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Why do you go?

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9 replies to this topic

#1 Juliet


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Posted 11 January 2002 - 08:55 PM

OK, I'll be brave and start this!!! Hope the forum provides lots of interesting discussions and exchanges of information and ideas--

For a big ballet competition, the training and coaching start a long time in advance. Do you decide that you want to do this to get a job? To have a chance to perform out of the home pasture? To meet other dancers?

How do you decide which competitions to attend? By the names on the judges panel?

We can break this down into lots of other areas--how do you pay for it?

Good luck to all dancers competing this year--we have a wealth of talent out there right now!!!

#2 Alexandra


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Posted 11 January 2002 - 10:26 PM

Thanks for this, Juliet. It's a good topic. I'm going to move it to the Ballet Competitions forum, as this one is just for board business.

#3 BW


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Posted 12 January 2002 - 09:38 AM

I've always assumed that dancers entered them for two reasons: to be seen and to hopefully get a position within a company.

But what do I know? biggrin.gif Not much, I can assure you but I will be interested to read the posts that follow!

And then there are the different "levels" of competition...

[ January 12, 2002: Message edited by: BW ]

#4 Katharyn



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Posted 12 January 2002 - 09:31 PM

Not that I've attended any international competitions, or very many national competitions for that matter... and this is strictly on a student level…

There are as many different reasons for competing as there are people. At the time I never really thought about entering, it just kind of happened that my teacher suggested it and the few in my class selected agreed.

As I sit here recreating the pressure that one feels when confronted by a room full of waifs bending themselves into impossible shapes before subjecting yourself to a class where you’re being judged. And not only by the people at the front of the room or stage, but by the girls around you… where a step wrong can feel like a mini-death.
(do I sound melodramatic?)
I wonder why I did it.

I certainly knew I wasn’t going to win (the same small group of girls always won, and I wasn’t in their league by far).

The anticipation was always gut-wrenching, never much fun. My best-friend and I would sit looking wide-eyed with wonder at people who considered sitting in the splits with their head on their back leg a warm-up… Listen to little groups snipe about who’s looking fat, get condescending looks from others when trying to strike up a conversation, or (in the best case) find out that other girls were just as nervous. Major competitions are not fun. They are a business.

Looking back, I suppose entering a serious competition was the best way for me (in a fairly little city) to see how I compared to my age group - was I as strong as they technically? Was the training I was getting sufficient? Competitions provide one of the only yardsticks for a student to 'compare' themselves to their peers (remembering I am from Australia where the summer intensive is not nearly as big as it is in America, and hence doesn't provide the same exposure). I think that role can be an important one - we've all seen the dancer who was the best at their school suddenly become a small fish in a big pond and realise they aren't up to scratch. You would, as BW said, be seen and hopefully remembered for the right reasons.

And then there was using the competition atmosphere to see how one reacts under pressure. I always found that useful as preparation for auditions. Stagefright can be debilitating… Going through the motions of audition/performance becomes easier and more natural the more you do it…

(I know a lot of people who enter had their eye on the prize money. Thousands of dollars can be serious money when it seems like every penny goes to your teacher or your local dancewear shop!)

We didn’t enter the little eisteddfords where its all about (excuse me) tits and teeth more than once or twice – and you know, even those were OK because they were a nice little ego boost (and anyone who says they don’t feel good winning is lying!) But they were always considered a bit of a laugh, and maybe ‘team spirit building’ (or some such thing)

As an aside my school isn’t big on competitions – we enter using dances and costumes from the previous years concert and practice out of usual class time. The only ones allowed to enter competitions like SODA, Isabelle Anderson etc (all big Australian competitions) are those deemed ‘talented’ enough by my teacher and they receive private coaching once a week (all at a cost)… These competitions are expensive and parents always foot the bill. But dancing at a high level IS expensive… and those that can’t afford but are passionate enough always find a way.

#5 Natalia


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Posted 13 January 2002 - 08:25 PM

That's a really great topic, Juliet.

There are many reasons & some have been mentioned above...for westerners, especially those who have yet to land permanent positions with major companies, competitions are auditions of sorts. It was no secret that, at the 1998 Jackson IBC, Eddie Villella, Helgi Tomasson, Dennis Nahat & other artistic directors were scouting potential new members of their companies. And several contracts were offered -- not just to medalists but to others who just made semifinals.

For Russians, other Eastern Europeans, and Chinese, there is 'pride in the Motherland and in the Theater'. Pride of Shanghai...pride of the Bolshoi, etc, etc. Most of these top competitiors (not all) are already primas-and-primos in their respectives troupes and the go only for the gold medals to add to the pride of the nation. In the junior category, it's a bit different - they're looking for perhaps a higher ranking within a company...a way out of the corps de ballet & into the next rank.

There are other reason & I'll let others write to this effect.

re.Who pays for it?

For Russians/Chinese/Cubans/Bulgarians/former-Soviets & others in state-sponsored theaters...the theater. Hence, the pressure to 'bring back the gold' to the theater. The French, in part, fall into this category, I suspect....although the French dancers at Varna '00 with whom I spoke seemed to have foot the bill themselves!

