The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

Just another site about the love of ballet

Ballet Class Etiquette for Adults February 9, 2019

Filed under: ballet class — theworstat @ 5:32 pm

This is a very valuable video published recently by Natalie Danza Ballet on YouTube:

Ballet Class Etiquette for Adults

Having found walking into a ballet class for the first time in decades to be rather challenging and even scary, I wish I’d had this video then.

She pretty much covers everything from the newbie’s point of view, but because this is a video strictly for newbies, she doesn’t tackle how to react to someone new in your class.  I’d like to address this, because the class I was in most recently immediately started bristling at me no matter where I stood at the barre; no matter where I was, that was “someone else’s space.”

Bullshit.  Grow up.  There is no nice way to put this. You have to be prepared to move over a bit, especially if the studio is small and has limited barre space.  In my case I was left with almost nowhere to go, and also, in a corner where I had no one to watch.  As I have a learning disability (cannot retain verbal directions and always need a visual reference until I memorize step sequences, which often takes me longer than the length of the exercise), this made the class torture for me and I never went back.

Even someone without that problem would not feel inclined to go back somewhere where a new person faces abusive treatment.

Remember you are paying not for “your space” at the barre, but for a ballet class.  Get over yourself and welcome newbies.  Newbies keep the class going.  If it becomes an exclusive club, eventually the class will be canceled as people drop away.  This happened shortly after I took that one class fairly recently.  It took a year and a lot of complaints before the class was reinstated, but if the denizens of the class are still acting that way, no doubt the class will be canceled again in the future.

I wouldn’t fuss so much about this if I hadn’t encountered it more than once (two times, decades apart) but it’s something that happens more than it should.  So adults, leave your diva at home.  You’re not going to be a ballerina any more than the newbie is.  You’re all there to enjoy yourselves, and if you enjoy yourself by claiming a permanent space at the barre, then all I have to say is that you have problems only a professional can help you with.

Anyway, this video will be a big help to a total beginner going into an adult class for the first time, and for the class newbie who hasn’t taken class in decades and can’t remember all the small details of ballet etiquette (or in my case, anything else, either).  I believe my advice will help the beginners and newbies too.  Established class members need to remember that ballet class is intimidating for beginners and newbies, remember how they felt at first, and calm the hell down.


Dress codes July 28, 2017

Filed under: ballerina,ballet,ballet class,Uncategorized — theworstat @ 4:47 pm

I’ll get the inevitable out of the way first: as if everyone didn’t know by now, Joy Womack is apparently leaving the Kremlin Ballet, or has left already, or has…I don’t know.  To make a long story short, she’s now hanging out in southeast Asia and it sounds like she’s AWOL from the Kremlin Ballet.

If she has left or is leaving the Kremlin, I’m relieved for her because she’ll likely be out of Russia for good.  What’s going on at the top of the political spectrum right now is bound to effect U.S. expats in Russia; it’s naive to an extreme to believe otherwise.

In truth I sort of saw this coming during Womack’s extended stay in New York last winter, during which she realized she doesn’t need to be in Russia to be happy as a dancer.  But we’ll see if she actually formally cuts ties before I comment further.  This could all be talk and nothing more, but I honestly hope it’s more.

ANYWAY, now to the point of this article: the way some dancers are dressing these days.  I was roaming around Twitter this morning when I saw a tweet from Dance Magazine touting an article about choosing a college ballet program.  In the tweet was a photo of an ultra-serious teen dancer wearing sheer tights over what looked like very low bikini underpants.  I saw where someone had replied, “…starting with pants.”  I’m sure that got them blocked by Dance Magazine, but that’s not the point.

There has been some mention of this on other dance blogs, but I never really wanted to approach the subject here for fear of looking prudish.  Anyway, those blogs were talking about a far more serious matter — the sexualization of little kids (as in “Dance Moms”) — and I thought if an adult dancer wants to walk around nearly naked, that’s their business.

But then I saw this photo.  I have to be honest with you, it looked pretty gross.

No I’m not saying that older, advanced students should dress like the little kids do, in proper black leotards and pink tights or whatever the standard is.  But there has to be some realization that, you know, we’re out in pubic and some cover of private parts is necessary.

Covering a bit more also keeps your muscles warmer.  That’s just a fact.

