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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Company-affiliated ballet schools


Guest balletandsynchro

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Guest balletandsynchro

As the parent of a DD who has attended a company affiliated ballet school, (among others), I have always been intrigued by the very few students who move into a company after attending the attached ballet school. It seems that there are a few companies that draw from their own schools; yet the majority do not. Most of the company members come from elsewhere. I should think that these schools would be the perfect feeder into the Company, yet for most, it doesn't seem to be the route. As the AD has his or her own vision for the company, why wouldn't that vision be a part of the school as well? There are many company attached schools and it surprises me that while the technical training is great, the training does not necessarily equip the dancers with the skills needed to be a dancer in that particular company.

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Part of the issue is that as new AD's come in, they buy into or don't that the school reflects what they want a company member to look like. In a good working relationship between school and company, the school might make some adjustments in their training or the AD make some adjustments in their thinking. But that is not the case quite often as while both entities are generally in the same building that doesn't necessarily mean they function together.

 

As AD's change or company direction changes, a school might try to change a little with it but it takes longer to do that in a school setting than just non-renewal of dancers contracts who no longer fit the vision. That can be done fairly quickly. Sadly, just about the time, the school catches up to what that AD wants, he/she moves on and a new one comes in with a new set of expectations for what his dancers should look like and whom he should hire. After a school has done this a couple of times, they get smart and work to train students in a consistent manner and hope for the best.

 

As well, many schools who host 2nd companies or trainee divisions in their schools that accept outside students for post high school finishing or some taking in Senior year students do in fact consider the acceptance of those students as "coming from the school".

 

I wish I could give an answer that might make anyone feel better about it, but dont' think I can.

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Both companies and schools have for the most part lost their distinctiveness (or they never had it). Can anyone tell a consistent difference between the dancers trained at (for example) Houston Ballet, Boston Ballet, or PNB? Can anyone tell a consistent difference in the artistic vision of these three companies on stage, other than their locale? (And all three have excellent dancers and production standards). If Houston Ballet (one of the best-funded in the country) went on tour to Boston, would it draw anywhere near the interest as a visit from the Kirov or the Royal Ballet, or Alvin Ailey?

 

If training and artistic vision are both homogenized, then there's no particular reason to hire from the school, or to train for the company. Homogenization makes it easier to insert and remove personnel (including AD's) at will. It's a model based on the corporate world and the delocalization brought about by the jet and Internet age, but is it appropriate for institutional art? In any case, training dancers is difficult and requires long-term organizational commitment. It's much easier to just hire dancers that someone else trained. You'll also get higher technical abilities, since you'll be able to choose from a larger (worldwide) pool.

 

With all these "practical" reasons for not hiring one's own dancers, it's easy to see why many organizations take that route. Maybe too often we don't question what we're losing over the long term for the sake of expediency and technical perfection. For one, we're teaching our young dancers from the beginning that loyalty counts for nothing, and we cannot expect them to show any loyalty in return. Unfortunately, ballet requires long-term commitment by both dancer and company. I question the ability to produce truly great ballet in an un-loyal atmosphere.

 

Another issue is the organizational structure of the two entities. Many people build a for-profit school alongside a non-profit company. While this may be a good way to maximize school profits in the short term, it does have long-term consequences with regards to the artistic integration of the two sides, as well as the ability of the school to pursue grant-funded activities. For one, they will by necessity be run by two different boards for two different purposes. I believe Boston Ballet's school was always non-profit, but they eventually merged the company and ballet into one integrated organization.

 

As mentioned above, turnover of management is another issue. It's hard to retain any kind of consistent vision when an organization's AD changes every 4 years. Why are so many of us, as donors and board members, seemingly unwilling to demand a higher level of commitment from the AD's we hire? Maybe we need to start offering compensation plans in which much of the pay does not vest for at least 5-10 years. This is common practice on Wall St, a way to (strongly) encourage key employees to look out for the long-term interests of the organization over their own short-term gain.

