also need to remember that so much is learned about a dancer when they receive a coveted part. However, MORE is learned in how they accept other parts. True leaders are the one's who can handle both positions with grace and dignity showing the director's that the dignity is in being cast, period. And you will do that honor justice regardless of the name given the part.

 

vj

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True leaders are the one's who can handle both positions with grace and dignity showing the director's that the dignity is in being cast, period. 

 

 

Our dancers (and us) would do well by taking this to heart. Beautifully expressed, vj!

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Good advice by all! I did only discuss it with her briefly and move on. I'm totally positive she will do the best she can. She always does; she's been blessed with an amazing work ethic-- and a great attitude. I'm always so proud of how she handles herself.

 

I've just never experienced the teachers at the school having so much say before. Usually, our AD does his own casting, so maybe that's why I was upset. Also, after the in school auditions in the morning, they have outside auditions in the afternoon-- and if she had come in as an outsider the teachers wouldn't have been there etc... Well, who knows! It's a huge production with 150 kids, three casts, and 25 performances.

 

Also, she's learned a lot about disappointment and perseverance in the last year-- I'm hoping she gets to experience some sort of pay off for all her hard work. She, of course, deals with it all well-- I've learned to keep my mouth shut and vent here :)

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Every year prior to the cast posting, we talk about taking part in the Nutcracker production and the committment. And how dd is helping the company raise funds to stage other ballets. Nutcracker is a huge cash cow, if you don't mind accountant's speak. The students are not paid and as such are volunteering their efforts to help the ballet company and the community that will attend the ballets.

 

freespirit: Which role did your daughter get? Almost all the roles have something appealing to them: even the Mouse King who gets to do sword fighting, something my dd apparently wants to have a 'whack' at (she didn't get that part though, she's one of Clara's friends.)

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Usually, our AD does his own casting, so maybe that's why I was upset.  Also, after the in school auditions in the morning, they have outside auditions in the afternoon-- and if she had come in as an outsider the teachers wouldn't have been there etc... Well, who knows!  It's a huge production with 150 kids, three casts, and 25 performances. 

 

We have found that how the parents react will have a direct correlation to how the child will feel. For example: If the parent says, " Oh, you got the same role as last year and didn't get Clara even though you were being looked at for it? Congratulations!! How exciting that you get another chance to be in the production!!!" That response will usually equal a child who feels proud and happy.

 

Good for you that you were able to make her feel good!

 

The other thing I wanted to address is the 'Outside auditionees'. Good teachers will recognize problems in bodies, regardless of how long they've known the child.

:thumbsup:

 

And Rhapsody, Brava!!! What a wonderful approach!!!

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Rhapsody, She is a girl in the party scene and one of Mother Ginger's Children. There are only a couple children's roles in our production: little mouse, angel, soldier, party child, mother ginger, Prince and Clara. I listed them in the order of the difficultly of the part (in regards to dancing). The only reason she was upset is she's been a party child now for three years. I reminded her there wasn't anything else she could really be, and she had two of the most difficult parts--just not the one she wanted. Actually, I think she'd love to be the Mouse king-- she'd get a kick out of it!

 

Clara 76, not sure what you mean by "problems with bodies"??? What I meant by the outside audition comment is the teachers didn't stay for the afternoon, outside, auditions, so the only one choosing people in the afternoon was the Ballet Company's AD. The same teachers that said she should wait a year for Clara are the one's who told me the AD wanted her for Clara-- therefore, I was wondering about the "what ifs" if they weren't there.

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It turns out, the company's AD wanted her for Clara, but my dds teachers talked him out of it (This is per the teachers involved). They said they are worried about her stress and strength at this critical stage in her dance education.  She's a tiny 12-year-old who is very thin, has hyperextension and is extemely flexible.  They didn't want the additional pressure on her.

 

I'm sorry- I didn't mean to offend with that phrase. I perhaps should have said, "challenges", and I apologize.

 

What I was referring to is that you said that your daughter is "very thin, has hyperextension and is extemely flexible." And that because of this "They didn't want the additional pressure on her."

 

Perhaps they want to wait until she has developed some strength in direct proportion to her flexibility. They obviously have much faith in her and in her chances to become a pro, and they don't want to jeapordize it.

 

The AD was perhaps being too hasty, and the teachers brought him/her back to Earth. When the second/outside audition occurred, he/she probably was reminded enough to not make that same mistake with an outsider. That's what I meant by saying that a good teacher can recognize problems, and that the AD probably has enough background in ballet to see these same things, after being reminded.

 

As far as what to say to her, I really recommend what everyone else on this thread has said. Very wise. :)

 

Again, I apologize for my poor choice of words.

 

BTW, I was a Party Child for 3 years too, and each year, I would hope that it was going to be THE YEAR......another thing is that Clara is not the be-all-end-all role. Many pros never were Clara as a child, and are now getting to experience it as an adult.

 

Clara 76

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[

I'm sorry- I didn't mean to offend with that phrase. I perhaps should have said, "challenges", and I apologize.

 

What I was referring to is that you said that your daughter is "very thin, has hyperextension and is extemely flexible." And that because of this "They didn't want the additional pressure on her."

 

Perhaps they want to wait until she has developed some strength in direct proportion to her flexibility. They obviously have much faith in her and in her chances to become a pro, and they don't want to jeapordize it.

 

 

Clara 76

 

It's okay, you didn't offend... I really just didn't get it :)

 

Everything else you said is exactly what her teachers said! I totally understood, and so does my dd-- she just gets tired of hearing about her body type as being the reason she needs extra time, help etc... It's hard to be patient when your 12 and everyone keeps saying how great a dancer your going to be someday.

 

Thanks for the info. and the kind words!

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