What is going on in ballet?

Now that I have caught up on work… I’ve had time to reflect on the YAGP… and other things…

what is going on in ballet

So, you went to a good school… big whoop. So did a million other kids, and guess what? Their careers didn’t turn out how they thought they would… Hahaha I make myself laugh. The world of ballet is going through a big change, and in America the change is happening rather fast…. So before we list off the BIG TEN, like we do every Summer… I would like to talk about the changes that are happening in American Ballet, well with all the changes happening… I don’t know much longer we will have American Ballet… In fact, I don’t know how long ballet is going to be a choice…  I remember when I was auditioning, as a boy… if you had a solid triple pirouette right and left, an easy double tour, and clean technique… you would get into a company. Yup, it was that easy… I mean it helped if you had beautiful body proportions, and it would help if you were flexible… But the reality is… You really needed just that. Nowadays, that doesn’t cut it for a boy… You have to be extremely flexible, have more than four pirouettes, and be musically gifted.This next generation proved that at the YAGP this year with killer technique, crazy tricks, and be primed for principal’s musicality.




This year at the YAGP, Joon Hyuk Jun won the overall Grand Prix, which isn’t a surprise. In 2014 he did well in Lausanne and landed him a spot a Royal Ballet Upper School. Additionally, if he didn’t win the YAGP this year, I am pretty sure he hasn’t medalled as a senior competitor… He would be joining the Korean Army for two years. Yup, it’s that serious for Koreans. It is why there are so many applicants at every competition. In order for a male to avoid joining the army for two years, they have to medal first or second at an international competition recognized by the Korean government.

So, with that being said, something is happening in ballet… The age of the baby ballerina is coming back… Young superstars are proving their self-worth via social media and now the guest artist position. A lot of superstars in ballet aren’t even joining companies, they are going from gala to gala, and company to company guesting. Additionally, this is affecting how students are taking class, and the overall goals for ballet students. Around the world, I’ve seen it all over social media, the demand for superb technique, and extraordinary body lines is higher than ever… There is also a demand for artistic superiority and maturity that used to be excused in young dancers, but now… even that is being conquered…

arabesque for boys

The ballet talent is overwhelming… and the maturity and artistry is growing… The issue now? Jobs… Jobs are very few to begin with in ballet, but now, there is so much talent, there is no room for error, or mistakes, or lack of technique. Everyone is gifted, everyone is has beautiful feet, everyone has extraordinary body proportions… It means that, the world of ballet is becoming smaller, and even more elite.  And this isn’t helping the world of ethnicity either… While Asian countries have been constantly adapting to the Russian school of technique because it works on their bodies, Asian countries have been putting out amazing potential… America has yet to overall put out one unique style, but the next generation of ballet dancers have already dictated what the “ballet look” is going to be… and that is: Hypermobile, Russian-trained talent.

This starts the debate between a ballet school and a finishing school… a lot of these elite schools around the world are now turning into finishing schools, while other schools are focused on the actual idea of teaching technique. A Ballet School is a facility supported by the faculty on teaching the basic ballet vocabulary through the advanced ballet vocabulary the best way they know how… While a finishing school, students are already expected to have a strong ballet vocabulary, and the focus is on pas de deux, variations, performance and quality… (dance studios… well we can talk about that later)

That is the thing, ballet comes in waves, and this wave of new talent, and this next generation of ballet dancers is going to be weeding out any slight chance of imperfection because… everyone is coming out of the woodworks with talent… This year at the YAGP… it was pretty obvious that everyone there was going to be getting a job, and taking away from the possibilities of “cattle calls”…

give ma job ballet

If you look at what American companies are hiring at the moment… from this season’s mid hires, to who they let go at the end of this season, to who they have announced in their new 2016-2017 rosters… It isn’t looking very good…  Not to mention… it is taking away jobs from Americans… but that is a little too political for my blog lol…While a lot of these students are coming from the companies’ home schools, most of these new hires were recruited from a competition in the previous years and they spent a year or two finishing. It is scary, because as I was hopeful for Paris Opera, they did not like the direction of Benjamin Millipede (POB trained but finished at SAB), and have tapped the super classical and super talented, female powerhouse Etoile: Auralie Dupont. PA Ballet took on Angel Corella (which as well all know, I disliked) and that has forced out numerous Balanchine dancers and he has hired all Latin dancers… Which is probably good because PA could use a little color. The shift is a cause from Artistic Directors looking at the future of ballet. Corps de ballet members are no longer becoming viable despite the experience as a seasoned corps dancer, as the corps is now becoming filled with exceptional talent: stronger body lines, more hypermobile bodies, and the sad part… these able bodies are disposable as directors can now just post on social media what they are looking for and hundreds of bodies will respond. It is scary to be dreaming of being a ballet dancer right now… because as much as you want it, if your body is not an “exceptional” body… It might not happen for you… just bad timing with the wave of talent… In Europe bodies are hand picked, but now in America, “exceptional” bodies are becoming more and more apparent because there is such a diverse and accessible levels of training throughout the US.

With that being said, as the list get composed for the BIG 10, I am going to be focusing on identifying the school as being a Ballet School or Finishing School… Since all of the major ballet competitions have wrapped up, I can now start adding data up, and going over what school graduates will be joining what companies… It is a long process, but it is worth doing… But remember, these lists are totally subjective…

ballet top ten companies in the world

FOLLOW ME ON SOCIAL MEDIA @aballeteducation

Jewels… doodles available in my doodle book, available online


3 responses to “What is going on in ballet?”

