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British Ballet Company apprenticeships 🤔


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Dd and I were just talking about the future of our British ballet school graduates and reflecting on what other companies around the world offer. The US and other countries offer apprenticeships / trainee positions that the dancers pays for so they can be part of the company. This gives them valuable company and performance experience for their CVS etc and also provides an income for struggling ballet companies. Ds’s company in Europe has apprentices that get paid per performance only and are then auditioned for a corps contract at the end of the season. It’s a development program of sorts. 
Ballet companies need to think quickly in these difficult times how to help this generation of graduates and support their companies futures. Parents are going to have to pay for further training etc anyway so why not pay into / invest in a company.  
It’s just a suggestion, anyone have any ideas 💡 

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21 minutes ago, DancingShoes said:

Do you mean similar to the schemes with Northern Ballet and Ballet Cymru?

Similar. Northern is more of a school sort of set up, uniform and classroom teaching, not like being part of the main company. I think the grad program with Cymru is like that too. The apprentices in other no U.K. companies are a full member of the company, doing class and rehearsals, getting casted for performances etc It’s this set up that would be more appealing I feel to pre professionals and beneficial to companies who maybe short of cash to employ dancers. 

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9 minutes ago, cotes du rhone ! said:

The apprentices in other no U.K. companies are a full member of the company, doing class and rehearsals, getting casted for performances etc

 

I believe that the Aud Jebsen Young Dancers at the Royal Ballet are in fact what you’ve described, cotes.  Not that they pay; they’re offered the Aud Jebsen year while still at Upper School, but as far as I know, they are company members in terms of taking class, rehearsing and performing onstage. 

 

ENB used to have Apprentice dancers but I’m not sure whether that’s still the case. 

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Posted (edited)

The US/EU have Studio Companies / Junior Companies attached to their main company. This was my Ds’s first contract. There were 12 dancers, male and female, with their own studio, ballet master/mistress, classes and rehearsals. They all worked with the main company and were casted but also did their own performances in the theatre choreographed by one of the principal dancers. It was a two year contract and he was paid enough to live on. Why don’t BRB or ENB have this ? 

Edited by cotes du rhone !
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8 minutes ago, Anna C said:

 

I believe that the Aud Jebsen Young Dancers at the Royal Ballet are in fact what you’ve described, cotes.  Not that they pay; they’re offered the Aud Jebsen year while still at Upper School, but as far as I know, they are company members in terms of taking class, rehearsing and performing onstage. 

 

 

Yes Anna C, this is what I was referring too. 
I feel that all the British Ballet Companies should be following their lead and offering a similar opportunity to British trained graduates not just expecting them to seek employment abroad. 

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This is a really interesting idea.  

 

Whilst I agree that it would be good if there was a mechanism for graduates to get company experience, there's something in me that feels that expecting someone to work for nothing for any length of time is wrong.  In fact I think that UK employment laws might make this very difficult.

 

It sounds as if Aud Jebsen is more work experience as part of their course at RBS - which is an excellent approach for those schools which have links with companies.

 

For graduates seeking their first employment, it would be good if there were ballet apprenticeships under the government's Higher Apprenticeship scheme.  That way they get the experience, and get paid, but at a lower salary to reflect the fact that they are still training.

 

 

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15 minutes ago, glowlight said:

This is a really interesting idea.  

 

Whilst I agree that it would be good if there was a mechanism for graduates to get company experience, there's something in me that feels that expecting someone to work for nothing for any length of time is wrong.  In fact I think that UK employment laws might make this very difficult.

 

It sounds as if Aud Jebsen is more work experience as part of their course at RBS - which is an excellent approach for those schools which have links with companies.

 

 

 

Sadly, I think that vocational students/parents are led to believe that they will, after 8 years of training, get a paid ballet job. In my experience this is rarely the case. Dd and I knew that the best we could hope for would be a trainee/junior company  position of some kind that we would have to financially support her in. And that’s exactly what she got. There are just too many extremely talented international dancers out there and in the British Ballet School bubble you can be swept along and convinced that all will be great and you will get a contract 😔 Very few do and the rest disappear quietly. The published graduate destinations hide the contract details, and as previously mentioned, that’s even if you manage to make it onto the list. As parents we naively believed that they secured paid contracts. Most we found out later didn’t. 
 If Dd still wanted to dance, we would have paid a company to take her on as a trainee. That’s not because we can afford it but because that is the sad reality of a ballet career. I don’t think the situation hits home until you get to grad year and the rejections role in 😣 Its heartbreaking. 
My son and two of his graduate class mates did a question and answer session with the next years grads and parents, Dds year, and I will never forget the look on their faces when they shared their experiences of rejection, open/cattle market auditions and being cut at barre 😔 it was very honest and raw. 
British Ballet Schools and companies need to do better for its young people and maybe now is the time to start. 

