When you’re a dancer, sweet sixteen isn’t just a birthday milestone, it’s the age you start thinking of how to begin your career. You’re two years from high school graduation, even less if you’ve sped up your courses. At sixteen, you might even start flying out to company auditions to gain experience and get seen by artistic directors.
It can be pretty intimidating to get started though – How do you make a dance resume? How do you find ballet companies where you might be a fit and stand the best chance of getting a contract? How can you put together an awesome audition package with sophisticated videos and photographs that will really help get you a job?
Rachel Neville, author of the popular and thoughtfully made Leotard Buying Guide, is here to help with these questions. A former dancer, Rachel is now a well-known dance and movement photographer in NYC. She’s going above and beyond to create free resources for dancers crossing this point in their careers. In her latest effort, Rachel talks candidly about a each step in the process from researching companies to ensuring you are presenting yourself in the most effective way possible. Subscribe to Rachel’s blog to be notified of new videos as they are published, and check out the latest edition below.
Dancers, don’t miss an opportunity like this one. Boston Ballet’s lovely Shelby Elsbree joins dedicated Health Coach Jessica Spinner from The Whole Dancer for a pre-Nutcracker gear-up for professional dancers and serious students.
This online seminar will take place November 19, 2015, at 5pm PST / 7pm CST / 8pm EST – but even if you can’t make it, you’ll still get a copy of the webinar if you sign up!
Learn about mitigating seasonal colds, improving self-care, creating dance/life balance and ensuring you have the right fuel intake for your demanding schedule. Join live or watch it later at your convenience, just don’t miss it!
Gelsey Kirkland Ballet Studio Company is under the artistic leadership of Gelsey Kirkland and Michael Chernov, whose vision is to maintain an ensemble company capable of realizing diverse and compelling theatrical ideas through specialized, comprehensive training and direction. Contracts are typically 32 weeks.
The Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet is proud to announce that we will be holding an audition for our PAID Male & Female Studio Company positions and our year round professional and pre-professional academy programs.
When: Saturday, August 17th at 12:00pm
Gelsey Kirkland Academy
355 Broadway, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10013 (212) 600-0047
What To Bring:
Please bring proper audition attire, pointe shoes, and an 8×10 headshot along with an action shot in arabesque. $35.00 Audition Fee. DVD auditions are accepted.
If you have any questions or would like additional information, please contact Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet at (212) 600-0047 or by email: misha AT gelseykirklandballet DOT org
REMINDER: Please share your SI stories/reviews at Ballet Talk for Dancers, which archives this info for research by future students. If you are looking for info on an SI, make a free account there and you’ll have more info than you’ll know what to do with!
The 2012 summer audition dates are in! I can’t believe it’s been a year already! Time to start planning your winter audition schedule, and I’m here to help with tips and links for some of the best programs on the continent. Don’t forget to check out every program’s website for supplemental and alternative summer training programs, such as:
mentoring programs for one-on-one coaching
add-on weeks to boost program length
Be mindful of any pre-registration requirements for each audition. And be sure to have your calendar handy! Continue reading →
I am thrilled to see that PBS is making dance, particularly ballet, a big part of their fall and winter line-up. Starting this month, they will be airing programs from major American ballet companies that most of us would never have a chance to see otherwise. Kicking off the series is none other than Miami City Ballet, fresh from it’s blockbuster trip to Paris, with a mixed bill of crowd pleasing Balanchine and Tharp works on October 28. I don’t know about you, but I always prefer to see Balanchine performed by Balanchine style dancers, so I’m doubly excited for this show.
Later in the season on December 16, look for San Francisco Ballet’s newer ballet, The Little Mermaid, by John Neumeier – but remember they used the Anderson version of the story, not the Disney one. Local air times for both of these programs will be available at www.PBS.org as the dates get closer. Just click “TV Schedules” (on the black navigation bar) and enter your zip and provider to get your local schedule. Once there, the easiest way to pull up ballet programs is just to enter “ballet” into the guide’s search bar (not the “Search PBS” bar). Bring on the ballet, PBS!
Moscow Ballet is looking for students to perform with the company for its perennial classic Nutcracker in multiple locations across 22 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces. These openings are a unique opportunity for young dancers to gain audition and performance experience with a professional company at a young age. The company is looking to fill the following positions:
12 Party Guests (ages 8-11): 6 girls and 6 boys (or girls dressed as boys)
10 Mice (ages 8-11 or 12): No taller than 5’
12 Little Snowflakes (ages 7, 8 and 9): Must have ballet training
12 Angels (ages 8 to 11): Graduated heights from smallest to tallest; No taller than 5’
4 Butterflies: Older, taller girls from 12 to early teens; Off Pointe unless very strong on pointe.
ACT II Variations: Corps de ballet with company soloists. No taller than 5’2”.