 

Our company has an excellent reputation for hiring from its own school. Every year we have a few graduating students interested in going on in ballet, and they will do a year as apprentice. Some of those decide to go to college after that, while others stay in the company for the long term. Our company also has a well-defined artistic identity, which is clearly different from the other (much larger) company in town. And the school has a well-defined artistic and pedagogical identity as well (also different from the much-larger school in town, and we have more pricing power too). And the AD has been with the organization for 22 years. All of these are good things, I believe, from an artistic and organizational point of view.

 

There are other examples, as well. Whether or not one likes what they produce, both NYCB and SAB are considered to be very unique institutions with their own distinctive artistic vision. NYCB hires its dancers out of SAB. And Balanchine was around for many decades to build both organizations and set them on their current course.

 

I believe the European companies may be more distinctive as well.

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Guest balletandsynchro

Yes, NYCB and SAB certainly are one of the pairings that I thought of in my original post. It also appears that ballet companies such as Stuttgart, and POB, and Royal Ballet also draw heavily from their own schools. For these schools, is there a greater tie between school and company, than in the rest?

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Stuttgart, POB and Royal Ballet all have distinctive and unique artistic identities.

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Guest balletandsynchro

So would it be safe to say that for Stuttgart, POB and Royal, the training students receive in the school is corresponding to what type of technique, artistry, etc.. within the company? If so, it makes sense to me. I suppose it doesn't happen here for those reasons, and others, noted by Momof3darlings.

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My DS attended the local company's affiliated ballet school for 3 years. It is my understanding that the attached company has not hired a dancer from the school in many, many years. Certainly nobody was hired in the years we were there. I believe two dancers were offered apprenticeships, which they accepted, but were not hired on after a year or two.

 

Our company was founded by the current AD. She has been at the helm for the past 30 something years, and used to have her hand in the school as well, though she has not been very involved with the school for quite some time. I think the parents at the school must wonder why nobody is hired into the ballet company, but nobody really said anything about it, as far as I knew.

 

Just for reference, this is a small regional company that has been shared between two cities. There are 21 members of the company.

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A company-affiliated school can find one a job with that company, but are under no obligation to do so. The company is its own animal. It hires whom it wants, regardless of background.

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So would it be safe to say that for Stuttgart, POB and Royal, the training students receive in the school is corresponding to what type of technique, artistry, etc.. within the company?

 

No, I don't know, one would have to look at the school and company in question. But these are all three companies with distinctive artistic identities and (probably) a unified organizational structure, and there seems to be a correlation between those features and a propensity to hire from one's own school.

 

At its core, ballet technique training is all more the same than it is different. Where I believe differences in school experiences come in is with the students' engagement in the art form beyond technique class. In schools closely affiliated with a company that has a resident choreographer, students may get a chance to work directly with that choreographer --- a chance that many professional dancers today might never get in their entire career. SAB students got that opportunity back in the day with Balanchine, and they graduated knowing that man better than anyone else. Of course he would want to hire them after all that, since part of being a dancer is learning to efficiently read the AD's mind as best as is possible. Spending a good length of time (like 5 years or more) studying one choreographer's work can also be quite instructive. A good piece of art needs to have coherence to it, and studying one choreographer in that way allows the dancer over time to appreciate that coherence. You may not like everything about the choreographer's work, but at least you understand it and know what makes it tick, and know how it is used to interact with the audience. This kind of study also gives the dancer the opportunity to (in the future) make art significantly different from that previously studied, because artistic choices can be made consciously. It's harder to get this coherence if you spend your time doing what you're told, dancing for a new choreographer every season, and often never even meeting the choreographer.

 

Tuesday... your company-affiliated school is a for-profit school that shares space with a non-profit company. That type of affiliation is much looser and less integrated than something along the lines of NYCB/SAB. Of course, the fact that they've hired no one from their school in a long time makes one wonder if they believe their training is worth the money. But we know there are many OTHER problems with that situation, which you've shared in the past.

 

There might by dynamics at work something like those in academia. In the humanities, a small number of top university PhD programs produce all the college professors in that field. The second-tier university faculties (and undergraduate-only colleges) are staffed with graduates from top-tier universities. A humanities PhD from a second-tier university will likely have a very hard time finding an academic job.

