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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Auditions: Protocol and Responsibility


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Auditions are in full swing, which makes me think of lots of questions. These are NOT targeted at our situation, just general questions I've been thinking about. Wondering if anyone has answers...


If you make the final cut in an open audition, are you told that you will be notified by a certain date? If that date arrives and you haven't heard anything, do you call or email? Or are you just supposed to wait or assume you weren't selected? Are acceptances given out in waves - where a select few are offered positions then, depending on how many accept, another wave of offers extended? Or do they all happen at once? Are more contracts actually offered than positions to fill so it becomes a mad dash to the fax machine like it does for some SIs?


If you are offered a contract on the spot, is the expectation that you sign it immediately or are you given a grace period to review it? If you're given a grace period, how long is it - and are you usually given a date to "respond by?" If you are reviewing the contract and another dancer comes in and auditions, and you haven't signed the contract, can the AD offer it to him or her - if that person is willing to sign immediately? Does it differ by country? Once a contract is signed can an AD change his or her mind - for example if s/he finds someone "better"?


These sound odd, I know, but I started thinking about the ballet world in relation to the corporate environment and realized I had no idea if they were similar or not. If we offer a job opportunity to someone, we allow them a grace period to say "yes" or "no." The acceptance is a signed agreement - not a verbal agreement. We don't expect immediate response. Only after they say "no" can we consider offering it to someone else. Even if we find a more qualified candidate in the interim.


There is also the government contracting world, where people are hired so a company can compete for a bid. If the bid isn't won, then there's no work for the employees they just "hired." Usually the applicants know that their employment is contingent upon winning the bid, though.


Is there a certain protocol that is followed after an audition? We actually still receive thank you notes from applicants. I know I was always told to send them. Is this done in the ballet world as well when there are thousands of dancers applying? I guess it wouldn't seem appropriate during an open audition, but it seems like it would be the acceptable thing to do if you had an opportunity to audition in a company class. But I'm just guessing.


For those who sign contracts - and it doesn't start for a while - is there some expectation of maintaining contact during the several months prior to the start of the season? Or does everyone just show up on the date they're supposed to be there? I just can't imagine hiring someone and saying "See you in six months." Then never making contact again.


I'm sure there are many more questions like this that I will think of. Basically I'm trying to figure out - for my own personal understanding - what the "process" is - or if there even is one. (I'm very process and procedure driven so sometimes look to find them when they don't, in fact, exist. I know there's a good chance that the artistic world doesn't quite abide by black and white reasoning!)


I'd like to think I'm not the only one with questions like these. But maybe everyone else has already figured it out?!?

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In terms of getting a "contract on the spot". That is really a miswording on all of our parts. You generally don't get the piece of paper on the spot, you get the offer on the spot which is generally followed up by a phone call or two and either you going to sign paperwork or them sending it to you to be returned by a certain date. Of course if you are auditioning at the specific company, in company class it is possible for that to be done before you leave in some cases. In most cases though, the AD does not go to auditions with contract paperwork in his briefcase. However, because of some bad stories out there, one should not dismiss other options until the actual paperwork is signed or at least sent.


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That's interesting to know since, yes, we've heard stories of being offered the position "on the spot." That's the wording we keep hearing so I took it to be a literal contract offer - sign it right now - kind of situation. In some of the cases the people stopped auditioning. In others, they kept doing auditions.


Once people sign the actual contract do they continue to get "out there" in case something doesn't work out and the contract falls through? Or do they not fall through once they are signed? I've looked at some on the AGMA website, but I still don't know if they are binding or if they fall into the "at will" category that many states have. And then the whole Europe situation is, of course, even more confusing.

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Well, if you asked that question a couple of years ago, the answer might be that once signed you were cast in stone. However, with economic changes over the last couple of years there have been some horror stories, not many but some. In all cases, it was nothing that could be done since it was a board mandated cutback, cut through or complete fold.


Just a note, that I amended my post above to reflect the US. I have no experience with European auditions on site, so do not know if offers are made and contracts signed on site there.


Our teachers always recommended continuing to audition just in case. But I think that's a personal decision. I would keep auditioning at least until there is a signed contract. And yes, the "on the spot" wording is not a true reflection of what happens. It can sometimes be a piece of paper handed, but more often in the US, it is a verbal conversation with further directions unless you are at a company class audition.

