How To Be A Professional Dancer
To be a professional dancer is to live a dream. Whether you are dancing as a back up dancer to a huge named artist performing on stage in front of sold out stadiums or traveling the 7 seas as a dancer for a cruise line. There are lots of opportunities to make money through dance, however, there are definitely some aspects that you should consider if you want to try to make a career out of it. The dance industry is extremely cut throat. Getting your foot in the door is the hardest part. You WILL face 100 rejections before you get you first acceptance. Some auditions you will go to you won't even get an opportunity to dance because you will be cut from the moment the director sees you because you won't be the "look" that they are looking for.
This is a career which you must have thick skin, a great self-esteem, and unmatched determination.
It doesn't matter if you are 9 years old or 20 years old below are a few things you should do right now before you make the journey to become a successful dancer in today's industry.
1. MAKE A YOUTUBE ACCOUNT
In today's world youtube has changed the dance industry in a phenomenal way. You would be surprised how many dancers will land awesome dance jobs for commercials, tour, or music videos straight from their youtube videos. You need to put yourself out there. Youtube is the easiest way to market yourself. Building a following is the biggest weapon you can bring when you go to an audition.
Look at Chachi Gonzalez for example. She was in the IAMME Dance Crew at this last season of ABDC and truly capitalized on establishing a huge following online. Side the fact that she has her neat Chachi Mommas pants. Chachi will never have a problem finding an artist, commercial to dance for because her following on youtube is so large.
Can you imagine putting out a dance video right when you go to bed, then waking up the next day to learn you already have 3000, 5000, or even 10,000 views? Having an online following gives you so much of an advantage at auditions because it gives true credibility to your name, your personal brand of leadership, and your skill. Frequency is the key with YouTube and it's not just about having account. It's about posting videos on the regular whether you are simply vlogging or posting practice footage up. IF YOU DON'T HAVE A YOUTUBE ACCOUNT STOP READING AND MAKE ONE RIGHT NOW!!!
(Picture from being a back up dancer for T-Pain in Chicago. I'm the dude in the red. This was only my second stage performance so without a doubt I'm as nervous as I am excited!)
2. SAVE ENOUGH MONEY FOR AN EMERGENCY FUND FOR AUDITIONS
If you are one of those individuals that wants to make the big journey to LA and go try out for auditions or talent agencies you really need to start building a savings to make the journey. Did you know that even crappy apartments in sketchy neighborhoods can cost you close to $1000 a month!??
The last thing you want to do is run out of cash while you are getting your foot into auditions as it will generally take 3-9 months or more to land your first gig (assuming you got the skills and the confidence). Even once you do land a talent agency to back you up that still doesn't guarantee you will get dance jobs. If you land a big talent agency like MSA that is amazing and your chances of getting your foot in the door increase drastically but keep in mind it is not a guarantee! When you get to LA you will most likely need to find a part time job that is flexible so you can change your shifts to make auditions.
Obviously not many structured corporate organizations will be flexible so you will most likely have to work at a retail or restaurant job. You have to grind it out in those first stages of moving out there but if you keep your eye on the prize and always keep your head up the chances of you becoming successful are more than likely.
3. LEARN ALL STYLES, LEARN FROM ALL TEACHERS
If you are in a dancer who grew up in a studio then you understand how tight knit studios can be, even in the sense where studios in the same city literally oppose each other. This maybe one of the hardest things that you will have to do but the best way to become a better dancer is to learn from different teachers. Even if it means you have to jump over to your rivalry studio. More importantly then that you need to take workshops from professional dancers. No offense to your studio dance teachers, they are probably amazing life leaders, however if you are serious about becoming a professional then you seriously need to learn from dancers and choreographers who are known in the industry. Obviously LA is the best place to be to do that because you literally have a famous choreographer teaching at studios everyday like Debbie Reynold's or Millennium. But the rest of the us that don't live within driving distance from LA have to learn the hard way and really should take any advantage of a workshop from a professional dancer in the area to the fullest.
It is by nature that if you are a dancer there is styles that you are comfortable in and styles that you are uncomfortable in. You need to be exceptional in every style. Why you say? Let's say you go to audition and the choreography is 2 parts - hip hop and jazz. Let's even say that you are this extraordinary beautiful dancer in jazz with flawless technique. If your hip hop is not up to par consider yourself cut from the moment you walk in. You have to remember every dancer that is auditioning is grinding, starving, and will learn every style they can so they can fit any piece the director is looking for... even if it means they have to get there clogging shoes on.
I hope this blog didn't scare you. Being a professional dancer is an amazing experience lifestyle, and although it carries high risks, the memories, relationships, and experiences you live and breathe are a lifestyle that cannot be compared to. That moment you step on to your first stage in front of 40,000 people changes your life. I'm all about following your dream however you should definitely have a back up plan, especially if you want to be a dancer. Your body is your ability to get jobs. Injuries happen and (knock on wood) if you were ever going to hurt yourself dancing in which you could no longer dance anymore life is going to be a lot easier for you if you have that college degree.
Well... my flight is about to land in Santa Ana, where this weekend I will have an audition myself. I hope you have enjoyed my words and 2 cents on this flight from the Windy City of Chicago. Please leave your comments on my words and shoot any questions you may have, I am here for you guys! Oh... and wish me luck :)