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When is it time to be realistic post-training?


aileen
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On another thread we discussed when a DC should give up training for a career in ballet. I wondered what people's views were on when a DC should start working towards an alternative career outside ballet once s/he has finished his/her training (assuming that the DC does not want to teach dance). Realistically, how long can a person keep up his/her ballet if s/he is not part of a company? I've heard of dancers taking jobs on cruise ships. Again, how satisfactory is this type of job (I do not wish to offend anyone here) if the person is still hoping for a conventional career with a ballet company?

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When my dd took a job on a cruise ship I think she had already decided that Classical Ballet probably wasn't for her. Cruise dancing can give dancers a long and stable career. My dd has colleagues who have been dancing with the same company for almost 10 years, and are now looking to 'retire' having already paid off their mortgages at around 30 years of age. Because working on a ship you have other duties, and particularly customer facing duties, I think that cruise dancers have a broad work experience which will make them more employable when they do retire.

 

Some cruise companies specifically employ classical dancers and put on full length ballets. I'm thinking particularly of Cunard. But I don't think I've heard of any dancers going from cruise work into ballet companies. It may be of course that not many would want to.

 

In terms of how long you can keep up your ballet if you don't get a job after graduating - I think that is very difficult. My dd found it difficult enough after just a few months to do enough classes. Sometimes you can go back to your old school/associate scheme for classes but if not it can be very expensive if you are having to pay for professional level classes.

 

I know some people set themselves a time limit - eg a year after graduating. Obviously this will be a personal thing and will depend on sources of finance and other support (parents?), how close they feel they are to getting a job (eg always in the final cut but never offered a contract?), and how much rejection they feel they can take. It will also depend on alternatives that are available.

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The pay what I consider to be a very reasonable salary for a recent graduate and your food and accommodation are paid for. My dd has also found that there are opportunities for earning extra by doing some optional extra duties, but that probably depends on the company and how they work. However you are not paid 'between' contracts so you have to make sure you save some to tide you over. Some companies seem to be able to offer more continuity to their dancers than others.

 

When dd was looking at ballet companies, while most pay Equity minimum at least to their dancers, there are still companies who expect dancers to work for nothing, especially 'Apprentices'. How they can do this, especially while living in a big city, I have no idea.

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Because working on a ship you have other duties, and particularly customer facing duties, I think that cruise dancers have a broad work experience which will make them more employable when they do retire.

 

Glowlight, there was a really interesting article in the Sunday Times this week about dancers on cruise ships, I don't know if you saw it. As well as the dancers discussing their day to day routines, rehearsals and shows etc they did also mention the other duties they had, including passenger safety.

The article then went on to specifically mention (and praise) the British dancers on the Costa Concordia who are attributed to saving many passengers lives because of their abilities to stay focussed and remain calm under pressure when evacuating them onto lifeboats. Highly transferrable skills I would have thought! :-)

Edited by Kitschqueen_1
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My daughter found it nigh on impossible to access sufficient ballet training after graduation. She did do as many professional level classes as possible whenever in London but obviously this cost a great deal to do when you factor in rail fares and accommodation costs if you live outside a communtable distance. She auditioned from the January until the May of the year leading up to graduation and had seen first hand how difficult it was going to be to secure a contract. Despite only going to invited auditions, the sheer number of auditionees was extremely high especially when you consider a company may hold several audition dates/times.

My daughter was always adamant that she didn't want to go down the cruise line route as she knew that it would mean an end to her dream of being in a ballet company. But she's always been very pragmatic and after discussing it with her Dad and me, she decided to audition for a cruise line. Thankfully she's never looked back and thoroughly enjoys life at sea. She is now on her 4th ship with her 2nd cruise line, Cunard, who employ classically trained dancers. As a bonus, she now does ballet/pas de deux and was chosen to do a couple of pointe solos. My daughter's experience of cruise ship work has been a positive one although she knows people who have done one contract and hated it. Salary wise, she is very well paid and as dance captain this has added another $1000 per month. As Glowlight points out though you have to allow for when you are in between contracts Apart from rehearsals and shows she doesn't have any other duties to do apart from the passenger safety drills. On her first cruise line however she had to do 16 - 21 hrs per week of passenger duties (library, socialising and internet help). The experiences she has had whilst travelling and the socialising and interaction with passengers has been invaluable.

