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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Casting fair and unfair


BA2's Mom

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My dau tends to be very self-critical of herself and judges her self worth as a dancer, in terms of parts she receives and casts, such as "A" or "B's. This week she has a guest choreographer, who sepatated all the students into A's and B's. She of course is a "B".She is also tentatively a "B" for everything else. Obviously, it is early on, and it is possible her worries may be premature, but IF casting were to stay the same, all of my daughters' parts would be in B cast, all on the same day. She would actually only have to been there 1 out of the 3 preformances. Most of the other students have a nice mix of casting, and would dance in A and B spread out thru the 3 performances. Because it is early on and her school has said that parts are not set in gold yet, she beleives they are set and she doesn't want to jeopardize what she does have and end up with little or nothing.

I understand her concerns about the performance and that casting decisions are out of her hands and that there is no such thing as a small part. I am not a dancer, so I do not understand the psychology of it all...why do dancers judge themeselves on the attention they receive in class or parts that are assigned? Why is a bad class not necessarily an off day with turns, jumps, etc. but rather a day going unnoticed by a teacher?

At her old school Cast A and cast B were of equal talents. She says this is not the case now, whereas now A is considered by her peers as better than B. It is a whole new world with a whole new meaning for her in the alphabet system and how she applies it to herself.

I need to keep her spirit up the next few months, they are gonna be long. Any advice?

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Mel Johnson

Just wait for the first cast change, which, given that length of rehearsal time, is inevitable!

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Victoria Leigh

BA2's Mom, this is always difficult, however there are usually valid reasons for the decisions in casting. Has she discussed this with her teacher or school director? The only way to know and understand is to ask, and she needs to do that. It is possible, for instance, that if she had an injury during the year, and missed a lot of classes and rehearsals, or has not been able to work full out all the time, that this has held her back in terms of progress, or perhaps made the directors hesitant to give her too much work. If her strength is not quite 100%, for instance, it would be best if she was not having to work too much until she is able to build that back up. This could have something to do with being in the cast that has fewer performances. Don't know, just speculating on the possibilites.

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Her complaint isn't about the casting decision but about all her's would be in the same day.

For instance, lets say hypothetically there are 8 dance numbers EACH divided into A and B casts. While she may be ALL "B" in the 8, others might be

AABBABA or BABBAAAB or any other combination as it varies from students to student.

As far as injurey goes, she is recovering we hope, but it is only the first week back after a week of rest and visits to the Chiropracter.Time shall tell...

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Guest aballetmom

This is all very interesting! At my daughters school there has been much the same idea of cast A being the better cast to get. Also, with a performance coming up there are some students who seemingly don't have parts. This, in my view, is unacceptable behavior on the part of the director of the school! Every child gifted or not should get a part in the spring show. This is a show for students only, it's not in front of a huge audience, mostly parents of the students performing. Figure that one out! :confused:

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We have been through this! She was an understudy for 2 ballets in a row and was cast again as one and was losing heart. I told her that she should do her best and show the ballet mistress what she could do. Well, someone had to drop out the third time around as an understudy and she got cast! (And got cast in subsequent ballets!) So tell your daughter that it is a long time until the performance and you never know what could happen. She should do her very best in what she has been given.

 

Another consideration is that it is made clear at our school that performance casting has nothing whatsoever to do with how they are doing in class and with promotion issues. They mean it. There is one girl who was in every children's ballet and was asked to leave at the end of the year and there have been cases where they were asked to repeat. Ask your daughter to find out what the policies are at her school and if it has any bearing on how they are doing in class.

 

I think dancers are so hard on themselves and are perfectionists at heart. I don't know what we can do to lessen the effects of that other than to tell them to give it their all in what ever role they get.;)

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I thought about this a bit before replying (my quip doesn't count), and perhaps this is unrealistic - but, as best you can, I'd suggest you tell your daughter to just "shake it off!" Shake off this whole casting thing as unworthy to concern herself with.

 

She's got a couple of more months of this school year to soak up some great instruction. She has a fantastic summer to look forward to, AND she needs to fully recupe from whatever is/was ailing her so she can make the most of her summer program (aside from getting back to enjoying dancing without pain). For this last, the casting may be a blessing in disguise.

 

AS you indicated, the best thing she can do, is do her best with her part, and give her schoolmates her best wishes, too.

 

It is my opinion (subject perhaps for another thread) that a challenging aspect of how we parents understand dance schools is that in various matters, casting being one, they have an identity spectrum where they act like a company on one extreme and a school at the other. At any particular moment in time, the whole education or well being of our child, or someone else's child, may not actually be foremost (or anywhere) in their mind.

 

So, they may have had a good reason to cast as they did; their reason may not stand up - from a parents perspective - as being particularly good. But ultimately, it's like the weather. You can't change it - might as well sing in the rain.

 

(Among the many performances I've watched my kid in, there was one where I didn't even realize she was on stage til I saw it the second night - so tucked away in the corps was she; and another where I actually watched the wrong kid for half the time. C'est la vie!)

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Syr...you hit it right on the head. I know that at our school the kids are expected to act as professionals even at a young age with casting decisions. It is like a company and I think you are right about how they think and what is preeminent in their minds when they do it.

