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Pro Company Hiring Practices


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(swanhilda, did you mean that Italy is not in the EU? Or what did you mean? For, of course Italy IS in the EU, and so are many many more countries ... Switzerland is not, though.)


I agree with the different things which dancers from different training backgrounds / countries / cultures are often able to do, and that an AD may well be looking for those things when hiring.


What is not so readily understandable is why the training in closest proximity to the company cannot provide the skills, etc. which are needed in the end.


Perhaps there is some sort of "disconnect", and the schools - state-run or otherwise - are not up-to-date on what is really wanted (needed?) in the companies?


I could imagine that at least in the US, where I believe most schools are funded by the people going to them, there is not as much rigorous sifting-out as there are in many (in this case foreign), state-supported schools. So, there are going to be students finishing who - in a tough market - may not have the chances they thought they might.


What is interesting is that - as I stated earlier - even in state-run schools there appears to be a thinning-out of students who had trained there from a young age in favor of students who have trained elsewhere.

Then, in the companies, there are less and less dancers who had been trained in the supposedly pre-pro schools from the time they (the dancers) were young.

Why this is.... I do not know. Would be interesting to find out.

Something is not really quite up-to-snuff with the early training, be it physical, emotional, or something else, I would think.


(and no, I do not think that this has to be discussion based on xenophobia. It can be purely one to find out what may be lacking in local training, which could then be very informative :) )



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I find this interesting when the discussion is about the Paris Opera Ballet pre selecting size and type on the other thread and then the discussion of how many principals are from all over the globe. I am sure if you took a survey of Principal dancers you would find it fairly evenly distributed. Dance is international and those talented enough to reach that level are from all over the globe as are Opera Principals, classical musicians, etc. But many feel that the training overseas is superior to the US and many talented American principal dancers have spent time abroad studying in Russia, Germany or England to enhance their training.


Maybe it is a multitude of reasons. A more art and culture centered society, a more focused approach to the training. A slower cooker, less distractions, less tv, movies, ipods.


When I see the amazing dancers now coming out of Japan and China I wonder about a more success driven environment, stronger work ethic, duty to family and the expectation of excellence. Attention to detail, and complete dedication and duty to the teacher.


I wonder if I spent more time actually training dancers than doing all the other things I need to do to keep my organization running like fundraising, conferencing, costuming and producing that seem expected in the US, if I would produce better dancers than I now do. Slick marketing seems to be becoming a necessity of the US dance studio


I see children who are overextended and doing 10 different activities, who miss class after class and then wonder why they did not get the results that they want.


I see parents who will often refuse to accept that not everyone is created equal and life is not always fair.


As my students told me how much homework they had as we rehearsed late last night to finish a piece of choreography I asked them to remember how lucky they were. They would finish class in a studio that is comfortable heated, and luxurious by many standards, they will be picked up in suv's and Hybrid vehicles wisked home to beautiful houses in good neighborhoods with meals on the table and then driven to school in the morning in good weather (California) and their moms would be waiting for them after. NOT one kid in that class takes a bus anywhere and their biggest concern is if their "Juicy" jacket was "stolen" from where they left it on the floor at the studio last week.


Quite honestly I wonder if we are all a bit spoiled and soft. And as we all know ballet dancers can be neither.


I dont know if I am right or wrong and yes I am generalizing horribly but I am just throwing out some thoughts and ideas. Right or wrong.

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I think that it simply boils down to the fact that there is a simply huge pool of dancers, both at home and abroad, and a very limited number of positions in the "big name" companies. We forget how tiny America really is, in the context of the entire world. If dancers come from all over to audition for XYZ, then the number of American born dancers in that company's roster will shrink. And, let us not fail to take into account that just because Ms. X was born in a different country, and did not train in America, but joined us at 16, doesn't mean she is not American now.


Also, we need to recognize that judging by this board, most of us are unwilling to commit our kids to ballet training exclusively, leaving academics behind. (And thank goodness for that!) Other countries do not have that issue. When my DD attends SIs with kids from other countries, they are amazed that she went to school 8 hours a day, had 3 hours of homework a day, and only then got to dance. Obviously, the kid in a program with 5-6 hours of dance a day and only then, school, has a leg up on the competition.

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Maybe it is a multitude of reasons. A more art and culture centered society, a more focused approach to the training. A slower cooker, less distractions, less tv, movies, ipods.


