OUR FIRST EVER DOWNLOADABLE E-BOOK: http://joom.ag/RuCp
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OUR FIRST EVER DOWNLOADABLE E-BOOK: http://joom.ag/RuCp
Now available for $4.99 USD
By Susie Boyland, contributor
After all the years of training you put in, becoming a professional dancer didn’t work out, and now you have no idea what to do. Living in a cardboard box doesn’t sound like an attractive option…nor does living with your parents for 10 more years…Perhaps injury ended your career prematurely, you just couldn’t find a job, or you realized that as much as you love ballet, you really can’t stand repeating the same 10 seconds of a ballet over and over throughout hours of rehearsal every day. However, if you had your sights set on becoming a ballet dancer, coming to the realizing that your dream career isn’t going to work out can be devastating. So what now? There are many career paths that will allow you to remain in the dance world and use your dance experience without being a dancer in a professional company.
Dancers are disciplined, intelligent, driven, and know how to make a commitment. Plus, being able to smile and look happy while dancing in pointe shoes with toes covered in blisters has its benefits in the outside world: your boss will never know how much you really hate writing those TPS reports (though after you’ve smiled through your fair share of grunt work, be sure to fight for that promotion you deserve!). You also know how to work on a team: after all the hours of going into excruciating detail during corps work in Swan Lake while your teacher screams at you, working on a team project is a piece of cake! And speaking of cake, you now can also have that extra slice without worrying so much about how you’d look in that hideous unitard you might otherwise be wearing in your next performance.
Nevertheless, ballet is a big part of your life and you’re not ready to let it go completely. Good news is you don’t have to! Most of these alternate career options will require a degree (or two…or three) or perhaps some specialized training, but fear not; the time and dedication you put into your ballet training is proof that you have what it takes to succeed in just about any career. Here are five (and a bonus list) of the multitudes of other career options you might consider:
1. Physical Therapist
Let’s be real – all dancers end up in physical therapy at some point or another. Having a physical therapist who does not know a plié from a tendu is about as fun as trying to explain to your non-dancer friends that no, you really cannot miss rehearsal “just this one time” to go to the beach. Dancers will flock to a physical therapist with a dance background as they are hard to come by. Helping other dancers to recover from their injuries could be very satisfying, and the training you will receive in physical therapy school will also help you to deal with your own injuries whenever they arise. Plus, you will ace your anatomy classes, even if you’ve never taken one before. How many other types of people can tell you where the psoas is before hearing about it in an anatomy class? From my experience, not a whole lot.
For those who aren’t opposed to completing many more years of schooling, perhaps a career as an orthopedic surgeon is an option. Every dancer’s worst fear when it comes to surgery is that he or she won’t be able to dance again. Naturally this field is highly specialized and probably isn’t for most, but former dancers who do become surgeons could become highly regarded in this field.
2. Pilates Teacher
Now that we’re done discussing the scary stuff (surgery = yikes!), let’s get back to something we’re more familiar with. Love it or hate it, cross training is essential for injury prevention. Ballet dancers already have an acute sense of awareness when it comes to their bodies, and a pilates teacher who already has this awareness will be able to better meet the needs of his or her students. Chances are you’ve already taken 203942038 pilates classes or thereabouts in your lifetime, so getting your certification shouldn’t be too frightening of a prospect. Yoga is another option too.
While you may now be allowed to have that extra piece of cake, most professional dancers have to be much more wary of what they eat. As you no doubt know, in order to keep your body healthy and functioning at peak physical condition, nutrition is key. For those who already like to eat as healthily as they can, this may seem like an attractive career option. For those who wanted to hide in the back during nutrition class at summer programs, perhaps this idea sounds about as fun as repeating a long adage in the center. In that case, let’s just move on to the next idea…
4. Lighting, Costume, or Set Designer
Jobs that help dancers lead injury-free and healthy lives are great and all, but what you really may be looking for is a way to still be involved in the performance aspect of ballet. Lighting, costumes, and sets are what help to bring a ballet to life. Creating a magical stage environment would simply not be possible without the work of these creative individuals. You already know what does and doesn’t look good on the stage, so you’d be a natural at this!
