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mom2tall

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BalletTalk has been sort of quiet the last year so I'm hoping you or others with dancing kids can provide insight on the senior year process.  DD is a senior and will take at least a gap year, maybe more if something works out for her dance-wise in the next 2 years.  She applied to 2 colleges, was just accepted to the one she prefers but doesn't want to pursue a BFA and will go when she is ready to resume academics full-time.  She is a tall dancer, 5'9" or just under and is getting ready for SI auditions and perhaps some company auditions in NYC as we live fairly close.

My main question is should she audition for as many summer SIs as possible? She has the big names that have some tall dancers picked out to attend plus quite a few smaller ones that seem to have taller dancers from company photos, word of mouth etc. Her thought is rather than email them first about height, she should audition at as many as she can and see what comes her way and then email them about height/trainee/2nd company possibilities. For example, Sarasota's company audition says women need to be no taller than 5'8" - she is tempted to go for that anyway. Richmond is 5'7" but they have accepted taller trainees.  Most smaller places require you attend their SI anyway for possible trainee selection.

Also, what if she gets into a big name SI? Most seem to take so few from summer programs but I guess it depends on how well-known the program is and if a smaller program would allow her to do that and then return to them in the fall. Or is this even a possibility?  Her best/favorite summer intensive was at a smaller program not the bigger more prestigious SIs she attended.

She will of course discuss with her school directors and teachers but I'd appreciate any tips/thoughts anyone out there has.
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ballerinamom13

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Hi mom2tall  - I think every journey is different.  DD is also considered tall at 5'7".  I would never email anyone about height - that's just asking for no, or even worse, a yes to take your $30 for no reason. Most auditions ask if you are interested in trainee/year round positions on the SI application, so I doubt she will have to ask many questions.  And I think you are right, most want the kids to attend the SI before they offer anything else.  That's why it's so important to pick a place where the odds are high that she is a good fit.    

We already had the SI's researched as far as height goes during her junior year.  She ended up going to BalletMet's audition very early her last year, she was offered a scholarship to the SI and a trainee position on the spot.  After doing more research, she accepted a week or so later. She didn't want to go to a large SI her last year or to more than 5 or 6 auditions...she wanted to keep the numbers down and just go to the few that seemed to like taller kids, had decent budgets and good reps.  Richmond was on the list, as was Kansas City...that was 4 years ago now - I can't even remember the others. That doesn't mean your dd shouldn't go to 30 auditions if she's done the research and it's worth it.  Our plan doesn't necessarily work for anyone else. I will tell you that she had a friend at Sarasota for a year and the entire company was very, very, very thin.  That was 3 years ago.  Things change quickly, AD's come and go. People get let go with no notice (L.A. Ballet).   You can plan, but things don't always work out the way you want them to.  So much about getting hired is being in the right place at the right time and being very good at both contemporary ballet and classical.  Almost all companies have contemporary pieces in their reps now.  It's also a huge plus to be able to pick up choreo after seeing it once and being able to learn choreo from a video, which is very difficult because it's backwards.  I cannot tell you the number of lost kids trying to learn from video dd's first year at OBT as a trainee.  

One way to tell how things are going is to find the current budget for the company you are considering.  If the budget gets bigger every year, that'a a good sign. If it's getting smaller, be worried.  I will tell you from our experience with professional companies for the last 4 years, they know who they are hiring long before summer.  It is rare to get asked to stay for any position other than the school/trainee positions.  Contracts are signed in April, notices are given in April. They know what they need loooooooong before even most professional auditions take place.   Both female apprentices for OBT (in addition to dd) came from OBT2. The 2 male apprentices auditioned by class, not cattle call. One principal woman was hired from another well known company, as were a couple of men.  Twelve people were asked to stay year round for OBT2 - all from the highest level of the SI. Some are there for a second year.  Not all companies hire from within, so if you can find out what the "in-house" hire rate is by looking at bios, that's a good sign too if she accepts a trainee position. I wish I had a magic formula but there isn't one.  Doing as much research ahead of time and picking the companies that look like the best fit is my best advice!  Good luck!!!!!!!!
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ballerinamom13

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Reply with quote  #3 
mom2tall- also, if you aren't already, start reading Ballet Alert. You have to sign up separately from BTFD and I think they have to approve you to see all the topics, but it's worth it. Look up the threads about the companies you are interested in. Sometimes there is very good info about the direction of the companies and how they are doing. Please keep us posted. I know it's a nerve wracking crazy time.
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tendumom

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Dd has taken an unusual direction with all of this.

