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, 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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A Parent’s Guide to the World of Dance Education

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Anyone can open a dance studio. No license or special training is required. In fact, neither the owner nor instructors even need to know how to dance. This is why it is important to learn as much as possible about dance training before you invest time and money for yourself or your child.

Because of the variation in studios and classes, a child can study dance for years, only to sadly discover when he or she reaches high school or college, that they lack the proper training to achieve their goals. Many people take years of lessons and only learn choreography rather than technique or styles of dance.

However, in spite of the lack of specific licensing or training requirements, there are many outstanding dance studios with talented instructors. By learning what to look for, you can find the quality classes and instructors that will meet your needs. Finding the proper professional instruction is not only the first step in making the best use of your investment of time and money, but also the first step toward achieving your dreams or those of your child.

You are entitled to the best instruction out there, and you can find it!

First, the level of a class can vary immensely from one facility to another. A beginner level class at one studio could be an intermediate class at another.

In general there are six categories:
•   Pre-dance
•   Beginner (no dance experience necessary)
•   Advanced beginner (some dance background)
•   Intermediate
•   Advanced
•   Professional

There are also six different types of studios:

Neighborhood Studio
The local studio is usually found in a strip mall or commercial building. The quality of instruction can vary greatly. Some can be a waste of time, while others can equal that of professional academies.

Make sure you visit the studio, ask questions, watch the teacher during classes, and ask yourself a few questions:
•   Does the instructor keep the class under control?
•   Do you want to dance like the students in the class?

Usually these studios offer class levels from pre-dance to intermediate. Some schools offer advanced classes and talented, well-trained instructors. You just have to check them out.

Academic or Performing Arts Schools
These schools offer both academic education and concentrated dance instruction. Many schools also teach voice and music.

Admission is generally by audition and although there may be some scholarships available, tuition is considerable. Arts schools are for the serious performer.

Competition Studios
Many different levels exist here as well, but there are two main categories:
•   Competition Studios that emphasize technique and excellent training in order to win titles and prepare dancers for their future, which have class levels ranging from pre-dance to professional.
•   Competition Studios that teach routines to win titles. Routines are fun, but in order to learn how to dance, a student must spend time learning the basic movements and dance technique. In a studio like this, a student can spend an enormous amount of time taking numerous classes and learningmany routines, only to get to college and find that they are totally lacking any practical training in dance.

In order to tell the difference between the types of Competition Studios, ask questions:
•   How much class time is spent on learning technique?
•   How much is spent on routines?
•   How many routines do the students learn a year?
•   Do many of the students go on to dance professionally or in college?

You may not currently be thinking about whether you or your child will want to become a professional dancer 15 years from now. But wouldn’t you rather spend time and money toward gaining actual training in the art form of dance?

Competition Studios may have many extra costs like costumes, shoes and entry fees. But don’t get discouraged. Many people love competitions and find them to
be a rewarding experience after they get involved. Just make sure to ask questions so you know what you’re getting into. The studio can provide an approximate cost for being in competitions. Look for items such as costumes, shoes, tights, accessories, entry fees and travel costs.

National Chains and Franchise Schools
Many of these schools teach social dancing and are typically for adults. In general, levels range from beginner to intermediate.

National Chains and Franchise Schools can be a great way to spend time with a partner. However, since partners are not required, they can also serve as an excellent place to socialize.

Some of these schools have expensive contracts, so make sure you check out the time and monetary commitments that are required before signing any paperwork.

Professional Schools
The professional studio is where the serious dancer eventually needs to go. They are usually located in or near major cities, and offer beginner to professional level classes.

The curriculum includes:
•   Ballet
•   Jazz
•   Modern
•   Pointe
•   Tap

Most teachers at these schools are professionals. Many are choreographers and active members in the dance community. However, be aware that talented dancers do not automatically make talented instructors. Always observe the teacher in class or take a sample class before committing to class registration.

Specialty Schools
These studios usually focus on one type of dance. Ballet and pointe are often found at specialty studios. Many of these schools have very knowledgeable teachers and offer classes extending up to the professional level.

Most have their own dance company or are associated with a major ballet troupe.

Group and Private Lessons
Beginner students should start with group lessons. They need to learn to move in relation to the space and other dancers around them. Beginners can feel intimidated by a one-on-one setting. For beginners who are afraid of being singled out, there is definitely safety in numbers. Groups also build a sense of camaraderie, competition and confidence. Many times it is simply more fun to dance in a group.

Advanced students can also benefit from private lessons. At some point, they may need help in refining their movements and fixing bad habits. Private lessons can be beneficial if the student needs special choreography for an audition or has a particular physical problem. These classes can be expensive so make sure they are needed before making a commitment.

