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Ballet Companies and Disability


DancingtoDance
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If you are auditioning for ballet companies and you have a disability, should you tell the Artistic Director you have a disability?

 

Would that information hinder you in getting hired, renewing a new contract, getting soloist or principal roles or moving up the ranks if possible, whether legally or illegally?

 

Would you have to disclose certain disabilities?

 

If you disclose your disability and get hired, would the AD tell other staff or is it down to you?

 

Could the company fire you if they find out you have a disability and you didn't disclose it?

 

If you are in a vocational ballet school attached to a certain ballet company, would the school tell the affiliated company of your disability or not?

 

Thank you for any answers.

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What kind of disability are you talking about? I think that it might be difficult to insist upon 'reasonable adjustments' in a ballet company given the nature of the job eg tight timescales, long hours, stamina, touring, teamwork and flexibility in terms of roles and partners. Physical disabilities may become apparent anyway during auditioning and training. I suppose the question is: how does the disability affect the person's ability to train and then dance professionally at the highest level?

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Thank you aileen for your answer.

 

This is not for homework.

 

I think I am talking more about neurological/developmental (ADHD, ASD, Asperger's, nonverbal learning disability, auditory processing disorder, visual processing disorder), psychological, specific learning (dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia), speech/language, hearing difficulties etc

 

Someone who is a capable dancer, but whose disability may potentially become apparent during training or rehearsals, and/or when being in the company of dancers or company staff while not dancing

 

Who can adapt to change fairly well

 

Also, what would you do in this situation:

 

Someone who can socialise but has difficulty reading nonverbal cues, finding it very difficult to make eye contact while talking but is able to do that while dancing, very socially/emotionally immature, weak in life skills but competent in basic and perhaps some more advanced life skills, perhaps some mild speech/language problems, inconsistent volume of voice (not on purpose), possibly some difficulty following vague instructions and some lack of clearness of speech, which is also somewhat inconsistent (i.e. sometimes clear and sometimes not, but often able to be understood fairly easily and if not, repeating oneself may make the person be able to be understood more easily)

 

Also who picks up choreography rather slowly but always catches up (yes, I realise you won't get work if you can't pick up choreography fast enough)

 

However whose condition is considered mild, can adapt to change well, copes well with the structure of a ballet class or rehearsal, is a capable dancer who can learn required pieces on time provided there are not too many ballets to learn, is able to behave appropriately in situations and for the most part does (except while socialising with peers as most people would find the person 'weird' - this is more a choice and more personality-based)

 

Thank you for any answers

 

Also, would it make a difference whether the person was a female or male?

Edited by DancingtoDance
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I recollect that there was a discussion a couple of years ago (or perhaps it was a discussion on another thread) about students / dancers on the autistic spectrum. I think that one poster said that s/he knew someone with an ASD (I think that it was a man) who was dancing with a company, which surprised me tbh as ASDs are communication disorders and there are often issues with sensory overload as well which I imagine could cause problems in a theatre with bright lights, a hot environment, loud music (sometimes) and costumes with scratchy or unusual textures. I suppose that it's all a question of degree and will depend on the type of problem(s) which the particular person has.

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Thanks for both of your answers.

 

Pas de Quatre, why do you think there may be more room in the contemporary dance world? And what exactly do you mean by 'contemporary'?

 

I am talking about someone without problems with sensory overload, bright lights, hot environment, loud music, textures etc. And without learning (intellectual) disabilities although may struggle with concepts, and socially/emotionally immature

 

Also, if the person also had a psychological disorder, but manageable, then... would it make a difference?

 

I would not fail to appreciate discussions/informations about other conditions that I listed, or even physical disabilities or medical illnesses

 

Thanks again for both of your answers.

Edited by DancingtoDance
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Well, any 'limitations' with speech should not be a problem as the person is dancing not acting.