Basically it just looks better.  Honest, I’ve been seeing a ton of photos of dancers without tights lately and although the photos do make the point that dancers are athletes — and that point may be apt in contemporary dance, which often offers nothing but athleticism — it just looks strange with a Romantic tutu or even a classical one.  After all, ballet is about defying the earth — and as an extension, one’s body.

Overexposure has become a problem throughout our society, but in dance it’s just gone a little further (and in the case of costumes for little kids, TOO far).  I’m ready for the pendulum to swing back the other way, but it doesn’t look like it will any time soon.




This is what I’m talking about… March 15, 2017

Filed under: ballet class,reality tv — theworstat @ 5:49 am
Tags: , ,

“Joffrey Elite”

I mentioned this monstrosity in a previous post.  Here you see the “reality show” formula at its worst: fake shaming, fake competition, fake drama, all ending in a fake cliff-hanger.

Add to that student dancers who are not ready for any kind of limelight.  All the kids appear deficient in basic classical technique, so how is it helping them to spend their days in 6th position, executing a free-for-all edition of “modern dance,” (actually as I said earlier, it bears more resemblance to high-school drill team garbage), if they are aiming to be classical dancers?  And the boys can’t partner, or at least what they’re being asked to do is way beyond what they can manage.

There’s always yet another stupid team competition (are we dancers or are we cheerleaders?); we have that lousy choreography where people march around in lockstep for a bit and then throw themselves by their stomachs (and why does it look exactly the same as the previous lousy choreography they did, when the subject is ostensibly so different?).  And of course because there’s magically a new competition every two weeks or so, they have to be in an eternal rush to have new dances and costumes for each competition, just like Dance Moms!   (Note: most real ballets take at least a month to choreograph and prepare, and are rehearsed to the point of exhaustion.)

Meantime back in the real world, I have to point out that this is nothing like

School of American Ballet documentary

This documentary simply shows life at an elite ballet school with no detectable added drama.  It assumes ballet life is interesting enough on its own.  It doesn’t reek of a bunch of writers sitting around a table throwing out ideas like, “let’s have Arielle just dying for love of Jason, but then she finds out he really wants Josh, and meantime they’re all worried about their next big competition and whether Mr. Ballet Master is going to let them dance anymore if they don’t get a good score from the judges…”

To sum it up, nothing depicted in “Joffrey Elite” prepares the kids for life in a ballet company, so what’s the point?

The point of ballet school is clear when you watch the SAB documentary.  This is the way ballet backstories should be portrayed on TV: just tell the truth.   It’s quite dramatic enough.

P.S. the Joffrey Ballet must cringe at the “Joffrey Elite” series and the inevitable confusion it will cause.  How do I know?  Look at the website of the Joffrey Academy (the actual school of the Joffrey Ballet, as opposed to the Joffrey Ballet School).  See anything there that tells you they may be trying to distance themselves from all this?  Yes.


Little Girls, Pointe Shoes, and YouTube February 24, 2017

Filed under: ballet,ballet class,Uncategorized — theworstat @ 5:44 am
Tags: , ,

Let’s do an experiment: go to YouTube, type “first pair of pointe shoes” in the search box, and tell me what you see.  23,000 results?  Yeah, that’s something like it.

I don’t mind the young girls (and adults) who take us along to their fitting or their first pointe class.  After all, it’s an exciting time no matter what your age.

What bugs me is the kids who absolutely don’t know what they’re doing, probably haven’t even taken ballet classes for very long, shouldn’t be anywhere near pointe shoes…and yet are pretending to be experts.  Of course that doesn’t impress an adult, but what concerns me is the effect on other kids.

For instance I just saw a video by a little girl who kept saying something about having perfect feet because they were “tapered,” (actually she had no arch and weak ankles and couldn’t get over the box; having tapered toes has nothing to do with having perfect feet but the other elements — arch, ankle, strength — do).  Then she confused the shank with the box when discussing the “four types of pointe shoes” (????) and then, although she admitted that these were her first pointe shoes, she proceeded to explain how she “always” breaks in her shoes.

You guessed it: she had no idea how. The shanks on her shoes were so hard that she couldn’t even bend them with her hands, let alone her feet.  She said they were medium shanks, but judging by her difficulty in getting them to bend at all, that wasn’t exactly the truth.

