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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Auditions: The Dream Company Audition


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I just wanted to interject that this discussion is therapeutic and if nothing else is education for those parents/dancers and maybe teachers that there is something different about the way things are being done now. I agree with balletbooser, change comes from those willing to walk away to fight the fight not just walk away. It is too soon to see that change in the ballet world in my opinion because the upswell of dancer abundance to this magnitude is here now more than ever.


I firmly believe that the adage of "only 2%" used to mean only that many would make it. But part of that equation in the dark ages (pun intended) was that only 2% would be able to rise to the occasion to be ready through training, fit, determination, drive and being in the right place at the right time. Today there are many more than 2% who fit the bill of being "ready" because training has come so far. Over supply, less demand.


It will take a few years for those that raised the new crop of dancers (parents and teachers) to get frustrated enough to not be the next 10 in line and change the way they play the game. I see that happening in our area already with many formerly ballet specific schools finding ways to offer those trained well other options in equally as strong contemporary programs alongside their top notch ballet programs. The students raised in those programs in 5-10 years (the ones successful at being good at it) will be better able to have a love for ballet but have more options at their fingertips upon high school graduation than those raised in ballet tunnel vision.


It will take respected teachers and dancers going to their colleagues and standing up for the changes that they see on their level as those who are trying to train the next wave of dancers to feed the companies they have in the past. It will take parents being educated to the NEW danceworld and making changes to educate their children that is not just about talent and being in the right place at the right time anymore. At this point, many are still being educated that it is.


I hope that the discussion will continue both from those that want to dream and those that are set in reality that this just how it is. The two do not have to be exclusive thoughts in this particular thread because we are in fact talking about the dream audition. You can believe that the professional world is what it is but still agree that a dream audition would be a wonderful thing. I find peace in knowing that at least one teacher is more aware of what her students/parents and even SI hopefuls may now be "seeing" and that maybe just maybe an AD is now aware of what the current process looks like from the outside.


I look at it this way, there has always been an uncertain path into the dance world. It was always a sort of exclusive club like it or lump it. However, where I see the difference now is that it has become a marketable entity and students/parents are now part of a marketing game. What we're seeing with company/SI/trainee-2nd company program auditions is that no one (in the land of ballet power) has really realized that in the marketing game, as strange as it seems, there are rules and guidelines that must be followed or you get slammed for false advertising or scams as dancemaven spoke of. What companies have not realized is that if you play in the marketing game you must come to the table with a package to present that is bound by marketing standards and then follow them until you create a new package. That package is plain, out in the open, tangible and based in fact even if it is put in a pretty package. And once it's in place, THEN they can say like it or lump it!

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Top Posters In This Topic

  • Momof3darlings


  • vrsfanatic


  • balletbooster


  • dbleon


I have chills after reading these last few posts. It is invigorating to read and feel the power of your words. I am so totally riveted from our group. We are creating an incredible platform, establishing increased awareness, and education for so many hungry for this information and for a profession that can become so much better. We are manifesting a path for change by revealing the truth and talking about how it can be made better. This is the basis and core of our dreams. I appreciate all of you so much. And my head is out of the sand now, it was easier before - but as always easier to proceed and face reality armed with the truth.

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This is an excellent discussion topic, especially for me as a parent, as I've been able to share experiences, express worry and vent frustration and know that I'm not alone in these feelings. Even if the message reaches a few in the administrative side of dance companies and causes them to at least reflect on what we are saying it has been well worth it. I'm sure most AD's were on this road at one point themselves and I would think going through the expense and harshness of the audition trail would make them want to be honest and respectful when looking for dancers. I find it sad that organizations need to find "creative" ways to produce income - why are the arts so undervalued, especially dance? When you stop to think how many children grow up in dance studios and the sheer amount of dancers/parents attending competition after competition - you would think there would be a HUGE audience right there alone!

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oyoyoyoyo, I recognize your description of the whys and wherefores of the audition process and the timing of the auditions as quite accurate. From an arm's-length distance, I can see the give-and-take from both the employed dancer's position and the AD's position. It serves a purpose and cuts in favor of one or the other depending on which spot they might be in at different times in the ongoing career. But, in the scheme of things, it probably all works out more or less evenly in the end: one may glean the benefits of the timing one year, but lose out the next. I think, in that sense, it has its own inherent fairness.


