In April 2012, the Miami City Ballet announced Lourdes Lopez as their new Artistic Director commencing early 2013. Ms Lopez will be replacing Edward Villella who is the current and founding (1985) Artistic Director of the company. Closer to home in Australia, the “WA Ballet Artistic Director Ivan Cavallari is calling it quits at the end of 2012 after overseeing five highly successful seasons“. At the time of writing this post, the WA Ballet’s web site shows the job on its positions vacant page! Also in Australia, the Queensland Ballet has announced that Li Cunxin (Mao’s Last Dancer) has been appointed the new Artistic Director starting in July 2012 replacing current Artistic Director François Klaus who will leave at the end of 2012. Mr Klaus took up the current post in January 1998.
It is not unusual for Artistic Directors to occupy their positions for a significant period of time. Ivan Cavallari’s five seasons at the WA Ballet is comparatively short. So what does the prospect of working with a new director mean for professional ballet dancers? After all, their occupation is not the only one in which employees have had to “retrain their boss” (old joke).
In Pointe Magazine Online, there is an article that addresses this subject – “Company Life: A Change of Directors”. The bottom line for dancers is that they can expect some fairly significant changes in their day-to-day working and artistic life.
But while a change of leadership can make you feel suddenly vulnerable, it’s also an opportunity. The reevaluation process isn’t a one-way street: It’s a chance for you to reassess your place in the company, too. It can be the push you need, either to rededicate yourself to the path you’ve been following or to be proactive about finding a new one. And whether you end up staying with the company or leaving, you’ll get to work with a new person who will stretch and challenge you in different ways (Pointe Magazine Online)
Changes at this time are brought about by the fact that Artistic Directors significantly influence the artistic direction of the company, and they all have a different take on what that direction should be. For example, the AD has preferences for repertoire, the number of dancers required, the type and look of dancers, and how performances are going to be scheduled. These preferences have consequential affects on the company’s dancers. For example, they may affect their opportunity for promotion, both positively or negatively. They may also result in more or less opportunities to dance in desired productions.
My earlier joke about retraining your boss is really a statement about how you may work with a new manager. However, an Artistic Director is not really like any other kind of boss. Hopefully she has vision and that vision will permeate throughout the entire company. If, as a dancer you find your dreams match the AD’s vision then adjustment may be reasonably smooth. If not, then you are in for a rough ride. And it doesn’t help that there are comparatively few positions globally available for top dancers to move around in. Add to that the fact that dancers have to deal with reasonably short careers and you start to see why a certain anxiety may occur with the appointment of a new AD.
Which brings me to motivation. Dancers are motivated to dance for many reasons, some of which are internally sourced (intrinsic), such as the love of dancing, movement and performance. Other more external influences motivate dancers (extrinsic), such as opportunity to dance specific roles in specific productions, or promotion through the ranks. I suspect that intrinsic motivations will remain fairly constant through a change of directorship (Kamarova, 2010). However, it is the extrinsic motivations that are challenged by a change in leadership. A dancer with very strong intrinsic drive may push through any setbacks caused by a change in direction or may decide they can get a better deal elsewhere. On balance, there may also be positive aspects from a dancer’s perspective of the incoming Artistic Director. Take for example a change of repertoire that may favour taller or shorter dancers for key roles.
A change of Artistic Director is only one of many possible reasons that a professional dancer may have to question their own motivations for being where they are at a given point in time in their career. It is all of these varied changes and resultant motivational directions that are of interest to my research. If you wish to comment on anything I have said, or how you may be involved in the above scenarios, please do.
Twitter references: @MiamiCityBallet @WABallet @qldballet @pointemagazine @mikebarnes50