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Do the best people make it?


aileen
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This question greatly interests me. Of course, it can also be asked in relation to many other fields of activity. There is a school of thought, in relation to sport at least, that children who have a slight edge early on (perhaps because they are older and therefore stronger and more co-ordinated) are selected for elite or more advanced coaching or training which, in turn, magnifies the small difference in ability and, as a result, they pull ahead of their peers. There is another school of thought that, beyond a certain benchmark, there is a huge correlation between hard work and success. I've always thought that luck is very important as well. Luck comes in many forms: luck that you grow at the right time; luck that you have good teachers/coaches who take an interest on you; luck that you have a mentor with influence who champions you at key points in your training or career; luck that you have the kind of personality which makes others, particularly those in positions of authority, want to help and promote you ("the awkward squad" are always going to lose out). We've all met people who, mystifyingly, have got to the top or at least have advanced far in their careers for no very obvious reason. How have they done it?

Edited by aileen
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This is a very interesting question, but I personally beleive you are missing the most important part of any success where starting young and extensive practice are required, the parent/s! Without parents willing to transport, pay and push themselves the extra mile no-one would sucseed. The best coaches/teachers in the world can not help a child with unwilling parents.

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Very true, outofmydepth. And some parents can support their children even more if they have trained or worked in the same field themselves or if they are the sort of parents who, even though they have no expertise in the particular field, are the type to research and actively pursue the best training, worthwhile opportunities, additional support etc for their child.

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What exactly is making it? How do you define success?

Is it an Olympic Gold medal or just being picked for the GB team?

 

I think anyone who can earn a living doing something they love is successful and also very lucky. I think this is why as parents we give them all the support we can. 

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Sheer application and hard work can take you a long way in the academic world.    I'm thinking of two people I once knew well:  one very average at GCSE level, the second only a little bit more, but they each found a subject they loved and they got themselves into good universities. The second is now a professor at a well-regarded university, so no more clues ;).

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I think there are many components.  There are people who make a success of their lives with everything seemingly against them.  And there are those with seemingly every advantage who never find their way.

 

It surely helps to have support, luck, opportunity, talent.

 

But, I think it has to start with a fire in the belly and some idea of where to put that energy - and that means a certain amount of self-discipline.

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I think "success" in any field comes from a number of components, including intrinsic ability, hard work, opportunities and a bit of luck. The way those things come together for the individual is bound to vary but I think everyone needs at least a bit of all of them!

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I think many things have to be in place. Unlike sport, a certain amount of luck is required to make it in classical ballet, because physique (not just aesthetics but actual facility) plays such a huge part.

 

But parental support is vital. I knew a beautiful dancer, really gorgeous to watch. She had the physique, talent, and desire, but through her adolescent years the parental support was gradually withdrawn more and more, and auditions were discouraged whilst an academic career was strongly encouraged. She ended up at university and I don't know if she is still dancing. Such a shame.

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I have to agree that parental support is often the making or breaking of a career. My father has always been a talented actor and performed with an amateur group when he was a teenager. After one performance he was approached by the director of a repertory company and asked if he was interested in working in the business as a professional since the director was very impressed by him, he invited him to come and meet the rest of the cast but was told him he had to get perental permission because he was only 16. He rushed home thrilled to ask his parents but his mother told him he couldn't go because people like them didn't do that sort of thing. He was devastated and never really forgave his mother. Who knows where he could have gone if she had said yes? In my opinion it is so important for success to have that support behind you but of course talent and being in the right place at the right time also are essential.

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Strawberyy, in the context of ballet, securing a permanent contract is "making it" in my book.

 

Janet, I don't know. Again in the context of ballet, I sometimes wonder whether the principals are better than the non-principals. When I watch television I often wonder whether the ubiquitous actors whom I see are any better than hundreds or perhaps thousands of others whom we do not see on our screens much or at all.

 

Actually, I don't believe that "the best" do always "make it". There are some (a very small number) who are head and shoulders above everyone else at every stage (Sergei Polunin comes to mind in the context of ballet) but when it comes to the rest IMO several factors have to come into play in order for them to succeed when others of similar ability do not.

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Aileen:  I dare say that securing a permanent company contract can be considered as "making it" - if viewed from the outside.  But as far as the larger companies are concerned, once 'in', progression (or not) to Principal is likely to become a whole new issue, where all manner of factors may come into play.  Osipova and Vasiliev left the Bolshoi, perceiving that she, in particular, was being sidelined into soubrette roles; Natasha Oughtred has blossomed at BRB, after sensing that she was getting no further than Soloist with the RB; elsewhere, an indiscreet remark overheard may mean that one's face fits less well than hitherto with one's Director, and so on.  It's a hard life!

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Well, I posted in here   - but it's not showing up - so I'll try again - my apologies if it is a repeat....

 

Some would consider dancing in the corps de ballet as "making it."  They would prefer to be there rather than taking on principal roles.

 

So, "making it" can be a very individual definition.