Back in the day, very hard shoes were recommended for beginners (at least they were in the schools I attended).  The thought was that although kids already had two to three years of training when they began pointe, pointe was like starting all over again and they needed the help of the shoe for getting up on pointe and staying there.  The more specific muscle strength required for pointe work would develop during beginner-level pointe training and continue to evolve after that (probably by fighting to get to, and stand on tiptoe in those industrial-strength shoes).

In time students could graduate to less-heavy shoes. In those days, many professionals bragged about how soft their shoes were.  That was the goal.  Once you were dancing with the big girls, strong pointe shoes were not cool unless you needed them to help with some injury.

Nowadays the thinking seems to have changed; kids who already have training and are ready for pointe develop their feet by working very hard on specific exercises in class, and with things like Therabands and demi-pointe shoes, for up to a year before getting pointe shoes.  Some schools have special classes for pre-pointe students.  After all that preparation, the shoes they get depend on their feet, ankles, and overall strength (although the lightest shoes are still recommended only for professionals, and some teachers complain that even after going through all the preliminaries, the kids still aren’t strong enough for pointe).

At the same time, the strongest pointe shoes now seem to be recommended only for fully-developed dancer’s feet that need the extra protection for whatever reason; I’m guessing that feet like these are the super-bendy “banana feet,” but I don’t know.  Extreme feet like that were uncommon decades ago, but seem to be more universal now, so maybe someone out there has the answer.

But even the dancers who need strong shoes three-quarter the shanks and whatnot to break them in, because the fact is that you can’t dance very well with concrete blocks on your feet no matter how much training you have.

So how is it that this kid who can barely do a proper demi-pointe — actually she couldn’t at all — ended up with such a heavy-duty pair of shoes?  (I think I have the answer; see it in one of the paragraphs below.)  The kid also couldn’t tie her ribbons correctly, demonstrated her toe spacers but then didn’t use them under her Ouch Pouches, and mysteriously showed us a ridiculously large bag of lamb’s wool — half a ewe’s worth, it seemed — which she had purchased even though she claimed that her “perfect feet” didn’t need lamb’s wool.  No it did not make sense.  No one needs both lamb’s wool and an Ouch Pouch, for starters; it’s usually either one or the other, or else you risk overcrowding your box…in which case you should be questioning whether the shoes are properly fitted if they hurt you so badly that you need all that stuff.  (Also, if you over-stuff your box, your shoes may end up not fitting at all.)

An aside: lamb’s wool is nothing more than what we used to use for protective padding in the old days before Ouch Pouches.  Some dancers still use it. It has nothing to do with how perfect your feet are.  Some of the dancers with the loveliest feet don’t wear any padding at all.  My feet are average, but I used to use padding only over the tops of the toes.  Back in the day I used lamb’s wool because that was pretty much all we had.  Hated it because it never worked for me; it would shift and bunch unless you taped it down, which I never wanted to do because I’m allergic to adhesives. Worse for me, lamb’s wool did little to protect from blisters, especially in the “thin layer” that was encouraged for use inside the box.

Later the first pouches came out, but unlike today’s they tended to be thick, heavy suede bags lined with curly wooly stuff.  You literally had to go up a shoe size to accommodate them, and they were hot, and they interfered with any feeling you had left for the floor beneath you because they were lined all the way around.  Professional dancers laughed at them.  Very quickly after they were first released, they were marketed only to students.  Shortly thereafter the manufacturers came out with thinner (but still sweaty) vinyl pouches that contained squshy gel, but it was about then that I quit dancing.  I recently bought a pair of modern-day gel pouches for my demi-pointe shoes (which I work out in), and was dismayed that although the pouches were lightweight, someone still hadn’t thought not to put gel on the bottom of the pouch.  Hence my remark in one of the comments on a previous post about just buying rolls of Silipos gel padding and cutting it to size.  One roll of that stuff could last at least a few years, which would save a lot of money over time because ready-made gel pouches tend to be outrageously expensive.

Anyway, back to the story, this kid then claimed that her “teacher just came round and said these shoes are perfect for me.”  Um…I’ll bet that never happened.  In fact I’ll bet that the teacher, if she exists, doesn’t even know about these shoes.  If she’s a proper teacher, she’ll throw a fit if she ever sees that video.  The kid just isn’t ready to be on pointe, and given her age, obvious lack of training, and the shape and apparent weakness of her feet and ankles, it will be a long time before she’s ready.

