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Pro Company Hiring Practices

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Someone posted this week about college degrees and companies. Another poster suggested looking at the company dancers and checking their bios. Having a daughter that wants to major in Ballet, I was interested. I went to 3 major companies and my eyes were opened! Most and I mean most of the principal and soloists were foreign born and trained. Why are all those positions being filled with foreign dancers? Is something wrong with the American training system, American bodies, work ethic? Why are we spending thousands to SI's that we know our kids will never be invited to join because all/most of their dancers are foreign?

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  • balletbooster


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Good question. Welcome to ballet in the States . . . . :thumbsup: Once again, I believe we are back to the Artistic Directors of companies, their visions, and their preferred 'look'. From my viewpoint, they have 'some esplainin' to do, Lucy!" But, I've yet to hear any.

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Dressage, this is a very interesting question and although my dk's are very, very young it's one of my biggest concerns! If you see the percentage of the dancers, trained at pre-professional schools that really make it into the company attached to that school it's heart breaking. There have been a couple of treads in the past with this subject, but maybe we can restart it....

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We've silently wondered this as well, because these dancers must get a visa (sorry but I forget the exact phrasing) that shows talent to the degree that it can not be found in the US.

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“Why are all those positions being filled with foreign dancers?”


I would guess that they are the best people available. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but my sense is that ballet is a global enterprise where companies want the best people they can find, no matter their nationality.


A few years ago I did a survey of American dance companies (both ballet and modern) and my vague recollection was something to the effect that 30%-40% of professional ballet dancers were “foreigners.” The other way of looking at it is that 60%-70% were “Americans,” which is a clear majority, so my sense is there is absolutely nothing wrong with America with respect to the development of dancers. Also I don’t have any ideas about how many American dancers are employed by foreign companies.


Again I don’t remember the exact percentages, but my vague recollection is that only about 20% of professional modern dancers were foreigners.


From an educational level perspective I recall that only about 10% of ballet dancers went to college and most of those who did didn’t major in dance. The percentage of college educated modern dancers was much much higher, perhaps 60%-70% as I recall.


Though my numbers probably aren’t 100% accurate, the gist of the conclusions from those numbers is pretty good I think.

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dressage asked a question that many inquiring minds would like to discuss. Garyecht provided a good opening counter thought to the threshold premise. There is no need to get testy, folks!


Shall we get back to exploring the 'reality' of the opening premise and the 'why-for's of both the existence of the opening premise and, if it is the reality, what the reasons for it are.

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I don't have a problem with foreign dancers working in American companies. American dancers can and do dance abroad as well. Garyecht's informal statistics seem to be about right in terms of what I have noticed with the ballet companies I am familiar with.


There are certainly differences between cultures in the way dancers look, are trained and even their work ethic. Maybe this has something to do with it, but I am not really sure. I think it would be interesting to find out if that is the case, but I think the answers would vary widely from AD to AD, depending on who you asked.


One big difference in training that has been discussed recently on this board is that in many countries, dancers are selected from a young age for their fit for ballet in terms of their body type and flexibility, etc. whereas in the US, dancers typically self select, or parents decide for them that they should have dance lessons and sign them up. As it was noted in the other thread, this winds up creating a much larger pool of dancers looking for jobs, as many of these dancers would not have been offered ballet training in other countries due to the strict regulation of admissions to state-sponsored ballet academies.

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Good job, dancemavan.

Small tip from the iceberg: from the 20 principal dancers of SFB 14 are foreigners and 6 American, Boston Ballet: all 10 principal dancers are foreigners....

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Guest balletandsynchro
“Why are all those positions being filled with foreign dancers?”


I would guess that they are the best people available. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but my sense is that ballet is a global enterprise where companies want the best people they can find, no matter their nationality.


Certainly ballet companies want the best people: the best people to fit in with the AD's vision/choreography for that particular company. Consequently, for those companies with afiliated pre-pro schools, shouldn't the school be the perfect feeder into the company? Yet from reading the bios, there are only a few companies that seem to draw heavily from the school into the company. Quite the opposite from the European pre-pro schools attached to their respective companies. So what is the answer, if any? Are the pre-pro schools attached to companies training students, yet not giving them the training needed to join the attached company? :(

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"Are the pre-pro schools attached to companies training students, yet not giving them the training needed to join the attached company"


I've pondered this FOR YEARS!! What is lacking in US company ballet schools? Any ballet directors out there with an answer?!

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This may be the trend the past 10-15 years alot of major companies are hiring foreign trained dancers. Many many years ago, Ms. Virginia Williams, the founder and first time director of Boston Ballet, pretty much hired new compay members right from the school. The company was very much made up of home grown talent. Times change...however, I know the AD wants the right fit for the company especially regarding an opening for a prinicpal, but there is alot of talent here in the states and I would love to see qualified ballet students given opportunities that may go to foreign students. No disrespect at all to any company, but there was one way down south that hired primarily latin dancers....The americans were clearly the minority...And yes, I understand that selectivity is done early in many other countries, but remember, the ones that re getting in qualified programs at 15 and above are very talented. And if you look at any company, there are plenty of dancers who would have not have had the opportunity if they were born in a foreign country...due to lack of perfect turn-out, high arches and so forth...

even when I was in a company, almost all comapny memebers with the exception of 4 or 5 (company had 42) were trained in the us. Now the same company with a different ADand(much smaller about 20} employs more than 1/2 foreigners....

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With my dd at a pre-pro school attached to a company, I would be very interested in hearing from her AD the answer to balletandsychro's question.

Without changing the direction of this topic, I wonder how an AD would justify allowing a student to move across country or if local, attend their school, allow the parents to spend thousands of dollars and not be able to say, "yes, we can train your dancer to the specifications that our company requires. We may not be able to hire them, but not because of lack of training or body type issues, but because of the availability of positions".

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