Hiring Revisited (Part 2)

How many new dancers spots are filled internally vs externally?

When trying to join companies, dancers generally have no idea how many spots the artistic director is looking to fill each year. There’s two main sources for the director to choose from: internal hiring from the school/second company and external hiring from auditions. Breaking it down even more, external hiring is made up of invited company class auditions and the notorious free-for-all, “cattle call” auditions. Again, external dancers trying to break into a new organization have to spend a considerable amount of time and money traveling to auditions with no clear idea of their true chances. In this post, we’ll pull the curtain back using some data from the 2019 – 2020 Season.

What are my real chances?

In top 7 American ballet companies (American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, Houston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, New York City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, San Francisco Ballet) for the Season 2018 – 2019, there were 467 dancers employed.

417 returned (89.3%) and 50 left (10.7%, moved out of the top 7, retired, or fired).

473 were employed by those same 7 companies in Season 2019 – 2020.

59 (12.5%) hiring events happened between those seasons:

  • 4 people moved between companies in the top 7
  • 55 dancers from outside the top 7 companies hired (with 1 reinstatement) so really 54
    • 39 hired have ties to the company (or 38)
      • 32 received training from the affiliate school (or 31)
      • 7 did not attend the affiliate school but were part of the affiliated second company
  • Only 17 were completely unaffiliated with the top 7 companies before joining

So less than a third of open spots are new dancers breaking into the top 7. A truly impressive feat!

But what does this all mean?

From past posts, we knew before that training at the affiliated school is a huge advantage (https://datapointes.com/2019/06/15/a-brand-name-ballet-education/). What we didn’t know was how that impacted your chances of being hired season to season. The data makes it abundantly clear that a dancer’s chance of climbing into the top 7 from an external path are very slim. Considering the number of dancers seen over the course of the audition season, you must be exceptional to be considered.

The take home message is to be realistic about your chances. You probably should not limit your auditions to these companies if you know you’ll need a job next season. Going to all of the top 7’s open auditions is probably not a good idea financially.

And remember, there’s a good deal that goes into this process beyond just your ballet skills. To all the aspiring climbers, some people do make it. Good luck out there – I hope I see your name on one of these rosters someday! – J

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