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Pro Company Hiring Practices


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I am of the belief that there is a problem with training in the US. My thoughts are that in Europe, East and West, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Scandinavia, the former Soviet block and Asia have syllabus' that are taught nationally, or at least pretty close to nationally. There is another thread in which the Paris Opera is being discussed and those dancers are cookie cutter in both looks and ability. Not all national schools are that rigid but they have a standard that is taught and expected and all who want a caeer work toward it. The level of excellence in technique therefor is through the ceiling. Now this isn't saying that all schools world wide are good. I know that dolly dinkles are a world wide occuraces. But, when there is good training it is standardised.


Change schools in any town here and the training changes drastically. In Europe you can change teaching methods Checcetti, RAD, Royal Danish and there are differences but basic technique is still standardised. It's solid classical! No stylization just purity of movement and solid dancers. The position of the arms may vary, the positioning of the foot in a frappe or petite battement for instance may vary but the execution of the exercise is still requiring the same precision. That precision just isn't expected at many a school and therefor, the dancers are not being served as well as they could be. Foreign dancers are quite often out dancing American's, a sad fact!


I'm familiar with RAD and their process is slow and methodical and at times in truth boring but look at what it produces. Dancers who can adopt any style and make any choreographer proud. The American mind set isn't always willing to put in the time to achieve perfection. We are a society that wants everything quickly. We cut corners and other countires and the ballet disciplines taugh there, do not.


This is my opinion and not everyone if many will agree with me. There are excellent schools and teachers in this country and they are not all company or big name schools. I feel we have been lucky with training but I believe we are the few not the many! There has to be good training nationwide or the statistics would be even heavier on the foreign dancer side! I do think it is unfortunate that there is nothing close to a nationally accepted syllabus. Balanchine is mentioned a lot as "American ballet" but that is not a syllabus, it is a style for specific pieces of choreography. It is not a technique and was never meant to be one. There is no Balanchine syllabus that trains a child from pre ballet to pre pro and that is what a syllabus needs to do.

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  • Mel Johnson


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Cheetah: "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".


This is imo so true! (and I am from Europe) If you want to "survive' in the dance world you either have to be extremely talented or you need to dance and work very hard for 6/7 days a week( from a very young age)for at least 4 hours a day (as my son's European teachers have told him) and then you're still don't know if you will get there...

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This is very interesting.

Especially because there is a current discussion (in German) at a dance-board in Germany on pretty much the same issue. :wink:tanznetz thread


In Germany there appear to also be lots of young German students in the early years of training, but are not taken on into the upper years in the state-schools; and the companies are also full of non-Germans.


I am sure there are many reasons, here as in the US, not all of which are similar.

But, I would venture that one reason is a little bit of "grass greener" - the foreign dancers (US-foreign or other foreign) are often seen as better. :):lol:



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I'm trying to get a bead on what the question to discuss is? Are you guys wanting to debate whether American ballet training is lacking versus European, Chinese, Japanese, etc,?


Or, are we trying to get a bead on why companies in America can't seem to find qualified, appropriately skilled American dancers to hire and must rely upon foreign dancers that require Visas?


Although it might be the same discussion, I guess we first need to agree on whether there simply aren't enough qualified American dancers to fill the ranks of the home country's companies. I really have a hard time believing that out of ALL the dancers trained here that so few are trained well-enough to dance at the company level.


Perhaps I'm hopelessly missing something, but I tend to believe that there are certainly American dancers more than qualified to be the principal dancers in these companies, but --for whatever reason--the Artistic Director's vision of his company doesn't include them. Is it because so many of the Artistic Director themselves are not American-born or trained?


Although I understand that an AD wants to hire the best dancer for his company. Who can quibble with that. But, here we are again at that subjective vision thing. What makes a dancer the best for his company. It all comes back to the AD's vision---and just what that vision is--which appears to require an awful lot of foreign trained dancers.


Is it the 'exotic' factor? I know I am absolutely fascinated with European, British, and Australian accents. Somehow that just makes those people all the more interesting.

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Shoot me down in flames if you wish, but I find the very phrasing of the question at the start of this thread disturbing. It seems to me (and I've been a migrant twice over) that it ill behoves citizens of a country founded by colonisers (I think indigenous native Americans might use a different term) to complain about "foreigners."


