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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Companies: smaller vs. larger

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Guest kirovboy

I know this is a hypothetical question, but in reality this does really happen, and perfect timing, it is happening to me right now! I have already made decisions, and like everyone says, you must do what is best for the individual dancers themselves. Certain dancers need boosts for their ego, and no matter the size of the company, as long as they are doing parts that showcase their talent, they will be happy doing what they are doing. But then you have the other people, like me, who are willing to take that risk, throw themselves out there, and step down to a lower position, to be with a more prestigious company. In my opinion it is much better to be in a larger company that you may perform corps roles in for a while before being promoted, if you ever get promoted because, it is always easier to start in a company with a very respectable name, and then if you are unhappy, to move to a smaller less prestigious company. That is what made my decision. and no decision is permanent, test out the waters, and then move on if you are unhappy. Also, a lot of dancers that are promoted through the ranks, are not necessarily the best in their company or have the best technique, it was just that their timing was perfect. And how will you know if you will move through the ranks, and maybe have that perfect timing, if you dont give it a try? I dont know, Im probably rambling, but that is my opinion.

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It's not an ego boost I was talking about with this dancer; it was substantive improvement in technique. Stagnation of technique in company class is a common and disturbing complaint of too many professional dancers.


Here is a very hypothetical example. Maybe your company class has 50 people in it --- which is too big to really effectively help everyone in it improve. Suppose your company had decided they like you in the corps but they don't see you as soloist material. In that case, they really might just let you do the same mistakes every day and never give corrections that would help you improve, focusing attention on their "promising" corps members instead. They will never fire you because they like you in the corps, but they also won't necessarily invest in you as is needed to produce a promotion.


I would see such lack of investment as reason to get out in a big hurry, whatever the size of the company. Especially if I saw people being promoted around me.


Or a "nicer" example: suppose the company really does not pick favorites like that. But with a company class of 50, you have to come in with a certain kind of independence and a certain set of skills to continue to improve in company class with very little attention. We all would like to think we have those skills already. But the dancer who knows herself and realizes she does not will be doing herself a favor to admit it.


Or a totally random example: maybe the training approach at company X doesn't work for you as well as at company Y. Maybe you don't like their teachers and couldn't do well studying with them, no matter how prestigous or not company Y is.

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Guest checkwriter

Well, I'm more than like a little surprised at all of the DISCUSSION going on here when Hollywood has like totally already given you the answer. You may have guessed it -- DUH! -- "Center Stage." I mean, like, who can forget the thrill I know we ALL felt when Cooper found out the really rich old lady who was formerly supporting Jonathan's big-time dance institution but had been like hanging all over Cooper for weeks and weeks was like SOOO totally in LUV with Cooper's dancing that she offered to foot the bill for HIS OWN COMPANY, and then how Cooper right away after the workshop asked Jody to be his first principal, when she was like STRAIGHT out of SAB -- oops, I mean AAB (yeah, right, like we don't know!) -- and then how Jody goes right into Jonathan when he's going to tell her if she does or doesn't have a job with his big time company and she says like "um, don't even tell me, Jonathan, because I don't want to know because I'm going to be the best dancer that I can be and that best dancer is a principal with Cooper's new company" and then Jonathan's jaw just like drops to the FLOOR when Jody just comes out and says this and his main teacher lady just nods knowingly and (I at least think) secretly approvingly. I know that I knew that Jody was totally doing the right thing then.


I mean, if that like doesn't give you the answer, then I don't know what does.

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I think checkwriter is tongue-in-cheek; a name like that implies a parent. Maybe checkwriter could finance my up-coming company, which I promise will be the best thing since sliced bread. Just like Cooper's company in Center Stage.


I've actually spent time thinking about that scenario in Center Stage. The choice Jody made may not have been good for her. As much as Cooper loved Jody's dancing, I doubt he had the resources to continue her development. I think about Allegra Kent: Balanchine absolutely loved her dancing from the start, but he still put her in the corps for 5 years before promoting her directly to principle. That is a more realistic career path, regardless of company stature; in fact, Kent's career path is still faster and higher than most of us can hope for.

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Checkwriter, your post gave me a nice chuckle as I started my work week!:) As much as my daughter adores that movie, I must admit that your wonderful re-telling of the complex and oh-so-believable;) premise of the story reflect my own perceptions of that movie perfectly. Thanks for making me smile!:)

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I've been reading this thread with great interest as we are at that crossroads now...big fish/little fish. We have been leaning towards shooting for a major company but with many worries on my part if this is the best decision for him. I'm convinced now this is the right decision after reading this thread and 'thanks' to all who gave such thought provoking posts...Tango

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lilliana's most recent post is a sobering one. Along those lines, I'd have to assume that the old "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" has a basis in fact.

