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About Anne74

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  • Connection to/interest in ballet** (Please describe. Examples: fan, teacher, dancer, writer, avid balletgoer)
    Dancer, teacher, fan, and always a student
  • City**
  1. I remember reading something about John Curry once which explained that he'd had a lot of ballet training and really emphasized the importance of movement quality in the skaters he trained himself. You really, really can see the difference between ice skaters who have a serious ballet background and those who don't, or who have only limited training. Katherine Healy is a great example. When she went back to professional skating after her ballet career, saw her in a pro exhibition doing gorgeous, gorgeous stuff--- incredible lines and positions-- that the crowd went wild for. Not a jump in her entire routine, but it clearly didn't matter to the audience!
  2. Epaulment is a subject near and dear to my heart because its importance was emphasized to me in no uncertain terms from my very early training and onward through teenage years--- and that training was at the School of American Ballet, a school which is often derided for producing dancers too unfamiliar with classical style, port de bras, or clean technique. I won't get into refuting any of those arguments, but I will attest to how strongly we were urged and directed to use our heads, necks, and eyes to complete positions and lines. I will never forget how our teachers would walk around and adjust each student's head position individually so we could feel exactly how it should be, as opposed to simply being told to "turn your head this way", for example. Now, when I teach, I find most students are completely unfamiliar with the concept of opposition in the torso and neck, as well as reluctant to focus their eyes anywhere to complete the line. I do agree that epaulment must be explained early, because once a student has gotten used to holding their neck so stiffly and in one block with their torso, it's really hard to break that movement pattern.
  3. I believe that he (Ali Pourfarroukh) was directing and/or teaching at Eglevsky Ballet in Long Island after leaving Alberta Ballet, but I don't know if he still is there or not.
  4. Whether or not students are paid for their appearances with the main company depends upon the company. Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't. The reasons why professional dancers are wary of an artistic management using excessive numbers of students? For one thing, it is demeaning psychologically and artistically to be a professional dancer onstage surrounded by students. Secondly, it is morally reprehensible for a management to consistently use extremely cheap or free labor to do the same exact work as highly trained professionals. Of course, it is common and accepted practice to use advanced students to fill out the corps de ballet in large ballets, and to have those performance opportunities stand as both training for them and as a sort of "test" of their readiness to become professional. The real issue arises when those students are used consistently in more than corps roles, or as the backbone of a corps de ballet, in place of mature artists. If there is no limit on what they can do, what's to stop the management from eventually using large numbers of unpaid students around a handful of seasoned dancers, and calling it a professional company?
  5. I'm wondering if anyone's seen Ballet NY (nee Dance Galaxy) during their run at the Joyce this week. I'd love to hear some impressions!
  6. I believe that all but the smallest semi-professional ballet companies provide at least some form of health insurance-- how much of the premiums they cover is another story. As for the pointe shoe question, yes, they are almost always provided, but the number of pairs allotted per dancer per week may be quite limited. Only the luckiest dancers have the luxury of an unlimited pointe shoe allowance. And I will add that "maintenance" bodywork and medical attention does indeed eat up a lot of a ballet dancer's already meager salary. Massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, etc. are rarely fully covered by a health insurance plan and are important (in fact, indispensible) to a dancer past the age of 21!
  7. The saddest thing about this whole discussion, to me, is that classical artists who have spent as many years training in their field as a surgeon have to resort to taking side jobs washing cars to make ends meet. Does anyone think this country will ever see a time when classical dancers can realisticly expect to be hired to perform year round?
  8. First of all, I must say that the scenario described by emhbunhead has become more and more rare these days. Interestingly, it seems that the smaller the company, the more direct and tyrannical control the management tries to wield over the dancers. The larger, unionized companies obviously are restricted by union regulations on working hours, travel conditions, etc., but I dare say there's more to it than that. This is verging onto another topic, but I will say that I feel psychology has a lot to do with it---- the need of a management to assert control over their employees to make them feel more substantial, or something like that. Anyway... Getting back to salaries and bart's query about job termination: Again, unionized companies provide dancers with greater job security, to a certain degree. A non-union dancer has literally no recourse if their contract is not renewed for the following season. (Yes, they are offered--or not-- on a yearly basis, though the opportunity to "renegotiate" is, for the most part, not an option). The artistic director's opinion is the final word on hiring and firing, and law suits claiming discrimination are rarely successful. "Artistic standard", and really the whole nature of the ballet business, is hugely subjective. An aging dancer is, yes, aging, but their technique may also be slipping as a result--- who's to say, other than the artistic director, which is the reason they are not rehired? Union companies require that the director answer to the union when someone is not rehired. This may help prevent intimidation of dancers, or obvious cases of "spite" terminations, but the whole issue of job security is still a big and scary one for most dancers. One final note, which is that most non-union contracts have a clause that gives the company the right to terminate anyone's contract without notice for various (vague and unspecific) reasons having to do with changes in appearance, performance, attitude, or financial hardship of the company. I don't know if this is standard in the business world.
