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The lights dim, the orchestra begins to warm up, the rustling of paper can be heard, and then the curtain rises. The performance begins with an overture, a prelude to what will happen. Suddenly, the star ballerina appears on stage. She is beautiful and the audience claps vigorously for her. At the end of the show, she receives flowers and massive amounts of applause. Every little girl in the audience wants to be the ballerina on stage that was just seen. How does a little girl fulfill her dream of becoming a professional ballerina? What are the steps she must take in order to be on a stage gaining recognition one day?
First, a dancer must be classically trained. Normally dancers study for at least five years before going on stage in even the smallest role. All of the steps and rules must be learned from the person’s teacher. Many girls begin at the age of three or four whereas boys generally start lessons at the age of nine or ten. Ballet is a very strict form of dance, and provides the child with a great amount of discipline and dedication.
Dedication to ballet, or dance in general, is required to become a professional dancer. The dancer must practice every day with the attitude of professionalism in mind. During the awkward teenage years, only the people who are meant to be dancers will pull through. The middle years are difficult to maintain the dedication with the other temptations available to the youth.
Depending on the girls dancing ability, a girl may receive a minor role in a large ballet production around the age of fifteen. Performing makes a dancer realize whether or not she wants to continue with dance for the remainder of her life. Being on a stage either gives the dancer a love or a hatred for the art. When the dancer has a hatred for dance, she normally quits dance altogether.
The first role a dancer receives in a professional ballet company is that of an apprentice. An apprentice makes minimal pay in comparison to the other dancers. The apprenticeship usually lasts for at least two years or until the company feels the dancer is ready to progress. The apprentice gets paid approximately fifty to one hundred dollars a week. Most apprentices are forced to take other jobs because of their financial situations.
The next promotion after apprentice is a member of the corps de ballet. The corps performs in the back of the stage. There are between twenty and thirty members of the corps de ballet. Corps members receive a pay increase in addition to a portion of expenses. Ballet shoes are included in expenses.
A member of the corps is then advanced to a soloist. A soloist receives the same benefits as a corps member, but has a slight increase in pay. Soloists perform small solo roles during a major production such as Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty. The soloist might have more than one role in a ballet.
A principal dancer is the last classification. A principal receives a generous amount of pay. Principals attain health benefits in the case of injuries. The company pays for all shoes and dance supplies. Principals sign a two-year contract and they are required to uphold their contract.
Dance is like any other job. Promotions must be earned like in any other business. Dancers usually retire around the age of thirty. Most former dancers are currently teachers, so the classical training can continue.
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Ballet dancer, Principal dancer, Ballet company, Swan Lake, Principal dancers of The Royal Ballet, Ballet competitions, Prix de Lausanne, Cuban National Ballet
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