Maybe you’ve just started dance classes or have danced for years and are thinking about your future – whatever the case, you’ve fallen in love with ballet and know there’s no way you’ll spend your life doing anything but dance. While this passion is essential to success, you’ll also need a practical mindset when it comes to crafting a dance career for yourself.
Having a career in dance is something that many people dream about, though it’s entirely possible with hard work, perseverance and some strategic planning. You’ll have to be resourceful, leave your comfort zone and really put yourself out there. But if you can do all that – and more – then you can have a rewarding career doing what you love and sharing it with others.
Read on to learn how you can start a dance career.
Dance Career: Finding Where You Fit
While the first dance career that most people probably think of is that of a professional dancer for a company, there are many different types of dance careers. Whatever your skill level or interests, there’s a profession that can suit you. The variety of careers includes dance teachers, choreographers, studio owners and college- and graduate-level professors of dance courses. The New York Film Academy also adds to this list dance medicine specialists, costume designers, dance photographers and arts administrators for dance companies.
If your heart is set on performing as a professional dancer, then you should consider the different ways that dance can fit into your life. Of course, there are opportunities to dance full-time, whether for a company, theater or opera show or other performing arts group. However, if you’re already set in one career path, you can incorporate dance into your life as a side job and work part-time teaching or performing. Teaching positions aren’t limited to just dance studios, either – you can find opportunities at public and private schools, universities, gyms and community centers.
The lesson to learn from this is that no matter your abilities, desires or schedule, you can find a dance career that works for you. The key to identifying a good match is being realistic about your strengths and skills – dance-related and otherwise – and thinking about how they can best be put to use so that you can thrive personally and professionally. Narrowing down which type of career you’d like to have will guide your journey and keep you on track.
Learn All You Can
To achieve the dance career of your dreams, you’ll need to be proactive. Don’t become complacent in your current classes or job – always be thinking about how you can learn more and make new connections.
Dance Informa magazine advised those aspiring toward a dance career to take initiative and be a leader. Other people are not responsible to getting you where you want to be – only you are! Whether you’re in school, on a summer break or handling a 9-5 job in another field, make sure you keep your skills sharp by enrolling in dance classes and taking fitness classes to stay in shape. Look for workshops and courses in areas and styles that you’re not familiar with to grow your skillset. If you’re interested in teaching as a career, ask around at local studios if they need assistant teachers or interns to help out. Seek out conventions, certification courses and other programs that will give you additional skills, knowledge and teaching or performance experience.
Landing a Contract
If a contract with a dance troupe or company is what you’re after, networking is key. Scouts and agents will frequently attend competitions, conventions and other events looking for new talent, so make sure you give every performance your all.
“I’ll keep my eye on dancers until they graduate high school if I’ve judged them in a competition,” said Steve Chetelat of talent agency Bloc in an interview with Dance Spirit Magazine.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and reach out to dance professionals, either. Terry Lindholm, co-owner of Go 2 Talent Agency, told the magazine that he recommends dancers thank the choreographer after convention classes and introduce themselves to assistants. Ask them about what they think is the most promising city for dancers to have a career performing or if they have recommendations for any fantastic agencies or programs you should connect with.
Dance programs at colleges and universities also provide valuable experience and connections, so if this is a course you’re considering, spend time researching which program is right for you. Once you’ve selected it, learn how to perfect your college dance audition.
While a dance career can be a reality, not just a dream, it’s important to have realistic expectations of the demands of this challenging profession. The Portland Ballet’s list of “15 Truths About Being a Professional Dancer” explains the sometimes harsh realities of a life devoted to dance. Remember that there’s always more to learn and that if you want to be successful, you need to prove that you are valuable by showing up early, working hard and knowing your routines inside and out. Don’t be afraid of working for free if you can gain valuable experience and connections. Know that you will make mistakes and fail sometimes, but be strong and pick yourself back up.
And above all, keep that passion for dance close to your heart – this is the one constant in the pursuit of a dance career. This love for dance will pick you up when you’re feeling down and help you bounce back after hard times. With a combination of practical preparation, strategy and passion, you can start a dance career.
Summer vacation means a break from school, but it shouldn’t mean a break from dance. The summer months are a great time to seek additional training opportunities that you wouldn’t have time for during the rest of the year. Dance intensives and workshops both provide fantastic opportunities to hone your skills and broaden your horizons, and are rewarding ways to spend your summer break and benefit your dance career.
