Anyways, today, I wanted to talk to you all about something I believe that would benefit the dancers, like myself, who would like to dance professionally but the real professional world is too cutthroat for them. And that is…Second Companies. Enjoy!
When I was a Freshman and Sophomore in high school, my dream was to become a professional ballerina. I trained for hours on end, for years. I devoured any ballet book or movie I could lay my hands on. I was a total bunhead. After I got a bad taste of what professional dancing is like by being kicked out of a part in a ballet I worked so incredibly hard for and rightfully deserved, I realized that maybe being part of a main ballet company would be too much for me. So I started researching Second Companies.
Second companies (ex. Ballet West II) is similar to that of a training school (ex. the Royal Ballet School) but you are a professional and you get to be in performances with the main company as well as doing your own shows. Here is some information about second companies for you dancers who are considering a career in the ballet world. Enjoy!
What is a second company?
A second company is a small dance company which often six to 12 performers that is affiliated with a professional company. Most second companies hire dancers between ages 16 and 23. The contract length varies, but it’s usually one to three years. After your contract is up, you are either accepted into the main company or you have to find somewhere else to dance. Second companies is a great starting place to those dancers who are still not sure if this is what they want as a career.
How do I get into a second company?
Obviously, you'll audition. In some cases, that means going to the main company audition and being asked to join the second company instead. In other cases, the second company holds an audition of its own. Most of the time you can audition when you're around 15 or 16, depending on the company.
Some second companies prefer to hire dancers from their affiliated schools. The studio I danced at, Northwest School for Ballet, would be like a second company to the State Street Ballet of Santa Barbara and the Sacramento Ballet as usually we’ll feed into one of those companies when our time at Northwest is over.
Another example is that, Ailey II has a strong tradition of selecting dancers from The Ailey School. “Our audition is for students of the school,” explains Troy Powell, Ailey II’s artistic director, “but we might also invite someone we saw at a main company audition or who we’ve worked with in the past who we think might be a good fit.”
Still other companies use their summer intensive as an audition. “Ballet Austin rarely hires from open cattle-call auditions. If they’re interested, they’ll invite you to the summer program so they can get to know you as a dancer. They offer second company contracts after that.” says Nicole Voris, a dancer with Ballet Austin II.
What performance opportunities will I have?
One of the really nice perks of being in a second company is you'll have the experience to preform both with the main company as well as just by yourself. “At BAII we have our own rep, so we’re working one-on-one with choreographers on premieres,” Voris says. “For me, it’s been great to get experience dancing lead roles, as well as helping to develop choreography.”
A lot of second companies also have extensive outreach efforts. On top of its two annual tours and its NYC season, Ailey II does many lecture-demonstrations and informal performances in local schools. With T2, Bamberger has danced in retirement homes, children’s hospitals and other unconventional settings—as well as on major stages around the world.
Will I get promoted into the main company?
Working with the second company allows the organization to see how you mesh with the directors, choreographers and other dancers. If you work hard and show you’re right for the job, you have a good chance of realizing your main company dreams. Voris says most of Ballet Austin’s dancers came through BAII. The biggest variable you have to worry about is whether there’s a main company contract available when your time with the second company is up. If you don't get accepted into the main company, you can always try and get your contract renewed for a year or you can try to dance somewhere else.
Is it a paid job?
It depends on the company. You'll normally get a salary that’s enough to live on. Other times you might get a weekly paycheck or you might be paid per performance. In some cases, the second company is a pre-professional program, rather than a paying gig. In that case, you might actually have to pay tuition. (ex. the Northwest School for Ballet. This is where I dance.)
Like I mentioned earlier, I dance at a second company. Ee perform our own repertoire (ex. Don Q was our spring ballet and Coppelia was our summer ballet), and some of our dancers go on to become professionals at the State Street Ballet of Santa Barbara or the Sacramento Ballet. The only different thing is that, as I mentioned above, some second companies are more like a pre-professional program and that if that is the case, you'd have to pay tuition. The monthly tuition isn't super expensive at the Northwest School for Ballet but it’s still pretty pricy compared to other studios I’ve danced at that are not considered "pre-professional" even thought the training was very similar.
So as you can see, joining a second company seems like a really good idea for those dancers, like me, who aren't 100% if being a professional ballerina is the right career choice for them. They are many success stories about dancers who started off in a second company and then made it big when they joint the main company.
A few examples of this are, Katharine Precourt who is a First soloist with the Houston Ballet, Susan Gartell who is a dancer with the Milwaukee Ballet and Lamoi Hedrington who is a dancer with the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company.
Katherine says that, “During my two years with Houston Ballet II, my most valuable experience was the opportunity to work with the main company, both as an understudy and performing in full-length ballets. A second company is ideal preparation for what to expect when you join a professional company, and makes the transition from school to work much easier.”
Susan tells us that, “Being in Milwaukee Ballet II was important for me in part because I didn’t grow up at a school attached to a company. In MBII, there was a lot of interaction with the main company, so I got advice and insight into the professional world. Plus, the intensity of the training we got in MBII helped get me technically ready to join the main company.”
I would like to add that, "The studio in my hometown, Yosemite Dance Company, that I was at for quite a while definitely felt like a second company even though we didn't get paid. And instead of joining a "main company" we were either invited to join their Elite Competition Team or when we were old enough, to join the company as a ballet mistress. In that case, we would get paid. While pre-professional dancing is not for me anymore, since starting college, dance will always be a part of me, wherever I go."
Lamoi would like all the young dancers out there to know that, “A second company opens your eyes to the life of a dancer. It also gives you time to hone your craft—while taking classes with amazing teachers. DCDC2 helped me find my voice. When I had free time I’d watch the main company rehearse. I saw how they moved and interacted with each other, and I knew this was the place I wanted to be.”
All the lovely ladies who were (and few still are) part of YDC.
(L to R: Lauren, Audrey, Dana, Mckenzie (teacher), me and Reese).
This photo was from my senior year in HS. I'm the shortest and the
oldest dancer there by 4-5 years. The only dancer in the photo who still dances at YDC is me.
Dana and Reese dance elsewhere and Lauren and Audrey have stopped dancing, unfortunately.
And there you have it. All the information about second companies. As always please give this post a +1 on Google+, follow me on all my social media sites and leave me a comment below telling me what you've been loving this fall/winter are. See you next week.
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