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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Is a job just a job?


oliveradams87

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Does it matter what company you go to when leaving from school! Is it better for your career to start at the bottom and work your way up or better to start at the top? or is a job just a job at the end of the day? I would love to here your views! :P

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Working in a ballet company is never "just a job". And I don't think there is really any one better way. With the lack of positions available in the ballet world each year, a dancer is very fortunate to secure one of them anywhere! It will, for most dancers, be a matter of which company will offer them a position.

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I have friends that have been dancing in the best companies in the world 'Royal Ballet' and 'ABT' and have been corps de ballet for 5plus years and I cant understand what would make someone who has won competions, danced principal roles in school performance to then become happy sitting in a corps! They may as well be a corps (mind the pun). They dont enjoy ballet anymore but dont want to leave to lesser companies! What I am saying is that to me ballet is about performing, being the best, to others its a job. I would rather be Basil of Timbucktoo than a courtgent of covent garden!

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Five years in the corps de ballet is not that long in many companies, and, one is still doing what they want to do with their lives. There is certainly no shame in being a corps de ballet member of a major company! They are dancing for a living and not waiting tables or sitting in an office. If they are happy with that, fine, but if not, then they would be better off in a "job" and let someone with the passion to dance have their place. Or, they need to leave and go be a bigger fish in a smaller pond. That is fine, but staying there and being unhappy with it is not fine.

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I just believe that big companies sometimes make dancers believe that they are nothing but a corps dancer. Most people join a company at 18-19 and if they dance in the corps for 5 years then they are 23-24 they will then think that surely a promotion is on the horizon so they will wait an extra year maybe two. 26 and still in the corps is no way to live. Taking into consideration that these major companies are in capital cities and house prices are huge, how are they expected to buy a house, get a morgage, have children! Dancing is just a job at the end of the day! It pays your bill's and feeds your family.

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I think if one feels that way about it, then it's time for them to get out of the art. I don't know about the UK, but today's dancers in major companies in the US make a decent living wage. When one has a passion to dance, it's not about money. I have nothing at all against people in the arts making a living, believe me, however, if they cannot be happy with what they are doing because of the money, then it's past time to make a change!

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I would rather be Basil of Timbucktoo than a courtgent of covent garden!

 

Well, good luck. There's not a whole lot of ballet in Timbucktoo, given that it's in Mali, and heavily Islamic.

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Yes, the arts are treated poorly, and while they may be highly respected in theory, they are not supported in the manner that they could be. However, if one chooses to go into it, then there is either acceptance or one works to change it. There have been many changes in the last few decades, but certainly there is a need for more. Working in a positive manner towards improving the situation would not be a bad thing to do. :)

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I'd gladly settle for George Bush's salary. After all, I've had a better year than he has.

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I believe that ballet needs people to fly the flag just as Nureyev, Baryshnikov, Fontaine etc did. I except that Kumakawa has promoted ballet in Japan and Acosta has done the same thing in south america but it would be nice to see other great dancers who have the power to make a stance!

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That's why there are labour unions for dancers. But you're right, it would be a real coup for an established, "A-list" star to come out championing a salary rise for ALL dancers, not just themselves and their peers.

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About whether a job is just a job, here are my two cents:

 

When I was younger, I was trained to think that if I didn't get into one of the top ballet companies in the country, it -- I -- would be an embarassment. Now I think this is such a shame that children are taught to think this way. It's disrespectful to the vast numbers of other very good dancers in smaller and less well-funded or well-known companies. Ever been to an SI or been in a company and there's some girl who turns up from the "middle of nowhere" but she's brilliant, even though no one has heard of her school, her teacher, or her parents? That's what I mean. The gift to dance turns up all over the globe. It takes perseverance and luck for anyone else to see it no matter where you live.

 

When it comes to dancing in the corps, though I know there are people out there who really love the limelight and just want to be principals, and there are those who yearn to perform things that challenge them more than corps dancing, there are those who just love to dance and honestly don't mind - for the most part - being Wilis, flowers, and other forms of movable wallpaper night after night after night, year after year. Someone I went to school with is in the corps of a world-renowned company with people ten years her junior. A classmate of ours recently asked me how she could stand it. Any number of things could explain that. A love of dance, preferring to be the "tail of a lion than the head of a dog" (I hate that expression, please forgive it, but it comes to mind), the chance to be a part of something larger and more important than yourself, to contribute to this beautiful art in the way that one can, because it has great benefits and she loves the city....pick a reason!

 

And I'll add that it gave me great pain and sadness as someone who just loves to dance, to dance alongside people who really didn't enjoy it even though they were really good at it. When these people quit dance, I was sad and happy. Sad for the art form that someone so gifted had no inclination to use their gift. Happy for me that I didn't have to put up with their griping anymore. And extremely happy for them that they were free to pursue something they liked better! After all, if it's "just a job", why not stop dancing and train for a career that's far more fulfilling, lucrative, portable, respected, etc., and less time consuming, anti-social, physically damaging, etc.? Why while away your life when there's so much fun to be had doing something you really enjoy and care about? Or at least earning the big bucks so that in your free time you can do something you really enjoy and care about?

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Correct me if I'm wrong, but in the June/July 2007 issue of Pointe Magazine, there is an article called "Corps as a Career" (or something like that). It's about dancers who danced in the corps of major companies for their entire careers but they still loved it, because they got to dance, and that's all that matters. Of course, I would love to be a principal in a major company someday, but if I don't make it past corps member, I would still be more than happy to have been lucky enough to get a job in ballet! :)

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Lovely, insidesoloist. It's what we were all trying to say, and you said it beautifully. :)

 

I attended an ABT Reunion in NY in May. It was totally awesome, and I felt that everyone of us, 300+, were made to feel very special. It didn't matter if we had been corps, soloists or principals, we were a part of a company we loved, and we felt respected and honored to be there. What an honor it was to meet people who had danced in the first performances ever of the company, as well as those of every generation since, and to see again the dancers who were there when I was there.

 

Purpletutu, that is the way I felt about it, and really love to hear it when students feel that way too!

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