Auditions · Dance · Life of

10 Professional Dancer Truths

  1. Sometimes you will have to work for free – Every professional dancer, at one point or another, has had to work for free. Just be sure that you are happy before you commit.  There are many good reasons, like building resume, working with specific choreographers, creating favors, getting exposure, making connections, or just because it will bring you joy.  Be sure you understand the commitment and the financial part before committing.
  2. Don’t ever walk out of a gig – The performing arts world is really small.  Especially with social networking.  If you walk out of a show, or leave a gig, expect to never put it on your resume or anyone attached to that gig.  You have officially burned yourself.  It used to be that we choreographers and directors knew someone who knew someone in order to find out about a performer.  For instance, I may look at your resume and see that you worked at North Shore Theater.  Well, I just have to pick up the phone (or text) to get a number to someone you have worked with in order to find out what it’s like to work with you.  Nowadays, I can just private message anyone in the field, even if I don’t know them, in order to ask about you.  If you walked out of a gig, you have ruined your chances of getting work because no one wants to be put in that position, and that’s exactly “what you do”, put us all in bad positions.  You have ruined your good name for good.
  3. You will work with people from different backgrounds – Not everyone is from a ballet background or a competition dancer background.  Some wonderful performers only have high school drama experience and some were in competition dance teams. Either way, your choreographer needs to mold you to all look like the picture she wants.  That means some dancers may take more time than others or more direction, and sometimes that person is you.  Be patient, and always learn from everyone’s notes.  We don’t all like Balanchine arms.
  4. The truth varies with who is in charge – on an amateurish level, people will argue over which ballet school is best, which tap format is best, or if the step is called a calypso, firebird, or a stag.  Either way, the right way is based on who is in charge.  Listen, you’ll get lots of different names for things as you dance.  And honestly, not one person cares what style of ballet you learned.  All we care about is are you good enough to dance my pieces. Learn the vocabulary and style of the choreographer you have.  The more malleable you are, the more employable you are.  If Phil-The-Choreographer wants to call a pas de chat a bababida, then that is what you will call it.  Clean technique, healthy bodies, positive outlooks, and stylistically flexible dancers are the most hire-able.
  5. Value the work and you’ll be valued – Show up early, be prepared, keep your negative opinions to yourself, be helpful, perform full out.  If you don’t, someone else will, and they will get the gig next time, not you.  
  6. There will always be people who don’t like you – This is a world of rejection.  Always work on improving your technique and learn/learn/learn.  But don’t base your inner value on the opinions of others.  They may not like your body, your height, your style, your look, but as long as you do the other truths on this list, you’ll work eventually.  Keep a still upper lip, go back to class, and go to the next audition.
  7. You will fail, too – Fail means learn.  If you don’t know how, find someone to teach you.  Be hungry about the art, then get brave, try, fail, learn, be brave again, try again, fail, learn and keep going until you succeed.  This also means how to audition.  If you fail, keep going to auditions, any audition, so that you keep practicing auditioning.  Eventually, you’ll succeed.
  8. Someone is always ‘better’ than you, and you are always ‘better’ than her – ok.  Stop for a moment.  If you are focused on who is better, you should go into casting, not performing.  A rose has a better scent than a tulip, and always will, but the tulip comes in more variety of colors and patterns.  Be your best version of you, keep blossoming, and don’t droop. Water yourself, smell nice, be the best version of you, and you’ll go into someone’s dance bouquet.
  9. You will not like everything you dance – In fact, in order to put food on your table and really be successful, I hope you will not limit yourself to only dance styles you enjoy.  You can make amazing relationships and connections if you are willing to dance styles and pieces that may not be in your heart and soul.  There may not be a tomorrow, so take the gig, give your best performance, and hope that you will never have to do a ‘trampoline dance,’ ever again.
  10. Dance takes work and dedication – This is the most important.  I have noticed many dancers decide when they get to a certain point in their education that they don’t need to continue going to class because they ‘already know how.’  Here is the thing:  at one point in your dance career, you will know enough to dance almost anything, but you still need to stay in shape, keep the mind sharp, and practice so you keep up your perfection.  No class is too easy, and you can always practice and practice to better yourself.  If you’re not interested in the dedication, you’re really not interested in the art.  A painter doesn’t stop painting because he has used all the colors there are; he continues to paint, discovering other ways colors can go in and out of each other and keeping the talent strong.
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