Dancer To Watch: Frank Soares
As Featured in the DanceBlast, we invite you to watch Frank Soares' award-winning dance film:
"Where Are You Now?"
Frank's team for this award-winning dance film were dance partner Ashton Frederick and it was directed and edited by Steven Diaz.
We are pleased to introduce you to Frank Soares: A Dancer To Watch
At 19, Frank Soares got his first pro gig. Now 24, he’s been working non-stop for 5 years. Non-stop. I know, right?! He’s persistent in his goals, methodical in his approach, and disciplined in his art. His feet are firmly on the ground (which is weird because he’s often up in the air.) Many of our Dancers To Watch succeed with chutzpah, determination, fearlessness, and chance-taking faith; Frank sites another driving force. “Preparation is my middle name,” he says. For Frank, thoroughly researching every next step is key.
I watched him grow up. Little Frankie with the earnest eyes and impeccable comic timing is now Dancer Frankie with the dream career and impeccable work ethic. Link here for a 1:30 look at the guy, then read on.
Best Known Credits:
Tokyo Disney, Disneyland
Peter Pan National Tour/Aerialist/Feld Ent.
30 QUESTIONS WITH FRANK
Suzy: Ok! When did you start dancing?
FS: I always ran around my room making up shows, and at 10, Mom took me to musical theater class. At 14, I danced a 'Saturday Night Fever' number, and that was it!
Suzy: I was there. You were so serious about doing it right! My friend said, “Look at that boy up there, he’s just living!”
FS: (Laughs) From then on, I never stopped. I went to PCPA (Pacific Conservatory Theatre (a professional conservatory theatre) for college, but they emphasized theater; I wasn’t dancing enough, which made me realize how passionate I am about it. Acting and singing will always be a part of me, dance is first and foremost. So I flip-flopped, went to a different school, and drove 3 hours to L.A. 3 times a week for classes and auditions.
Suzy: That’s quite a commitment.
FS: I was finishing up my General Education degree, thinking “Gee, maybe I want a secure job…” but once I got Disney, I up and moved.
Suzy: Ah, Disney!
FS: I was a Disney fanatic! In high school, I watched the parades and shows with admiration and was determined to be in their shows. Getting to love what you do at the happiest place on earth, who wouldn’t want that!?
Suzy: How was the audition?
FS: Technique across the floor, cuts, choreo in groups, and more cuts. Out of 200 male dancers, 4 of us got a 5-day role as chimney sweeps. That started everything. Five years later, I feel like I’ve played every character!
Suzy: Was it your first job?
FS: I booked a cruiseline, which I turned down after a lot of thought. I wanted to try LA, get down there and not be on the road.
Suzy: Or the sea.
FS: Right! I wanted to work closely with my agents Lisa and Terry (GTA) and see what could happen once I really lived there.
Suzy: Tell me about Disney.
FS: Disneyland is close to my heart; we had family vacation there every year growing up. The corporation offers so much... I’ve worked at the Park, in Tokyo, learned Aerial, and toured 76 cities in America and Canada.
FS: Very special. I was hesitant about doing a national tour, but I’m so glad I did. There’s so much in America we forget about! From the Grand Canyon to Times Square, I really got to see my country.
Suzy: Your Disney pics look like live theater improv!
FS: They are! You have to be on 100 percent of the time. Interacting with kids is amazing. In Japan the language barrier was challenging, but with body language you can connect with anyone.
Suzy: And the parents?
FS: You’re making their day! One day a little girl taught me how to blow a kiss, and her Mom just started bawling.
Suzy: Favorite role?
FS: Dancing with Princess Tiana at the Mardi Gras parade; Creole music, hats, beads, the whole thing.
Suzy: Did you still audition while working?
FS: Yes! As a dancer, you never stop auditioning; you never settle down. You never know how long something will last. Shows close constantly. Auditioning is just part of your job.
Suzy: How did you get signed with GTA?
FS: They saw me at an international Dance Convention. When we were introduced, I organized a meeting for them to feel me out – at that point I wasn’t established, I was still on the Central Coast, just a smalltown guy trying to make it to LA. But experience isn’t all that matters; they’re also selling your personality. The first thing they said was “You need to live here”. I wasn’t ready … but eventually I just had to go for it. Once I knew dance was it, I had no choice but to go headfirst into the fire; give it a shot, and if all else failed, THEN try something else.
