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?
[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.