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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Rejections and Frustration


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My DD had a similar experience as the original poster quite a few years back. She was(or so we thought) the right age for Clara, everyone had told her they thought she would get it, she had been performing in this particular Nutcracker for 6 years, had done all the other parts etc... You get the picture. She had even gotten some hints from her cherished teacher who is part of the casting that she had a good shot at the role. She was the only girl in her class that year to attend a big SI( and had received a nice scholarship as well). Well, the day the cast list went up I dropped her at the studio, she excitedly ran to check the list and within minutes I received a tearful phone call. She didn't get the role, and in fact it went to a dancer who had only been at the studio for about a year. DD fell apart, not just a good cry, but real honest to goodness hysterics. Out of control, hyperventilating to the point my husband thought we might need to call a doctor. She simply couldn't believe it and neither could I(at the time). After a few hours, she pulled herself together and announced that she was ready to go to class. She was cast as the same role she had done the year before, moved on and really worked hard that Nutcracker season. She even volunteered to help "Clara" with her quick change during performance. Trust me, that good sportsmanship was really noticed.


So here's what we all learned from this experience. At that time not being Clara was the end of the world for her, and not too easy on my husband and myself. I was pretty down on the directors of the performance for a few weeks, but time took care of the anger. Other mothers tried to egg me on and try to get me to say negative things about the directors and how can I let DD dance the same role she did the year before. They would say things like "my DD would never put up with that, etc). I can say now many years later that DD not getting Clara was one of the best things that could have happened to her. Why? It was one of the first big disappointments for her, but she learned how to deal with the other let downs that would follow in later years, and really cherish the good moments and successes. It turned out, she did dance Clara the next year. I cannot tell you how many people said she was one of the best Clara's in years. Had she danced that role the year prior, no way would she have been as good. I constantly thanked the director of the production for making her wait, because we all knew that she ended up being the best Clara she could be. Years later I know that her good attitude that year was noticed by the directors because they made a point to tell her how professional she was the year of the disappointment. Once she was in the senior company(the roles given to the dancers who are en pointe), she rose quickly through the ranks to solo roles. They didn't keep her in the corps but a few years. She ended up dancing the two lead roles her senior year in the school. Those dancers who quit after they decided they didn't want their roles were penalized for sure. There are no set rules, but you could see the disappointment and anger from the dancers and mothers who didn't understand why their DD's never moved up from the corp roles after turning down a role the year before. There are no bad roles, and you have to instill that in your dancer. Disappointment will happen, and its supposed

to. My DD really discovered in later years how much she had to dance from her set backs. It's so easy to love dance when everything works in your favor, but it doesn't happen that way. I have seen dancers who want to quit dance every time they don't get an SI they wants, or the role they want. They often are kids who things came easier to in the early years. They never had to deal. That's why I'm grateful NOW for the curves that the dance world has thrown my DD. I look back at that year she didn't get Clara as a game changer for her. She finally understood how much work she was going to have to put in. It wasn't enough to be taking more classes and attending an SI. She needed to work smarter and harder than ever. This helped her in the SI world, because when she was constantly rejected from her dream school(while being accepted to many other great schools) she knew she had to persevere, work harder, and not feel too sorry for herself when rejected once again. Finally she did get accepted to that dream school and she told me at the end of the program(which was a perfect fit for her, and she had never been happier), that she would have had no business being there when she was younger. At the time she was rejected it she couldn't understand it, but now she has the perspective and knows things happen for a reason.


She has moved on after 12 years in the same small studio to a bigger school, and it's like starting all over again. Paying dues, sometimes casting not making sense, etc. We are both understanding that that's the way it's going to be as long as she wants a career in dance. Life isn't always fair, neither is dance, but if you have a DD who has to have it, then be ready for the ups and downs.

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I am very surprised to read about dancers declining roles. Casting is such a complicated process. I cannot imagine that declining a role would not have a negative effect. Our audition papers state that a dancer agrees to any part given. If you are not willing to accept any part, don't audition.

I am not sure which is worse- not getting cast at all or losing a role because of another dancer's issues. Something along those lines once almost happened to my dd. She was cast as a party girl, a role she adored, for 2 yrs running. She was the only one in her level to have that part the second year. A parent of a dancer not cast threw a fit. Said dd shouldn't have that part and her dd should. She found a teacher/rehearsal assistant to agree with her. The AD was temporarily bowled over by thus scene. Dd did not knows what to do when the AD asked her if she could give up her favorite part. Dd had been taught from day 1 to listen to teachers and directors, so she gave up her part. Fortunately, the drama was only temporary. The AD came to her senses and realized what had happened was and changed things back. I was shocked that a parent could dictate casting changes, no matter how angry they were.