I remember being very moved by the tribute to the generations of "foreigners" who are commemorated as contributors to your beautiful country out there at Ellis Island. It's sad really, that the grand vision of freedom and opportunity on which (white) America was founded seems to have changed so much.

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Sorry, Redbook, no offense intended. However, given the purpose of immigration laws--which, I believe pretty much every country has--I don't think the question is intended to be offensive. Everyone likes global opportunities, but I'm not sure it is fair to fault the home folks for hoping that there might be some inherent advantage in having paid the taxes, etc. to support the home companies when it comes time to hire. As noted by someone above, apparently this is not just a concern that Americans have; a similar discussion from the German side is going on elsewhere.


Is there a word with better, more acceptable connotations we could use?

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But Dancemaven, any citizen in any country which allows migration in as well as out, could argue about those "foreigners coming in here and taking our jobs" (to invoke a stereotypical racist phrase in my country).


I suppose my more general point is that we live in a global economy (US sub-prime mortgage ripple effects over here in the UK, anyone? -- there's a bank about to go under as a direct result of US lending /banking policies & practices) and this has its individual ups and downs. Furthermore, wouldn't it be rather paradoxical for the US to impose free trade agreements on trading partners all over the world, but bring down the shutters to impose protection for its own citizens?


I'm afraid talent is international, and that plays out in favour of some Americans, and not in favour of others. In the German company I know well, there are Americans, Canadians, French, Russians, Swiss -- oh and some Germans. I think maybe the problem for those of us "foreigners" who don't live in the US (and obviously, there are quite a lot of us! :) ) is that the question asked & the propositions made at the start of this thread seem sonewhat parochial and not attuned to the reality of the international trade in all sorts of things, including individual human talent. But I guess my experience of the performing arts world is quite an international one.

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Slight correction to what Zampa stated earlier regarding the principals at Boston Ballet. Romi Beppu is from Hawaii so there is one American principal.

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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.


Here in Belgium, the only preprofessional school is the state-sponsored Royal Ballet School. Students usually audition to start there in 7th grade, though there is also an elementary school department. I know the school is very strict in terms of body type at the auditions. Still very few students make it to the company. Most of the company is filled with foreign dancers here as well. So this can't be a deciding factor, at least not here.



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While I think this is a valuable discussion, I'm not sure we're having it in the correct way. The worst way in the world to discuss issues of what you might think are discrimination of some kind is to do so with words of your own that are discriminating. Tone is everything so we need to be sure the tone allows for discussion and isn't a soapbox stand. (I'm off mine now!)


If this is a discussion you'd like to have then let's do so with a little less of the kind of tone I'm "feeling" when I read some of the posts. As a start, the bi-line on the title of the thread has been removed.

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Excellent rephrasing of the question, zampa.


And I'm not ignoring the earlier question from Dancemaven to me about what terms we could use which don't have the hegative (and potentially racist -- to me, at least) connotations of "foreigners." I'll have to sleep on that (it being GMT here) and think about it. I think it's a really goosd question & important. do think that the language we use is significant -- it can frame the way we think about issues and people -- for me, "foreigners" suggests outsiders and those who are different -- and can be treated as "other" than "us."

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Perhaps it is due in part to the notion that anything that comes from far away carries with it some mystery and excitement. Probably just because of the very fact that it is different from what can be found or experienced locally, it takes on an exotic air and makes one feel like they have something very special. Whether or not the item is actually superior is often debateable, but our mindset is often that it very likely is, just by virtue of crossing borders and cultures.


We tend to think this way when it comes to food, products, clothing, etc. and we are often willing to pay more to drive an import, eat imported foods, wear imported clothes, and we probably feel some superiority when we do so.


So, isn't it possible that we also think the same way when it comes to dancers? It isn't surprising to me that many other countries see the same phenomenon in their own companies. I don't think that this mindset knows any borders. I think that it is part of human nature.

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From Dictionary.com


1.a person not native to or naturalized in the country or jurisdiction under consideration.


From American Heritage Dictionary

1. one who is from a foreign country or place


I used the term properly as from the above definitions.

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