She became frustrated and was mentally ready to leave her long time school her junior year. So, near the end of that year, she researched and found some programs that did not outright require SI attendance for acceptance. I recall that she had an acceptance from Nashville and I think Pittsburgh. I also think Richmond might have been another. She also attended an SI that year and applied for a position there, but was ultimately told she was too young. 

At that point, she decided she wasn't really ready and decided against a trainee program and we went on a hunt for a school. She went to her SI program that summer with the intention of spending a post-grad year at then ballet school in NYC. It is not an uncommon thing there. There were dancers up to their early 20's in her level. Anyway, she was offered a position at the end of the SI and the rest is history. 

As already mentioned, there are some companies that draw from SIs and/or those auditions and some from company auditions. It's a crazy confusing time. Dd will be jumping back into it all, really for the first time! She's never done an actual company audition before. For those, she is spreading a wide net. Some require sending photos and video links in order to even get invited to audition. 

I would likely go for the more likely possibility than the big name, unless the big name program also has a big enough program that she could possibly be accepted to for the following year. For ex, I wouldn't likely do ABT unless there was already some big time interest because it is a large program and the studio company is fairly small and often stacked with dancers they've been eyeing, one way or another, for a while.  Washington Ballet, on the other hand (not quite as big of a name I guess) has a much bigger trainee program. Even PNB, probably her dream at her height [smile], has more possibilities than ABT at this stage of the game. Just my opinion. 

I like what Balletmom13 pointed out about looking at how many have come up through the levels. In the last 2 years where dd is, only 1 second company member even attended the SI. They all came from company auditions. That 1 who went to the SI was a male accepted to the trainee program and promoted to second company when a contract fell through before the trainee season even started. Other than that, since they added the second company, not a single trainee has been given a contract. So, at this point, I don't think it is a pathway to the company. Dd thinks she is still a good match for the company and hopes to audition in the future, after going elsewhere first. She doesn't consider her time there a waste. She is getting some excellent instruction and a lot of "finishing." 

 



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Mitzy

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Reply with quote  #5 
My tall daughter is a professional ballet dancer. She did few auditions in senior year, but her path has been a little different due to an injury, surgery and then an illness. She was never a trainee, but went directly from a school to a paid apprenticeship, having had some opportunities to perform with two different professional companies while still in school. My advice would be to send video links to as many companies as she can, and not hesitate to use any and all connections within those companies to find out about current heights and make connections with directors. As mentioned, height preferences within companies are always changing, so don't go by rumours that "everyone at PNB is tall", or even posted height limits, such as for Ballet Met (they currently have tall men and women!) However, one would have to be truly exceptional to be hired directly from high school, so keep an open mind to places that would provide great training and great performance opportunities. Best wishes!
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fishoutofwater

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Reply with quote  #6 

Oh boy.  I need to follow along with this thread.  My 13 year old is 5'9" and still growing (has not even started her period yet, so her doctor thinks she could easily have another 2 or 3 inches to grow).  Her dream is to be a Rockette, just started en pointe this year (after a year in pre), but she just wants to dance professionally is some capacity.  Need to follow the market for tall girls  [smile]

 

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mom2tall

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Reply with quote  #7 
Hi all,
Thanks for the replies all of which are very, very helpful and I will share with DD. I had forgotten about Ballet Alert so will start looking there. DD is working on a video link and photos as soon as Nutcracker is over and I hadn't thought of her just sending it out everywhere, but what the heck - it seems worthwhile.  More research on that!

I do sense after this somewhat disappointing final year at her school that she will be looking for training/trainee level programs for next year as she is not quite ready for a company. With so many parents willing to fund further training, it seems a new system of 2-3 additional years of paid training post high school is now pretty typical for all but those rare few. She has been to ABT in the past but is not on their radar currently so that is great info. I also had thought Ballet Met was full of shorter dancers, so advice on how height is variable year to year is also appreciated.

