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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Auditions: The Dream Company Audition


vrsfanatic

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To tell you the truth I never thought about it before. :blushing: I guess I need to do some thinking. I can tell you however that in applying for teaching jobs, all over the world, I have indeed incurred expenses to be seen. There are a long list of classes where I have been billed as a "guest" that were actually (as told to me) an auditon of a job. Some jobs I got, some I did not, but it is not unusual at all on the teaching level. While I have never paid a fee to audtion for a job, there are many jobs I incurred high expense to be seen. In a few audition classes I received payment for my work. In some cases, I did not.

 

I am not saying your thoughts are right and I am not saying they are wrong. :shrug: There is food for thought however. :wink:

 

FYI: Having run professional company auditions (in another life), I am happy to say that there where never any cuts for the very reasons mentioned here. There are ways to see through the maze of dancers although I must say it was never the most efficient way of doing it.

 

post edited to correct a typo that really changed the context.

Edited by vrsfanatic
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Just wondering......

 

do the companies charging for auditions publish in advance that cuts will be made at any point during the audition?

 

I remember reading that statement somewhere recently, and thought it was daunting to be sure, but fair prior warning about the process.

 

Of course, don't know quite how I'll feel when it's my dancer's time to hit the audition trail...quite nervous I suspect. :wink:

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A little stream of consciousness, not responding to anyone in particular and not trying to sound bitter, just thinking things through...

 

Considering that ballet companies are not profitable at all and have to be supported by donations (even New York City Ballet's ticket sales only cover approximately 55% of its budget) I can see why they would be trying to find money almost anywhere, especially in the current situation in which many seem to be struggling. However, it is also logical that dancers not be charged a fee just to be evaluated. The process previously mentioned of first screening dancers via resumé and photo, then via video, and finally in company class sounds attractive, but it makes me wonder who has time to sit around doing all that screening as ballet companies generally have rather small staffs and therefore everyone has a lot to do.

 

At the same time, I do see the dancers' side; the expenses they incur can be astronomical, especially when one considers the tiny chance they have of getting a job. Maybe a company that cannot afford to devote more resources to auditioning dancers in a humane/professional way cannot therefore afford to be in business, but then that makes the job market even smaller, thus pushing schools out of business (which, it might easily be argued, have no reason to be in business if there is nowhere for their students to dance).

 

All of which makes me wonder if perhaps the European model of a few major, state-supported schools and companies makes more sense than our current arrangement in the US. The school feeds the company so no auditions are necessary, and students are perpetually weeded out during their training so that no one is given any false encouragement. (Either that or they are directed to a "recreational" track so that they can keep dancing for their own enjoyment, but it is still clear that they are not expected to become professionals.) Of course, considering our government's history of "supporting" (cough, cough) the arts, I don't really think that scenario is going to happen any time soon.

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A reply to "Mom2" - in the auditions my DD has been doing, all companies advertise on the website or forms the dancers fill out - that cuts will be made. She tells me that often, before class begins, they will reiterate that, so nobody is surprised. A few, but not all, even tell you when, as in "there will be a cut after barre, and a cut before a variation is taught." One cut as the dancers were standing at barre stretching before class. Horrid, but at least you knew where you stood with them. That particular organization (who will remain nameless, so don't even ask!), did return photos upon request.

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I agree that conducting an audition is a cost of doing business. At the 2 auditions my dd attended, the auditions were on a day that their affiliated schools were already open, so you cannot factor in the cost of heat, lights, etc. as they would already be on, and the staff checking dancers in were the office/receptionist that would be there any time classes are in session, and those poor people probably don't get a stipend for the extra confusion of handling an audition crowd. The company dancers in attendance? It's most likely part of their contract to assist. In the business world, I have been on interview committees where we've gone through 12 candidates for a single job, called back several for additional interviews and I never received additional pay - even if the interviews lasted beyond the work day or during evenings to accommodate interviewees - it was part of the job I was salaried to do. As for AD or assistants to the AD, well, in my opinion they are salaried employees, and coming in on a Saturday to conduct an audition is absolutely part of the job they are being paid to do. Let's do the math: 250 dancers at $10-20 generates $2500-5000 for a couple hours max of a few staff members time that I seriously doubt is going into their paychecks. The only time the company would be hit with excess cost is if they travel around to do auditions and the cost of sending staff, renting space, etc. But again, if you're a big enough company to do auditions around the country then you must be able to afford it and it's still a cost of doing business.

