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Trainee /2nd Company Article


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Interesting article - there seems to be a real difference between trainee positions that you actually pay for ( which seems to be a continuation of the school but with more company access etc)  others that have some stipends, pay for shoes and 2nd company positions - insight from parents of former trainees or 2nd company members?


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Seems there are two distinct things - Professional TrainING Program and becoming a trainee.  

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Yes, there is quite a difference. And even the title can be exactly the same. Dd was a trainee at a company where the trainees were the top level of the school and paid tuition.  Others may call that a professional training program. This place called them trainees. It is not necessarily anything different. 

In contrast, she followed that as a trainee in a company where the trainees are essentially the lowest rank in the company. Like everyone else in the company, they take company class, are called to rehearsals, given a shoe allotment and other items and paid a tiny bit of money. 

It would be nice if there were uniformity but there is not. The article describes the typical situation with trainees as tuition paying students, second company members as paid dancers and apprentices as the lowest rank of the actual company who are also paid. But, from dd's audition season a year ago, I am aware that there are apprenticeships that are unpaid and apprenticeships that are essentially the same as her second trainee position. There are second companies that pay tuition (at least one that she came across though I do not recall which one at the moment).  And then, what you know about a company's tiers this year may change very much the next year as the company evolves. 

This living in limbo can be frustrating. I am sure I am not alone in seeing talented dancers move on from a performance based career because they are unable to break out of limbo within a few years. 

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Thanks MelissaGA, I appreciate your insight. As my dd will be auditioning next season, we are already trying to get a feel for what’s ahead ...  since every road is different there is no telling where she will end up but she will have to consider all possibilities .

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I will agree with the true to life description of "limbo" outlined in this article.  As the school AD reminded my DD recently, the first "professional" job appears to be the "hardest."

But from reading the post grad discussions throughout BT4D, I'm not sure this "limbo" is anything new.  What I don't know is if it has been "extended" beyond a year or two.

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3 minutes ago, Eligus said:

What I don't know is if it has been "extended" beyond a year or two.

Will be interesting to see... or if anyone here is experiencing this in the past few years

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It's really a shame.  These poor dancers aren't even given a chance to develop into mature dancers if they're in their mid 20's before they even get a corp contract.  The ballet world is more brutal than ever.

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There is a wide variety in these type of programs, as others have noted.  The key is to do your research and have a realistic understanding of what the chances are of actually being hired into the company, assuming that is the dancer's goal.  Even in tuition-based trainee programs, there is often a divide, with some dancers paying full freight and others on full merit scholarship.  Not to sound harsh, and I'm sure there are exceptions, but if a dancer is being asked to pay tuition in a program where some girls are on scholarship, it's important to understand that the primary focus is going to be on the dancers on scholarship, because those are the dancers that the school/company is most interested in as company prospects.  Which is not to say that a dancer paying tuition cannot possibly spark the interest of the company AD during his/her time as a trainee, or that trainees on scholarship typically get company contracts.  In DD's case, she completed a trainee program with a large company on scholarship and received ample encouragement during the program, but ultimately did not get a company contract.  And yet, after auditioning with other companies, she was willing to accept another "trainee" position because trainees at this company were essentially the lowest rank in the company, there was no second company, and the company had a good track record of hiring its trainees.  So she spent one year as a trainee, essentially performing as an unpaid corps member (though with shoes and other company perks), and was hired at the end of that year.  

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Great info NYCMom  , you confirmed what I was thinking ....I’m happy for your dd and it shows that she had the commitment and obviously the talent to keep going and moving in the direction that was right for her 😀. Thanks for sharing, it really will help as my dd navigates this world.

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I have to say that I find the the AD of Nashville Ballet, who is quoted in this article to have an interesting perspective. He states that 70% of the company have gone through NBII, but what he  fails to mention that, at this time only 27%  (6/22) of the NB II dancers made apprentice. 

22 Company Dancers

6 apprentices

22 in NB II

If NB were to employ the NB II dancers into it's company, at the current rate (6/year), NBII would need to be a nearly 4-year gig. 

He alludes to this when talking about asking people to stay on for a 3rd year.  “If you are receiving positive feedback where you are and are offered a chance to stay another year, consider sticking it out. If  you can stay on, it is better," explains Vasterling. “I am looking for someone who is committed to the art and the field and also interested in fulfilling that commitment with Nashville Ballet."

What I think a little bizarre about his statement about "committed to the art," is that he is asking people to have someone else support them or try to support themselves as a barista. I guess that's  his idea of committed???? But it feels to me like this is a little out of touch with reality. 

I think that with these smaller companies (like Richmond, and others) you just have to look at the budget and the size of the organization and what they can do NOT at the number second company members they have.  They just don't have the $ to employ very many people.  


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Ballet1310-not sure if you've seen these, but several years ago, we posted some additional information when the Trainee forums were changed from most being bridge programs to most being additional years of schooling and the top level of the school

Post Grad Training Option

Deciphering 2nd company/Apprentice

Why did we separate the Trainees from the Paid 2nd company/Apprentices?

And here is a discussion we had when that article first came out. 

Learningdance-Not necessarily about the NB2 comments in the article, but have had a conversation before where we discussed that 4 years is pretty much the expectation these days for most and that doesn't include those who go to college first before starting the audition process.   While the title is Finishing years: How many do they need?  We got more into what it actually was for most. 