Intensives are generally geared toward higher-level dancers, have a focused lesson plan and long duration- lasting anywhere from a couple weeks to a month. Workshops, on the other hand, are shorter, ranging from a single day to a weekend or full week, and are more open to dancers of all skill and experience levels. Each type of summer dance experience has its advantages, and it’s important to fully understand them in order to make the best decision for how to spend your break.
Define Your Goals
The first step to deciding between an intensive or a workshop is defining your goals. Make a list of why you want to attend a summer program and what specific skills you hope to gain from the experience. Ballet Scoop suggested asking yourself whether you want to just improve your technique or want exposure to college recruiters, directors and job opportunities. Do you want to add a new style of dance to your repertoire, or do you want to learn from a renowned instructor? Once you know what you want to get out of your summer dance experience, you can better evaluate which type of program is the most worthwhile.
Intensives are great for advanced dancers who are working toward the next phase in their careers. Intensives at a company school or university are designed to prep students for entry into a professional position or college career, and connect students with influential directors and decision-makers. Since many dancers attend intensives in a major city, they get a taste of what employment opportunities there are in that area, noted Dance Informa magazine. If dancers have their sights set on certain college programs, then attending an intensive at that school can help them form valuable connections and gain a better understanding of the skills and qualities most desired by the school, which gives them a leg up when audition times come around.
Alternatively, workshops are generally found locally in towns of all sizes. They are a great choice for younger dancers who have never been away from home before and for novice dancers or those looking for a fun dance experience with minimal commitment, since they typically focus more on different styles and techniques than career prep.
Scheduling and Costs
Another important factor to consider are the costs and schedule demands of each program type. Intensives generally cost much more than workshops, though the experience can be well worth the money. Dance Spirit magazine recommended that dancers consider any pre-arranged travel plans or other commitments that they may have during the summer when choosing a program, too. In some cases, a weekend workshop might be more feasible than a month-long intensive in a far-away city that offers little flexibility.
Dance intensives typically include more focused practices and lessons and stick to one style of dance, which is great for dancers looking to advance their skills and gain a professional edge. For dancers of all levels who are looking to learn a new dance style or jazz up their practice, workshops may be the better option, since they generally have a more laid-back environment that’s more open to experimentation. And being able to dance in multiple styles is a great advantage in college auditions. As Steps Dance Studio noted:
“Summer is your chance to move your body in different ways and try new styles. Nowadays, choreographers want to work with dancers that are versatile, who pick things up quickly and who can capture different styles immediately.”
Finally, dance intensives and workshops offer dancers different levels of personal development. Traveling away to an intensive gives dancers the chance to not only improve their skills, but grow as individuals. Dance Informa noted that intensives prepare students to be self-sufficient, which they’ll need to be as professional dancers, and to step beyond their comfort zones. The new and unfamiliar environment enables dancers to gain new perspectives and see themselves in a different light, which forms a stronger self-identity. Dance intensives also provide students with a rich sense of community and can help them form deep relationships with other dancers.
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to choosing a summer dance experience. Consider duration, costs and goals – both personal and dance-related – to make the best choice for you.
You’ve finally narrowed down the list of schools you’re going to apply to, and have been daydreaming about life after graduation and all the excitement that comes with growing and maturing as a dancer in a college program. Big things are on their way! But first, you have to get through the college dance audition process. The pressure is tough and the competition can seem intense, but there’s a better way to think about auditions. They’re a chance for your unique personality to shine and for you to get a better sense of whether the school is the right fit for you.
A typical college dance audition begin with a ballet class and is followed by solo performances, improvised performances, classes in other styles like jazz and contemporary and even an interview process. While nervousness is natural, don’t let your anxiety get in the way of showcasing all you have to offer as a dancer. Extensive research and preparation and a positive attitude are key to making the best impression and helping you stand-out from the rest of the pack.
Follow our tips below to perfect your college dance audition.
Do Your Homework
Every college dance program is unique, and judges want to see that you’re a good fit for their program. Spend time in the weeks leading up to your audition learning all you can about the college and its program, the types of courses it offers, the styles of dance it performs and its values and mission. Think about how you can contribute to the program, and which of your personal and dance qualities line up with its values. Having these kinds of answers ready will prove useful in the interview phase.
Once you register for the audition, you will receive a packet detailing the schedule and specific requirements of the audition and what will be expected of you. Pay attention to this document and refer back to it frequently, noting the requirements for your clothing, costumes, makeup and shoes, and whether you need to bring photographs of yourself, an audition tape or a dance resume. If you have a better idea of what to expect you will feel more confident, and following the requirements carefully shows you pay attention to the details, which is a quality of any great dancer.
