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How much is it about the body?


Flora
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I have a question for people who have been through the audition process for Upper School. How important is having the right body in the assessment for US and how much is it about technical standard/musicality/artistry or is it too subjective to say? If you don't have beautiful banana feet and a long line but have nice artistry, are you ruled out for one of the more competitive schools?

 

My impression at LS level is that the body is everything and that quite a weak and unattractive dancer to the lay person - perhaps rather gangly and uncoordinated and not much sense of musicality- could still be snapped up by a top school. Thanks

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If you don't have beautiful banana feet and a long line but have nice artistry, are you ruled out for one of the more competitive schools?

 

Perhaps the reverse can also apply, in that you can be ruled out if the physical attributes are there, but artistry is not (especially if you get as far as finals). 

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I think there is so much competition to get into top schools that a dancer has to have it all, the right body plus artistry and musicality.  However, that said, growing children in lower schools may go through an awkward phase during adolescence.  The schools use their professional judgement to select those, possibly still Ugly Ducklings, who they think will turn into elegant Swans. Of course nobody is ever 100% right.  

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Yes some dancers have it all, but haven't developed enough strength at a certain age.  I have a student who is tall, thin and gorgeous looking with divine feet.  However at 12 she hasn't grown into her long extremities and just can't get it together.  I am hoping for a time in the future when she will, but who knows????  I do believe that for upper school you would probably have to have it all, but I'm not an expert on the audition process.

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I have always considered there to be an absolute minimum physical requirement that is non negotiable - this does not necessarily mean extreme hyper-mobility. But there is a required aesthetic for classical ballet which is undeniable. There are many other things that come into the mix which will enable the dancer to succeed or not, such as (and this is not meant to be an exhaustive list): musicality, artistry, quick brain, determination, physical robustness and strength, very strong work ethic and mental strength. Not all of these things will be immediately obvious but will determine ultimate success.

 

I am sure at lower school there is an element of wait and see. Some fantastic early developers may later display a lack of musicality which wasn't evident previously or a child that grew very early and wasn't rated particularly highly develops strength and is then able to display their Inate musicality. At senior level, I would imagine more of the crucial elements have to be on display. There really isn't long from starting upper school training to auditioning for jobs. I personally think senior school auditions should really be focused on potential job placement - I'm sure some schools are more concerned about that than others. It's no good getting a place at senior school if there's not much chance of gaining a contract afterwards.

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A girl I used to dance with was quite a curvy size 8/10 she was accepted into Ballet West, the first holiday she came home and joined in class she was really toned and had lost quite a bit of weight purely through dancing all day every day. She wound up dancing in Austria I think, then she retrained as a school teacher.

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Thanks- that's really helpful. Especially on the feet. DD has a tiny frame and strong feet but aesthetically they are not stunning in terms of the arch. There is no way she would get into an upper school requiring banana feet as an absolute prerequisite. 

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It's still worth auditioning at all the schools you like though, Flora. With daily pointework the feet will really strengthen and will probably change shape and even size, somewhat. Straighter feet are often less injury prone too.

 

What you can't fake or change to any great degree at US level is physical proportions, i.e. leg length - in girls, anyway. Obviously boys continue growing for longer.

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There is no way she would get into an upper school requiring banana feet as an absolute prerequisite. 

I'm not sure that this is something that the schools regard as essential, especially (as others have pointed out) banana feet can be far less strong than other foot types, and can cause a lot of problems, particularly for pointework.

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I think you could drive yourself quite round the bend thinking too hard about this kind of thing and trying to predict outcomes. I've decided to let DD audition for anywhere she wants, until financial limits prevent any more. Realistically we are probably wasting our time completely at several places, but at least we will know for certain. Obviously I am trying to steer her in the direction of places tbat seem more suitable for her, and she is pretty realistic in her own approach, but provided it's not going to bankrupt you I don't see any harm in "having a go" anywhere. Chances of a place may be small, but they are absolutely zero if you don't audition.

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I think you could drive yourself quite round the bend thinking too hard about this kind of thing and trying to predict outcomes. I've decided to let DD audition for anywhere she wants, until financial limits prevent any more. Realistically we are probably wasting our time completely at several places, but at least we will know for certain. Obviously I am trying to steer her in the direction of places tbat seem more suitable for her, and she is pretty realistic in her own approach, but provided it's not going to bankrupt you I don't see any harm in "having a go" anywhere. Chances of a place may be small, but they are absolutely zero if you don't audition.