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Needed to run after my last post but wanted to add something more...Having experienced many years around the same small company the problems that were mentioned earlier do prevail... For example..in company classes there was not much in 'corrections' but seemed to be just a 'warm-up' for rehearsals. Also company class was quite often taught by company members themselves. I wonder if that is a unique situation here? The only coaching available(if at all) was given only to the lead dancer in a particular role but more often there was none given at all. I realize though even large companies also have this problem with coaching. Yet I have seen improvement among some of the dancers particularly the men. I think the repertoire here is challanging with many opportunities for them to guest yet there is also a high injury rate (male and female). This I feel is due to a bad floor in our theatre and the quality of classes. These were some of the reasons that were important in our decision making. Ofcourse this is just one company...any comments on others would be interesting to here about also.

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  • 2 years later...

I just finished my very first professional ballet company audition and it really opened my eyes and now I realize that there are a lot of dancers out there that are trying to compete for the same positions to get into a company like I am. Just curious, is it better for me to start auditioning for smaller compaines rather than large ones like ABT,PNB,SFB,NYCB. That way I don't get so frustrated and that I might have a shot at getting a job? What do you think? Maybe I should aim my goals so high when I'm just starting out. :yawn:

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missy--I think it would be a good time to cover all your bases. You can still aim high, but certainly you should allow yourselves many options. Which means still aim high, but be realistic about what your goals really are. Are they to dance period? Or do you only consider it to be a success if it's at one of the places you named above?


Re-evaluate what your goals are and then go for what your heart desires. But don't overlook what might be just the right place for you because it isn't on the list.



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missy, another thing to think about is why you want to be in a company. Some people want to be big "ballet stars", some want the prestige of being in a big-name company, and some just want to dance, and aren't all that picky about where. My daughter has a lot of friends in professional companies (most in smaller ones), and the ones who have been in the larger companies complained that they didn't get to dance all that much - since in a really large company, not all corps members dance in every production. They had nice salaries and nice benefits, but if they weren't cast, they were bored - because each day, they would go to company class and then go home. In a smaller company, you usually don't get the big salary or the perks, but you dance all the time. (As lilliana said earlier about one of her daughters, in a small company, she never had to wonder if she would be cast, she KNEW that she would be, in every show.) A dancer I know once said that she just wanted to be paid to be in pointe shoes for eight hours a day - she didn't care where or what she was dancing. So while you're trying to decide what type of company to aim for, think about what you want to get out of it. That might help.

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Oh Missy - welcome to the ballet world beyond the classroom! It's tough out there so cover all your bases and get to as many auditions that you can get to - big and small. If all you come up with this season is an offer to a smaller company - you can take that and regroup and start again next year - but at least you were dancing somewhere and technically an "employed professional" which is a good thing! It will put you a step ahead of everyone just starting out next season.


Good luck to you this year - keep us posted on your progress!


Oh - good post K8smom and so true! My dd is in a larger company now and her first few months were just going to class and going home. She said that the hardest thing was to stay motivated. When Nutcracker came around she was really busy - everyone was. Since then - things have been better and she has been busier - but she does think that you need to pay your dues so you appreciate what comes your way later.

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Good luck with your auditions! I went to a LOT of auditions for all kinds of companies and shows before getting an apprenticeship (in a smallish-to-mid-sized regional company...about 20 dancers). It took a good year or so to get an offer to join a company. AND I still have to put in another season or two before I'll get a paycheck (though I get shoes, excellent training/coaching, and some opportunities to perform with the company and learn some beautiful choreography).


Some of the girls I trained with are thinking about quitting dancing altogether because they haven't gotten paid jobs in big companies yet. It's crazy to me.


Even in a smaller company with more performing opportunities for lower-level dancers, there can be a lot of sitting around during rehearsal days. Heck, even the higher level dancers in a company have to sit around sometimes waiting for thier rehearsal to start (and sometimes to day's schedule is a bit unclear...a certain section in a dance can sometimes take FOREVER to rehearse if the details need to be worked out). The artistic director or rehearsal assistant needs to make sure the dance comes together so it looks good for the audience, and sometimes that means waiting around. It's part of the process.

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