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Where are all the girls in ballet?


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I don't know whether Carlos Acosta is just trying to be controversial for publicity purposes, or whether he actually believes what he is saying, but he claims, astonishingly (see the article in The Independent in yesterday's Dance Links section) that there is a shortage of (talented) girls in ballet, certainly post-16, and this contention is apparently backed up by a spokesperson from the RBS. I find it really hard to believe this, not least because far more girls take up ballet in the first place and the pool of female applicants from which the vocational schools select is much larger than the pool of male applicants. I don't have exact figures for the RB (or any other company) but it always seems to me that if the RB takes, say, three graduates from the RBS two will be female and one will be male. Carlos is quoted as saying: "we need more girls....girls are non-existent." Does anyone think that Carlos is right and, if so, why is there a shortage of (talented) girls/women?

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I thought it was a bizarre thing to say and if anything there seems to be a shortage of talented male dancers. This year's Royal Ballet intake from the RBS is heavily weighted towards boys, but that is simply because the graduating year had an unsually large number of exceptionally talented boys and I believe that KOH wanted to take advantage of that. I'm also sceptical about the claim that the RBS Upper School intake is more weighted to boys than girls. That certainly wasn't the case at the beginning of this last year.

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I read this link from John Mallinson this morning but it was in the Mail.

 

I think what he said was that there was a shortage after the age of 16....,that lots leave at this age!

 

Well I was wondering do they leave like this from RBS voluntarily or do RBS tell them to leave so to speak...assessed out as it is.

 

He was saying there should be more scholarships for talented dancers (well don't we know that.....as this does exclude some talented girls so some sympathy for what he was saying there.

But then he goes on to say that if there is a shortage of good enough girls here then we need to look abroad to find them!!

So I could not quite understand where the RBS really stood in this article.

This can be found in Johns Dance Links page starting from today 21st July

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The Mail was paraphrasing the interview that that Aileen referred to. That interview had appeared in the Independent on Friday.  

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/news/leaving-the-barre-ballet-in-crisisover-lack-of-women-says-carlos-acosta-8720968.html

 

The original interview provides a much longer and more nuanced quote from the RBS spokeswoman.

 

Edited to add that I was extremely surprised that an official spokesperson of the School would make public comments of this kind.  I initially thought that the comments might have been taken out of context but, unless they have been inaccurately reported, this doesn't seem to be the case.

Edited by Bluebird
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Very interesting reading! Quite surprising to hear that there may be a lack of suitable partners for Carlos ! I'm even more surprised that there are more young men than women wanting to join the RBS at 16

 

"While girls are the overwhelming majority of applicants to the Royal Ballet School’s junior years, there are currently more boys than girls among the intake by the age of 16"

 

I can't help,wondering if this is also true of other ballet schools at age 16 !?

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I haven't read the article and I really don't want to, but what a load of rubbish. We have some very talented classical dancers male and female that have been trained in our country. Central have just been complimented for the way they are training their classical dancers eg correct use of head and arms by someone well known who came to watch their show. I am sick to death of some narrow minded people who do not wish to credit the talent in our country. Our home grown dancers from top vocational schools are picked because they ARE talented with beautiful physique and a wonderful sense of musicality, they are focused and work very hard and make huge sacrifices in their young lives for a life of ballet. If what Carlos is saying is true then that's his oppinion, my oppinion is to open his eyes and really take time to look what is on front of his nose. Whew got that off my chest night everyone.

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I was confused by his scholarships point. As the RBS is in the government Music & Dance scheme, UK students get their fees and maintenance paid by the British tax payer, subject to means testing. The availability of scholarships shouldn't really be an issue for them. It would only be relevant to foreign students.

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I can't make out whether the "Royal spokesperson" is saying there aren't enough girls at 16 to promote from within their own system or aren't enough generally including abroad.

From Acosta's comments then about getting talent from abroad I guess the former.

 

We come back then to the scholarship issue once more probably discussed ad infinitum on this Forum on other threads but IF it is true that there really are more boys than girls now this issue must be partly to blame......that some talented dancers are not coming to the fore because their parents cannot afford to send them to vocational schools including the Royal Ballet school. So it's not that the ones who are there are not good but there should be MORE there in the first place if more scholarships were given out .....but I know this argument is going nowhere and probably thrown away without that much thought it seems by Mr.Acosta.....he's just stating the obvious.

 

On a more down to earth note there IS probably quite a drop out rate among girls at 16 though probably not so much among the most talented.

Because it is at this age that quite serious decisions have to be made about future careers because if it is not looking like it will be in ballet then usually more academic options have to be chosen.

