Ah, it’s summer…the time of incredible heat, long vacations at the beach, mindless play, sunburn, mosquito bites, lots of kids forgetting everything they learned in the previous grade, and too many kids toiling away their summer school breaks in ballet studios, hoping to be noticed. This last aspect of summer did not exist when I was young (at least, to my knowledge it did not). Even the major ballet schools took at least a brief break during the summer.
Having read an acid comment from a Russian guest instructor at one of the numerous “summer intensives” in the U.S….he said, basically, that admission was a matter of how much money the school needed to make, and not so much of the student’s actual promise, and also that if it were up to him, he’d tell most of the students to choose another hobby…I am very much in doubt that the summer intensives accomplish much of anything outside of making money for the schools, and providing summer camps for the kids. I remember a quote about ballet schools from a fictional book about ballet: “you give the parents hope, they give you money.”
At the other end of the spectrum are those who have actually made it in the ballet world…the principals. In recent months I thought I’d noticed a spate of principals jumping to other companies (at least in Europe), and now an article in Pointe magazine shows me that I was probably right.
The excuse is the same as it was with the Russians defecting in the 1960’s and 1970’s: artistic freedom. The difference is that then, there were actual differences between one company and another, based around choreographers. Nowadays the differences are based on schools, and are much harder to overcome.
There are a few “name” choreographers doing great work, but I suspect most ballet stars will end their careers in disappointment that no one created the perfect ballet for them. Today’s choreography seems to be mostly a matter of screechy metallic or otherwise ill-considered music, contortionist tricks, and a lot of walking and rolling around. Further, ballets don’t seem to be created for particular dancers anymore. Any hyper-flexible body will do in most of them. I don’t see the reason to jump from one company to another just to get in on this sort of garbage.
Also there’s the case of the French POB ballerina who jumped to the San Francisco ballet, who will be sorely be missing her pension one day. It makes one wonder.
The thing is, being a dancer is rather like being in a symphony orchestra: you are an artist, but you are also an artist’s tool. Very often, the artist you are working for is long dead. Nothing gets created for you. It’s just part of the job.
Kind of like the summer intensives, I suspect jumping ship at the top does nothing much in the long run.