  9. And another thing is indeed the number of weeks they're employed per year--- I don't think any dancer in the US is employed year-round, but the bigger the company, the more weeks they can offer their dancers. A good contract in a regional company would be around 30 weeks. The rest of the time they're collecting unemployment, which is a tiny fraction of their normal salary.
  10. It's true--- the AGMA companies whose contractual salaries are available online represent only the small (and VERY lucky) minority of ballet dancers in the US. Non-union companies typically pay their principal-level dancers about the same as (if not less than) what new corps members earn in NYCB, ABT, or any of the other AGMA companies. True, NYC cost of living is much higher than the cities that many regional companies are located in, but the difference in pay is not proportionate. Couple the salary differences with a lack of other benefits (not health insurance, which virtually all companies provide) such as physical therapists on staff, unlimited pointe shoes, travel expenses, reimbursement for physical maintenance costs (massage, chiro, etc.), built-in seniority pay, exit pay when a dancer retires, and you've got a whole lot of dancers in this country who really DO do it for that priceless joy of doing what they love.
  11. This is definitely a huge topic that merits a lot of thought and discussion. I think it also ties in with other issues in the ballet (and dance in general) world today, mostly the question of the future viability of ballet as art versus entertainment. My impression is that is an effort to stop the erosion of its audience base and thereby stay alive, ballet companies are focusing on younger audiences. These are people that are percieved to want to see athleticism, not "old-fashioned" dramatic ballets. Therefore, the emphasis in the training and coaching of their dancers is on increasing that impressive show-stopping, sparkling technique, not on honing a subtle acting ability or intangible stage presence.
  12. Perhaps gospel singing provided enough of an example, role models, respect and passion to pave the way for black opera stars. Obviously there's a hugely rich tradition of African dance, but that is so dissimilar to the formality and structure of classical ballet that it seems like there is too much of a disconnect between the two for a similar pathway to unfold.
  13. I've been reading Joseph H. Mazo's 1974 book about New York City Ballet called "Dance is a Contact Sport". He makes some really astute observations about many aspects of the ballet world, including the issue of race. Even though it was written 30 years ago, I think his points remain very valid and true today. For example, he points out that people naturally gravitate towards what they are familiar with, and since the makeup of most ballet audiences is not racially diverse it should be no surprise that the same is true in ballet classes and companies. He also points out that "Human rights movements are concerned with dignity and economics". (p.270) For the most part, the general population doesn't put ballet first on the list of "dignified" professions (well below doctor, teacher, lawyer, etc.), and we all know how ballet dancers fare on the economic scale.
  14. How about this as a reason why there aren't so many black children getting into serious ballet training programs: Ballet training is hard enough as it is. Imagine dealing with the vulnerability and insecurity that must accompany being the only black child or teenager in a studio surrounded by Caucasian kids! I can see that being a tough psychological and emotional hurdle for an already-insecure teenager to overcome, and not a small player in discouraging minority kids from entering that studio in the first place. There are so many outreach programs now that are trying to recruit underpriviledged kids (of any race) into dance schools. I wonder: Once those programs have had more years to work, gotten more minority kids into dance schools, will the ballet studio seem a more welcoming place?
  15. I think Helene hit on the root of many problems in the ballet world, not just the issue of race, with the comment that "directors don't have to justify their hires". It is always, in the end, up to their personal taste and artistic vision for their company. I've witnessed several cases in which a dancer has sued or at least raised a public outcry for not being re-hired, claiming unjust (or absent) reason for their dismissal. The dancer was either injured, coming back from an injury, or returning from maternity leave. The director cited artistic reasons--- the dancer wasn't up to snuff and hadn't proved their ability to become up to snuff. I may be naiive, but I think that most artistic directors in North America truly hire the best dancers they can find, regardless of race. I think the reason why there aren't more black and other minority ballet dancers at the elite professional level is because social pressures discourage them from seeking out and receiving the best training at a young age.
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