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Ballet Talk for Dancers

When they want to come home


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I apologize if this should be in a different forum.

My 17 yr DD has an honorary position in a second company ~1200 miles from home. She is also working on completing her senior year online. She had attend the SI for this company 2 years in a row and had the time of her life.  Since arriving for the 2nd company, she has not felt like she has fit in with the rest of the company.  She is the youngest and most are 19+.  She is only being cast in non dancing type roles or as an understudy so she feels that she is getting overlooked.  In speaking with folks there she gets " you are young and its your first year"  She does not feel like she is dancing enough to fully prepare her for the next level.  She has 1-2 classes in the morning and then rehearsals that she attends as an understudy.  She works on her school work at night so attending academy classes is difficult.  It is getting to the point that she is reconsidering her decision of a career in dance.  She has other companies in mind that she wants to audition for before finally pulling the plug on it.  The issue is does she finish the season (through May) or does she make a clean break after Nutcracker shows are over?  She is talking to the director and other teachers to help her make the decision.  Has anyone had similar experiences and can provide some pros, cons or guidance?  A part of me says push through it, another says come home.  We are looking at what the spring season holds in terms of potential dancing vs what she can do at home to prepare for auditions, etc.  I don't want this to be what destroys her passion for dance but wonder if this is true "real-life" in the dance world.  

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I believe this is indeed real life in the dance world for a newbie in a company. Or at least it is not unusual. 

Dd is in her first year of company life, starting very much at the very bottom. She is also one of the youngest in the company.  First show was fabulous for her. It was mixed genres with outside choreographers and she did very well with casting.  Second show, she was honored to be second cast for somewhat featured roles in 2 out of 3 pieces. That is, until a few weeks in when she learned that "second cast" in this case meant understudy. She also heard the "you are young and it's your first year" from those who were trying to help support her. Dd realized that only being an understudy meant that she needed to dance as much as possible whenever she could because otherwise she would only have a daily class. She danced on the side, full out, as much as humanly possible. She learned other parts that she was not assigned to learn initially so she could keep working throughout the rehearsals. She danced full out in the studio during the breaks. It was not unnoticed. There were a few times when she was asked if she wanted to go in for a certain dancer in rehearsal and she was obviously ready to do so.  I did ask her if she would have rather just had one of the small ensemble parts. She feels that she got so much more out of the rehearsal period this way than she would have had she just been cast in the corps. She ended up learning both the soloist level and corps spots. She was naturally nervous going into performance casting for the next show, Nutcracker, now understanding that rehearsal casting is not the same as performance casting. However this time, "second cast" actually meant second cast. She ended up with some roles in every cast and has already been told that she should expect to be used for the roles that she was understudying  as the season goes on (roles that don't have an actual second or third cast). 

Based on my n of 1, I would say that your dd is the one that has to take the reigns and make sure she gets what she needs and make the most of the situation. Dd has a similar situation in that she is still in school and will be for the foreseeable future as she is a very part-time college student. She's finding it more difficult to balance a single course than she did when she was a student trainee at a different company. 

There's also nothing wrong with deciding this was not the right situation for her at this point in time. Perhaps at this stage of the game, a second company or trainee program with more classes and actual training would be in her best interest vs spending time in an environment where she is finding it hard to grow and develop as an artist. She must be quite talented, having been selected for the second company in the first place! 

In your dd's situation, I think talks with the director and teachers are going to be vital in several ways. One is that she needs to know if an offer will be made for her to stay so she can plan for an audition season. If she is going to do auditions, how will she be able to organize that time away for travel for auditions? That may turn out to be a vital component of making the decision on whether or not to finish out the year. 

This ballet career path thing is really not for the feint of heart! So many struggles. 


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Being the youngest can be an additional adjustment.   At 17, she cannot go to many "social activities" and this may be where she doesn't feel she fits in.  MelissaGA has given you some golden advice of what she should be doing.   I would not consider leaving mid-year unless there is sickness, illness or she is mentally unable to continue.  If the 2nd company participates in Nutcracker, this is a huge bonding time since almost everyone is on stage and backstage at the same time.  There are usually a few gatherings of dancers, etc.  Have her withhold any decision making until after that time.  

In terms of discussing this with her teachers and director.  She should address only that which is related to her growth in this company.  What can she do to be sure she is getting enough dance/technical training still in?  Is understudying other roles even if they are not your roles allowed?  

The number of hours dancing does not have to be an issue if she is dancing smart.  Meaning that she is dancing to get what she needs to get to move her forward instead of waiting for someone to impart that into her (as in a teacher)  This is one of the biggest adjustments from student to company.  Student mindset is that someone else or a schedule is supposed to do all those things for you.  Company member must shift to how to continue to do those things for yourself.  Remind her that is some of the largest companies in the US, company class is not required.  So company members do what they need to do to stay in shape up to an including privates and open classes with prized teachers.  It is a learning process to make that shift and where the difference in school and job comes in.  Whether dance or other job, a former student can feel that.  

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Thank you both for your feedback.  

Momof3darlings - you are correct about social activities.  She does make the smart choices to stay away from those types of things.  Their second company is in pretty much every main company production as the company isn't very large.  She also talks with a lot of main company members as well but she feels like an outcast (maybe because of her age)  She would go to more classes if time permits and does not wait for anyone to schedule it.  Unfortunately, when she is at the studio from 8-6 everyday and has to work on schoolwork, that is where she struggles (she is taking 4 classes to finish up senior year).   Could she do better in time management?  Oh I am sure of it.  I think we all can do better on that.  And I am sure I am not told everything that goes on.  I have asked her would you feel different or be happier if you were getting cast and her answer was no.    

Melissa GA - I have sent your post on to her.  The 2nd company is actually run by the artistic director of the school, not the main company.  Not sure if that is typical or not.  They tell them they are students in a professional setting.  They don't have a true contract but more of a letter of intent and the program runs a full school year (Sept-Jun). They do provide services to make videos and help with resumes for auditions.  The thought process here is that companies do in person auditions because they have to per union(?) rules.  They get members from videos more.  I would have a tendency to disagree but I have no idea.  Regardless, she is near a large city that many companies hold company auditions (usually at the same time as the SI auditions).  Since they are usually on weekends, she could go to them easily.  


Thank you so much again!!!

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There's definitely a learning curve with going to school and dancing full time. The issue isn't doing them both but finding the time for everything else- laundry, cooking, time for herself and time to make and cultivate new friendships. I know dd still looks forward to having time to read what she wants, as opposed to what is on a syllabus. She is relieved that the semester is starting to wind down just as Nut is moving into full swing. 

If you were to read a college based forum, you'd find posts from parents talking about how their children don't feel like they fit in anywhere yet, haven't found a group of friends, etc. A common reply is "it's only the first semester. Give it time."  Something else to think about. Dd entered her trainee program (top level of the school) mid-year. 

The definition of a second company and a trainee vary greatly by location. Some second companies are part of a school, some are not. Some are paid, some require tuition. It's the same for trainees and even apprentices. It would be much easier for everyone if they could all agree on similar names and descriptions! 

In the spring semester of dd's training program (one where the trainees were the top level of the school), she was barely there at all. She was traveling to auditions, missing many Fridays and Mondays plus Saturday rehearsals. She also was invited to company class in various places which required mid-week travel. Her best results came from company classes and she got those invitations from sending out her photos and videos. She found, as have others who post here, that the auditions in the large cities led to SI invitations for further consideration and sometimes invitations to tuition based programs. 


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