Devote Time to Preparing Your Solo
The solo performance is usually only 90 seconds long. In this short time you have to show the judges who you are as a dancer, which can be overwhelming! To make sure you’re truly showcasing all that you have to offer, prepare and practice your solo far in advance of the audition. Heather Guthrie, the dance coordinator at Southern Methodist University, told DanceSpirit Magazine that she recommends starting to practice your solo at least two months in advance.
It’s fine to choreograph the dance yourself, or have a coach or instructor do it for you. Even if you do it yourself, make sure you’re practicing the dance in front of teachers and receiving feedback on it so you can make it the best it can be. Focus on showing your personality in the dance, and not the number of high-flying tricks you can do, since coaches want to see your spirit and style more than flashy skills. Make sure both your technical precision and presentation skills are as well-developed as they can be. And when the time comes to perform, take a deep breath, smile and go for it, knowing you’ve prepared as best you could.
Practice in Multiple Styles
A typical feature of a college dance audition is being asked to perform in a style other than your primary one, for example having to participate in a hip-hop or jazz class when you’re trained in ballet. This is because judges want to see that you’re versatile and can adapt quickly and confidently to new choreography. Prior to audition season, add a class or two in a different style to your schedule so you can get more comfortable dancing an unfamiliar genre and also get better at learning new skills and memorizing new routines quickly.
“Focus on personality in your solo dance, not your tricks.”
However, don’t drive yourself crazy trying to learn every style of dance on the planet. These tests are more to see how you dance and act in uncomfortable situations. “Our predominant technique is Graham,” said the dance chair at SMU Patty Harrington Delaney in an interview with DanceTeacher Magazine. “A lot of people have never done Graham before, and we know that. We’re looking for their openness to the direction, their attentiveness and spatial quality.”
Calm Your Nerves
Being nervous on the big day is normal, but it’s important to keep your nerves under control so they don’t impact the quality of your performance. Don’t think about all eyes being on you, but instead think about how you are talented and have prepared to the best of your ability. Remember why you dance – for the passion, the excitement and the ability to tell a powerful story through movement. Focus on the moment you are in, and not the next test or whether you are going to be accepted or not.
Follow these tips, then take a deep breath – you’ve got this!
Whether you’re auditioning for a high school dance team, studio competition team or a professional company, there’s no denying that auditions can be nerve-wracking. Chances are you’ll be jittery at the audition, but that doesn’t have to affect your performance! With the right attitude and plenty of preparation, you can channel your nervous energy into a powerhouse performance at audition time. Here are some tips on how to prepare for a dance audition.
Fine Tune Your Skills
Many studios and schools have auditions at the end of the season, but some wait until the beginning of the season, after summer break. Whether you’ve been on hiatus of not, make sure that your skills are up to snuff. It’s sometimes too easy to let dance and fitness slip your mind during a long break, and this can hurt your performance.
It may be helpful to videotape your audition piece, so that you can see for yourself the areas that need work. A basic video will do. Grab a smartphone, a volunteer, or a tripod (or even prop your phone up at a suitable height) and get a recording of your full routine from multiple angles so you can see what you may be missing. Work on any skills or techniques you’re not confident with or haven’t yet mastered.
Outside of rehearsal, use our tips to stay in shape during a break to balance fun with training. You don’t have to hit the gym every single day, but try to make healthier food choices and fit in some exercise. This will help your stamina when it comes time for your audition.
What to Wear
Once your skills are where they need to be, you can start thinking about other details, like what to wear and bring to your audition. Tiler Peck, a ballerina with the NYC Ballet, offers some great tips in the video below.
As Peck explained, it’s important that you wear something you’re comfortable in and that will show off your body. Do some run-throughs of your audition piece in your chosen ensemble. After all, you don’t want to risk a wardrobe malfunction or have the judges unable to see your clean lines.
When you’re packing your dance bag for the big day, make sure to include anything listed on the audition info sheet, like paperwork or particular shoes. If you are supplying your own music, make sure you bring it in whatever form is required, plus some form of backup in case something goes wrong. You’ll also want to stash a few emergency supplies, such as extra hair elastics, a spare pair of tights, hairspray, bandages and knee pads. Anything that you would bring to a dance competition will probably help you out at an audition.
