Dance: Advice from Industry Professionals Part 2
WORDS OF WISDOM
Have you ever wondered:
- What do other Dancers wish they would have known when they first started?
- What did that successful working Dancer learn along the way that helped boost their career?
- What does my Agent need most from me to help them get me the jobs I really want?
- What was that Choreographer thinking during the last audition?
Great advice from others in your industry, especially those with many more years experience, is invaluable to advancing your career. It keeps you grounded in what is important, what could be important to you in the future and what might serve you best to avoid along the way.
Keri LaGrand, a long time dancer, educator and choreographer, said it took her a long time to realize that communication with her agent was key. She wishes she would have known from the beginning that no one was going to be calling her, telling her what to do and taking care of her. Calling the agency, asking what they needed from her and staying on top of it, is a process she would have started a lot earlier. Not understanding that they have to communicate with their agent is the biggest mistake a lot of dancers make, says Clear Talent agent Tim O’Brien. The agents job is to give you information so you are ready for the audition, but the dancers job is to let your agent know what you are doing, how you are doing, if your hair changes, etc. This allows them to best represent you.
“Don’t lose your passion,” says 42 year veteran dancer and choreographer Jerry Evans. Obviously you started your journey loving the dance, which is why you chose to pursue it as a career. However, if you don’t love the dance, don’t come to L.A. and don’t start. You have to understand that it is a commercial industry and it’s all about what is “commercial” and what they can sell. It’s not an artistic world or about whether you are the best dancer. Sometimes, even though you are the best dancer, you may not work because it’s about a type, or about who is working, or about how sellable you are at that time. Agent Tim O’Brien adds that the common mistake he sees dancers make is not being fully ready. Just because you’re the best dancer in your studio does not mean that you are ready to move to a big city, or that you have the right tools to successfully pursue a professional career.
The strongest suggestion in preparing yourself, especially for dancers who haven’t graduated high school yet, is to take advantage of the summer intensive programs, says agent Shelli Margheritis of MSA. These programs will give you an opportunity to get a feel if that city is right for you and if the dance industry environment that is being presented feels like the right fit for you. While there, also take advantage of some of the other professional studios in the area that may offer classes from some of the choreographers you may soon be working with in the potential future. All these things allow you to see if that is where you will be comfortable living and pursuing your career. These trips are also a great time to look into scholarship programs available at both the professional studio and collegiate level.
In preparing for auditions, professional dancer from recent projects such as Step Up Revolution, Rock of Ages and Rihanna’s Loud Tour, Tony Bellissimo, reminds dancers that music is a necessity to dance. The reason we dance is music. You need to listen to your music, all types of music, and really listen to it. Harness it and get it into your soul and your system so that when you hear a beat your body just moves naturally. In addition, dancer Lindsay Webb emphasizes the importance of establishing a stable and supportive home base for yourself. A place where you can relax and be yourself. Where you are surrounded by your friends and roommates and avoid the possible toxicity of the outside world.
Glee choreographer Zach Woodlee offers some of the strongest advice to dancers which is to stay true to yourself and not try to become a character you’re not, because it may come off as fake. As a choreographer, he also offers this extremely important audition tip – listen to the choreographer or director at auditions. Dancers who are doing their own thing during the audition are actually hurting their chances. Focus on the purpose of that audition. If the audition is casting for a group of 15 dancers, they need all the dancers to be able to work within a unit of 15. They don’t need a soloist right now. Maybe they will have a need for a soloist in the future that you will be perfect for, but at this audition, stay focused on what they asked from you.
Talk to as many dancers, choreographers, directors, and other industry professionals, in front of as well as behind the cameras, as you can, as this will allow you to gain more insight into your craft. Most people will be happy to give you advice if you approach them at the appropriate time, and you never know which bit of information may help you land your next job. However, choose your advisers and the advise you use carefully. Each person will benefit differently at different times along their journey.