 

 

Anyway... the original question probably stemmed from a desire to increase a ballet student's chances of being hired while that dancer is still a student. The answer is yes, it really can work. If you can find a school with a good reputation for its training, that is affiliated with a company that has a distinctive artistic identity and a good reputation for hiring its own dancers --- and if you can get into that school --- then yes, you will have greatly increased your odds of having a dance career. If you come to embody the artistic ethos of the organization as a student, you will definitely increase your chances of being hired. When it comes to hiring dancers, you will be a known quantity seen as a good, loyal long-term fit --- vs. dancers hired at auditions, who are unknown quantities and who may fly the coop within a year. For the dancer who hates auditions, this can be a good way to get a start in the profession (and maybe even beyond). And even if you're not hired, if the school provides quality training and has a track record of having its students hired, you still have as good a chance of being hired elsewhere as you would have coming from any other school.

 

But nothing substitutes for hard work, smart work and talent --- no organization can afford to hire lazy, untalented dancers, even if they come from the affiliated school.

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Yes, citibob, they were for-profit in the past, but now are non-profit, I believe, and are claiming a much tighter affiliation with the company. And yes, there are definitely much deeper problems at the school. We are no longer there. It will be interesting to see if there are girls hired from the school in the future, though.

 

Citibob's likening of the situation to the dynamics of academia seems to make sense to me, at least for the most part. Maybe that is because I have a better understanding of academia than ballet. :)

 

Mr. Johnson, I am thankful companies are not obligated to hire from the schools. :shrug:

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:shrug: "It is my understanding..." flirts a bit towards hearsay. Perhaps a doublecheck of the facts might enable that to be rephrased as, "According to their website/literature, they have not hired a student from their school in X years". It would also be helpful to know if they have placed any of their students anywhere in a professional company.

 

I know of one company in the South for example, where the dancers don't want to leave, so there are rarely any openings for the AD to hire any new dancers. Unless of course, the general public suddenly figured out what a gem their company is and started buying tickets to the point where the company's performances were sold out, so they had to add more performances which necessitated the AD hiring more dancers because they would have an increased budget.............

 

Bottom line is until ballet is publicly accepted by more than just a few diehards, there will always be a plethora of talent trying out for a bare minimum of jobs. I for one, would really like to see balance restored to the force!! :P

 

Now, I would like to caution those of you who are glancing over the bios of some companies; some of them have figured out that parents are paying attention to where the company members have trained, so before they actually hire someone officially, they enrol them (even if it's for 1 month! :o ) in their school prior to the contract offer, so in reality, the actual "training" took place in a land far, far away from the company's school.

 

Boy, I'm a real party-pooper this morning, aren't I!! :wub:

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so before they actually hire someone officially, they enrol them (even if it's for 1 month! ohmy.gif ) in their school prior to the contract offer

 

Oh my, another way to bend the truth like a wet noodle. Unfortunately, that is so often the ethic. This is not so different from dancers who claim on their resume that they "studied with" 10 superstars, meaning they took 10 master classes.

 

Buyer beware...

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I know a student (of mine) who trained for many years at one school. They had a falling out. She lopped all those years off, never mentioning them, only that of the school she is at now. :angry::angry: Does not make me happy, though I am happy for her to have found gainful employment. And, I am happy that her training has given her employment.

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Sorry Clara76, and anyone else reading. I should not have said "my understanding". It is my understanding, but it is also a fact that nobody has been hired from the school since the company AD was the school's director. That is factual, and probably a much more informative statement about the school and the company. So we are talking no dancers hired into the company from the school since pre-1994, and maybe even earlier.

 

Since the company AD stopped directing the school, the school has not placed dancers in professional companies directly from the school, but they have sent older dancers off to SFBS and JKO for their final high school-aged years of training. The dancer who went to SFBS now has a position in the corps of a Canadian company. The other dancer is still training.

 

Unfortunately, the hiring practices are not due to the lack of vacancies at the company.

 

Hopefully that was all rephrased in a way that was more clear.

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The Hiring Practices thread is gathering stats on companies and how many in the company came up through the associated school. So, it will be a good starting place for those who are wondering about trainee/second company positions this spring and what the history is for hiring from these programs. :D

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