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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Rejections and Frustration


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Clara dances most of the 1st act and then minor dance in act 2 (watches). The studio/ company she dances with holds the Arabian, Snow, etc for the highest company level dancers, she is currently in the middle level (Jr Apprentice, Apprentice, and Seniors). So she will most likely have a part in the party scene and/ or the beginning of act 2 (servants).

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Our Clara is mostly an acting role with a bit of simple dancing. It is not en pointe. In our production Clara is supposed to look like a young girl. The role is usually played by girls about 13 years old. The highest level girls appear in Snow and in the second act dances, except for the ballerina doll in the party scene. We are still waiting on casting...

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Clara is not en-pointe, but neither is any other role she would be slated for this year. Drivingtodance, your performance sounds about the same as ours in regards to levels/ and dance.

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Aw, yes, Nutcracker time of year, when casting leaves broken hearts strewn all across the country. :crying:

There are always disappointments, but our casting this year was shockingly political. I understand there are always a certain amount of politics in studios, but this year was the worst in all our years at the studio. One girl, who was not strong enough to be in the Senior Company, was nonetheless cast as Rose Queen, a major lead in our production. That she just happens to be the daughter of the Board President might be considered to be suspicious. In fact, all the major leads went to kids whose parents serve on the Board. But I'm sure that had nothing to do with the casting decisions. :innocent:

As I said, I understand the politics, but the kids don't, and what I hate is the farce of the auditions, where the kids actually think they have a shot at a role that has already been "pre-cast". Like the original poster, the kids think that they aren't good enough, or at least as good as Dancer "A" and their confidence and self esteem takes a huge hit. Telling yourself (and them) that its a good life lesson may be true, but it still sucks.

I would have more respect for the Director if she just came out and said that none of the leads would be open to audition, and that she was going to make the casting decisions based on what she thought was best for the production and not necessarily on who was the best dancer. It's the pretense at objectivity that makes me crazy. This year's Sugar Plum went to a very tall dancer, and while she is a beautiful dancer, the fact that they started searching for a tall Cavalier during the summer, told me everything I needed to know about who was going to be Sugar Plum, so I just wish they had said that "no others need apply".


This is not just sour grapes, as DD was cast as a major lead in both the 1st & 2nd acts (including Snow Queen), but over the last couple of years, as I've seen the casting become more and more political and unjust, I have started dreading the bi annual productions and the casting heartbreaks they always bring. I wish our studio, like others I'm aware of, would consider role-sharing in order to spread the wealth around a little bit.

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Cakers, ours has always appeared to have political agendas. I think the same could be said in any company (favorites). I am trying to make the best of this for my daughter's sake, giving her options and ideas on how to get better then those chosen. Reminding her that she was presented a scholarship to SI, when the others where not chosen. Her past experience show she is a talented dancer. Most roles are cast 2 and 2 (4 shows total) she just wasn't chosen this year for the spot of Clara. I did advise her that based on post from here many prominent dancers were never Clara, and that it the grand scheme of dance life, it doesn't hurt her chances.

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DD was never a Clara, and could truly care less. She is happy that she will get to dance snow, flowers, Chinese, and Russian this year. Our company gives out required rehearsal casting, but all dancers can choose to attend other rehearsals, learn the roles, and have a fair shot at getting to perform the role at least once. We have 17 performances, so you never know what might happen! One thing that DD has come to understand -it's the quality of the training that counts at this age. No one will care if she was a Clara or not when she auditions for a company. If she has good training and technique, knows how to perform, can handle long rehearsal hours, and has the right body type / look for a particular company, then she has a shot at a job. In the end, it's the job that counts, and being Clara doesn't guarantee a future job.


That being said - since DD is short, small, and looks younger than her age, I often tell her she will get to be Clara in a professional production one day. :o)

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We have found that nothing is certain; invariably, some students will be cast others will not; some will be cast, but not in the part that they had hoped. At our DK's school (co. affiliated), I think the students are mainly happy that they were cast and have a chance to perform. We have also found that those cast as Clara have subsequently followed varied courses and that it isn't the panacea to success. Only hard work, great training and a bit of luck (i.e. great genes, in the right place at the right time etc.) seem to lead to that end.

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DD was not cast as Clara this year, either. Our Claras are usually age 11-13 (most commonly 11 or 12) and do a fair amount of dancing, along with quite a lot of sitting during Act 2. There happen to be a number of especially talented girls in her level, and eight people were invited to audition for Clara this year. Unfortunately the auditions were announced only a week in advance back in August, and we had an out-of-state vacation planned, so DD had to miss it. Fortunately, she was cast in a great role -- a doll. Our dolls accompany Clara through the entire show, so are on stage most of the time, and her part this year is an audience favorite. She was hoping for Clara nonetheless. She was both happy and disappointed.


The lead roles in Act 2 are for the high school girls, so the middle schoolers who are not Clara or a doll mainly get cast in the party scene and flowers corps.


I totally agree with backstagemom's comments about training, and not roles, being what is most important when preparing for a future in dance. However, for the vast majority of young dancers, this is their only time to dance on stage, because they will not end up as professionals (even for those who want to be, it is a long shot). For some, being Clara or another lead IS the pinnacle of their career, because the only dancing career they will ever have is right now, while they are children. So emotions run high. It's understandable. All that our dancers can do is train hard, hope for (but not expect) casting to go their way, and enjoy themselves immensely no matter what.