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The audition for which I speak is "understood" primarily as a costume fitting. The "plum" roles are usually handed out to primarily dk's who "fit" the part and then lesser roles are offered to children who didn't get cast yet. The costumes are decades old and also would be hard to replace or even tailor hence the "fitting." Thus if you are not at the right level, age, height each year you could end up never being picked for a role.


It used to be that certain roles were doubled, i.e. Party Scene/angel or party scene/soldier, but the school has expanded and those opportunities don't exist anymore. This allows for more dk's to be a part of the show. The children at the end are given the choice to take the lesser role, and some take it enthusiastically, some grudgingly (think consolation prize) and some flat out decline. If you are older and a veteran of prior performance seasons, you get preference over a dk who hasn't danced at all. If you have that preference and decline you are opening up an opportunity for someone who hasn't perhaps danced at all. One year the ballet mistress forgot that one girl was cast as party scene and angel and overlooked her for party scene the following year. She was devastated, rightly so. This probably should have been corrected right away, but that would have crushed the new girl that would have ended up not doing that role ever. The overlooked girl instead did a lessor role that year and got a great role the following year.


I agree that declining could reflect badly on my dd, especially if being a poor sport is the perception or the rule rather than the exception. There is little tolerance for dk's that can't be part of the corps de ballet. On the other hand, being given the opportunity to make a choice and doing so in my view is a very professional exercise. I was proud of my daughter making that decision as well as the following year not to audition at all.


This year she decided to audition as she is near the height where there are no more children's roles and this is absolutely the last year for her to do it, so she's in it with role she wanted, enthusiastically with "bells on."

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At our school, declining a Nut role is very bad form because there are 400+ kids who audition and everyone usually gets a role. It's better to sit out the audition entirely. Kids who decline roles after auditioning (unless there is illness or death in the family) DO suffer repercussions. I have seen it and it is not pretty. The school emphasizes that all roles are great roles and equally important in making the entire production a financial and artistic success. My DD will most likely get the same role she got last year, but that's ok with her. She has been in Nut for 7 years with many different roles. Every opportunity for her to be on stage (as well as backstage) is a blessing!

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My DS finds out his Nut role tomorrow. All I've been telling him is "Any role, is a good role". Of course he has roles that he would love to do. We'll see how it all plays out.

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pirouetteprincess100, that was a wonderful post! I loved it and agree.

Older DD who is in a trainee program now has had to actually go through the process many, many times. She was at a small studio where she was given great roles, then held back one year when others were advanced, then told that she would have gotten a role, but it had to be given to someone else to give that person 'another chance' (among many things that she has endured). Before she left, she was given the lead role in the spring performance (and by the way the same basic role for our holiday winter performance prior) which was the best thing to happen to her. She has been rejected from some SIs or put on the waitlist, only to be accepted at one of those SIs for 3 years in a row, and even given a solo at the end of summer performance. Then she started to receive scholarships for summer and year round programs, when there were other girls who had gotten these in earlier years no longer received them. This showed her that hard work and focus was it's own reward. She did finally accept a scholarship to a year round program, and after being seemingly well liked and given good encouragement, she was up for 2 lead roles in the spring performance, but was only cast in one. However, the dancer cast in the other role got injured and then she was asked to do the role anyway with only a week and a half to work with the Artistic Director on it. At that point, working alone with the AD of a small/medium size company ALONE was worth the world. After the performance, the AD told me that she was wonderful, and when I thanked him for her opportunity, he said 'I didn't do anything, she did'. Was this not worth everything she has had to work through?

She did learn so much from all of this. She now has the ability to discard the drama from 'the role game' and concentrate and focus on working hard and always improving, and not worrying about what role she is given. Sure it still stings when it happens, but only briefly. And she is much better at remembering this than I am :thumbsup: .

I am pretty grateful for her journey so far, and I am sure she will have other situations where the same happens over and over. It is actually how this ballet world works in my opinion. I feel fortunate that she has had those experiences to guide her and make her realize how you handle it is so important. Her younger dancing sister, at 14, has not had many of these disappointments. She has had a lot of encouragement and not enough disappointment to work on her ability to handle the disappointment. I feel though it has been my job as her Mom to try and teach her that it's the journey and the work that is the best part. I feel she is trying to learn this now, and getting better at it as she matures. And her sister is a great role model for this. I want her to be able to handle whatever comes her way without it affecting her work and focus.

