This is the time of year when many ballet students are auditioning for large summer dance programs, especially if the schools are connected to large ballet companies. Some of the dancers are feeling the pressure of “What if I don’t get in?”

There are other dancers that feel a different pressure, but they’re pretty silent about it. Some dancers just don’t want life in a huge ballet company. Many prefer a smaller company that gives them more freedom to explore other talents. Although they love to dance and are passionate about it, the competition, pressure, and complexities of the all-encompassing, larger lifestyle suck the joy out of them. Some dancers thrive on the bigger lifestyle, others are the opposite. Comments that question a dancer’s dedication and passion are circulated if they admit that they don’t want to go to a huge, famous school.

When I was a student and then later as a professional (many years ago!) small ballet companies were looked upon as insignificant or a “starter” company. People would say to impressive dancers who were in small companies, “Wow, you’re so good; you should go to New York, or San Francisco, or a big company in a huge city!”

Well, New York and San Francisco have plenty of dancers. If your dream is strictly to be in a big company in a big city, then go for it. However, nowadays, being in a big company is not the only “big-time” success in the dance world.

You have to ask yourself, do you want to be famous, or do you want to dance, no matter what? There’s nothing wrong with being famous in a large company and influencing many people at once. However, being famous and insanely busy may not be for you, even if dancing IS. With opportunities so available now, gorgeous dancers are making smaller companies tiny diamonds of the highest quality that bring power and influence everywhere they shine. Small companies offer many opportunities to do roles that a dancer may not get to do for years in a large company, if at all. Also, the camaraderie in a small company is different and can be closer than in a large company where the dancer turnover runs at a faster pace. The touring schedule of a large company can be exciting for many dancers, but grueling and tedious for others. The scheduling and budget for a small company is more limited, yet that’s what allows dancers to pursue other interests at the same time as their dancing.

All logistics aside, the artistic quality and technique in a small company can be as beautiful, breathtaking, meaningful, powerful, and fulfilling as in a big company.

It’s not all or nothing; the field is WIDE open to Dance on.


Robin Conrad Sturm is the primary ballet instructor and Executive and Artistic Director of the Northern Virginia Dance Academy and the Asaph Dance Ensemble. Robin recently won InsideNoVa’s Best Author in Prince William honors and also writes a blog. Contact her at Northern Virginia Dance Ensemble: www.nvdance. net/wp/ or call 703-330-5227.

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