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dustbunny

Articles: Ballet Competitions

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firedragon0800

I find the title so funny...

"Ballet is in Crisis because it is turning into a sport". Really?

I still think the majority of professional dancers have never done a competition.

Ballet and other arts are more in crisis because they are not a sport in our "Sports crazed" culture.

Learning.a.lot, Interesting point. Ice dancing and ice skating are sports, but artistry is so very much a part of the presentation. Looking at the training regimen and the required 10,000 hours to be proficient at ballet, and that is just the entry point... Perhaps a new audience could be garnered.

 

Last year there was a 60 Minute piece by Leslie Stahl and she actually showed the complete physical exertion of a ballet dancer while performing and he wasn't done yet. When you look at the physical demands of ballet which is compared to hockey and football players it is on par with very physical sports.

 

I'm sure if one were to know the stats of the average career length of a professional dancer it is probably on par with those two sports. The joke is the NFL = Not For Long (6.83 years) and The NHL (5.65) should equal Not Here Long.

 

Buzzandmoo, Competitions was something I wasn't even aware of until 1st Position, and personally I felt as did the other ballet parents and dk's from our school that went to see it together. As hard as we think we had it, it was nothing compared to what these dk's and their Parent's were going through. I guess being fortunate to go to a really decent pre/pro you tend to think all schools, paths or experiences are the same.

 

Before walking in there I/We all felt we were training too much... Afterwards we felt like we were doing a sane amount of training and that maybe we shouldn't complain about how many hours we spend at the studio.

 

Not sure that competitions are the process that churns out consistently better product, as compared to the more traditional ballet education route, but it will definitely influence the existing ballet education structure. Apparently it has already made enough noise that the more prestigious schools have been participating in these events for some time already. Or is that what we are supposed to believe.

 

Forget ballet as art, or even sport, but think of it as a business too.

 

In 1st position, there were a number of notable absences of several top schools, which gave me the impression that either they were not aware of the impact of competitions or they are being like England and not joining the Euro nation band wagon preferring to wait and see. Also consider that it wasn't in their best interest to participate.

 

If you consider that each competition/pageant is an alliance of several top schools as the anchors and therefore just a vehicle by which they can market themselves and sell their branded curriculum to smaller schools whereby the majority of the entrants are likely to come from, it can also define a business model.

 

There is big money in merchandising, licensing of anything and having hundreds of smaller dance studios paying fees for licensing of ballet curriculum, choreography and in exchange offering a young dancer a quantifiable path to a career in ballet and a shot at a prestigious school, where all is needed is a lot of training and instruction. Money for the studio, to pay for the privilege etc, and it's the gift that keeps on giving.

 

I see the business side of the competitions and it makes a lot of sense from that angle.

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buzzandmoo

Quote from Firedragon0800

 

"Buzzandmoo, Competitions was something I wasn't even aware of until 1st Position, and personally I felt as did the other ballet parents and dk's from our school that went to see it together. As hard as we think we had it, it was nothing compared to what these dk's and their Parent's were going through. I guess being fortunate to go to a really decent pre/pro you tend to think all schools, paths or experiences are the same."

 

I am VERY SORRY if you had somehow gotten the impression from my post that I assume that all experiences are the same! LOL I did re-read what I had posted and I must admit I am somewhat bemused from your interpretation. Either way, my sincerest apologies! Everyone walks a different path through life, even those who appear to be the same.

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LaFilleSylphide

Well, even if 1st position gives us a rather extreme look at yagp/ballet competition life, it was rather focused on its main characters. Quite a few of the main characters went and still go to "big name" schools. A lot of the other nameless dancers in the background were also big name school kids... They just weren't the focus of the story. Let's not forget, documentaries are stories too!

 

I adore michaela deprince's talent and prowess, but one can't deny that her don q. Variation in that film was full of tricks... Very impressive and awesome tricks, but it's a good example of what we were talking about.

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trythis

Competitions aren't new though, right? How long has the International Ballet Competition been going on?

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dancypants1

I guess I don't mind the tricks, myself, in a competition. It's a competition, after all- showing you can do 90 pirouettes or that your extension is to you ears would for me fall under the category of "trying to win". It's about trying to win, at it's core. Which is my problem with the whole idea altogether, really, ballet isn't a competitive sport with a scoring matrix, and giving it one seems to cheapen it somehow. I guess I'd agree with the article in that case.

 

An aside, a girl my DD knows through the comp world had an aerial in her contemporary yagp dance, and DD and I were thinking quietly "Woah- that's a mistake". But she placed for the dance, so? She is also a very good ballerina, don't get me wrong, definitely not your typical competition dancer by any means, but it seems surprising a dance that is a full on competition style dance, complete with tumbling and some flexibility type tricks, would place. I don't follow yagp that closely, but I've never seen a yagp routine that included these elements until this past year, so perhaps it is the beginning of a trend? Maybe DD better polish her tumbling skills after pointe class...;-)

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diane

When I was studying, there were a very few competitions in the ballet world; Varna in Bulgaria was one, and there were a few in the eastern parts of Europe, I think.

