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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Past Links 2013-14


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Hey all!! For those of you that have taken ballet exams before, we created a short video using observational humour that we hope you can relate to and laugh at! Please check it out



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I can't quite believe that there are not enough talented 16+ girls around! Would be interested to know what others think.

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Victoria Leigh

Well, first of all it sounds like he is specifically talking about female dancers at the Royal Ballet not being up to dancing dancing with him! Now, I liked Carlos Acosta very much as a dancer, but I find this article somewhat offensive and quite unbelievable. And who came up with that ridiculous photo??? Those are not professional dancers, and certainly not representative of what he is talking about at all. And don't you love his idea to fix this by giving all the promising students scholarships? What world is he living in??? Give me a break. I think he needs to get out in the world and take a look at the dancers we have today, everywhere!

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I am the parent of a recent female graduate from the Royal Ballet School. (Our dd graduated 3 years ago). I can only hope that Mr. Acosta's statements were taken out of context in order to write this very sensational article.

The Royal Ballet school in London, which spawned Dame Margot Fonteyn and Darcey Bussell, confirmed Acosta’s observation. A spokeswoman said: “Our directors have found it more of a challenge to find really talented girls in the past few years. The wave of talented boys has continued as the myth that ballet is for girls is even more widely dispelled.”

The current director of the RBS is quite ill and I find it not only disrespectful but completely tasteless to attribute statements to "our directors" when she is completely unable to respond. I know the current director of the RBS well and I am certain she would be able to point out the talented students both young men AND young women that have recently and are currently training at the school. I am not a professional ballet person but I've seen the students perform and IMHO, both the men and women are beautiful dancers, even as students.

“If you find talented young dancers, then give them a scholarship – not just one or two people but all the talented dancers. That way we have more chance to deliver to the world the next Darcey Bussell or Tamara Rojo.”

Again, personal experience: The RBS is quite generous with scholarships. Our dd was offered a full, 3 year scholarship to attend. Unlike other schools where a generous scholarship identified the student as the very top of the class, each and every student there had some sort of financial support. Scholarships didn't even enter into "bragging rights", as we saw happen in dd's former school.


If the UK can’t produce female stars, we will have to import them. “If you don’t have talent in your own backyard, you must go and find it. Whether it comes from Italy, Nigeria or South America it doesn’t matter. We should do more to look elsewhere and give people a chance to flourish.”

Perhaps Mr. Acosta should take a look at the nationalities currently represented at the school as well as in the recent hires into the company. Mayara Magri from Brazil and a student of the RBS (scholarship award from the Prix de Lausanne) joined the RB last year. Leticia Stock (no relation to the current director) also from Brazil was hired into the RB a few years ago. Both are artists with the company. There are also a couple of stunning British female graduates recently hired into the company: Francesca Hayward graduated three years ago, trained at White Lodge and then upper school. She was recently promoted to First Artist. Five students from this year's graduate class received contracts with the company (a record number for recent years). One of them: Anna Rose O'Sullivan is also a White Lodge and Upper School student. She is a beautiful dancer with lovely lines and beautiful stage presence.


Acosta, an Olivier Award winner for Outstanding Achievement in Dance, suffered a blow when the great dancer Alina Cojocaru quit the Royal Ballet last week to join its rival, the English National Ballet (ENB). Acosta will star in and choreograph Don Quixote at the Royal Opera House this Autumn and Cojocaru was one of the very few ballerinas capable of delivering the female lead role.

I'm certain that Cojocaru's departure was a blow to Acosta's "Don Q," but isn't it the company's responsibility to cultivate the talented dancers and prepare them for lead roles? There are many talented women dancers in the Royal Ballet. Most of them trained at RBS. Admission to the school is highly selective for both men AND women. The training is top notch. The company chooses graduates based on needs and artistic vision that remain elusive for the students but must be understood by the management. Once chosen though, the company needs to cultivate the talent.

If the UK can’t produce female stars, we will have to import them.

I think the Royal Ballet is already doing this. Natalia Osipova was recently hired as a principal dancer. Rojo (his partner at RB before she left to become the director at ENB) is Spanish and was not a graduate of the RBS. Both are beautiful dancers and delight audiences but rather than implicate the RBS, perhaps the RB should take a look at the talent in the company and nuture the young women who would love to have a chance to grow as artists. A new graduate is rarely ready to jump into lead roles; that's what the process of promotion is supposed to supply for dancers. By hiring already established stars, (not unique to the RB) companies seem content to let others develop stars and capitalize on the efforts of others when they hire them as company members and not as guest artists. (Neither Rojo or Cojocaru were hired as principals with the RB right out of school. Both had experience and nurturing from other companies and rose quickly outside of the RB and also once with the RB).


And that Photo: Is not of RBS students. There is no way that students at RBS are allowed to take class in anything but their own uniforms and those are NOT RBS uniforms. I also do not recognize the studio as an Upper School studio. (I've never seen White Lodge studios so I can't comment on that).


Edited to add: Adam Sherwin is not a writer that I will look to for factual information after reading this article- especially after looking at THAT photo!

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Publications find stock photos of random subjects from their own stash. It's inappropriate and unkind that any photo of dancers was used to accompany this in the first place. On a side note, photo use by ballet schools could be a whole other thread...!

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The photo looks more like an open adult class somewhere than professional ballet school. I don't think any professional ballet school will let their students to dance on a laminate floor :ermm:

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Silly article, but interesting observation by Acosta.


I wonder what prompted him to say that, if indeed he did.


I agree that the photo is appalling. :o


Actually, we have heard this sentiment that "good" female dancers are becoming more of a rarity than "good" male dancers) a few times in the past year or so from other sources (on the continent, not in UK or USA).

