Georgia Dance Conservatory, 2013 Recital, Marietta, Ga 18

(Image: Abigail Eskew)

The Meaning of Company

Lane Gormley, EdS, LPC, BCC

A ballet or dance company is a group of dancers who perform together. The company also includes the artistic, business, administrative, and technical personnel who support it. The publicity, ticket sales, lighting, scenery, costumes, props, and music must be as perfect as possible to showcase each presentation. Beautiful dancers are like jewels – when they are carelessly set, the full effect of their gifts may be missed. When there is a performance, many people must accomplish carefully defined tasks in order for the performance to be memorable.

Ballet companies are often organized by a Director in such a way as to facilitate the business of dance. The Director is the overseer of the company and its productions. She may be supported by a Board of Trustees who help her accomplish this key mission. The Director and the Board of Trustees usually choose the Artistic Director, the person whose vision helps to guide artistic decisions. What ballet will best highlight the talents of our current company? What choreographer should we invite to “set” a ballet on the company? Who will design the costumes? Who will dance which role? What effects, what mood, what atmosphere should the technical workers strive to create or evoke? When will rehearsals begin? Which teachers will rehearse which choreography? The Artistic Director will depend on the advice and counsel of the teachers who work constantly and directly with the dancers who, in turn, learn and practice to perfect their art.

In some European companies, there are an extraordinary number of people who are considered part of a ballet company. The biggest company is the Bolshoi in Moscow. Bolshoi means “big”, and it is. It usually has over 200 dancers. They include Principal Dancers, Soloists, the corps de ballet, the apprentice dancers, and the character dancers who dance ballet versions of traditional folk or national dances (like the national dances at the beginning of Act III of Swan Lake). There are also, however, musicians, the ballet master and mistress who teach company class, répétiteurs (literally, “rehearsers”) who rehearse the company in performing the choreography, costume designers and seamstresses, physical therapists, masseurs, and others besides.

At Georgia Dance Conservatory, our dance company is both a teaching and a performing company. Sometimes the entire company dances together. The Nutcracker is an example of such a performance. At other times and frequently at recital time, the corps de ballet is subdivided into ranks by age and skill level. These include Pre-Theater 1 and 2; Apprentice Theater  1 through 5, and Theater 1 and 2.

Being in a company, being a company member, is a privilege. Dancers chosen for company are selected on the basis of their work ethic as well as their talent. Being a member of a company gives the dancer a support network that will help him/her develop their gifts to the fullest and sustain them in moments of joy and, sometimes, pain. It is important for dancers to learn how to be good company members. Often, before accepting a dancer into their company, hiring directors will call colleagues in the company where the dancer last danced, or where he/she was trained, and ask, “Is she a good company member?”

Here is what they mean:

  • Is the dancer kind and supportive to all of her fellow dancers?
  • Is she a “team player”?
  • Does he resist the temptation to gossip about others?
  • Is she respectful of her teachers and willing to accept their guidance?
  • Does he take corrections well?
  • Does he set an example of good conduct for others to follow?
  • Does she respect the decisions made by the Directors and teachers?
  • Does the dancer represent the company well when in contact with the public?

Early training in being a good company member will benefit a dancer throughout her life. There are very few schools, organizations, or businesses that will not be enthusiastic about the interpersonal and social skills that a former company member can bring to their enterprise. If your application to college or business résumé says, one day, that you were a performing dancer at the Georgia Dance Conservatory, you will most likely have an advantage in the college or job application process.


Lane Gormley is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Board Certified Coach at East Paces Counseling in Buckhead and Ray of Hope Counseling Services in Kennesaw, GA. She has take class, taught, and participated in the GDC community for years.