At Ballet Arts most of our students do not get leading roles in Conejo Civic Ballet Company (CCBC) ballet productions. It is logically not possible for all roles to be leading or starring roles, but every student and every parent thinks they or their child deserves the one leading part and most will be disappointed when they do not get that role. This is understandable - every parent wants the best for their children. Role assignments for CCBC productions are matched with the talents and technical level of the students participating. Sometimes other needs prevail. We may need a taller person to play the role of Godmother, for instance. Similarly, Clara in Nutcracker, should not look older than everyone else on stage. Or in partnering, we prefer that the two dancers be similar in height. These requirements are driven by artistic concerns and judgments are made about who gets a particular role based on these requirements and the technical skills of the students. No part is handed out as an afterthought. If a part is not important it will not be included in the ballet production.
There are other schools that have different policies. Some will sell a role for monetary gain. Others will assign roles based on seniority. Still others do not have dance productions, just recitals where everyone gets their 5 minute solo on stage. Ballet Arts set up Conejo Civic Ballet Company to give Ballet Arts dancers the opportunity to participate in live, full-length ballet productions. We think this experience is invaluable because it focuses the students energy on supporting the common good - that of the ballet production.
It is not so important what role a student gets to perform. On the other hand it is very important what is done with that role. Everyone involved in a CCBC production serves the needs of the production, from the choreographer and ballet mistress to the volunteers who build the props, design the costumes and handle the logistics of the performance. The dancers hold a key role since they are on stage and have to create the magical environment for the audience that allows the story to be told. But they also still serve the needs of the production and not their individual concerns. In the everyday frustrations and disappointments that come with the hard work it takes to prepare for a dance production this is often difficult to keep in mind. But if we are mindful of this high ideal we will continue to have performances that astonish and inspire audiences. Everyone wins, but the big winners in the end are the performers who through hard work have mastered the ability to draw from themselves a magic that they can share with others.
Robin Twarowski, Executive Director