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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Company Life: Change of director and dancers?


ConstanzaElisabeth

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I thought it might be good to have some insight about what what happens in a company as it changes hands. What is the experience of the dancers within the company? What might the transition period mean to auditioning dancers? Any input from artistic staff of a company that has been through the shuffle?

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While this may be an obvious statement, it all depends on the incoming director. :)

 

All the transistions I have been close to have involved an incoming AD that had worked with the company as a guest choreographer in the past. This seems to be quite common these days as the administration and the board have an opportunity to see that AD's work performed by their company and observe the AD in the rehearsal process. That is the ultimate situation since the AD has worked with the dancers AND the dancers have worked with him/her. I stress the benefit of the dancers having worked with the incoming AD because most of the dancers I have worked with value the work with their AD greater than working with the actual company. Therefore, they can begin to look elsewhere if the AD is not consistent with their personal artistic goals. Both times the dancers were guaranteed contracts the first year of the new AD. (There were a couple of exceptions to this and apprentices were not included in the guarantee.) It gave the new AD additional time to work with each dancer and see if they were a good fit for their artistic vision. It also gave the dancers an opportunity to do the same.

 

IF the new AD has huge stylistic changes in mind, there may be a large turn-over in dancers. BUT, this is usually accomplished within the first 2-3 years of the switch. A company's repertoire will not change overnight! It takes years and money to add/change the repertoire. By the way, it also takes years to introduce that rep to the patrons. A drastic change in rep can upset those 15+ year subscribers and donors.

 

If you compare the number of dancers who are "not re-engaged", to the number of dancers who turn down an offer of a contract in the first 3 years of a new AD, I bet they will be very similiar. They have been in my personal experience.

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For auditioning dancers, it can mean there is a stall in contract offerings. At least that was the experience of several dancers we know (DD included) who were in the running for the same position at one company a few years back. None of them ultimately got the position but the position was offered to a dancer from the company the new AD was leaving to come to the new one. So likely it depends on how far into contract season they actually are when a new AD is named.

 

As gcwhitewater has outlined, it can be a slow yet steady transition to a new style and new rep. That sometimes means a different kind of dancer. And sometimes, it is fairly quick. I look at one medium size company with a strong reputation who has been through several ADs since DD auditioned there years ago. And if you looked at the company roster with each change, there were good numbers of dancer changes. I have no personal information about whether those were dancers leaving because of the differences gc mentioned, or if those were because the ADs cleaned house or both.

 

But much like any business who gets a new manager, there is a transition period both that the AD controls and that the dancer controls.

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Funny this topic should come up... the company I dance with is currently going through a MAJOR artistic direction overhaul. We are a small regional company, and the new director happens to be in town this week to hash out details for next season. In our case, our new director was completely from the outside and hadn't worked with any of us prior to "trial teaching" a couple of company classes once the board had narrowed the field down to the final two candidates.

 

Luckily, our board was very interested in hearing dancer input regarding the transition and they ended up hiring the candidate that was pretty much unanimously favored by the dancers (granted, that was far from being the only reason he was chosen).

 

Currently, we know nothing about contract details other than that none of us will be let go for the next season. However, the trainees are still in a bit of an uncertain situation, as they have no idea if they will remain unpaid trainees, be somehow promoted, or perhaps find themselves in a brand new situation for the company where trainees would receive pay.

 

There are dancers who are auditioning for other companies, but that's more a reason of them just trying to get out and spread their wings rather than feeling dissatisfaction at the change we are going through.

 

We will be getting new repertoire, as much of our rep was from our former Ballet Master, so that will have to be replaced. However, in general it doesn't sound as though our rep will be much different, as we have to stay varied from the other larger company in the area so as not to "fight" for audiences.

 

Obviously, I'm in the very early stages of this transition. I will probably be able to answer this question better a year from now!

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