Hopefully even more will chime in.  Best of luck to your DD Tendumom as she starts auditioning. I hope you won't mind sharing her experiences as they unfold.
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tendumom

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I agree that this system of a few years of post-high school training is becoming the norm for a majority. 

I did watch last year as many of the second year trainees at her program did get positions elsewhere. All low level positions, but most were paid to some degree. So, that gives me some hope. 

We viewed it as not very different than going to college for dance. Those dancers train for another 4 years and then audition for positions, competing for the same positions as those currently in trainee or other tuition based programs. 

I will say the training dd has gotten has surpassed what she had in high school, even at an audition based school. The hours are considerably more and they include "academics" once a week which are really mostly discussions on things like creating a resume, auditions, injury prevention, etc. These talks have gone beyond what she learned at various SIs as well. Granted a lot isn't new material, but it's been very helpful for her. 

But every program is different. The program that she thought she really wanted to attend after high school, the one she was too young for the first time she applied, turned out to be something she didn't want. While this program is not tuition based (no pay either), she learned that they don't dance as much as she does at her current program and they barely perform in comparison. Where she is now, there are frequent outreach performances, opportunities to dance with the company (few are chosen though except for the big shows like Nut), and student concert type shows 2 or 3 times a year as well as a recital with the students of the school. She is always performing. 

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joriebelle

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Reply with quote  #9 
Tendumom, if the dancers are having post-high school training, is that at regular dance studios where they're paying tuition or is it through ballet companies?  
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tendumom

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Most that I am aware of move on to either company schools or other excellent ballet programs. 

We were talking about the prevalence of trainee programs that charge tuition today. Some call the program a second company, some trainee, and others have some other names. A generation ago, this was not the case. Dancers were hired on as apprentices or in second companies or even as trainees (paid or unpaid) without a tuition component.

 In our case, dd seriously debated staying at her school for another year, but it was not a local ballet studio. It was an audition based program that attracted students both from within the region and around the world to a degree. She thought she could use another year of finishing. The faculty thought she was ready to fly away.  They were right, but she needed to see that for herself. Note that I said faculty, not "her teacher." One advantage of leaving her local school was going somewhere with a very involved, knowledgeable faculty with more contacts in the industry and up to date information. Many local schools are run by a very small group of teachers without quite as extensive contacts nor current knowledge. 

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hopefuldancer17

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This has been a good thread to read. DD is going to be a senior this year. The one thing she hasn't done and that we haven't talked about is making a video to send out for auditions/trainee consideration. Where we live, we can get to some auditions in person and so those are the ones she's put on her list in year's past, but I'm thinking she needs to send out videos this year too, for those programs that don't come to our area, or for when there's a conflict. I need to research and get a sense of what most programs ask for. I assume she'd be following SI video requirements, given she's looking for a trainee spot.
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ballerinamom13

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Quote:
Originally Posted by hopefuldancer17
This has been a good thread to read. DD is going to be a senior this year. The one thing she hasn't done and that we haven't talked about is making a video to send out for auditions/trainee consideration. Where we live, we can get to some auditions in person and so those are the ones she's put on her list in year's past, but I'm thinking she needs to send out videos this year too, for those programs that don't come to our area, or for when there's a conflict. I need to research and get a sense of what most programs ask for. I assume she'd be following SI video requirements, given she's looking for a trainee spot.


My best advice to you is do not go to cattle call auditions unless it's a last resort. Send a video to all the companies she is interested in and ask to take a class. Do not follow SI requirements, unless that is specified.  There will be specific requirements listed on their Company website for video auditions.  

Neither my dd or I have seen a real job offer come from a cattle call audition - ever. Maybe a summer intensive invite or paid trainee, but not a job offer.  Take it from me - I would say 99% of the AD's already have their people lined up for next year.  It's gotten to be a bit of a joke and to me, it's sad that they offer hope to people when they know they don't have the budget to offer spots.  Feel free to PM me if you have specific questions.

