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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Limited performance opportunities...


msd

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Dd LOVES to perform. She attends a company-attached pre-pro school, which has allowed her several wonderful opportunities over the years in various kids' roles. She also has performed with another group w/in the city, which has allowed her still more performing opportunities. Now, however, she's cast in what will probably be her last company Nutcracker for a while, as she *just* squeaked under the "too tall" line. (The company does not use the Academy kids for corps roles...so after one "outgrows" the kids' parts, that's it for the kids until or unless one becomes a trainee.) The other performing group had a major falling out between the AD and the board, and I am pretty sure that's it for that group.

 

She does (and will) perform annually in the school's spring workshop...but it's starting to hit us both that she may be in for a few years of mostly class. Have others found themselves in a similar position as their dancers "outgrow" kids' roles? (Dd is 13.) This kid positively thrives on rehearsals and performance, the craziness of theater week. Thoughts?

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I would think that, in a pre-pro school, the director and teachers would create performing opportunities for the dancers in the upper level who are not used with the company for Nuts or anything else. At WSB we have what is called The Young Dancers, who are the Release Time students. They are constantly in rehearsal and usually do a number of performances outside of Nuts and spring concert. They perform for schools and charity organizations. At least that is what they did in the past. Not sure how much of it they are doing now, but I know they are in rehearsals on a regular basis, so, they must have some performances scheduled somewhere.

 

That said, there are some "gap" years, where the students are too tall for party scene and not ready for corps roles or Release Time and Young Dancers. Sometimes there will be a year or two with no performing outside of spring concert.

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We are dealing with something similar. Our studio has for years done two large performances a year. Each production was performed a number of times, sometimes over the better part of a week. Class time was never rehearsal time and rehearsals were always open ended events that had a real feeling of being a 'company' even though we never declared ourselves as such. We now have a new administrator and all has changed. The attitude is that this is now a school that teaches technique. We were actually told that performances came second to technique and therefor there would be just one production per year. It's a one performance event as well. We also found out it's no longer going to be the big extravaganza we all broke our backs over. No more full length ballets, just dances! It will be a recital rather than a performance.

 

We are feeling quite hollow and that's the parents talking. The kids are in a heap on the ground. They feel that there is nothing to work for. We've been told by the new administrator that technique is more important than performance but I personally think thats just crazy. The upper level kids, the ones needing to do company auditions in the near future are in a bit of a panic. They literally do class and that is it. In the late spring there will be this demonstration but it sound quite lack luster. Dancers don't work all those hours at the barre just to do more hours at the barre. The barre is to help them get on stage and sadly the stage has been taken away.

 

In the past, we would have been full swing into rehearsals, costumes would be being built and we'd be moaning about fundraising. Instead it's the steady grind at the barre and I'v heard talk of kids hanging up their shoes. There is a feeling of hopelessness. There seems to be no point in pleading for performance opportunities. Actually I tried and it got me nowhere! The new administration is all about technique and sees no need for perfomance. I'm of the belief that perfoming is an important aspect of training. Dancers need to get on stage and learn stagecraft, hone their performance quality and learn the nuances of acting. It's all a part of training. Sadly, if we were to leave there's nowhere to go. I don't know a happy kid in ballet at the moment! Is there a new thought process going on in the ballet world that performances are a detrament to the student? This is a very hollow feeling! Somebodies out to lunch and if it's me please tell me! By the way, this is a pre pro school!

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Pasdetrois,

 

Is this administrator declaring this policy across the board for all levels? Or will there at least be performing opportunities for the pre-pros???

 

I am hoping that there will plenty of performing opportunities for the pre-pros at least.

 

(Devil's Advocate for one moment) Ballet is a performing art BUT, the technique does need to be present as well. Is it possible that this new director felt that the focus was too much on performing, and that the students were missing some key elements of technique? If in fact, they did decide that was an issue, I can understand why they might shift the focus back to technique for a temporary time period so as to get the children back on track. If this person has a great 'ballet pedigree', I would suggest trying his or her way for a year or 2 to see what happens.

 

If, on the other hand, this person has no recognizeable track record, it may be time to look elsewhere.

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My daughter has been in both situations -- lots of performing experience, with little time left over for focus on clean technique, and lots of technique, with little chance to put it into practice on the stage. To be very honest, after you get used to not having to do all the costume/set construction and fundraising, but just bring your child to class, you may find that ballet is more calm for the family.

