Where Can Dance Lead Me?

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By Ashley Collingwood

Many dancers focus their career on performance, but many young professionals remain unaware of the variety of career choices in dance. With all of the knowledge a young dancer gathers during training in the art form, it can be utilized later on in several ways. Aside from knowing proper technique, dancers should be educated in terminology, the business aspect of dance, the stage, dance criticism, history, anatomy, as well as performance quality. This allows a dancer to be well rounded in the field of dance- opening doors to different career choices in the dance world.

A lot of dancers end up teaching and/or choreographing for a living. These options allow a dancer to be creative and share their love of dance with others. A professional can teach children at dance studios, conventions, or end up choreographing for major dance companies or productions. The insight in terminology, anatomy, and performance quality aids the professional teacher and choreographer to pass information along.

There is always a business aspect behind each job. Managers, directors, talent agents, and dance studio owners are all required. Within manager positions, there are business, company, production, and stage managers. Both artistic and rehearsal directors are necessities for companies to set the artistic direction and keep the choreography pure to the choreographer’s vision. Talent agents seek talent for gigs, while dance studio owners have to be organized and maintain the function of their studio. Although all of these jobs expect knowledge in business and leadership, it is important to know dance as an art form as well.

With every show, there is a behind the scenes crew. Without this crew, a performance would be nearly impossible. The technical production employees are great assets to this industry. Lighting and scenic designers help make a performance possible. With every performance, costumes, hair and makeup top it off. Although some costuming is more elaborate than others, it seems to complete a performance no matter what. Many productions are in need of professional costume designers, hair stylists, and makeup artists to contribute their creativity.

Three other interesting options for careers are in journalism, dance therapy, and massage therapy. When getting into journalism, a dancer can use his or her knowledge to write reviews on performances, trends, or tips. Dancers are creative beings, so writing is a perfect way to express that. Dance therapy, on a completely different line of the spectrum is good for dancers who work well with people and interested in the psychotherapeutic use of movement. A dancer may also be interested in massage therapy. A dancer’s awareness of his or her body, as well as an understanding of anatomy and physiology, can make massage therapy a great career option.

Not all jobs require a degree. However, being well educated is helpful when in the pursuit of different options throughout the dance field. These are just a handful of ideas to look into while determining a future dance career. Ways to try on these options include auditioning, developing leadership skills, experience, and determination. Continue to explore the field of dance!

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Self-Marketing for Dancers

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By Sara Willcutt

1) Start with a Dance Resume
Your dance resume should highlight your experiences and accomplishments in order to foster your current dance goals.

The resume will include a cover letter, photos, reviews if you have them, references and for some a video.

Your resume is your advertisement to choreographers or dance company directors.

Do not make your resume an autobiography or list every performance you have ever been in. Try to keep your resume to one page. This may mean that you can’t put down everything. This is where you need to make choices and think about what job you are auditioning or applying for.

Your resume is important and it can set you apart form others.

2) Take Your Time and Do Your Best
Your resume needs to be perfect; getting a job could depend on it. You should make sure your resume is updated and that you always have someone proofread it to check for any errors. If you resume is sloppy, full of errors or confusing, it might imply that you are not motivated to do your best.

A clean well-written resume can give potential employers confidence that you pay attention to details and are professional and serious about your dance career.

3) Do Your Research
Before you create or update your dance resume, be sure to research the company or groups that will be looking at it. This can allow you to personalize your resume and cover letter to be more effective. Make sure you spell the director’s name correctly. Find out where the director has danced and studied. Find out the name of the artistic director.

To Do Your Research:

  • Look in the ASD Dance Directory find links to dance company web sites.
  • Look at Dance Magazine and Dance Spirit magazine to find articles about particular companies.
  • Look for reviews done in the New York Times.
  • Search the company name on big search engines like Google and Bing to see what comes up. You can also search the director’s name.
  • Go to the library and look at Stern’s Performing Arts Directory, which is most likely in your local library. It lists every Dance Company, their addresses and phone number.
  • Look at Cyber Dancer Page which is linked to many dance sites.