None of us ever thought about doing those. It was not "necessary".

 

My own DDs also did no competitions. (both now dancing professionally) But, both of the schools they went to full-time for the last three years of training did go and "recruit" dancers from competitions such as prix de lausanne or some in south america.

 

-d-

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firedragon0800

Buzzandmoo"I am VERY SORRY if you had somehow gotten the impression from my post that I assume that all experiences are the same! LOL I did re-read what I had posted and I must admit I am somewhat bemused from your interpretation. Either way, my sincerest apologies! Everyone walks a different path through life, even those who appear to be the same."

 

I was agreeing with you and talking specifically to my own experience. Which is with one school and thus I was pointing out my own learning and myopic sight. Not sure why you took this as a slight. No harm, no foul.

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rosetwirl

I believe that ballet is and has always been a combination of physical prowess and artistic expression. I don't believe either is more important than the other. It seems natural that the physical part of it would continue to evolve, as dancers become stronger, more flexible, etc. Tricks are set into classical choreography, such as Odile's 32 fouettes. I'm thrilled by these feats, as long as they are appropriate for the character. I love the addition of the triple pirouettes into the fouettes! As far as aerials, etc. go, the more a dancer is capable of doing, the more freedom a choreographer has to let her/his imagination run wild.

 

I was in the audience at the last YAGP NY finals. I saw many young dancers who were coming along very nicely as both artists and technicians. Of course the YAGP isn't necessary. Many dancers get a great deal out of it.

 

If you feel that a company displays too many tricks in their choreography, don't buy a ticket to see them. If enough of you do that, they will get the message.

 

I'm actually more worried that ballet is dying. If the audience is thrilled by technical fireworks, I say give it to them, but always keep it appropriate to the character. Let's keep ballet artistic but alive!

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b1

my daughter did a contemporary ballet piece at one of those "jazz" competitions (Think dance moms here) last year. She only competed twice - it was to a classical cello piece. Absolutely beautiful artful piece. out of 15 in her division... She didn't even make the top 10!! we were all so surprised - but, there weren't any pirouettes or switch leaps or fuettes. We kind of knew going in that it might not go over very well. they just did not know how to judge it! A few of the judges were taking pictures of her dancing. so for the next competition we put some pirouettes and pique turns in just to give them something!! She scored slightly better but her performance was not as good. The competition world is very odd.

You have to be careful which types of competitions you do. There are a few that judge ballet accurately and honestly, and then there are some that are really looking at only one or two genres (jazz and lyrical). I had a ballet piece with exact choreography from Petipa (using my own knowledge and notes from Sutton Dance Notation). I was told the choreography was too academic and repetitive and the piece was too short. Yup, ok, whatever....

 

But, I love, loved, loved the comment by dustbunny that you get to perform pieces you otherwise would never get to do. My students know that ballet rarely wins, and you have to be almost a pro in order for it to score well. But, they are so very excited to wear a beautifully hand made tutu, learn choreography passed down through the ages, perform Aurora's variation or Bluebird, etc. THAT is why we like PERFORMING, not necessarily to COMPETE or win a medal.

 

My only beef is with some of the mainstream competitions. They all seem to continue to say "ballet, ballet, take more ballet" etc. But, when you have the same kids do a lyrical piece AND a ballet piece and you slam the ballet piece but the same kids win big with a lyrical piece....guess which genre they want to do more? Sometimes I wish they would award a high spot in the standings for ballet so the kids could feel excited about performing a ballet piece...not just performing a ballet piece because it is required (most schools require the students to take/perform ballet if they are to be on a lyrical piece).

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trythis

We did a jazz competition last year as a trial run prior to YAGP. It was at the same theater, about two weeks before. I think everyone had the same idea!! In my daughters categories (ages 13 and 16) there were 11 and 7 other competitors! Everyone was doing a classical ballet variation, and most of them received Platinum Awards. The over all winner was a ballet piece. And the competition organizers claimed that they had NEVER held a competition in any other city with as much impressive ballet. They commended all the participants on their dedication to technique.

This year this same competition is now the week after YAGP in the same theater. I don't think they will see the same volume of ballet entries. But my younger DD had so much fun she wants to do it again!

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firedragon0800

I'm actually more worried that ballet is dying. If the audience is thrilled by technical fireworks, I say give it to them, but always keep it appropriate to the character. Let's keep ballet artistic but alive!

Yes, and what better way than to innovate, evolve, and perhaps that is at the crossroads of competition and the traditional track.

 

Last week my dd's pre/pro had a "curriculum" night, which basically is an invite for parents to see what exactly their dk's will be taught in their respective level. Dk's are not able to attend, just parents, and it is limited to just those parents that have a dk in the level. The dk's from the above levels who took the course generally demonstrate the curriculum under the direction of an instructor. Usually the top 2-4 dk's asked to demonstrate and it is a way to acknowledge their competence and Excellance as dancers and is definitely an honor.