In other words, it looks like mom and dad just got her some toys.  I also question if she was actually fitted for them or just chose them online, or told the store she went to that she always uses those shoes.  They did appear to fit her, but that could have been dumb luck.

Of course this is a new day and there’s no way of controlling everything kids get into online.  I’m not advocating censorship. But if you have a young daughter who dreams of going on pointe one day, be aware that there are videos like this out there.  Even though I realize the kids making them have no idea what they’re doing and are just having fun and being kids, that’s just it: they have no idea what they’re doing and could get badly hurt, or cause other kids to get hurt imitating them.

This particular little girl answered, “stop hating! you’re hurting my feelings,” etc. every time someone commented that she probably shouldn’t be on pointe yet, which is another thing that tells me that she definitely shouldn’t be on pointe yet and is just pretending.

That’s the point: it’s pretend.  And this isn’t “hate,” which is becoming over-used slang among kids referring to anything said to them that they do not like.  (Note to kids: hate is a very strong word and should be reserved for only very serious issues.)

No, this is more like demonstrating ‘tough love’ by pointing out something that is potentially dangerous.  Kathryn Morgan touched on this subject recently, only she was talking about bad advice being given on YouTube — again, by inexperienced kids — on the subject of stretching.  She has far more authority to talk about stuff than I do, but she said pretty much the same thing I just said: beware YouTube videos.  Consider your source if you take advice from them.

And for goodness sake, pointe shoes are not toys.


Reality Ballet January 30, 2017

The following is a comment from a regular contributor.  I found it interesting.  Please read through it; I’ll add my thoughts below.

From atlanticw

I find the entire Joy Womack situation bizarre. I noticed she has not been promoting her prima bars in a long time and I thought it odd. I then checked the company’s Facebook account and apparently they stopped producing the bars in September 2016-claiming their manufacturer closed unexpectedly. The prima bar site is now stating it will start selling some sort of vitamin supplement which goes along with her physician parent’s business. The more likely scenario is that no one was buying her stuff and they just quit producing. As if the world needed another granola bar-particularly one that was very expensive.
She left to guest star at some ballet school in Salt Lake City and posted that she was taking classes at Ballet West. Now she is taking classes around ABT. Sounds like her plan was likely to attempt to get in somewhere in the US and it’s not panning out. As someone who used practice US immigration law, I find it difficult she had no idea her Russian visa would be expired. While all governments are unique, deadlines are pretty much set for those things and the terms are clear. Absent any issues at the actual border crossing her visa would be valid until it expired- and she should have known very well its date.
I did see she was attempting to get a Russian green card. She has alluded in the past to not being sponsored by the Kremlin which again is bizarre. I feel that a state run ballet company can sponsor someone if they really want to get it done and they just clearly didn’t care enough.
I can never really tell her skill level but from videos I don’t think she seems like an exciting dancer to watch. That, paired with her attitude and the liability she poses but her youtube channel I can’t see many companies really going for it. It is true that stars like Misty Copeland are all over social media, but she doesn’t seem to be bashing people or sharing every single little detail about her life like she’s a Kardashian or something. Joy would have been better off staying more anonymous and then attempting to audition around the US. She’d be lucky for a spot in a regional company like Ballet West. For a company that even had its own cheesy reality show (breaking pointe) they still probably couldn’t even deal with her antics.
To me, she literally embodies the generation Z/younger millennial desire to be ‘instagram famous’. Everything is about perception and optics, yet nothing to back it up.

Regarding the Prima bars, I too noticed she stopped mentioning them months ago, but I never bothered to take the extra step to go to the website and see why.  Who knows what the backstory is…there always seems to be so much that doesn’t add up in her case.  I did see the two recent videos promoting “bodyhacking,” and was alarmed.  She could really fall into an expensive trap there.  I used to work in a medical setting and know how tight the restrictions are and how careful one has to be about making even quasi-medical claims.  The FDA has driven numerous small supplement companies out of existence for making spurious claims, and clients are quick to sue when promised miracles don’t happen.  It’s a very tricky sector of the market; if one enters it at all it’s safer to do it in only one state (restrictions vary widely from state to state), and engage in doublespeak whenever possible.  That is to say, don’t make any solid claims whatsoever.  Leave it all between the lines.  Womack’s “body hacking” videos didn’t do that.

