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Company life: Understudying


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I may want to hear some personal anecdotes and get advice about working in a company. I want to ask some questions about learning repertory as an understudy...how to figure out steps and spacing from the sidelines (and the difference it makes when you run it), how this affects my dancing, being thrown into partnering stuff I may not have done before, how to approach AD when I feel like I want to try something and there's an opening, blah blah blah...technical "dance" stuff. I'm fine when I get cast...I learn it and do well...am a hideous understudy (maybe I just hate it)...I guess I need some input.


It doesn't fit into the adult boards really, and the career forum seems more about practicalities of the career itself.


I'm an apprentice who's sometimes used, gets psyched, then gets ignored. I'm non aggressive and kind of self contained and can "close off" in person, which doesn't help. Need more help than ever from those who've "been there, done that". The AD is good about giving me goals and stuff to work on with my technique...and I ask the dancers questions and communicate, but it's still really REALLY hard...and I like as much input to absorb and think about as I can.


Any suggestions about what forum? Thanx :huepfen:

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That might help. It seems like the forum is quite a bit of parents who are helping kids break into the business (god or whatever bless them...it's hard). A lot of practical discussions about the career. Maybe not a lot of dancers talk online about the inside day to day concerns because they're scared of repurcussions or don't know about the forums. But i guess any input could help:) I like and need it.

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as far as understudying goes, we all have to pay our dues and do it. best way to do it- learn it like you'll be performing it, because (especially in smaller companies), you may!! the director knows whether you know it or not- are you marking on the side, or doing it full out as you possibly can? as far as talking to the director about openings, as an apprentice you are really not in that position- actually you usually can't do that if you are corps de ballet. from personal experience, you just need to deal with it, maybe express your interest in being a full company member, which to me seems very apparent since you have been discussing goals, etc. with your director. it's a little harsh i know, but everyone who's done it knows that it is just something you need to do. you just need to go in and do what you are supposed to do- management takes notice whether you notice or not. hope this helps...

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lampwick, the best advice I got from my teacher before I started in a company was "Learn everything. Be ready." I did that, and started getting solos in second year because the director saw that I knew all the parts, or could learn things very quickly and go on for anyone! :D

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Just clarifying one of your questions because so far, no one's answered it:

I want to ask some questions about learning repertory as an understudy...how to figure out steps and spacing from the sidelines
. Lampwick, it sounds as though you're saying that it's hard to learn from the sidelines as an observer as opposed to being directly taught as you would if you were selected to dance a role. You're asking for advice from others on how to do this better, right?


Are there other people also understudying the same parts? If so, perhaps together (not during rehearsal, but afterwards sometime) you can give each other corrections and fill in any gaps you may have about the actual steps? I know my daughter has done that with friends many times.

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Is it possible for you to do the choreography in the back of the studio, behind the dancers doing the run? It might not be feasable, due to studio size or if it really bugs the director, but if the studio is large enough and the director doesn't mind, it is often very helpful to run the piece at the same time as the dancers, but behind them. Especially if you're learning a particluar dancer, to try to hit the same marks.


I also find it helpful to occasionally stop dancing and just watch, taking care to note the patterns of running traffic. Sometimes these can vary as the piece evolves, and you don't want to have a crash if you get thrown in!


But hands down, the best way to be sure of the choregraphy is to go into a studio alone and try to run the piece, hitting the proper marks for whichever part you're going through. That way, you get used to how tired you'll be at a given moment, you'll be sure you really know the choreography on your own, and you'll be more comfortable with the spacing marks you need to hit. It is very important to be very confident with choreography and spacing, because no matter how much you prepare, it is a whole different ballgame when people are running AT you!!!!

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Thanks everyone.

Actually, I had posted this is a different forum. I was just asking which forum would be appropriate for asking these types of questions....I wasn't really asking the questions themselves yet :)


But all of the advice is good :wink:

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