The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

Just another WordPress.com site about the love of ballet

Me being a wet blanket September 24, 2016

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):
Kathryn Morgan

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.

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One Response to “Me being a wet blanket”

  1. In this day and age, it’s much easier to see and know about “rising stars”. Back in the day, our only glimpse at a Vaganova class or graduation was the Children of Theatre Street or some other documentary. We may be told to keep an eye out on one or two individuals but due to lack of info, we can’t really follow their careers. I think it was only in the late 90’s when the Mariinsky launched a website did we learn that Elena Vorontsova never made it out of the Mariinsky corps(though she was still dancing 20 years after the film, so she made a career out of it)

    Nowadays, people can post vids from the graduation performances and hype up this dancer. But chances are the same, they may never really reach stardom. It’s the same in other endeavors. Back in the old days, you might have wondered where the hell this 13 year old Michelle Kwan kid came from but these days, most skating fans would have already have seen videos of her performance as a nine year old.


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