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High Dancer Turnover at LAB


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#1 Jayne

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 07:52 PM

LA Weekly has an article on the high rate of turnover at LAB.

http://www.laweekly....ancer-turnover/

A more disturbing reason for the turnover is the treatment some dancers feel they've received. A few dancers interviewed said they wanted to stay on, but their contracts were not renewed, without explanation. Some described a tense and unsupportive work environment. A number did not want to be interviewed, choosing to put the experience behind them.

"I'm thankful for the opportunities I did have there. [But] it was probably the worst professional experience I had in my entire career," says Erin Rivera-Brennand, who was with LAB for its first two seasons.


By arts journalism standards, this article delves deaper than most into an organization. There have been comments below other articles in the LA Times about poor treatment of dancers, but nothing with names attached.

For this article, I did post a comment below. Can anyone speak to normal turnover at a fledgling company? Length of contract? Culture within the organization? Terminating people by email may be SOP for Radio Shack, but for a ballet company?

#2 bart

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Posted 11 August 2011 - 10:24 AM

Thanks, Jayne. I agree that this article is more analytical (and also more "personal") than your average arts page piece about a company.

I addition to the matter of high turn-over, and the reasons behind it, there is the matter of pay and contract-length.

LAB dancers average $450 a week for a 26-week contract for the coming season. By comparison, the average pay for the 29 dancers with more established Oregon Ballet Theatre is $793 weekly for 34 weeks.

LA Ballet has been around for a few years. Should the salaries be so low -- and the contract so short -- in an urban center as large as Los Angeles?

And then there's this:

But I've noticed a palpable unease in the dancers' performing style that has never gone away. At first, I dismissed it as a byproduct of the ensemble's newness; it takes a while for everyone to feel comfortable onstage together. But the dancers still have that deer-in-the-headlights look, and they perform with an exaggerated caution that suggests they're watching every step.

A former dancer who asked not to be identified confirmed my observations: "I think you hit the nail on the head. I don't want to say too much. I don't want to create waves. I think there is a lot of fear in the company. Mostly their dancers function from fear and it's not from a love of dance anymore. Making a mistake — that's definitely a factor, especially since all the dancers are very young and don't know how to handle that, how to be strong."

Have others in the audience noticed this "exaggerated caution" during performances? Reviewers? In other words, is this really happening -- or is it an after-the-fact interpretation to fit the story line?

And this:

[Colleen Neary] understands that dancers may find better opportunities, and says it has taken a few years to find the right group of dancers for LAB, with the right look. More of the current group have come straight from conservatories than in the early seasons.

This sounds plausible. Miami Cityh Ballet -- a new company not that many years ago, and one that was based in a city even less likely to support ballet than Los Angeles --there has been a definite turnover in the type of dancers hired over the years. More and more, they come from MCB's own school. That means they can be trained from scratch to fit the Artistic Director's vision. (And, as beginners, get a smaller paycheck.) MCB also had a huge change in rep and choreography over the years before hitting on its current balance. Maybe this is also a factor in LA Ballet's trajectory so far.

#3 miliosr

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 05:21 PM

I would highly recommend reading the ongoing discussion about this situation in the comments section of the article. If nothing else, it contains a very interesting history of ballet in Los Angeles, largely courtesy of John Clifford.

I wonder how this news will impact the Los Angeles Ballet:

http://latimesblogs....ce-project.html

The unintentionally hilarious line in the article is:

"Critics have praised Millepied’s ballets for their stylishness and craft"

Really? Who are these critics??

#4 jsmu

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Posted 13 September 2012 - 07:13 PM

I would highly recommend reading the ongoing discussion about this situation in the comments section of the article. If nothing else, it contains a very interesting history of ballet in Los Angeles, largely courtesy of John Clifford.

I wonder how this news will impact the Los Angeles Ballet:

http://latimesblogs....ce-project.html

The unintentionally hilarious line in the article is:

"Critics have praised Millepied’s ballets for their stylishness and craft"

Really? Who are these critics??



Horrifying prescience from Clifford (who is clearly not only a wonderful dancer but a highly intelligent writer) about this, but surely even he didn't anticipate MILLEPIED......Posted Image
The dry comment from Clifford about 'Ms Neary choosing to use the same name for her company' , as well as his praise only for Neary's abilities as a stager and pointed lack of comment on her direction of a company, is matched by the lamentable number of comments about Neary's and Christensen's abysmal lack of skill in handling people; this has long been scuttlebutt among dancers and dance people, but it is sad to see it confirmed by so many people in print.
From what has been written by several authors, including Kirkland and Ashley, Neary was an anointed Balanchine princess who fell from grace (her sister was a dazzling principal; she danced parts with the company while still at SAB, etc) and therefore left NYCB.
Apparently, her attitude has not improved--far from it.


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