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Yes, Ian. The motto "Fortune favours the brave" comes to mind. Are you brave enough to move countries or continents, take on a role at short notice or move companies even though you are in a comfortable position at your current company? I take my hat off off to these young dancers.

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And I believe I've heard stories of dancers getting contracts alongside a no-doubt handy donation to the company provided by a "sponsor". With so many dancers, many as good as each other, and so few jobs available, just how is a company to choose? But I'm cynical, I'm afraid.

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well the standard motto is 'one tenth inspiration nine tenths perspiration' isn't it? in ballet I would imagine the 'inspiration' part  includes physique, musicality, (dare I say gender?) etc and other aspects which can't necessarily be taught. And the 'perspiration' IMO includes parental perspiration as well as DKs!

But perhaps it should be 'one tenth inspiration, x tenths perspiration and (9-x) tenths sheer dumb luck' (suggestions for the value of 'x' on a postcard please!)

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I think you also need a certain type of personality to succeed too. Talent, hard work and dedication are one thing, but you need to be tough to push yourself forward and fight for promotion - not every talented dancer has this.....

Edited by Dance*is*life
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I agree with you, Dance*is*life. You need to be self-confident, assertive and resilient. In the context of a ballet company, if you are fortunate enough to be singled out and given larger roles you may have to be prepared to forfeit the cameraderie of the corps. The reality is that dancers are competing with each other for roles, and competitiveness and jealousies may damage friendships along the way.

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Fascinating stuff. My mum would always say "talent will out" and was reasonably convinced that if you have the talent in any particular field then fate will put the opportunities in your way. Sadly I suspect this is not so. However, i do think luck plays a huge part in any ones dreams coming true, being in the rightl place at the right time. I have heard of auditions for dancing roles where the room is halved and half sent home without even dancing a step. (Urban myth?) I have to admit, maybe not very fashionably, to being something of a fatalist. We can give our children, dancing or otherwise, every opportunity, support and encouragement that we have energy or finances for, but in the end what will be will be.

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This question greatly interests me. I've always thought that luck is very important as well. Luck comes in many forms: luck that you grow at the right time; luck that you have good teachers/coaches who take an interest on you; luck that you have a mentor with influence who champions you at key points in your training or career; luck that you have the kind of personality which makes others, particularly those in positions of authority, want to help and promote you.

 

I agree with this but one of the big elements of 'luck' is money. Unfortuntely everthing seems to come back to it.

No amount of parental support and encouragement will pay for  summer schools, associate schemes, travel costs etc etc. Children who may appear to have a strong natural talent may not therefore have the opportunity to 'get out there ' and be seen in order to find a teacher/mentor/coach who can take them further. Support from the local dance teacher is great - free/subsidised classes are fab - but where does the money come from for new leotards,ballet shoes etc when your child qualifies for free school meals?

What happens if there is no money for auditions or you get offered a very generous scholarship/bursary for vocational school but nothing less than 100% is any good?

Can the amount of drive, comittiment, determination, dedication or "fire in the belly" get you anywhere near where you want to be when you can't afford the bus fare?

Should you even let your child dream of something that you can never hope to help them towards? Is it enough to say that you have to try as somethiing may just happen or does years of saying I'm sorry you can't do that/go there theres no money take its toll?

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Yes, 445403. Having sufficient financial support is also part of "luck." Some people from very disadvantaged backgrounds do obviously make it eg Carlos Acosta and Sergei Polunin because their talent was exceptional and they were fortunate enough to be fully funded (although Polunin's very poor family did fund him until he went to the RBS; his father and grandmother were forced to go abroad to find work). A big problem in the UK is that the vocational schools are essentially private schools. It is my understanding that in France, Cuba, Russia and the former communist block all these schools are free.

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Another aspect is injury. Often you see a talented dancer and then they just disappear and you find out that they've been injured. Some dancers are cursed with recurring injuries which will stop them progressing very far. I agree with the above posts about money as well it's much harder to keep everything going if there is a constant battle with money(same as other things like ice skating and horse riding). You really do have to have exceptional talent to succeed if you've no money at all but that may only be one or two dancers in a generation. However, unfortunate as this is, we still do have a lot of dancers who are probably "the best" in their field. And this applies to all the company's out there. One could name many dancers who have "made it" who would be difficult to better! However some talent inevitably does fall by the wayside so we'll never know how wonderful they could have been!!

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Oh, yes. Injuries (and illnesses) can really affect a dancer's career, particularly in the early stages. Career progression is at least partly dependent on being in the right place at the right time. If a dancer has to give up, or is not considered for, a role due to injury or illness it may be some time before a similar opportunity arises by which time other younger dancers may have come on the scene competing for the same role.

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Luck can also come into play when auditioning - there is only a job if someone leaves.  Normally there is a natural turnover, like in any organisation, but no matter how good the dancer if there isn't a space with the company, there isn't.  Being in the right place at the right time is a cliche, but it is true.

 

Edited for typo.

Edited by Pas de Quatre
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