They both will always have disappointments. This should be expected of course. Having to go through this with 2 dancers is just so difficult for any parent! It hurts to see your child be disappointed. But I have always thought that there really are no disappointments, just changes - after all, there are never any guarantees for roles - I expect even the professionals go through this. It doesn't make it easier, but it's so important to learn how to accept things you cannot change, change the things you can, and find the wisdom to know the difference. :)

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So my DS has 4 roles to learn before final casting next month. He really didn't react one way or the other. Since this is his first Nutcracker, he doesn't feel like he has a basis for comparison, so he was like ok. Now I need to stress not getting too attached to the roles that he is learning because I'm guessing he will only get to do 2 of them.

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Where we live the Nutcracker culture doesn't exist. So for now my dd has not had the joyfulness or the disappointments that go along with this celebrated production. But when I was younger many, many years ago it was the same story. We all wanted to be Clara. When I was young enough and small enough I wasn't good enough and when I was good enough I was too old and too tall. Every night I danced Clara's solo alone in my room. The Nutcracker disillusionment didn't stop there. I remember one year my mother came to pick me up after class, the casting had been posted and I didn't get the role I had hoped for. I cried most of the way home. My mother was ready to turn around and have a talk with the AD. I wouldn't let her and by the time we reached home I accepted that the girl who had gotten the role over me deserved it more then I did. It's important for young dancers to learn to keep going forward. Some day they will be getting the roles and some other dancer will be crying. My Nutcracker years were wonderful. I didn't do Clara but I think I did every other role including the Sugar Plum Fairy.


Piroutteprincess100 I really enjoyed your post.

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thanks to all for your insight and personal experiences. My DD has had disappointments over the years. What continues to concern me is the feeling of the politics that her abilities can't overcome. I can't through money at the school, nor volunteer daily, plus she is not a dance teachers daughter...She is going to dance the roles she was given, help where she can, and on the side we are looking/ testing other schools.

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  • 2 weeks later...

As a parent, casting is tough sometimes. I have felt the same as many disappointed parents on this forum regarding casting, spot light roles and focus on favoritism. More difficult is that I have a son and a daughter who dance. My son is "THE" male dancer at the school and is selected for many leads and my daughter is one of many talented young girls. It's all about the training. The AD and teachers will have their favorites based on their personal preferences and/or politics. But the over all training through the years, means more than which roles your daughter will get at age 11-13, which is typically the age of Clara. Sometimes height and physical attributes do play a role in how your child is cast. My daughter is very elegant and beautiful and medium height and has never been one of the cutsie-shorter girls in her group/level. At age 12, when my daughters level was considered for Clara, they selected a girl of a very similar skill set as my daughter, but 3 inches or so shorter. Even though she is now 13 and her opportunity to be Clara has passed, based on height and her advanced level, she has shown well as one of the stronger dancers.We thought she was talented and expressive enough to be moved up a level and chosen as a young Clara at age 11, but this didn't happen. By 12, we felt she was too tall to be considered. But what we have seen now that she is an advanced dancer and has moved up to the highest levels along with some "Claras of the past", is that she is equally talented and being cast quite well in comparison. If we wanted her to be a "Clara" or a star, we could have moved her to one of the other schools where it would have almost been guaranteed. In fact, because of the opportunity and the confidence a role like Clara would bring to a young dancer, we considered a move. But it all came back to the quality of training and the school environment. Over the past 2 years she has made it into some SI's and has done very well and she danced at a World renown ballet school in Europe last summer. These experiences have been a good gauge of the quality of training she is receiving. Also, in the last spring and summer productions, she has had great opportunities and danced in some spot light appearances in these pieces. This years casting for Nutcracker we were very pleased. Even so, we are beginning to believe fully in the philosophy that it isn't the roles, but the commitment level and work ethics and quality of training that will make the dancer.

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I'm curious if anyone has experienced possible "tampering" or sabotage during Nutcracker casting season.


Without getting into the complicated ins and outs of this situation, here's what is happening. After an observation class a parent complained to the AD that certain older, more experienced girls were being unkind to others--which i have on good authority and from multiple sources is absolutely not true--ostensibly so that their DK and others could dance a particular role, along with the older ones.


The challenging en pointe role DD has waited two years for is now in regular slippers, shared with junior dancers from her combined level. She is confused because she didn't do anything wrong but she and her friends were spoken to quite harshly by the AD. She left the studio feeling humiliated and ashamed and cried for two hours in the car, feeling like the AD hates her even though she is a dedicated, hard worker and a genuinely kind girl (I'd describe her that way even if she weren't my own!).