4) Make Contact
Call your target companies and ask to talk with the person in charge of public relations. Tell them that you are a dancer that is interested in auditioning for the company. Ask for information on their repertoire for the past five years and the repertoire the company intends to dance this season. Ask where the company is planning to tour, for the director’s biography and to whom you should send your audition materials. Offer your e-mail address so that it might be easier for them to e-mail rather that mail you information.

Try to find a member or former member of your target companies to talk with. You might find them through a find or some contact information on the companies’ website. Ask them questions such as:

•   Who teaches at rehearsals?
•   What are the rehearsals like?
•   What is the director like?
•   How are the dancers treated?
•   What is the range of salaries?
•   What time of year do the dancers return their letters of intent?

A letter of intent is a letter from the artistic director indicating his intent to continue working with a dancer for the next season. The directors then know how many contracts must be filled.

The best time to send your resume to an artistic is when he or she learns that a new dancer or dancers are needed.

Doing research like this means that you are not only prepared to write your best and most targeted resume, but you will also learn about the companies you are
interested in. You may discover that you are excited about a company, or you may find that it wouldn’t the right place for you. You can save a lot of time and energy by only auditioning for companies that would work out for you if you become a part of them.

Doing your research shows how much you care about the audition and that you are serious. Finding connections with directors and artistic directors is priceless.

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How to Find the Right Agent for You

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by Johanna Orca Handyside

Unfortunately for many of us, our first encounter with a talent agent was with Jerry Maguire (pre-Renée Zellweger accompanied self-employment). But for many aspiring dancers, the fight for representation is one they are fighting for themselves and not one being fought over them. So how do you find not only an agent, but the right agent? Just like dancing, it involves a lot of intuition with cognitive guidance and some practice in persistence.

We all know what an agent is, but what we may not know is exactly what an agent does. According to Jane Donovan at www.danceart.com, an agent is not only employed to find his or her clients work, but to also ensure that dancers are paid sufficiently and on time; properly informed about the details of projects they are taking part in; and that dancers are employed in safe, discrimination-free environments.

An agent is also a good resource for current trends and market appeal. Their expertise in these fields is crucial for both your and their success. Although you may have a particular look or style to offer the dance world, an agent can help you turn that image into a more marketable one.

So now that you know why you need an agent, the next step is learning how to find the right one. Having an agent may signify your seriousness in making it in the professional dance world, but don’t rush into the arms of the first welcoming one you meet. It is important that you have an agent whom you trust, who understands you and your wants and needs, and who you also get along with. You will have a close relationship with your agent and you want that person to be someone you believe will properly represent you. Test the waters and visit prospective agencies. If possible, talk to people who are represented by agencies that you are interested in. Get a well rounded perspective of the places you are interested in to make the best decision for you and your career. It may sound a lot like applying for college, and these processes are similar in the way that they are both big steps in developing your talent and future.

Like applying for school, there is a bit of paperwork involved. To stand out of the crowd, try to get a recommendation from a teacher, choreographer, or experienced dancer. Recommendations and references give you an extra push in what is sure to be a pile of paperwork for agencies to sift through. A strong cover letter and resumé in addition to an 8″x10″ photo can provide the momentum to turn that push into a callback.

Says Kristin Campbell-Taylor, dance director at DDO Artists Agency, a cover letter to top off a complete dance package “might give me that incentive to look at someone’s materials…Especially when we’re seeing so many submissions and so many dancers and there’s so much competition.”

You want these documents to be unique yet professional, just like you. Auditions are an important way to match a face with a name and resume, and are critical to showcasing your talents. Some agencies hold open auditions, while others accept them by request.

If an agency that you are interested in operates on the latter platform, don’t be discouraged if you aren’t immediately offered an interview. “No” from these agencies doesn’t necessarily mean “Not in this lifetime”; they may just be saying “No, not right now” says Donovan.

If you’re not sure how an agency recruits talent, you can find out by checking their website or calling them directly. Throughout the agent-finding process, always maintain a high level of respect for your potential representatives and their decisions regarding your audition requests. If you request an audition and are turned down, keep practicing and resubmit your request after at least three months. Landing an agent isn’t just about talent, it’s also about patience and timing.