 

I do agree that cuts during the audition are appropriate. At one audition, dd talked of it running smoothly. They were first told they were currently looking for male dancers, but are always looking for good dancers. They split the large group into 2 rooms, had a shortened class, barre and center and then made cuts, then onto company rep and made cuts again. The other group was a huge crowd for one spot, probably with the second company that only gets paid if they perform. She compared it to trying to dance at a large convention without being able to fully extend because everyone was elbow to elbow. The staff conducting the audition didn't seem to have a plan and finally decided on a short ballet combination that everyone did in groups before the cut. I don't want to second-guess how they conduct their search, I just think companies should be honest upfront on the press release of the audition or on their website of exactly what their openings are, how much the pay is, and if they are looking for certain physical characteristics - and then let the dancers (and their parents who are in many cases subsidizing the job hunt) decide if they are willing to suffer the expense of trying anyway. :(

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Excellent post vita-luna...echos this parents feelings 1000%...

your dancer must have been at the same auditions as mine!! how can a dancer be expected to show their best when they can't properly move arms nor legs due to space constraints?? :(

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vrsfanatic, I don't believe anyone is complaining about the dancer's own travel expenses incurred during the job search per se. Those go with the territory, especially at the entry level of a profession. The outrage comes when these travel expenses are incurred and despite appropriate homework being done, the dancer arrives at the audition and learns for the first time:

 

(1) there is a fee charged to attend the actual job interview (audition);

 

(2) there is a fee charged to attend the audition and cuts are made (take your pick) before barre, at barre, after barre;

 

(3) there are specific height requirements that had not been disclosed in the audition listing or during the homework phase;

 

(4) the auditioner announces at the audition that there are no paid positions open, there are only gender-specific positions open (and dancer is not that gender!), or there are only student-level positions open.

 

There are other scenarios that have occurred at least this year to the auditioning dancers. Do consider how fair you would have thought it to be invited for an interview and/or to give a class and then be expected to pay for that privilege. I must say that if anyone told me that in order to apply for the job I was seeking I would have to pay my potential boss for the privilege to be considered, I would have figured I'd just stumbled upon a scam for the naive.

 

Our point (we beleaguered parents and hopeful dancers-to-be) is that the companies are behaving much as the gods on Mount Olympus. The perception, at least, is that they have no responsibility to the poor babies begging crumbs at the professional table of dance. If a crumb happens to fall into the gaping mouth, well, they've done a nice thing. If the crumbs are kept from the pitiful orphans clamoring around the table and tossed away (contracts that are available but not offered), then it is their perogative to do so, after all. In those myths, humans were merely playthings for the gods and the gods could do as they pleased without concern for how their actions might affect the inferior humans.

 

It is of no concern that these babies have travelled miles across the country, incurred work histories less than stellar because they always put the company's needs first (last minute rehearsal called, so can't make the scheduled shift at the coffee shoppe job, so now fired from the job that helps pay the rent. Mom, I hate to ask, but . . . please send money?), or that they are trying their darndest to make the audition trips reasonable in terms of money spent versus realistic possibility/probability of job offer by researching the companies and devouring the audition information, that they are trying to be responsible adults and at the same time pursue a passion.