The joy in this year's Nut is gone, for all of us.


Has someing like this happened to anyone? What would you do if your DK or another student was "thrown under the bus"? We've all been feeling quite unsettled by this since it happened. I appreciate your support and ideas.

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dustbunny -


Unfortunately there are really bigger issues here:


1. The parent who complained was manipulating the situation to get better casting for their child.

2. The director took that parent's complaint at face value rather than talking to other parents or students about the situation. There's always more than one side to a story. Instead the director spoke to the older girls harshly without having gotten the facts of the situation.

3. The director should have addressed the 'unkind behavior' as a separate issue and not brought casting for Nutcracker, level placement, or anything else into the conversation.


Clearly I don't have all of the facts. From what you have said, the director was a sucker to have believed 'Manipulating Mommy' without question. Furthermore, this is really doing nothing long-term for the junior dancers who just got the roles. Is their life lesson to be 'If my Mommy complains that some girl was 'mean' to me I get better casting?'


Dustbunny, I'm sad for you and your DD too. Since this director has proven easy-to-manipulate, this may not end with Nutcracker. Depending upon the type of training she is getting and what other pre-pro schools are in your area, you might want to assess your options for next semester or next year. For now, assure your DD she's done nothing wrong and encourage her to do the best job she can with the roles she has.

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We got complaints about bullying once. The older girls who were targeted as bullies said they had no idea. The younger child and parent who complained were adamant about the subject and demanded action be taken. The truth is that either scenario (mean older teens or alternately manipulative parent or child) could have been true.

We made bullying a specific topic in our Nutcracker packet, apologized to the parent, and discussed it with the students. (Again can I mention, we do not have a school and deal with professional dancers - who have their own issues -- but occasionally question why we need to do professional productions that feature any children's roles.) We try to remain neutral and sometimes get caught in the middle and have to make the best decision based on what we observe or are given proof of.


I can guarantee whatever your AD does, no one will be completely happy.


The best you can do as a student (or any dancer) is what is in your control which is behave above reproach. If accused wrongly, stand up for yourself without making the problem bigger. If bullied truly, have your facts and proof before lodging such an accusation.


I am only answering this question as it was asked, but it really could be a separate thread, so if mods need to delete my reply, please do.

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Thank you, Hilary and Mouseling.


We are taking the high road and walking tall, and DD says she will be continuing to demonstrating good behavior and a strong work ethic. She will not be apologizing for something she didn't do, however. Right now I'm just so sad for the dancers in this group, and for the other parents who are in the same situation as our family is. Believe me, these girls are not bullies.

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dustbunny, been there done that. When DD was younger, an accident occurred between DD and another dancer. DD accidentally dropped a prop she was holding and it fell on the other dancer. DD apologized right after it happened and tried to make sure the other student was okay. Unfortunately, the other dancer's mother had an axe to grind. We heard nothing for a week and then the AD yelled at DD in front of the whole class at Nutcracker rehearsal and made her apologize to the other student in front of everyone. The mother had gone to the AD, insisted DD had hit her child on purpose, and demanded DD get in trouble.


The AD did this without even getting DD's side of the story. DD was humiliated and had to go through the whole rehearsal at the point of tears. Also, during the week before the AD's "talk", the other student had done her best to be as nasty to DD in class as she could. She told the other kids to not be near DD in class because she would hit them, etc. We found out right after the rehearsal when DD broke into tears in the car. DH was furious. He marched into the studio and demanded to speak with the AD. He told her that it was unfair to pass judgment without getting both sides of the story. He also told her he felt that embarrassing DD in front of the class when she had already apologize and had to put up with the horrible treatment from the other student during the week was very unprofessional.


After the discussion, the AD realized that is wasn't right to pass judgment and they agreed to never do so again without getting the whole story. The AD also apologized to DD. We never had another problem again.


We've seen all sorts of sabotage in the ballet world, but not knowing the facts, it sounds to me that the parent was jealous or thought they saw something that wasn't there, not necessarily sabotaging your daughter's dance on purpose. If your daughter feels that uncomfortable, I would have her speak with the AD and ask if there is a problem and let her know how upset she is that the was perceived unkindness from her group. Not going into it with a "he said, she said", but just to clear the air. If you don't, your daughter might always feel uncomfortable. If the air is cleared, at least the AD will know that any perceived unkindness wasn't intentional and that one person's word should never be taken as the Gospel without hearing all the facts.

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