This is an illusion many Americans have about Europe, but it is definitely not true, in my opinion of course. There's just as much tv, ipods or movies here. Actually, whin I lived in the US, I was impressed with how many high school students have some kind of intense activity. Almost all did something, whether is was sports, muisc, arts or dance. Here in Belgium, I was always the odd girl, who took piano, voice and ballet lessons. Most of my classmates had no such activities. Our school system is much more intense, and most kids don't do much more than work for school and hang out with friends.


I don't think Europe is so much more culture centered. I only had very few friends here who like things like classical music or ballet, I had plenty in the US. I now have a class in college called arts participation. We are to go to musea, concerts, plays, read certain books and see certain movies and then discuss it. A lot of students hate this class, they hate going to the theatre or having to read books. Just think: the whole of Belgium has ONE ballet company. Sure, it's a small country but that's still not much. One ballet company, 2 opera houses and one symphonic orchestra. That is all. That one of the things I loved about living in Seattle, so many oppurtunities to get in contact with the arts, which is so different from living here.



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Just to be clear, of course I know Italy is in the EU. When I said "those that are not" I did not mean those that are not in the EU, I meant those EU countries that are not as open to hiring non-EU members. It does vary.

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I want to add a caution here.


Now, this board does work in a rather democratic fashion, but there IS a hierarchy. As an administrator, I find that this thread contains the potential for great mischief. Some of it has already strayed over the line into nativism, and some of it stays well short of that, and a third, small minority walks the line itself. Germany used to be a nearly free ticket for American dancers needing a job. Think of John Neumeier, William Forsythe, Joyce Cuoco. It's more difficult now than it used to be, especially with European Union preferences in place, but they are no more restrictive than the US' own immigration classification for "uniquely talented practitioners of a highly specialized form of employment," which used to be the language used for dancers from other countries trying to work in America. There is also more competition worldwide than there used to be. Yoko Morishita was an exotic when she first danced in the US. At that time, few observers other than dancers even knew that there was ballet in Japan. Ditto China. We knew that Dame Beryl Grey had staged a "Les Sylphides" and a Swan Lake on the mainland Chinese ballet company, but when I was a student, the thought that the PRC would allow any of its people to travel, least of all to the US, was dismissed as impossible. Things change.


So, the world of ballet is a large place, and the job pool is larger than it used to be. The number of jobseekers has also increased, and most countries DO make provision for workers in a field like ballet to work under "specialist" immigration status.

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I feel I must apologize for my non-participation in this matter but quite frankly, I'm a bit embarrassed by this thread.... :shrug:


While I understand parental anxiety (I am a parent too), I find it a bit rude to be having this discussion at all. I think there's no comparison between European training and American training, because of the choice factor that Americans have, and I think Treefrog's summation was correct- that the BIG companies can hire whomever they want, so they do, and sometimes it happens to be non-American soil born persons.


I don't think American training should change, with the exception of requiring either Cecchetti, Vaganova, RAD, Bournonville, or some other recognized curriculum so there would at least be some sort of basic continuity, but other than that, I think everyone should have the option to learn ballet because it has so many other benefits beside just becoming a professional dancer at ABC company.

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Why would you be embarrassed? I think sometimes the board becomes so politically correct and people are so afraid of offending anyone that frank discussion is thwarted. If people are thinking about it why not discuss it.


I do read one of the European Boards and they have the exact same discussion but flipped. I think it may be so much simpler than we all think. If you have a great company and it is vibrant, active, inspiring and takes good care of its dancers with a stimulating rep and a chance for advancement talent will flock to that spot. The Director then holds auditions and because their responsibility is to put up the very best they can find they then hire the dancers on the floor that they like the best. That happens to be a mix of people from different countries and backgrounds. Just like life. And because the world is so much more mobile than it was 20-30 years ago the mix of people is even bigger.


We all know that the eastern block countries changed the way men dance all over the world. After the Russians started to be seen in the west the level of mens dancing rose substantially. So as things open up more and people travel more and interface more the standard rises everywhere.


I think if a company has amazing dancers from every corner of the world are seeking your organization out you would be foolish not to take the opportunity to have the best dancers in your group you can possibly find.



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Although I do admit to having made frustrated or exasperated questions like the one that started the thread, after reading this thread, I think I've concluded that those are frustrated observations I need to resist giving into.


I hereby promise to do my level best and try to temper or banish that type of frustrated whine by looking at a larger picture!


But, if the conclusion here is that the training in the States is sub-par, then that's something that should be addressed in some manner.