5. Choreographer or Dance Teacher
These are the most obvious choices for a dancer who has to leave the stage but is not ready to leave the studio. As dancers we have a vast amount of experience with choreographers and teachers, and likely know what we do and don’t like from each. Many dancers choose one or both of these options after retiring from performing, but there’s no reason why these jobs should be reserved only for retired professional dancers. These jobs may not be able to provide full-time work though, so perhaps these options could be a part-time supplement to another full-time job.
Lastly, a bonus list (which by no means includes the rest of your options):
If none of these sound good to you, then another option is to choose a career which is unrelated to the dance world but will provide you with the financial means and free time to enjoy as much dance as you want! In my case, I got an engineering degree (undergrad only) and was able to get a job at a large aerospace corporation in a city with ample dance opportunities. Engineering sounds terrifying, but I’ll let you in on a secret: Ballet is WAY more difficult! My engineering job allows me to have the financial stability and time to take as many classes as I want (whenever injuries don’t prevent me from doing so) and attend professional ballet performances on a regular basis. I know several other pre-professionally trained dancers who did the same thing and are also happy with their decision. Not everyone is math and science oriented, but if you are then perhaps engineering could be a good option for you too. Most engineers are left-brained and logical, but as a dancer you also have an artistic and creative element which can make you stand out. Plus, who knows – maybe you could be the one to come up with a new and revolutionary long-lasting pointe shoe! (One that doesn’t look like a Gaynor…#justsayin)
Each person is different and has his or her own skills and interests, but there is still a bright future for everyone whose dancing dreams didn’t come true in the way they’d hoped. It will take time and effort, but when you think about all the hard work you’ve put in while training as a ballet dancer, it’s tough to think of something that could be more difficult than what you’ve already accomplished. The end of your professional dancing days, even if they never begun, is not really an end, but rather the start of a new dream.
In the world of ballet, there are three languages. There is the language in which ballet was codified, French. Then there is the language in which interprets ballet, body language backed by emotion. And then there is a language that ballet dancers actually speak, a language of their own, and I’m not talking about French. So, here is the modern vocabulary list every ballet dancer/student should know (part one). These terms you will come across in class, gossiping among your fellow peers in ballet school, blogs like this one, or social media.
Mr. B (noun): AKA, George Balanchine, aka God (just kidding, not really)
What would Mr. B do?
4 T’s (noun): AKA The Four Temperaments
Dancing 4T’s is really difficult if you aren’t trained Balanchine.
Buiscut (noun or adj):
She has biscuit feet, she’ll never go en pointe.
A La Sebesque, secabesque (noun):
You are doing a la sebesque dear, you aren’t in jazz class.
1. A dancer who is overly intense about ballet, to the point where it might be unhealthy.
Maureen is a bunhead, Eva is not.
1. A dancer’s body in peak shape.
Her body is snatched, hence why she is rockin’ a unitard.
Whacked out (adj):
1. Ridiculously flexible
He is so whacked out… but only to the right.
AD (noun) aka Artistic Director:
1. The head of a ballet company.
She only got the part because she is sleeping with the AD.
Leo (noun) aka Leotard:
1. Appropriate ballet attire, made from mesh, nylon, spandex, lycra or another synthetic blend of fabric.
Who wears a white leo to an audition?
________ Hands (_____ (adj) + noun):
1. Spatula Hands: hands that look like spatulas.
2. Oven mitt hands: hands that are shaped like an oven mitt.
3. Hamburger Hands: hands that are shaped like one is holding a hamburger.
She is definitely not getting into SAB because of her spatula hands.
1. Hands that have gone through rigorous Balanchine training and are the anti Russian hand.
He has claws, you think he is from SAB?
Nut Season (noun):
1. The part of the season in which one must dance in the annual production of the Nutcracker in which they will be overworked, and over rehearsed. Dancers may cringe, or cry if they are at the mall shopping and the Tchaikovsky score is being played during the holidays. The time of the season in which every dancer wants to quit.
It is Nut Season, I want to die.
1. The application of a mattifier to match ones skin tone and remove the shine or pink color.
2. When a ballet dancer goes to iHop and dreams of ordering pancakes but orders a salad instead.
Gaynor Mindens should always be pancaked, that way it isn’t obvious you are wearing them.
Floor Barre (noun):
1. An awful, but healthy alternative to taking class. It is the combination of ballet, yoga and pilates.
I would rather do character than floor barre.