If a student is accepted into the last two years of a selective company school without a scholarship, is she less likely than those who did get scholarships to be considered for the company? Is it more likely that she will mostly serve to benefit the school as a paying student? Or will she be considered to have equal potential for entrance into the company or second company?
I have been warned that only scholarship recipients move up into the company past graduation from these prestigious schools and have noted that most biographies of company dancers list their scholarship wins. My daughter was not present for the summer session that would have made her eligible for a scholarship. She was offered a scholarship for two consecutive years at another program but did not attend.
How important are acquiring scholarships and making it to the YAGP finals for determining whether a company will seriously consider a student at their school for their company? If these accolades are not in place, will the student be overlooked for advancement, no matter how hard she tries??
– Concerned Mom of a Determined Dancer
Dear Concerned Mom,
The short answer is: No, going to a company school without a scholarship or competition placement does not generally affect a student’s chances for employment overall. And here’s the longer answer! –
Scholarships are only one indicator of a school’s interest in developing a student and their belief in her potential at that specific point in time. We cannot extrapolate that out to years in advance because future events depend on the student’s continued development. Students who are expected to do great things will sometimes disappoint, and students who seem average sometimes work their tails off and take the lead. While many pros list scholarships, many do not. Finally, artistic direction can change in a heartbeat, leaving former favorites looking elsewhere for jobs.
YAGP and the various IBCs are a subject onto themselves. There is an endless amount of debate on their worth. Suffice it to say that they are one method that is great for particular types of dancers in particular situations (Vague enough for you? I’ll do a post on sometime to explain.), but a huge segment of the professionals did not participate in those competitions during their training.
Accolades like these indicate how the student performed during a snapshot in time. Certainly, those that succeed habitually tend to continue to succeed – that is why you see so many pros with such records. But these are not prerequisites to a good career, just indicators of possible career potential. Scholarship or YAGP placement or not, a dancer must continue to work hard, show her worth and improve. At the conclusion of training, the directors will decide whether the dancer should enter the company based on her capabilities at that time. I have cautioned people before that scholarships are great indicators of a school’s enhanced interest and the projected potential of a student at a particular moment in time – but they are far from a guarantee of anything. The same goes for the your situation. Getting into a top school without a scholarship (which is great on its own, by the way, and still show interest), is a valuable opportunity.
Not getting a scholarship has no bearing on whether a dancer will be accepted into the company. Grimly perhaps, all students are facing those slim odds from an equal standing. What matters at the end of the training road is: Is the dancer fully prepared to give the current artistic director what the AD wants and needs in a performer at the same time that a contract spot is available?
Multi-talented artist Sophie Flack has authored her first book, an intriguing novel about the world of a young corp de ballet dancer in a fictional company, Manhattan Ballet. Sophie is a former dancer with the New York City Ballet and surely drew on her nine years with the company in creating characters for the story. (She once said that she’d like to write an updated version of the famous memoir called Winter Season from another NYCB dancer.)
Ms. Flack was open to the press about having tough time departing from NYCB a couple years ago, as she was included in the controversial layoffs of early 2009. I could not be happier to see that she has made it through that transition and is fostering her creativity in new ways!
Swan Lake Samba Girl Tonya Plank was on location at a recent book signing with Flack, where long lines of blossoming balletomanes created an atmosphere of excitement. Check out her report on the event, and pre-order or pick up a copy of Bunheads through Amazon, GoodReads or select bookstores!
Sharon Wehner has been delighting audiences with her beautiful technique and dramatic, intense interpretations since 1995 at the Colorado Ballet. A California native, the 5-foot dynamo trained with the Studio Roxander Academy, San Francisco Ballet School, San Jose/Cleveland Ballet School and pre-professional company San Jose Dance Theatre. Described as energetic and riveting to watch, Wehner was promoted to Principal of Colorado Ballet in 1999. This spring she is dancing concurrently with the Oakland Ballet Company, with whom she just completed a successful run of their exciting premier program, Forwards!, which featured contemporary ballet and visual arts collaborations.
The repertory of the Colorado Ballet includes an enormous variety for a company of its size, including full-length classical standards, many full-length modern classics such as Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast and Dracula, and an assortment of works by twentieth and twenty-first century choreographers like Tudor, Balanchine, de Mille, Forsythe, Wheeldon and Liang. These opportunities seem to have provided a superb palette for the Wehner to express herself and grow to become the capable artist that she is.
