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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Pro Company Hiring Practices


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Artists are corps members. And yes, they are paid! One of the things I love about the European dance scene is that there isn't this unpaid trainee/ apprentice system. Most companies here have neither trainees or apprentices (to my knowledge, the Royal does not), and the few that do generally have one or two apprentices, who are paid, and are generally taken fairly quickly into the company. There are a few junior companies however (the ones in Zurich and Basel come instantly to mind) but their dancers are paid, of a very high caliber, and find employment either in the parent companies or in other companies. The system of dancing for years as an unpaid professional simply doesn't exist here, but there are still plenty of dancers who have graduated from schools and have been unable to find work. The difference is that there is no system to string them along.

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I've tried not to get into this, but I have to comment on the RB. I find the discussion overall interesting because there is this great fear in the UK that they are not producing/hiring enough BRITISH dancers. As I've noted in another thread a few years ago, part of the issue (that seems to get ignored in these reports) is that when the opera house was closed for refurbishment, many dancers left (especially to K Ballet), and some subsequent changes in directorship also led others to leave. Not to mention dancers leaving the company for their own reasons. But look at the list - over the years British dancers who've left include great names: Adam Cooper, Sarah Wildor, Michael Nunn, Billy Trevitt... and more recently, Jonathan Cope, Darcey Bussell, Belinda Hatley.....


In anycase, it is also hard to say that the 'foreign born' were 'trained' at RBS. MANY of them are Prix de Laussane winners/scholarship winners (Benjamin, Cojocaru, Putrov, Choe, Diuana, McRae.... and many more). Some of these DO go through an 'apprentice' status, but it is not an apprenticeship in the same way. But many of the Prix winners get a scholarship to RBS for a year, to 'finish', and then graduate and go onto the company.


What I'm saying, is that the situation is more complicated than just evaluating the quality of training at the RBS. There are a variety of reasons why the RB recently needed to hire at the higher levels... and I think, just as it must be at ABT and some other companies, there are some dancers whom it would be difficult to not take in should they show interest (obviously funds, etc, allowing). Overall, although it takes time, I do think the RB has done a good job of incorporating/imparting a style.... but simultaneously, there are obviously dancers that are better at Ashton than Petipa, at McMillan than Ashton, etc..... good rehearsals and coaching can help tremendously to bring different styles together, and the diverse repertoire is well-served.

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Let's continue with this! :ermm: In the number-crunching, we're not only quantifying types of dancers, but we're also enumerating ballet companies in a way we've never done before! This part of the thread could very easily turn into an aid for people working on plan B, plan C, plan D.... And as long as the language pool holds out, let's continue to look at non-US companies, too, as long as we've counted Royal Ballet in.

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In response to Ami's post: yes the British sensitivities expressed over the apparent lack of top level appointments from the home country did come to mind. My own feeling is similar to points that others have made in this thread; that top level ballet is, by definition, an elite activity. Clearly hard work will go a long way to achieving this, but there are always going to be those who have a special 'something' that ADs are looking for, regardless of their origins. My own feeling is that we are hugely enriched by our global village way of life and the access that this grants us to superb artists or practitioners in every walk of life.


There was a very interesting article in one of the UK newspapers, where Graham Taylor (former manager of the England football (soccer) team) commented that he was astounded and impressed by the effort that ballet dancers devoted to refining and improving their technique. He felt that footballers had much to learn and observed that it is harder to become a principal ballet dancer than to become a Premiership footballer. I would be inclined to feel that pursuing a career in ballet is an exciting undertaking, that represents something of a punt. In my view one has little to lose by giving it a go, but should not be destroyed if the dream is not fulfilled. As a parent, I admire my daughter's assiduousness and hard work, but am always there to put any disappointments in context.


Our young people have chosen a very tough path and it is understandable that there are anxieties about the lack of opportunities that may exist.

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While I think the conversation and number-crunching is of value, I believe it is important to watch the trends of hiring and promoting in companies as well. Are companies hiring out their schools more and promoting from within?


If you look at ABT right now, you will note that all of the soloists except for Veronika Part started in either the corps or Studio Company. If you look at the corps, you will note that many came through the Studio Company. I think at least 34 of them did.


If you look at Boston Ballet, three of the four promotions to soloists last year were to American born and trained dancers, two of whom started in BBII. Two of the four second soloists started in BBII, both American. In the corps, eight started in BBII. In BBII, six of the nine members did a minimum of one year in the Boston Ballet School. All are American. I believe there were only three new hires to the corps, but two of them were from BBII.


At San Fran, eight of the 11 soloists started in the corps. At Houston, I didn't count, but you see many dancers having worked their way through the company.


So, numbers are important, but trends are, too. What are those trends a function of? Could it be that 10-15 years ago, we didn't have well-trained American dancers, thereby creating the need to hire foreign-born dancers at that rank? Are we now seeing the tide turn as training has become and is becoming more intense in the U.S.? Will we see more promoting from within?


Maybe that's a whole different thread.