These comments had absolutely nothing to do with the Royal Ballet School and company, though, but just thoughts from a few people who have been traveling around Europe and watching classes in companies. Not sure what to make of it, though.



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Interesting that you've heard this Diane. Maybe it's because dd has mostly experience with the UK and the US (but also 3 years in a European setting), but she's not seeing a lack of talented women. She still feels a lot of competition among the women ballet dancers for jobs: something just doesn't make sense.


Another few names about the statement that the UK and RBS aren't producing "stars" in the female ranks: Shiori Kase from Japan graduated from RBS in 2009 and was hired by ENB. She's beautiful and was just promoted to soloist. Then there's Elisa Badenes from Spain who graduated in 2009 from RBS and is also a stunning dancer. She was just promoted to soloist at Stuttgart. Perhaps RB has been overlooking the type of talent that would interest Acosta. Of course, he's not the director of the RB....

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I observed in the academy where I did teacher training, that the boys got a lot more praise than the girls and it was easier for them to move to the next level. Boys are rare but they exist and therefore they take everything that's male and can move a bit. They are much more selective by the girls. They had 10-years-old boys doing the audition there and they'd never ever been taken if they were girls. They get a lot more attention and they are trying to get everything out of these boys. With the girls it was just kind of, either you do it or we kick you out. It went on through the levels: Girls that weren't so pretty to look at were not casted in Nutcracker (not lack of talent!). They just did not cast nearly a whole level because they were...you know...those kind of teen-girls not looking so pretty. My hated and beloved didactics teacher once said "as a woman in dance, you have to be talented, stand on your toes and look pretty. A man, well, has to be talented but he has not to stand on his toes and look pretty" (and we had to give her right).


Therefore sometimes I think that schools or companies kind of "forget" about the girls. They are just there and working hard because there is so much concurrence. The boys get a lot more attention. Just saw it today in ballet on my summer intensive: there were 23 girls and 2 boys. The boys got about 80% of the attention and corrections. Schools and companies are responsible to build up there new stars. They should not forget about the girls.


Other than that, I disagree with the article.

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Weird article and I found the writer well out-of-touch in some areas but I nonetheless had a few questions:


1. It strikes me that the ballet world has less of a physical aesthetic for men than women. You see more variety in body types. Is this correct?


2. I wonder if the issues that he discusses reflect the British Pre Pro system that feeds the Royal Ballet. Are the schools properly delivering the RAD syllabus? Are the teachers well trained? Is this a commentary on the British system per se? I don't know that American companies really believe this. It seems that they have scads of women to choose from.


3. I cannot disagree with his assertion about black ballerinas. I think that he is right. And I certainly think that there are a lot of black women who would agree. That DTH interview was a good example.

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I thought his (clumsily-made/written) point about female dancers was something like: the degree of competition and pressure (internal and external) they face erodes the confidence needed to become full-fledged stars.


Not saying he's right... just offering an interpretation :nixweiss:

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Okay Gav, that makes sense. .. . It's the psychological skills that need developing.

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I agree, it seems to me that he was addressing the British Training system but I just don't think he is accurate. The Royal Ballet School (of which he is speaking) has both a lower school that educates and trains students 11-16 and an Upper School that educates and trains students 16- 18/19. The teachers are well-trained and the students are able to take and pass RAD exams but the curriculum is not strictly RAD. The acceptance rate for girls/young women into the RBS program is highly selective and the school is able to choose only the students with the most likely chance to be successful as professional dancers. Not all of the students (male and female) from the Lower School are chosen to continue into the Upper School program. Each year, the Upper School auditions thousands of students across the world to attend. The classes are small in size. The competition to earn a spot is fierce and those chosen are deemed to have the potential to be the best in the field (male and female) are given excellent technical and performance instruction and taught how to be "professional" in the working world of ballet.


When my dd graduated, she and her peers understood that they were not only expected to represent the school well as professionals but also excel in the field and finally to contribute to the genre in a meaningful way. To say that they lacked confidence might be correct for a few but most felt well-grounded in technique and experience as they began their careers. They all recognized that it would take a few years of experience to feel that they could be up to the challenge of dancing in lead, principal or solo roles but each of them knew that they had been groomed for this and aspired to progress through the ranks to become leaders in their companies.


I do think there is opportunity for ballet to become more diverse. One of the students that graduated with my dd from RBS and was taken by the Royal Ballet was born in Tanzania and is African/British. She is is the one who was promoted to first artist this year. She is lovely inside and out!

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Sensation sells, and this article is sensational(!), and I agree the photo is awful.


At the Prix de Lausanne this year, several judges/teachers observed the remarkable male talent present, and most of the finalists were young men. But that fluctuates per the Prix and per experienced judges/coaches. I can see, from my limited experience, and my dd's more broad experience, that there are plenty of wonderful young women artists to chose from all over the US, (from SI experience coast to coast), and in Europe, (from Prix, where several women were granted RBS scholarships, including one female prize winner from Brazil), and from Japan, where students were recruited from for dd's prepro.


It is tougher for young women, and much harder to get affirmation and encouragement in a sea of competitors, versus one or two. From personal experience, it also is psychologically freeing to get that affirmation which allows more risk taking and a happier, healthier dancer.

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I do think there is opportunity for ballet to become more diverse. One of the students that graduated with my dd from RBS and was taken by the Royal Ballet was born in Tanzania and is African/British. She is is the one who was promoted to first artist this year. She is lovely inside and out!

I agree..ask my DS who dances at a company school here in the US. He is now attending Dance Theatre of Harlem now is happier than he has ever been. As an aside and possibly another thread, refer to the number of folks who view or comment on DTH here in this forum. Are there any African American parents here?

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