Right now, most dancers in my department can be found scurrying about with applications and scholarships for summer intensive programs. From the day we enter, we’re reminded that connections are everything. Someone once told me that Robert Battle was stalked by a dancer so much that he said he’d either have to hire her or file a restraining order. An article in Dance Magazine stated about half of Doug Varone’s company attended his intensives and practically every dancer in Sarah Slipper’s had to audition (fee included) several times before being admitted.
However, summer intensives (and auditions for that matter) are a financial commitment that not every student or parent can afford. Considering that most hiring comes out of networking opportunities like intensives, it becomes an issue of classicism in the dance world. Yet lowering the price of an intensive so it’s more accessible would be disrespectful to the high caliber of teachers and revenue that companies and dance organizations desperately rely on. It’s unfortunate that for survival, artists must rely on financial backing from their future members.
In fact, classicism becomes indicative in college dance programs as well. I’ve noticed that as the caliber of talent in my department rises, social class is often linked. I listen to my classmates’ training histories where their parents paid exorbitant fees for their children to travel great distances to train under the most prestigious teachers in the country. Fortunately, I found a studio in Tennessee with surprisingly strong credentials and affordable tuition. However, few dancers can say the same. Having raw talent is rarely enough today. Now it needs to be complemented with strong technique…and strong technique is more often than not achieved through large sums of money.
That being said, I have to wonder how much success in the dance world is determined by class. Even the arts (a domain that rarely includes the American “bourgeois” class) is run by money. If class division continues to separate the nation, it beckons the question of how going into the arts could be detrimental to our future children whose success is largely determined by how much their parents make.