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Rejection.. How we made it our best frenemy.

Rejection makes you feel really alone in the moment... That unfairness becomes so palpable but, what if, rejection could become part of your evolution! Like Frenemies who cohabitate? In its nasty disguise, it might actually just provoke your luck, open doors you ignored and change your world... To prove my theory, I have been fortunate enough to collect 9 (plus mine) heartfelt testimonies from dear friends and colleagues who have been willing to share a bit of themselves with you, how they coped and fought back. I even hope writing it down might have even been a tad cathartic for us...? So, without further ado, let's dive right into it:

Lauren Fadeley (Soloist Principal with Miami City Ballet):

"There have been many moments in my life where I was told “no”and had to learn to overcome it. One of the hardest was when I was turned down from Miami City Ballet when I first auditioned for them as a teenager. I was really hopeful that I would be able to dance in my home state of Florida and perform the company’s incredible rep. I was invited to come down and take company class for a few days, but after the first class it was made clear to me that I wasn’t what they were looking for and was told I didn’t need to come back. I was totally devastated. I thought my dream of ever dancing in Miami was over forever. Well, 12 years later after graduating from college and making it to principal in Pennsylvania Ballet, I decided to try my luck again as the company was under new direction. Never have I been so nervous of putting myself out there again, but I knew I had to at least try. This time I stayed through the entire audition process and was offered a contract in my dream company! I would have never thought back when I was first told no that I would now be in my 5th season with MCB!"

Victoria Jaiani (Principal with The Joffrey Ballet):

"Some hurdles, ups and downs are inevitable in our profession. Generally dancers are perfectionists and face a lot of criticism from teachers, ballet masters, as well as self criticism.I have tried to remain positive and focused on why I love to dance, what is the best part of my dancing. As a dancer, I learned the difference between constructive criticism and people just trying to bring you down. I recognized my flaws and my strengths. Allowing myself the time to work on things that needed improvement (and still need) as well as rejoicing in my achievements."

Holly Dorger (Prinicpal with The Royal Danish Ballet):

"Dealing with rejection is something that every dancer as in common. We are so vulnerable because casting, opinions and judgements are made on us every day. It may feel at times that there is nothing we can do about it but we can take control of our future in a way. We can take our inner grit, wrap a positive attitude around it and work extremely hard to become the best dancer that we can be. We can still be rejected even when we give it our all and it is depressing as it hits pretty hard. Maybe your head is like mine and when that happens my thoughts cloud over with all my insecurities of why it wasn't me and what i did wrong. Calm the mind, keep your focus on your path. You are doing great."

Jose Manuel Ghiso (Principal with The Ballet Municipal de Santiago, Chile):

"In 1997, I was 18 years old and went to audition for the ballet school of La Havana, Cuba. I actually won an honorable mention & a scholarship to attend the school, but in Colombia (where I am from), when you are 18 years old, you must go to the military service as it is compulsory.. Because of it, I could not go to Cuba to receive the study grant I had won!! I've always wondered what would have happened to my career if I had gone to Cuba and graduated from the school.. Even if I was so disappointed and didn’t think it was fair, I ended up in Santiago and I’ve lived many great things since!"

Danielle Brown (Principal with The Sarasota Ballet):

"The first dose of rejection in my career was during my time as an apprentice for Ballet Austin. I was straight out of school and it was my first job, I danced there for two years. As an apprentice there, they give you two years and then you get promoted to the main company or you get let go. I was let go after my two years, and the only female from my group to not be promoted...I was devastated. All my friends got to stay together and dance in what I thought at the time to be my dream company. They did both classical and contemporary work and I loved Steven Mills’s choreography. During my final meeting with them, they were so respectful and kind while letting me go and they were trying to push me to join a contemporary company over the classical company job I had gotten. While I enjoyed contemporary I truly loved ballet and I was not ready to hang up my pointe shoes and give up on my dream. So I took a job with another ballet company and brought everything I learned from Ballet Austin with me, I pushed myself to be more brave and to show up every day with confidence even though my confidence truly took a huge hit. I did not let the disappointment and hurt get to me I used it to fuel me. I used it to push harder, work harder be more determined than ever. It really paid off because a year after getting let go from my first job I found myself joining Sarasota ballet as a full corps de ballet member. 14 years later I am still there and have made it all the way to principal dancer! Something my first boss never believed I could do. The company I am in now is a truly classical company & I have danced the most amazing roles and ballets things I could never have dreamed of. I thought ballet Austin was my dream job but getting fired was the best thing to ever happen to me, as I ended up in the best place possible, where all my dreams actually came true.”