Some instructors give exceptional individual help during group lessons by watching a student’s movements and correcting their positioning and form. Other students in the class also benefit from the individual corrections because they can see what the teacher is talking about with another dancer. They can then transfer that knowledge to self-correct their own form and technique.

Combination Classes
Combination classes can be a way of exposing a child to many types of dance, but can also be more costly and confuse the child. If your child is in a combination class, that may mean more money for shoes and recital costumes.

Each type of dance has its own warm up, movements, apparel and music. When several types of dance are incorporated into one class, the child may spend too much time changing shoes, shifting from one thing to another and starting over with a new type of dance. This may be a waste of time for some students.

Extra Costs
Some studios require a month’s tuition up front. This is the norm and compensates the instructor, should you happen to leave unexpectedly. Some schools also allow students to make up a missed class, but this policy depends on the facility.

Recitals can be pricey and time consuming. Costumes, shoes, makeup, pictures, videos of the show and tickets to the recital can add up. You don’t have to participate in the recital, but if you do not, you or your child may feel left out. The costs can vary greatly, so ask the studio about the exact charges as soon as possible before spending months taking lessons. Recitals can blossom into wonderful experiences and fun memories, but just know what you’re getting into.

Most dance schools host a yearly dance recital. Recitals require a huge time commitment for drilling and perfecting routines, and this leaves little time for actual training. However, there are many chances to perform in addition to the end of the year recital. Check to see what opportunities are available at the school you are considering. Some schools have one recital every other year to allow more focus on technique training. There are studios that teach technique and different styles of dance while also teaching creatively choreographed routines. Again, do your homework and be prepared for exactly what will be offered at a particular studio.

Always ask about special promotions, as some schools offer the following:
•   Class cards that can be used for any class and give you a reduced rate
•   Discounts to professional dancers
•   Discounts when more than one person in your family attends classes
•   Free trial classes or workshops
•   Off-season discounts
•   Scholarships
•   Work study programs

Community centers often have simple, inexpensive dance classes. The levels available are usually beginner to advanced beginner. They may not have mirrors or bars but they can still be a good place to get started. However, be very careful about the type of flooring. You should never dance on concrete!

Where to find dance classes:
•   YMCA
•   Community Center
•   Community Colleges
•   Major Universities
•   Health Clubs

Many health clubs offer hip-hop or funk aerobics classes. This is a great way to get in shape and exercise. Health clubs and community center memberships also come with other perks such as stationary machines and pools. Again, check out the class before signing up for a year. Some hip-hop or funk classes are an excellent challenge for trained dancers, while others are a better fit for beginners. Classes vary greatly by the instructor, and most health clubs allow a free week or trial pass so that before making a commitment, you can check out the facilities and exactly what the club offers.

Dance workshops are invaluable because they expose students to new styles and diverse instructors. Instructors travel all over the country to teach at workshops. It gives dancers from small communities the opportunity to take classes with instructors from Los Angeles and New York, and many different levels of classes are offered.

Workshops vary in cost according to venue, reputations of instructors and number of classes offered. You can find listings for workshops on this website in the directory section. Dance magazines such as Dance Spirit, Dance Teacher, and Dance Magazine are great places to find a multitude of workshops.

Many companies, such as Hollywood Vibe, offer workshops in many different cities. Some combine competitions and workshops for a weekend event. Dancers may complete a day of competition followed by two days of workshops, or they may opt to do just the competition or workshop alone.

Students can go with their studio, team or as an individual. Workshops can be a wonderful opportunity to meet students from different areas, establish new friendships and make great connections. For the serious dancer, the networking can be invaluable.

Workshops also rent space to vendors where you can get new practice wear and keep up with trends.

The Instructor
The dance teacher is the most important factor in getting a quality dance education. Exposure to different instructors and choreographers is also
important. Some studios offer diverse instructors or bring in guest teachers and master teachers.

It is important that your instructor participates in continuing education. Instructors who stay up-to-date on changing styles and new trends will ultimately keep their students updated as well. A teacher who constantly challenges him or herself to grow will be a great inspiration for students to do the same.

Look for a bulletin board at the studio where there may be job listings, auditions, workshops and other opportunities. This can be a good indication that the studio and the instructors are involved in the dance community outside of that particular school. Ask the teacher if he or she takes classes, seminars or training programs.

