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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Casting fair and unfair

BA2's Mom

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Guest natthecat

This is something that has been discussed at our studio as well amongst some parents. I agree with most everything being said here. Some studios it happens blatantly-- the parents who help, their kids get rewarded with better parts, deserved or not. In other studios it does not make a lick of difference. I think in most studios it is a mixture. I also agree that most of these small studios (ours included) are dependent on parents to help out, so in some ways I do think these folks should be rewarded somehow for their volunteer help. And in many cases it is the parents of the really committed talented, ballet students who are the ones volunteering in the first place.

Over the years we have experienced ups and downs with our studio (mostly ups) due to casting issues. One year our daughter was told she was too short for the corps and would have to wait but that next year when they were doing this one particular ballet with a solo part for a shorter girl, she would have an excellent chance. The next year when it came time for that audition, our DD was made the understudy for a girl quite a bit taller. Now of course the girl who got the part was a terrific dancer, but it still made our DD sad about the whole situation. Our studio definitely has its share of moms and some dads who help out tons, who seem to live at the studio. Whether their kids get better roles as a result is debatable. In our case both my husband and I work, and we have two other active children so it is tough to be super active to say the least. We do feel guilty that we cannot be more involved (and naturally feel sometimes our daughter gets the short end of the stick as a result, even if it is not true) but we try to do somethings and always usually buy lots of tickets (which I think is important :) ). I guess my conclusion is, it happens, it is life and you have to deal with it. It has made our DD more realistic and also more determined.

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Treefrog, it can be really frustrating trying to get inside an AD's head when it comes to casting, so I guess why even try.


This year, alot of roles that are usually saved for the hard to place dancers, went to

the more experienced ones. As it turns out, much of the choreography was changed for these parts to showcase the talent invloved. It was kind of awful hearing students and parents complain even before the first rehearsal. Some girls even pulled out of the production because of it. Parents of these kids most likely supported their decision. What kind of lesson does this teach?


I'm assuming that at schools that are considered pre-pro, you don't see this sort of nonsense.

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Guest ivy'smama

Our Nutcracker has it's own board of directors which consists mainly of parent's of dancers but does have several members who have no interest other than the love of ballet. I have found that the reason the parents serve on the board is not to guarantee their children a role, but to support something that their children are very dedicated to. They are just working to make the production the absolute best that it can be. Do their children always get the best roles? Not always. I don't think our AD would compromise the production just to give a dancer a role they were not ready for. It was always my philosophy that I didn't want the AD to lower her standards so that my daughter could have a big part, but that my daughter would be good enough to deserve a big part.

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Jaynny, re

I'm assuming that at schools that are considered pre-pro, you don't see this sort of nonsense.
Oh my gosh, you see it every bit as much, if not more, at many of them, especially the ones that have classes for the younger (therefore local) students. Naturally at schools where the entire population consists of boarding students, there are not parents hanging out at the studio day in and day out so those kinds of problems wouldn't exist in that way. But there aren't many of those schools in the first place (Harid comes to mind) because most pre-pros have lower divisions filled with local students.


Because the productions are so large, the large schools need parent volunteers every bit as much. So what many of you describe at the smaller studios is repeated on a much larger scale at the big studios. In fact, prior to reading this thread, I would've said the problems are much worse at a pre-pro because people feel the stakes are higher.


I'm very cautious about criticizing parents who pull their kids due to casting decisions or any other reason for that matter. I certainly can speak with a sense of perspective here; we're not quitters in my family - daughter's 14 history at one pre-pro is testimony to that - but I know that it's very rare for such a decision to be made without much agonizing. Even when I wonder about the wisdom of it, I respect the difficult process a parent must go through. Decisions to remove a child aren't made lightly. In most cases, they end up being wise decisions.


Ballet is one facet, a big one usually, especially once the dancer is an adolescent, but it still is just ONE facet of our kids' lives. As parents we have to look at the whole picture. The final blow might be a casting decision that a parent and child are unhappy about but there's much agonizing that precedes it. It may appear to others that this is the reason why a student is leaving, and the family themselves may be stating this as the reason, but it is the FINAL reason.


Sometimes people are shocked to find themselves in the position of having to consider leaving the studio. For years they were very happy, their children were happy. They could never imagine leaving. But situations change in our lives and what was once a good place for a particular child may no longer be just that. The rest of us looking on are more than likely seeing only what's most obvious. We're not privvy to the whole picture. As I stated above, the casting decision may just be the FINAL blow in a process that was already leading to an inevitable conclusion.

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Anybody here remember the Nutcracker Murders? In the early '80s, a ballet mom became so convinced that paying high tuition guaranteed dancing daughter a better role in a prestigious production of Nutz, she therefore murdered her father and husband for the insurance money to "buy" dd a better part! The kid wasn't untalented, and there was a linkage between how many classes a student took and where they ended up in the show, but that had much more to do with talent than tuition! It was the subject of a book by Shana Alexander. Now, THAT'S real graft, in the great Robber Baron tradition! Psyche, psyche, psyche! (Pronounce that any way you like, out loud)

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Oh my! :yes:


I don't think ballet was on my radar at the point that all of this occurred. I am going to try to find the book, however. Sort of makes the normal school politics we've been discussing seem almost tame! :P


Vagansmom, I have to agree. I have seen this happen several times. Often, undesired casting is the event that gives families the push they need to make a change to another school or in some instances, it is the excuse given when a student realizes that dance is not going to be in their future, either due to a change in interest or just facing some tough realities.

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You know what, Vagansmom, you're right, you never know, and I shouldnt pass judgement. It does turn out that this particular family has been very unhappy at the studio for awhile.


Major Mel, I've never heard of that, now I want to buy the book.

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It's based on an actual case, and you can fact-check the book in The New York Times Index. Kinda made me a little sick -- make that a LOT sick, when I read about it. (What's next? Slay your way to Sugar Plum Fairy?) I believe the Alexander book is out of print, but fear not, Amazon.com has a used and rare book service! The title is Nutcracker: Money, Madness, and Murder: A Family Album

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Wasn't this about the same time that the infamous Texas Cheerleader murder attempt was made? There were 2 TV movies made about that one. The one with Holly Hunter as the mom makes it into a dark comedy?! The one with Leslie Ann Downe just makes her look pathetic. (Fortunately, that mom was not successful in her murder plans.)

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The time period is about the same for both. Wonder what that says about the 80's??? I must have missed the TV movie on the Nutcracker murder. (Since I saw both of the Cheerleader ones, I think it is safe to say I have watched my share of made-for-TV movies, however! :yes: )

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The story also inspired another book, by Jonathan Coleman, At Mother's Request: A True Story, of Money, Murder and Betrayal.


(PS. A correction here: She was trying to off hubby, and that's how the plot came to the attention of law enforcement. She actually had the old man done in, though! :yes: )

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I always wonder what becomes of the children and their original goals that spawned those murder attempts? I just can't imagine how one would be able to continue pursuing those goals after all the upheaval and tragedy! Very, very :yes: sad.

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Guest Watermill

I think this might fall under the "unfair" category: OBT School is giving 3 out of only 4 Soloist slots in the School Performance to company apprentices instead of top level school dancers. Keep in mind these are paid apprentices taking company class and appearing throughout the year in company performances. Anyone have that happening in their company-attached schools?

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