Professional Dance Training: Dance Agents, Part 1
“It’s gotten really competitive since the onslaught of the So You Think You Can Dancers,” said Tim O’Brien, dance agent and President of Clear Talent Group, of the current reality facing professional dancers in Los Angeles. When Master Dance Teacher Joe Tremaine recently sat down with Tim, and Shelli Margheritis of McDonald Selznick & Associates, two of the city’s top dance agencies, each of them opened up on what else dancers need to know when seeking representation and what the agents expect of them.
MAKING THE MOVE TO A LARGE MARKET
Agents recognize that making the move to Los Angeles or any large market, is a tough decision. They also admit that sometimes the only way for you to realize if it’s the right decision for you, is for you to make that move. If you plan to take that step, be prepared. Understand that this industry comes with a lot of rejection. It can be a lot of fun and it can be a great career, but it’s definitely not easy. Then, once you’re in that city, be sure to take class and get a feel for the flavor in that particular city, as each market has a different vibe.
MOVING TO L.A. / GETTING REPRESENTATION
Once you make the move, especially to Los Angeles, you will want to seek representation. Having an agent helps you hear about the best jobs, gets you in for agency auditions and helps protect you once you have booked the job. Each agency has their own guidelines for finding talent and receiving submissions from prospective talent. Some hold their auditions once or twice each year, you can find out the dates of those auditions by contacting them directly. Most talent agencies also accept submissions either electronically through e-mail or in hard copy format, but the role of digital media cannot be ignored. Due to the demands on each agent’s time, they usually prefer receiving links to performance reels posted to online sites such as YouTube, as this allows them to quickly review the dancers look and technique and efficiently share that link with the other agents in their office.
WHAT AGENTS LOOK FOR
Contrary to popular belief, agents have a wide range of what they seek in a dancer they want to represent, but a great look and that indescribable “it” factor always top the list. Remember that each and every project has different requirements, whether it be a niche forte or good, well-rounded dancers, and the agents goal is to fill those roles. They do warn however, to be on top of your game, especially if you are specialized. For instance, if you’re a b-boy, you better be the best b-boy and know all your tricks. They also stress the importance of technique. The more technique you have the farther your dance career will take you.\
AGENT’S JOB / YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES
An agent’s job is to represent talent and help guide their career. They do this by helping you choose the right headshots, helping craft your resume, getting your electronic breakdowns posted and prepping you for castings, which they then submit for projects that are being produced. Next steps include securing the audition, following up on the call back, finalizing the compensation negotiations for the dancer and the follow through for the rest of that production. In the meantime, they are already preparing you for the next project that will help progress your career. Shelli and Tim both stress that good communication is the biggest factor in having a successful relationship with your agent. It is your responsibility to keep them updated on your availability, the choreographers you have worked with, what your dream jobs are, etc., so they can pitch you for those projects and know that you will be available when they do. Always remember, you are your product, and your product is only as strong as the re-investment you make in it. Your agent is there to sell that product and the better they know your product, the better their rate of success.