 

Ballet dancers start work and (usually) have to live independently away from home (sometimes in another country) from their late teens. Frequent touring is a reality of most companies. As far as I can tell, there doesn't seem to be much pastoral support in the companies of the type that students (who are of a similar age to young dancers) have access to at most colleges and universities. I suspect that this is because you are working, rather than studying, and because the world of ballet is rather Darwinian in nature ie only the 'fittest' (physically and mentally) are left after years of auditions, assessments, disappointments and injuries.

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Thank you aileen for your answer. I could see your point about dancing not acting, however what about the rare occasions where the instructors or rehearsal directors need to ask the dancer a question? Or in emergency situations where the dancer has to communicate to the instructor?

 

I have found and read the thread aileen mentioned before. For anyone interested, here it is:

 

http://www.balletcoforum.com/index.php?/topic/6823-dancers-sen/page-2(hfbrew and annie posted about professional male ballet dancers, for annie it was her son)

 

When do you think a person should disclose their disability? And could you indeed get fired if you don't disclose your disability and they find out?

 

Also do you think people should disclose their disability if they have a different kind of disability, such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, hearing impairment etc which may also become apparent during training?

 

If you disclose your disability but meet the requirements for the company... would the company turn you down?

 

Personally I feel in the situation I mentioned, the person could cope in a ballet company, but potentially thriving may be difficult without proper support. I think the biggest issue would be eye contact (but note, that the dancer can make eye contact properly when asking directions, for very short amount of time during conservation) if people find out what was going on, although it could be argued eye contact is not necessary 100% of the time, because other dancers use this against the person.

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The difference as I see it is that in a ballet context the dancer has to be able to conform.  Even though most ballet companies do also dance many other styles these days, the basic requirement of a corps de ballet is to be able to present a uniform structure where each individual dancer blends into the overall group.  In more modern/contemporary companies the choreographer often wants the individual to bring something more of themself to the creative process and there is not the same requirement for uniformity. 

 

By contemporary I mean many of the companies that use techniques which evolved over the last hundred years or so, branching away from purely classical technique.  If you use "contemporary dance" in a search on-line, it should give you some helpful results. 

 

Edited to add second paragraph

Edited by Pas de Quatre
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In a vocational school, I think the person would need an individual education plan to outline the necessary steps for individual goals to be attained.

 

I think the person would need support on social skills and life skills, to be encouraged to make eye contact, reduce the response time for difficult questions, an educational/teaching assistant in at least some classes (mainly for academics/understanding of material).

 

If possible perhaps speech/language therapy in vocational school.

 

Potentially arranging appointments with psychologist in vocational school

 

And in regards to psychological disorder, people including the student being aware of signs of an episode and what they can do to prevent, a 'safe person' and/or 'safe place' to go

 

Dance teachers being aware of difficulties and helping to address them

 

So given this, a lot could have been corrected by the time for a company, but not completely

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I don't think that Dyslexia or Discalculia would be a problem in a vocational school. There are certainly lots of children with Dyslexia at selective independent schools. I don't see that it would be relevant in a company unless the person's Dyslexia was so severe that s/he was functionally illiterate and couldn't, say, fill in a form or read a letter or notice from the company. Having said that, many overseas students and dancers arrive in schools and companies speaking and writing very little English and the schools and companies deal with this.

 

I don't see that the lack of sustained eye contact off stage is such a big problem on its own. There is an awful lot of hanging around in studios during rehearsals but now that everyone has smart phones there's less need for social chit-chat.

 

I can't answer your specific questions about disclosure. Perhaps Hbrew or Annie might care to offer their opinions.

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May I ask how old this person is?

 

And if I can use this term, does the person in question have frequent or occasional 'meltdowns' and / or need to have 'space' at certain times when feeling overwhelmed?

Edited by aileen
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I started the previous thread under a pseudonym as st the time dd & I did not wish to be so open about her diagnoses (we are known in real life by many members of the forum)

 

I am happy to say that she is thriving st school & the Sen provision is phenomenal (much more so than at my sons academic school). For both dd & Ds (he is into acting/singing) their speedy ability to learn & retain choreography (dd) & song lyrics/dialogue is an asset. The ed psych who assessed them both says he is seeing increasing numbers of children on the spectrum who are talented in drama for various reasons.