It is essential that an instructor have basic knowledge of anatomy and an understanding of injuries common to dancers. Ask the instructor about his or her background and training. Although this information can be useful for a student who aims to become a professional, it is not essential that an exceptional teacher have formal training or experience. Some instructors may be very talented and accomplished dancers but not necessarily talented teachers. Effective teaching must involve a compassion and patience that is not necessarily present in every instructor. In addition, an instructor who teaches young children must not only love dance, but children as well. A college degree in dance or a professional career is not an essential requirement. Training can be obtained through many avenues such as workshops, classes, reading, seminars and exposure to professionals.

Make sure to observe or attend a class so that you can watch the instructor inaction. The teacher should always have a class do warm up exercises before getting into more active movement.

Length of Class
Classes should be at least one hour long, with the exception of creative movement for young children. Students should have enough time to warm up, do combinations, skills and get corrections.

A talented instructor is the most important part of your dance education. However, there are also some things to look for in the actual facility.

For ballet classes, there should be a bar which can be attached to the wall or freestanding supported bars. Some schools may not have bars if they do not offer ballet classes.

Mirrors are an important tool for learning movement and spacing, as well as learning from other dancers. A mirror will help the instructor see the movements of the dancers even when he or she is teaching a combination while facing away from the students.

The Floor
The best flooring is one that floats on spacers and allows for give upon impact.

Some floors are linoleum laid on top of wood. This can acceptable, as long as it is not too slippery. Other schools use a roll out rubber flooring over existing floors to absorb impact or to protect wood floors when they teach tap classes. This canbe adequate, but students may have a hard time turning on the surface if it is too sticky.

Neither you nor your child should ever dance on concrete floors. Dancing on concrete can cause permanent damage to joints that may not become evident until later in life. Many dancers who started out as children on bad floors find themselves plagued with injuries as young adults. Concrete has no give and can cause shin splints as well as joint and back problems. Some floors are simply concrete with thin wood flooring on top and those floors are also likely to result in injuries.

Make sure to watch for:
•   Open space (the size must be large enough for the number of students in each class to have room to move freely)
•   Clean floors (stretching as a well as many routines include movements on the floor)
•   Windows or a ventilation system
•   Air conditioning or fans for summer classes
•   Watch for pillars or partitions in studio areas (which can cause a collision problem)
•   Clean changing facilities, with separate areas for boys and girls
•   Sound system, some ballet schools will offer live accompaniment (this is not a requirement; however it is a great experience if a school offers it)

•   What are you willing to pay for lessons and the extras that go along with them?
•   What are your immediate and long-term goals?
•   What level of instruction do you need?
•   What type of facility will best serve your needs?

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Great Costumes for Less

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By Jill Swenby

If you are a dance teacher looking to purchase recital costumes but are frustrated by the high prices, the Costume Closet may be just the right alternative for you. Costume Closet is an online dance costume catalog that allows dance teams to consign costumes for their team, and sell or rent them to other teams.

This set up allows dance teams to save up to 60% off the original retail price. Consignment costumes average $15-20, and rentals cost on average $15-23. With over 1,000 costumes in stock, they have a wide range of costumes that cansuit any team’s needs. How does it work?

Dance teams have the Costume Closet custom design costumes specific to their needs.
“Teachers send in ideas and designs. We have someone who can produce the costumes,” said Amber, the Costume Closet owner. They can alter costumes made by name brands such as Watercolour, Marcea, Kelle’, Capezio, Body Wrappers and more. Costume Closet does not carry children’s sizes, only adult.

After using the costumes, dance teams can sell or rent them to other teams through the Costume Closet website.
The Costume Closet shares the profit with the dance team that sells the costumes. As a dancer herself, Amber says that this is a great way for dance teams to raise money.

Other teams can rent or buy these costumes.
This saves them money and makes money for the team that is selling. If a team wants to rent a costume, they just need to fill out the rental agreement, and they can rent the costumes for one month.

“We send it out. They wear it, clean it, and return it,” says Amber. If a customer is sent the wrong item, they have 7 days to return it for the correct item. The best time to place orders for spring is between October and December.

Having been around since 1997, the Costume Closet has provided costumes for a variety of teams and seen a lot of changing styles. When asked about style, Amber said, “They’re getting away from a lot of the sequins and stuff…well…but then again they’re coming back in style.”

Because the Costume Closet has a constantly changing assortment, they do not have a printed catalog. Their only catalog is online. As styles change, so do dance costumes and the Costume Closet has come up with a great way to get beautiful costumes for less and help dance teams fundraise at the same time.

For more information, you can call the costume closet at 1-800-319-7317 or visit their website at

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For many dance programs funding is an issue. Most need to do some fundraising. By keeping things planned and organized, you can get your goals achieved with out a lot of time or headache.

