A taste of ‘Fame’ in Glenwood Springs
A fact of life in the dance world is that auditions are the way dancers are chosen for a performance or, in the longer term, as a member of a dance company.The process starts at a tender age and is repeated periodically throughout years of training and into a professional career.Usually, the first opportunity for a young ballet dancer to audition is for the annual holiday production of the Nutcracker. Most versions of this popular favorite feature children as partygoers, angels, soldiers and mice.Many companies choose the same children for years. As the children grow, they are promoted to another role in the succeeding annual production, and the casts can be up to 100-plus. Large professional ballet companies give 30 or more performances during the holiday season, while the smaller companies may only perform a few times.For large companies such as American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet and New York City Ballet, candidates are easier to find because they can choose children from their own ballet schools. However, open auditions are still held for students of area schools.What, though, do artistic directors and ballet masters and mistresses look for in young dancers? Certainly not being overweight is important. But even more important, the children must carry with them a certain style. They must have nice feet for their low or intermediate level of training. They should have a look of childhood innocence because the Nutcracker is, after all, a period piece. They should also have the facility to pick up combinations and have a good attitude.The audition process carries with it the unfortunate possibility of rejection. Not everyone can have the role they wish, and not everyone can perform to an artistic director’s satisfaction. Young dancers – even 6 or 7 years old – must accept the reality of rejection. For some, it will be a first-time experience. Every artistic director has seen sad faces, tear-filled eyes and quivering lips when another candidate receives a coveted role.At Boston Ballet, parents are given in-depth handbooks which clearly spell out expectations, both at the audition and during the performances, and how they can prepare the child for rejection. Over the past few years, Boston Ballet and other schools and companies have become more conscious of a child’s emotional ability to cope with rejection. When possible, they try to soften the experience by talking to both children and parents in advance. Not infrequently it is the parent, more than the child, who becomes upset at the rejection.Unfortunately, parents can get caught up in the rejection situation. It usually spells difficulty for the student, as well as for the relationship between student, parent and dance teacher. What the parents see and what the artistic director sees may be entirely different, and it’s best if parents stay away from the actual audition.Most artistic directors keep their auditions closed to avoid unhappy situations. Of course, parents and their children are interested in just one thing: Why didn’t the child get the role for which he or she auditioned? Any competent artistic director would provide an appropriate answer. In most cases, this suffices. But, once in a while, a parent cannot or will not accept the director’s decision. The consequences for the child can be rather severe.Parents feel badly when their children are disappointed, but they must learn that disappointment is a part of life and it’s perfectly normal not to win every time. Fortunately, the young mind is elastic and a momentary disappointment is often replaced with another interest, and eventually success will be achieved.DeAnna Anderson is co-owner of the Glenwood Dance Academy and artistic director of the Danse Arts Theatre.
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