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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Help- the inevitable casting disappointment post


nynydancer

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Nut casting is up. My child was given a really good part- normally a part done by a student at a lower level, but size and age wise she's perfect. She's just happy to have a part, although was hoping for something with her classmates. She's just too short for that.

 

I am just stunned by one of the casting choices for one of the key parts though. It's a relative of the school director. I realize this child did not cast herself, but there are 20 other children who are much farther along in training who would have suited the role. I read the "periwinkle" vs the "navy" and love that analogy. But this choice is so baffling, now I am questioning if this is the right school for us. I've always given the directors the benefit of the doubt, but this is so laughable I'm wondering. To her credit the girl is gorgeous, just not a great dancer. She got a big part last year and honestly stood out in a not so good way. It's just such a slap in the face to every other child who has worked so hard and was probably more deserving. To top things off, this girl has been somewhat of a bully in recent years.

 

I think we'll stick it out at this school a little longer because my daughter is young (10) and is doing really well here. But how does one swallow this? Is this kind of nepotism unusual?

 

 

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I'm sure others will be a bit more sympathetic, but coming from the position of former dancer, now director and mother of a dancer (boy thank goodness lol), never let casting affect you so much as changing a school, if that school first and foremost is giving your child what they needs in terms of technique training. There are so many reasons that I promise you cannot even come up with them all that affect casting. It is honestly the part of my job I hate he most. I've never been accused of what you are saying, however we are always accused of favoritism because dancer A always gets the better role over dancer B, disregarding the fact that A has a perfect body, works hard, remembers choreography, comes to class etc. in a situation like yours, when very young dancers are being cast, perhaps the director happens to like the 'look' of this girl. Perhaps because she is related to a faculty member, she will be more available for extra, individual rehearsals, and even perhaps (although I sincerely hope note) money has been donated that keeps the school from closing, or to actually allow the production to go forward.

 

Another thing you said in your post is probably the hardest life lesson any dancer, well now days any human being entering the workforce, will have to accept is that life really isn't fair. Usually there is someone who works harder, or is more deserving, or is 'better'. But many times it doesn't matter. It's harsh. It's hurtful. But it's life. Kids are exposed to this a little at a time, but as parents we have to help them accept it, and figure out how in their own way to deal with it. Will it be better at another school? Possibly, for a while. But it will happen again. And again. Teaching your child to do this because she loves it, not because of the rewards of casting, will serve her very well in ballet and in life. It is a wonderful opportunity to talk about what is fair and what is reality. It is sad that all in life isn't equal to that which is put into it. But sometimes the joy of preserving through the petty stuff gets a long way towards the finish line. I do wish you and your daughter the best of luck, and lots of hugs all around. Ballet is a tough profession, and it's not for the tender hearted. That is why my mom used to beg me to quite. She didn't like this field, and could never get over little things as quickly that I learned to take in stride. Now as a mom, I can see where she was coming from :)

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Wonderful fraildove! Absolutely wonderful! Now, nynydancer repeat your own words over and over again until they stick. "My child was given a really good part. Size and age wise she's perfect". And add to that, what others got is not my responsibility or issue. "My child was given a really good part. Size and age wise she's perfect and what others got is not my responsibility or issue." Over and over again until it sticks.

 

My child was given a really good part- normally a part done by a student at a lower level, but size and age wise she's perfect.

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Yeah I agree with a lot of what you are saying, In the real world, I am a director in an accounting firm. This type of thing wouldn't fly. Nepotism kills credibility with the workforce, and a low performer, well, sets the bar low. If it was the real world, I would say "lean in, daughter" ! But not sure ballet is totally the real world ;) It is what it is, and I am focused on my kid and will be watchful that the school is the right one for her. Meanwhile, the school is abuzz with this casting choice, and I am not sure that's what they intended. Agree with the advice to focus on my child, and keep out of it.

Edited by nynydancer
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nynydancer, nope! The dance world does not operate the same as the 'real world'. It has its own unique challenges, little money, and folks who are driven by their hearts primarily---from stem to stern, i.e., AD to dancer. Sometimes different forces are at play.

 

But I can tell you that, as Fraildove said, many times you will tell your dancer 'Life's not fair'. And it is no different in dance. The earlier one figures out they can live through that aspect, pull themselves up and carry on---because after all they are actually driven by their own heart and need to dance, the better off they will be. Perhaps that is what truly gives the artists the interesting personalities and strength of character so many have. I see it in ALL the adult professional dancers and former professional dancers I know. There is a zen with the world they seem to have achieved. I have come to realize it is because these folks have learned to enjoy what they can control (their own personal dance) and found a way to live with what they can't (AD choices). That doesn't mean they haven't ever been disappointed, frustrated, or upset about an unoffered contract or a casting, but somehow they were able to find a way to make that work for them personally.

