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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Casting fair and unfair


BA2's Mom

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I feel that casting should be based on the dancers who puts forth the most effort. The ones who show up for rehearsals, classes and works hard. They may not be the most talented out of the bunch but to me, it is much more exciting to see a dancer with that "look" in her eye, the look that tells the audience that she absolutely loves what she is doing, as opposed to a technically more advanced dancer who is just going through the motions. Parts should be given to those who earn them, not just because they happen to be naturally talented. And for those who have it all...more power to you!! :D

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I've seen it both ways. DDs whose parents do all and DDs whose parents do very little, and it doesn't matter. And I have never seen it be connected to money! My DDs have gotten good rolls and have been overlooked at other times. I am envolved with the school and I help out where I can. I can say with confidence that it hasn't mattered if you help or not.

 

I don't help out to get better parts for my DD, I help out because I like the teacher, the school, and I love my daughter and I want to be part of her life. They are young for such a short time and I don't want to miss a thing. I want them to remember that I was there. Not just a ride. My husband also takes his turn driving so he can have the time with her where it's just the two of them.

 

PS. Please don't think that I am putting down the parents that aren't able to do more than drive because they have other children and jobs to do. I was there at one time too. Now my older daughter is on her own. Now I only have a job and an elderly parent to keep an eye on. So all I do is work and drive, and I have the messy house and piles of laundry to prove it!

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Redstorm, I totally agree with you. At my daughters school, there are many hard working talented students. When all these same students are up for a desirable role, more times than not, those who's parents are able to give the most, get it. No sour grapes here, really. Is it totally fair? Well, maybe not, but how realistic is it to expect a studio to not give some special consideration to those families, expecially if the kid is talented?

 

 

JRB, I think it's wonderful that you're able to give so much of your time. I look forward to the time when I'm able to be more involved for the same reasons that you stated. I don't think that the parents I'm talking about are doing what they do to ensure a good role for kiddo. They too do it for love of studio and child. There might be some exceptions, but for the most part I doubt it. :D

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As long as the students who are the most talented are getting the roles, I don't think it matters what the parents do or contribute. If the role is going to a less talented kid just because the parents gave money, that is immoral casting.

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And even if it is "immoral casting" there is truly not much that can be done - except to vote with your feet. Or, if your dancer is getting the best training and is happy and improving, then perhaps you chalk it up to "life" and stay. It's a very individual decision - but I will say that this sort of thing breeds contempt and tension. :D And it doesn't do a whole lot for anyone - ultimately.

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Victoria Leigh

The problem here is in knowing whether certain students are getting the roles because they are the best ones for the parts, or because of the parents. In my experience it is usually because they are the best ones for the roles, however, it's very easy for parents to think it's because the parents are more involved. I'm sure that sometimes that might be true in some places, but it is not true in all places. We have very, very active parents whose children do not get anything special at all, and we have some whose children do, and that is because those children are talented and the right size and right for the roles. It has nothing to do with whether the parents work for the school or not. Unfortunately many parents are not extremely objective about their own child's abilities, and sometimes have more difficulty than the children in accepting the limitations of the moment. This is understandable, as of course we all want to think our children are the best, but sometimes it is just not the case, at least in the area of classical ballet, which is so highly specialized and dependent upon technique, size, performance ability, and of course talent.

 

Another thing that often gets overlooked or misunderstood is the child who has wonderful technique, but no personality. Or at least no ability to express anything while dancing. This student may be one of the the "best", or strongest dancers in the upper levels, but, if they cannot perform, then they don't get the roles. Technique alone won't cut it.

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BW, there has been much contempt and tension around our studio because of the casting situation. What Ms. Leigh expressed is true, parents are not very objective about their own child's abilities. I try to be. I see my daughter as a nice dancer who's still coming into her own. She might not be technically perfect, but she trys hard. She does enjoy herself, and I beleive she's getting good training.

 

.....and fine, I'll discard the idea of taking out the garbage every day until she's Clara. :D

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I think it is hard for the dancers to also admit that others are better than them. While my daughter is great at turns and jumps, (even her friends will admit to this) she lacks flexibility and some strength which may be more important to these teachers when considering the girls for roles. I don't know. I am just speculating because I don't know much about dance. She does get discouraged when she sees the same girls getting the best roles year in and year out. I remind her that the reason why she dances is because she loves it....she always smiles and agrees. We do have a little bit of a favortism problem with a couple of girls and not necessarily because they are good but because they have been around much longer. That is just my honest uneducated opinion.