Philip Currell (Principal with The Norwegian National Ballet):

"I have had my share like everyone else in the dance world with rejection whether it be from an audition or casting. Matters of taste and aesthetic ideals, all contribute to our successes and lowest points, and most of the time decisions are made for us, out of our control and usually without being informed until a cast list is on the wall or you have been asked not to return after an audition. A huge problem I have with rejection is the reasoning and lack of communication thereafter. Knowing your weaknesses and being informed on the reasons you were never picked are important to further develop and deal with insecurities. It’s never pleasant to hear a negative - I get that, but it could be invaluable advice we’re missing out on. My issue was always my flat, not very arched feet - it still is. Every angle is a nightmare without beautiful arches and some people don’t get the struggle and extra push to make them look half decent. But if someone dislikes my feet, my face, my body shape, why would I want to be cast and put myself through the humiliation of never quite being ‘right’ for the part - just take me out. I can’t think of one person who has always had it smooth sailing though, I look around the room at amazing dancers who have all suffered at one point with a production and person in charge. IT UNITES US that we have ALL felt rejected at some point. Having said that, the one time I felt it most but was still allowed to perform was in Manon. We had two stagers come to Norway who made my life a living hell for 6 weeks! I was told I wasn’t technical enough, I was made fun of, humiliated and my confidence took a thrashing as they ran off with 1st cast giggling (this being beside the fact that I was coming back from an injury which had taken me off for 10 months.) THIS IS STILL REJECTION, being punished for not being strong enough or good looking enough, it still makes me sick with nerves thinking about dancing that ballet ever again. But it did change me to stand up, to say I’m not happy with the working conditions and has developed a closer working relationship and talks in confidence with my director. Don’t let people get you down, ask for feedback. Remember EVERYONE has, or will experience rejection at some point. Remember your strengths and rejections will pass - YOU WILL CONTINUE!

Margaret Severin-Hansen (Principal with Carolina Ballet)

"The way I’ve always dealt with rejection whether it be auditioning for summers, companies, or casting disappointments was always to work harder. Those rejections only told me I had things that needed improvement. So when I would get those letters or see I wasn’t doing a role I wanted I would just work harder and try and see my faults as well as my good qualities. The most important thing is to take away something positive from those disappointments and rejections. Everyone will experience them and that should be comforting thought. You’re not the only one! But come out of it stronger and striving to be the best you can be! Most importantly be YOU!"

Natalia Berrios Fuentes (Principal with the Ballet Municipal de Santiago, Chile):

"When I was 17 years old, as the Municipal de Santiago just gave me the great news that I would enter the company as a corps member, I had a very serious accident... I passed out and fell into a window... It cut my windpipe, my tongue and i was close to die.. I was rushed to the hospital. There, the doctors predicted that I would be hospitalized for 7 months. Not only was I not able to speak but I could not even dance yet... I could not accept this outcome. So I only stayed 25 days! a month later, I was back at the ballet barre and almost talking!!!! The passion and love that I had for dance was essential to emerge and continue with my dreams, which actually later came true..." A pure example of how to turn a NO into a YES with your inner strength...

