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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Company Types- How to define them?


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I have a terminology question and can’t seem to find a single source for the answer and it may be because everyone uses the terminology differently.  I have heard companies referred to as three letter companies, major companies, regional companies, and small local companies. There are probably some that are called differently that I am forgetting. 

What I’m hopining for is a definition of each and maybe an example.  I have read there are 5 or 6 3 letter companies.  I think I know two,  ABT and NYCB (but that is 4 letters?). What are the others?  Which category does a company like Ballet West or Nashville Ballet fall in? Major? Regional? Or small local company?  Is the differentiation set by how much the company budget is or by how many dancers there are in the company or some other criteria?

In the scheme of it all I guess it doesn’t really matter.  After all, a company is a company and as long as the contract is paid and dd makes a living wage... but it would be nice to know the difference when reading the threads.  So is there a thread that defines them? Or can someone define them for me?  Thank you!

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I think it’s very subjective and depends which part of the World you live in! 

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Then let’s say strictly in the United States for now. Maybe that will make the question less subjective? 

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In the US, the “three letter” companies typically refer to SFB, ABT, PNB, NYCB (yeah, I know, it’s a 4-letter, but . . . :shrug: ).  MCB may be in there, too, I don’t know.  Major companies would include those, along with probably Joffrey Ballet, Houston Ballet, Ballet West, the major Canadian and European ones we all know.  Regional companies would include Nashville Ballet, Washington Ballet, Richmond Ballet, etc.   That’s a rough generalization, there are no hard and fast lines at the edges or junctures and several of those I named in the major and regional categories may actually belong in the other or slide back and forth and belong in both.

In general, I have always considered it a matter of the extent of name recognition:  How far and wide does a company’s name recognition go?  How much influence does it have in the dance world?  

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Also, which companies travel , size of company , pay ( although not all major companies pay the same) - you may be paid more in a bigger city  but cost of living is higher so ....

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From what I remember, 3 letter more referenced SIs with companies attached, which is why NYCB was considered 3 letter.  The origin of the "nickname" was because of SAB as an SI.  However, as people used the references more and more, they merged to mean the companies we likely all would agree are the best classical companies in the US.  Because we usually say 5-6, then that ends up debating a few and whether they belong there.  

Regional companies originally who started in local metro areas and then joined Regional Dance America in it's early years. The Dorothy Alexander Concert Group was the beginning of the National Association of Regional Ballet when then became Regional Dance America.  Other companies began this way also:  Sacramento Civic Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Austin Civic Ballet, Washington Ballet, Phildanco, Boston Ballet and Dayton Contemporary are some names we know who started through this Regional Ballet movement.  As growth of these companies and touring and size increase of paid dancers most changed to either a Civic Ballet name or moving away from RDA in terms of membership but RDA merged more toward an organization of student companies or small companies with students and a handful of professionals.  This is not meant to be an exact description, but simply a general one.  

If you are looking for auditions and job related searches, number of dancers and budget are really better ways to go through the company info. We had a few members and moderators do this years ago.  Possibly it is time for a few of you to commit to updating this for yourself and for others to use.  Alot of this information can be found on Dance USA's website.  But key is that you need both the number of paid dancers and the budget amount in order to determine size.  Remember that in 2006 when the economy tanked many that we called large then reduced their rosters substantially and have just begun to regroup those numbers.  It also helps to look at budget over a couple of years to see if that budget has grown, stayed the same or reduced. When you see a reduction, this usually means trouble especially if those reductions occur several years in a row.  

Ballet companies with 28 week contract or more  (We would love for some of our Junior/Senior high school parents to champion a thread to update this information)

In terms of small, I would consider any company who pays their dancers per performance small.  Or one that has a season less than 28 weeks.  This means dancers have almost as many weeks off as they have on and this could be considered "part time" dancing in the larger scheme of full time jobs.  


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This so helpful!  I’ll read the links and then I’ll see if I can compile some data.   *rolling up my sleeves*

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Many of these terms are really just ballet colloquialisms, just used for convenience in conversation even though there is no uniformly agreed upon definition. 

It's sad to see that list of company budgets from 2002 because of the companies that no longer exist. 

It would be wonderful if a comprehensive list existed with details beyond budget. AGMA or not would be a nice addition. Health insurance along with pay would be good things to know. And as far as pay, one topic that dd heavily researched when she researched companies was the lower levels, which may not be what you are looking for here but did require some sleuthing. Are the trainees/second company/apprentices part of the academy or the company? Do they pay tuition? Are they unpaid? Do they get a stipend? Are they paid a salary? In dd's initial research, she and I were both initially surprised that even at AGMA companies, AGMA rules do not necessarily apply to the second company. 

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Members, can we take a pause on commenting on spreadsheet while the Moderators consult. 👍

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Posters, moderators politely asked that the spreadsheet requests be put on hold until we considered options. That was a moderating request.  

Going around that request behind the open Board is not appropriate.  

Any questions, etc regarding Moderating requests or decision need to go through the Moderators—not on the open Board per BT4D Rules and Policies.  Please observe those Rules.

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For the purposes of our site and this thread, and the request so that this information is present in a pay it forward way.  I will start a thread and ask that you simply help make lists.  While I appreciate the ease of spreadsheets and other similar formats.  The goal here is not for one person to do the work and share it in a way for discussion and for working together to pay it forward to and from all.  Thank you for the willingness to share a spreadsheet.  Let's do this in such as way that we can discuss things about what we find rather than simply printing and filing for personal use.  

Learningdance-the thread is locked because it was made a sticky after all the work by that group of parents.  It can still be copied to paste in a new thread.  I will open one for you all to do your work on.  


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