Working hard, staying disciplined, and practicing persistence will help you find an agent who will serve you well. Landing the right agent doesn’t happen overnight, but remember that your best selling point is your talent. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to keep up the intensity, especially when you have representation. With an agent on your team, you need to have your skills sharpened and at the ready, prepared to take a big slice out of any audition you attend. So get in the office, collect those recommendations, and show the world what you’ve got to offer and hopefully an agent will be making you an offer of your own soon.

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Dancers Seeking Agents: The Right Way to Apply

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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.

Résumé Please
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.

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Careers in Dance: Dance and Movement Therapy

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By Katjusa Cisar

Like most professional dance/movement therapists, Mariah LeFeber loved dancing growing up. She took the “typical” line-up: ballet, jazz and tap. But when she got to college, she wanted to expand beyond dance. She struggled with what she perceived as the fleeting impact of dance performance and sought out a career that combined her love of dance with her desire to help people.

“There’s something inherently selfish in dance performance. There’s so much focus on me, on my body. Your body is your tool, so you have to be selfish,” LeFeber said. Dance therapy allows “the movement to become accessible to people,” long after the impact of a dance performance has faded in the minds of an audience, LeFeber also said.

LeFeber just finished her graduate degree in dance/movement therapy at Columbia College Chicago, one of five accredited programs in the United States, and is now working with autistic children at Common Threads in Madison, Wis.

Despite so few universities offering certification, dance/movement therapy is a growing occupational field. Membership in the American Dance Therapy Association has grown thirty percent in the last ten years and is attracting many new students, according to an association spokesperson.

LeFeber encourages young dancers to check out dance therapy as a career option, especially for those who want to keep dance in their lives but don’t want to have to struggle financially or wait tables on the side.

“I can bring myself as an artist into dance therapy,” she says.

So what exactly is dance therapy? Therapists at the Hancock Center for Dance/Movement Therapy in Madison, Wis., where LeFeber was a graduate intern, are quick to stress that a dance therapy session is not a lesson in dance technique.

Rena Kornblum, executive director of the center, boils the philosophy of dance therapy down to this: “The way that we hold and move our body indicates how we feel. If you change how you move, that change will affect your emotions.”

“We look at body, space, time and force: how the person relates to the space with their body, how they assert themselves through space and what their natural rhythm and attitudes are,”Robyn Halsten, who has been working as a dance therapist for 20 years, 14 at the Hancock Center, said.

Halsten facilitates sessions with groups of women who are survivors of sexual abuse. Many of these women “have come to realize that sitting and talking about their problems has only been able to bring them so far,” Halsten states.

Most of the women she helps “feel cut off from their body. They live in their head and carry around this thing called their “body.”

Each group therapy session is different and caters to the needs of the individuals in the group, but Halsten says that for many women, even being seen doing simple movements together in a nonjudgmental environment is a powerful experience.

Ann Wingate, another long-time therapist at the Hancock Center, uses “lots of props, scarves and streamers” to help groups of autistic teenagers relate to one another.

“In Western psychology, there’s been a real split between mind and body. Dance therapy weaves together the intellectual, the psychological and the spirit. I think it works more quickly because you’re integrating the different parts of the person that makes them whole,” she says.

The Hancock Center’s therapists also conduct group sessions with kids at area elementary schools. This is where Bessie Cherry, mother of a six-year-old daughter, first discovered dance therapy. Her daughter, then five, had started having all kinds of behavioral problems, possibly triggered by a cross-country move.

“She tried to poke out my eyes. She was a loose cannon and very angry. She didn’t know how to calm herself down, and I was at the end of my rope,” Cherry said.

Within a month of going to group and private dance therapy sessions, Cherry says her daughter had learned techniques to help control her own behavior and was well on her way to being her old self, “a happy-go-lucky, sweet, well-behaved kid.”

“It worked like a charm for her. She became more aware of her body’s reactions and how to turn them into positive movements,” says Cherry, who admits being skeptical of dance therapy at first, thinking it was just another “frou-frou hippie granola thing.”

Now she says she wishes more people knew about it: “It’s not what people think. It was an eye opener.”

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From One Nervous Dancer to Another: Auditions

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by Ashley Collingwood

While at a dance audition, it is easy to become overwhelmingly nervous. Auditions I have been to in the past were disastrous, and after quite a few anxious mishaps I had to ask myself, why? Why couldn’t I stay calm and focused?