Attitude is Everything
Your mindset the day of the audition is crucial not only to performing well, but also to making a good impression on the judges or directors. If you’re jittery, standoffish or rude – even unintentionally – it may hurt your chances of making the team or company.
“Sometimes we don’t even realize what emotion we’re portraying in class,” Jacquelyn Long of the Houston Ballet corps de ballet explained to Dance Spirit magazine. “Take a step back to think not only about your technique, but about what message you’re projecting.”
With this in mind, remember to always keep a smile on your face, even if you’re freaking out on the inside. Be polite and friendly to the other dancers, as they could be your teammates soon. You should also be gracious and take any criticism with an open mind.
Tips to Stay Confident
Need a little confidence boost on the big day? Use one of these tactics to pump yourself up:
Arrive early so you can scope out the audition room and do a few calming stretches.
Put in your headphones and listen to your favorite music. Channel your nerves into adrenaline.
Clear your mind. It won’t do you any good to dwell on what might go wrong.
Think positive thoughts. Picture yourself as a member of the team or company.
Remind yourself that every audition is a learning opportunity. Even if you don’t make it, you’ll come away a better dance.
Focus on dancing! After all, it’s what you love to do, so don’t let jitters ruin that.
One of the hardest lessons to learn as a dancer is how to handle rejection. It’s a part of everyone’s career, whether it comes early during competition team tryouts or later in life when you’re striving to go pro. Even Misty Copeland, a legendary ballerina who ended up becoming the first African American principal ballerina with the American Ballet Theatre, encountered rejection at some point along her path to greatness. In fact, her toils were highlighted in a viral video that was part of Under Armour’s “I will what I want” series.
The audition rejection letter read in the video is anything but sugar-coated. The school essentially told Copeland that she would probably never be a ballerina, and those harsh words are often enough to crush a young hopeful’s dreams.
So how do you shake off a bad audition rejection latter and get back on pointe? Here are some tips that will help you bounce back from even the most disappointing audition rejection letter.
Shake it Off
It’s hard not to take rejection personally, but Pointe Magazine recommended that dancers keep in mind that their art form is subjective. One director may not see your potential, but there’s probably someone out there that will – which is why you shouldn’t give up! However, you’re going to have to shake off your post-rejection slump if you want to further your career. Here are a few tips that will help you shake off the bad news:
Ask for Feedback: Make the most of an unpleasant experience. Ask what you could have done better and what areas you can improve in.
Banish Negative Thoughts: It’s easy to let unsavory thoughts creep into your mind after being rejected. “What if I’m a bad dancer? Should I just give up?” Get these thoughts out of your head. Instead, think about positive feedback you’ve received and your strengths as a dancer.
Do Something Fun: One of the easiest ways to perk yourself up when you’re in a slump is to do something you enjoy. Don’t rush right back into the studio – take a day and do something fun with your friends.
Take Your Next Steps
Once you’ve taken a few days to come to terms with the rejections, it’s important that you pick yourself up and take your next steps. Reevaluate your goals as a dancer: Do you want to try out for another dance team or company? Or should you just focus on improving your skills and auditioning again next year? Chances are that if you use the feedback you were given and dedicate yourself to improving problem areas, you have a good shot at being accepted in the future.
“Because we’re dealing with young adults, a great deal can change over the course of just six months,” Ethan Stiefel, dean of the dance program at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, explained to Pointe Magazine. “I would encourage a student who’s been rejected to work hard and re-audition the following year, because they may have made huge leaps and bounds.”
Work with your teacher or coach to create a plan to achieve your new goals, and then get to work! Rejection is only the end of your road if you let it be.
If you’re going to pursue a professional career in dance, then you’re going to need an impressive dance resume. This document is a tool that will help you land auditions, impress directors and get discovered, so you need to make sure it’s as perfect as can be.
As with a normal CV, your dance resume needs a header that outlines your personal information. This includes your full name, phone number, email and address. Dance Spirit magazine also recommended that you include your date of birth, height and weight in your header.
Writing up your header is the easy part! Next, you’ll need to outline any and all dance training that you’ve received. In this section, you’ll want to list any schools, colleges, intensives, camps or conservatories that you’ve attended. Include the years you were there, the classes you took and what skill level you attained. When you’re listing training, start with the most recent experience and work in reverse chronological order.
If you have a lot of different training, feel free to leave out unrelated experiences. So if you’re auditioning for a professional ballet company, it’s more important to list a ballet-focused summer intensive than the musical theater camp you attended in high school.