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Guest Cristina

I can vouch for the children of parents who work hard get the most roles (or coveted roles) is not true.

 

In a non-threatening way my husband and I engaged the director in a discussion about casting, and we learned a lot. Height made a difference in certain situations - as in how the line looks from the audience...Considerations for certain strengths and weaknesses of the dancers in relation to what a role requires....the strain that a particular role puts on the body vs. other roles that child is filling...sometimes just the dancing personality of the dancer, and how that may work with a particular role....

 

At least in the situation at our school, the decisions seemed to based on an intuitive feel for the kids based on the auditions. In some cases, for the most dedicated students, the teacher naturally knows them better.

 

It's an interesting process. I am sure more often than not, directors try to approach these decisions with integrity. Unfortunately, it is hard to know that if someone does not ask. In some cases, it seems people are more willing to assume they know what is going on in the director's mind before forming an opinion.

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Cristina, all good points - nicely stated. However, one thing we must all remember is that everyone's school situation is different - some are incredibly professionally run along with having a real care and concern for their students, others have great caring human beings running their programs but perhaps the training isn't so great...and still others are not even that fortunate - or even worse have Atilla the Hun as an AD and terrible training to boot! "Never assume!" is a good saying that comes in handy, isn't it?

 

We're all fortunate to have this forum to ask our questions and vent our spleens a bit now and then, too. :D:D

Edited by BW
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First of all, I am a parent, but I am also in the theater. There are a lot of things that go into who gets a role, it was stated above far better than I could, BUT I have never known a single successful director who would play favorites so far as to ruin a production, no matter WHAT some kids parents did, positive or negative. Talent rules, then attitude of the CHILD, then physical attributes, then ETC.

 

I sincerely believe that a GOOD director ignores the parents, good or bad. Bad directors are another story.

 

Bad directors are like bad restaurants, unless they have a great location, they close early.

 

JMO

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I am the mother of two dancers. They dance at a small studio in a small towm. The training is wonderful. My daughters have received comments about the training from SI teachers. The studio requires resources from parents to allow it to stay open, put on a Nutcracker, etc. I do not mean anyone "writes out checks. " But costuming, ticket sales for Nutcracker and a benefit performance each year, flyers, programs, etc generally are done with the help of parents. I see that in our studio the dancers chosen for roles are the most deserving based on technique, talent, musicality, height, availability of costume to fit, height of others in corps for that piece, height of a partner, etc. Over the years, the dancers who are there 5-6 days a week and take the most classes and put forth the most effort and succeed in the roles often then have parents who realize the importance of parental help to keep the studio doing what it does.

 

Many times new families to the studio perceive that the parents helped, ie the dancer was then rewarded with a role. The longer they are involved, the more they realize that the parents are helping because their dancers were dancing certain roles and this is there way of saying thanks, and in part because the studio needed their help. It is the old "which came first the chicken or the egg." While I would love to drop my daughters off and pick up and stay away otherwise, our stuido would not make it without the parents. And in our studio many new parents remain uninvolved, their dancer receives a coveted role, and it is only then the parents see just what goes into putting on a performance. THey volunteer NOT to help their daughter to get a future role, but simply to help where help is needed. In our studio dancers do not receive roles because of their parents, but the studio may later receive sweat equity from parent volunteers as a way to help--and no doubt keep fees down and the studio open.

Edited by Mnemosyne
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Yes, Mnemosyne, then it could be a perception problem. I must say, at our studio, height is a big determining factor after ability to perform a given role. And also, it could be argued which came first, the chicken or the egg. Parents at our studio are required to spend a certain amount of time on productions. (in our case I'm talkin Nutcracker)I just have to hold to my opinion that at our studio, kids of parents who give the most, are given special consideration in some way. Special part, double/triple role, and in one case inparticular, special private lessons to get the dancer up to snuff with the lead she had been awarded. These are all situation where my daughter was not involved, so I feel I can be somewhat objective. I guess craziness goes on at our school. On the otherhand, I've seen first hand parents complaining to teacher and director about parts. The scary thing is they're responded to. What do they say, the greasy wheel get's the oil. (something like that)

I think that a dance studio is up against all kinds of political variables. I can only imagine the stress involved in running one.

In the past I haven't really gotten too upset over it because what's so terrible throwing a few people a bone every now and then as long as it doesn't hurt the production.

 

I'm so happy for all your responses, because at least I get the feeling this most likely is the exception not the rule.

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