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Ballet Talk for Dancers

2022-2023 Second Company, Apprentice, Trainee Congrats thread


Miss Persistent

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The purpose of this thread is to congratulate those who have accepted a paid positions with a professional company or are furthering their training in a company training position such as a Bridge program that falls halfway between company and school.  This does not include those that are simply a transition to the top level of a Company school.  In all of these positions there will be some sort of pay be that pointe shoes, pay per performance , or a full company or 2nd company contract. This thread is for those who have made the transition from student to professional because of the contract status with the actual company.  Some Trainee programs will meet these standards and others will not.  If you are unsure, instead of posting that in this thread, please pm one of our Moderators.

If you are the parent or dancer whose journey is documented in prior years, please feel free to update with your dancers current situation, changes along the way, be that still dancing, going back to school or fully engaged in a new career.  Those questions will be italicized in this form.  

Feel free to either write the information in paragraph form or use the guideline we've developed over time.

So as coined by one of our members, Let the "Contractuballetions" begin:

(Sample form)
Gender:
Main/Most recent training: (ex. small local school, small company affiliated school, residency, etc. Do not list the program unless you want to)

Level of school completed: high school grad, partial college, college grad
Audition method: SI audition, Company Class, Cattle Call, Video, YAGP, etc.
Position granted: Secured Trainee position as school, Trainee as company, Apprentice with pay or without, Corp, Soloist, etc.
Position process/progress: promoted from Trainee, promoted from Apprentice, from "outside", 2nd year in same position, etc.
If Trainee: School Trainee, Bridge Trainee or if 2nd company does it function as school/company
Location of company: US, Canada, Europe, etc., not the actual city or company itself unless you'd like to share
Was this contract offered at a competition or because of competition attendance? Yes/No, explain if necessary

What words of wisdom would you offer those coming behind you about your journey or what you've learned being in the journey?

If "graduated" on to college, other careers, teaching, other positions after dancing professionally for a time, etc.  Please share that path and wisdom from it:   

Anything else you'd like to share about the actual journey:

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Gender: Female
Main/Most recent training:  moved home during covid (we just couldn't stomach the thought of paying for questionable dancing for two DDs.  Most of their friends who stayed at companies in less than full company positions were absolutely miserable at least the first year of covid, if not both years.  So many have moved on.).  Trained privately with a coach well known for working with the competition elites (which DDs are not) and it was a game changer for both of them.  Attended 2020 Jacob's Pillow virtual program.

Level of school completed: high school grad
Audition method: Company Class
Position granted: Secured Company Apprentice position with pay.  Enough to cover rent.  Company is small and there was no turnover in company positions so apprentice was offered.
Position process/progress: new to company
Location of company: Midwest US
Was this contract offered at a competition or because of competition attendance? No, DD has never competed

What words of wisdom would you offer those coming behind you about your journey or what you've learned being in the journey?

It is a long and expensive journey.  I wasn't sure if covid was going to put an end to DD's dreams but she has persevered.  Moving home during covid was a risk but the cost of staying in this limbo world between student and company member was just too much (DD has a dancing twin sister as well so we have expenses times two).  She moved home and got a part time job and discovered a passion for interior design in addition to her passion for dance.  But she still wanted to pursue dance and is probably in the best shape she has ever been in.  It has not been easy to cobble together adult classes, gym sessions, a small makeshift conference room at my office turned studio, private studio rentals.  The real game changer for her was meeting an amazing coach who really helped keep the dance passion going.  Discovering that she has another passion outside of dance was very freeing and she happily talks about her plan B now. Equally important was finding a close knit group of friends outside the dance world.  Both things have been amazing from a mental health perspective.  Being so immersed in nothing but dance was unhealthy for her and now she is a happier, more well rounded person.  

DD left home for a traineeship with a fairly large AGMA company at 18.  Spent two years there then moved on to a midsized AGMA company as a trainee but was cast very well - equivalent to second company members.  Then covid.  Hindsight, what would we do differently?  I don't know because each move seemed right at the time.  But I do think there is wisdom in looking at smaller companies sooner.  I always thought that it was best to take the opportunity in the biggest company available but even those companies only keep and promote a few each year.  So then you jump to the next best place and so on until the right place sticks.  Would it have been better to have landed in a paid position at a smaller place at a younger age?  Maybe.  That's been my wondering lately and my "something to think about" for those of you with this journey ahead of you.

And it really has so much to do with who you know.  I think DD finally realizes the value in connections as the AD at her new company knows her because he was a principal dancer at her first trainee company.  She had a really good audition season.  Talked to often, invited to multiple invitation only auditions but in the end there are so few open positions.  But you just need that one place to say yes.  So audition everywhere and often so you can be in the right place at the right time.