And, as you experienced dance worlders remind us, it has always worked that way and seemed to work sufficiently well enough.


I think, however, the problem comes in, as Momof3darlings set out, the shift to a more marketing-type and additional source of revenues approach on the part of the ballet schools and/or companies, has led to a change in the make-up of that infamous "2%" and seriously swelled the numbers of dancers with professional aspirations. The traditional audition/hiring model seems to work well enough for all involved when there were relatively few on the audition circuit. But with the proliferation of ballet schools and ballet students, the traditional audition process has become over-burdened (and some would say, broken).


In decades past, the numbers were more manageable, let's say 500 per season. (These numbers are completely made up and are only for illustrative purposes. I haven't a clue what real numbers would be!) Of those 500, maybe 300 were truly trained to the 'company ready' level. Of those, there would still only be jobs for about 2% or 6 dancers. Now, however, there are say 3000 dancers hitting that same audition circuit. But now, instead of only 300, there are 1000 truly trained to the 'company ready' level, but still only jobs for 2% or 20 dancers. That leaves close to 980 'company ready' dancers frustrated, unemployed, and discouraged as opposed to the 294 from decades ago.


But it also means that the poor ADs and company representatives have been inundated with many more unqualified dancers than in earlier decades (2000 versus 200) and they have no more time available to triage these potential employees than they did in previous decades. I would be willing to conjecture that in the earlier decades following Ballet Russes' indoctrination of the country to ballet, the number of qualified dancers produced and available for the audition circuit probably mirrored more closely the number of available jobs.


So, despite my position as a parent of a dedicated dancer with dreams of securing (and retaining) professional contracts in the next few years, I am not completely blind to the plight of the over-abundance of not just truly qualified dancers clogging the circuit, but the additional mess of truly unqualified dancers adding to the burden of ADs and auditions and straining the system beyond belief. The proliferation of graduates of good quality ballet schools, not to mention the proliferation of graduates from the earnest but truly naive Dolly Dinkle schools, really has overwhelmed the traditional audition process.


Quite simply, a better mousetrap needs to be built.


It appears to me that perhaps the ADs and companies haven't really stepped back to evaluate the traditional process in terms of the current state of affairs. Just because it has always been done that way does not mean that it continues to be a feasible means to do so. When I first started working in a professional office, carbon paper was still used in a typewriter to make copies of documents. The facts and circumstances of office life has changed incredibly over the last three decades. If offices still insisted on using carbon paper to make copies, how efficient would that office be?


I think Hans and oyoyoyoyoy (and others) have pointed out that dance jobs, as with most other jobs, operate as a function of supply and demand. In the simplest terms, there are simply too many qualified dancers for the number of job openings in the market. So, there must be a market adjustment. The question is how is that to be accomplished? Either on the demand side: more jobs are created or become available(more companies come into existence, existing companies expand, older dancers retire) or on the Supply side: fewer dancers are trained to the 'company ready' level.


That simple supply and demand model is a given. The equilibrium between the two will just seek its own level. As a parent of a dedicated, hopeful dancer, I would love for the Demand side of the equation to increase to keep up with the Supply side. But, as a practical observer, I think it is more realistic to believe that the Supply side must decrease to more closely match the Demand side. And to that end, I do think the ADs and company schools have a responsibility to not add to the creation of a false sense of Demand by participating in swelling the ranks of the over Supply side.


I have read numerous times on this Board about the increased attendance and proliferation of the SIs, tuition-required trainee and/or apprenticeship programs. I can't help but believe that these 'marketing' and revenue producing programs aren't in some part (if not, large part) the cause of the over-Supply of qualified dancers. Although we all wish to pursue our own personal "American Dream" and wish to provide our children with any opportunity to do so, I think I would agree, as Hans mused, that perhaps it would serve us all better if the ballet training system in the United States would return to something a bit more European in that the students were evaluated in terms of talent, physical appropriateness, and temperament a bit more selectively and then moved through the training with more direction toward specific companies or openings. Those that simply are not suitable would be very disappointed, but early enough that they could find an alternative path upon which to concentrate their many talents and disciplines.


