Ask Amy: Do I Need Training in the Balanchine Style to Dance in an American Company?

May 30, 2018

Is it necessary to have significant experience in Balanchine technique to dance in any or most ballet companies in the U.S.? —Madeline

It depends. If you’re interested in dancing with New York City Ballet, the company co-founded by Balanchine himself, you’ll need substantial training in the style. (Besides, NYCB usually only hires from its affiliated School of American Ballet.) Balanchine experience would also benefit you if you want to audition for other companies that regularly perform his work, such as Miami City Ballet or Pacific Northwest Ballet. Of course, there are always exceptions—I was not initially trained in the style, and I went on to dance with The Suzanne Farrell Ballet later in my career. But I had to go through a challenging learning curve.

Most companies in the U.S. are repertory companies that perform a range of work by many different choreographers. You may perform something by Balanchine, Jirí Kylián and Sir Frederick Ashton, all in one evening! Many directors value dancers who are adaptable and versatile.

While I don’t think extensive Balanchine training is required to get a job in an American company, it’s certainly helpful to be familiar with the style so that you can perform his ballets well.

When you’re researching companies, browse the dancer biographies on company websites to get a sense of how important a Balanchine background is to the artistic director. If you can, try attending a workshop or summer intensive at a school that emphasizes the style so you can familiarize yourself with the basics. For instance, there’s a significant emphasis on footwork, speed and attack. Turning preparations stem from a deep fourth position with a straight back leg, and spotting is done to the front—even if you’re doing piqué turns to the corner. The more versatile you are, the more options you’ll have in your career.

Have a question? Send it to Pointe editor and former dancer Amy Brandt at [email protected]