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Daisychain, good point about the here and now. I had not thought about the casting from this perspective. Also, even if someone has hopes to dance professionally, given the uncertainty of it all, enjoying their time on the stage and giving it their all in whatever Nutcracker role is assigned is important.

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One of our company dancers, who was much overlooked during her early years and missed out on being Clara, graduated last year and is now in her freshman year of college. Because she could not imagine NOT doing Nutcracker, she found a local studio having open auditions and went in and talked to the director and auditioned, and much to her surprise and delight was cast in the role of Clara! For studios or companies that have mainly older dancers, or lack the dancers or talent to fill leads, somebody must play the role of Clara, so as our friend discovered, it is never too late to dance your dream.

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Six out of the seven years dd's been eligible to do the nutcracker -- which is a really big commitment in our pre/pro -- dd the 1st year wasn't invited to audition, then did it two years in a row -- two roles each year -- and then was offered a smaller role the next year and declined. Last year she decided not to audition at all.


We've been there seven years and have seen a lot of tears and drama, but not doing it the last two years was really eye opening. We didn't do it and learned that there was absolutely no downside to not participating. Yes she decided to do it this year, and auditioned, but if she didn't get in, it would have been fine. I think mostly because I'm a guy I am not so caught up in the drama or perhaps because I have a different perspective. The fact that dd has been invited back 7 years for the amazing training she gets, says more than any children's Nutcracker role she could have. If anything she handled it like a pro, bounced back and is very resilient to adversity in ballet and in life.


Also, be careful what you wish for...Nutcracker is a full three month all-in, the show must go on, amazing production, if...you are lucky enough to do it. Worse than not doing it, is the hangover/depression that settles in for weeks/months afterwards when dk's are no longer "special" and settle back into their regular boring routines. No performing and no being the center of attention at school, home and "gasp" at ballet school, has a profound effect on most kids, if not all. It certainly happened with my dd, and I discussed it with other parents about their dk's as well. So you get a frantic, frenetic beginning, exhilierating stressful middle and a morose end....


Easy to practice humbleness when humbled, hard to humble oneself when fortune smiles broadly on you.

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Were there any repercussions for declining? I had never really heard much that people turn down roles until this year's Nut. And I wonder if the artistic department views the child/family differently for turning it down. It's not like the commitment wasn't know at the time of the audition. Is it just that it was decided that the commitment wasn't worth it for that role?


DD was disappointed this year after having auditioned and been cast in a role usually reserved for older dancers only to have it pulled from her because other people later declined a less desirable role. So she is now cast in that other role and they will have an older dancer who has done it before do her original role as their second role in the show. (DD can't learn both since they rehearse at the same time.) She may get an opportunity to do that role again in a different year, but it seems like so wrong that dd's role got switched because someone else couldn't commit to a "lesser" role. Of course this is after she knew about the role for almost a week and had been watching "her part" repeatedly on the dvd of the production. I gave her the whole "team player" lecture, and she seems ok with it since she will now be dancing with her friends from class, but she asked me what happens to the kids that turn down roles, and I didn't have a response. She also asked why they didn't just call back the kids who didn't get any role at all and offer them that particular role. I told her that I had no idea. This whole thing was just a situation I had no idea how to properly handle - although she seems less affected than I expected.


But I do agree that there is that frenetic beginning and then hangover after effect. Similar to when kids come back from intense summer training.

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I think I am very glad that this whole Nutcracker business is not a part of the Aussie dance culture!! Sounds harrowing.

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Were there any repercussions for declining? I had never really heard much that people turn down roles until this year's Nut. And I wonder if the artistic department views the child/family differently for turning it down. It's not like the commitment wasn't know at the time of the audition. Is it just that it was decided that the commitment wasn't worth it for that role?

If there were repercussions we are not aware of them. Dd did party scene and angel for two years, the first year had some very memorable audience parts and she had a lot of fun. The third year she wanted to do Polly and she didn't get the role. She was offered soldier instead, but she had decided up front if she didn't get the part she wanted she would decline. There didn't exist the dilemma that you were faced with where it disadvantaged someone else, in fact it gave a dk who likely wouldn't have gotten a role to be a part of something special. Which along with not wanting to play a "boy" lol, was also part of her thought process.


Believe me when she got out of the audition she collapsed into a heap in my arms, she was so devastated, but she pulled herself together and moved on after a day. The following year she either decided not to be disappointed or just saw that you can actually live without doing the nutcracker and she was pretty happy not doing it. This year she decided to do it and she remarked that a lot of dk's also skipped the audition this year, so perhaps she started a trend... I don't think the AD's are too concerned as there is a lot of bench strength, and if anything eliminating a call from a concerned parent about what not being cast means to their dk's nascent dance career is making their life easier. In our first year I met a woman at a parent tea and she told me her daughter never got picked to do one performance, nutcracker or otherwise... She went from 8-17 to the school and ended up being in the affiliated company, so that gave me the right perspective about performing and training. They are two separate endeavors.

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If a community student auditions and then declines a part because they do not like a part, the repercussion is sitting out the next auditions for which we have children's roles. We do use children as needed in other productions. Frankly, suddenly not having any time for the show after being cast as a (pick a role) instead of (pick dream role) does look bad... we don't judge the child as a person, but we do note their reliability -- that matters -- whether you are a professional or a student. I suppose it may be different in a strictly school setting where a student is paying for a service which may include a performance.

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