I realize that would upset many who believe everyone should have a chance, but my apologies, that simply isn't realistic. Not everyone is suited for everything. And, yes, some are very, very, very close to being suitable but yet wouldn't make that cut. But such is life. There are different paths to Rome, but you must understand that you simply cannot walk to Rome from Sydney.


Now, having said all that, I would feel very sad for my DD if she were one of the ones that simply didn't make that cut. But at least we'd know before she spent two or three years on the audition circuit thinking just one more will be the one. . .


So, in summary, I think it would be beneficial for the ADs and companies to re-think the audition process model and figure some way to streamline it such that it dealt more efficiently and feasibly with the current state of affairs and not be so tied to the traditional process just because it was always done that way. And I think ADs, companies, SI programs, and teachers at all training schools need to be more realistic in the number of dancers they train to have professional aspirations. And lastly, PARENTS and dancers need to be more accepting that sometimes that dream, however passionate they feel and want it, just isn't meant to be.

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Thanks, Dancemaven! Your evaluation and suggestions are right on target. If only more at the company level were as interested in lending their time and thought to this issue, I think that many would come to the same conclusions and begin to bring about change! :wub:

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I have 2 thoughts that I wanted to share. I am a nurse and I remember that there was a lot of turmoil several years ago when there was discussion about changing the hours worked by interns and residents. There was a whole lot of grumbling about "that is the way it has always been done". Same idea as this ballet audition deal, just because it has always been that way does not been that it cannot be improved.


My second thought is about the European model. My DD has spent the better part of the last two years in the UK, studying and auditioning. It is great to say that the ballet school system there is better BUT she met many kids that had made it through the numerous assessments but were unable to find a job in the end. The especially sad part is that they had been socialized as dancers from before puberty and had NO idea how to even think of a life that was not centered on dance.


It is true that all people are not suited to all things and I agree that there is a need to improve the audition process (ADs come to the pre-pro schools performances perhaps?) but the nice thing about being in the US is that you can start ballet after puberty and possibly still make it......I like the American dream, a lot :wub:

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A slight off topic but just wanted to say this has to be one of the best open dialogs that I have ever read on this site or any other that I've participated on. This is a thoughtful open sharing of ideas that rarely happens. This is what brings me back to this site. There are a couple of posts that are just amazing. Thanks to everyone that worked so hard at putting thoughts and feelings into words. Hopefully, this will help all the parents in the younger groups understand where all this is going and what the future looks like and maybe help make the future a little better by helping ADs understand some of the concerns. Chris

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We were getting a bit off topic so I split the thread in two. Let's keep this one to the Dream Audition and discussion of the current practices of dance auditions. And we can go here: Supply/Demand--Are changes in education needed? for discussions of our dance schools and if they are keeping up with the trend and educating students to the new audition circuit and what it is.


Thanks all! Some very good discussions on the the boards right now and not just these!

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My second thought is about the European model. My DD has spent the better part of the last two years in the UK, studying and auditioning. It is great to say that the ballet school system there is better BUT she met many kids that had made it through the numerous assessments but were unable to find a job in the end. The especially sad part is that they had been socialized as dancers from before puberty and had NO idea how to even think of a life that was not centered on dance.


The same thing happened to me in the US. For a very long time, I was going to be a full-time professional dancer until I retired and that was that, but things did not work out that way, and it was very disorienting. Company schools always have, and probably always will, produce more dancers than necessary, but it is still a smaller surfeit than we have in the US now.

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  • 2 years later...

Just wanted to bump up this topic for our currently auditioning parents to read. It may be helpful or at least a bit of armchair psychology for you courtesy of some parents who've been there before you. Please note that this was our attempt to create a dream audition and is not reflective of any one company audition. However, also know that some ADs and people in the know who read this thread back in 2007 when it started did in fact make changes to the way they some things.


Please feel free to add your own thoughts to the thread based on the differences that have occured in ballet auditioning since 2007, if any. However before posting please do go back to vrsfanatics original question and thoughts in Post 1 on page 1 of this thread.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I will not ever be in a position where I need to audition for a professional company, but I wanted to add some things (although they've technically already been said) which I have learnt from a friend's recent experience.