Also, it's important to decide how bad you want it.  If your dancer only thinks the top tier will do, then go ahead and get out now unless they are truly exceptional and that gilded path is laid out for them.  Sounds brutal but it's honest.  Do you want to dance at a top tier company and be insta-famous or do you want to dance period?  And how much are you willing to invest mentally and financially?  It's not easy to do one audition season, let alone two or three.  It's brutal mentally and crazy expensive.  We are fortunate enough to be able to continue to support DDs into their early 20s.  It's important to know how long you can sustain that level of support and be honest with your dancer about it.   

Good luck to all!!  

(I'll be back in another month of so with other DD's update as she finalizes plans for next year)

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Congratulations, Mom2two! That is really great news to hear. There's been so much angst and sacrifice and uncertainty the past two years, and I love to hear stories of growth and success in the face of all that. Thanks so much for sharing!

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Gender: Female
Main/Most recent training: Residential pre-pro, not company affiliated
Level of school completed: High school grad - class of 2022
Audition method: Dancer attended a regional SI audition, afterward was invited to submit an audition for Studio Company, submitted a video audition (in person auditions were held alongside company auditions) 
Position granted: Studio Company - it is a tuition-free program and dancers are provided shoes, tights and foundation items for company performances
Position process/progress: Joining from outside, will be first year with this program
If Trainee: Studio Company is technically part of the school but dancers do not pay tuition and can attend the summer intensive at no cost
Location of company: United States    
Was this contract offered at a competition or because of competition attendance? No
What words of wisdom would you offer those coming behind you about your journey or what you've learned being in the journey? It’s been a very expensive journey to this point and even though the position is tuition-free, it is still expensive to help her setup an apartment, etc in a new city. We have had very open and honest conversations with our dancer about what we can provide financially on this journey so that there are no surprises on her end (or ours). 

I also think it’s very important for your dancer to have a realistic understanding of their own strengths/weaknesses and where that may be a bonus or a hindrance in the greater ballet world, this includes things out of the dancer’s control like height, body proportions, etc. This stage is very tricky for both parents and dancers to navigate because there is no consistency between programs - a trainee at one program could come with a stipend while trainee at another is tuition based. My dancer spent quite a bit of time researching post-grad opportunities and prioritized the programs she wanted to attend *before* any offers came in. She was lucky enough to be offered what was her top choice on that list. She has many peers who only aimed for the stars but wouldn’t settle for a moon landing and now they are scrambling trying to find a spot for the next season. 

We are very excited for this next step of my dancer’s journey but we are also very grounded - she hasn’t “made it” yet, but she’s made it to the next step. Forward progress is a win.

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25 minutes ago, L_One said:

Forward progress is a win.

Excellent perspective, L_One.  Congratulations to all!

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@mom2twoand @L_One Congratulations to you and your dancers!

Thank you for your thoughtful comments about your dancers’ paths thus far. I find it really helpful as I think about future options for my own daughter.

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Congratulations @mom2two and @L_One !!  You have done a great job supporting your dancers.  Congratulations to you all !!

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Gender: females (twins)
Main/Most recent training: Both daughters have been trainees (tuition-based) for two years in a regional company-affiliated school.

Level of school completed: high school grad (homeschool)
Audition method: Cattle Call company audition (170 dancers) held at the company.
Position granted: Both DDs secured paid studio company contracts, paid hourly for whatever time they are called to rehearsals or performances.
Position process/progress: from outside
If 2nd company does it function as school/company: functions with the company (they take class with company, not part of the school)
Location of company: US
Was this contract offered at a competition or because of competition attendance? No, daughters only did YAGP once several years ago. Don't believe it had any bearing on this offer

What words of wisdom would you offer those coming behind you about your journey or what you've learned being in the journey?

I'm not sure what words of wisdom to share, since so much of this industry is basically a crapshoot! I can tell you the path DDs took, so far, but I know everyone will have their own paths. DDs left home at 17, almost 18, to attend a full day company-affiliated training program for high school age students. (They had already graduated from homeschooling - they were always homeschooled.) The next year they went to a graduate program in a large regional company. They were only there about 6 months before COVID shut things down. They were super lucky to have started early with auditions, due to scheduling availability. They had just finished auditions for the year about a week or two before shutdowns started. They moved home to finish out the year on Zoom, but were then able to attend in person for the summer and the next two years with their new company. It was so hard, especially that first summer and first trainee year, where dancing was all masked, all in tiny pods of dancers, standing 10 feet apart at all times, with no performances except a small Zoom demonstration at the end of the year. The dancers had very limited socialization and recreation outside the studio, due to everyone needing to minimize exposure to the virus. The second year was gradually much better, and after Nutcracker they were able to dance without masks and begin normal choreography and pas training. They were able to do lots of performing in Nutcracker, and to do Romeo and Juliet with the company, and put on a wonderful end of year performance. This past year really rekindled their love of dancing, and they are excited to get to continue.  

