CriticalDance Forum

Ballet is tough!
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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Nov 18, 2005 6:37 am ]
Post subject:  Ballet is tough!

Or perhaps the topic name should be "Ballet is VERY tough":

Toeing the line
London audiences will delight in the lithe and graceful dancers of English Natioal Ballet at their Christmas shows next month. Our correspondent reports on the often harsh reality behind the scenes. By Stefanie Marsh for The Times.

English National Ballet has come to Southampton, and not before time. Outside the Mayflower theatre, where 64 dancers are to perform a lavish revival of Kenneth MacMillan’s The Sleeping Beauty, you can see: one boarded up café; two labyrinthine shopping malls; a knot of low-hung grey warehouses selling furniture, used cars, carpets, children’s toys, computers, household appliances and pizzas.

click for more

Author:  Tom Skelton [ Fri Nov 18, 2005 7:05 am ]
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The shortcomings of Blair’s Britain — the irresistible rise of the chain store, our problem with the overweight, the hopeless anonymity of many of our city centres — are here in force.

Alas, substitute "the USA" for "Blair's Britain" (and correct the misspelled "centres") and the sentence still works.

The article paints an all-too-accurate of a working dancer's life. This particularly resonated with me:

The question of whether or not they like Southampton, Bristol, Oxford or London is irrelevant, really. They never get to see the cities.

The inside of a theater in Bristol looks pretty much like the inside of a theater in New York, which looks pretty much like the inside of a theater in Poughkeepsie, which looks....

Author:  Cassandra [ Fri Nov 18, 2005 7:34 am ]
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The inside of a theater in Bristol looks pretty much like the inside of a theater in New York, which looks pretty much like the inside of a theater in Poughkeepsie, which looks....

Isn't that part of the attraction though? The fact that every theatre is pretty much the same, makes you feel immediately at home in them.

Author:  salzberg [ Fri Nov 18, 2005 7:41 am ]
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I dunno, when people ask me what I thought of <insert name of exotic locale here>, I'd like to be able to say something besides, "Well, the proscenium was 42' wide and the throw from the front-of-house was...."

Author:  Michael Goldbarth [ Fri Nov 18, 2005 10:22 am ]
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She got a job at ENB after a lonely apprenticeship at the Royal Ballet, where she remembers “not talking for six months”. At the Royal Ballet “they look at me: ‘how dare you talk to us!’ ” There is a ranking here, too. As a first artist you don’t address a principal, you wait to be spoken to. But it’s not a bitchy company, more “a big family with spats”.

What is the worst thing about being a dancer? Not the pay, as I incorrectly heard several times. It’s the pain — constant, debilitating and all over the body. The pay, while we’re on the subject, is awful. At a base rate of £17,000, it would make nurses and teachers, even street sweepers, blanch. But a ballet dancer would never go on strike. This is a matter of pride. We are not like footballers, says Adela. Footballers don’t even do half of the things that we do. And they do it for money! Dancers, they do it because it’s just the greatest privilege in the world. “I don’t have a lot of money but, you know, I can go to the cinema,” says Rachel. Andre says: “It’s not really tragic, our life.”

The above stuck out for me. I thought perhaps with the long tradition of ballet in Britain that life would be better for dancers.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Nov 18, 2005 11:05 am ]
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It's a hierarchical art form and the Royal Opera House, despite the excellent work of the current and previous Exec Directors, remains a hierarchical organisation.

The best counter-example in the UK that I know of is the egalitarian Northern Ballet Theatre. But it's only some 35 dancers and principals dance in the corps when needed to on tour - that has to make a difference.

Author:  Michael Goldbarth [ Sat Nov 19, 2005 11:35 pm ]
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This topic makes for very sad reading.

Author:  NZDanzer [ Sat Dec 03, 2005 11:21 am ]
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But a ballet dancer would never go on strike. This is a matter of pride.

Hmmm ... tell that to the Australian Ballet dancers who went on strike in October 1981!

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Dec 16, 2005 10:50 am ]
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And now Washington Ballet are either on strike or the subject of a lock-out, depending upon your perspective:

Author:  balletecamachalco [ Sat Jan 28, 2006 2:18 pm ]
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It really is!!

Author:  Michael Goldbarth [ Sun Jul 30, 2006 7:02 am ]
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Click HERE for an interesting article about the demands of ballet and what dancers take to keep dancing.

Many hide injuries to protect themselves in a career where union contracts protect jobs but offer no guarantees against adverse artistic or casting decisions. Because dance injuries tend to be chronic, dancers fear being pigeonholed as heading downhill, so some may rely heavily on prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

“Dancers are reinforced for being stoic from an early age, and often continue dancing because they think of injuries as a sign of weakness,” Ms. Hamilton said.

Common medications include nonsteroidal, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin, which allow injured dancers to perform. But these drugs can create a range of gastric side effects and impair performance through dizziness, headache and drowsiness.

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