Whether it is true that her entire career is nothing but a cover for a marketing scheme, or that she thought she could bluff her way into superstar prima-ballerinadom by becoming famous on YouTube and social media (and sell stuff on the side!)…well, as Atlantic says, it’s impossible to tell because we in the West haven’t really seen her dance.  Yes she rose quickly to principal status at a small Russian company, but there have been rumors about her father’s political influence that haven’t been answered.  Then again, this sounds ridiculous, but there were questions surrounding Evgenia Obraztsova’s mother’s influence as Genia began advancing at the Maryinsky.

The rare bits of feedback from audiences inside Russia haven’t always been positive, but the fact is that some Russians seem to have a problem supporting non-Russian dancers.  Not that they don’t or won’t; see David Hallberg as a recent reference.  But Keenan Kampa, really the most similar case to Womack’s in terms of training and outcome, admitted that the hostility of the Russian audience was part of what drove her from the Maryinsky.  Of course she had also developed a heart problem as well as a severe hip injury, but one wonders if she’d have left even if the physical problems hadn’t occurred.  I now believe she would have.

Aside from the career-ending physical problems, the main difference with Kampa is that we had seen her dance.

One has to wonder what was in Womack’s mind once she entered the Bolshoi’s school — an event which is still a source of controversy; although she was undoubtedly a student there, I still haven’t seen clear evidence about whether she was in the Russian class or the foreigners’ class.  She continues to insist she was in the Russian class, yet at least one teacher at the school said she was in the foreigners’ class, and of course there are fellow former students and others who say she was in the foreigners’ class.

Did she begin to think that she might sell her wares in the U.S. on the basis of her being an American graduating from a Russian school and soaring into prima ballerina stardom in Russia, the cathedral of ballet, in a just few years?  If so, she never realized that the market just isn’t there.  Most people in the U.S. aren’t interested in ballet except for a few dancers  who are genuinely unique (Misty Copeland comes to mind), and those of us who do love ballet would want to see her dance, live, before becoming convinced and then maybe buying something more than a ticket.

Another point is that we do know ballet here in the west, and we no longer easily accept that the Russian ballet school is infinitely superior to all other schools (in the upper body, maybe, but the Brits and others are pretty good at that part too — so what’s the big deal?).  We have too many brilliant schools of our own.

Because of facts like that, hiding behind the former iron curtain was never going to help her for long.  She had to — and still has to — come out and show us something.  Snippets of Swan Lake, even lengthy ones, aren’t going to do it unless you’re like Svetlana Zakharova, a genuine prodigy who explodes like a flash of lightning on camera, no matter what you actually think of her dancing.

For most dancers ballet performance requires, sooner or later, living proof. Cameras flatten everything and distort it, and individuality, unless sparkling, is often lost.  I’ve been depending on videos of dancers for a long time (as I no longer live close enough to a large city where professional ballet performances are held) and let me tell you: on video, very few classical dancers make an impact.  It’s as if ballet on video is a whole different art form.

Womack did say on one video that she felt that if she left Russia, she would no longer be unique.  She said something to the effect that there were “thousands like her” in the U.S.  I thought that said a unintentional mouthful.  All I can add to that is that much of what I see her doing on videos is fouettes.  Nice, powerful fouettes, even if she travels like crazy (to be fair, most dancers do).  But what about everything else?  I watched the snippet of her in class with ABT, and although almost no one ever really looks outstanding in class..she didn’t either.  I had to struggle to pick her out; as it turned out, she was the girl hanging around doing a million fouettes after everyone else had trotted off, and she was apparently holding up the following group in the process.  That’s the way it looked, anyway.  To be fair, the camera angle was so narrow that it was hard to tell what was really happening.

Interesting to read the stuff about her visa.  That part boggles my mind, and it’s good to hear from someone who actually worked in that field.  Again, it seems there is another low gray cloud surrounding Womack’s story, to the extent that she’s given a story.  David Hallberg has never had a problem with his visa, has he?  And I don’t hear anything to that effect from other American dancers in Russia, either…not that they blast everything over social media.  And so we are left wandering in the dark.