 

Four dk's demonstrated the curriculum, three of which have been in this school from anywhere from four to seven years, all 13/14 years old. I know them all pretty well as my dd danced at their level until she was held back. So I have had a pretty good idea of their progression from seeing them at least twice a year for at least four years. I was truly impressed by their development and their acquisition of new skills and technique, they were really good and danced beautifully.

 

The fourth dk has spent only one full year in the school and came from a relatively new dance school primarily focused on competition participation. She started off in my dd's class and after about a two months was moved up to the next level. She finished the year at that level and apparently was moved up with everyone. So for her to be selected to demonstrate the curriculum for last year, she had to excel at that level last year and also at the new level. Take away, new school, new environment, new technique, etc. she is excelling.

 

The demonstration was focused and limited to what technique our dk's would be learning which included introduction of technique and choreography as to the standard of the attached professional ballet company. So there wasn't really an opportunity for interpretation or use of tricks, and had they been thrown in it would have made the demonstration disjointed or askew, as they danced as a corps. Barre, center and a solo from well known ballet.

 

The comp dk was near flawless, a beautiful artistic and technical dancer and very near made it so that you couldn't take your eyes off of her. She really took the curriculum in and made it alive and vibrant, which was amazing to see. I have rarely seen applause at a curriculum night, but there was a great deal of it and it was really eye opening. First of all her dancing was so strong she raised the level of the whole group, and you could see that they were also doing their level best to show well too, secondly she had the finesse and polish that gave her the confidence to focus on engaging the audience which I would guess was 25-30 people.

 

What was also really apparent was that she had no ego to speak of and was just one of the girls and seemed to radiate a positive sense of fitting in and appreciation for being a part of the school. This despite having heavily marketed herself online as a comp dancer with professional aspirations.

 

I'm not comfortable with runaway speculation as to what this says about one track v. the other, but this experiment seems to have gone exceedingly well, and I could envision it will have a big impact on recruitment and training, if it hasn't already. It' still hard to determine is this just a found diamond or is it a diamond mine. I guess time will only tell.

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Clara 76

Interesting quote from Dance Europe Magazine issue #174, June, 2013:

Article by Maggie Foyer

"Dancers who concentrate on perfecting a few variations to the detriment of a well-rounded technique are simply not equipping themselves for a professional career. Another complaint I hear from directors is of champion dancers who, no longer spurred on by parents or coaches, are unable to get to classes or rehearsals on time and do not get their first-year contract renewed".

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buzzandmoo

It was here on this board that I first heard the refrain " I am raising a child who happens to dance" (and my apologies because I am SURE that I am mangling the original! LOL) and that thought gave me pause to consider the big picture. At the time that I read that (about 2 years ago) I was getting swept up in the claustrophobic world of my DD's pre-pro and that comment brought me back to earth. She needs to be whatever age she happens to be as well as get good dance training. That means that academics are not sacrificed; if she is swamped at school and needs to miss a class to get that project done so be it. If her best (non-dancing) friend is having her 10 birthday party; then party on! We have met DKs who lead much more cloistered lives because of the schedule track they are on; class, privates, extra pilates, 3 SI's and honestly there is no difference between the DK's ability, but there is a personal difference. As a parent I want my DD to have choices and a childhood, and competitions before a certain age (lets say 16) simply do not allow for much kid time.

 

As humans we are competitive in our genetic code; no amount of civility will erase that completely. So the fact that there is competition in the concrete form (actual award giving) and less concrete (the student asked to demonstrate) should be expected. I think the larger question is how much importance should the ballet world place on these competitions. I did notice that some schools no longer give merit based scholarships at SI auditions anymore, choosing instead to give them at YAGP. For some hard working students who do not participate in YAGP this can be an issue. My DD went last summer to Boston Ballet-Newton and at her home school there was some chatter before going about how it appeared that no one was offered scholarship (in previous years at least one student would have). After my DD got home she told me how the girls in her dorm that had received scholarship got those from YAGP. On the Bolshoi Summer program website they actually say merit based scholarships are only awarded at YAGP. So it would appear that to those summer programs, a competition is also an audition to the detriment of regular auditions. I would like to think that the ballet world is changing to accommodate the popularity of competitions but not sacrificing quality instruction along the way.

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rosetwirl

Lifted directly from the Bolshoi website:

 

RAF does reserve its right to award merit-based scholarships to students participating in its live national auditions. Such awards are by invitation only.

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buzzandmoo

Sorry Rosetwirl.......I simply cut and pasted from the BBASI website....

 

 

  1. MERIT-BASED FOR EXTRAORDINARY TALENT – RAF recognizes the enormous talent and dedication of many students interested in its program. Due to RAF’s desire for the most impartial award process, please note that RAF awards merit-based scholarships through the Youth America Grand Prix Competition. For further information and registration please visit YAGP.org. In a rare instance, RAF does reserve its right to award merit-based scholarships to students participating in its live national auditions. Such awards are by invitation only.

Not sure, but perhaps you were reading from an old link? Ahhh, I see, sorry you only quoted PART of the information. Unfortunately the WHOLE note tells a slightly different story.

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