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Abbey Marrison (far left) performing in Lauren Lovette's Le Jeune in American Ballet Theatre's fall gala (Marty Sohl, courtesy ABT)

So many ballet greats start out as apprentices before joining the main company's corps de ballet. But what do the ins and outs of an apprenticeship actually look like? We had American Ballet Theatre apprentice Abbey Marrison keep a diary last fall during the week of the company's gala performance. In the gala, Marrison performed in Lauren Lovette's Le Jeune. A Markham, ON, Canada native, Marrison began her ballet training at Karpov Ballet Academy, and later placed as a finalist at the 2016 Youth America Grand Prix. She began training at American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in 2016, joined the ABT Studio Company a year later, and was made an apprentice in 2018. Here's what her job is like. —Courtney Bowers

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Ballet Careers
BalletX's Caili Quan found value in her early years of career building. Photo by Alexander Izilaev, Courtesy BalletX.

After two years as a trainee and then one as a second company member at Orlando Ballet, 22-year-old Aurélio Guimarães wasn't able to audition much due to an injury. When The Washington Ballet offered him another traineeship, Guimarães debated what to do. He would ultimately be embarking on a fourth year of doing professional work without a livable salary or title. “It was absolutely a hard decision," Guimarães reflects. “But I also had to consider the work that I would be doing." Knowing his traineeship would entail close work with the artistic director, he essentially took a demotion, with the hope that starting over in Washington would yield a paid contract at the end of the year.

In the past, it was common for a year or two of apprenticeship to lead directly to a corps contract. But today's ballet world involves more no- to low-paying rungs at the bottom of the ladder. Many companies now have three gatekeepers: trainee programs that are often the top level of the school and involve corps work with the company; second companies that work independently as well as more intimately with the main company; and apprenticeships, the most entry-level rank inside the professional hierarchy.

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