Suzy: Do you work at the agent relationship?
FS: It’s a constant conversation. I email them once a month or more. Even when I’m gone; we’re in contact. They support my non-agent jobs too; they encourage you to make money, see the world, come back more established and experienced, and work for them even more. They’re so encouraging. Lisa always says, “Honey, go make the money, then come back to me and we’ll get going.” They feel almost like Mom and Dad – “Fly the coop, but when you come back to the nest, we’ll keep you flying.”
Suzy: Did they need to see you dance more before signing?
FS: I sent video footage from high school, local, and college shows. I was blessed; small as my hometown is, there were many opportunities, stepping stones to get where I needed to go.
Suzy: How long was the reel?
FS: Embarrassingly long! 10 minutes, full of production numbers with all kinds of people they didn’t need to see. That was a lesson! There were a lot of lessons. (Laughs). My first resume, headshots; all that was a mess initially, but when you get to LA, there are so many resources. And even beforehand; A4D, shows you what agents look for, casting tips, and so much more.
Suzy: What other ‘lessons’ were there?
FS: At your first few auditions, you feel so defeated, you crumble and feel overwhelmed. Also, there were days I had prior engagements and had to choose between an audition or something else. I chose something else and immediately regretted it. You learn fast.
Suzy: Why do you think you book?
FS: Good question! My main thing is, no matter how nervous I am, I try to have fun. Fake it till you make it, that’s my motto!
Suzy: My friend Kelly says “Wrong and strong!”
FS: (Laughs) If you’re gonna burn, make sure you sizzle! One audition had a standing back tuck in the combo, like “5678 back tuck!” I’m not a tumbler, so I’m like “Oh s**t, what do I do?” I gave a strong masculine pose while everyone flipped.
Suzy: Awesome. How do you keep your technique up on tour?
FS: Dance on my time off wherever I am. Training is your homework; it’s your duty to keep your body performance ready. In Tokyo I found a great studio, and here in Miami – wherever you are there’s training. People are training all over the world. On the road it’s fun, every place has signature studios.
Suzy: Any injuries?
FS: Pulled my groin badly, twice. Choreographers like to use guys with flexibility – a lot! You stretch on your own, but sometimes even when you do, injuries happen. It’s your responsibility to give the directors and choreographers everything you can while healing properly. Whatever that means – physical therapy, using your roller every night … and communicate the injury to your teachers and choreographers. They’re sensitive to that being former dancers. When they know you’re injured and still see you working hard, it’s a plus for you.
Suzy: What are other “pluses”?
FS: In auditions, being attentive, but not fighting for the spotlight. You want to look confident showing what you have. In improvs, everyone’s doing crazy turns and hitting their face with battements… sometimes a strong, simple jazz walk in the middle of all that, making eye contact, shows them more of you. Dancing your heart out with the combo and showing them who you are is just as important as the crazy tricks.
Suzy: Did your family support you dancing?
FS: We were agricultural; I helped with the farm animals and orchard … when I got into dance they were accepting, but surprised; out of 4 kids, I was the first in the arts. After high school, I said I might want a degree, but I really want to try this… they didn’t know how to help me get there. Which led to me asking you to coffee, and my Mom just had to come! (Laughs) She said, “I need to meet this Suzy woman in person and figure out how to help you!”
Suzy: It’s a shame you weren’t with A4D back then; she would’ve found so many answers.
FS: I wish I’d gotten on it so much sooner. “Does he need a backup job?” “What kind of car should he drive?” (Laughs.) She asked everything, and you gave her the advice that set me free to go into this world.
Suzy: Meeting with mentors is so simple but powerful. It’s a fantastic resource, and many young dancers just don’t think about asking for one-on-one conversations. Older dancers love to pass the torch!
FS: Attention Dancers: Mentors are your religion! Take their advice and run with it. Mentors genuinely want to help … and they’re there when you fall, with tough love and brilliant guidance.
Suzy: Do your folks still worry?
