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ongoing teacher troubles


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I went away to boarding school in ninth grade. I'm currently a junior. Its not a performing arts school but it does have a well respected modern dance program and has been very flexible about accomodating my ballet and letting me leave to take classes at a pre-pro studio. I love it and wouldn't trade the experience for anything. I take modern and pilates as well as one ballet class through the school program and am part of a student choreographed company there. I take these classes and am part of the company because I love to dance and each class is just another two hours that I get to dance each day. Unfortunatly, the teacher/AD of the program and I have never really seen eye to eye. Since my freshman year (when I was placed into the highest level of the department, surrounded by seniors), I've never really been made to feel like I belong. I don't get corrections in class, I'm not given fair casting in the performances that we do (I'm not saying that I should get to be the star, I just want to be in more than what I choreograph), I'm always given last choice over what dancers I'd like to use in my pieces so I often times have to pull my pieces from performances. I've approached her several times about all of this and I've noticed a slight change the week after such a meeting but then its back to the normal ignoring. Every year, I've tried to convince myself that it will be different, that since I'll have more seniority, things will be better. Every year, I end up disappointed. Recently, we have been planning for our spring performance. This is the one BIG performance that we do each year. We hold open auditions in December and then work out our ideal casting and finish up our choreography over break before meeting when we return to solidify everything and start rehearsals. This year, I was planning to set two pieces, one modern and one ballet on pointe. Both required a fair number of advanced dancers. I had figured out who I wanted and presented my ideas to the AD only to be told that it wasn't going to work out because the dancers that I was interested in had already been spoken for. I have one dancer for my modern piece (needed at least four) and two for the ballet (slightly more flexible on that number but I had wanted more). Because of my recent injury, I was planning on sitting out this performance but still putting my pieces in it. As things look right now, I'll have to pull them because I don't have enough dancers and I'm not willing to change the vision that I had for them to fit the number of dancers that I've been allotted. I'm meeting with the AD tomorrow to express my concerns (once again). I don't want to drop these classes because, really, all I care about is being able to dance but, I also am sick of putting up with this. Am I being unreasonable?

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It doesn't sound unreasonable to me, but of course very hard to know from here. I think talking to the AD is a positive move, and I hope you will approach it in a very positive way and do not put her on the defensive. Try to state your case as simply and as positively as possible. Stay calm, and totally under control, not angry and not emotional. Explain what your pieces involve and why you need the strong dancers to do it. Keep it business, and not personal. Good luck, and let us know how it comes out. :yes:

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***Knock, knock***


The most important thing to remember (and perhaps the hardest thing to do) is, as Ms. Leigh counselled, keep it "business, not personal". Selling the concept of your piece and the "staffing" requirement in a very mature, logical, and reasonable tone is crucial.


But also, in that vein, try to devise a way to ask your AD, "how do I improve my casting position for future pieces?" That is, what is it you need to work on from your end that would improve your chances of getting the specific dancers or, at least, the number of dancers your pieces invision--be it timeliness of request, seniority, or WHAT? [i, as just a non-dancing parent, haven't a clue!]


Showing the AD that, not only do you understand your piece and its choreographical requirements, BUT you also want to use these opportunities to grow and improve your skills in this casting area (or whatever that aspect is called). Convey that you are willing to own the responsibility for receiving prime casting opportunities, but you need to know HOW to improve and in what areas you may be "lacking", at least in the perception of the AD.


Start with the premise that there must be a logical reason, and it is your job to learn what those logical reasons are so that you can work to your best advantage. [Now IF there is no logical reason, just plain favoritism, you will be out-of-luck, BUT the AD will surely have to come up with something!]

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Just a suggestion that this may be somewhat of a self-perpetuating cycle. If you always or often pull your pieces from performances when you don't get your way, that creates a headache for everyone else on the program as well. So they many not be as willing to accomadate you in the future. Perhaps you have not really shown that you deserve more seniority because you have not been willing to work with them in the past. Like it or not, the dance world is not usually a democracy and you very often, especially in choreography, have to take what you can get and make it into something better than the sum of its parts. Anyway, just some food for thought...

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*knock knock*


kriskoekk made a *very* good point. I'm sure every Artistic Director of every professional company would love to have the best dancers in the world perform thier choreography. Most need to make do with what they have. One of the marks of a true professional is someone who can take an "avarage" dancer and make them look spectacular on stage. Every dancer has strengths and weaknessness. As a choreographer, exploit the strengths of the dancers you have to work with. Make them look great on stage and give them an enjoyable experience. Make your dancers feel special and beautiful and I can almost guarantee that you'll get them to work hard for you and look good on stage. It's great that you have this vision for what you want your pieces to look like. Even if it's not "perfect" casting this time...make do and learn from it. Maybe in the future, you'll be able to restage your work with the dancers you choose and it'll get even better.


George Balanchine would often change his choreography to suit the individual dancers he had. Make your quartet a duo. Do what you need to do to get your choreography seen. It happens ALL THE TIME in the world of professional dance. Just keep working.


I'm truly sorry that your school has not been a fully satisfying experience, and you should definitely ask those in charge what you can do to make it a more rewarding time.

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I met with the AD today and my pieces won't be performed until a later date. I mentioned my concerns of what has happened in the past and she, if not sympathetic to the situation, at least acknowledged that what has happened has been unfair. The purpose of this "company" is to allow all students who have an interest in choreography, regardless of level, choreograph pieces and have them performed, while also being responsible for all the behind the scenes work such as scheduling our own rehearsal times, lighting design, and costume design. In the past when things like this have happened, I have done my best to make do with what I was given or pull pieces before others have even started rehearsals. I would never pull something close to the performance, I feel bad about pulling these two because I feel like it is too close (and its two months away) but I had no other option and I had the approval of the AD. I had one dancer for a piece that needed four, I found out today that one of the two dancers I had for the ballet piece is having foot surgery in the next month to fix a break that never healed right. My pieces will be performed later in the spring at a less formal performance and I have already spoken with the dancers that I will be using (the ones I had already cast and then a few others). My situation was made tougher by the fact that I'm not able to dance until February so performing in my own pieces would be difficult (I had originally planned to do so if I needed an extra dancer) because I would only have a month minus a long weekend (a big weekend for traditions at the school, only upper classmen area allowed on campus for a big ceremony in which the juniors recieve their rings) to get myself ready to perform after being out for four months and having hip surgery. This is a performance that often gets reviewed and not something I'd want to push myself into at much less than 100%. The AD saw my point of view and agreed that I could potentially do more damage trying to get myself ready and pushing myself too hard too fast. I will still be involved in the performance as stage manager.

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Sounds like a step in the right direction!


"And the Stage Manager said, 'Let there be light,' and behold! it was so!"

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