This is just part one, and as I compile list two, please feel free to email me for suggestions.
So, I have decided to launch a few big things for a Ballet Education, and I hope they are helpful… But, unfortunately it will take a little bit of capitol. If you have enjoyed reading my blog, minus the grammar mistakes, you can now donate so I can pay an editor to go back through and edit everything. I just don’t have the time. Even now, I am using SIRI to update this blog while driving to an event in Los Angeles.
Here is what I was thinking…
yes, I would like to publish a book…
and yes… I want to release digital books of things that are important…
And I would like to redesign the site.
And I would like to be able to start a youtube channel with how to do real ballet techniques…
Sooooo, if you are interested please donate or email me firstname.lastname@example.org
… I thought I was going to be giving this up, and I thought I would leave my nightly rants to Facebook… BUT THEN a ballet company finally replied to my e-mail, and they did not have anything nice to say… So, with that being said, a Ballet Education is coming back full force… Don’t piss off a gaysian who works in PR. This is going to be fun. A lot of fun. And as it might black list me from ever going to see a performance, and I might lose a bunch of friends in the ballet world… I decided… It is worth it.
A lot of you wrote in why I was selling and stopping… Here is the truth:
I decided to stop a ballet education because despite all of my efforts in posting happy, feel good posts about classical ballets, dance companies and schools… Actual education posts… people really didn’t care to read them. The more honest I was, the more popular the posts became… And I felt that I was giving ballet kind of a bad reputation, despite the truth behind it—
Then, because of this blog major ballet companies wouldn’t consider hiring me for PR & Marketing, despite my proven success track in the world fashion and luxury. (Which I consider going to the ballet to be a luxury (ballet go-ers support the art, so I thought why not?) Even though they sent nice emails saying I wasn’t qualified, a friend had casually mentioned my blog had come up in an east coast conference room. I was like Mother F’rs did I just screw myself over?
Finally, I realized that i was spending way too much time talking about ballet and not enough time in the world of fashion, which pays my bills…
So here is why I am coming back… I’m cutting the BS out of ballet. It is time people starting talking truthfully and not politely… People keep wondering why ballet is dying? Because no one is afraid to say the truth, and well, since I am not going to be in the dance world any time soon… I have nothing to lose. GET READY… because it is coming!!
This one is for all of the parents who has a child starting out in ballet. (I have gotten a lot of e-mails asking a lot of really good questions, and I have been trying to individually reply but it has gotten to be too much. I am going to try lumping it all into one post, kind of.) So, your child is in ballet, and you don’t want to go all dance moms on your kid, or be that stage mom at the studio. Here is some advice, so you don’t overwhelm school owners, teachers, and your child. This is all my opinion once again, so here we go.
For children under the age of 5, there really is no reason to have your child in ballet class everyday. There is also no reason to have your child in private lessons unless your child has scoliosis or flat feet. Then private attention is needed, and you might want to consult with doctors for orthotics to help correct, and prevent long term problems. In addition, you should let your child do jazz, tap and hip hop for fun. Jazz teaches a young dancer tenacity, aka Tiler Peck is a good example. Hip hop teaches a dancer to be daring and good at free styling. Tap teaches a kid how to understand music, and the process of building and deconstructing music. This is also good because they will stretch a lot more, and flexibility in the back, hips and legs matters in the long run. There isn’t really a reason to have your kid in competition at that young of an age, unless you are in it for the fun of it all. With that being said, competition is expensive and you have be prepared to pay for all of that. More importantly, if your child wants to be a ballet dancer, it might just be more expensive than college… Well it is, and this is why.
Children between 6-9 should be in ballet class at least once a day. This isn’t because we are crazy, it is about discipline, and the start of muscle memory and the shaping of the muscles. Children are growing like crazy and need sleep, so it isn’t smart to have to them in hour and half classes. One hour a day three-five days a week is a great start. They have to build an entire ballet vocabulary, know the etiquette of a ballet class, and most importantly they have to thrive in the environment. Discipline is built, and this is when you see kids really starting to excel. (Wait for it, the money hasn’t really started yet. So before you go out and buy your child a million cute leotards, and a pay for expensive dance bags… Wait.)