 

Dd has no aspirations to join a ballet company but we do know people who are autistic who have been successful & there is currently a high profile student who is currently training at a leading school who used to attend dds school who appears to be doing very well.

 

Her ambitions lie in general dance/musical theatre. I see no reason why she should disclose her condition at an audition for a job. Dd has performed professionally & non professionally before we had a diagnoses & it made no difference. It's different at school/college as there are adjustments that may need to be made in an educational context.

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aileen Yes, but mixing up right and left, having difficulty understanding direction words, having difficulty counting music/understanding counts

 

I do think there are ways to work around all of these and they may not necessarily be a major problem... BUT what company would hire someone who mixed up left and right at the audition? I don't know.. 

 

Or the dancer may develop very good coping strategies, but the specific learning difficulty may become apparent after a rather long time

 

Company staff may or may not realise it is related to dancers' difficulties... but how can they if they haven't even disclosed it?! Unless they somehow become aware, through the visible difficulties of the dancers.

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May I ask how old this person is?

 

And if I can use this term, does the person in question have frequent or occasional 'meltdowns' and / or need to have 'space' at certain times when feeling overwhelmed?

 

If you mean autistic meltdowns or rage, it would be extremely unlikely to happen with non-family members

Edited by DancingtoDance
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Dancingtodance, my gut instinct is that the problems listed in the first paragraph of your last post would be significant in a ballet company. The coach, choreographer etc would have to repeat or demonstrate what s/he wanted the person to do which would slow down rehearsals and possibly leave everyone rather frustrated. The music thing is a big problem as well. Is this person actually musical? This is a major requirement of a dancer.

 

I think that the parent of this child should talk to his/her ballet teacher and ask him/her what s/he thinks about the child's potential

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When do you think a person should disclose their disability? And could you indeed get fired if you don't disclose your disability and they find out?

 

Also do you think people should disclose their disability if they have a different kind of disability, such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, hearing impairment etc which may also become apparent during training?

 

If you disclose your disability but meet the requirements for the company... would the company turn you down?

 

As with any employer, I suppose it's probably best to let them know of any disability or other condition which may have an impact during working hours. I used to know someone who was fired from her job in a shop (a long time ago though) because she didn't tell them she had epilepsy - they only found out because she had a seizure at work. 

 

I don't think employers are now allowed to discriminate against a potential candidate due to disability.

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aileen Yes, but mixing up right and left, having difficulty understanding direction words, having difficulty counting music/understanding counts

 

I do think there are ways to work around all of these and they may not necessarily be a major problem... BUT what company would hire someone who mixed up left and right at the audition? I don't know.. 

 

Or the dancer may develop very good coping strategies, but the specific learning difficulty may become apparent after a rather long time

 

Company staff may or may not realise it is related to dancers' difficulties... but how can they if they haven't even disclosed it?! Unless they somehow become aware, through the visible difficulties of the dancers.

Just to be clear, this post is related to dyslexia/dyscalculia

 

I think that a person with dyscalculia may not understand counts doesn't mean they can't dance to the count, but if they can't dance to the count then I could see how that could be a big problem.

Edited by DancingtoDance
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The thing is autism is a spectrum & if you know one person with autism you know ONE person with autism.

 

Dd finds it impossible not to be on time with the music, it's one of her 'things'. Ds finds anything out of tune physically painful for example.

Thank you for your post; I appreciate it and totally agree with what you're saying

 

Just to be clear, I was not talking about autism or the person when talking about not understanding counts  :)

 

And I think it is possible to not understand counts (or not understand 1, 2, 3 or 4) and still understand counts (if you know what I mean) and be on time with the music  :)

Edited by DancingtoDance
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Well I asked this somewhere else to get more opinions and it seems that disclosing your disability may indeed affect you getting hired?