If you can’t make it to a performance of Colorado or Oakland, you can find beautiful shots of Ms. Wehner and other Colorado Ballet dancers in the 50th Anniversary Commemorative Book of the Colorado Ballet, available here.
Ballet is full of risks. Giselle lift, anyone? Hopefully most are calculated, as in, Yes, You learned to balance in retiré before trying to pirouette so you are less likely to fall on your tuckus. But some risks in ballet are not as easily controlled. For example: pursuing a professional career. Starting a professional dance career is very tough for most dancers. Most dancers do not win international competitions and go on to their dream company at 17. Most dancers are … average. Not average as in, “blah” – Average as in, pretty darn comparable to the thousands of other dancers that have made it far enough to realistically be prepared for company auditions. At that level nearly everyone has top technique and performance ability, making it very tough to stand out.
Auditioning for companies was the scariest part of my training, and I am not alone in that experience. But it was also extremely exciting and memorable. In fact, I probably should have kept a journal to share with my younger dancing sister before she began auditions. Well I never did, but another young dancer named Tara Gragg (pictured in Balanchine’s Rubies, above) created a blog diary about her auditions from this spring. Her goal is to move from an un-paid traineeship and subsequent apprenticeship with City Ballet of San Diego to the almighty Paid Contract. Tara writes about the excitement and stress of auditioning, the high rejection rates, her thoughts on the possibilities of living in various cities and the hard truths of decisions made by the companies. Check out her musings and follow her beautifully-crafted blog with the cute name, Gnarly Toeboots.
Gnarly Toeboots is now on the blogroll here at right. If you want to start reading it from the first post, click here. Also, I’d like you to take special note that even though this dancer trained locally for most of her career andearned a college degree, she is keeping up quite well with her audition peers, thanks to smart planning, good training and hard work.
If you aren’t familiar with Dance Advantage, you are in for a treat today. I just contributed a teacher’s article to DA about my favorite ballet movies – I hope you’ll check it out!
Nichelle Strzepek makes sure to keep great dance articles coming at Dance Advantage. There’s something for everyone – teachers, choreographers, students and professionals. Click around while you’re there and you’ll find technique tips, dance history, dance news, dance games and way more for students. I always keep a link to this great site on my blogroll for you guys. Enjoy!
I never thought I would see this in my lifetime, but the Bolshoi Ballet is holding company auditions for the first time in its 235 year history. Invitation is required. To assist dancers, Youth American Grand Prix is now accepting submissions from YAGP alumni for recommendation consideration.
I think we can safely say that this is an unprecedented historical development in the dance world. Sincerest merde to all participants.
Can’t make it to the Palias Garnier to see the Paris Opera? Head over to your local movie theater and you may be able to see Aurelie Dupont or José Martinez performing your favorite ballet! That’s right, everyone is buzzing about Emerging Pictures exciting arts project, Ballet in Cinema, which brings world-class ballets and companies into local movie theaters.
Check out the main page to search for a participating theater near you. Sadly, as much as I love the opera, any theater that is already working with the Metropolitan Opera’s program, The Met: Live in HD, will not enter a contract with Emerging Pictures. Considering that Emerging Pictures not only offers ballet but opera and Shakespeare too, I’m going to root for Emerging Pictures on this one. If your local theaters do not show Ballet in Cinema, you can suggest a theater to Emerging Pictures so they can try to get their contract into your region. You can also encourage your local movie theatre to consider showing Ballet in Cinema.
Have you been to an Emerging Pictures movie theater production? Tell us about it in the comments!
Good teachers are careful to caution teen beginners and young dancers generally on the harsher realities of professional prospects combined with beginning “late”, as we very well should. But today I’d like to spend a moment to highlight some great late-beginner success stories of our day. (Female dancers often encounter a higher standard of technique in the professional world and require more years of preparation than men, so we’ll focus on ballerinas here. Also, when you read that a dancer began “formal” or “serious” training at a certain age, that usually indicates that they took recreational dance classes before that.)
Recently highlighted on Dancing With the Stars (a show that recently has recently done a nice job promoting classical dance and its relevance to modern entertainment), Patricia Zhou began serious dance training at about 13 years old. Now 17, Ms. Zhou has made a splash in the international competitions and climbed all the way to the professional ranks of her dream company, The Royal Ballet. Her extraordinary gifts coupled with dedication, hard work and luck have catapulted her into a world that her parents would have had her forego for academics, making the Zhou a testament to passion and perserverance. Enjoy this clip of her on national television:
Kristi Boone, soloist with ABT, also began at thirteen. She had natural facility for ballet’s demands and talks about her first experiences in this ad for Gaynor Minden.
