Posted 11 December 2008 - 12:23 PM
I don't know what happens in the UK with regard to competitions, but in the US, you can spend the entire school year, and sometimes well into the summer, going from this competition to that competition, all across the country. When you're dealing with Varna or Lausanne, that's one thing. When you're dealing with Bumpass, Virginia, (and yes, there is such a place) that's another. Competitors who enter Varna and Lausanne are usually already gainfully employed with a ballet company, or perhaps as apprentices, which count as employed, but not gainful. The benefits of the first-rank competitions are real and valuable, the other ranks, less so.
Let me tell you, as a teacher, what happens when students come back from a student solo competition: Some other competitor will have a stock trick that looks astonishing, got a lot of applause, and all the kids want to imitate it. What they've seen is usually in Bad Taste (yes, so bad it deserves capitalization), took up all of this other whiz kid's time to perfect, and is Academically Incorrect in any system of classical ballet in the world. When the kids from that competition get back to the home studio, they've been trying to reproduce this slam-bang razzmatazz for at least 48 hours before a teacher can get a moderating hand on them. Then starts about six months of rehabilitation as you try to train what they've seen somebody else get praised for out of them, and it doesn't always work. Ballet has a sort of entropy built into it; absolute rubbish drives out ordinary rubbish. There is a contagion at work, too. As soon as it's stamped out of one student, somebody else will have started trying to learn how to do it.
Most of this tricksterism and gymnastic excess results not only in defiled tastes, but very often in damage and injury to the student. I'm with Artur Rubinstein, who said "Competitions are for horses."