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Questions about Trainee Programs and Apprenticeships


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Hello! I'm currently writing a fiction about a young ballet dancer who starts in a trainee program, earns an apprenticeship, and eventually gets into the corps de ballet of a (fictional) major ballet company. But I've got a few questions that, sadly, no google search can answer. And my goal is to write as authentically as possible. I understand answers probably vary based on the company, and I apologize in advance if they seem obvious or downright stupid (bear with me; I'm a ballet enthusiast who really doesn't know much about ballet or professional life). But any knowledgeable responses are HUGELY appreciated!

*Note: the main company I'm using for inspiration is San Francisco Ballet, because I think they're an awesome company and I'm fairly local to them (unfortunately, getting in to view anything  is currently impossible). But I'm working on combining aspects of various companies to create a fictional one, so no copyrights are tread upon. So, if you know anything about SFB, that would be amazing!

1. Naturally, probably the hardest/most varied question to answer, but: what's a performance in a trainee program like, especially if it's a performance outside of the company (like how San Francisco Ballet takes their trainees all over the bay area)? Is there an average number of performances trainee programs tend to perform a week?

2. Do trainees always perform together, or do they sometimes get assigned different opportunities (I.E. would someone be selected to work in a company performance, while others would not/be assigned to a different performance within the program)?

3. Do apprentice schedules tend to be just like the corps de ballet, or are they more/less busy or carrying more/less responsibilities (like understudying)?

3. Can an apprentice ever understudy for a principal/soloist role, or do they only understudy for corps roles? Or can you be understudying for both at the same time, depending on the company's needs?

3. (Relating to question above) If you are understudying for a role, and the person you are understudying for gets badly injured, would you cover that role for the remainder of the season? Or would you cover maybe one night until they replace you with a contracted member?

4. Do female apprentices (or professionals) still take pointe classes on their own time, or is that only something students do because they're assigned it as part of their curriculum?

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Hello Whitney.

We are an audience site, and while there are a few professionals amongst our members, we only allow professionals to speak about their own experiences in limited circumstances, if they post under their real, full name.  Other than that, we have a strict "Official news" policy, ie, what is posted about companies and dancers (outside reviews) needs to be substantiated by public-facing news from professionals and students.  Anything that we have found from those sources, you should be able to find as well.

The short answer to questions is that there isn't one answer that applies to all companies.  Not all companies have apprentices, trainees, or second companies.  For companies that have union contracts, that contract limits how a company can use their professional division students, trainees, and apprentices, if they have them.  For non-union companies, they have far more latitude. 

There are typical practices and rarer practices -- for example, there have been apprentices at NYCB who've been cast in Principal/featured/lead roles, but that is rare.  it also depends on who the Artistic Director is at the time.   This may be different in other companies, ie, more common or never.

Not all companies list the names of all of their apprentices or trainees on their websites, but for the ones they do, some of the dancers may have public-facing social media where you could get at least clues to answer your questions.

There also may be info that you can find from our sister site, Ballet Talk for Dancers:

https://dancers.invisionzone.com.

Since their mission is to support students, young dancers, and parents, I wouldn't suggest joining and asking these questions directly, but there may be enough public-facing information to at least send you in the right direction.

 

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2 hours ago, WhitneyO said:

Note: the main company I'm using for inspiration is San Francisco Ballet, because I think they're an awesome company and I'm fairly local to them (unfortunately, getting in to view anything  is currently impossible). But I'm working on combining aspects of various companies to create a fictional one, so no copyrights are tread upon. So, if you know anything about SFB, that would be amazing!

Welcome, Whitney. I would encourage you to approach a few of the dancers on Instagram (where a private message can be sent). Many SFB dancers have been apprentices: Jen Stahl, Natasha Sheehan, Ben Freemantle, Wei Wang, Sasha De Sola, Ellen Rose Hummel, Elizabeth Powell, Leili Rackow, Kimberly Marie Olivier, Tyla Steinbach (and that's not all of them). Just make sure to explain why you need to know these things ("writing a fiction about a young ballet dancer") so that they know it is a legitimate request.

Same with other schools and dancers - you should be able to find a few who are willing to discuss their experiences if you contact them via social media.

Edited by pherank
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