 

I'd say the earlier the dancer learns this skill (and a skill it is!), the happier and better off he/she will be.

 

Now, we as parents who learned and play by the rules of the 'real world' have a much harder time understanding and/or learning to accept-----I think because we DON"T have that burning need that requires that level of acceptance.

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Not sure how your casting works, but for our youth company, an adjudicator and someone else to run the class are hired outside of the local area. Out of state preferably. Everyone agrees ahead of time the adjudicator does the casting - no questions asked. They don't know the kids, what studio they go to, who they are related to, so that casting remains fair. A lot of parents don't understand the company does this and will confront the local teachers when they are unhappy about the roles their children received. Fair is fair - an impartial third party is the way to go.

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That's very interesting dinkalina. My friend's DD goes to a recreational/comp studio (as opposed to the more competitive comp studio in town) and they will sometimes bring in an outside party to assign the dancers their levels, and I've always wondered how this approach would shake out if our studio ever tried leveling like this. It is definitely appealing.

 

It makes a lot of sense for auditions with multiple schools involved, but I'd say the only drawback of that is, the auditioner doesn't know anything about the child's temperment/committment level. Just my 2 cents.

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So a child who shows up to class every day late, with messy hair, and is disrespectful in class, could get Clara because she dances well for one hour for an outside judge? I don't think so!! Gahh that would drive me insane if that's how our studio operated. There should be so many more factors that go into casting than just getting the technique right for that one day.. but life isn't fair, believe me I know that.

Edited by Ballerinamom2girls
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I have to agree with ballerinamom2girls-- While casting can certainly seem unfair at times, I think bringing in someone from the outside to make all the casting decisions could be a recipe for disaster or at least a lot of strife. Perhaps having an outsider participate and give input because they might have a fresh eye, but I would not want that person to completely control the casting.

 

That said . . . that's kind of how summer intensive auditions go . . . dance your heart out for a stranger for 1.5 hours and your in or out based on that (and sometimes some "resume" info and photos). :nixweiss:

 

I do think casting is different though, and think those that know the dancers ought to have at least some input. Just my 10 cents. :yes:

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So a child who shows up to class every day late, with messy hair, and is disrespectful in class, could get Clara because she dances well for one hour for an outside judge? .

If the dance has the look the AD/adjudicator is looking for to give life to his vision----yes, that's who will be cast. Dancers will get used to it. Parents have a much harder time----but need to get past it so the DKs can learn how best to cope. It may be the first time, but it won't be the last time.

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Work hard kids! But just remember all your hard work doesn't REALLY matter when it comes to the one performance opportunity you get each year! Harsh lesson to teach children :/

 

How do you teach your children this? How do you motivate them when their hard work doesn't pay off? I'm really asking...I haven't been in the ballet world for very long.

Edited by Ballerinamom2girls
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I understand the frustration, believe me I do, but it depends on how you define the hard work paying off. If the payoff is just getting the role DK wants, then yes, hard work will have been for naught. But that's true in a lot of fields. Many of my friends are research academics who spend months of their lives writing 20 page grant proposals that are declined for funding because the agencies can only fund a handful, and there's not enough money to fund even all of the very best ones. I come from a theater background, where I've lost parts, even having given the better audition, because another actress was a better height to compliment the leading man. The list goes on....

 

But if you define payoff by learning something new, or improving technique, or getting increased exposure, or a good reputation in the studio, then it's easy to see what the payoff is. As dancemaven pointed out, if our DKs walk this path, they're going to have to accept this as a fact of life. DD didn't get the roles she wanted in either the fall or spring production last year. She was very upset, especially since there was the hint of unfairness to the casting. She subsequently worked very hard all spring, summer, and now into the fall. She may still not get the part she wants in this year's Nut. In fact, we are both preparing for that likelihood. However, I have had both faculty members and administrative level people at the school comment to both DD and me on how hard she works and how much she's grown. That is a payoff I think.

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I can assure you that this also happens quite a bit in the 'real world'. This is a valuable life lesson, no matter what your child chooses to do. It's frustrating to kids and adults alike! I can't tell you how many jobs I've lost to the big boss' drinking buddy. :wallbash:

 

I would say after many years of casting - some good and some disappointing - my DD has learned to roll with the punches pretty well.

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