By Brian Henninger
Your probably asking yourself what is the difference between a “working” dancer and a “professional” dancer? There are several things that many dancers often lack or over look about themselves that can make a noticeable difference in your “Bookability” as an artist. Things that professionals in other lines of work take as second nature, we often miss in the dance world. In this blog I want to go over a few ways you can set yourself apart from the pack and make yourself stand out as more of a “Professional” within the entertainment industry.
1. You are your publicist, manager, agent, and business manager even if you have all of these: it is often forgotten in this industry that we as dancers are no different then any other professional business person. We act as our own accountants, managers, publicists, and even agents most of the time. Because of this fact we need to monitor the way we approach people or communicate to those who work in casting, production, behind the scenes etc. All too often I have seen dancers neglect this and act far to comfortable in audition, rehearsal settings. It does not matter if you are friends with the choreographer and joke around with them on a normal basis. That ends the second you enter the rehearsal space and you have a job to do. Of course, if the energy in the room is light and casual then you can be in tune with that and act accordingly, but you should never lose sight of the fact that you are at work, and so is everyone else in the room. Enjoy your experience, joke around, but don’t take it so far so that it reflects negatively on you as a professional (I.e. Excessive swearing, speaking over the choreographer, taking breaks without permission etc).
2. Understand that the job is not guaranteed until you get your check: The fact of the matter is that you can be replaced at any time on a gig. When your working in t.v. or film as a dancer you are almost always on a tight time schedule. Most often you are having choreography or blocking changed right up until you step on stage in front of the cameras. Your ability to be flexible, not take things personally, and make quick changes is supremely important to your longevity in this industry. I have heard stories of dancers being replaced up until the day of the show because production changed their minds about the look they needed, or they decided they needed someone with a different skill set. How you deal with this ongoing pressure and lack of job security will reflect on whether you continue to get booked in the industry. Remember not to take anything personally and keep an upbeat and positive attitude even if you are getting the axe from the gig you are on. Another one will come around.
3. Ask yourself, are you trying to book gigs, or cultivate a lasting career in the arts?: Are you in this for the long haul? do you see yourself transitioning into another part of the entertainment industry or dance industry after your done performing? Do you see yourself as a teacher someday? A choreographer? If you have never asked yourself any of these questions and you have been pursuing professional dancer for more then a few years, I strongly suggest you think about it. Dance is one of the professions that has the least job security, nearly no insurance, no retirement plans, no pensions (unless you end up working long term on broadway or in TV and Film). its a profession where you are CONSTANTLY taken advantage of in many different ways. Yet, we all participate in this willingly. Times are changing and working conditions ARE improving for dancers, but we can only enjoy these conditions if we show through our business ethic that we are just as professional as the writers, the producers, the actors, the artist, and everyone else involved in productions. I am not saying that you have to have a 10 Year plan for your career, but at least have the idea in your mind that being a professional dancer in the sense of being a full time performer will not last forever.
Its time to start taking your career into your own hands. You can not expect your parents, your agent, your boyfriend or girlfriend, your best friend, or anyone else to do it for you. You get one shot at life and the truth is that your life will continue LONG after you are finished performing. If you are smart, and work hard for what you want, I promise you that a career will exist for you and you will find your way into whatever path you choose after you are finished dancing. Don’t make the mistake that I see so many dancers making. Don’t adopt this “i just wanna dance” ,“I’ll do anything to dance for…” attitude. Dance smart, Think smart. Use the industry, don’t let it use you!
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