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Ian Macmillan

Instagram - a ballet dancer's best path to fame?

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And yet not all dancers 'do' Instagram, stars or otherwise. Clearly there is a choice involved.

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These days,  I think it probably is, though I don't see it currently having the same influence in the UK as it does apparently in the US.     

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If one looks at the comments on the Instagram accounts of the UK's most accomplished dancers, they often seem to be be from abroad.

But I gather that dancers think that regular posts are important.

It will be interesting to see what happens on Francesca Hayward's feed once the R&J film and Cats come out.

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Although I don’t post messages, I find Instagram is frequently the only way you can find out about what roles dancers are performing if they aren’t principal roles at the Opera House or if they are guesting in a gala etc. I’m not particularly interested in knowing about their personal lives (although I have to admit I have discovered relationships between dancers that I would have had no idea about were it not for their posts). If a dancer grabs your attention, it is perfectly natural to want to follow their career and there is much pleasure in learning about the new roles they take on. I think it should not be necessary for them to have to make this known but the  profiles on the Opera House website are selective and often vague. So I can well understand why Instagram is  popular as a source of information.

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Weighing in from the US. I find it increasingly distasteful to see dancers’ Instagram accounts, and I have actually “unfollowed” some for their shameless (my opinion, of course) promotion. In many cases, their actual dancing does not match their Instagram fame.

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I don’t mind the self promotion of professional dancers tbh (to a point ) so in that regard I haven’t actually unfollowed anyone I was already following before. I do have a problem with this image certain dancers ( professionals and/or amateurs) try to send of ballet and how “great” you are in it as something that is reduced to the number of pirouettes one can make and also how it affects the younger and infinitely more impressionable generation of dancers. Especially because all that is being posted goes through a lot of editing, meaning vast majority don’t post how many times they tried something before achieving it on film. I do think it’s a problem when young dancers watching those videos ( or trying to partake in it ) think that is what will make them become or be admired as a great dancer. 


 

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As a ballet fan, I started social media tentatively on Twitter and now look on Instagram when I have time  - you can very quickly flick through photos - and I do find them interesting. Personally, social media has enabled me to connect with certain dancers, much to my surprise at first and when I met them - through the Ballet Association first and then through the ROH, I was astonished when one of them said -I know who you are, when we'd had a small interaction about one of his performances on Twitter.  I was then hooked and really enjoy the social media interaction on Twitter now. I don't bother with interactions on Instagram as there are 100s, sometimes 1000s of followers/ comments and they just get lost. 

 

However, that's slightly off the point to the main theme of this thread. There are obviously some UK dancers who do try to promote themselves via Instagram and other social media.  This has clearly added to their followers, but I don't see any more widespread interest from "non-ballet fans" such as referenced in the US article, however good they are.  I'm thinking UK ballet dancers hopefully have the best of both worlds - some fame and admiration in their own environment of the theatre and its surrounds, but they can still go shopping without being mobbed (apart from in Japan). 

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8 hours ago, fromthebalcony said:

Weighing in from the US. I find it increasingly distasteful to see dancers’ Instagram accounts, and I have actually “unfollowed” some for their shameless (my opinion, of course) promotion. In many cases, their actual dancing does not match their Instagram fame.

 

And I think it's been suggested more than once that a dancer's social media following might be a greater attraction to a prospective employer than his/her actual dance abilities.

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I’d never really thought much about Instagram but I now can’t help noticing so many product endorsements - Christmas jumpers and haircuts this weekend from one Royal Ballet Principal.  I guess this is the way of the world and good luck to those who benefit.  But I’ll try to adopt the attitude I take to junk mail and the seemingly ever increasing numbers of advertisement included in Radio Times etc which go straight for recycling.  The only ones read are those infuriating ones stapled not in the middle (easy to tear out) but perhaps in the quarter/three quarter point which take a while to remove and where I might make a mental note never to purchase the advertised product - not a great hardship as I have no wish for a stairlift or walk in bath (at present).

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My son is a dancer and endorses products.  Working in Eastern europe it makes a huge difference to his income. He only endorses products he believes in (one a shoe brand he lusted after for years and could never afford to buy, they now send him pairs in return for him posting on Instagram). Another accessories company put some money in his account to "tell his story."  100,000 viewings later, maybe some people who never knew about ballet or thought about it have learnt a little about the life and how the sacrifices that need to be made.

 

He is a good-but-not-great dancer - will never dance for ENB or RB  but makes a living and gets some good roles.   Unfortunately, what is good for Eastern Europe goes very little  when it comes to flights home, and chipping in for Christmas presents is  a real struggle.  I know he saved his commission from the accessories company to buy all the males of the family (and probably some females!) presents.  

