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Supernumerary roles


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I have a question about supernumerary roles. My older son has done a couple, and I imagine we're fortunate to live in an area where there seem to be fairly regular opportunities. All things being equal, they certainly seem like a great opportunity to see professionals in action up close and personal (especially talented male dancers), they seem to provide some nice encouragement and motivation, and my son enjoys them (and no doubt DS2 would as well as soon as his size matches up with a role!). The rub, however, is that all things generally aren't equal ;-) They tend to take a serious and concentrated time commitment. So, obviously, the boys won't be auditioning for the one this fall that will pose a major conflict with their school's Nutcracker, and the one earlier this summer that landed in a rare week with no school and no other commitments was a no brainer. My question is, what do others who've been there, done that think about the value of these opportunities when we're trying to weigh out the pros and cons for one that comes up in the middle of the school year and requires some significant compromises (missing some school, late nights, some compromised homework, etc.)? Did you find them valuable enough that it was worth dealing with some hardships, or something where you just cherry-picked the opportunities that were relatively easy? My thought is that boys in particular might benefit from the exposure to professional male dancers and therefore it would be worth some compromises, though not at the cost of significant harm to school or other important commitments. Is it of value to be consistently available to the organization looking for supers, or do they not really care about that?

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DS has done this a few times. We encourage it whenever possible and wish we were in a situation where we could allow him to participate all the time. At times it's meant that he's missed his regular ballet classes and the quality of homework may have also suffered. Our one criteria is whether or not we can manage it logistically. In other words, our cut off point is whether it compromises our ability to do our jobs (the ones that we get paid to do!) to the best of our ability. If so, we say "no." Take advantage of them while you can. There are far more opportunities for girls. We've found that opportunities for boys are very, very limited after they hit about 5' - or an inch or so higher. Then they have to wait until they're tall enough or old enough for the "male" rolls. DS is just now getting old enough and tall enough to start considering super roles again. They're not dancing roles, but he's backstage with amazing dancers, has gotten lots of feedback from professional male dancers - and even some assistance. The best thing that's happened is that he's seen how much FUN the dancers have. He knows they aren't paid much and work really hard, but he has observed that they all really, really love what they're doing. That's a great motivator.


I guess I would also qualify it to say that the shows he's been involved with are evolutions that only require a few days or not more than a week (except perhaps weekends) - including rehearsals. For example, Romeo and Juliet - two or three rehearsals and then just a few performances. Debbie Allen's productions are popular with dancers but here they run two weeks, including matinees. Factor in rehearsal time and that's too much time out of school, driving him back and forth, etc. I'd have to quit work to accommodate that type of schedule.


As for being consitently available - I've never heard that it was an issue. We know some kids that do everything available while some pick and choose. When selecting supers, we've found that ultimately it comes down to whether or not someone has the right look, the right training (sometimes), is the right height, fits the costume, can commit to all of the rehearsals, etc.


One other thought - one of the best advantages is that it has connected DS with dancers from around the city. He did a Nutcracker performance in 2004 and has now run into kids he performed with - almost three yeras ago - at his current SI. There are other dancers that he keeps in touch with regularly. It's helped him build an interesting - and large - network of friends that provides additional support when things are tough at his studio, in school, etc.

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Thanks, cheetah. I can usually wrangle my schedule to manage whatever comes up, so that hasn't been too much of a problem, and we've also been fortunate that another boy at our school is the same size and skill level as DS1, and so far they've always been able to do these things together so we've even been able to do some carpooling (very helpful!). The biggest challenge for us has been where to draw the line with school. I'm not sure how far we can go before the teachers start getting testy :-/ They've been delightful so far, but I don't want to mess that up too much. Plus, of course, it gets hard on my son because he doesn't like underperforming at school either and the long days/late nights set him a bit on edge. Still, I'm glad to hear that your experience has been so positive. Both boys *want* to do it, so I guess we'll just do our best to give them every opportunity we can.


Has your experience with the various companies been good?

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DS has performed with three different companies. He's had positive, though different, experiences with all of them. I really can't say anything bad about anything he's encountered so far. It can be really boring sometimes, which has been a great lesson to learn!

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It can be really boring sometimes, which has been a great lesson to learn!

For DS or for you?! ;-) Goodness knows the waits are boring for me, though I try to take along a project. (Yes, DS gets bored on occasion too, but not nearly as bored as I do!) Guess it's character building for both of us, eh?


Glad to hear you've had good experiences. Before DS did it the first time, I was really worried it wouldn't be such a positive experience, but his have been good. I was hoping that was more the rule than the exception.

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