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Companies- how big are they?


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#1 SanderO

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 11:30 AM

I am well aware that to run a ballet company is a big business, so to speak... It is not only mounting big productions, orchestras, sets, costumes, rehearsal space, performance space, dancers and admnin. stand and on and on... even running schools associated with a company like SAB etc.

So there are large world class companies out there.. the most commonly known (and seen) ones.. and then there are smaller ones.

What are the lower tier companies like and how do they differ from the top tier? Are the smaller companies like the "minor leagues" in baseball where the best talent moves up to the big leagues, but these minor leagues are still professional baseball? How small can a company be and mount "good" ballet productions?

What are some of the more interesting companies below the top tier?

#2 volcanohunter

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 05:49 PM

How do you define a large company? Are you thinking of the 235 dancers of the Bolshoi Ballet, the 150+ dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet, the 100 dancers of the Royal Ballet or the 70 dancers of San Francisco Ballet? That's quite a range. There are extemely interesting companies in the 45-60 dancer range, such as Miami City Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and Hamburg Ballet, and they aren't very much alike. Pacific Northwest Ballet and Eifman Ballet are smaller, but certainly not unimportant. Some companies are considered important even though they have fewer than 20 dancers, such as Cullberg Ballet, the Forsythe Company or Aterballetto. Ballet British Columbia has only 15 dancers. You'd think a city like Vancouver could sustain a much larger company, but as a troupe that focuses on contemporary ballet, that size is adequate for their needs.

The company in my parts, Alberta Ballet, has 27 dancers, and I've certainly seen many young dancers use is as a springboard for their careers in cities more impressive than Calgary and Edmonton. But I've seen lots of ballet refugees pass through here, too: Owen Montague, once a principal with the National Ballet of Canada and Nederlands Dans Theater, wound down his performing career with the company, as did Ronda Nychka after a long spell with Béjart Ballet Lausanne. Several dancers from Ballet du Nord took refuge here after that company was turned into a modern troupe.

As for the ability of smaller companies to mount good ballet productions (I assume you're referring to 19th-century classics), that depends very much on the strength of its school, since senior students will be recruited to fill out the corps. (Personally, I wish smaller companies wouldn't attempt these productions.)

Much more important than size is who runs the company. John Cranko transformed the Stuttgart Ballet from a provincial company into one of worldwide fame, and with its 65+ dancers it's still more important than the Ballet of La Scala, which has more than 100 dancers. (No offense intended to Milan!) So size isn't everything.

#3 Helene

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 07:36 PM

According to their website bios, PNB dancers who came from other companies are:

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre: Principal Stanko Milov (also National Theatre for Opera and Ballet in Bulgaria), Corps Members James Moore and Rachel Foster
Houston Ballet: Principal Le Yin, Corps Member Barry Kerollis
Royal Winnipeg Ballet: Principals Kaori Nakamura and Olivier Wevers, Soloist Chalnessa Eames
San Francisco Ballet: Principal Jeffrey Stanton (also retired dancers Lisa Apple, Kimberly Davey, and Paul Gibson)
Dance Theatre of Harlem: Corps Member Taureen Green
Boston Ballet: Corps Member Benjamin Griffiths
Dutch National Ballet, Royal Ballet: Corps Member Anton Pankevitch
Ballet Nacional de Cuba, Ballet Clasico de Camara, Teatro Teresa Carreno: Soloist Karel Cruz
American Ballet Theatre: Principal Casey Herd
New York City Ballet: Principal Carla Körbes
Cincinnati Ballet, Ballet Nationale de Nancy: Principal Christophe Maraval
Basel Ballet, Kansas City Ballet: Principal Louise Nadeau

I thought Bold had danced for a company in Russia, but there's no listing of another company in his bio.

If you look at the companies from which most of the dancers came, with a few exceptions -- Körbes from NYCB, Herd from ABT, and Pankevitch from Royal Ballet -- they are mostly from mid-sized companies with which PNB is generally ranked.