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1 hour ago, glowlight said:

It sounds as if Aud Jebsen is more work experience as part of their course at RBS - which is an excellent approach for those schools which have links with companies.

 

 

Aud Jebsen is for dancers who have already graduated, surely?  Gives them a year at the RB - and a lot have been taken on fully after that.  The Upper School students probably get quite a bit of work experience filling in gaps in the corps de ballet in "big" ballets.

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11 minutes ago, alison said:

 

Aud Jebsen is for dancers who have already graduated, surely?  Gives them a year at the RB - and a lot have been taken on fully after that.  The Upper School students probably get quite a bit of work experience filling in gaps in the corps de ballet in "big" ballets.

 

Yes, it is for selected RB Upper School graduates, alison.  I think there are 5 or 6 Aud Jebsen places offered out of 20-22 students graduating at the end of 3rd year.  The Upper School students are often used in big productions at the ROH (off the top of my head, the Angels in Nutcracker are always students).   

 

The issue I have with apprenticeships/Junior Contracts which are either unpaid or which have to be paid for by the Apprentice is that it rules out low or even middle income families who have to find living costs for their child for yet another year.  This could rule it out for a lot of people. 

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4 hours ago, cotes du rhone ! said:

The US/EU have Studio Companies / Junior Companies attached to their main company. This was my Ds’s first contract. There were 12 dancers, male and female, with their own studio, ballet master/mistress, classes and rehearsals. They all worked with the main company and were casted but also did their own performances in the theatre choreographed by one of the principal dancers. It was a two year contract and he was paid enough to live on. Why don’t BRB or ENB have this ? 

 

BRB and Northern Ballet both list apprentices on their roster.

 

When I first saw apprentices listed at BRB I asked if it was a new scheme and they said they had always had apprentices with a one year contract but they were just shown as being corps members previously.

 

I assume they are paid apprenticeships.

 

The NB graduate programme usually furnishes the dancers for the tours of the company's children's ballets and they have also been used in the past in some of the company's larger scale works.  

 

Who knows what will happen when things start getting back to normal.

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8 minutes ago, Anna C said:  

 

The issue I have with apprenticeships/Junior Contracts which are either unpaid or which have to be paid for by the Apprentice is that it rules out low or even middle income families who have to find living costs for their child for yet another year.  This could rule it out for a lot of people. 

I totally agree Alison that it is extremely unfair to middle/lower income families and those who have already funded 8 years of ballet training, which even with an MDS/Dada is crippling. But this is the sad reality of where we are at.

My Dc vocational school has a graduate placement program. Many similar schemes are popping up all over. Some you pay for, some you don’t. This one is free. As in the ex graduates are classed as members of staff and have roles to fulfil around the school in exchange for a ballet class and a base from which they can apply for jobs. The parents may have stopped paying for school fees but they are still paying for rent, bills, food etc and then auditions.... 

I wish it was more equal but when you have left the school funding support system it’s sadly not 🙁

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I had a brief look at post graduate placement/apprenticeships incase it was something that my dc would have considered. They aren’t cheap. Correct me if I’m wrong..... 

Northern Ballet was £3000 for the year, that’s what it was when Ds was offered it.

ENBS was £8,000 please correct me if I’m wrong 😑 I read that somewhere. 
Ballet Cymru was £3000.

Dutch National was €4000.

None of these included accommodation etc. I am sure that scholarships are available at some but even to continue training post vocational school is a financial nightmare 😣 

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5 hours ago, cotes du rhone ! said:

Similar. Northern is more of a school sort of set up, uniform and classroom teaching, not like being part of the main company. I think the grad program with Cymru is like that too. The apprentices in other no U.K. companies are a full member of the company, doing class and rehearsals, getting casted for performances etc It’s this set up that would be more appealing I feel to pre professionals and beneficial to companies who maybe short of cash to employ dancers. 

I’d like to see something like this that was for UK Dancer’s only if that’s allowed....???

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And it’s starting to replicate the shameful system of unpaid internships or when people pay to join Chambers in Law....bit Dickensian having to buy your way into a firm....money potentially talking its way ahead of talent yet again. Sigh.

