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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Surviving the $$ Problem

Guest Lukayev

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Guest Lukayev

Hello all (after a very long break from posting)!


I just had a not-so-pleasant "conversation" with my folks, mostly about their non-supportive attitude toward my aspiration of dancing professionally. I'm always being told that at 15, 16 next month, my days are over and I can't possibly catch up with the rest, especially because I'm living in Hawaii. I mean, here I am working my butt off and making my video audition for the Kirov's SI where I can hopefully gain some ground in terms of technique and be considered for their year program (haha yeah right); all of my efforts and blood, sweat, and tears are apparently not enough to insatiate their disapproving minds. Anyway.


So the talking got around to the subject of education and finances. Because I'll practically be disowned once I'm out of high school, they were not so much concerned as using my somewhat precarious financial situation as a grounds for their argument. It's often said that ballet dancers aren't in it for the money, and something will always be compromised if one hopes to attain good status in a good company - my folks seem to think that that 'something' will be my education. So I ask Ms. Leigh or Mr. Mel, or any adult who's ever danced professionally, how did you tackle these two aspects of a professional dancer's life? I was thinking, perhaps balance my schedule of schooling with night classes, but I don't want to go to some community college after paying top dollar for Hawaii's most prestigious private school. And I don't really think it's possible for one to go on just a dancer's salary - there has to be additional work hours put into the day just so I can rest assured that I've got a place to stay and food to eat.


I'm not asking for very specific figures nor the exact way of how to get both a good education and have the honor of dancing onstage and being paid for it. I just need some sort of .. not really advice, but just some guidelines or some pieces of wisdom that I should think about before I really plunge myself into the dancing world. I mean, of course I really want to, but reality is reality and pretty soon I'm going to have to face it - might as well be informed beforehand, eh?


Any replies would be well-appreciated.

Au revoir!,

Luka :)

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Hi, Lukayev, and welcome back.:)


Guidelines? OK, here's #1 - get out of Hawaii for study. You may be functioning pretty highly for the area, but the isolation of the place doesn't let you see and experience the variety of things you need in order to build a base for forming a professional career. After all, if your career choice were to be the law, your parents would want you to study in California, or Vermont, where the bar examinations are beastly, and the licensing from those states worth even more than a Harvard Law degree, in the eyes of the profession.


Kirov/Universal is a good place to go, but examine your options, like Harid, where they also emphasize Vaganova, or even the unthinkable, a place that doesn't use Vaganova. If a method is good, it's good, and the end purpose of all teaching systems is to provide a finished dancer.


You don't necessarily need a program that includes both academics and specialized training in ballet, but some important schools, like the Rock School of the Pennsylvania Ballet, have a cooperative arrangement with a local private school to meet state educational legal requirements. There are others, too.


In New York, a lot of kids go to Professional Children's School, or Brooklyn Friends'. In all these situations, though, lodging becomes a problem that has to be faced, and I wouldn't have a kid living unchaperoned in a metro area.


So, first things first - let's get you into the mainstream, then we can address the other problems. Higher education can wait. (And in its own way, isn't full-time training in advanced ballet higher education?) Ms. Leigh, have you any other thoughts that can be of assistance?


(See why we don't allow discussions on sex, politics, religion or weight? We have enough trouble with just money!:eek: )

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Luka, nice to see you again :)


A career in ballet is an education in itself, throughout the training and the performing years. The travel part is certainly educational! This type of education does not necessarily prepare you for high paying jobs which require academic education, however many dancers are able to continue in dance as teachers, choreographers, directors, etc. The education for other areas, perhaps design or writing about dance as a journalist or a critic can be obtained during or after the performing years.


In terms of the higher education, this little story might help a bit with your parents. I had no higher education at all, and went directly into a performing career. I did, however, have invaluable training in teaching ballet, and always taught whenever there was a layoff or break in the touring and performing schedule. When I decided to stop performing and teach full time I was offered an Assistant Professor position in a major University Dance Department. My professional career was considered the equivalent of a terminal degree in dance, as this department was in the College of Fine Arts in this University, and they recognized that the professional experience could be more valuable than a piece of paper showing a degree.


I'm not saying that a college education is not important. It certainly is, especially today. My point is that it does not have to happen immediately upon high school graduation, and that it is not the only means to an end either.


In terms of leaving Hawaii and attending a professional school like Harid or Universal, Walnut Hill, NCSA, Rock, SAB, etc., I think it's probably a good idea. I would suggest that you audition for everything that you can. Try to attend an SI at one of these programs where you would have the potential to remain for the school year. In terms of money, certainly try for a scholarship. If you were able to do that, perhaps your parents would have more understanding and support for what you have chosen to do with your life. :)

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Guest Lukayev



Thanks to Mr. Mel and Ms. Leigh for your replies - in addition to reading them, I've been doing some thinking. But you know how thinking goes - sometimes it results in beautiful revelations, and sometimes it just makes you hungry for an apple.


As for the "getting into mainstream" thingamajig, I'm sure you'll all be pleased to know that I finished my Kirov SI tape so -- part I of the first step to immersing myself in the 'stream of main', check!


Crossing my fingers for luck!,

Luka Wooka Tooka

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Splendid, Luka. :)


Let us know how things develop. We care.

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