  1. *Millepied* 🙂 I couldn’t agree more. But living in Europe, I have experienced one thing about young beautiful perfect ballet dancers, some are not emotionally ready to work as adults and in companies. Most of the time, joinging a European company means to leave your country, and not many young people handle the struggle of being completely alone and adapt themselves to another culture. I know dancers that did CNSMP (Paris national conservatory of dance, like paralel to Paris Opera), and he went to Dresden Semperoper. He didn’t make it a year. didn’t have the maturity and atitude for the job, beautiful dancer, but not mature enough. Same for a girl with 190º extensions, 9 pirouettes on pointe, high jumps, she was taken at Semperoper as an apprentice. Lasted one season. Like you said, some directors they just keep searching for what THEY consider to be perfect, but some kids are used to being treated as the next Barishnikovs and prima ballerinas, specially competition kids, and they don’t have the humbleness needed to work in a company, scpecially in corps de ballet, and even worse, in a European corps de ballet… In between this there is lots of injustice and like you said… politics… Sometimes you’re just not lucky… it is very interesting how Millepied criticized POB and how Corella is doing the same with Pensylvania, but living in France, I can understand why Millepied couldn’t change POB… Cultural differences is something dancers know very little about… like for Corella Balanchine is outdated, and for Millepied french school is outdated… what one can not deny is that ballet is a european tradition, and that is a fact. Pure Classical training is only found in Europe. (only my humble opinion, I have seen lots of different talented young dancers, from different schools, and I understand why E.urope is well.. Europe….)

  2. Hi David,

    Great post and I love your art! YAGP has grown so huge and so many “competition” style dancers into the top 24! I did not know this about the army. So interesting. My daughter is at Ellison Ballet. She’s not 5’8″ nor does she have hyperextended legs! She is well aware of the direction things are going. I can appreciate the aesthetics of it but it scares me that artistry and those for a true deep love of ballet will be snuffed out.

    Great blog. I enjoy it very much 🙂


    Gina Downey Sent from my iPhone


  3. Absolutely on the mark, David, and so glad you blogged about this … and glad you are telling as it is even though it is not great news for many budding hopeful ballerinas-in-training at studios or schools where directors encourage students to do the competition mostly “for the experience.” I am so glad that YAGP streamed NY FINALS and the Final Round live free this year – and so you can see the ones selected for the final round even though, in my own opinion, some better dancers were not in the final round. But I hope you caught most of it. If you saw this year’s semi-finals at Los Angeles and San Diego, you can absolutely see many dancers who probably should not be competing and won’t stand a chance of making it to the NY finals due to poor technique alone. You will see dancers who should not even be on pointe due to weak feet and unstretched knees, but they compete on pointe anyway because once you are a junior, you cannot really compete in classical in flats.. This makes YAGP semi-finals probably a waste of funds and resources for most unprepared dancers without “what it takes to be professional” unless stage performance experience is the main goal. But competitions like Showstoppers give you stage experience and photos/videos at less expense. You know how much private instruction costs and how many weekly privates students are paying to be trained for the variations … so do studio teachers need to examine their motivations too? Are smarter students and parents reconsidering the competition route to a career if their previous multi-year semi-finals YAGP experiences have not resulted in getting to the NY Finals or getting scholarships of some kind. Would auditioning for summer scholarships at open auditions be a better option?

    However, YAGP semi-finals all over the country and internationally attract many many students and semi-final registration fees helps fund the cost of YAGP finals which it is really worth going because of better master classes, better exposure to future employers, and many scholarships are really offered to a decent percentage of YAGP finalists (although we know a good number who did not get offered any scholarships at NY Finals while the elite ones are offered multiple scholarships which are usually declined anyway and then offered to next tier of dancers). While it is expensive to go to NY (the cost for hotels and flight alone for dancer and chaperone is significant), YAGP NY Finals is worth going to if selected because of what NY Finals cover … in addition to meeting really strong peers and your likely professional cohorts, students get to see final round and gala “free” (while parents/chaperones need to pay $$ to see Final Round last year) even though the the registration fees for semifinals and finals are about the same. Then, there are those surprise scholarships that you had no idea you are getting until your name is announced for you to get on stage to receive the scholarships .. where one is not informed ahead of time by the “You have mail” public notification system and where you later meet with scholarship presenters to say “yes” or “no” to the offer or to negotiate and see what happens. These “surprise” scholarships usually goes to those who are asked to attend second scholarship audition classes. The first open scholarship classes for everyone are usually so big in number that there is no way you can see each student properly even though the idea is to give everyone a chance for a scholarship. The reality is that scholarship presenters usually have their eyes out for specific dancers if they already saw them performed earlier or spotted them at master classes which are important to go to and this is where your good basic class technique is importantly seen. The good news is that you don’t have to be placed top 12 to get a scholarship if you have the potential (having a stage presence or stage charisma is important and they see your potential to be a prima ballerina, and more as you wrote .. the right body proportions, flexibility, hyper-extension, gorgeous feet as you mentioned) because those schools will want to train you “to professional” and claim success for their training. One scholarship presenter showed me her dance program.where she made check marks for 4 or 5 things she is looking for in a dancer, and those who get all the check marks are offered the scholarships – even if you don’t make it to top 12. And surprisingly, not all the top 12 dancers and even those who get to the final round always get a scholarship … at least that was true last year. At least, our observations and experience was from the pre-competitive and our room mate was a junior who made it to the final round but no scholarship. In our case, my daughter was offered to take a train out to the scholarship school to visit and to take a class … which we did in the few hours we had before our scheduled flight home 🙂

    The question I have for you is: Is it still possible to train to be technically and artistically perfect for companies to audition and hire you without doing the YAGP or other international competitions and getting the exposure through the competitions? The companies may wonder why you did not to do the competition when you have what you have:) If current trend and conventional wisdom is that the competition route is the best way to go for budding ballerinas with “what it takes”, what is your ranking of top 5 US and international competitions for classical ballerina-in-training to go for?