First of all, I’d like to share Kathryn Morgan’s vlog about dealing with unsupportive parents (this is for U.S.-based ballet students; obviously the situation is quite different in other countries):
I was surprised at her comments regarding dancers actually making living wages in most medium to large companies in the U.S. This certainly wasn’t the case decades ago, but I’m glad to hear it has changed.
I’m also glad to hear that more dancers are pursuing college degrees. In the 1970’s, a lot of them were dropping out of high school to join companies. Dance was terribly risky then…still is, but it sounds less so now. The biggest chance now is the same biggest chance that’s ever been — that a dancer simply won’t make it. I do know the school of the Paris Opera encourages their students to get college degrees while they are still studying ballet, because the odds against them going on to have a career in ballet are so scary. I’m glad to hear that mindset has spread to the U.S.
And so, on to the subject of students…
Recently I received a comment asking me what I thought of two current students. I have to reply that outside of having followed the school days of Joy Womack (now a prima ballerina) and Xenia Zhiganshina (second season in the corps at the Bolshoi), and maybe a few others, I generally don’t follow the careers of students. They have to make a lot more noise than just crowing away on social media for me to be aware of them; i.e., they have to make it into the newspapers and maybe be invited into a major company at some incredibly early age. Giselle Bethea comes to mind.
I do have a copy of a fashion magazine from years ago that shows a photo of a very young Olga Smirnova at Vaganova. But she is the only one of several students featured in that article who has really “made it.”
As I said above, the odds against a ballet career — even for kids in top schools — are huge. Anything could go wrong, and usually does. Plus, it’s usually impossible to make an accurate prediction of who will be a star someday and who will not. Former ABT ballerina Cynthia Harvey is an example of one whose career began and almost ended in the corps de ballet (Lucia Chase didn’t like her). There are hundreds more every year who never even make it into a company’s corps.
There are several kids on YouTube right now who are convinced they’re going places. Some of them have talent. Probably none of them will get anywhere. That’s why I won’t promote them here.
Sadder still are the ones who…well, there was one girl who declared herself a great dancer because she was born with banana feet. Her videos consisted of nothing more than her flexing and pointing her bare feet. The comments below her videos pretty effectively shot her down, but still…at a certain age, hype can be a career. For some people, that’s for their whole lives. But it doesn’t usually fly in ballet.
This is another reason I won’t generally publicize students. Sorry to be a wet blanket, but that’s the way it is.