This “visa problem” is also rather interesting in light of the fact that the Kremlin Ballet apparently recently cracked down on her video habit.  The two could be related, but I’ll allow that they’re probably not.

Anyway, what I’ve seen of her dancing leaves me feeling that she might be a good fit at a major company as a soloist (or a coryphee if any company in the U.S. has them; I think SFB does).  Her interpretations of roles seem to be at the soloist level — very carefully reciting her advanced lessons, but with no lightning bolts of insight and no unique language of her own.  (Again, I am left to judge via snippets on video.)  It could be that she is just too young to achieve that, but then again, one thinks of the very young Giselle Berthea (still a teenager and currently in ABT’s corps, but not in the corps for long if what’s said about her turns out to be true): apparently the kid was born that way.

Maybe that’s the entire issue with Womack’s dancing: perhaps she wasn’t born that way, (and that’s okay!) but is trying to make us believe she was.  Like I said, we have no way of knowing until she shows us.  And like Atlantic says, maybe she’s damaged herself so much on social media that she’ll never get a chance in a U.S. company, or even one in Europe.  This could be why she’s hinting at putting her own touring company together…if indeed, that’s what she’s hinting at.

Who knows…


A Whole New ABT? January 27, 2017

I admit I hadn’t looked closely at ABT’s website in a long time, in terms of checking out dancer biographies.  What I learned when I checked today was pretty eye-opening:

— Most of the corps dancers appear to be JKO trained, and/or ballet competition medalists.  This is unprecedented.  Just a few years ago, a fair number of them were former principal dancers from small companies around the U.S and the world, and the rest came from scattered schools around the U.S.  I remember back in the days of the Russian defectors, Soviet-era corps dancers were apparently being told that a corps dancer in, say, the Kirov would automatically be a principal at ABT.  Ugly surprise, they too found themselves languishing in the corps at ABT.  One tried to go back to the Soviet Union and was whisked away in a car when he landed, and was never seen again.  Tragic.  But the point of the story is that at one point, the corps at ABT was a life sentence for just about everyone, particularly if they were U.S.-born and bred.  A few would make it to soloist, of course, but almost no one made it to principal.  That’s still true — it’s true in all major companies — but at least now many of the principals started out in the soloist or corps level at ABT.  Now there’s hope.  Back in the day, there wasn’t much.

That said, according to what Womack said in her video, ABT corps members are still complaining about all the guest artists getting in the way of promotions and performance opportunities.  Currently there is only one guest artist listed on ABT’s website, and she is the semi-retired Alessandra Ferri.

–Several of the principals entered the company as soloists (from smaller companies like Boston Ballet), but a more than a few others came up through the ranks at ABT.  Believe me, this is an ENORMOUS change from the way things used to be at ABT.  Obviously there are still a few who are entirely foreign-trained, and there’s only one “international superstar” if you don’t count home-grown David Hallberg — and she’s apparently retiring from ABT this summer, although she is not ending her ballet career (Diana Vishneva).  I guess I might count the popular Maria Kochetkova in that category as well.  But still, the majority of the principals seem to have started at ABT either as soloists, or in an apparently growing number of cases, in the corps.

–Most of the soloists appear to have come up through the ranks at ABT.  I haven’t gone through all the bios yet, but one is a former principal from another country who spent an astonishing fourteen years in the corps before becoming a soloist.  At least two others actually came from the JKO school; I’d thought it was still too early in the day for that — the JKO school is just not that old — but I guess not.  Several others are former ABT summer intensive students and came to the company through the former ABT Studio Company (now ABT II).

All in all, it looks like ABT is putting their money where their mouth is as regards the JKO school, and developing their own dancers.  Like I said, it’s a huge departure from the way things were back in the day.  The dancers who are complaining now…well, they weren’t even born then.  But believe me, things can be worse.

P.S. Here in Chicago, the Joffrey has totally turned over the management of the Joffrey Academy (not to be confused with the Joffrey Ballet School in New York, which is not affiliated with the Joffrey Academy or with the Joffrey Ballet).  Don’t know specifically why that happened, but the company had been seeming to hire dancers from anywhere but its own Academy in the past (to be fair, the Academy has only been in existence for about 6 years).  The AD of the Joffrey is now also the head of the Academy, so that may change.  Stay tuned…


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.