Experience and Performances
Next up on your dance resume should be any professional experience and performances. Include any companies or groups you were part of, as well as any commercials, music videos or shows you were in. Dance Spirit suggested that you include the name of the choreographer and the role you played in shows. However, make sure to format show titles correctly.
If you’re just starting out as a professional dancer, this area might be a bit sparse. While no one likes to have an empty resume, you don’t need to list your recital performances just to take up space. List relevant experience only – if you’re low on items, you can include more details or simply fill out your resume in other sections.
This is also a good place to list any teaching or choreographing experience you may have. If you’ve been a teacher’s assistant or led a preschool class, feel free to include it! However, if your experience is extensive – more than one or two items – you may want to create a separate section for it.
It’s one thing to dance, but it’s another to have received acclaim for your performances. You’ll stand out from other candidates if you include an accolades or awards section on your professional resume. There’s no need to list every competition you’ve ever competed in, but highlight your most impressive accomplishments. So first place for your solo at a regional competition is a good item to include, while first place at your school talent show can be left out.
Another way that you can make yourself more appealing to those reviewing your resume is to list your special skills. What can this include? Here are a few skills worth noting:
Fluency in a second language
Other related sports, such as figure skating or yoga.
Remember to keep these points relevant to the position you’re applying for – don’t jot down anything that pops into your head just to take up space.
General Resume Tips
Once you’ve written up your resume, take a few more minutes to ensure it’s eye-catching with these tips:
Be consistent when formatting the size, font and spacing.
Keep your resume to one page if possible.
Don’t forget to attach a professional headshot.
Leave off references unless specifically requested.
Double- and triple-check your spelling and grammar.
When your advanced dancers apply to a summer intensive, conservatory or dance company, they’re probably going to come to you for help crafting an audition video. An increasing number of dance schools and troupes ask for videos from applicants to help them quickly assess skills, technique and overall fit. However, the process of putting together a professional and impressive audition video can be challenging if you don’t have much experience with technology. Here are some dance audition tips that will help students and their teachers to create impressive audition videos:
Pick an Appropriate Piece
The first big decision that dancers need to make is what they should perform for the video audition. Some institutions may detail what they’d like to see in the video. But, other times the choice will be left to the performer.
Advise your dancer to choose a piece that is appropriate for the school or company. Meaning, don’t perform a jazz piece when applying to a ballet school. It should also be a piece that showcases the dancer’s individual strengths and is a good representation of skill level.
Some experts recommend that dancers include a variety of clips to show off their range of skills.
“I have found that showing a variety of styles and clips that include strong acting along with the dancing make for a more interesting product,” Barry Kerollis, a former dancer with the Pacific Northwest Ballet, explained to Dance Informa. “You need to have some flash, but then you need to have the depth in technique and character to back it up.”
If your dancers have well-shot clips from past performances, it may be worthwhile to make a video compilation. If you choose to go this route, make sure you have access to professional editing software to stitch the clips together.
Carefully Select Your Attire and Backdrop
Once you’ve helped your dancer decide on the best piece to perform, it’s time to iron out the logistics of filming. Dance Advantage recommended that dancers chose a clean space that has a lot of natural light. A studio with a wall of windows may be one good option. Alternatively, you can bring in lighting equipment to make sure the video adequately captures your movements.
There should also be some thought put into the performer’s outfit. Dance magazine suggested that dancers wear form-fitting attire with minimal frills. Hair should be pulled back and neat. Make sure that the dancer stands out against the background. If she’s dancing in a room with black walls, a black leotard will make her blend into the background.
Find a Videographer and a Consultant
The person who ultimately films the video should ideally have experience behind a camera. Most dancers don’t hire professional videographers, but it’s a good idea to ask a video-savvy friend to film the performance. This will ensure that the clip is focused and steady – both of which make a big difference when the director or choreographer reviews the video.
Dance Advantage also recommended that a teacher or studio owner be present while the video is filmed. Videographers don’t always understand which aspects of a performance are most important, and a dance professional can serve as a type of consultant, pointing out what angles and shots would be best.
Formatting the Video
When stitching together the final video, use these tips to ensure it captures the attention of the viewers:
Keep the video as short as possible. Five minutes is a good length, especially for entry-level dancers.
Include text overlay at the beginning of the tape that details the dancer’s name, age, web address and contact information.
Put your strongest clips first, just in case the viewer stops watching halfway through.
Dance Informa noted that dancers should never digitally alter their appearances in videos, as this may be seen as deception.
Contact the school or company to see what final format they would like to receive the video in.