 

If anyone is interested, let me know and I'll send you the link to the video.

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Thanks for the link to this article @Ian Macmillan
Dancers have such a short career. Kudos to them if they can supplement their income like @meadowblythe's son. 
 

On 30/11/2019 at 13:54, Odyssey said:

I find Instagram is frequently the only way you can find out about what roles dancers are performing

💯


Similar to actors and athletes, using social platforms as a direct connection with fans makes sense for dancers. Many here follow Shale Wagman for example, and I expect Instagram will be where we hear career news from him. It was also the platform of choice for the dance community's reaction when Prince George's ballet classes got mocked (also see the ongoing #BoysDanceToo tag). 

Fwiw, I work in digital marketing, so can be considered biased, but there is a win/win bonus to brand sponsorship of influencers in any field. It expands both the fame of that particular talent and their art form (ie, Francesca Hayward and Lulumon) to an audience that isn't necessarily a fan of either already. A chronic issue for ballet and other 'elitist arts' is how to reach beyond their existing and ageing audience. The Royal Ballet and Royal Opera House haven't cracked this; I think the dancers themselves could. In fact, the hoarding of information (like a full cast list) from the RB and other companies only increases that image, where the behind-the-scene views we get from the dancers (like my fave IGer Beatriz Stix-Brunell) breaks it down

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Fair enough.  Perhaps it's just the *amount* of advertising, or the number of brands covered that's more of the problem.  I wouldn't object to the odd "BTW, the outfit's from Sweaty Betty if you're interested" sort of thing, I suppose.

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In terms of advertising, as long as it's clear that the dancer is being paid to promote dance products - for instance in the last few months a couple of dancers have posted that they're now "influencers" for Bloch - then it doesn't bother me. Given how short dancers' careers are then I can see why they'd want to make money while they're able to. Although this may be because, as someone who only watches ballet & will never do it, I'm not a receptive market for dane products. I imagine that parents of young dancers who badger them to buy them such-and-such because so-and-so has been promoting it on Instagram may feel a bit differently!

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I have only seen one leading ballerina 'promoting' products and services in an oblique way (by praising them and thanking people and companies for helping her or having her wearing their dancewear). In addition, Francesca Hayward seems to be an 'agent/model' for Lululemon. So which dancers are being talked about here as 'influencers' and advertisers? I'm not being critical of them, just interested to know who's getting the advertising contracts.

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The Royal Ballet fans are incredibly lucky that several times a season there are cinemacasts of performances. Here in the U.S. a dancer's instagram page is often the only video evidence we'll ever have of a dancer in a role. So I do follow several dancers if only because videos (and nowadays even photographs) are so rarely circulated otherwise. 

What I do find irritating is the dancers whose instagram stories are simply videos or photos of audience members praising said performance. 

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1 hour ago, capybara said:

which dancers are being talked about here as 'influencers' and advertisers


Don't know all their partnerships, but have seen a few who promote Bloch dancewear, incl: Meaghan Grace Hinkis, Anna Rose O'Sullivan, Yasmine Naghdi, Tierney Heap, Claire Calvert, Beatriz Stix-Brunell. In addition to using the official hashtags (like #thisisbloch), they put BLOCH Ambassador in their bio 

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Many of the common endorsements: pointe shoes (with Capezios, Blochs and Gaynor Minden wearers being particularly eager to advertise -- I notice that Freed and Grishko wearers don't advertise as much maybe as the pointe shoes are worn by so many dancers?), leotards and dance wear, and for some dancers cross fitness tools like rolling pins for muscles and pilates balls. Also Tiger Balm and other ointments dancers often use to alleviate pain and injury. I really don't mind the advertisements as a dancer's life is short and if they can make extra $$$ go for it.

 

Sometimes the "professional photographers" IMO veer dangerously close to ana chic with their photos or the dancers who choose to photograph themselves in somewhat ana chic ways. I have seen these photos circulated online in ana forums for "thinspiration" and I think dancers do have to be mindful that a photograph of them that purposely shows off their entire ribcage can be construed the wrong way.

Edited by Ivy Lin

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2 hours ago, Ivy Lin said:

 

Sometimes the "professional photographers" IMO veer dangerously close to ana chic with their photos or the dancers who choose to photograph themselves in somewhat ana chic ways. I have seen these photos circulated online in ana forums for "thinspiration" and I think dancers do have to be mindful that a photograph of them that purposely shows off their entire ribcage can be construed the wrong way.

What is Ana chic?

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3 hours ago, Lark said:

What is Ana chic?


Judging by the comment on rib cages I assume it means a “look” that could possibly be considered anorexic.