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And don't forget, there's a lot more work around than there used to be. When I started studying, there were few places in the US that a ballet dancer could work professionally. There was ABT, Ballet Russe, NYCB (still viewed as somewhat "experimental"), Ruth Page, San Francisco, and the Metropolitan Opera. Nowadays you can't put your arms into second without nudging the territory of a regional pro company. They don't all offer the same benefits as the Big Dogs, but it's work for dancers!


And for all sorts of reasons, there's a larger pool of talent from which to draw, and it's technically stronger than ever before! All to the good. The dancers and choreographers from all over learn from one another, the same way that they always have done.

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There are always very very few American dancers in the finals of the Prix de Lausanne. Is this because they don't enter the competition, or because they don't make it to the finals?? If they do enter but do not make it to the finals then American training is indeed lacking something. I think looking at the winners of that or other international competitions does say a lot about the training in certain countries. Plenty of Japanese and Korean dancers in the finals, and indeed several of the dancers in the Royal Ballet of Flanders are Japanese or Korean. A whole lot more than American dancers at least.



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Memo, I agree with your assessment above:


" I think it may be so much simpler than we all think. If you have a great company and it is vibrant, active, inspiring and takes good care of its dancers with a stimulating rep and a chance for advancement talent will flock to that spot. The Director then holds auditions and because their responsibility is to put up the very best they can find they then hire the dancers on the floor that they like the best. That happens to be a mix of people from different countries and backgrounds. Just like life. And because the world is so much more mobile than it was 20-30 years ago the mix of people is even bigger."


As to whether it's politically incorrect or not- I don't care :shrug: , I just find it to be a very unwelcoming attitude from a country that was founded upon immigration. But that's just me and unfortunately, it's my viewpoint that seems to be politically incorrect during these weird political times here in America.


So bottom line is, just as in any "top" institution, the cream will rise to the top and it looks to me as though it's pretty fair and balanced.


There are no guarantees in life, and even if a parent shells out thousands of dollars in university fees, there's no guarantee that their child will end up actually working in the field that they chose as their Major at all. In fact, I would bet dollars to donuts that there are a fair amount of parents here on this board who hold some sort of college degree in a field completely different from what they are doing now. Was that wasted money on their parents' part? I don't think so.


At least in ballet, whether you get that professional dancer contract or not, you can pretty much work in any area in ballet, including teaching, without a degree. Will you get rich??? No. But you can make a living, and because ballet has enriched your life in so many ways, you'll also be a very good contributing member of society.

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It has been my impression---which can very easily be wrong--that American dancers do not enter these competitions with the frequency or in the same numbers as the Europeans. I imagine it has to do with sentiments along the lines of those often expressed by several of the respected teacher-moderators here: Ballet is an art, and not a competition. Not many are in training situations that support or provide the time commitment or financial commitments that would allow the same type of dedication to those competitions.


But, as I say, I may have that entirely wrong.


I also understand that the accolades received by the international dancers from those competitions is what is often used to qualify them for their green cards here in the States. Those accomplishments are used as evidence of 'their extraordinary skill or artistic accomplishments' (whatever the exact language is).

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Are we setting up a straw man here (with no intent to offend the citizens of Oz -- the L. Frank Baum Oz, not the southern continent Oz, just to be extremely clear)?


All we really know at this point is that some US ballet companies hire some dancers that are not US-trained. And some European companies hire some dancers that are not trained in their respective countries. Without hard numbers showing some kind of real discrepancy, I don't really see the use of finding a reason for something that may or may not exist.


---Moderator's NOte: A portion of this post was moved to the new thread about Pre-Pro Accountability.

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As a Boston Ballet subscriber, I've certainly asked myself this question.


I agree with Treefrog's analysis (major companies can hire whomever they see fit).


Nationality entirely aside, why don't companies hire more students from their own schools? In the time I have been following Boston Ballet, they haven't hired, even into Boston Ballet II, more than one or two Boston Ballet school students (and, in those cases, only one, hired this year, had been with the school as a child).


Most current Boston Ballet principals and soloists were hired as such and did not work their way up from the corps. A notable exception is Lia Cirio, an American who trained at CPYB. She is the one dancer who has had meteoric success, having started in Boston Ballet II and now a second soloist.


As for why companies don't hire more from their own schools, I think this is an indication of how very, very competitive the ballet world is. With literally thousands of qualified dancers from which to choose, the likelihood of picking one from a graduating company school class of 20 or 25 is low.


"Back in the day," artistic directors couldn't find the calibre of dancer they wanted, so they were compelled to train their own. This is no longer the case.

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