Of the dancers who left PNB, I know that Stacy Lowenberg danced for Oregon Ballet Theatre after her PNB apprenticeship and before she returned to the Company, and Gavin Larsen dancing beautifully with OBT. Oleg Gorboulev has joined LA Ballet. I think there was one dancer who left PNB to join the corps at NYCB or ABT, but apart from that, I can't think of anyone else who went on to the large companies.

In the ballet food chain, at least in the US, with ABT not having a long-term school to produce its own dancers, SAB is at the top, and if not all agree that NYCB is the top, it's at least the co-top here. I'm assuming that for the majority of SAB students, NYCB is their first choice. That doesn't mean that there aren't PNB members who either turned down an apprenticeship or corps offer, or left SAB because they knew they didn't want to join NYCB (to the chagrin of SAB), but that kind of info isn't published anywhere.

I've watched the company evolve to where the school is graduating more top-quality dancers than it can hire. The majority of the other dancers finished their training at the PNB school, and many of those were trained at SAB before that. Peter Boal said that there were 15 dancers in the Company (about 1/3) that he had as students when he taught at SAB, and Louise Nadeau was his contemporary at SAB. (Stanton also trained at SAB, but I think he would have studied there after Boal, but before Boal began teaching.)

I don't think regional companies are the minor leagues, but SAB continues to be the top farm team for the mid-sized companies in the US, and more and more, the PNB School is training dancers, as the San Francisco Ballet School has for a number of years.

#4 Amy Reusch

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 07:53 PM

What are the lower tier companies like and how do they differ from the top tier? Are the smaller companies like the "minor leagues" in baseball where the best talent moves up to the big leagues, but these minor leagues are still professional baseball?


There's one difference with baseball (at least, I think there is... )... often dancers voluntarily leave the "big leagues" for the "minor leagues" in the interest of doing principal parts or different repertory... I don't know if baseball players move to the minor leagues by choice.

I'm not sure all companies have the same amount of "upward mobility". ABT used to be sort of famous for importing foreign stars rather than promoting domestic ones. NYCB seemed to lean in the opposite direction. (Though this may have changed in the last decade).

Also, the repertory makes a big difference... a dancer may decide they'd like to try cricket for a while instead of baseball... or even stickball! It's not like all companies perform the same repertory (even if some works do seem ubiquitous). It used to be that if you wanted to dance the 19th century classics, you had to leave NYCB... whereas if you wanted to dance works that were destined to become 20th century classics, you might want to join NYCB.

#5 volcanohunter

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 08:08 PM

...and Gavin Larsen dancing beautifully with OBT.

:) Small world! Larsen also danced with Alberta Ballet after PNB. I can understand dancers who move from company to company until they find I a work environment they find really fulfilling, whether that means the corps of a large company or prominence in a small company.

#6 Helene

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 08:20 PM

Also, the repertory makes a big difference... a dancer may decide they'd like to try cricket for a while instead of baseball... or even stickball! It's not like all companies perform the same repertory (even if some works do seem ubiquitous). It used to be that if you wanted to dance the 19th century classics, you had to leave NYCB... whereas if you wanted to dance works that were destined to become 20th century classics, you might want to join NYCB.

How often, though, do they try cricket in a company that is considered less prestigious than the being a Major League Baseball player? Alexandra Ansanelli said that she left NYCB to dance the classics. She joined the Royal Ballet, albeit as a soloist. (Michael Jordan joined a minor league baseball team after his first retirement from being MICHAEL JORDAN, but Michael Jordan didn't need much validation.) But how often does a Principal Dancer at NYCB leave to join a regional company that performs them with the same regularity as the Royal Ballet? Or a Principal Dancer at ABT to join a regional company that is a neoclassical powerhouse?