Then, from the ages of 10-13 the real journey begins. Pointe shoes are introduced. And your child should be dancing at least four days a week in an hour and half class a day. On top of that, they should be training either in pre pointe or pointe at least twice a week. They should be cross training in yoga, pilates, and constantly stretching. If you don’t know a lot about pointe here it goes. Pointe shoes (Freed Classics) run about $70.00 a pair. Your child will probably go through a pair every month, maybe not at first, but it will start. This is when teachers will start to find and nit pick at your child and this is when private lessons are a good thing. Because starting now your child should be going away for summers. Yup, you should be sending your kid off to a summer program every summer, this means they will be gone between 4-7 weeks. What does this mean? Money. First auditions run between $25-35 dollars class.
Most kids audition between 4-8 places a season. Just like college, you have your first picks, back ups, and safety nets, of course hoping for scholarships. Audition photos will run you anywhere between 3-6 hundred dollars depending on where you are at, and who is taking the photo. Don’t be cheap, because a photo can make or break an acceptance, and can help get a scholarship. Teachers who are holding the auditions will see thousands of kids a season, and it isn’t till they are back at their office looking at audition pictures, waiting for that picture to remind them and think, “Oh that is the girl with the pretty feet from Atlanta.” Yup, so now your child has gotten into a summer program and it will cost you anywhere between 5-10k depending on the program, traveling expenses etc.
So, lets do some math… Lowballing it, it will take you about $8,000 a summer to send your kid away. (That is including leotards, pointe shoes, tights, traveling expenses etc.) If your kid goes to a summer program at 12 or 13 and you are expected to go away every summer till 18, you are no looking at about $56,000 in just summer expenses. This isn’t including year round tuition, leotards, and pointe shoes for during the year. We aren’t done…
From the ages of 15-18, your child should be at a pre-professional school attached or school associated with company. So, your home studio’s tuition was low, now multiply that by 4, and add room and board. Oh no, we are so not done. Now that your child is a pre-professional school, she will probably be going through pointe shoes a pair a week. Then, you now have to start saving for company auditions. Company auditions vary in price, most are free. But, the problem is getting to these companies. You can do the normal cattle calls in NYC, which you need pictures for, but the big expense will be traveling expenses (flights, hotel rooms, etc). Most companies only hold auditions in two or three cities outside of their own, unlike summer programs. This means your child will get to see the US and the World just by auditioning.
This is also in the best case scenario that your child doesn’t need extra privates, your child gets injured and has to see a specialist, or they are having chronic pains and have to see a PT.
Now, your kid is 18, but we still are done…
Most 18-20 year olds don’t even land full company contracts. Maybe paid apprenticeships, or small stipend second company jobs. For the next two years their income money will fluctuate and might still need help with bills. Since they aren’t in a school, dorms are usually not an option so you are looking at rent, utilities etc. And, well, we still aren’t done. This scenario, which was the normal scenario for a long time is changing, because more and more kids are making appearances at the YAGP and other international competitions. (See my guide to ballet competitions here.)
So, before you go out and buy your child the most expensive dance bag, and tons of crazy leotards, thing of the long run, just in case. The plus side is, if your child is talented, and doesn’t get a job, he or she will easily get a scholarship to go to a dance college. Downside, ballet is extremely expensive in the US since it is not state supported, but this gives every dancer a fair shot at becoming a dancer, if money permits it. The opposing argument is that in most countries you only become a dancer if you are selected based off of body type.
These are the financial costs of ballet, this isn’t just the emotional, physical or mental costs of ballet. The stakes are high there too. And none of this guarantees your son or daughter a job in ballet. Unfortunately, no one is ever guaranteed anything in life, but there are ways to give your child a fighting chance in ballet.
Create a safe and healthy environment at home. This means finding the balance between ballet and “real life.” Dance isn’t everything and for most it will be a short lived career, so making friends, going to prom and seeing a movie is important. Additionally, the balance between rest, dance, and school is just as important.
Give your child the best education possible. This means finding the best schools in your area, even if that means you have to commute a little longer. Start saving in advance, just in case, and if your child doesn’t go to a summer program, you now have vacation money.
