Magazine article Pointe

From Competition to Corps De Ballet

Magazine article Pointe

From Competition to Corps De Ballet

Article excerpt

At age 15, competition veteran Hannah Bettes traveled to the Prix de Lausanne, her sights set on getting into The Royal Ballet School. The teen left the competition with a scholarship-and the Audience Choice Award, to boot. That same year. Bettes won the gold medal in the senior division at Youth America Grand Prix and the bronze at The Beijing International Dance Invitational, adding to her already impressive resumé of YAGP and World Ballet Competition accolades. Yet by the time she signed a contract with Boston Ballet in 2014, the glamour of the competition stage seemed a distant memory. "Joining a corps de ballet was a huge change." says Bettes. "I'd be lying if I said it was easy."

While most young professionals expect to pay their dues in the corps, the contrast can seem especially stark for dancers emerging from the competition circuit. Beyond adjusting to fewer solo opportunities, they no longer have the personalized attention of a private coach. Furthermore, many start company life with a preexisting fan base, whose high expectations may increase pressure to progress quickly through the ranks. As the accolades and YouTube fame begin to fade away, competition dancers who approach company life with a fresh perspective will ultimately make the most successful transition.

Finding Your Piece of the Puzzle

When competing a variation, dancers have certain artistic liberties with regard to expression of character. But corps work is about blending in. "I can't always interpret the movement the way I'd like to artistically, because it will throw everything off." says Bettes. She hasn't found the change discouraging, though. "Sure. I miss having the entire stage to myself." she says. "But the corps is so essential. Without it. no one can see the talent of the principals."

Birmingham Royal Ballet artist Alys Shee, who won medals at the International Ballet Competitions in Helsinki, Moscow, Cape Town and Jackson, as well as the grand prix at the Star of the 21 st Century IBC, quickly learned to approach group work practically: To maximize efficiency, corps dancers must commit to a ballet's cohesive picture. "Sometimes, we only have two weeks to pull together a production." says Shee. "If each dancer tries to get her leg a little higher than the one next to her, it's never going to come together."

Joffrey Ballet artist and fellow IBC alum Cara Marie Gary had a somewhat different transition into company life. Because Joffrey doesn't have a traditional hierarchical structure, she was cast simultaneously in soloist and corps roles during her first season. "I'd sharpen my peripheral vision in one piece, then have my moment to shine in another." says Gary. "When you think of big productions as puzzles, you appreciate every single piece. …

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