Surely ballet companies could offer paid apprenticeship places under the government funded apprentice scheme? Why should job prospects in dance be so different to plumbing or accountancy? 

And there is a danger that training goes on & on. Also I am uncomfortable that it can become an income stream for companies (& limits the payroll costs). Where is Equity in all this? They seem to represent actors well & stamped out much of the unpaid work practises years ago. Are Dancer’s represented by Equity or another Union? If not, why not? 

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Totally agree with the points made in this thread. I’ve been trying to raise these issues in uk and at the top uk school in particular for the last 2 .5 years  since my dd graduated. She experienced all the stuff mentioned. I saw students get quasi contracts in junior coys or extra training at schools. All requiring the continued support of parents. The training continuing offers and placements is a bit of a joke. If you’ve satisfied the 3 yr training requirements to graduate and receive your diploma - why would you need more training. Yet scan the Instagram at various european schools and there are kids still undergoing more training and clearly paying for the spot. It would appear that it’s more a place to keep on audition fitness whilst getting another AD to promote your audition tour. The issue of lack of performance skills is covered off at the RBS. From my dd experience they get loads of exposure - even up to regular spots in the Corp all the way through graduAte year if they like you enough and your competent. The RBS kids even get the BRB exposure and regularly lent out to that coy too. I continue to argue that there needs to be more of a plan and strategy for the kids being pushed through in this system. If jobs are scarce - which they are - reduce the intake and help those in the system.  I know my dd saw kids on the yearly audition tour that had been there from the year before and before that. The audition tour is a waste of money too. Thousands spent to travel and attend various auditions across Europe and USA with spies allocated already to a candidate in a private audition prior or no spots for girls but only said afterwards and various other excuses. The result being a shattered young student and thousands of parents money wasted. 

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1 hour ago, Peanut68 said:

And it’s starting to replicate the shameful system of unpaid internships or when people pay to join Chambers in Law....bit Dickensian having to buy your way into a firm....money potentially talking its way ahead of talent yet again. Sigh.

Surely ballet companies could offer paid apprenticeship places under the government funded apprentice scheme? Why should job prospects in dance be so different to plumbing or accountancy? 

And there is a danger that training goes on & on. Also I am uncomfortable that it can become an income stream for companies (& limits the payroll costs). Where is Equity in all this? They seem to represent actors well & stamped out much of the unpaid work practises years ago. Are Dancer’s represented by Equity or another Union? If not, why not? 

Good question.  Dancers are represented by Equity, but in my personal experience whilst well meaning, it has not been particularly effective.  Experiences may well vary though depending on what company you are in, or whether you are freelance.  To be fair, I think that it's effectiveness may be limited in part by the (somewhat understandable) reluctance of many dancers to get involved and risk rocking the boat.  In addition to that, for every dancer that does speak up there will often be another one (or several) actively shooting them down again, so such initiatives to improve things often fail.  

 

By contrast, the Musicians Union seems to be excellent, both on campaigning and employment issues/contracts.  This situation seems to be mirrored in Germany -see the recent open letter by the dancers of Schwerin - which perhaps suggests that poor work rights/union representation may be a systemic problem in the dance world beyond just the UK.    

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You realise folks if we all pooled our audition fund and our pre-professional fund money together , we could probably form our own  junior company! Hire a few guest choreographers for a short contract  to build a repertoire, studios,  line up a few theatre dates ,etc . Anybody game?  

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7 hours ago, cotes du rhone ! said:

Similar. Northern is more of a school sort of set up, uniform and classroom teaching, not like being part of the main company. I think the grad program with Cymru is like that too. The apprentices in other no U.K. companies are a full member of the company, doing class and rehearsals, getting casted for performances etc It’s this set up that would be more appealing I feel to pre professionals and beneficial to companies who maybe short of cash to employ dancers. 

Northern  has   both Apprentices who are named as part of the company  and the professional graduate programme ( which is  one of Pippa Moore's current projects with Northern ) 
not 100 % of the terms of engagement of the  Apprentices but at least one   had completed the PGP   before getting her apprenticeship https://northernballet.com/biography/sara-dos-remedios

also the PGP is branded under the Academy of the Northern Ballet  rather  than the  Company

https://northernballet.com/academy/professional-training/professional-graduate-programme

Interestingly this leaves  the  conventional Upper School as the only part of  vocational training  that a dancer can't undertake with AoNB   as they can do associates > CAT (and get  a 'lower school' vocational training )  and  do the PGP ...  