In your calculations, you have forgotten to include those not asked to return after a 1st year, or those not asked to return after the 2nd year, etc.  Or those who decide after a year in Trainee ranks that they no longer want to dance.  Or that every person promoted from Trainee to Apprentice gets asked to remain as an Apprentice.  The hiring process is ever changing based on who is available to be hired, who has stalled in their progress, who has exceeded expectation in their progress and what type of dancers is needed along with the budget available.  I know you are aware of this, but I am just noting that it was left it out of your numerations which appear to say that 6/22 was 6 out of the exact same 22.  It isn't usually.   

What should be most important is seeing a track record of movement through the process, not an expectation that all 22 who started out would end up in any one company within 1-4 years.  It is also important when tracking the numbers to add in any Trainees or Apprentices who may not have been promoted through a specific company but who did in fact secure employment for the next season somewhere.  I would encourage anyone looking at programs other than their absolute dream programs to make sure that there is movement from those ranks to the company as a rule.  There will always be exceptions to any rule, but just be sure that you are looking square in the eye whether you have any shot at all within a given program or not. 

For all who are getting closer to this point in the journey.  Please, be sure that you take time to just scroll through the titles in the Post Grad, Trainee/Apprentice General Discussion part of the forum.  They are for the most part alphabetical by topic area.  So many of those conversations were during the transition time from Trainee programs being more Bridge programs to them being more top level of the school.  Much was hashed out during those older threads as people actually went through the process of seeing what they had worked for was not what was currently happening.  It is a virtual road map for you and yours.   Upon looking for the threads I've linked to here, it gave me a good bit of pleasure to remember the many people who documented their questions, answers and dancer/parent journey.  So many of those speaking either have currently working professional dancers or recently retired ones.  If you find something you'd like updated, the easiest way to do that is to add to those threads.  This sends notifications to those who commented on it before and they may come in to give additional experiences, or it also let's others who have not found the same help, see that it might be here for them already.  It is not so much that we mind the new threads, but since we would end up combining similar ones later (or need to), it helps us if you just put them there to begin with so that when you are no longer in the journey YOUR information becomes part of the history and wisdom.  :)

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Yes to everything.  We are in the middle of it now with DDs finishing up their first year in a two-year, tuition-based trainee program with what I consider to be a large company (probably top ten with sizable budget growth in the last few years but it's hard to tell since you have to wait for tax reports which lag at least 18 months).  

One note they have made is that a tuition-based program at a larger company, in their eyes, has been better for them than a non-tuition or stipend based program at a smaller company.  One of their current classmates left a smaller company's studio company which pays a meager, but still pays, part-time salary.  DDs were interested in this other program so were very interested to talk to this classmate about her comparative experience.  The general thought was that the caliber of dancer and training is much higher at the bigger company and she's improved more by, what some might consider, stepping backward.  

Also, DDs have not seen a strong preference for the scholarshipped dancers over the tuition-paying dancers.  Maybe a little in casting at the beginning of the year when those on scholarship were more of a known entity as many of the scholarships come from competition performances.  But as the year progressed, it has been talent and hard work that wins out.  I've been very pleased with the ethical approach to everything at this company so it might be more a reflection of this company and other places might differ. 

And oddly enough, my biggest complaint is that the company doesn't use their trainees as unpaid corps like most places do.  I have found myself wanting DDs to be cast more in company productions but the rep and size of the company don't warrant that.  Next year's rep does include two runs that should necessitate larger corps, so the trainees may get more mileage with the company next season.  DDs were lucky to get a one-month paid guest contract to do corps work at a smaller company during Nutcracker because the big company doesn't really use their trainees extensively in that manner and was able to orchestrate the guest arrangement through faculty and artistic leadership connections.   

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One note they have made is that a tuition-based program at a larger company, in their eyes, has been better for them than a non-tuition or stipend based program at a smaller company.

I agree with this but it is comparing apples to oranges instead of apples to apples.  There are so many roads to Rome that no one way will work for everyone.  It was interesting at my Senior's College Signing Day at her school.  Each Senior who had made a decision and received their final acceptances was given a few questions to answer.  So many of the kids wanted to be Veterinarians or Physical Therapists.  But it was also amazing to hear how each one was taking a different route to get to that same goal.  Each with a little bit of strategy towards which pre-degree would put them in a better position come entry to PT school or actual Vet school.  As we say around here in regards to training, do the very best you can for your time, dollar and circumstance to find the very best instruction you can.  But don't feel badly if your circumstance and qualifiers don't allow for the top of everything.  Many roads to Rome and many ways to dance. 

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I am going to add a wrinkle to this discussion, and the idea that when it comes to researching trainee programs, one should investigate how many trainees a particular school/company promotes to it's own Company.  There is a large Company that I am very familiar with that likes to brag about how many of it's Company members have came through their trainee program.  In looking at dancer's bios, many of them state they "came up through the trainee program", which would lead someone to believe that the Company actively promotes from within their own trainee program.  This is not necessarily the case.  In recent years, there has been a trend for the AD of the Company to bring in a dancer that he scouted out from other programs, have them spend a relatively short period of time in the (usually two year) trainee program, and then award them an Apprentice contract. So contracts are essentially being awarded to dancers recruited by the AD from outside of the trainee program, however someone looking at the program from the outside would be led to believe that trainees have a good track record to achieving contracts with the Company.  I feel for the other trainees, who spend two years paying tuition and working their hardest, most of whom chose the program primarily because it looks like such a good odds for being considered for the Company.  I am guessing this is not an isolated practice.

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No, not an isolated practice sadly.   It is important to do diligence in your research for that as well as where dancers actually trained prior to their last year or two to get a better picture as well.  

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