Be educated, don’t be overbearing. It is more important for you to understand ballet than watch your child’s every move in class. Ballet technique is based on a slow process, that happens everyday, little by little. It isn’t like one private later they will have 32 double fouettés. Education will also help you have conversations with your child about ballet. For example companies, body types, natural facility, and possible careers. Just because VOGUE pushes SAB doesn’t mean everyone is meant to go to SAB.
Exposure. Making sure your child sees good ballet is important. Yes, youtube is great, but going to a ballet performance is even better. Videos highlight principals not the entire cast. Kids should see an entire company, so they understand all of the different parts of a company. Not everyone is going to be a prima… (article here)
Loving it. What makes or breaks a dancer in the adolescent years, if that phase isn’t awkward enough, imagine living through it in tights and leotard… Bodies change, mentalities change, and they will either fall deeply in love with ballet, or they will do it for the sake of doing it. It is most important to remind your child that if they don’t love it, they shouldn’t do it. Also, if they just love ballet but don’t want to become ballet dancers, then maybe it isn’t necessary to push your child to go to PNB or Royal Ballet School.
Finally, my last advice to all parents: GIVE YOUR KIDS A FIGHTING A CHANCE! So many dancers don’t end up becoming professionals because the lack of training, and the lack of support at home. Ballet takes 130% commitment, and if your child is willing to do all that, plus their chores, homework and family duties, then let your child have a chance in ballet. Find the best schools, the best teachers, and find a way to make it happen for your child. Drive the extra 30 minutes to the better school, talk to your child’s regular school to see if they can get out of PE since they are dancing 20+ hours a day, and if they can’t, get a doctor to sign a note saying they aren’t allowed to run… Fight for your child. They only get one body, so you have to do everything you can to protect it. Also yes, costs are high, but if your child is talented, there is always someway to work something out with a school to find a way for your child to dance.
So, when it comes to ballets I think there are always pre conceived notions as type casting, at the Artistic Director’s discretion (may or may not be a bad thing). For example if you look at a ballet there are always different spots for different types of ballerinas.
In Balanchine’s Serenade we have three spots… Waltz Girl, Russian Girl, and Dark Angel
In Sleeping Beauty we have three spots… Aurora, Lilac Fairy, and Bluebird
In Don Q we have three spots… Kitri/Dulcinea, Cupid, and Queen of the Dryads
In Bayadere we really only have two… Gamzatti and Nikiya
Balanchine’s Jewels it is mapped out as three very different castings of girls…
Nutcracker has…. well depends on the version, I will go off Balanchine’s since it is my favorite: Sugar Plum, Dew Drop, and Arabian
the list goes on… So here is how I see the types of Primas being developed.
First we have the romantic ballerinas, usually average in height, but they all possess this crazy lyricism and musicality. They are always so subtle, and quite pleasant to watch. I also feel like they have really beautiful feet, well proportioned lines, and kind of that “old school” ballet feel. These women are constantly being cast in Giselle, Dark Angel in Serenade, Onegin, and of course Juliet.
Then we have the ferocious primas. These women are spicy, they are super playful and kind of on the shorter side, no? I mean Russian Girl in Serenade I feel is always cast as a short girl with a lot of fire… Ashley Bouder. Technically precise and offer a lot of pazazz when on stage these women are addicting, and passionate. These girls are the Kitris, the Esmeraldas, Paquitas and the pas de deux from Rubies….
And finally we have our swans, the women who are elegant, and overall have mastered being a ballerina… can’t figure out how to phrase it… These women seem to be cast as Odette/Odile, Waltz girl in Serenade, Grand Pas Classique or Balanchine’s Sylvia. I guess you could say that these women are what most people think of when it comes to ballet: Olga Smirnova, what a beast. These girls have a flare for drama and do well in roles like Nikiya or Manon.
I don’t think one is better than another, it just points out that a company’s ranks must be filled with diverse principals as the repertory demands it. If we all danced the same, it would be quite boring. And, what is great about full ballets versus pieces, is I think it shows off a dancer’s versatility as an entire story builds, thus the character changes. Do I think it takes 4 acts to do this? No, in fact to be honest a lot of full length ballets are very tiring to get through. Do I think that it can be done in 5 minutes? Sure, but it is less time to fall in love with a character. Can a dancer be all three, yup. Do I think directors make choices and type cast, therefore their legacy is left in a stereotype? Sure do. There are hundreds of ballerinas past and present who have already been type cast, as one of the following, I doubt we will ever see them transition into other roles. Will we see Ashley Bouder do Waltz Girl in Serenade? Or Uliana Lopatkina in Don Q?