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We had the great pleasure of meeting the Dance Captain on board a Royal Caribbean ship last summer. She was an absolute star, and my goodness, those dancers work hard! We were allowed to watch the Technical Rehearsal, and you could definitely see evidence of classical training among several of the male dancers. Hard work but a lovely life for a young person, if you're with a good cruise line.

 

How lovely that there are some classical dances on Cunard! (*starts saving pennies towards another cruise *)

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I can think of several instances in this city of ballet dancers grouping together to form their own company. Sometimes they opened a school for the financial underpinning - but not always.

 

I'm particularly thinking of a trio of professional dancers (two ballet and one modern dancer) who formed a company "Three's Company" who were very successful for many years - two of them are still in dance after decades of success.

 

There are several other groups of dancers here who have formed their own companies, rented rehearsal and dance space (nothing pretentious), built up a support base of donors, and been in existence for many years.

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There was a report out a couple of years ago on the future of DADA funding. In that report one of the key contributors reported how young people who had cruise line experience set themselves up well for jobs in the West End, both for musical theatre as well as dance. When they went for auditions they have great experience to draw on and are considered to be very reliable candidates with maturity, rather than being straight from a school with no experience of being a professional performer.

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That's encouraging to hear Nana Lily and Glowlight.

Cruise ship dancers do become good all rounders as they have to be able to perform a wide variety of dance styles, some of which will only have been learnt during a relatively short rehearsal schedule. During my daughter's 8 week rehearsal period, she had to learn several ballroom dances and latin routines plus jump and jive, none of which she'd done before in addition to the ballet, jazz and modern routines.

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It's probably worth remembering that for many young people, being a cruise ship dancer is not their Plan B, C or D; it's their Plan A. A couple of months ago I overheard two teenage girls on a train, who were clearly intensely involved in musical theatre training, talking about how their greatest desire was to dance on cruise ships, and just how fierce the competition was.

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I also read a report which talked about how the route to the West End is changing. It used to be that students for musical theatre and dance started in small regional or small London theatres and gradually aimed to work their way 'inwards' to the West End. It suggested that the cruise ships are now that essential training ground. Certainly one local girl took that route - vocational 6th form, cruise ship and now she dances in the West End where she has been in several big productions.

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Surely you can only go into musical theatre if you can act and sing as well as dance. Students who have gone down a classical route, say at the RBS, are not going to be able to do this very easily, are they? Or could they do some further training in musical theatre after "sixth form"? This highlights again the importance of choosing the right course. If the student suspects that s/he is not going to make it as a classical ballet dancer would s/he be wise to change to a course which trains in a broader range of performance skills even if it meant changing schools?

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Students with a strong classical background are always in demand and find it easy to add other styles. Many of the girls from WL who don't get into RBS Upper School at 16 go to Laines. I can see no reason why a student couldn't change direction after 6th form either. Also, we need to be careful about terminology here. Musical Theatre courses do have a strong voice element, alongside a lesser requirement for dance. Jazz courses have a strong dance requirement alongside a lesser voice element.

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My dh teaches and has taught on musical theatre course sat a couple if the big MT colleges so I have some knowledge here.

 

It does depend on the show but very often the first call is a voice audition rather than dance.

 

Triple threat is emphasised a lot more now in colleges that used to be more known for dance and voice and drama training is increasing. However it can be picked up later and indeed my dh won't do individual voice lessons with children. A lot of colleges are using Estill Voice Training methods which is very technical and teaches students exactly how to create certain voice qualities for different types of MT. He finds dancers work well with this method as they are used to knowing how things work with their bodies And which muscles do what.

 

At the children's theatre classes that I run we have just taken on a new teacher who trained at Hammond and did the cruise ships for 10 years. When she started they employed separate dancers and singers. Now they have cut the number of singers and they expect most of their dancers to sing.

 

 

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taxi4ballet - it can be a bit of a challenge but thankfuly she got her sea legs quite quickly although jumps can be tricky as you don't always land where you expect to. If the seas are too rough though the shows are cancelled. The dancers become quite adept at quickly readjusting their spacing if someone moves out of position as a result of choppy seas.

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I came across this article and it shows that even students that attend RBS can struggle to get work. The aims of NEBT look admirable but I would be more inclined to be supportive if it were showcasing British students, or even just students that have attended British schools, but it appears to be taking on foreign students who have trained outside the UK.

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-2161039/Future-stars-given-step-revolutionary-new-ballet-company.html

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