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Syr, you do have a way of making me laugh and at the same time coming out with some real pearls!

 

Ba2 - I have no idea if what Syr says relates to your daughter or not, but in general I think she and Dancermom2 make some good points...all of which lead up to the fact that even though sometimes things may not be "fair" and sometimes mistakes might be made - or even if it's just that they don't seem to be "fair" or "right"....such is life in the world. Obviously, this is a general point of view and there will always be exceptions....nevertheless one could drive oneself crazy with all this casting stuff!

 

I can't remember where your daughter is going this summer...or too many details but if I recall correctly, it all sounded pretty darn good:) - maybe she needs to concentrate on that instead?

 

Good luck with her spirits and I hope her recovery is complete and speedy!

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Wait..your not understanding, she isn't upset about her dance rolls/parts! She has nice parts, nothing major though but she is perfectly OK with what she has been given, especially since she isn't sure how her back will hold up and she does not consider herself a top performer there, nor is she a "favorite".

It is the fact they they were all in cast B. It would be a rough night to dance all of them in the same show instead of spreading them between the 3 performances.

"A" cast does 2 and "B" does 1 performance. She did get one number switched to cast A today(which what the others tell her is SUPPOSE to be better as it is "A") but the switch she feels was by default as she happened to be the only one available (because she was straight B cast) and not given to her by merit of her talents.

She is going thru a tough period of self doubt, questioning her talents and abilities and why they even want her there.But

she is very determined this is what she wants and she is a very bright and goal oriented, so I am confident she'll figure out what is "right" for her and persevere at whatever she does or wherever she goes.

And it doesn't help that this is a holiday weekend and she is there and we are here.

:D

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Ba2 - I AM understanding. This is a school where a kid WILL, indeed, crash and burn emotionally if she sees her self-worth soley as reflection of adult attention, and casting decisions, who gets to go New York to compete, who is favored for parts at the moment, etc. Remind your daughter that she KNEW this going in. It is easy to forget!!!

 

If you were saying only that it is too strenuous to do it all one night, that is one thing, but you are ALSO saying that although she has nice parts, she believes A is better and that she is judging her self-worth by that. It may be, it may not be. Perhaps they have her in the brown haired cast, or the 5'4" cast or whatever .... impossible to know, but damaging to obsess about. But if she has nice parts, then she has nice parts - that's great - she gets to learn them, rehearse them, perform them!

 

But the bigger question of how do kids/ young adults maintain their self esteem in a profession ( performing arts) that, by its nature, involves audition-rejection, audition-rejection, audition-rejection, any number of times. I don't have a clue. My idea of an audition is a job interview which I try to not have to do more often than once every ten years!

 

I will tell you an unconsoling anecdote, however, because I have insomnia. My late aunt wrote for a magazine, and when she became quite ill, in the last few years of her life, my sister and I paid a visit to the retirement benefits director there to try to sort out some health insurance issues, etc while she was in the hospital. While waiting around, one of her colleagues, a senior fiction editior, invited us into her office to chat for a few minutes. As she inquired after our aunt, told stories about their early days, etc. my eyes wandered to the top of her desk where there was a big pile of pre-printed notes, and a bigger pile of preprinted notes, and a pile of manuscripts. As I squinted to read the pre-printed notes I saw that those in one pile (paraphrased) said - "Thank you for sending your manuscript, we are sorry we can't use it." The other said "Thank you for sending your manuscript, we are sorry we can't use it. Please don't forget to enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope with your next submission!" (There was no third pile, leaving me to believe that acceptances were custom-written or done by phone). Hundreds of rejections, all in two neat piles on one desk.

 

That's how I've come to visualize one important aspect of the life of any kind of artist. Piles of rejections before or in between the good stuff. Which is one of the reasons that a lot of very talented people choose not to make their living by their art.

 

Which brings me full circle back to me first post on this subject .....

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Your advise and questions regarding the ever so difficult aspect of casting for student performances seems to be right on the money! It is nice to read your very intuitive, sensitive and well thought out ideas.

 

Interesting about the magazine articles!

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Guest Mamacat

Although my daughter is now "on hiatus" from dance (yes, hooray, it has shifted from "I quit, never again" to "later, and not so intensively" :(), when she was doing Nutcracker with the Fort Worth Dallas Ballet, they sorted the kids into 4 casts. Some kids were in one cast, others were in multiple casts. But to avoid the stigma of being in a cast that was going to be perceived as less good as another cast, they "colored" the casts. They didn't use A, B, C, D (which hints at grades) or 1, 2, 3, 4 (which hints as ranking), they used blue, green, yellow and red.

 

Who knows if this would work with your school?

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  • 1 year later...

The Competition Amoung Friends thread gave me an idea for this topic.

 

At our studio, the desired roles seem to go to the girls who's parents either contribute alot of money and time, or work there. I do not fit into any of these catagories for several reasons.

 

My opinion is as long as these students are just as talented, why shouldn't the studio go with them. Usually, the reason these parents are willing to invest their extra time and money into the studio, is because their kids are talented. I often feel sorry for my daughter when she doesn't get a desired role, but the bottom line is she is getting good training and that really is the important thing.

 

What are some of your opinions?

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