#7 carbro

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 08:33 PM

But how often does a Principal Dancer at NYCB leave to join a regional company that performs them with the same regularity as the Royal Ballet? Or a Principal Dancer at ABT to join a regional company that is a neoclassical powerhouse?

I think principal dancers are in a different position. At the very top, they can pretty much guest to their hearts' content. There's a certain security in doing whatever minimum number of appearances required to stay on your own company's payroll while trying out sixteen versions of Romeo and Juliet or immersing yourself in ballets made after WWII.

As to how big a company has to be, well that's sort of like the Lincoln (that's Abe, not Kirstein) question.

Q: How long should a man's legs be?
A: Long enough to reach the ground.

At his last season at the Joyce, Peter Boal's company consisted of six dancers. Enough to dance the program.

#8 Amy Reusch

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 08:34 PM

Well... there are principal dancers who perform with small companies in order to work with living choreographers... I don't know how very often they resign to do so, the money situation tending to be more secure in the larger institutions...

I guess I'd be hard put to list 5 regional companies that are neoclassical powerhouses... the regionals tend to mix their repertory.

But, could we list 5 choreographer driven companies that have had dancer-initiated guestings from major classical companies? I think that might be much easier. It is hard to know who approached who though...

#9 volcanohunter

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 08:43 PM

Well... there are principal dancers who perform with small companies in order to work with living choreographers... I don't know how very often they resign to do so, the money situation tending to be more secure in the larger institutions...

This isn't an example relevant to the United States, but Dominique Khalfouni left her post as étoile with the POB to work with Roland Petit in Marseille, and she remained there until he retired.

#10 Helene

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 08:55 PM

I guess I'd be hard put to list 5 regional companies that are neoclassical powerhouses... the regionals tend to mix their repertory.

Although, like NYCB, they perform full-lengths as well, I would say:

Pacific Northwest Ballet
San Francisco Ballet
Miami City Ballet
Pennsylvania Ballet
Boston Ballet

#11 SanderO

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 04:08 AM

I'm curious about the economics of working in various companies. I would presume the the larger, more well endowed companies pay the highest salaries to their people. Does this mean that a dancer, typically would move to a regional company to dance a different repertoire, probably more likely at lower scale? Or do they move from say.. soloist a big company to principal at regional one? Would that be a step "up" artistically and also salary wise? Might this dancer than return to a big company as a principal? I am not asserting that economic reasons factor into these decisions, just curious about how varible the rates (and job security) are for the large and smaller companies.

Are the major USA companies of comparable size to the non USA ones? And finally, how significant is language for dancer who moves from one country to another... does this even factor in to a dancer's decision as it relates to working with a new company?

#12 Amy Reusch

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 08:17 AM

Oh darn. I just erased a very long post just as I was finishing it. I don't have the steel to re-write it. But, Helene, with the exception of Miami City Ballet, I have trouble with classifying those companies as neoclassical powerhouses based on their repertoire. Unlike NYCB, when they stage full length ballets, they tend not to do Balanchine's versions (with the exception that a couple of them do present his Nutcracker). The Kirov lists many Balanchine pieces in their repertoire and ABT performs Balanchine this spring every month that they perform. Could you qualify your definition of "neoclassical powerhouse" for me?

#13 bart

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 08:42 AM

Great discussion. Sometimes I find it difficult to trace a dancer's training and movement merely be checking their bios. For example, is there a dancer anywhere in the US who does not credit SAB for at least part of their training, even if it was only for a few weeks?

And finally, how significant is language for dancer who moves from one country to another... does this even factor in to a dancer's decision as it relates to working with a new company?

Language, supportive cultural or even family networks, etc., certainly play a part in some areas. South Florida, with its large Hispanic population, and big Latin American cultural influence, is an example

Miami City Ballet (52-plus) includes only 19 foreign-born, foreign-trained dancers, including 7 of the 10 principals. 5 principals are of Latin American training. Other than MCB, a number of ballet institutions in Miami rely upon, and cater to, the transplanted Hispanic community, including Cuban Classical Ballet, which has offered a temporary home to several important Cuban refugee dancers who later moved on to established companies to the North.