Also the social scene and boyfriends etc all beckon so that unless you are very talented and dedicated or already at vocational school anyway options like ballet and music are often given up at this age as they are things done on top of school work etc. and attending normal school.

I am more surprised this is supposed to be happening at the RBS though.

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All I can say is that for 2012 there were hundreds of 16 yrs and above girls all fighting for places at the top schools, the best got offers with a scholarship DA DA or MDS. So if it is down to funding are we only talking about this year? I sure that there are more girls than boys in each year of upper school at Central, Elmhurst, Hmond and Tring, I don't know about Royal. Perhaps Carlos just doesn't think our girls are good enough. I hope Anna Rose and Tianny who have just secured places within the Roual company prove him wrong.

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I'm wondering whether a lot of scholarships go to the boys? My DDs teacher says this is the case for Tring although I don't have any experience on the other schools.

 

In the last five years at our local school we have had four girls who have secured places at vocational schools but have not gone due to funding.  I really believe just because you earn 'x' amount of money doesn't mean you can or want to spend huge sums on dance school.  I'd spend my last penny on my DD but I'm in the minority when I speak to other mums/dads who are not willing to do this as the sacrifice is a bridge too far.

 

I think is your DC is talented then they should receive the money whatever the individual circumstances and this will probably solve the issues.  The best go through?

 

We went to a RB audition insight day last year as our first step into the outside world of ballet and I asked about funding.  Based on my Partners earnings (not DD's father) plus mine we would receive hardly any funding hence our delay in applying for vocational schools until year 9 and maybe even six form as we could then get better funding options.  The lady was extremely nice and helpful but she said don't apply unless you have the money she said they have many very very disappointed children who get in but then cannot go due to funding.  Could some very talented DC being missing out - most likely?

 

On a separate note one of our friends went to a SS in USA which was for four weeks and she said the standard of girls was much higher than her experience in the UK, she said the teachers expect you to be much further at a younger age, maybe our girls just develop much later on then miss out on early opportunities.  Thank goodness we have so many dedicated local dance school teachers in this country or we would be in a much worse state.

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Maybe some of our schools need to be less focussed on insisting on short torsos and hyper-arched feet, and look at the types of dancers employed by ADs. I've said this before and will no doubt say it again, but when you watch ENB and RB, there is a wonderful mix of heights, leg length, body length, some hyper-arched "banana" feet and some really straight feet - and loads in between.

 

I believe that ADs are more concerned with talent, grace and musicality than they are in measuring someone's photo to see the ratio of torso to leg, and it is high time some of our schools realised this. If they continue to insist on "hyper arched feet" for MDS recipients then they are going to miss some beautiful talented dancers who happen to have feet more like Leanne Benjamin and Agnes Oaks than, say, Tamara Rojo.

 

Just because RBS Upper School - for whatever reason - seem in Carlos' eyes to be taking in more boys than British girls does NOT mean there is a dearth of talented girls. Perhaps he should pop along to Elmhurst and Central.

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Why would lack of funding disproportionately affect girls? Is it because the schools want to 'snap up' any really talented boys because there are far fewer of them and, after all, companies need boys as well as girls (in equal numbers?). Perhaps what Carlos is getting at is there are too many 'nice' girls doing ballet in the UK: right physique; perfect technique; hard working; well behaved but perhaps a little colourless. He has had a famed partnership with Tamara Rojo who comes across as sexy, passionate, feisty and, above all, as a grown woman rather than a girl. She also seems to have been a bit of a rebel when younger, as was Carlos who I think was actually expelled from ballet school a couple of times.

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Well I must say after my recent trip to RBS student performance you wouldn't think there was a dearth of talent among the girls judging from this!!! I always thought it was the opposite problem as a general rule that there were more talented dancers than places in company's.

 

Is he talking about an eventual shortage of principal level dancers I wonder?

 

The scholarship principle still stands though and in fact he was saying this ......that any really talented dancer should be given a scholarship regardless. I didn't know some scholarships were possibly awarded on how arched the feet were though......how ridiculous if this is the case!

In a way though it is rather good if more boys are getting through now as we really did need more boys a few years back and the talent of the boys at the moment is to be celebrated as there were some truly excellent ones dancing in the RBS show this year too! :)

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Why would lack of funding disproportionately affect girls? Is it because the schools want to 'snap up' any really talented boys because there are far fewer of them and, after all, companies need boys as well as girls (in equal numbers?). Perhaps what Carlos is getting at is there are too many 'nice' girls doing ballet in the UK: right physique; perfect technique; hard working; well behaved but perhaps a little colourless. He has had a famed partnership with Tamara Rojo who comes across as sexy, passionate, feisty and, above all, as a grown woman rather than a girl. She also seems to have been a bit of a rebel when younger, as was Carlos who I think was actually expelled from ballet school a couple of times.