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One other thing that goes along with mariliz's post. I spoke to my daughter who is presently a soloist with BB, and my son who is in BBII. Both feel that having foreign-born and trained dancers enhances their dancing experience. They learn so much from those other dancers. DD feels that a mix of dancers is a good representation of the good ole USA - a melting pot of people that bring different abilities, personalities, and strengths to the company.

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While I'm still encouraging this quantifying, I also want to bring the geopolitical and economic realities into the picture. If we continue doing this, we'll have to reckon with the effects of the EU hiring preferences, the British Commonwealth of Nations, and the North American Free Trade Act. Has anyone taken these realities of modern life into consideration when naming who's "home" and who's from "away"? But as for now, I'm still encouraging us to keeping naming companies and calculating demographics. It shows more and more of the "Big Picture".

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Holy smokes! I just looked in at the New National Theatre Ballet, Tokyo, and while the site is apparently still under construction, it contains a sort of abbreviated Curriculum Vitae for every dancer down to corps de ballet. I couldn't get it to load completely, or the corps CVs may be still pending, but take a look at the site, and click "artists". It's instructive. Their kids sure get around!



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Not an US Company, but since it was encouraged to add international facts and statistics:


State Opera Ballet Berlin



There are no biographies added for the corps...Judging from the surnames I would estimate only 20% of the corps dancers are german, but that's a guess


The facts:


Out of 39 dancers (principals, first and second soloists) only 7 dancers are german.

Only 13% of the dancers are trained by the State Ballet School of Berlin (5 dancers)

10% of the dancers trained at the Bolshoi Ballet school of Moscow

8% of the dancers trained at the Vaganova Ballet Academy St. Petersburg

18% of the dancers are german

18% of the dancers are russian (7 not counting the Ukraine)

8% of the dancers are french (3 dancers)


All in all: 82% of the dancers are foreign.



7 principals (women):

2 dancers are german and also trained at the State Ballet school of Berlin


22% of the dancers are german


The remaining 5 female dancers are from the following countries: 1x Japan (trained in Stuttgart), 1x Bulgaria (won Varna), 2x Russia, (1 trained in Perm and one in Moscow), 1x Ukraine (won a lot of prizes( Varna third, Helsinki (Finland) and Nagoya (Japan) first)


5 principals (men): None of the dancers is german.


2x Russia ( 1x trained in St. Petersburg/ 1 trained in Moscow and Germany (Stuttgart)) , 1x Croatia (trained in Hungary, danced professional in Slovenia), 1x Ukraine (trained in Moscow (Russia), 1x Poland )



5 first soloists (women): None of the dancers is german


1x Mallorca, 1x Russia (trained in St. Petersburg), 2x France (1x ballet school of the Paris Opera, 1x trained in Lyon, but won several prizes), 1x Estland (trained in Russia St. Petersburg)



7 first soloists men): Two of the dancers are german (1x trained in Munich and 1x is coming from their school State Ballet School of Berlin)


29% are german.


The remaining 5 male dancers are from the following countries:

1x Russia but trained in Hungary, 1x Vienna (trained in Vienna and at the Royal Ballet School England, 1x Turkey (danced professional in Stuttgart), 1x Moldavia (finished training in Vienna), 1 Serbia (Finished training in Munich),



9 demi-soloists (second or „half“ soloists) (women)


1 out of 9 ballet dancers is german and trained at the State Ballet school of Berlin


11% of the dancers are german


The remaining 8 female dancers are from the following countries: (1x Spain , 1x Japan (trained in Russia, Moscow), 1x Italy (trained in England ENB), 1x France, 1x Turkey (trained in Munich), 1x South Korea, trained in Munich, 1x USA (SAB), 1x Mexico (finished training in England)




7 demi-soloists (second or „half“ soloists) (men)


2 out of 7 ballet dancers are german (both started their training in Dresden, 1 finished his training at the State Ballet school of Berlin, the other in Stuttgart)


29% are german.


The remaining 5 male dancers are from the following countries:

1x Poland (won several prizes), 1x Russia (St. Petersburg) participated in at least 10 competitions, won gold in 4, 1x Bulgaria (danced in Flensburg), 1x Estland (danced in Estland and Flandern), 1x Armenia (finished his training in Hamburg and won Prix de Lausanne)

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Have to run out to a ballet rehearsal of all things. But, having taken a quick look at some of the other German companies - Hamburg, Dresden, Stuttgart, I don't think the statistics are much better, at least at the higher levels. Will sit down later and crunch numbers more closely later, unless someone else gets to it first.

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Perhaps we should all think about the history of ballet a little. Dancers, teachers and choreographers have always travelled, and often found more fame abroad than in their native country. How far back should we go? Catherine de Medici took her Italian dancing masters with her to France in 16th century which lead to the court ballets of Louis XIV - which in turn eventually resulted in the founding of the Paris Opera Ballet.


A couple of centuries later, the frenchman, Bournonville went to Denmark. Then the Italians, Fillipo Taglioni (teacher and choreographer) and his daughter Marie conquered the rest of Europe. Another frenchman, Petipa, went to Russia to St. Petersburg.