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I already keep a close eye on the full time school that my DD attends.  I am paying private school fees and then pay for her academics on top.

This is the Australian system so it's unlike UK vocational schools.  Maybe doing this all on our money is helping us to 'keep it real' in terms of the dreams we may have.

My DD loves her ballet school but if I stop loving it then she will be getting her training elsewhere.

 

When I think about paying for my DD to be in a company... I fall off my chair.

Typically in such a situation, you would start having expectations and start voicing them.  Probably the relationship would end quickly.

It is very strange to have the kind of money to be a ballet student, where we are and probably in the US, and then allow yourself to be treated like dirt.  

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1 hour ago, DD Driver said:

I already keep a close eye on the full time school that my DD attends.  I am paying private school fees and then pay for her academics on top.

This is the Australian system so it's unlike UK vocational schools.  Maybe doing this all on our money is helping us to 'keep it real' in terms of the dreams we may have.

My DD loves her ballet school but if I stop loving it then she will be getting her training elsewhere.

 

When I think about paying for my DD to be in a company... I fall off my chair.

Typically in such a situation, you would start having expectations and start voicing them.  Probably the relationship would end quickly.

It is very strange to have the kind of money to be a ballet student, where we are and probably in the US, and then allow yourself to be treated like dirt.  

I think research the conditions of contracts or pre professional year spots for young ballet dancers. I know from friends of my dd that a Dutch junior coy was very low pay in the initial year with parents having to support rent and living expenses. Also a Central European coy that one young dancer was given a full contract was so poorly paid  in the local currency that the dancer couldn’t afford to live without parents. The salary was so low. Also some coys don’t pay for holidays or outside the season. Only pay the dancers during the time they actually dance. The Aud Jebsen apprentice pay was £22k pa a couple of years ago - which was considered good money for a first year dancer. Ask around. Find out what your young dancer is likely to get and their future prospects. My daughter is at uni now headed to a career in finance. As you can imagine as parents we are relieved. I’m only speaking up to let people know the info I have managed to gain after her 5 years in a uk school and her friends experience after graduation the last 2.5 yrs 

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3 hours ago, Nama said:

I think research the conditions of contracts or pre professional year spots for young ballet dancers. I know from friends of my dd that a Dutch junior coy was very low pay in the initial year with parents having to support rent and living expenses. Also a Central European coy that one young dancer was given a full contract was so poorly paid  in the local currency that the dancer couldn’t afford to live without parents. The salary was so low. Also some coys don’t pay for holidays or outside the season. Only pay the dancers during the time they actually dance. The Aud Jebsen apprentice pay was £22k pa a couple of years ago - which was considered good money for a first year dancer. Ask around. Find out what your young dancer is likely to get and their future prospects. My daughter is at uni now headed to a career in finance. As you can imagine as parents we are relieved. I’m only speaking up to let people know the info I have managed to gain after her 5 years in a uk school and her friends experience after graduation the last 2.5 yrs 

Having had two Dc graduate from a U.K. vocational school I, like yourself, can only share our experiences and those of my DC’s friends. The dance employment/graduation destination has been on a decline for the past few years, as in the numbers securing paid, that you can live on, contracts. Churning out all these young dancers into a world where they realistically haven’t got a cat in hells chance of employment is wrong 😔 and these schools and their associated companies need to find solutions and start supporting them. 

When we started this journey in 2012 we were incredibly naive as to the future and in hindsight should not have let our children invest so much of themselves physically, psychologically and emotionally into such a career. Or us, as a family, financially. 

I wish I had met me 9 years ago 😂. Just a Mum, who still really doesn’t have a clue about ballet but has been on a hell of a journey. 

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10 hours ago, Peanut68 said:

Where is Equity in all this? They seem to represent actors well & stamped out much of the unpaid work practises years ago. Are Dancer’s represented by Equity or another Union? If not, why not? 

 

If you remember from ENB’s “Agony and Ecstasy” documentary a few years back, Equity did represent the dancers then as they sent a rep to be part of the pay review meeting.  In this article from 2011, a spokesperson for Equity said they don’t condone unpaid apprenticeships:  https://www.balletnews.co.uk/ballet-apprenticeships-what-you-need-to-know/

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I should say now that I am a ballet watcher and don't have any family members who dance.