Over the years, I have managed to gather a few crucial tactics for cooling my nerves. I have become a thousand times happier and more confident going into an audition, and have had more positive outcomes because of this, and I would like to share.

First, dressing comfortably is key. If I do not feel right in my wardrobe, it is harder for me to feel comfortable with my dancing. I always make sure I am wearing the appropriate attire for each audition. Of course, some auditions require certain clothing a dancer may not be used to. In this case, I would suggest dancing in the audition clothes ahead of time. It would also be a good idea to bring all the necessary shoes, and test each pair for comfort prior to the audition. Hair and makeup are also very important, not only to look nice, but to feel good.

Just as vital to feeling good as wardrobe is nourishment. Some dancers may not eat well before an audition, but I usually enjoy something light, healthy, and satisfying like a banana and yogurt.

In addition to preparing physically, I find that mental preparation for an audition is necessary. Besides telling myself to just get in shape and go for it, I do a few things to get my mind focused. The night before an audition, I pack my bag with everything I might need. This simple task actually puts my mind at ease and helps me sleep soundly, knowing there is nothing I will rush around trying to do at the last minute. Preparing the night before actually does eliminate that extra stress (unnecessary anxiety is the LAST thing I need at that point!)

Once I know that I haven’t forgotten anything, I make sure to have plenty of rest and set my alarm clock, allowing myself plenty of time to get ready in the morning. Getting to the audition early enough for a proper warm up is also a good idea. I never go into an audition without loosening up and stretching. Even once this is done and I know I’m ready, I can sometimes still feel that show business fluttering in my stomach, but I throw in some deep breathing to help calm me a little more.

Remembering why you are there is also key. For awhile, I was so concerned about what everyone else thought about me. I felt like not only the people holding the audition, but also the other dancers were judging me. This is when another question came to mind: “Who am I dancing for?!” The answer came easily after some evaluating–ME! Now, I approach each audition with a completely new outlook. I try to impress myself and take each audition as a class. I have learned that this eases a lot of tension, and I have had much better results!

Although it is inevitable to have some jitters at an audition, these small but important tips have helped me tremendously. It took awhile to figure most of them out, so I would like to spread the love to anyone else with similar anxieties! Most importantly, stay positive and remember what this craft is really all about. Hold fast to the energy, the inspiration, and the art that is dance.

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How to Write a Dance Resume

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By Sara Willcutt

Your resume is the most important part of your audition package. A neat and organized resume will help you stand out. Many dancers clutter their resumes with too much information. Your resume needs to be focused and tailored to the specific job you are applying or auditioning for. Dance companies get hundreds of resumes and are overwhelmed with prospective dancers. Give yourself the best chance you can by having a professional looking resume.

What to Include:

  1. Name, address and phone number
  2. Date of birth, weight and height
    • This is specific to audition resumes. If applying for a teaching or other job, this is unnecessary.
    • Round height to the nearest full inch.
  3. Citizenship
  4. List dance companies you have worked with
  5. List any featured roles
    • Include the names of ballets or shows and the choreographers.
    • If you have been in many shows, only include featured roles.
    • If you have little experience, include all you have.
  6. Dance education
    • This includes all dance training you have had. List education, start with the most recent and work backwards in time.
    • The more professional experience you have the less important the section on education becomes. If you are young and have little performance experience make sure to include all your training. If you received a scholarship, be sure to include that as well.
    • Include small workshops or brief training in different styles only if it applies to the position or company you are applying for.
  7. Honors and awards
    • In this section, include all honors you have received, high placements at competitions, special individual awards, etc.
    • If you have lots to list, choose according to the relevance of the job or company you are applying for.

Depending on Target Position, Include:

    1. Acting experience
      • Be sure to include this information if you are auditioning for a part in a musical.
    2. Modeling experience
      • Some groups such as professional dance teams will want your modeling experience listed.
    3. Choreographic work
      • Some groups such as modern dance companies that use improvisation like this sort of experience.
      • Ballet companies may not be interested in this information.
    4. Musical training
      • Include this information only if you have extensive training and you have space to fill on your page.
    5. References
        • It is best to include references on a separate page or in your cover letter.
        • Only include them on your resume if the reference has a direct connection to the director you hope to work with.