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8 hours ago, Candleque said:


Don't know all their partnerships, but have seen a few who promote Bloch dancewear, incl: Meaghan Grace Hinkis, Anna Rose O'Sullivan, Yasmine Naghdi, Tierney Heap, Claire Calvert, Beatriz Stix-Brunell. In addition to using the official hashtags (like #thisisbloch), they put BLOCH Ambassador in their bio 

 

Meaghan Grace Hinkis, Anna Rose O'Sullivan, Tierney Heap, Claire Calvert and Beatriz Stix-Brunell are all BLOCH Influencers.

Yasmine Naghdi is the appointed BLOCH Ambassador (previously Sarah Lamb was the BLOCH Ambassador).

Marianela Nunez promotes Freed of London. 

 

When one considers how much some top athletes and sports individuals earn through advertising watches, sports shoes, clothes (and crisps in the case of Gary Lineker), top ballet dancers are nowhere near such extra earning capacity. Their career demands are as hard, if not harder, but ballet dancers are at the bottom when it comes to supplementing their income through advertising.

Edited by Xandra Newman
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I am very happy that hard-working dancers can supplement their incomes...as long as it doesn’t compromise their artistic integrity. 

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Interestingly, my dancing son doesn't promote dancewear - sports shoes, mens accessories ... as I mentioned he's not exactly RB standard but he does look a fit and healthy young man.  

 

His photography is done by his flatmate on a phone, with exception of aforementioned filming exercise.  That was a friend from junior school who happens to study film-making .. and he's looking at starting a youtube channel - with some brazilian footballers he knows from the town where he lives so again thinking fitness rather than dance.  I am wondering what this says about his own self image. 

 

As with all things ballet he is learning new life skills: how to negotiate a deal, to work with a company outside his area of expertise, digital marketing skills (he can tell which photos will increase his following), financial awareness, working internationally (he lives in a different country from any of the three companies he promotes, and none of them are even on the same time zone as each other).

 

It has also opened up new pathways for when he finishes ballet - he'd always assumed he'd move into some sort of gym based role but has really enjoyed the whole digital marketing experience and is now hoping there may be opportunities in this direction.  Hopefully this will be many years in the future, but you can never tell.

 

 

 

 

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All RB principals have Instagram accounts but some seem to be more enthusiastic than others at keeping them up to date.  By far the largest following for a dancer on our shores is that of Marianela Nunez (321K), but her following is dwarfed by that of Roberto Bolle (663K) which in turn is but a fraction of the queen of ballet Instagram, Misty Copeland who has no fewer than 1.7 MILLION followers.  

You may be interested to note that the only other RB principal to have followers in treble figures is Steven McRae with 186K.  Osipova, surprisingly, has only 44.7K followers but she's well worth watching as she does post some delightful pictures and it gives an insight to her unusual but charming personality.

Personally I follow Svetlana Zakharova (along with 121K other people) because she has a habit of posting a short video of herself being driven to work, with her eclectic choice of music in the background, usually in a woolly hat in winter but still looking perfect, and the way she glances into the camera and blows a kiss melts my heart :)

 

Thus Instagram does seem to lead to fame to an extent, although it is not always a guide to 'quality'.

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20 minutes ago, maryrosesatonapin said:

All RB principals have Instagram accounts but some seem to be more enthusiastic than others at keeping them up to date. 

 

There are all sorts of copyright minefields to negotiate and, I believe, payments to be made for the use of certain photos taken within the ROH. Some dancers might be more willing (or able) to pay up than others.

 

 

 

 

Edited by capybara

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1 minute ago, capybara said:

 

There are all sorts of copyright minefields to negotiate and, I believe, payments to be made for the use of certain photos taken within the ROH. Some dancers might be more willing (or able) to pay up than others.

 

If that's a decision by ROH management, it seems an odd one.

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1 hour ago, maryrosesatonapin said:

Personally I follow Svetlana Zakharova (along with 121K other people) because she has a habit of posting a short video of herself being driven to work, with her eclectic choice of music in the background, usually in a woolly hat in winter but still looking perfect, and the way she glances into the camera and blows a kiss melts my heart :)

 

Thus Instagram does seem to lead to fame to an extent, although it is not always a guide to 'quality'.

 

Svetlana Zakharova's Instagram is a surprise. Not the usual glamour shots, but a lot of candids of her family. I like following that account too. 

I also like Sara Mearns' Instagram because she often gives herself feedback over her performance and it's sometimes very candid.

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1 hour ago, Lizbie1 said:

 

If that's a decision by ROH management, it seems an odd one.

 

I don't think that is only an issue within ROH.  I know copyright is one of the reasons why, in the past, we have been deterred from taking curtain call photographs (although I suppose with the advent of phones that is much harder to police now) and even photographs of costumes on display have been a no no.  There could be numerous people who hold copyrights.

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