Jump to content
Ballet Talk for Dancers
GTLS Designs

Advice/Lessons: 15 Truths about being a Professional

Recommended Posts

GTLS Designs

Millie, while I respect your son's opinion... I would also like to know more of what items he has issue with?

 

Having been on multiple sides of the 15 Truths (student, professional, teacher, artistic director, costume designer).... I believe that there is a lot of validity to these. Of course there are aspects within the 15 that are a little overly simplified - but isn't this true about all life experiences?

 

No one can lump a lifetime of experience into 15 bullet points - but I feel that this article does a decent job of being realistic to what may happen in this art form.

Share this post


Link to post
ceecee

I would like to echo GTLS Designs' sentiment above. Millie, your son's experiences and opinions are certainly valid & he has experienced great success already with 7 years in a large company - kudos to him! However, I think that there are many young dancers like my girl who are at the very beginning of their professional path, who find these words uplifting and even empowering. It is helpful for them to know that they are not alone with the uncertainty of their future. It feels good to know that this is normal. Maybe in a similar way to someone who has been suffering from symptoms for months or years is often relieved when they finally receive a diagnosis for their ailment. They are not happy to have the disease... but they are happy that they are not alone and to be able to name it.

 

To me these points encourage a dancer to believe in themselves, and to be true to themselves.

Share this post


Link to post
Momof3darlings

I can see his point if you look only at the surface of the bolded statements in the list. (in the interest of "reviving discussion", as stated by Millie). They all are sort of "too bad, so sad" tone without the addition of further explanations. Some personalities would in fact, look at the list and determine that ballet is just ballet and you have no choice or "self" in that. Those are the people who might lose self in ballet and yes, be a slave to it.

 

The explanations though, take that feeling away for me, armchair critic as I am. As they define a bit more the negative and the positive that can be gained if you are young, on the cusp of wanting to be in this yes, hard world. Or are a young professional making your way without much knowledge yet. Learning first hand, yes is more memorable. But I can look back on alot of my life and wish that learning first hand had a softer touch. "If only someone had told me". You get my drift.

 

The thing I see important is that it outlines a life that is much different than what most dance students are ready to accept at the young ages they are when they leave the nest. And any help they can gain, with knowing that they must control their destiny through a positive mind is a good thing.

Share this post


Link to post
Millie

I do find the list insightful and helpful. That it why I sent it to my son, and was frankly surprised at his answer. Due to Nut season, I have not received further clarification from him. However, I can see where he is going with this due to some recent conversations with him.

 

He is working at a large company with a very active union which certainly stands up for its dancers, so I can see this fact may color my son's ideas. He does NOT believe in ever working for free, although I can see the value in younger dancers profiting from it. I think his main thrust is that the atmosphere of ancient paternalism in ballet is not necessary in today's ballet companies. Number five says there are many things you can't control, and not to worry about them. He feels that dancers should be able to have control over their own careers and must learn to stand up for themselves, so things like the recent events with the American Bolshoi ballerina can no longer be allowed to happen. I know, I know, easier said than done, and easier done in some companies than others.

 

I think his view is different because he is a more seasoned dancer and probably felt very different when first starting out, grateful for any opportunity to dance.

By the way, his company also grants "lifetime" contracts, which he now has.

Share this post


Link to post
Alan

I like the list and think the perspective is helpful for people starting out as professional dancers and people considering the profession. A comment about working for free. My wife is a professional classical musician and has worked for free but it is her choose and she does it for causes she feels are worthwhile. She has played for free at our church, a friend's wedding, and at benefit concerts for worthy causes. She offers her talent as a gift to share but she does make her living as a musician and expects to be paid for her work.

Share this post


Link to post
GTLS Designs

I do feel that it is unfortunate that 1 "truth" about working for free would invalidate the rest of them.... while I think that unions have served dancers very well, I do feel like dancers in union companies tend to want to be paid for everything - which is unrealistic

 

I think that "working for free" can mean lots of things. Interesting example (which happened to me): Perhaps a dancer got injured, there is a show tomorrow, and you need to learn a new spot in the choreography to cover the person who is that dancer's understudy. So you were asked to take home a video and watch the choreography (for many many hours) making sure you know the right counts and choreography. Should that dancer be paid for essentially working at home? How many hours should they be paid? If they watched the video for 4 hours because they wanted (for their own need) to know the part inside and out, is it really correct to pay that dancer 4 extra hours of work - yet not pay the rest of the company? What if everyone in the company wanted to be paid for their at home research?

 

I've also worked for companies who have a "rehearsal (lower) rate" and a "performance (higher) rate." That company did a lot of publicity outings.... during our rehearsal times. Was it considered a performance - not really. We were not doing the full ballet, nor were we in costume. But we did little snippets to get people interested and involved. We were paid a "rehearsal rate" for those snippets.... I'm guessing that a union company would require a "performance rate" for that? Could our company afford that - no; this is why we did these outings, we needed to drum up a donor base! Could we, the dancers, stand up for ourselves and not 'perform' - yes. Would that have helped us, the dancers, in the long run - probably not.... without donor money, we couldn't even be paid the "rehearsal rate."

 

As a Ballet Teacher, I "work for free" all the time. Endless hours are spent watching videos, planning classes, writing emails to parents, sleepless nights figuring out the proper casting.... on and on and on. But am I really working for free, or do I just carry the passion of ballet so much that I can't let money get in the way of my love of the art? I like to think the later.

Maybe I should start a union for crazy ballet teachers who need more sleep??