Edited to add - if you are ok with a trainee offer where you pay to be a trainee, go to the SI auditions, not the cattle calls. Most are extremely overcrowded and not worth it.
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hopefuldancer17

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Reply with quote  #13 
Thank you for that insight. She is pretty sure she'd need to do a tuition-based trainee spot first, that she won't be company-ready straight out of high school, given her training situation at home. She is hoping for a finishing year somewhere that might realistically lead to a paid position.
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ballerinamom13

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Reply with quote  #14 
I would still send videos - it's so easy now. Most of the time, companies just have you send a link.  There's nothing wrong with going to cattle calls if you have the time, money and just want the experience, but it's not a good way to get a job.  Merde to your dd!
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tendumom

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Dd spread a very wide net this past audition season and that included a good number of cattle calls. We live close enough to NYC and she was living close enough to another major city that it wasn't an issue to get to them. Almost every single one of those auditions ended up with an invitation to attend the SI to be considered for a position, whether that was as a trainee, apprentice, tuition-based, free or paid. A few gave her tuition based year round acceptances. There were even a few big cattle calls where she was one of a tiny number called at the end and that was all she got from even those. She spread a wide net because she didn't know if she would end up needing to do another trainee type program or not.

I do actually know of one company that hired from their cattle call in NYC. One of dd's friends did get a contract from that. Others from SAB and IU also got contracts from that same audition. I have seen at least one other get a paid second company position contract as a result of a cattle call. Those are rarities though. The ones that weren't even hiring seem to be more common!

As far as videos, dd only sent a classical and a contemporary video, along with a link to her vimeo site where she also has some choreography she created on others. She didn't even have a contemporary video of her own dancing until later on so many didn't even get that. Her emails with her videos had the best success rate. 

Overall for dd, attending the cattle calls was a positive experience, but not one she will repeat in the future. It was positive because while she was cut here and there, she did make it to the end. She ended up with more SI acceptances and scholarships than she ever had in a normal SI audition season. I think it ended being 12 SI acceptances with at least 6 of those with decent sized scholarships. In the end, she attended one of those with a 50% scholarship. She did get a year round position from that, but had to decline as she already accepted another position long before that. So, something important to look at is whether or not a program takes dancers from outside the SI for the year round training progams or not. 
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hopefuldancer17

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Reply with quote  #16 
So much to think about! I think it's clear that DD needs to get some good videos together this fall, and that she needs to do some looking around at company/school web sites to see what they typically ask for. Once she has a list together of potential companies/schools to try for this year, we can see which ones might be coming to our area and which ones aren't. All this on top of college applications and auditions. Sigh...
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tendumom

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Reply with quote  #17 

Dd's perfectionism really slowed down the process IMHO. Changed what variation she wanted to record only 3 or 4 times. I suggested just doing a few different ones and picking from that. But no.... what do I know? LOL. 

She was never the type to record herself often and had no recent solo videos that could be used. I felt like the video portion was the most painful part of the process. However, she only did this for company auditions. She fell into her trainee position by virtue of attending the SI that summer. 

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hopefuldancer17

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Reply with quote  #18 
I am not looking forward to this and ideally, DD would get her teacher to help her. Just taking photos for SIs has been less than fun, and I suggested that this year she try to take some while she's at her SI, since the studios there have better light and she could get a friend to help her. 
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ballerinamom13

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Quote:
Originally Posted by tendumom
Dd spread a very wide net this past audition season and that included a good number of cattle calls. We live close enough to NYC and she was living close enough to another major city that it wasn't an issue to get to them. Almost every single one of those auditions ended up with an invitation to attend the SI to be considered for a position, whether that was as a trainee, apprentice, tuition-based, free or paid. A few gave her tuition based year round acceptances. There were even a few big cattle calls where she was one of a tiny number called at the end and that was all she got from even those. She spread a wide net because she didn't know if she would end up needing to do another trainee type program or not.

I do actually know of one company that hired from their cattle call in NYC. One of dd's friends did get a contract from that. Others from SAB and IU also got contracts from that same audition. I have seen at least one other get a paid second company position contract as a result of a cattle call. Those are rarities though. The ones that weren't even hiring seem to be more common!

As far as videos, dd only sent a classical and a contemporary video, along with a link to her vimeo site where she also has some choreography she created on others. She didn't even have a contemporary video of her own dancing until later on so many didn't even get that. Her emails with her videos had the best success rate. 