Then in 20th century Diaghilev brought his Ballets Russes to the West. Other Russian dancers fled to the West after the Revolution many settling in Paris and London where they trained a new generation of dancers. Balanchine went to USA - everyone knows what happened next. Before current freedoms existed, dancers such as Nureyev, Barishnikov and Markarova also defected to the West.


Ballet is an international language, and with the modern global village, dancers have more opportunities than ever to look further afield. Audition dates are posted on the internet. Flights are relatively cheap, so I think the movement of dancers from country to country will increase if anything.

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Then the Italians, Fillipo Taglioni (teacher and choreographer) and his daughter Marie conquered the rest of Europe.


And don't forget, first Fil had to go to Sweden to meet Marie's future mom!

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Semperoper Dresden: Ballet Company


The facts:


The whole company has 56 dancers:


Stunningly: only 5 dancers are from Germany: 9% of the Dancers are german.


12.5% of the Dancers are from Russia.

11% of the Dancers are from Japan.

11% of dancers are from Spain

9% of the Dancers are from Ukraine

7% of the Dancers are from France

5% from the United States.


Nearly all dancers at the soloist and principal level worked for at least three companies.Most seemed to be hired out of certain companies: Very often mentioned are Kirov Ballet and Het Nationale Ballet (Amsterdam)

Only 4% of the dancers are trained by the Palucca School of Dresden (2 dancers)

All in all: 91% of the dancers are foreign.



7 principals (women and men):


None is german

The 7 dancers are from the following countries: 1x USA (trained at Ballet Met Dance Academy and in Munich , worked also in Munich, 1x male Czechoslovakia (won Prix de Lausanne) and danced in Hamburg, 3x Russia, 2 trained in St. Petersburg, 1x in Ufa and all 3 danced as first soloists with Kirov ballet, 1x Japan (trained in USA (SFB) and Japan, previously worked in 4 different companies in the USA and Holland: Het Nationale Ballet (Amsterdam) , 1x France, École de Danse de l’Opéra de Paris, danced with Het Nationale Ballet (Amsterdam)




8 soloists (women and men): Three of the dancers are german


Two trained at the Palucca School of Dresden, one trained in Leipzig


The remaining 5 dancers are from the following countries:

2x Spain, both won competitions and one worked for 3 different Companies, the other danced in 6 different companies , 1x USA trained in 4 different schools (including SAB and PNB) and worked for 4 companies (including Het Nationale Ballet (Amsterdam), Ballet Arizona), 1x Russia (trained in St. Petersburg) danced with Kirov, won prizes, 1x Ukraine (finished her training in Munich)



8 second soloists/demi soloists (women and men): None of the dancers is german


The 8 dancers are from the following countries:

2x Ukraine, 1x danced in 4 different companies, the other soloist in 3 different companies, 1x France (Paris Opera Ballet School also danced in the Paris Opera Company, 1x Poland/Austria (danced for 4 different companies) trained in Austria and Moscow, 1x Spain, trained in the USA (SAB), danced in 4 different companies, 1x Argentinia (danced in 8 different companies), 1x Australia (trained at the Australian Ballet school, apprenticeship with Australian Ballet, since 2006 in Dresden), 1x France (trained in 3 schools including Royal School of Ballet , England), danced in 4 different companies.


8 coryphees (one step higher then the corps de ballet ):


1x Italy (first job,dances in dresden since 2006), 1x USA, trained at SFB, worked for Ballet Arizona, PBT, 1x Australia (finished training in England ENB, worked in 3 different companies,

1x England (Royal ballet school, won several prizes, Dresden is the first company he dances in, since 2005), 1x Lettland, trained in Moscow, Russia, danced with Kirov), 1 France, but finished her training in England: Royal Ballet School: in Dresden since 2002, coryphee since 2006 , 1x Japan, in Dresden since 2000, Coryphee since 2006, 1x Spain, worked in three different companies, in Dresden since 2006.


Corps de Ballets (25 dancers)


Two dancers are german


The remaining dancers are from the following countries:

2x Ukraine, 4x Japan, 1x Brasilia, 3x Russia, 1xCzechoslovakia, 1xAustralia, 1x Estland, 3x Spain, 1x Romania, 1x Lettland (trained in the USA Kirov), 1x Hungary, 1x Armenia, 1x England, 1x Slovenia, 1x China

Edited by balletbooster
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To speak to hiring trends, it is particularly helpful if you can add the number of the soloists/principals who came through the corp or were hired in at the higher levels. I found this to be quite enlightening as I did the research on the companies I listed! :)


I didn't do this for the ones I researched, but noting how many of the corp came through a trainee/apprentice/second company position would also be very helpful.


I'd also like to encourage more input about non-U.S. companies too. While this thread began by looking at US hiring practices, I think that looking at trends around the world provides excellent information that can really inform this discussion. So, for those with a few minutes on your hands today (it doesn't take terribly long to review a company's site), go to your favorite company's site and do a little number crunching!

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