For Japanese, Americans, Western Europeans, Latinos (except Cubans)...anyone not affiliated with a major state-run theater...they pay a lot of it themselves. That's perhaps why most of these IBC contests seem to draw more competitiors from places where the dancers don't have to pay for everything themselves, e.g., the socialist or ex-socialist countries.

That's the simplistic, quick answer and I'm throwing this open to more thoughts!

- Jeannie

#6 OttawaMom



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Posted 14 January 2002 - 10:40 AM

This is an interesting topic! My daughter is almost 12 and only started dancing when she was about 9 (before that I was a single mom with minimal cash flow). At that time, because I was not familiar with dance myself (and thinking of it as purely a recreational activity), I put her in a local dance studio in jazz. The next year she auditioned for their competitive team and was accepted, however, it was a requirement that all students take a ballet class. This turned out to be great for her as she found out that ballet was really her true love (I guess when she was younger, the jazz and hip hop music were more appealing). So anyhow, she danced with them for a couple of years and they entered about five local competitions each year (jazz numbers only), which she had fun doing. This past year she decided to audition for a more prestigious school and is only studying ballet. After being accepted, she had to make a tough decision because the new school doesn't participate in the competitions. In the long run, I know she will receive much better training at her new school, however, I am not sure if she will miss participating in the competitions. Right now, she is happy so that is the main thing! Anyhow, I am curious on what people think about competitions for younger dancers (i.e. good/not good - why) that sort of thing. Thank you!

#7 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 14 January 2002 - 08:47 PM

OttowaMom, my opinion is that ballet is not about competition. It is an art, not a sport. If some of the professional competitions, the IBC, help young professionals find better jobs, then that is their main validity. I do not find them valid for students. Prix de Lausanne and Youth America are about scholarships for students, so there is something valid there. But still, I think that way too often competitions create monsters. Bring home a top prize or a gold medal, and suddenly this student is about being a "star", or a winner, and not about developing as an artist. I have seen way too many young dancers ruined by becoming a "star" way before they become a dancer/artist. They are not able to go the route of most dancers, from school to apprentice, to corps de ballet, to soloist, to prinicipal because they are a gold medal winner and think they must start out as a prinicipal. Major mistake. Too much of the growth of the dancer and of the artist is missed this way. They become brilliant at certain tricks and solo variations, but they cannot handle a normal repertoire of works by many different choreographers.

In terms of the type of competitons your child did in the early years of her training, they are fine for fun and developing confidence and performance ability, but unfortunately the schools who do a lot of this kind of thing do not spend enough time on technique and the dancer is seriously behind in classical technique if they decide to go into a professional school. One cannot, unfortunately, learn ballet technique in a situation where they are busy rehearsing lyrical (whatever that is), hip hop, jazz, tap, modern, and what they call ballet. They will learn to perform, but they will come out with little to no technique.

So, that is what I think of competitions for younger dancers smile.gif It is just my opinion, of course, and there are many others who feel differently about this.

#8 OttawaMom



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Posted 15 January 2002 - 12:16 PM

Thanks Ms. Leigh for your very helpful response. I feel that this now supports the decision she made to change schools! To be truthful, I was always uncomfortable at some of the competitions watching how people reacted to the results and how critical parents/kids could be towards other dance schools/dancers. What I will miss, though, is seeing her dance since she now spends more time in studio then on stage.

#9 drval01



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Posted 19 January 2002 - 10:45 AM

Thanks to Victoria Leigh for her incisive comment about ballet competitions! I agree that they tend to draw the dancer away from what is most important: becoming an artist. Since the advent of Youth America Grand Prix, a kind of competition-mania has developed in our school, and I have witnessed a disturbing trend. Our director has begun to focus almost exclusively on those few girls who can dazzle the judges with multiple fouttes and huge, somewhat insincere grins. Those with potential who cannot produce a "competition face" are fading to the background. This is unfortunate because even though our school has the reputation for producing dancers with flawless technique, we often fall short on providing the necessary development of depth and individuality which is what makes an artist worth watching.

Though Youth America started out as a "stepping stone to a professional career," it is very telling that they canceled both their Houston and Boca Raton regional competitions this spring because there was not adequate pre-enrollment to make them profitable. If it were about the art and not the profit they would have held the competitions anyway, especially since the legitimacy of Youth America is still to be proved after only two years of existence.

So, Moms and Dads, be wary before you agree to let your dancer enter one of these well-meaning competitions. More importantly, directors, please know that once you step on to this merry-go-round it will be very difficult to get off. At the very least, it will be a dizzying ride.

#10 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 19 January 2002 - 01:54 PM

Let me add this about that smile.gif The Youth America Grand Prix, like the Prix de Lausanne, is at least scholarship oriented, and I think they might be a little less geared towards the flash and dash whiz bang technical wizard philosophy. Our school did enter three students last year, for the first time, and while they are all lovely students, they are not tricksters and the artistry was primary in their coaching. They are beautiful and talented, and very strong, but not phenomenons! smile.gif They all won firsts in the regional (one was a junior, two were in senior category at 15) and two of them medaled in NY. The school won Best School Award, which was very nice for us.

However, my thoughts about competitions in general are as stated above. Those thoughts are my own and not necessarily reflective of the school smile.gif

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