 

We actually found that with the latter approach (more class, less performance) that the technique advances were so great that the girls in the school were much more confident when given the chance to perform, and that people who needed performers started knocking down our school's doors to give our dancers performance opportunities.

 

Maybe you and your child could give it some time to see what happens. :)

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In the past, no class time went to rehearals. All rehearals took place after class time so we sacrificed nothing. These kids have clean, pure, classical technique which has been commented on at high end SI's. This has for years been a school of excellence.

 

The admimistrator came from a school that has been having difficult times. A really good communicator and a great PR person but I'm beginning to question the rest of the package. There has been no suggestion to help the upper level kids with performance opportunities. Many thoughts have been passed around but it appears to be all talk. There is a feeling of desperation at times, these 16 to 18 year old pre pro dancers feel abandoned!

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DD finds herself in a similiar situation as well. She is in a new school that offers only a year end production which seems pretty limited opportunity/challenge wise. Her class (some of them at least) are in a level where they could handle corps work technically in the professional company Nutcracker. We are told however, that as it is "union" (AGMA I believe) no students can be used in the corps. As an advanced 17 year old student, my dd loves and has come to expect, performance opportunities. It isn't as though she and her peers are 13 years old with many years of training to look forward to. These girls are at a stage where they must soon be making serious decisions about their futures. I believe the training and focus that performance opportunities create are vital, in additional to solid technical training of course. I worry a bit about SI auditions coming up the first of the year and my dd being at a possible disadvantage as she is not coming off the additional rehearsal/training hours our usual winter production generates. Yes, there are some advantages to not doing a performance, but I think they are more for me than dd (ie. no fundraising, costuming, ticket sales,etc). Her sense of accomplishment and joy always seem to outway any negatives of a production.

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This is one of the problems with some schools that are attached to pro companies.

 

One the other hand, a teen dancer in an RDA company (most not attached to big pro schools) usually gets many opportunities to perform and develop that side of their training. Many of our dancers can be found in pro companies today and I feel this is directly related to the abundance of opportunities they have to learn new choreography and perform it regularly.

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The timing of this thread is amazing as we are deep into Nut rehearsals. I was thinking of it from the other angle. We are a part of a youth ballet org that performs 2 major ballets a year and also does the outreach stuff. It feels like class/technique is taking a backseat to rehearsals/performances. I'm not sure if you get the same benefit from a 2 hour rehearsal as you would a 2 hour tech. class??? I'm not sure how to say this...while a dancer is in rehearsal are they still working on their technique?

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In our company, all rehearsals are outside of regular class technique hours. Four days a week our dancers have 2-3 hours of class. The other two days they have ballet technique class for 1 3/4 hrs and a 2 hr rehearsal on the weeknight and a 5 hour rehearsal on Saturday. Sundays are off!

 

Our dancers' technique does not suffer with this schedule. The only time of year it is adjusted is 2 weeks before Nutcracker and 1 week before a spring show or RDA adjudication/festival.

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DD has danced in the RDA school environment, and I agree, that technique does not need to be sacrificed. Many, Many hours are devoted to rehearsal though.

 

We have friends who have gone the company school route. In addition to technique they are getting to learn lots of rep, and learn it from the best in the country. In a company school there tends to also be conditioning sorts of things offered that a dancer is less likely to get in a smaller pre-pro school.

 

As with many things in life, it's a trade off. Each has to make a decision based on what suits their dancer, and what they can reasonably withstand with scheduling/travelling constraints. One thing to consider with the change that is being discussed here is that SI selections could be based on performance opportunities to help round out the dancer and to give them that stage time.

 

I'm thankful for the peroformance opportunities dd was given in the RDA environment. (So is she). She is someone who loves to be on stage. Fortunately in her residency program there is a nice blend of technique and performance opporutnities. However, the pond is bigger. That's good, too. :)

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We have a kid who came to use after an RDA experience. She's now one step from a full company contract in a top ten company. I'm beginmning to feel we are making a mistake with our new direction. Those who are noticed are those who perform. It's not competion experience, it's performance experience. Talk about frustrating!

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Technique class should be danced and performed. If you treat every ballet class as if you are performing for the whole world the transition to the stage will be seamless.

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An SI with a end of program performance could give her another opportunity.

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