We returned from Regional Dance America (RDA) in Los Vegas a week ago. We haven’t had a break. My husband, Ron, flew in from Germany the day before we left and flew out to Missouri to care for his mother a day after we returned. Julian had rehearsals up until the evening before we left and had just one day off before he began full days of rehearsals again for the spring City Ballet School show, Peter and the Wolf and Don Q plus Rossini’s Madness, a Yuri Zhukov creation. I did, however, promise to tell you all about RDA.
On one hand, RDA is just another convention. We’ve been to a lot of conventions in our day. On the other hand, RDA is a very special convention; it’s totally focused on ballet and ballet at a fairly high level, although there are two levels of classes. That said, there are some mime, massage , and modern classe–which ballet dancers need, too. And there are seminars on such things as career transitions, managing dance and school, and preparing for college. Additionally, there were college auditions and summer intensive scholarship auditions. Also there were performances every night–emerging choreographers (student choreography) and regular choreography from each school (both classical and contemporary). These were judged and on the last night awards were given at a banquet.
The student choreography and college and summer intensive auditions, I felt, set this convention apart from others. (Oh…and the fact that they put down nice floors for the kids to dance on rather than just rugs in conference rooms.) It was great for Julian to be able to showcase his second piece of choreography before so many people, including the artistic directors of all the members of the RDA Western Region–and, for example, the artistic director of Kansas City Ballet. He also did the college auditions despite the fact that he is torn about going to college or going straight into a company. These were broken into a morning modern audition and an afternoon ballet audition.
Here are the results of his three days, one performance and college auditions: His emerging choreography did not win anything–although his teachers assure us his piece was the second strongest of the bunch. (I’m of the mind that it had the most interesting choreographic elements but needed more polish.) Yuri’s piece had the place of honor as the very last one on the last night; it received a standing ovation–the only standing ovation of three nights–but it did not win anything. (I’d call that successful anyway.) Julian got accepted into University of California Long Beach (even after the rep told him it wasn’t the right school for him), Butler University and the University of Oklahoma with a scholarship, and he was invited to audition for Juilliard. Plus, after his performance in Rossini’s Madness he was asked to contact someone (not naming names…) who offered to pass his name along to a famous choreographer (also not naming names). (So, I’d say he won in many ways.)
In the process of talking to the college reps (and me attending the seminars), we all got to hear something we had not heard before: ballet companies are getting tired of bringing in young dancers right out of high school as trainees and apprentices. Many of these dancers don’t realize how much work is involved and after six months say, “Wow, I had a bright moment back there when I was really enjoying performing and dancing and thought this was my passion…but not now! This is too hard!” And then they quit. Companies are starting to look for more mature dancers–ones coming out of colleges that have given them more technique and performing experiences and who are ready and willing to do the hard work.
This is a different message than “become a trainee or apprentice right out of high school and work your way up to a corps member.” Or even “go into a ballet school run by the company of your choice and hope you then can become a trainee or get into their second company and work your way up to the corps.” Julian’s looking at those applications… And Ron and I are salivating over an $8,000+ scholarship at a school that costs only a little more than $17,000 per year. That’s a far cry from Juilliard at $50,o00 a year with no academics of which to speak–but it does have that name (but isn’t so ballet oriented). Supposedly UO has beefed up it’s men’s ballet program and is hoping to feed men into big ballet companies–ABT, Boston, Joffrey, and the like. The director there used to dance at Houston Ballet, so he has a nice relationship with them. We’ll watch and see what happens with the graduating class of boys…That will help make up Julian’s mind, but he still wants to see what happens next year if he goes to YAGP. Plus, there’s next year’s RDA to consider; anything could happen there as well.
By the way, there were men’s classes and a partnering demo. Julian was able to ask about a particular lift he was having trouble with, and that was nice. The learning that goes on is a great reason to go to RDA; I thought the teachers were phenomenal (a few in particular, like one modern teacher). Julian enjoyed the classes as well.
However, Julian did get injured the first evening during a rehearsal–a lift gone bad. Since his shoulder was not in perfect shape (he knocked out a rib and possible his collar bone a little bit–a trip to the chiropractor when we got home fixed it and an osteopath at RDA fixed him up until then), he had to only do the college auditions on Tuesday and no other classes. He felt better on Wednesday, but because he was performing that night, he did not take the men’s class, which he was very disappointed about. (So was I…)
So, why go to RDA? It’s another great place to showcase your son’s talent and to land a summer intensive scholarship or to audition for college! Julian does not have to audition for Butler or UC Long Beach. We are a bit confused about UO–there was talk of an audition still though we are not sure why.
Anyway, if your son is interested in ballet and is dancing at a good ballet school, find out if the school has joined RDA. It might be worth their while to do so–and to go to the convention. Next year the convention is in Montreal and all five regions will converge at once. It’s supposed to be a REALLY AWESOME chance to for your sons to get seen. Julian is really looking forward to it.
Last…if you didn’t notice, I added a Video page. Not all the videos are good ones. I’ll be adding more little by little.