Completely agree pups mum - exactly what we are going to do next year. If you're not in it, you can't win it, as they say! You just don't know what someone might see in your dc on the day and I know that I think that some places will not suit my dd, but I don't know that for sure and I want them to decide, not me!

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One of DD's ballet teachers explained that some schools have such competition for places that they can afford to be extremely selective in every area, including type of physique preferred. The reality is that such schools do have the pick of those who have amazing technique, musicality, performance ability and physique and all 'in one package', whereas many beautiful and accomplished dancers may not fit their requirements in one or more areas.

 

Additionally, schools which are attached to and are feeder schools into an attached company will presumably select those who they think will fit into the corps de ballet of their company (or who have been picked out already as likely future soloists and principals), as Kate_N said. I suppose this may change over time as different ADs may have different preferences.

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To even make it into a classical company, the dancer has to be incredibly gifted and lucky (you happen to walk into an audition and the AD is looking for someone just like you - not because you have perfect technique, there are already 30 of those in the room, but because you just have something that catches their eye). How that dancer develops within the company is another story completely. But make no bones about it, getting your first classical contract is the hardest step and only a handful of those highly selected 16 year olds will cut the mustard. England does not have the monopoly on great training and the job market is worldwid. Tough world, I wouldn't want my child to do it if I had any say in the matter.

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It's interesting as the ability to be incredibly selective at 16 doesn't seem to translate into the UK then turning out principal after principal- I guess that's another debate!

 

It is indeed - let's keep this thread to the original topic, please. :-)

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All elements are important; physique, feet, musicality, drive, movement quality... No one is the best in absolutely everything. Maybe the one with the best physique (or the physique the school prefers) doesn't have the best musicality, it's a fine balance.

 

It's one of the reasons candidates may be accepted by one top school and not another. One school might prefer the candidate with the best physique, believing that their training programme will improve her musicality (remember that she already has excellent musicality on top of everything else!) Another school might me attracted by the candidate with the best musicality, since her physique is also suitable for a classical career, even if the other candidate has a "better" physique.

 

You mentioned feet. I probably had the worst feet in my year at vocational school, probably even the whole school! haha and I'm quite sure that the school must have rejected candidates who had way better feet than me, but I suppose they chose me over them because on balance there was something else they saw in me that they preferred. Assuming that the feet are suitable for pointe work, there are some advantages to not having "banana feet" as others have mentioned.

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Yes I think "professionally" is the key word there....in the above post.

 

But sometimes I wonder if there were five judges and only ONE place available and NO conferring between the judges allowed I'm pretty sure five different children would be chosen!!

 

Very difficult all of this. In a room full of 30 applicants there will probably be five or six with the perfect body proportions ....five or six who are ultra flexible.....five or six who have wonderful musicality five or six who have brilliant co ordination and pick up things super quickly and then another five or six who,have that "je ne sais pas quoi"

 

A very lucky person indeed who has ALL of this!

I do think examples like Lauretta Summerscales should be kept in mind though as inspiration.

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I totally agree LinMM. I would still doubt that RBS would take any child with that 'Je ne sais quoi' if they had neither sway back legs or long slim limbs. But I do hope I'm wrong for all those chikdren's sakes :)

Edited by atacrossroads
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I agree atacrossroads. Royal have a physical aesthetic that is desirable for them - tho whether it is necessary for classical dancing is debatable, as far as I am aware it is not a physical necessity for sway backs or long limbs in classical ballet but an aesthetic preference, which is different.

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The aesthetic can't have been as crucial back in 1980 when they accepted Leanne Benjamin into Upper School. By that time of course she'd had top class Australian ballet training as a child.

She then then made it into the RBC in the early 90's, becoming a principal within a year, despite not having sway backs (but obviously so many other attributes that made her so beautiful to watch).

The question is, would she have been given the chance to become the dancer she became in today's associate system? Are prospective Leanne Benjamin's slipping through the net, being turned down, disenchanted, or financially unable to gain the required training go as far as she did.

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I wouldn't be interested in looking at the 'what does RBS look for?' thread as my Dd has no intention of ever auditioning for them again!

 

To be honest, I watched two ballets in one day In January. The matinee was RBC and the evening was ENB. ENB had such a variety of artists in height, body shape and personality, it was an absolute delight to watch. Every one different, every personality allowed to shine through. If I were an aspiring young dancer, that's the kind of company I'd want to be a part of!

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