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Here's another question - is there an expectation of confidentiality when it comes to contracts? I know I've worked places where you would be terminated for every discussing salary. I know there are AGMA contracts in the US where it's easy to find the salaries. But then there are other companies where nothing seems to be known. In these situations do dancers share or are they expected to keep quiet?


Is it considered bad "form" to continue to audition after you have signed a contract? I would imagine being so happy I would stop right there. But I can also see situations where "safety" nets are cast and a contract with a less desirable company - if offered - would be signed while still trying to get that "dream" job.


Edited to add: I am looking for generalities, not situations that were specific to any one dancer. I simply started considering the process which led me to more and more questions. Especially since everyone seems to handle things differently!

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With respect to confidentiality and salary, I would think it is always best to keep it to yourself. Yes, AGMA contracts put it out there, but I would say discussions of that topic rarely lead to anyplace good.


With respect to thank you notes, last year my DD attended her first cattle call where she was cut and all materials (resume, photos--everything except her cash :) ) were handed back to the auditionees. So in that case, I don't think they even had a record of her having been there and she did not send a thank you note as they wouldn't have known who she was. In auditions in which she has survived the cut or in which no cut was made, she has taken note of who from the Artistic Staff attended and has sent hand-written thank you notes.

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With regard to be offered a contract on the spot I think this can really depend on how early or late in the season you are auditioning. If it's early, ADs may not know what they have yet.


Rarely have a I heard of someone being asked to sign something on the spot and I would be extremely skeptical of anyone who asked you to do so.


As far as I know contracts are only offered in the number that are available, not like how you described SIs and a race to the fax machines. Generally in my experience and the others that I've heard there are a series of emails or voice messages back and forth that can sort of work out a natural grace period. Also in cases where something was offered on the spot, I know of ADs that have asked what auditions the dancer has left and is respectful of completing those but then would like to have a conversation after that.


Once when I auditioned for Company A and returning home, I received a phone call from Company B offering me a job. Company B wanted an answer from me over the phone but the woman on the phone wasn't sure if I was being offered an apprentice or company contract (another story, another time). I kindly responded that that distinction makes a huge difference. She would have to get right back to me but I explained that I was boarding a plane and that I would check my messages as soon as I landed. This led to a series of phone conversations and voicemail of questions and answers that lasted the next week, until I heard a response from Company A, which was a no. Our messages and conversations lasted a short enough amount of time that was still acceptable as all inquiries were not unreasonable.


I think it is also fair to say when you do have another offer on the table. It is definitely a rare position to be in, especially in today's economy but it can happen. I think if you have an offer from Company B, but your first choice is Company A, who you haven't heard from, I think it's fair to contact Company A and tell them you have an offer waiting but that you would really like to dance with Company A (if that is true). They may or may not be able to give you an answer, but it can certainly be worth the try.


A year after my previous story I auditioned for Company A again, whose AD very much knew I wanted to be there. It was late enough in the audition season that he (and I) knew of contract availability. He offered me a job before I left to which I accepted based on all of our previous conversations. In that case AD was able to get the company manager to get me my contract before I left town so that I could review, sign, and return it as soon as possible.


As far as having contact with a company before starting a contract, for me this has varied greatly depending on the company. I've always heard from somebody regarding what shoes I needed ordered for the season. Sometimes there is a physical examination requirement that needs to be filled by a physcian, basically just saying you are healthy and can work. Or information on parking or classes that are available if you are in town before contracts start etc... There can be a number of things along any of those lines.


As far as salary is concerned. Generally in non-union companies salaries are not openly discussed and it is policy and even written into contracts. But generally starting salary is common knowledge and whatever that years general increase is (such as increases for cost of living etc...) is also basically common knowledge. Obviously there are pros and cons to this as clearly personal conversations about salary rarely lead anywhere good. In most cases you can do the math and have a general idea where people stand unless they have negotiated their contract further. If so I figure that's their business and good for them!


As usual, sorry for the long random babbling, I just hope there was something useful in there :thumbsup:

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Thank you Pointe 1432 for sharing your experiences!

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Thanks so much. This will hopefully help our kids better know what to expect once they get to an audition. Once this season is over I'll get my DS to debrief me on his experiences and will share as well. Right now we simply don't know enough to say anything.

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