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.