Superstar principal of New York City Ballet Wendy Whelan didn’t start serious training until relatively late, though she did take dance as a youngster. You can listen to her talk about her training path here.
Vannesa Sah, of the tech-savvy pre-professional company Anaheim Ballet, didn’t begin ballet until college. She has some lovely words of encouragement and advice for late-starters here.
Recently retired darling of The Royal Ballet Darcy Bussell began her formal training at the school at White Lodge at 13. Bussell did have some prior dance training then. Her epic career has been an inspiration to aspiring ballerinas of all levels.
Carmen Corella, Artistic Director and principal dancer with the recently founded Corella Ballet Castilla y León, began her training at around 13 as well. After a successful career reaching to a soloist position at ABT, Corella followed her brother, ABT principal Angel Corella to found their new company with a little help from another later beginner you may have heard of, Natalia Makarova.
Most recently seen in the national campaign for BlackBerry, Misty Copeland is not only a late beginner, having started at 13, but is also the first African-American in two decades to achieve soloist rank at American Ballet Theatre. She has also significantly helped broaden acceptable and appreciated body-types in professional ballet. Clearly Ms. Copeland has multiple broken barriers in the ballet community through her undeniable excellence.
Naturally, I am still going to caution you that a professional contract is a mighty goal even for a female dancer who began at a proper age for it! But like Vanessa Sah, you can certainly find a happy ending for your dance training if your goals are to learn how to express yourself enjoyably through movement in a challenging classical vocabulary. Or would that be a happy beginning?
Update: A reader has pointed out that Zhou’s own résumé indicates that she attended a summer program in 2005 (six years ago) and has taken many Cecchetti exams. I generally try to respect artists wishes to exclude training that they feel was not of a level sufficient to designate it as part of their education. While Zhou indicates that she attended summer dance camp in 2005, I would be suspect of any summer dance program with the word “camp” in it. In fact, the current program is advertised as less than two weeks of instruction.
Zhou does not mention any other ballet training on her resume before Kirov in 2007, so I have chosen to respect her implication that whatever took place before then was too low-quality to have influenced her career to any possible degree. In fact, in this article, Zhou discusses that she didn’t even know that Sleeping Beauty was a ballet, leaving one to wonder if her original school did more harm than anything. As you know, it is much harder to undo bad training than learn from scratch. That said, I do not know anything about her former school personally, so feel free to research it (named in that article) and decide for yourself. I’m also sorry to say that from what I have witnessed, Cecchetti exams in the US do not necessarily provide any indication of whether a student has learned ballet. I have seen many passing students who were wholly pedestrian. Read this post on BalletTalk to understand more about the risks of poor schools, even those who may talk of their Cecchetti exams. This is an important topic that probably deserves its own post, but that will have to wait for another day! The reader has brought a very important issue to the table, and I hope I have done the matter justice for the time being.
At 16,* SFB corps de ballet dancer Nicole Ciapponi is only just beginning her professional career, but she captured the attention of dedicated ballet fans years ago. National attention initially revved up for a young teenaged Ciapponi when videos of her superb performances of demanding variations like second shade in La Bayadere, second peasant from Swan Lake’s pas de trois and a tough contemporary ballet piece set to Bach’s enrapturing Cello Suite No.1 in G were posted on YouTube.
Canadian-born Nichole was initially trained in Surrey, British Columbia, and in 2007 spent a year at the Goh Ballet Academy. At 15 in 2008, she moved to the Pacific Northwest Ballet School. Ms. Ciapponi accepted a traineeship with SFB the following fall, and was invited to join the corps de ballet in early 2010.
In addition to passing all RAD exams with distinction and earning the solo seal at 14, medal placements at international ballet competitions punctuated Nichole’s final training years. To name just a few, she won a silver at the Genee IBC, a top twelve distinction at Youth American Grand Prix in New York and a gold at the Dance World Cup. She was awarded full scholarships to all of her summer programs, which included Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, San Fransisco Ballet School and Pacific Northwest Ballet School.
Reviews for Ciapponi by Bay Area balletomanes have been very positive so far, particularly for her performance in William Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude. In an interview earlier this month with Geri Jeter of the California Literary Review, she called it her favorite ballet to work on this year and said, “It was truly amazing to have the opportunity to perform this piece and hope that I can perform it again in the near future.” So do we, Ms. Ciapponi, so do we!
*It is very possible that Ciapponi has turned 17 by the time of this post.