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Recent information on shorter companies?

Taxi dance

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Does anyone have recent information on what companies would be a good fit for a 5'3 female ballet dancer trained in Vaganova? 

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  • Taxi dance


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It's funny you ask this. I had a discussion just the other day with another ballet mom and we were lamenting that most of the companies in the U.S. looked for shorter dancers.  I am interested to hear what people have to say.  From my observation, San Francisco definitely takes dancers 5'3" and below.  I believe Tulsa Ballet also has shorter dancers.  

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The mom whose daughter we were talking about is 5'7" and she was informed by many companies that she was too tall for them.  I don't know what the cutoff would be for each company but it is probably dancer specific.  For example, she was told that she was too tall for San Francisco Ballet, however I do know of a dancer who just joined at 5'9".  The other companies were Atlanta Ballet and Orlando Ballet.  ABT was considered a borderline company in terms of her height.  There were other companies but I don't remember them.  What I do recall is that we could only come up with Ballet West, PNB, and maybe Boston as companies favoring taller dancers.

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I’m a bit confused... I am now 35 years old and when I started to audition for companies I was always worried about growing too tall. Fortunately I was 5’5” and most companies wanted between 5’-5’6”. But that was years ago. I do not believe that is the case. It is not unusual for US companies to now have a Minimum height for dancers at 5’4” and above. There are still some shorter companies, Colorado Ballet, Alabama Ballet, Tulsa, and San Francisco off the top of my head. But I’m finding now as a teacher that 5’6 and 5’7” dancers have it the best of both worlds. I believe it is the same in Europe. Just my observations. So maybe that was also the mom’s experience? Things can change drastically in even 10 years.

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Sounds like a conundrum to me.  When dd was looking at pre-pro schools, we were specifically told by YAGP that she was too tall for many companies in the U.S.  Europe is a different story.  It seems the majority of those larger companies prefer taller dancers.  Seems like in the U.S., they still prefer the average height. One can say that we are generalizing, but that's about all you can do in this situation.  I've seen and heard many stories from dancers who auditioned this past year.  I've heard comments about being too short while auditioning in Europe but also too tall while auditioning in the U.S.  

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I think there are exceptions to every "rule" about each company, even if they put that rule in print (such as "dancers must be 5'4" to 5'6"). And then, once a new AD comes into place, the height trend may change and even fluctuate as they get a feel for who they want in their company. 

Last year was dd's first audition season. She is about 5'4". At the company classes she was invited to attend as auditions, she noted that she was usually (always may be more accurate) one of the shorter dancers in the room. 

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We found that there was quite a discrepancy between what schools and companies look for.  My daughter is only 5'2" and at schools she was always told she was too short, not too short to be accepted but just always being told her height would be an issue.  However auditioning for companies seemed to be a whole other story.  Not one company had an issue or comment about her height.  And her height did not stand in the way of her getting a company contract.  Her best friend who is 5'8" and a beautiful dancer has been let go in many auditions due to her height.  

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It has been our experience that while there are certain companies that seem to favor shorter or taller, many don't seem to be especially all one way or the other. I have seen tall dancers at Tulsa for instance, and short dancers at Ballet West. I would say as a general rule our experience has been that 'too short' would be under 5'1" and too tall would be over 5'8". I would however, never suggest to not consider anywhere just because you think you are either too short or too tall for them. The year you audition could be the year they are looking for someone your height. You just never know. 

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My DD is in MelissaGA's boat -- almost 5'4", but seems to me to be always one of the shortest, if not the shortest in class (and somewhat envious of the long legs of others -- grass is always greener).  It was particularly obvious in SAB's SI last year.  To my eye, she looked VERY short in that SI class.  I was surprised to read in Learningdance's posts above that 5'3" to 5'4" is considered average height in the U.S. (!!).  I've always considered my DD to be very short (at 5' 3.75") and always one of the shortest in her ballet classes.  I can tell you that she IS the shortest dancer among trainees at San Fran this year and one of the shortest in SF school classes.  However, I don't know how her height would compare with the majority/average of the SF company dancers.  (I was interested to read Monet's comments above regarding the differences between schools and companies).  As to the OP's request,  I can only say that San Fran hasn't YET seen her "short" height as an issue, but I recognize it's not the company decision, either (although I remain hopeful when I read that SF is considered a "short" company). 

I am guessing, however, that height is an easy and obvious characteristic to rule on when an AD is looking for the "periwinkle dress" (obscure reference to another BT4D post).  In other words, an AD could easily rule one way or another based on height, which has nothing to do with dancing technique or quality.  As Mobadt stated, "you just never know."  But I also understand trying to sort through, categorize, and possibly narrow down company auditions.

I would reiterate the suggestion to look at PA Ballet for vaganova, short(er) dancers.  I know a trainee there (accepted this year) who is more European trained, but not that much taller than my DD (I think she's around 5'6?  maybe slightly taller).  Good luck on your search, TaxiDance.

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Thank you to everyone for your comments.   Pennsylvania Ballet and Atlanta Ballet have confirmed no height requirements or preferences. Sounds like DD could use 1 more inch! LOL. I will post any more information learned. 

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This conversation is really in the eyes of the beholder (AD at a given space in time) and determined by a whole lot of external and internal things.  When looking at companies and their heights, it is important to look at their corp, their soloists and then their principals.  In addition, you need to look at trends in their men.  As an example, in DDs company the Principal women tend to be shorter.  However, the corp tends to be taller or a stairstep to taller.   Another company might like all the same visual height.  This can change in a heartbeat if the current hires of men are either taller or shorter, thus changing the intent of a specific audition season. 

Everything is about filling out a visual picture called the company and that is a never ending cycle.  In terms of whittling down an expensive audition season, the best thing to do is simply exclude those you know, in fact, have a preference that is posted.  Then guess on the rest.  

It is also important to take in consideration appearance.  Not all 5'2" dancers look alike on stage even if dancing side by side.  One might have longer limbs and the other a longer body.  Two dancers with those differences will look completely different on stage.  Same with two taller dancers. 

If you are currently auditioning for companies, the very best thing you can do besides see if they post or will share this information is to ask a dancer within the company.  A teacher may have a contact you can use.  They can tell you if the Corp and Apprentices are generally one height or a mix and they can tell you if there are shorter or taller dancers in the company in what capacity they are there.  If you are a new dancer, auditioning for Corp or Apprentice and those ranks are 5'7" then this will tell you alot.  It doesn't rule you out, but it does tell you the path you would need there.  So in other words, if a company tends to have shorter Principal dancers, but taller corp this totally may change your audition strategy.  However, if a company is not ranked then this may tell you something else.  

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Thank you Momof3darlings and everyone else:

This has been very helpful. DD won't audition for companies until next year as she is still a junior in high school but will audition for SI's and possibly second companies this year. I wanted to start compiling a list of possible places to check out knowing that things can change at any time and have to be constantly updated. Rather than just stick to the big SI's which she has done, I thought maybe she should also think about some that could be possibly better suited for her down the road and that may not audition in her home city. She is long and thin for her size and  actually looks taller so these have all been helpful things to think about. I could be overthinking this and jumping the gun, but I know next year will be stressful. Thanks again!

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