Overall for dd, attending the cattle calls was a positive experience, but not one she will repeat in the future. It was positive because while she was cut here and there, she did make it to the end. She ended up with more SI acceptances and scholarships than she ever had in a normal SI audition season. I think it ended being 12 SI acceptances with at least 6 of those with decent sized scholarships. In the end, she attended one of those with a 50% scholarship. She did get a year round position from that, but had to decline as she already accepted another position long before that. So, something important to look at is whether or not a program takes dancers from outside the SI for the year round training progams or not. 


I agree with tendumom if your dd is only looking for a trainee position and you have the time and money to travel to the cattle calls.  We do know a few people who got invitations for SI/unpaid positions.  But once she is in the loop, avoid cattle calls at all costs.  She needs to make contacts and use those to move on when she starts looking for a real position, if the trainee position doesn't last.  DD got her year round trainee offer at a SI audition (with scholarship for summer and year round) and then sent a crappy iphone video to the next company.  She was in what's now known as the second Company for a year and then received her Apprentice contract, including health insurance.  She only did one cattle call between the 2nd company and Apprentice and decided to stay where she was.  Like I said, we don't know one person who got an actual paying job from a cattle call and she's been in the professional ballet world for 4 years and knows many, many people. I think, like tendu's dd did, it's a good experience, if you want that.  But avoid them when it comes time for a paying position. When I first read your post, I took it as she was looking for a company spot.  Again, merde to her and keep us posted!
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hopefuldancer17

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Reply with quote  #20 
I really appreciate you all taking the time to share your experiences with me, as there isn't really anyone else I can talk to about all of this with. DD is at a small school with an excellent teacher, but there are so few dancers there, let alone dancers who want to pursue a career, that there just isn't the knowledge base. Another mom of a rising senior and I are friends and talk about college, auditions, etc. but neither of us have any been there, done that experience!

This is when all the doubt creeps in my mind. What are her chances, really, of making a career of this? Or of even making it to the next step, where she lands a trainee spot that might actually go somewhere and isn't simply tuition for the school? But we keep moving ahead, because there's always a chance that it might just work out.
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ballerinamom13

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Reply with quote  #21 
Quote:
Originally Posted by hopefuldancer17
I really appreciate you all taking the time to share your experiences with me, as there isn't really anyone else I can talk to about all of this with. DD is at a small school with an excellent teacher, but there are so few dancers there, let alone dancers who want to pursue a career, that there just isn't the knowledge base. Another mom of a rising senior and I are friends and talk about college, auditions, etc. but neither of us have any been there, done that experience!

This is when all the doubt creeps in my mind. What are her chances, really, of making a career of this? Or of even making it to the next step, where she lands a trainee spot that might actually go somewhere and isn't simply tuition for the school? But we keep moving ahead, because there's always a chance that it might just work out.


I completely understand and that's what this board is for. Make sure you sign in to Ballet Alert on Ballet Talk for Dancers.  It's much more focused on what companies are up to and has more actual company information than Ballet Talk does. Helping dd's find jobs in the ballet world is like a job. 

My dd's school was pretty new when she started there. Now it's become very well-known, but there weren't many older girls.  The only other girl that had a chance to make it is in the Corps with ABT now and most of the attention was focused on her.  Rightly so, but it was harder for us to figure it out.  We did what you mentioned.  We made lists of the companies that fit dd best.  She is tall, so it narrowed it down A LOT!! She knew she had a better chance at a more Balanchine based company, so she focused on those more, but didn't rule out others.  Getting a paying job as a ballerina is so much about the fit.  It doesn't matter if you're one of the top young dancers in the U.S., if you can't fit into the Corps, they probably aren't going to take you.  Of course, the inverse is true, because if you are one of the top dancers in the U.S., you have choices.  So have her look at bios of the dancers and see where they trained and what style they are.  One of my dd's best friends CAN NOT handle contemporary numbers.  She was told by the AD last year to start looking at other companies.  She was hired back this year, but I sincerely doubt she will have a job with them next year.  Looking for the right fit and style is the most important thing when starting out. There are some smaller companies that care less about continuity, so if she is ok dancing with a small regional company, that broadens the field. My dd didn't want that, so it made it even harder.  After her first year in a city she hated, she decided the location really mattered - that narrowed it down even more.  Being in the right place at the right time and some luck also helps!!
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hopefuldancer17

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Reply with quote  #22 
Thank you [smile]
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thedancingdiva

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Reply with quote  #23 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ballerinamom13


My best advice to you is do not go to cattle call auditions unless it's a last resort. Send a video to all the companies she is interested in and ask to take a class. Do not follow SI requirements, unless that is specified.  There will be specific requirements listed on their Company website for video auditions.  