Do Not Include:

      1. The word resume: that is a given.
      2. Do not include anything negative.
        • This is your place to highlight all the good things about yourself and your dancing. Don’t mention your reason for leaving previous companies if it is negative. This information might be asked of you in an application but is not something you should include on your resume. If you are asked this, you can simply say you wanted to go in a different direction or try something new.
      3. Hair and eye color
      4. Salary requirements
        • A resume is not the place to start salary negotiation. This can limit you chances of getting a job. Once a director has offered you a contract, you can start talking about salary. You will want to talk to the general manager about this.

Best of the Best: What Can You Do for the Company?

You have done your research on the company that you want to work with. Now, you need to tailor your resume to show how you fit the needs of this company. You want to find common connections with the target director and your training or performance experience. Show the relevant information that relates to a specific job and how you would be an asset if hired.

State what you can do for the company. You can include in your resume the position that you are looking for. If you would be willing to take an apprentice or swing position, state that as well.

If you have seen the artistic directors choreographic works before you can mention that in your cover letter.

Get Started

Identify the companies or positions you want.

Do your research on these to qualify if they would be a good fit and know what they are looking for.

Create a list of your experience to draw from while writing your resume. It can be helpful to write down everything because you will want to highlight different experiences according to the company or position you are applying for.


All your performance experience.

All the companies you have worked for.

All your dance education: studios, schools, workshops, training programs etc.

Stage and film acting experience.

Anyone you have worked with that knows your target director.

All awards and scholarships received.

Where applicable: look at the repertoire of the companies you are applying with and note any works that you have performed.

If your goal is to be a professional performer, you will need to go on lots of auditions, get your resume turned in to lots of companies and get your name out there. By attending classes, you will grow as a dancer as well as network. Many choreographers teach as well. If you want to work with a specific choreographer, try to take a class with them. Many dance companies have schools as well, take classes there!

If money is an issue, look into work study. Some studios offer scholarships or work study opportunities. If you are working with a company to take classes, you not only get classes and networking, but you will also learn about the behind the scenes work.

Work with renowned choreographers or instructors.

Identify similarities with schools and choreographers the company or director has worked with. Use this information to establish a connection which will make you more memorable.

Choose Your Format

There are many ways to organize your resume. The most important thing is to tailor each particular resume to the job you are applying for. Think about the position you want: choreographer, teacher, performer, etc. You resume should start with the most relevant information. If applying for a teaching position, highlight your teaching and leadership experience as well as your dance education. Also note that you need only include information about weight, height and age if you are applying for some type of performance job.

You can also think about details such as the type of font, the size of the text and the color of the paper.

There are two main was to organize your resume:
– The chronological method
– The functional method

Choose the method that best reflects your background and the interest of a potential employer. A functional resume would be good from a dancer with little performance experience that highlights skills rather than work history.

The Chronological Method

This method lists your work history in order. It is widely used, easy to organize and easy to read. This will show a strong work history in an organized way. Usually the order of the list starts with your most recent work at the top and then works down the page with previous work.

Use this method to highlight dates you have worked and choreographers and companies you have worked with.

The Functional Method

If you have little work background, are young, started dancing late or don’t have a strong background of performance, the functional method will work best. This way you can highlight your skills and not your lack of experience.

Where you have danced is more important than the dates. For this reason, you can put the dates on the end of a line on the right side of the page or omit them entirely, by using the functional method.

The main difference between the functional method and the chronological one is that with the functional resume the work history section is not included. This can work well for young dancers who have just graduated. However, this method can be used by anyone. It all depends on what you are trying to achieve.

This method will give you complete control over how you present yourself. You can highlight relevant experience or skills at the top.

The disadvantage of using this method is that it can create suspicion about lack of information.

When using the functional method, it is effective to write in the third person.

The Best of Both Worlds

You can combine the two methods to create your desired result. You can highlight when and where you have worked without strict guidelines or the need to simply list your work history in order. This can be a great way to organize your resume.

It will be helpful for your future resume writing and updating to keep a running chronological listing of your training and experiences. This is something you can draw from when you need to update a resume or write one that is very different from others you have done.

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