By Jadée Nikita
Big lights, the city of dreams, “If you can make it here you can make it anywhere.” Yes, all this is true. But it takes more than a dream to get what you want in NYC. Taking a leap of faith and making the big move to a major city is crucial for any serious professional dancer. There are enormous opportunities in NYC for dancers of all styles. So our head Fly Gyal created 10 survival tips to help you find your way once you land.
1. Apartment Hunting. Word of mouth and personal references are the best way to go when looking for a safe place to live. You can bunk with roomies or live on your own, but remember to budget for at least 6 months of rent before you arrive. Other resources to use are brokers, newspaper classifieds, walking around and looking at “For Sale” options and vacant apartments in buildings, community groups, and apartment guides.
2. Have a plan. Failure to plan, is planning to fail. Before you even think of moving to NY, it’s a good idea to know what you want to achieve in the big apple. Set tangible and specific goals, then take baby steps to achieve them. If you want to be a professional dancer, look for educational programs, internships and other vistage-like groups that will keep you focused and your eyes on the prize.
3. Find a Support group. To piggie-back off of tip #2, finding a group of peers and co-workers who have the same goals as you is crucial for your success. It allows you to raise questions and receive positive feedback from others experiencing the same issues as you. A great program for professional dancers is Creating Opportunities founded by choreographers, Lisette Bustamante and Chonique Sneed. For more info click here.
4. Getting a job. As a dancer finding a work-study program at a local dance studio is a great way to stay in the loop and get some free (or discounted) classes in the process.
5. Where to take classes. There are tons of independent dance centers in the city. While you’re in the Big App train in as many styles as possible in order to make yourself a more sellable talent. Check out classes at Alvin Ailey (ballet & contemp), Dance New Amsterdam (modern), Broadway Dance Center (Hip-Hop & Commercial dance), Steps on Broadway (ballet), and Body & Pole (silks & pole dancing) to name a few.
6. What to bring. Make sure you pack all of your dance clothes, shoes and bags. You will need copies of an updated headshot and resume for auditions, and make business cards! Yes, you are now a professional and you should carry yourself as one at all times. You never know who you will meet on the elevator or in Chipotle. You may even over-hear a producer talking about the need for dancers or choreographers for a new show. Don’t be afraid to walk up to them and hand over a card with a smile 🙂
7. Be confident. New York can be a big and intimidating place for some. Take time to find your niche and remember, everyone is nervous and everyone is looking for a big break. Be yourself, walk with confidence and wear your best accessory – your smile. It should come as natural as checking your FB page.
8. Have a confidant. As a professional dancer, you will be auditioning constantly and the outcome will not always be what you want. Make sure you have someone you can talk to about your trials and tribulations. This can be a positive mentor, family member, or friend. Words of encouragement and a listening ear will boost your confidence and allow you to rise above the pitfalls so you can get back on your horse and ride to victory.
9. Surviving burnout. Burnout is inevitable. Your first year will be an emotional roller-coaster, with auditions, rejections, successes, and trying to achieve your goals as quickly as possible. Sometimes the crash can be tough. Whatever you do, do not let NY break you! Make sure to take time out for yourself. Go shopping in soho, see the view of the city at the top of the Empire State building, see Wicked on Broadway, make-out with your beau in central park, grab a pastry in Little Italy, or party the night away with your gyal pals at Finalé. Whatever you do, allow your mind to take a break from dance and have fun!
10. Stay healthy. With all the hustle and bustle of NY it can be easy to neglect your body and health. Make sure to take your multi-v everyday, drink plenty of OJ, water & tea (see our previous article on the benefits of tea), and eat right. As dancers, our body is our money maker, so treat it as your temple.