I completely agree that companies do need to be more specific about what they want in terms of height, training etc, and that they need to clearly state what their repertoire is. Dancers also need to do their homework, as Ed said. However, the problem with this is that it immediately precludes certain dancers who may in fact be wonderful and may have a lot to add to a company. I live in a country where there are very few professional ballet companies. One of them, which has a pretty classical repertoire (no "contemporary" ballet as such), has 2 female dancers who would not even have been considered had there been a height restriction on "auditionees" (one is short, the other tall). These dancers are beautiful and do add a lot to the company...so in a country where there are few companies (unlike the US where it *seems* that you would be able to find a company where your height could work) perhaps a height restriction on those auditioning would be inadvisable. However, this same company has clearly stated on their website that they are looking for male dancers above a certain height. At least this allows those who would want to audition, though, to know that their height would preclude them.


I know the issue of clarity is one that my friend would have appreciated in her audition process for a small ballet/modern dance company (hard to clarify that further I'm afraid) last year. There was no clarification of what standard of ballet would be necessary (seeing as, in this company, other dance experience would be an advantage). My friend was accepted into the trainee programme of the company only to discover that her lack of ballet experience was much more of a problem than had been indicated to her at her audition. She has subsequently left the programme, for numerous reasons, but largely because what was advertised was not what one got. Furthermore, during her audition itself, the AD spent the majority of the time busy on his cellphone and barely looked at my friend.


I hope it's okay that I'm adding this to the topic, but I wanted to say that, although it's an artistic pursuit, there does need to be more specification of what is wanted/required from those auditioning.

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  • 2 weeks later...

bumping up again since we've started dreaming about better ways to do this on another thread.

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I was reading this thread and remembered something that seemed relevant. I recently read an article spread over two issues of Dance Europe magazine (issues 134 and 135) titled "What are they looking for?". A number of directors of ballet and contemporary dance companies were asked how they conducted auditions, and what they were looking for in the dancers. Obviously their answers were influenced by the type and scale of company they direct, but there were many similarities.


Probably most relevant to the above discussion is that a majority of the AD's auditioned by invitation only based on applications, although some then offered group auditions and others company class. Many mentioned that taking class is harder on the dancer because they are then compared to the professionals of the company, rather than the other auditionees. In regard to the applications, dvd'd and pictures were necessary, and most do check a dancers education or experience. Given that the AD's interviewed were from various British, European, Australian and Canadian companies (the only American being Sharon Watson of Phoenix Dance Theatre), it seems that the problems mentioned of open 'cattle calls' are more prevalent in US companies. No mention was made of any fees, although I have seen jobs advertised in this magazine with a small administration fee. Anyone with experience at non-American auditions might like to verify this.


The most interesting aspect of the article to me was that most of the AD's mentioned musicality being an essential quality in any dancer they would hire - more important than technique in some cases. Also frequently mentioned was the importance of movement quality over technique ( although I think great technique is pretty much a given), and the ability to learn quickly. They want dancers with confidence but not arrogance, and a bad attitude will get you overlooked. Related to this is presentation - almost all said that professional attire was required, and wearing anything that 'covered up' a perceived fault in your body would only highlight it more (this includes wearing dark coloured tights).


The Ad's were divided on the importance of physique. Directors of smaller companies put more focus on personality, and some of the others said that extra talent would outweigh height or physique concerns.


The directors of classical companies also made a point to say that girls should definitely wear pointe shoes for part, if not all of the class, and anyone not doing so was thought to be unprepared. The general consensus was that variations were not expected, because they weren't as revealing as learning repertoire at the class/audition.


I hope all this is relevant to the discussion on this thread. The article (and the rest of the magazine!) are well worth reading if you can get it.

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DD attended eight auditions in Europe earlier this year. Only one company charged a fee to audition and that was Boston Ballet who was holding auditions in Amsterdam. All except Boston where invitations received based based on resumes and photos being sent in advance. Four where invitations to take company class, three where mass auditions by invitation and only Boston was a cattle call.


DD really enjoyed taking company class verses the mass auditions. Three out of the four times she took company class she received promising feedback and the fourth gave her some valuable feedback. In mass auditions she felt it was much harder to be seen as a whole dancer.

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  • 7 years later...
Guest narthaki

Thank you all for opening up the discussion on company auditions. I would like to know if things are different in terms of transparency about the audition process, availability of dancer contracts, physical requirements, etc in the year 2017? My DD is a trainee and currently navigating and strategizing for landing the dancer contract. Any information, advice will be welcome.


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