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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Companies: smaller vs. larger


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Another very important factor to consider in looking at small vs. large companies is the length of the company season. Some, not all, smaller companies have very short seasons. So the overwhelming factor in this kind of company is how to stay in shape during their lengthy off-season.

 

Money issues can be huge. Where to continue taking classes is the big question. Does the company have a school associated with it who will allow you to take classes? If not, is there another pre-pro school who will accept you? Will your former studio let you take classes? Do any of them let you take FREE classes? Or do you have to pay for every class you take? If so, your parents will have to be able to support you because your short company season, if indeed you are being paid at all, certainly isn't enough to financially do so.

 

Many small companies have a mere 6 month season. Even with a nine-month season, it's important to think through and have a plan for those off-months.

 

Some ballet dancers take jobs as RA's at summer ballet programs. They are often then allowed to take classes for free. So, if you're thinking of accepting a job with a shorter season company, make sure you are contacting these SI's too for possible RA positions where you can also stay in shape. It can be very expensive to do it otherwise.

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As a dancer, I would prefer the larger company work. I think it is important to have something to aspire to. IMO, I would think that taking the smaller company offer would not be as rewarding as fighting your way through the ranks. Who knows, maybe my views will change when I actually get to that point. :wacko:

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In my experierience, both can be equally challenging and rewarding. I think however it ultimately depends on the individual. Some dancers do not feel at home in a very large, competitive company, while others strive in that atmosphere.

Smaller companies may give you the opportunity to perform roles that you would not have experienced otherwise, pushing your mental and physical capabilities.

I think the most important thing is that no matter where you are, you enjoy what you are doing, you are challenged by the level of work, and you feel rewarded by the progress you are making.

If you are stagnant in either atmosphere, it's time for a change!

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The salaries and benefits of AGMA vs. non unionized companies are huge. It's a really big difference. Principals in small companies are often making what apprentices and first year corps do in an AGMA. Unless you really don't mind waiting tables, have an education to support freelance "outside" work in something like computers, or plan to teach ballet and/or pilates a LOT, seriously consider spending some time in a major company if you're talented and/or lucky enough to be offered a contract.

 

It's always going to be an individual situation and have to do with your personal comfort level and ambitions....But a year or two in a major company will give you a livable salary, some medical benefits, and a great boost to your resume, if you decide to audition for smaller companies later on. Don't underestimate the value of medical benefits in ANY job (dance or otherwise). Look up the cost of private medical insurance in the United States. YIKES!!! As a dancer, you will probably need some MRIs, Xrays, etc...at some point.

 

That said, also look into what kinds of federal/state/local benefits you may qualify for if you fall below poverty level. There is some help out there if you might need it.

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