 

Quite honestly, I find it very demeaning on the part of the dancers and extremely arrogant on the part of the ADs and companies for them to have the audacity to CHARGE these dancers for the mere privilege of being in the same room with the auditioner on the very small chance the AD might pay attention to them. For the companies to whine that they don't have sufficient funds to conduct their business unless they pass these costs on to those very dancers who clamor to offer their services to the AD so he can create the programs that will generate the revenue that pays that AD's salary is just more arrogance than I can stand.

 

That is quite probably a true circumstance (not having the budget to support a national audition tour), but there are better, more fiscally responsible ways to do that. Several have been suggested in this thread alone.

 

To the extent the Union contract requires ADs to hold auditions when no contracts are available, those circumstances should be disclosed before the precious few resources (both financial and emotional) of the prospective dancers are squandered. The prospective dancer-employee deserves the information necessary to make reasoned evaluations of what the most productive use of those limited funds and times would be.

 

If ADs are the people who make the decisions as to whom is hired, then ADs have a responsibility to their Boards to actually interview the prospective employees at some point in the process. If delegation can be done effectively during the initial stages, that's fine. But the process should be made clear to those seeking the open positions.

 

The ADs have a responsibility to those prospective employees to treat the entire process with honesty, integrity, and respectfulness--including the dancers themselves. If the AD hasn't time to do this, temperament to do this, or the decency to do this, then the Board has been squandering its money and has its own job search to do.

 

I have interviewed and been hired in many professional job markets. I would expect the basic process and treatment to be the same in the dance world. I am appalled at how cavillerly this process is often handled by those with the power to hire.

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Excellent points, dancemaven! I wholeheartedly agree. :yes:

 

While the ballet audition process has been likened to that in the theatrical world, I do not know if actors are usually charged for the auditions they go to? In addition, if a hopeful actor can get an agent, they do some of the screening for the actor and this seems to greatly improve one's chances and reduces the need for the endless cattle calls. I don't know of any agents for entry level dancers...

 

In response to the comments regarding the audition circumstances for teaching jobs in ballet, I would guess that these were likely not cattle call auditions where the prospective teacher was trying to teach the class, at the same time 100 other hopefuls were doing the same thing. And, I daresay that the folks who could make decisions were in attendance to witness the audition. Since it was likely narrowed to just a few prospects, the risk taken in travel expenses for the interview are vastly less than those experienced by dancers going to an open audition. And in some cases, the prospect was actually paid for their time during the audition class. Further, I am guessing that there was indeed a position available, for which the prospect was pre-screened, before they spent the time/money to travel to the audition class.

 

I really am hard pressed to find any other interview/audition process that I know of that rivals the situation with ballet dancers. I know that there are some other situations where there are some similarities. But, is there anything else that comes even close to comparing with the way things work in the ballet/dance world? :thumbsup:

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May you all find a way to restructure the ballet world for your dancing children. The ballet world is indeed in need of thought provoking discussions such as these. All of your ideas and knowledge are enlightening. Maybe we, the professionals, have all been so busy just trying to make it work for the dancers we have available to us that we have not had the time to see clearly through the fog. :yes:

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Can y'all just imagine that someday there are so many school and company staff members on BT4D working together with dancers and their families that things actually evolve into a higher state of existence as a result. What a concept!!! What can we all do to manifest this in a more expedient and thoughtful manner for the good of the profession?

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Welcome to the world of professional ballet.

 

I don't like it , but that is the way it is at this point in time. It's a bit a case of supply and demand - there is a tremendous supply of dancers now and only a few jobs. So, right or wrong, ADs have the upper hand. The way auditions are run is pretty much they way they have been run for some time - except the charging of a fee is new. The cutting at the barre, the cutting before the barre, the abbreviated class with dancers packed into a too small space, the bored AD; all of this has been around forever. Not all companies are like this, but enough are to infuriate you. I do hope that people will rebel and some changes will be made, but I don't see that happening any time soon.

