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The article "Always the Super, Never the Star" by Gia Kourlas, dance editor of Time Out New York, appeared in the New York Times' "Arts and Dance" section on June 27. Here are some ("fair use") excerpts. To read the entire article, you must be a subscriber to their online edition. It's free. Go to www.nytimes.com, register if you need to, and type "supers" in the search box.

JOEL BRODY knows the secret to getting a good view at the Metropolitan Opera House. For the last 30 years, during his career as a supernumerary, or extra, for operas and ballets at the Met, he has marched as a soldier in "War and Peace" and transformed himself into a witch in "Hansel and Gretel." But in "Romeo and Juliet," in which he usually plays a butcher, his job afforded him the chance to see the performance of a lifetime up close. It was Natalia Makarova's balcony scene in the American Ballet Theater production of the full-evening dance.

. . .

Bill Leonard began working as a super in 1987 while training to be a ballet dancer (he started too late), and though he never joined the corps of Ballet Theater, he has found steady employment at the Met ever since. "There have been three artistic directors, and I'm still here," he said with a grin. As a veteran super, he knows the ropes. "The one thing I always tell people is to make sure you go to the bathroom," he said. "You want to try to sit as much as you can before going onstage you do a lot of standing. And the lighting is intense, so you need to hydrate yourself. If you don't follow those three rules, there's going to be trouble."

. . .

Filling out the rest of the cast are guards, litter carriers, monks, a dozen elegant men and women and two dead bodies. Danielle Ventimiglia, assistant stage manager, is in charge of all of them, from the initial audition, in which they stand nervously in front of a ballet master with numbers stuck to their chests, to subsequent rehearsals and performances.

One doesn't sign up to be a super for the money participants are paid $10 a rehearsal and $20 a performance. "It ends up being more like a travel reimbursement," Ms. Ventimiglia said. "They do it because they love the ballet, and the show would be so empty without them. They're not scenery. They make a market scene come alive and a palace scene more grandiose."

But even as simple as the job sounds, Mr. Brody says, prospective supers can't just walk in off the street and expect to have the knack. "I brought someone in who just wasn't musical he just didn't know where he was onstage," he said. "You have to have a sense of space and time. It's a great responsibility."

. . .