Peter Boal of PNB, challenging Carla Korbes in different roles after she left City Ballet was genius. I remember when VOGUE did a spread on Ashley Bouder and Carla Korbes, and how differently contrasted they were upon graduation of SAB and entering NYCB. For example, do I think Peter Martins would have cast her in Agon, maybe not so much. Do I think she would have ever danced Don Q, nope. Regardless, her change was good and with Peter Boal casting she has made her mark as a leading lady of ballet.
The Dream of Becoming a Prima Ballerina…
It is sad to say that this is my first substantial post, a reality check for those who are starting to enter the world of dance. Unfortunately, or fortunately the world of dance has become over-saturated with dancers. This means there are too many dancers and not enough jobs. It seems that when a young girl goes to see the Nutcracker, they instantly want to be Clara or the Sugar Plum Fairy, and so the first seed of ballet is planted into their hearts. This is a great desire and passion, and I think it is very important to expose all children, male or female, to music, dance and art. So then, parents enroll their students at a dance studio, and by age thirteen when the child realizes they really want to be a dancer, it is most likely too late.
Too Many Claras…. Now, it is funny as Clara in the Nutcracker is the main character, or the heroine, but in most versions she doesn’t dance at all. Reality is, Sugar Plum Fairy is the one you want to be. Problem? There are just too many Claras… Unfortunately in the world of ballet, the Sugar Plum Fairy Pas De Deux is reserved for principals and if you are in a regional company, it is usually danced by one or maybe two casts. There are usually 4-6 girls cast as Clara, as a way to sell tickets… What parent doesn’t want to say, “My daughter is Clara in the Nutcracker.” Sooo, let us do the math…. If the role of Clara goes to a girl age 9-13 who shows outstanding promise and great acting abilities, and there are six of them, when those girls become 22-28 who will get cast as Sugar Plum? The reality is harsh… But, when you do become a Sugar Plum, it is totally worth it.
What does this mean? Most parents don’t take the time to research ballet, ballet studios or how the ballet world really works. FACT: A dance studio is not the same as a dance school and is not the same as a performing arts school and is not the same as a ballet school.
A Dance Studio is a recreational place to dance, which means you are there for exercise, exposure to music and the idea of technique.
A Dance School is a recreational place to dance with higher performance expectancy. A dance school usually can also be called a competition studio, or a performance studio. This is where technique matters, but not to the extent of creating a career. This is more for commercial dance route, the Hollywood route, and the scholarships to a UDA college route.
A Performing Arts School is a place for children to develop the fine/performing arts to a greater extent. Most kids in these schools aren’t just out to be ballet dancers, but instead they are also on their way to become a triple threat. BROADWAY BOUND. Performing arts schools usually offer more than just ballet, but modern, contemporary, voice lessons, acting lessons, and so forth.
A Ballet School is a place for children to studio pure ballet. Regardless of the pedagogy, it is completely ballet based, and the emphasis is only on ballet technique with supplemented curriculum of modern, contemporary and occasionally jazz.
So, the best way to insure your child’s future in dance is to make sure you are at the right school for your child. There is nothing wrong with any of these schools, or approaches to dance, but they will basically be the deciding factor of how your child will be received in dance.
So, your daughter was Clara?
Insuring your child has the best chance he or she may need in BALLET. You want to be a good parent, but you don’t know what to do? You think oh, is it even possible? Is my child good enough? Ballet dancers don’t make that much (which is a lie, it just depends where you get a job, like any career). This is not an endorsement to any school in particular, please just go with the scenario. There are few jobs for ballerinas these days, and it seems one of the only ways to get noticed is to go to a legit ballet competition…. True and False… The reality is that those who go to these huge international competitions and do well are on the fast track to become principal dancers AKA sugarplum fairies. BUT, that doesn’t mean that your child isn’t going to make it. There are hundreds of companies that hold tons of ranks, and so your child just might be a snowflake, or a divertissement. Now, it is more important to decide how your child is going to get there… that is when the school your child is at should be evaluated.