 

For years dancers have been underpaid, then all of a sudden some one figured out that he could increase his amount of employment (and income) by doing summer intensives and competitions. I think these turned out to be far more successful that anyone had anticipated. That combined with more parents with higher incomes so that their children can study dance and more parents extremely involved in all aspects of their kids lives so that they will do almost anything and spend almost any amount of money so that their child can pursue their interest and/or dream.

 

As far as auditions go, this is my opinion. Some union companies are required to hold auditions whether they need dancers or not. Yes, it is perverse that companies hold auditions before they notify dancers or dancers are required to notify management if they are returning or not. This way ADs can hold an audition, see if there is someone that interests them and if so they can then let go a dancer they already have that they are not so interested in. This way if they don't see anyone they like then they can keep the dancer they don't like so much, but who already knows the rep. On the other hand, dancers can "sneak" to auditions if they are unhappy where they are. If they get an offer they like better then they can wait until the last possible moment when they have to tell their present AD if they are returning. That way they can mull it over for awhile knowing that they still have job security (somewhat). Some ADs know exactly what they want, but many are just seeing who's out there. If they are "really rocked" by someone, they will make every effort to hire them. When I began my career in the 70's, apprentice positions were unusual and were paid. There were few trainees (I guess Harkness had a trainee program) or similar unpaid jobs. The major companies would draw from the scholarship kids at their respective schools for extras and those people would be paid some sort of per performance stipend.

 

It seems that many parents want a very precise description of the dancer that the AD is looking for and what they will be paid, etc. As I stated above, many ADs don't know what they want until they see it. And with most jobs in ballet including teaching and especially teaching at a university - "pay is commensurate with experience."

 

The dance world is full of "temperamental/artistic" types. ADs have for many years ruled the roost like a dictator. What he/she says, goes. Needless to say there is some ego involvement in all of this. I have known ADs who as dancers were known for their honesty and integrity, but once they became ADs they began doing many of the things that they had rebelled against. I'm sure some of that comes with the reality of what it is like to run a major company in today's financial and cultural climate. Dancers have traditionally been trained to not question, just do.

 

Enough.

 

I agree with vrs - if you parents can foment a change, more power to you!!

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I'm not sure that parents and dancers have much that can be used as a bargaining chip to augment change. :( For every dancer and parent who says, "This is ridiculous and I won't play along!" There are 10 more who gladly will. In order to be a catalyst for change, people have to band together in large and resolute numbers and take a stand. I consider myself an optimist, but I don't see this as a likely scenario. :shrug:

 

What we can hope is that through discussions such as this, some ADs will be reached through reading this discussion or someone who has their ear will share some of the ideas presented here with them. Some who participate in these discussions today may be the ADs of tomorrow. Those in the positions of power are the ones that CAN implement changes in their organization and maybe, over time, some will!

 

For those who are in the throes of the storm, I think that if nothing else, it helps to discuss these inequities, to expose them and compare them to other careers, to suggest positive change and to support one another during the process! :thumbsup:

 

oyoyoyoy is right about this whole audition process being nothing new in the ballet world. But, we certainly can all look for ways to make our voices heard and find positive ways to influence those who are in a position to make a difference! :)

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I have said before in another thread some time ago that we are losing more and more of our future audiences because of the way the ballet world is now, especially in the states. I urge everyone to read page 75 of the December issue of Dance Magazine. The article is entitled Rants & Raves: Teaching a Passion For The Art. It deals with more of the student aspect of the ballet world just as this thread is dealing with the Pre-pro dancers. Two differet levels but the danger exists in both, losing future audience members. The last paragraph of the article states:

 

If we want to see ballet flourish we need to pay attention to the thousands who begin by loving it, and embrace values that are consistent with all enlightened teaching. We need to keep them loving it.

 

Yes, not everyone can get a professional contract, but we need to take care of all the souls who love the art so that it will continue and not die in the bitterness and hurt that it so often now creates.

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