Share this post


Link to post
ceecee

To continue the "work for free" topic. Alan, in regards to your wife working for free at a friend's wedding or your church, I think we ALL do that sort of thing - performing artist or not. I know that I work for free many hours a year for my PTA, our parent guild & many others.

 

I think what the author was getting at was the tradition of dancers doing a "free" year as a trainee, 2nd company or as an apprentice. In my opinion, although this is something that is often taken advantage of & something that dancers must certainly go into with eyes wide open, I really do feel that a trainee year can have a great benefit if handled with integrity by the company AND dancer with a mutual respect and understanding of each's value to the other. DD knows of a couple of dancers who were trainees with a company & then told at reviews that they would not be offered a contract. The dancers auditioned elsewhere, but when they came up dry - they were allowed (and took) the option to stay another year and continue to train (for free) and dance (for free) to continue to improve and grow until the next audition season. This is a company that values its trainees & appreciates them. There are plenty of sharks in the water though! Do your research!

Share this post


Link to post
Alan

My wife certainly worked for free as a student in college orchestras and student ensembles. My DS has worked for free as a student, I think that is part of being a student. On the other hand, people will invite my wife over to dinner and ask her to play after dinner, that is a request to work for free that she almost always turns down. Recently, the symphony she plays for, asked her to play a benefit concert. Since the benefit conflicted with a paid gig she did not agree to play the benefit. Society sometimes does not respect an artists profession and expects that they use there talents for free even though they would never ask a car repair shop to fix their car for free. Every artist has to decide how much of their work they will offer for free. Sometimes it is a good idea to donate artistic work to a charitable cause and sometimes it is politically advantages to perform for free because the person asking you has a lot of influence on your career.

Share this post


Link to post
rosetwirl

I can completely see what Millie's son is saying about paternalism. Dancers are supposed to be docile little girls and boys, doing what they're told. Since there are ten dancers ready to take their place if they leave, by golly they better toe the line. I believe dancers need to find a balance here. You won't always get what you want, but you should be getting what you want sometimes, along with joy and fulfillment to offset the disappointments. You should feel like you're making an impact on your art. We have attended many auditions, student performances, and professional performances. Exquisite ballet artists who also have the most desired physical attributes seem to be not so very common as we are led to believe. They should not be treated as if they are currency that can be squandered at will.

Share this post


Link to post
ceecee

rosetwirl, the article is discussing situations professional dancers experience. Things are (and should be) a little different in a school setting. It is good for you and your daughter that you determined where your "line in the sand" was regarding her training difficulties. I don't know if you can transfer that same line of thinking to a company position. I am not sure how old your daughter is, but I am guessing maybe a younger teen? As the parent of a young professional in a US ballet company, I would venture that your assessment of the rarity of exquisite dancers with desired physical attributes is naive at best. The phrase "dime a dozen" comes to mind! (Talking about girls here - boys have it a little easier) Make no mistake about it. The competition is fierce! When you consider the total number of positions (positions where a dancer receives enough compensation to actually support themself) offered in the US each year and compare that to the number of beautifully qualified potential auditionees... the result is depressing.

Share this post


Link to post
rosetwirl

Point well taken, CeeCee.

Share this post


Link to post
Clutterbug

" The competition is fierce! When you consider the total number of positions (positions where a dancer receives enough compensation to actually support themself) offered in the US each year and compare that to the number of beautifully qualified potential auditionees... the result is depressing."

I unfortunately think this is true worldwide not just the US.

Edited for typing mishap!

Share this post


Link to post
vrsfanatic

Having avoided reading this article since it first appeared on my FB page, the discussion here helped me to decide to read it and see what all the chatter is about. It gives a good basis for the bullet points of a successful working life in most professions in the US, not just ballet. European and Asian rules may be a bit different. One rule that might be missing is, if one is not happy with the job, one may always choose to leave since unhappiness breeds more unhappiness in oneself and in others. One agrees to a contract and a job description. sometimes the job, as it exists in reality, is more than one had imagined. One can never really know the ins and outs of a work situation until one has the opportunity to be the decision maker. The view is a bit different from the top looking down. The responsibilities are greater and the choices one has to make can be overwhelming. Of course each generation has what they consider new ideas. It is wonderful that they work to make things better for the next generation. Every ballet teacher, ballet master and director I know, at some point speaks of not treating students/dancers the way they were treated by someone in their past. Change for the better is a good thing. The unfortunate part is that one may not know what is a good change or a bad change until the change has actually occurred. In our minds or on paper things may appear brilliant however sometimes the reality can be a disaster.

 

A thought provoking article. Happy to have read it.

Share this post


Link to post
ArcadianDancer

Every ballet teacher, ballet master and director I know, at some point speaks of not treating students/dancers the way they were treated by someone in their past. Change for the better is a good thing. The unfortunate part is that one may not know what is a good change or a bad change until the change has actually occurred. In our minds or on paper things may appear brilliant however sometimes the reality can be a disaster.

 

I admit to saying this myself. In my pre-pro classes teachers did things to push us that were very hard on our bodies that caused some students to end up having to have surgery due to pushing muscles and bones too far. Sometimes I see photos of teachers forcing over splits so hard that the students are sobbing and clearly in too much pain. Yet as a teacher at some point you do have to push things to certain level that improvement is made. It's a fine line and finding it is very difficult.

Share this post


Link to post
Neabdancemom

Thankyou! Just posted to facebook!

Share this post


Link to post

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...