by Johanna Orca Handyside
As a dancer, your cover letter and résumé are lived and written every day and in each performance. Your appearance and style speak volumes about your personality without uttering a word, and your dance technique and fluidity are manifestations of your training and experience. However, there comes a day when this animated application to greatness needs to be set down on paper, and the day you decide to find a dance agent is that day. Dance agents ultimately look for a fit pair of fleet feet when deciding who to sign, but the first thing they will see when you ask for their representation is your cover letter.
Cover Your Bases
The name says it all: The purpose of a cover letter is to briefly cover why you are applying to a certain agent and why he or she should be interested in you. Opening the door to your professional dance career often starts with a stand out cover letter. If you have a recommendation to a certain agent from a teacher, choreographer, or experienced dancer who has a memorable relationship with him or her, make note of it in your cover letter. Also, include how you found out about the agent who you are applying to and add information on any projects that you will be involved in in the future. There is no perfect formula for extracting your essence and putting it on paper, but keep in mind that the main focus of a cover letter is essentially to convey who you are and how you can be a strong representative for the agent to whom you are applying. Just stay honest and real, and you can’t go wrong.
In an interview with Dale Grover on www.DanceInsider.com, Julie McDonald, the creator of L.A.’s first dance agency, unsurprisingly says that dance agents “look for training on the résumé” when considering the complete dance package. But beginning dancers, do not fear. Agents are realistic about their expectations, and they know that professional credentials are not often found on a beginner’s résumé. Stay honest about your dance experience and put in any extra training, workshops, school plays, or other dance related experiences to show how youhave been working towards your dance goals. McDonald also notes that “gymnastics, roller blading, martial arts, stilt dancing, basketball, musicalinstruments, tumbling… those things are used all the time” as special talents in many a dancer’s résumé.
A well-stacked résumé doesn’t always translate into a well-received one. A cluttered résumé that is trying too hard can have the opposite effect from what you intend. Stick the clean-up crew on your résumé before submitting it and get rid of any unnecessary or irrelevant details. Stay with a reader-friendly font size and format so that agents can quickly scan over what you have to offer and pick
up on your gems of experience that may be otherwise hidden in a jumbled résumé. The more visual ease your résumé has, the better are the chances that it will be read and fairly considered.
To Picture or Not to Picture It
Different agencies have different photo preferences, and until you’ve signed with one of them there is no need to spend a lot of money on a professional 8″x10.” Your résumé is the true substance of your submission that agents will ultimately reach for. However, some believe and some agencies ask that you send a photo in with your dance agent application. Some agencies suggest sending in current three quarter shots along with your submission. If this is the route you choose to take make sure that your photo is a true representation of yourself and one that you are happy with. Do not submit anything that you are less than ecstatic about.
With several seconds and some choice words as the only instruments to help you orchestrate your first impression, you want to put your best cover letter and résumé forward. As you expect perfection in your performances, you should expect the same from these key pieces of paperwork that can mean the difference between a call back and a resubmission. Be truthful and censoriously comprehensive, go over your paperwork with a fine tooth comb, and let your personality shine though. Your dancing will do all of the talking once your cover letter and résumé get your soon-to-be agent to pick up the phone.