And maybe some with all but just the " perfect" physique for the schools

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But doesn't all this stuff from Carlos link with his earlier comments about the girls he casts in Don Quixote needing to "dance like they've never danced before"? Perhaps his perceived difficulty in casting someone in place of Alina (why else would there be such a long delay in announcing a replacement?) is influencing his thinking unduly at the moment?

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Being expelled isn't really the sort of behaviour to aspire to! Yes, maybe British girls are quieter, less tempestuous, outwardly less passionate etc but that doesn't mean they are any less talented. I would hope Carlos would know better than to think that.

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Well some dancers have always been more suited to the more pure classical roles and one doesn't want too much tempestuousness in these roles!!

 

But other roles do need a touch of passion and even flamboyance. However usually this can be a matter of development for some and others will never be offered or even want to dance certain roles. You need all kinds of dancers to make a company strong I think though. Perhaps Carlos thinks the balance is slightly askew? Who knows!!

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The other point he made is about the lack of black dancers - hasn't he ever heard of, or seen, Ballet Black?  They even have rehearsal space at ROH!

 

Maybe DD needs to re-think 'Ballet'......if they are short of girls & short of black dancers they may well be short of black girl dancers only joking

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Of course being expelled from school isn't behaviour to aspire to. The point that I was trying to make is that 'good girls' aren't always what the companies want or need, certainly if they are looking at recruiting dancers who are going to progress beyond the corps. A senior dancer is not just going to be dancing young girls, princesses, fairies etc. Much of the MacMillan repertoire has passionate/sexy roles and much of the more contemporary choreography is also very sensual. Talent doesn't stop at the physical; the dancer has to be convincing in the role whatever it is and I wonder whether the 'nice girls' are rejected because the companies feel that they will not be sufficiently versatile.

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I remember Marianela saying that the RB was "where you could develop as an artist" and, surely, it is the responsibility of companies to ensure that their undoubtedly talented recruits grow year by year 'on the job' in such a way as to meet the demands of the repertoire.

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I feel Carlos Acosta didn't make himself clear enough. His comments are vague and superficial, he should have been much more precise (more along the lines of  post nr 17 Capybara). There is currently a group of very talented young female dancers in UK, at the RB also at BRB and ENB, but it will take time until they become outstanding Soloists and Principal dancers (this time gap is the result of the short-term vision of previous RB AD and her mainly (foreign) fully formed "quick-fix" import of dancers. There has been a great lack in nurturing professional young talent (and great partnerships) within the Company - something that's clearly changing (imo) with the new AD Mr. K.O'Hare.

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........There is currently a group of very talented young female dancers in UK, at the RB also at BRB and ENB, but it will take time until they become outstanding Soloists and Principal dancers (this time gap is the result of the short-term vision of previous RB AD and her mainly (foreign) fully formed "quick-fix" import of dancers.

 

But hasn't there also been a tendency for recruitment at the Royal Ballet School (and elsewhere) to be focused on 'ready-formed' students (again mainly from abroad and off the back of competition success). Which does, I know,  bring this whole debate back onto familiar territory.

 

If Carlos is short of potentially good Kitris, I have many suggestions for him - both English and foreign.

 

By the way, I think it is a pity that this thread lies a bit hidden under Doing Dance!

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By the way, I think it is a pity that this thread lies a bit hidden under Doing Dance!

 

Yes, I wouldn't have noticed it yesterday evening if it hadn't been at the top of 'recent topics'.  Might it be possible for one of the administrators to move it into another forum?

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I'm afraid that bitter experience with media leaves me to believe that such comments are the Journalist's take on what Carlos and the RBS spokeswoman (who was probably asked to comment specifically about what Carlos had said, so addressed it directly) said.

 

There may be some truth, but I am sure that this is not just what the conversations were about. For example, a little research from the journalist would point to MDS and DADA awards... But that would detract from his article.

 

Also, Carlos doesn't actually say the dearth of women dancers IN THE UK is a crisis, but generally. In fact, none of Carlos's quotes mention the UK specifically, it is the journalist's words that do that. And of course, why not? after all, we are in the UK. But could Carlos's comment be equally true in Portugal, France, Germany, Brazil, South Africa or Nigeria?

 

If the journalist in question is reading this, maybe he would like to comment?

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I don't know enough to fully agree or disagree with Carlos' statement, but at last year's YBDY award, I remember being rather surprised that most of the best dancers were boys, and the awards certainly seemed to reflect that. I haven't been able to attend this year's award so don't know if it's a trend.

And regarding black ballet dancers, if anything the existence of Ballet Black makes his point. The company was created because it was the only way for Black and Asian dancers to find roles and employment.

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