FS: I’m comfortable in the industry, so they’re comfortable. I’ve worked steadily 5 years as a dancer; they’re so happy I’m living my dreams. Mom visited Tokyo; getting to share things with them is one of the most fulfilling things about it.
Suzy: Do you like being a gypsy?
FS: It just becomes your life. I have friends in every country in the world – a home family, and a world family. It’s almost overwhelming, so many people to keep in touch with, but you have a home wherever you go.
Suzy: How do you make time for an actual life?
FS: You really do need time for a life, and for yourself. Me time. Everything comes down to time management- binge-watching good TV while I’m stretching, making a meal while facetiming. Right now I’m on a 9 to 5 schedule, so I call Mom while I have coffee in the morning, I go over choreo watching Netflix…
Suzy: Did movies and TV play a role in your dancing?
FS: Are you kidding? Michael Jackson videos were everything! My older sisters watched MTV, so I was always peeking in on Britney Spears etc. And Dad is an old-time movie fan; Westerns, Fred and Ginger … he’s a farmer from a small town who loves Hollywood classics. We’d sit on the couch and watch together. Seeing how much he loved them made me love them even more.
Suzy: That’s so sweet! What’s your cultural heritage?
FS: Portugese. My grandparents speak it, we grew up with Portugese Festivals – (laughs) - their motto was “The more you eat, the healthier you are; drink a glass of milk every night!”
Suzy: How do you use A4D?
FS: I love ID2/Forum4Dancers - chatting with talented dancers willing to give advice about methods that helped them succeed. I’ve gotten so much help editing reels, understanding the industry, and preparing myself for whatever the next step is. This industry is a trending thing; casting is always changing what they want, what works and what doesn’t; work is fluid – A4D is always there to show you what to wear to auditions, how to update a reel and resume, what jobs are available. The audition calendar is fantastic; you don’t think there’s a lot of work out there till you see all those jobs casting all over the world.
Suzy: You found your current job here…
FS: Yep. I had one month left on my Tokyo contract. I had teaching jobs lined up in LA, and thought “OK, back to the grind”…. then, on the right-hand column I saw cruiseline auditions. I submitted to 4 companies and heard from 2. That’s the first time online submission worked for me. I owe it to A4D for showing me how. Then I dug in deep on the website to find out what I needed, refocused on my image, who I was as a dancer. I went to class every day; prepared to be audition-ready. I got my videos on point and had a great photo shoot, everything I needed for my package.
Suzy: Your work ethic is so disciplined. I love that you prepare for whatever your next step is.
FS: (Laughs) The OCD works in my favor. I have to feel prepared - for rehearsal, class, auditions, even a coffee date. Every connection you have with anybody in the industry is important. Building relationships - with fellow dancers, the guy you’re auditioning next to, casting directors, actors – you have to show who you are because you never know who they’ll be talking about. The guy next to you might have a job you’re perfect for.
Suzy: Being a people-person also helps.
FS: Yes. Negative people don’t phase me. I try to find the good. There’s at least one ounce of good in everybody! Mom taught me to kill everything with kindness. You might want to make an angry face at a casting agent who cuts you, or someone who treats you unfairly, but if you go about it all with a smile, it gets results. Just stay true to who you are, smile, and work hard.
Suzy: Tell us about your submission reels.
FS: Master classes are great for videoing my choreography with dynamic dancers. In Japan I was really blessed to be in an apartment complex with fellow Disney dancers all craving choreography to experiment with, a beautiful hallway to dance in, and a castmate with exceptional videography skills. With nothing but time on our hands, we created videos that not only benefitted me, but also the dancers and my videographer, who had no “music videos” in his portfolio.
Suzy: Nice. Any obstacles you’ve had to overcome?
FS: Indecision. I grew up in theater, then fell in love with dance. I was like “What do I do?!” Indecision is a challenge. But again, I say straight into the fire; in life, in relationships, in everything – there’s a point where you prepare all you can, then go in headfirst and give it a shot.
Suzy: Other obstacles?
FS: Being away from my family is hard. This is my third Christmas away. I have nieces and nephews growing up; watching them begin walking on Facetime is hard. But there are so many ways in this day and age to hold onto relationships, stay in contact and make them work.
Suzy: Any more?
