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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Old wounds reopened


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This may be a little rant-ish…..moderators please remove if not appropriate.


Ok, so I’ve been dancing for just about 4 years now (this June). Not a very long time at all but I LOVE ballet. It’s awesome, it’s hard work, I have a LOT to learn still, and I’m so glad I get to do it. I’ve even been lucky enough to actually be in a few performances. Never thought that’d happen!!


But I need help with something. Apparently I really pissed off the first director I worked with. So much so, that after almost four years I have to deal with it all over again.


Back in 2005 I auditioned for her after taking ballet for only 3 months. I was terrible, but she took me anyway. I was thrilled and I worked very hard and was proud of the work I did. During those rehearsals my regular ballet teacher asked me if I could dance with her group…they needed guys. So, naturally I jumped on that opportunity too. I didn’t think anything of it. I was on such a high, rehearsing for TWO shows, until I walked directly into some drama.


I thought it was because the director of the first show (Director A) didn’t like that I was in my teacher’s show (Director B ) ... (Which I now know is a big no-no). Either way, when it came time to audition for Director A’s next show, I couldn’t go as it was the same day as the show with Director B and so that was that. Even though I had such an awesome time in my first ever dance performance, Director A was done with me. I felt awful but that’s life, and sometimes and you’ve got to move on.


Fast forward a few years…..I’ve danced with other groups, and have learned a TON. Now I’m part of a small group and we were recently invited to perform in a local show. Turns out it’s with Director A’s group. To be honest I was hesitant at first because, for a few weeks after that first show and during these past few years I would often times run into someone who would tell me about how she said this or that negative thing about me…..STILL after almost four years!


And now that we’re getting closer to show time, it’s getting worse. Apparently the biggest reason she got mad at me is because I said something about how I wanted to dance with a professional company. She took this as my calling her group non-professional which is NOT what I meant at all. Maybe I was foolish to say anything at all. But I was so excited at the end of that first show, that I decided that I wanted to try and go as far as I could with dance. Even though I was in my mid 20s! But she didn’t take it that way. She took my statement as an insult.


I haven’t seen her since that first show, but according to her, I’m still a horrible arrogant guy who thinks he’s better than he is. And believe me I've NEVER thought I was God's gift to ballet. I'm far from it! But it does bother me that she’s held on to this grudge for so long. She must be a great person to work with because she’s got a HUGE cast for every show she does and she always hires guest artists to partner her girls. But she’s not being that awesome person with me. All because we got off on the wrong foot due to a misunderstood comment I made years ago.


*sigh* Am I just crazy? Should I act as if this never happened?

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Ouch! If it was me, I'd go to Director A and explain or apologize. I'd explain that I was a new student and didn't realize the protocol, and apologize, mea culpa, mea culpa. Even if you don't feel this way, perhaps it would be in your best interest to apologize? But, perhaps if you explain how new you were to ballet at the time, it might help.

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I would go to her and explain, too. The ballet world is miniscule, and you do not want negative comments from her potentially limiting how far you can go. It's an entirely understandable mistake to make. Dancing in two different shows is not necessarily wrong, but if you have a previous commitment that the second show might interfere with, it's a good idea to ask the first director if she would mind if you did this other show with Director B, too. Then she can say whether it would bother her or not.

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Thanks dancepig and Hans. I agree....I may not have a few days ago but you guys are right and I'm trying to find a way to apologize as painlessly as possible for the both of us. The ballet world IS too small (especially in my corner of the world) and I don't need negative things out there preventing me from getting a possible gig. I'm really a nice guy I promise!


Oh, and I haven't done two shows at the same time since then. At least not without BOTH parties knowing about it. That's one lesson I learned that has saved me a LOT of stress.

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Oh - you can start with saying how much you like her work, and how you appreciated the opportunity to work with her before, and would like to work with her again. Then apologize for any previous miscommunication, explain how new you were, and go from there. Don't be too cavalier, be sincere, and to be too long winded. That's how I would approach it.

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If "director A" has said horrible things in public about you 4 years later, there may be nothing you can do to appease "A". You should politely mention you know what "A" said and ask "A" to apologize as well. It is unprofessional and unbecoming of a director.


Studio owners & ADs have reputations to maintain, if "A" is wise they will bury the hatchet.

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My personal feeling upon reading this story is Director A needs to grow up and start acting like an adult. And stop getting bent out of shape over the word "professional."


Director A may be a professional (she is paid for what she does, after all), but that does not automatically make her company professional --- which would mean her dancers are all paid. It sounds more like a student company to me. Which is fine. The difference is that in a professional company, you have to pay people to dance for you, whereas in a student company, they're paying you for the privilege of dancing with (and learning from) you. Generally, companies that ask men with only a few months' training to perform with them, and also hire guest artists to partner their girls, are student companies. I may be wrong, but that is my best guess from the information provided.


But to get PO'd because you THINK someone MAYBE suggested that your student company is not a professional company --- well, that's pretty ridiculous. And to hold a grudge like that for four years is beyond belief. Even if her company really is a professional company, her actions show a huge amount of insecurity.


Yes, the ballet world is small. But I do not believe that means you have to appease everyone. I have met plenty of dance professionals who act in immature and counterproductive ways --- most are dancers, but some have made it into management. And we regularly hear stories along such lines on this forum as well. Just because such behavior may be common does not mean it is defensible. Some people will dig their own grave, and Director A seems like a good candidate for that life direction.


You are probably not the only person/student Director A has badmouthed. People will form their own opinions of you and of her. Anyone who knows Director A will probably know to take her badmouthing with a grain of salt; someone with that little credibility cannot do much damage to your reputation. In your position, I would probably just ignore Director A (avoid stooping to her level) and work with others who act in a more mature and reasonable manner.

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