What’s in a name?

Well, hey there, Boston Ballet! A few years ago the story was all about cuts to the company, but this year… 71 dancers between the two companies?! Wow!

Exciting times on Clarendon Street, to be sure.

If you read down to the end of the end of the article, though, you’ll find what I felt to be a very interesting piece of semantics. The “corps de ballet” will now be called “artists of the company.” While I’m not sure that “corps” is a derogatory term, there is definitely a sense that it’s the entry-level position in a company (ignoring the second company… they’re more like interns) and if you’re still kicking around at that level after a couple years than you either aren’t very talented or you’re a slacker who does the minimum to stay on. And if you’ve seen these dancers you know that’s hardly ever the case.

Of course, there are only so many spaces in the second soloist, soloist, and principal levels and not everyone is going to make it there. Heck, not everyone wants to make it there. If you’ve listened to any of Kathryn Morgan’s recent podcasts she comments on some of the unexpected differences between being a member of the corps and being a soloist (at NYCB). Corps members can get opportunities to dance soloist and (maybe, occasionally) principal roles, in addition to corps work, giving a dancer a TON of opportunities to… well, DANCE! While the promotion means having to work under more intense scrutiny, the quantity of work drops off. Depending on your aspirations, that might not be a positive thing.

During the ASDP we had a Q&A session with BB company dancers Sarah Wroth (corps) and Corina Gill (just promoted to second soloist) and Corina said that part of the reason she wanted to get promoted was the knowledge that if she didn’t she couldn’t continue meeting the physical demands of corps work. She’d had some major injuries and her body wouldn’t last if she had to keep dancing every single show. How Sarah Wroth has done it — including a majorly impressive prenatal run (I think she danced most of Nutcracker season until 18 weeks, had her baby around May, and was back on stage in October) — for 13ish years? Well, I definitely give her mad props. I’m sure a lot of people look at her and wonder why she’s still doing this, but from hearing her talk a couple times it seems like she is totally satisfied with her career trajectory, and I’m sure that while she’s still “just in the corps” she has a major leadership presence in the company due to her longevity and experience.

So maybe recognizing that all the dancers, regardless of rank, are truly artists… not such a bad thing. Will anyone notice? Will it change anyone’s perception about the majority of company dancers or of ballet in general? Hard to say, but it’s a thoughtful change on Mikko Nissinen’s part nonetheless.

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