Neither my dd or I have seen a real job offer come from a cattle call audition - ever. Maybe a summer intensive invite or paid trainee, but not a job offer.  Take it from me - I would say 99% of the AD's already have their people lined up for next year.  It's gotten to be a bit of a joke and to me, it's sad that they offer hope to people when they know they don't have the budget to offer spots.  Feel free to PM me if you have specific questions.

Edited to add - if you are ok with a trainee offer where you pay to be a trainee, go to the SI auditions, not the cattle calls. Most are extremely overcrowded and not worth it.


Hi, I'm putting my two cents in here - I am ____ and I am an Apprentice at a well-known company now (I'm not stating yet as this will be my first year and yes I joined this site as a teen I'm 20 now) But I am replying to your post because I'm the 1%. My first year of auditioning all of my job offers (more than one) that were legitimate 2nd company and up positions came from cattle calls in NY. I don't know how or why but it is possible. In fact I wouldn't be where I am going now if I hadn't known them from the NY audition two years ago (the whole story of the process is one for a private PM) also, congrats to you DD for pursuing ballet as a career - the hard work will pay off. Trust me, the girl who made teachers cringe at nine years old because her ballet was "that" bad.

*edited to add, if this post seems like I'm trying to argue with you in any way, please, please, please don't take it that way. It's not meant to in any way, shape or form. I 100% understand everyone has their own path to their ballet careers [smile] *
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heidi459

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Reply with quote  #24 
Quote:
Originally Posted by thedancingdiva


Hi, I'm putting my two cents in here - I am ____ and I am an Apprentice at a well-known company now (I'm not stating yet as this will be my first year and yes I joined this site as a teen I'm 20 now) But I am replying to your post because I'm the 1%. My first year of auditioning all of my job offers (more than one) that were legitimate 2nd company and up positions came from cattle calls in NY. I don't know how or why but it is possible. In fact I wouldn't be where I am going now if I hadn't known them from the NY audition two years ago (the whole story of the process is one for a private PM) also, congrats to you DD for pursuing ballet as a career - the hard work will pay off. Trust me, the girl who made teachers cringe at nine years old because her ballet was "that" bad.

*edited to add, if this post seems like I'm trying to argue with you in any way, please, please, please don't take it that way. It's not meant to in any way, shape or form. I 100% understand everyone has their own path to their ballet careers [smile] *


I think it's always important for an alternative pov/experience to chime in.  Doesn't invalidate the other person's experience/opinion, it just illustrates that there are others out there to be considered as well.  I'm always anxious to share how dd's, lets' call them 'less than popular' decisions, have led to valuable experiences/opportunities.... experiences/opportunities that have often led to other valuable experiences/opportunities. Personally, I'm not sure it's wise to unceremoniously dismiss any opportunity. (eta:  not implying that anyone did that, just making the general statement).
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tendumom

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Reply with quote  #25 

Congratulations to you, @thedancingdiva!! Would love to hear your story when you have time some day. 

I was actually once present outside a huge cattle call at SAB when a dancer got a contract from a company (an AGMA company). I went to meet dd who was auditioning for an SI at the same time. All those 100s of dancers and just 1 contract. 

There were things dd learned along the way. A number of the cattle calls she did were just because she happened to be in that city that particular weekend. She learned that some of these companies are only looking for tuition paying students and some companies (at least one) weren't even hiring at all that season but still held the audition. So, it really can be a mixed bag. In dd's situation, her best situations came from company class type auditions though she also got several offers based on her application package (videos and photos) alone. She feels unlikely to do many of those cattle calls again and will stick to company class invitations. Visiting companies also gave her a much better idea whether or not it would be a place she would want to be. 

It's a crazy business

 

 

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