I did ask my daughters what they thought they've learned so far or what has been helpful to them. They said they thought it was really important to try to put yourself in a position to have as many opportunities as possible. This gives you more rolls of the dice, and also takes some of the pressure off of each particular audition/company class, etc. It is expensive to do that, though, so that's something everyone has to balance as best they can. But basically, you can't get a job that you haven't auditioned or sent materials for, so go for it as much as possible. They also feel that doing a lot of auditions has been helpful in terms of experience. At first it was particularly discouraging to be in a room with so many great dancers and they couldn't help wondering how they could ever be picked for anything. But what they think that they have learned from doing this quite a few times is:

- At every single audition they've attended where they made it past the first cut, they saw dancers they thought were better than them who were cut first. ADs are going to pick the "best" options they see, of course...but everybody thinks different things are the "best", and you honestly don't know what they are looking for. So don't just count yourself out if you don't feel like you are the best dancer in the room, in your judgement. Keep fighting to do the best work you can.

- Dancing OK is not good enough. It feels like a big strategy switch from summer intensive auditions, where you are often just trying to not make mistakes, not do anything to disqualify or embarrass yourself, not take risks, to always look like you know what you are doing. For SI's the middle of the pack is often just fine. For company jobs, DDs have really come to think you have to GO for it and show your strengths, your ability to take risks, and to handle mistakes professionally or make the best of things when they don't go as planned. Would they like to not make mistakes? Yes! But showing potential strengths for artistry, technique, musicality, etc. are just as important, if not more so, than dancing a perfect, but just ok, class. I guess what I'm saying is, don't try to be perfect and tie yourself in knots. Aim for dancing in a way that is interesting, intriguing, show you are someone they would want to work with, professionally, and make sure you show the things you do best. Even that strategy could be a gamble, because of course it is possible this particular AD wants someone perfect and cautious. But that does not seem to be the case very often, from what DDs have observed. It is possible that in many of your auditions your risks will not pay off - that's why they are risky. But if you don't take the risks, you also don't have the possibility of having things come together and pulling it off the way you want so that you can shine. And sometimes you get an opportunity when it isn't even your best class, because ballet is weird.

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Great advice from you and your dancers - thank you @dancerdancer and congratulations to your young ladies! How exciting to go through this time with a sister!

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Thank you, CourtneyP!  It is certainly an interesting experience to do this with a sister, with many pros and cons, heartbreaks and triumphs!

All three of us agreed with all the excellent advice from Mom2two and L_One and were just thinking of other things to add. It can get a bit tricky, because sometimes you really don't know exactly why you have been successful or unsuccessful at some points in this art form. So I guess we all just share what we think has helped move us along in the journey, or at least helped manage the ups and downs of the process. :) 

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Great advice for sure dancerdancer and congratulations to your two! Wishing them a wonderful season.

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Congratulations to your daughter, as well, L_One! 
 

To forward progress!

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Wise words from all of you.

It is a challenging walk for parents at this point. We are 7 years with DD in midwest/southern companies and very grateful for the opportunities she has been given. Each year presents new decisions and growth that I know will serve her well now and in the future after her ballet career. Yes, there are disappointments and obstacles, but each one has stretched her faith, her goals, and perspective in a good way.

Enjoy this season of life, it a special gift!

 

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Gender: Female
Main/Most recent training: Residential pre-pro, company affiliated
Level of school completed: High school grad - class of 2022
Audition method: Dancer attended an SI audition and was invited to the studio for a second-round audition
Position granted: Trainee - tuition-free, small stipend for performances and small shoe allotment
Position process/progress: First year in program
If Trainee: School Trainee, Bridge Trainee or if 2nd company does it function as school/company: bridge trainee
Location of company: midwest/south 
Was this contract offered at a competition or because of competition attendance? No
What words of wisdom would you offer those coming behind you about your journey or what you've learned being in the journey?

I agree with the many nuggets of wisdom offered above. For example, this industry really is a "crapshoot," as @dancerdancer states, so it is important to not place too much weight on the results of a single audition and not to allow yourself to be too negatively impacted by a rejection. In many cases, a rejection can be because of the company's very specific needs at that time, and the "best" dancer in the room, technique-wise, is often not the dancer who is chosen. That is why, as others on this thread have indicated, it's important to really put yourself out there and audition widely. My dancer has some peers who are very specific about where they want to dance, e.g., the company must perform a Balanchine Nutcracker, it must be located in a particular state, etc. etc. Because this profession is so competitive, most dancers must be open to a wide variety of possibilities. 

I agree with others, too, that it's very hard to know what the best choice will be (if you have a choice at all). My dancer was offered an apprenticeship with a very small company and instead decided to accept a (tuition-free) traineeship with a larger company. We certainly don't know, at this point, if that was the best choice, but it felt right for us. You really have to do your research, but even then, deciding which option is best can feel like a total shot in the dark. In her case, the company seemed interested in her, she enjoyed the auditions, and she felt that she would fit into the company style and aesthetic. We've told ourselves that if she is unhappy, she can always audition and go somewhere else the following year and it wouldn't be the end of the world. 

Congratulations to everyone whose dancer has found a place to land for the coming year, and best wishes to everyone who is navigating this very challenging "early career" period!

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