 

And this may seem a crazy question (inspired by aileen, who was very sensible :-) ), but what should a person do if their difficulties indeed involved having great difficulty reading company letters/notices? Or had difficulty understanding certain words in the notice/letter. Could the company do anything about this, and would most dancers be willing to explain the notice to the fellow dancer?

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I see what you're getting at, but there are a couple of points here:

 

a) people are all different; people with disabilities are all different; disabilities are all different. So ... the judgement would have to be made on an individual basis. An anonymous internet forum isn't really the place, because we can't see you, we can't help you evaluate the individual case here.

 

B ) although someone said upthread that dancing is not acting, but - dancing is acting, just without words. It is a performing art, and communication, and the ability to communicate, is essential. The technical training is not an end in itself, but a means to performance and art at a high level. 

 

c) under the DDA, "reasonable adjustments' have to be made, and since 2010 or thereabouts, educational institutions were bound by it. But the point is that they must be reasonable. For a professional performer training programme, some of the things you've mentioned might be difficult to adjust. And if the student is not able to develop to deliver the 'intended learning outcomes' (what we work towards in universities) with the standard pedagogy of the school, this might pose a problem to difficult to be dealt with via "reasonable" adjustment. Some of the disabilities you describe would make me wonder whether the person was able fully to follow a course of full-time/vocational training in dance, frankly.

 

In applying for jobs, if an organisation is a "Two Ticks" organisation with regard to disability, that means that an applicant - disclosing a disability (although not its specifics) - who meets the essential criteria of a post is guaranteed an interview. But not the  job. 

 

As for disclosing - I think you'd need to take proper advice over disclosure. But I would say this: in a work situation (and I know because I've had to manage a situation like this), if someone does not disclose a disability, but then claims or requires 'reasonable adjustment ' or 'reasonable accommodation' in order to do the job to a required standard, that employee would be subject to disciplinary proceedings.

 

And if they had disclosed a disability, but were not doing the job to a required standard and were refusing to go through an Occupational Health assessment to determine 'reasonable adjustment' then again, it's a disciplinary procedure.

 

The person themselves - student or employee - cannot determine their own 'reasonable adjustment' - at my institution it's done by an assessment team involving medical specialists, counsellors, and academic tutors. 

 

So it's complicated.

 

I suppose, just as an audience member (not university lecturer managing this process), given that dance is a performing art, I'd be wondering why someone with some of the disabilities you list - for example, dyspraxia/dyslexia which suggest real difficulties in spatial processing & understanding, which for me in the sort of teaching I do are utterly basic to stage performance -- would want to train for a performance job, which requires a level of communication, picking up cues, quick response to chaotic change, and verbal/facial/bodily understanding that you say is limited.

Edited by Kate_N
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I'm a little confused about the person we are talking about. Some difficulties suggest an ASD condition, which I understand can sometimes be allied with problems with gross motor skills / Dyspraxia. I would have thought that Dyspraxia, by its very nature, would rule out a career as a dancer. Dyslexia can, as I understand it, involve auditory processing / short term memory problems, which could be difficult in a vocational school or company setting if the person struggles to follow instructions or forgets what s/he has just learnt or been told.

 

I assume that you are talking about two different children with different problems. If they are young then things can change greatly. A young man whom we know was diagnosed with Autism at 4, had to have one to one help at school for several years and was thought (by doctors) not to be capable of passing *any* GCSEs when he was 8. Happily, he sailed through his teenage years, got all As in his GCSEs and more than respectable A Levels. He's now off to a Russell Group university. I'm not saying that he won't have difficulties in the future - the transition to the working would may be challenging for him but things have worked out so much better than was predicted for him ten years ago. The child who struggles with right and left and directions, for example, may well master these things if they are still quite young. Plenty of people with Dyslexia learn to manage their 'condition' and work in all sorts of jobs.

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