Investment in ballet career a risky one

By Arselia Gales

The long road to pursuing a career as a professional ballet dancer on the West Coast can be both rewarding and costly.

In order to purse their dreams, many aspiring dancers must put their education on hold and spend large amounts of money on auditions and programs in hopes of gaining a position that might not even be guaranteed. However, the numerous roadblocks do not deter the young ballerinas from wanting to become a soloist at a prestigious company.

Founded in 2004, Los Angeles Ballet brought professional ballet, a career that’s normally pursued in New York, to the aspiring ballerinas in Southern California.

“Professional dancers in any company usually have been dancing since a very young age. Most since they were 7 or younger,” said Dan Rib, the company and stage manager at LAB. Rib is in charge of all dancer relations and rehearsals for all the shows that the company produces.

Rib says that many of the hopefuls at the company often audition right after high school and begin training with a professional ballet company or school.

Once dancers complete the rigorous training process, they will then audition for companies all around the country.

LAB holds auditions for its company in Los Angeles, Seattle and New York. Not all trainees, however, all make it as professional dancers. In spring 2013, LAB had 30 dancers in the company.

“We currently have one dancer in our company that came up through our own school as a student, then a trainee, then an apprentice and now a company member. Companies like New York City Ballet hire almost exclusively out of their own school, as they are very particular about the training their company members receive,” Rib said.

Melissa Briggs, a 21-year-old first-year trainee at LAB, started with the company after she left another trainee position at the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. She was glad to be accepted in a company close to her home in Los Angeles. Briggs will be in the LAB training program for two years.

“Right now I work along side with LAB’s company dancers to get the feel of how it would be in a company. The program basically is like going to school full-time,” said Briggs. She must attend various rehearsals and practices during the week in order to fulfill her trainee position.

Of course, attending a rigorous program such as LAB’s isn’t free of charge. Briggs must pay $7,080 a year to be a trainee.
Briggs lives with her parents because living on her own or with roommates would be too costly. Since the program requires roughly 40 hours each week, Briggs is unable to work in order to support her dream financially.

“After I complete the program I would like to apply to UCI, Loyola Marymount and Cal State Long Beach. I want to major in dance, but I also want to audition for ballet companies around the U.S. and in Europe,” Briggs said.

She would like to keep her options open since her trainee position still does not guarantee acceptance in a ballet company.

Briggs hopes that her hard work and dedication will pay off and she can one day dance professionally with Julliard in New York.