MCB conforms to Amy's point about a "Balanchine" company that selects some non-Balanchine full-lengths -- Giselle, Don Q -- while using others from Blanchine -- Nutcracker, Coppelia. Couldn't cost have something to do wtih this? Petipa, as far as I know, is no longer collecting royalties or insisting on sending representatives to set the ballets.

Ballet Florida (25 dancers) has 10 dancers of Spanish or Latin American birth and training (out of a total of 15 foreign-born/trained). This is one of those companies that attracts dancers, often from middle American medium-sized companies with short seasons, for a number of the reasons already given by posters: attractiveness and artistic vibrancy of the community, movement from classical rep, or contemporary rep created primarily by the local artistic director, to contemporary rep with the chance to work directly with choeographers like Lubavitch, McIntyre, Caniparoli, Dominic Walsh, and reps from Tharp, NYCB, etc.; longer performance season; sophisticated dance audience who are often transplants from NYC and other northern cultural centers.

#14 Helene

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 08:46 AM

Pacific Northwest Ballet and San Francisco Ballet on core Balanchine rep and the style of the house choreographers, Helgi Tomasson and Kent Stowell, which make up a large part of the rep. Miami City Ballet for it's core Balanchine rep and much-lauded performances of it. Mikko Nissenen's own choreography and aethetic sensibility are safely in the neoclassical range. Pennsylvania Ballet's self-description "During its first decade, the Company forged the unique identity for which it is still known today: a diverse classical repertoire with a Balanchine backbone performed by versatile dancers whose energy and exuberance are the Company's enduring signature." When it produced a new Swan Lake, it was Wheeldon's first full-length.

To be a neoclassical powerhouse does not mean that a company has to be exclusively neoclassical, in my opinion. But when three of five programs are in that genre, and two are classics, as is the case of Boston, when six of nine are predominently neoclassical mixed rep and three are classics -- and those three are choreographed or co-choreographed by the neoclassical Tomasson -- in San Francisco, when five of seven programs are mixed bill and still primarily neoclassical in Seattle and when Nutcracker is choreographed by the neo-classical Kent Stowell, when Miami is considered to be at the pinnacle of performing Balanchine -- the only company among the five I cited to have a majority of full-length classics, at least in this season -- and when Pennsylvania has a combination of full-lengths and mixed bills, but one of its three full-lengths is Balanchine's Nutcracker and Caniparoli and Wheeldon are considered "Modern Masters" I would say that this defines them as neoclassical companies, and these five are among the very top in the US, hence "powerhouse."

One dancer I forgot to mention is Astrit Zejnati, who in a Q&A after one of his performances with Ballet Arizona, said the reason he left PNB (he did two stints with the Company) was to dance classical roles. Being cast primarily in neoclassical roles did not cut it for him.

#15 SanderO

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 09:10 AM

Related to companies and their size and "reach"... a few more questions come to mind, and please forgive me for my ignorance about ballet.. but BT is such a great learning environment for me so I feel comfortable asking.

What exactly is a "season" in ballet? I know that, for example, ABT has a Spring season, but they also travel, it seems and perform around the country and the world. Does "season" refer the performances staged at their "home" theatre for specific part of the year? For companies which don't travel, do they typically extend (or stretch out) their season through most the calendar year? Does weather have anything to do with when a company's season is? NYCB seems to be running their season through the winter. ABT shares the Met Opera stage with the Opera and so they can't overlap too much I would assume, but that would apply to the NYCO and NYCB. For NYers we can see lots of ballet and opera from Fall through late Spring. How does this work in other companies around the country and the world?

When a dancer guests with another company, do they take a season off, or typically perform with both companies "at once"? My impression of Opera, is that the principals do more free lance work, moving from company to company as opposed to what I see in ballet. Is this correct?


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