Madison Keesler (Soloist with The San Francisco Ballet):

When I was a young student attending San Francisco Ballet’s Summer Intensive, I was offered a year-round position in the San Francisco Ballet School's trainee program. It was a fantastic offer, but my mother and I decided that I was still too young to move away from home. The following year I was once again attending SFB’s summer intensive. This time I was ready to accept the offer. Unfortunately, the same offer was not given to me. Instead, I was offered a position in the school as a level 8 student. While it was still a fantastic opportunity, at the time, level 8 had much fewer classes and training hours, less performing opportunities, no monetary stipend, and potentially less opportunities to work directly with the company. I remember feeling like I had failed. I felt like I must have done something terribly wrong or that it must have meant I was a worse dancer than the year before. The reality was that the director of the trainee program had changed and the new director didn’t think I was the best fit. I had so many doubts and regrets during that time. I kicked myself for not accepting the position the previous year. I wondered if I had ruined my chances of joining San Francisco Ballet or any company. All of those thoughts and fears ended up being for nothing. I accepted the level 8 position and by the end of that year I was cast in multiple principal roles (over some of the trainees) for the end of the year Student Showcase. I got a job and started my professional career after just that one year with San Francisco Ballet. It is easy to convince yourself that one failure means everything is over. It certainly was not the first time I was disappointed, nor was it the last, but it stays in my mind because it taught me some very important lessons that I would not have learned otherwise. Even though I had been working so hard, things didn’t happen exactly as I had planned in my mind. However, I consciously chose to use this undesired outcome as a challenge to myself. I had to find both mental and physical strength to work hard and showcase what I had as a dancer and an artist. I wanted to show them what they were missing by not having me as a trainee, so I worked as hard as I could, being kind and grateful to everyone around me, and soaking up each opportunity I received. Being bitter or jealous of anything or anyone would only hurt myself in the end. Disappointments and the occasional failures may feel horrible in the moment, but they are vital opportunities to grow. I want to leave you with a quote I love from Robert F. Kennedy, "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” So, don’t let 1 or even 10,000 set-backs stop you, failing every now and then can be a wonderful opportunity.

Angelica Generosa (Principal with the Pacific Northwest Ballet):

"Rejection is, unfortunately, a very common subject in the ballet world and our world in general. Throughout my life, I’ve overcome many ups and downs. From auditions for summer courses to staying year-round at top ballet schools to the competition between you and your classmates. But by far, the toughest rejection I have ever faced was when I was 16 and graduating from the School of American Ballet. My class and I were waiting for the news of who would be hired as an apprentice for that year. My dream growing up was to be a ballerina at New York City Ballet and getting to perform at the Koch Theatre (back in the day it was called the State Theatre). When it was my turn to have my conference, I was thinking that I would have a high chance of getting hired to join the company. Little did I know, diversity (which wasn’t ever talked about as a student) would play a role in whether or not I would be hired. Being rejected for not fitting the mold of the company was extremely hard to hear and to understand at a young age. When you had worked so hard and were given roles throughout the years in workshops and lecture demonstrations, being different in the sense of race or color was never really on my mind. I knew I was different but to hear that you couldn't fit in because of that was heartbreaking. I am very grateful to look back from where I am now as a Principal Dancer at Pacific Northwest Ballet where my director Peter Boal looked past all of that. In a way being rejected was a huge blessing in disguise. If anything I have learned to love myself for who I am and to be strong through all of it. The ballet community has evolved with diversity in ballet companies but there is still so much work that needs to be done. My advice for you if you are going through something similar to my story is to know that you are not alone and that feeling hurt and confused is completely normal. You should never think that this should have any hindrance on your talent let alone your career. You can find a place where you are truly appreciated for your talent and work and not your appearance."

WOW.... We went through so many emotions just reading all those stories.. I'll give you mine very quickly too to finish this off.. In 2018, the direction had changed at Carolina Ballet and I was no longer in their vision as I was an older dancer (34 at the time). Even though I was offered a full time ballet mistress position, my dancing heart wasn't done so a depressing month after (what I thought was) my last heart wrenching show with the company (front picture of this post, I was a sad Lilac Fairy, getting words of wisdom from Olga Kostritzky), I fought for my soul and sent out 29 resumes to companies all over the world. After receiving some "no's" or the famous "ghosting syndrome" like your favorite dating apps, I got one full, true YES. I packed up my life in 4 suitcases in 10 days and moved back to France. I have been a demi-soloist with the Opera de Nice for 3 seasons now!! So, allow yourself to be sad for a moment but then dust yourself off, fight the odds back and create your magic! ✨




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