And the winner of this year’s (enter competition) goes to… (a name that is not yours)…
The Competition in ballet is stiff.
From a young age we develop a natural since of competition, call it… survival of the fittest. We naturally compare things, and ask why. The development is natural…. Now, apply it to ballet or any sport, and that “instinct” becomes crazy, psychotic, self-defeating, and neurotic trait…
So, you might be thinking this post is about ballet competitions, but it really isn’t. It is about rejection. Unfortunately, there are thousands of dancers each year competing for very few jobs. First off, if you didn’t get the job, didn’t make it through a round of auditions and got cut, or if you lost… If the first thing you think is, “She didn’t deserve it.” Or, “Why did she get it? She isn’t even that good.” You probably have no business being a ballet dancer, and you are probably an awful person.
So, where does this all begin… Oh yeah, the classroom. Remember when you were the best at your small school, and your teacher would say, “Little (insert your name) please demonstrate the combination.” Back then everyone would watch you, and you would still hang out. Little did you know they hated you, and probably called you teacher’s pet behind your back. Then, you end up a professional or pre professional school and you are the new kid, and probably one of the worst ones there. At this phase you are constantly comparing yourself to others. “Is my leg as high as hers? Am I turned out as much as she is.” And then you see that someone has ridiculous feet and you are like FML… Yup… Then you are constantly looking at yourself and others. You make lifelong friends at these prestigious schools, and then sometime during Junior/Senior year… You realize… We are all competing for the same jobs, and those lifelong friends are now in the same room auditioning as you. All of those comparisons you had in class became a reality and you are fighting…
Sometime later in life, you realize that it wasn’t about the competition with others, and you should have spent more time competing with yourself. Perfecting your craft, your body, and exploring your artistry. I look at the little prodigy Daniil Simkin who was trained privately his whole life, and it did him good. I wonder if more dancers were trained privately if they would be more successful? (insert comments below)
Now, you didn’t get the job, or you didn’t win the gold medal… now what? It is time re-evaluate what just happened. At a ballet competition, they are truly looking for the most potential a student has to offer. Potential being categorized as technique, facility, musicality. As an adult, and someone seeking a ballet job… No one really cares about how much potential you have… They care about where you are at in your artistic career and what you have to offer. This is all based on strength, consistency, artistry, and a solid technique. Now, if you have all those things, and you didn’t get the job… You need to look at what the director was looking for.
Unfortunately, a repertory season is planned prior, and so the director already knows how many dancers he needs and can afford for his company. (Give or take second company members, apprentices and top level trainees.) Most people forget during an audition that there are very few limited spaces, and if a director has one spot open, he/she probably knows exactly who they are looking for.
So, what can you do? Keep training until next season, throw in the towel and go to college, or you can restructure yourself as a dancer. I think the third is always the best option. It isn’t that I doubt your training, but if you consistently keep doing the same thing over and over, you aren’t going to grow as an artist, or change as a person, or refine much of anything. Restructuring yourself as a dancer means approaching your technique differently, changing your thought process at barre and center, figuring out new ways to hear music, and changing the quality of your dancing. These types of things makes a dancer better, versatile and adaptable. Teachers always ask for very specific things, and sometimes we don’t follow them, not on purpose, just because we have been doing it a different way our whole lives, and we miss that special nuance that might make or break your audition.
Also, I believe that if you want to dance, there is a place for you. Your dream might have been New York City Ballet, but maybe you didn’t have the right body type that Peter Martins was looking for that year. Then, maybe PNB, Miami and San Fran only were looking for boys. But most people don’t think of looking at regional companies, even if it is just for a season… like Cincinnati, Sacramento, and Nevada Ballet Theatre. Which, you just might be perfect for. You really never know. After a year at a smaller company, and restructure your dancing… you might just end up at San Fran or Houston. Or, you might end up loving the smaller company, and dance lead roles in two years, which at a bigger company you might never get to dance. Regardless, rejection is going to happen, but it is how you deal with it that makes you a stronger dancer. Whether you are a student and didn’t get into a school or summer program, if you are trying to get a job in a company, you competed and lost, or you are in a company and didn’t get cast for a role, the point is… it happens… Embrace it.