 

I don't know how many students are in each graduate year at Royal, Elmhurst, Central, ENBS & RCS but I do know that there a 5 mid-large ballet companies in the UK.  How many vacancies will there be in those companies in any one normal year - say 5 - that is 25 positions for possibly 60 graduates.

 

There are smaller companies and other upper schools but this situation  must surely be replicated world wide.  Therefore it stands to reason that at least 50% of graduates will not be able to join a ballet company on graduation.  That is a hard fact.

 

However, from reading this forum for years, I would say that ballet training is not wasted for anyone.  It is a fabulous grounding in life skills and must surely stand students in good stead for their adult life.

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I do wish there were more apprentice type schemes with companies available to British dancers. My dd is in graduate year and as a middle working class family we simply wouldn’t be able to afford graduate programmes costing around £3000 upwards not including accommodation and living costs. Beyond graduation I would expect dancers to be the required standard to join a company. I couldn’t pay out more money after 8 years of vocational training. If British dancers are not receiving contracts then that makes me question the training in this country compared to international dancers however this is going slightly off topic but still relevant. However even if dd did receive company contract it sounds as if the pay is very low and once again it’s the bank of mum and dad.. it’s a real shame because I believe there are so many talented dancers however once again financial reasons may end their career early 😔

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I suspect financial reasons not only for parents & graduates but also for companies.

 

Not that it has got anything to do with the price of the fish for this particular topic but I read yesterday that Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is closing due to the pandemic.  How many other companies will fold or reduce world wide, making it even harder for people to find jobs. I also assume (not ballet) that there are not many entertainment jobs available now on cruises.

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2 hours ago, Jan McNulty said:

I don't know how many students are in each graduate year at Royal, Elmhurst, Central, ENBS & RCS but I do know that there a 5 mid-large ballet companies in the UK.  How many vacancies will there be in those companies in any one normal year - say 5 - that is 25 positions for possibly 60 graduates.

 

 

An excellent analysis Jan.  

 

I remember a conversation with my dd on a long car journey during her graduate year when she talked through these type of odds.   When you factor in the international competition the odds are even longer.  I think she wanted to explain to us why she was broadening her options, and by the end of the journey I was clear how small the chances were of her getting a ballet contract.  It didn't deter her from applying for every vacancy, and going to every open audition that she could, but she also broadened her outlook and applied for other dance jobs too, which is how she ended up working on cruise ships.  She was determined to work as a dancer and to get paid for it (the latter was very important to her).  

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2 hours ago, Anna C said:

 

If you remember from ENB’s “Agony and Ecstasy” documentary a few years back, Equity did represent the dancers then as they sent a rep to be part of the pay review meeting.  In this article from 2011, a spokesperson for Equity said they don’t condone unpaid apprenticeships:  https://www.balletnews.co.uk/ballet-apprenticeships-what-you-need-to-know/

They don't condone work that is paid less than the Equity minimum either.  But over the years I have been made aware of a number of companies operating in the UK  paying dancers far less than the national minimum wage for the number of hours they worked, let alone the Equity minimum wage. And nothing ever seems to be done about it, which means that those who are prepared to and can afford to accept such conditions gain experience whilst others are priced out.  Whilst those who turn down such contracts tend to warn others, the dancers who accept them tend to keep the terms and conditions very quiet, presumably to preserve the reputation of the company.  Indeed, there is often a taboo about bringing the issue up.  I should add that as far as I am aware this problem has not occurred in any of the major companies, as they all use Equity contracts.  

 

No doubt these kind of practices and the reluctance of dancers to do anything about them has set a precedent/paved the way for the kind of unpaid or paid for apprenticeship schemes we are seeing now.  Whilst low pay (and occasionally no pay) was somewhat accepted when I graduated some time ago, thankfully actually paying to work post-graduation was still unthinkable.  It is really sad to see how far this has slipped.  

 

If all dancers joined Equity and raised these issues with them we might stand a chance of reversing these trends - surely a union is only as strong as its members.  

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I may be wrong but I think someone has already started setting up a graduate company in the U.K? My DD’s did his online classes last Summer and he has an abundance of vocational students in the classes from RBS, Elmhurst, PG etc and somehow had Natalia Osipova, Begoña Cao, Xander Parish & Ashley Shaw involved? 
It’s likely to be funded by sporting sponsors, not the usual change in a bucket scenario?

If he has the U.K. kids and top dancers/teachers on board already, it’s a logical progression???

Edited by BigTicket
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