1) Set goals for individuals and the group.
2) Set up your fundraising events as team bonding time.
3) Keep records on dancer.
4) Ask parents for help, tall them why you are fundraising.
5) Be specific. Focus on what you fundraising for. Costumes? A trip to nationals?
6) Have dancers ask family and friends to help.

When choosing fundraisers keep in mind the age of your students and whether their parents will help out.

Fundraising Ideas:
• Concession sales: most professional sports teams play at arena where concessions are sold at least in part by people fundraising for groups.
• Food Sales: cookie dough, pizzas, etc.
• Sell Holiday wreaths.
• Annual Dance Show: invite other dance teams and dance studios to perform. Pre sell as many tickets as you can. This is also good exposure for your team.
• Raffle: Get local business to donate prizes. Have raffles and school sporting events.
• Car Wash: Pre-sell tickets.
• School Dance: Host an annual dance.
• Donations: Ask the Lion’s Club, Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, and other local businesses.
• Sponsorship/donation letter: Write a letter about the team and what you are raising money for. People can give gifts of any size. Letters can go to families, friends and local business.

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Essential Kit for Competitions and Shows

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Here is a list of an essential kit you should always have with you at competitions, conventions, shows, etc:

  • First aide kit (you can get a kit with everything you need at Target)
  • Bandages and ice packs
  • Make up such as: lip stick, eyeliner, eye shadow, blush, powder, bronzer, and eyelash glue
  • Fake eyelashes
  • Eyelash curler
  • Hair spray
  • Bobbie pins
  • Hairties
  • Hair gel
  • Hairnets
  • Comb and brush
  • Nail polish remover
  • Nail clippers
  • Nail file
  • Clear nail polish for runs in tights
  • Scissors
  • Needle and thread
  • Safety pins
  • Tape: regular and double-sided
  • Baby/makeup wipes
  • Feminine products

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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, 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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Marketing Your Dance Studio

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By Debra Gilbert

You have finally gained the experience and the financial backing it takes to run your own dance studio. Congratulations! Now comes one of the hard parts: marketing it to an audience to gain clientele. Here is an outline of ideas that one can use in starting up your dance studio and with the economic hardships of our time, some of these ideas are fairly inexpensive, if not free!

Word of mouth: Obviously you have the skills and possibly already have a few potential dancers lined up already, but it really is not enough. To start off, you need to create a snappy catch phrase that will have the dancers sashaying through those doors. The more creative, yet simplistic that you are with your catch phrase, the more buzz it will create. Once you have a catch phrase intact, ask your friends and fellow dancers to spread the word about your studio. Also, do not be afraid to make a scene! Enter your dancers into showcases and neighborhood shindigs so the audience will see the kind of training they should be looking for!

Hit the pavement: It is time to go old school. Design and make some fliers with all the info about your dance studio. This kind of advertising will be cheap, if not free, and shows dedication and creativity. Then, gather some friends and hit the streets. Hang up fliers in heavy foot-traffic areas, preferably outside and inside colleges and local businesses (where advertising is allowed) so potential dancers will be sure to notice the posting. Hand out fliers along the way to prospective students. In addition, to make business cards can be costly, but will make your studio appear and feel professional.

Go paperless: Another way this all can be done and environmentally friendly is sticking to the Internet, which in truth, is the probably the most effective way to draw attention. Spread your name across websites that offer free advertising (like the website that you are on right now). The more your name is out there, the more questions will arise as to who you are.

Build a website. This can be inexpensive to costly, depending on the website design. Even though you want an eye-catching display for your readers, keep in mind that it does not need to be an eyesore. Also, create MySpace and Facebook profiles for your studio. You want to get as much free advertising as you can get. Make your website and profiles fun! Take pictures of your studio, the dancers, and the instructors. Have all the info readily available for classes offered, times, dates, dance levels, costs, contact info and bios. Your site will benefit from mentioning awards that you, your instructors and/or your students have won.

Another sure way to have your studio booming is to make a video to market your dance space. Provide an introduction, a small tour and some dance pieces that include your work. Post it up on YouTube (and include the link or have it embedded onto your website if you decide to build one). Making the video can be rather expensive unless you have connections with a local filmmaker that will be willing to shoot your video for cheap or for free (it does not hurt to bargain either; offer them some free classes in exchange).

The main thing to keep into consideration is that you want to target new, semi-professional, and regional dancers. Although most students will be beginners, you want to focus on the styles that the studio offers at that level. Be available and hospitable to answer questions and offer to set up tours of your studio. Break a leg!

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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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