FS: Competition can be challenging. Being in a room with 20 guys who look exactly like me - Caucasian, with really big smiles, and bendy legs. (Laughs). You just have to stay friendly and know the right job will come along.
Suzy: I know you’re on the shorter side; has height been a problem or asset?
FS: Both! When roles require taller, more masculine men, I’ve had to “rise to the occasion”… literally. (Laughs). Especially with partnering. Strength for men is a must. A strong male who can jump as high as taller dancers, travel as far, or lift a partner with ease will be rewarded. However, I’ve definitely been able to use my height for younger roles. Especially with Disney and commercial work. A professional at 24 that can play 19 is often used over the 19-year-old newbie.
Suzy: As a commercial dancer, how do you get your fix of the contemporary/lyrical styles you love?
FS: Classes are a dancer’s best friend…. to release feelings, move freely and explore your own style. If I can’t get to a class, I choreograph or improv on my own, even just around my apartment!
Suzy: Tell us about your current job.
FS: Oh my God, the hardest physical challenge of my career. It’s putting my body to the test, in the best possible way. It’s nine to five, six days a week; the minute we walk in the door, we’re on aerial equipment. We’re creating three brand new shows, everything from partner work to commercial to hiphop. And I have the honor of being the Aerial dance captain.
Suzy: What made you take the cruise job?
FS: It felt only suiting to continue traveling the world while I’m young and getting paid to do so! I’ve entertained in L.A., in Japan, abroad, and toured the country by bus; why not at sea!?!
Suzy: Future goals?
FS: Keep working as a dancer, building my resume and establishing myself … I’ve also been in the process of artistically constructing my own choreography, teaching, researching internships for casting and agency work, and maintaining strong relationships with entertainment corporations to eventually change over to the creative side.
Suzy: I love that you think past dancing.
FS: I’ve always wanted to eventually be behind the scenes, either casting the talent or creating the movement.
Suzy: Any advice for dancers starting in the biz?
FS: Always know that in the worst of times, something is in the makes for you. Patience truly is a virtue. Take chances and don’t let the heat of the industry bring you to ashes.
Suzy: Beautifully said.
TOP 10 THINGS FRANK DID TO ACHIEVE SUCCESS:
- Met with mentors who offered guidance and experience
- Keeps in steady contact with his agents
- Used Forum4Dancers (iDance2) to get tips from established pro dancers
- Understood auditioning never stops; it’s part of a dancer’s job
- Projects confidence and has fun at auditions
- Prepared and researched for each next step in his career
- Relocated to L.A. when he knew he was ready to handle it
- People person; knows relationships are a huge part of the business
- Keeps his technique up with classes even while on tour
- Used A4D to develop his reel and learn how to do effective online submissions
TOP 3 CHALLENGES FRANK HAD TO FACE:
Challenge #1: HEIGHT
Frank is on the shorter side.
SOLUTION: He developed his partnering strength and skills. He trained himself to leap higher, and move faster to compete with taller dancers. He also pursues jobs where his height and look are an advantage, like Disney and commercial work. And he developed his aerial skills, where height is not an issue.
Challenge #2: INDECISION
Frank had trouble deciding between theater and dance.
SOLUTION: He went to a school for theater, and discovered dance was it for him.
Challenge #3: TIME MANAGEMENT
Working non-stop for 5 years, Frank had to figure out how to have a personal life.
SOLUTION: Frank maximizes time management, consciously pairing tasks with relationships and “Me” time.
5 QUICK FUN FACTS FOR FRANK:
We ended the interview with some quick "fun fact" questions. We gave Frank 15 seconds to answer. Ready? Go!
1 – Favorite power snack?
Banana, I eat more of them than a chimpanzee.
2 – What’s in your dance bag right now?
Jazz shoes, Beats by Dre, Dance Belt, chapstick, phone charger, shades, wallet, notebook containing my current crazy show blocking!
3– Embarrassing audition?
Any time this white boy is asked to tut, b-boy, pop-and-lock or bust a move.
4 – Favorite Halloween costume?
5 – Hairstyles through the years?
Everything from fully buzzed to dyed black for the role of Bernardo in 'West Side Story' to long enough for a man bun and braid!
Frank has been a member of Answers4Dancers since 2012.