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Company ready: Male dancers


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This is my first post so if I have placed it in the wrong area feel free to let me know. My question is about the technical aspects that a male dancer ought to have before he is "company ready" I dance with several adult male dancers at a fantastic ballet conservatory. We have all danced off and on for an average of 5 years. Some have graduated from college and others are in school now. We are all between the ages of 18 and 22 and are currently dancing between 15 and 20 hours a week which includes men's work, pas de deux and variations. We all are very artistically mature and serious about our art form. We train long and hard and diligently. Men are in their physical prime much later and much longer than women are and we (the dancers to which I am referring) are both very strong technically and yet, feeling the stigma of the "race against age" which may be coming from of our older female peers who, admittedly, have a much more difficult time. So I'm asking as a kind of reference marker for us to become more realistic about out possibilities. My opinion is that the majority of us will be ready within the year to audition but I'm asking for some kind of crude "list" of things a male dancer ought to have experienced/achieved to be realistically considered for a company. I know men of our age are dancing professionally all over the place, and I just want to know if someone can give us some sort of a break down of where men of our age ought to be technically, both so we can either feel more confident and/or know where to focus out attention.


And of course, I have already asked the ballet instructors at our institution and they have been very helpful but it's always nice to have another opinion.


Sorry for the really long thread, I just wanted to be as clear as possible with my question. Thank you to anyone who is able to help!

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I had originally planned to make a detailed response to this query in the form of vocabulary, skills, etc., but then realized that I can't see any of you, and such a list would be "blue-skying" and really the worst and least productive form of conjecture and speculation.


Such a question is a lot like, "If I'm a cake, how do I tell when I'm done?" This simile is overextended, because if you're actually a cake, you don't tell ANYthing. You are an inanimate object. But for purposes of discussion, it will have to do.


Your teachers will be your best guide to where you stand technically against other entry-level candidates for employment. Probably the most critical skill you will need is the ability to manage your own business and legal affairs. You will need to be self-reliant, and also know when to call for advice, and from whom. A lot of it comes down to standing on your own feet, and making your own decisions, then sticking with them.


That sound simplistic, I know, and not the sort of answer you were expecting, but I can't in good conscience counsel anything on a technical level, because I can't see you guys, and nobody else in this medium can either! :)

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One way to find out if anyone will hire you is to try to get hired. That has the problem, of course, that there are always employers who will hire you just because you're there. Especially if they're short on men. You want to be hired by people with standards.


So in addition to seeking jobs, you need to evaluate the environment of the company as a whole. And I don't just mean asking how much prestige they have. I mean, you look at the environment and try to figure out if the dancers there are improving. If dancers don't improve on the job, then stay away! The best environments are those that continuously invest in their dancers --- your pay is not just a paycheck, but also improved skills and experience.


You can also look at the company performing. If they don't look good together, then there's something wrong. The best companies make dancers look better on stage than you ever imagined they could look after having met them in the studio.


Supposing you've found a good company... then you have an opinion from the director you can trust. If they'll take you an an apprentice, go for it; being an apprentice is an important part of ballet career development, and for most people cannot be skipped. (That means that if you haven't been an apprentice, you probably are not company-ready). When you are company-ready, they will promote you. As long as you can trust them, then you don't have to worry any more about whether you're company-ready, you just have to focus on what you're doing.


The only thing you have to watch out for is being "abused" as an apprentice. But this is easy to spot. If you find yourself getting cast as much as the company dancers but still at the apprentice level, then that should be your last season as an apprentice. If you're not promoted, that is the time to leave. And then you know you're company ready.


Incidentally... art takes a lifetime, ballet is no different, and beginning ballet as a teenager is normally considered late. I would avoid using the words "very artistically mature" around an AD, as well as around your peers who started as young children. The best directors are artistically mature; most dancers are not, except for the very oldest of the company dancers. That is my opinion, of course. The paradox of ballet is that by the time artistic maturity is reached, one's body is beyond mature, so to speak.

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