88 Assets Pros Rely On
Forward, backward, inside, and out... these pros know the casting scene. We invited them to share their 'insights.' We got an earful. No fluff stuff.
NADINE ELLIS, PUSSYCAT DOLL DANCER, BET'S SERIES 'LET'S STAY TOGETHER.'
I understand how important my role is in maintaining healthy work relationships with agents, producers, directors, choreographers, and crew members.
I'm aware that opportunities can be unpredictable and happen at unexpected times.
I try to stay tuned-in to all of the possibilities.
Early on, I saw the importance of developing a comfort level in front of cameras.
I'm committed to showing up on time and leaving personal dramas outside the workplace.
SKY HOFFMANN, JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE DANCER
I see the direct link between employability and personal effort.
Uncover your own resources.
I've grown to see that training is just as important as desire.
When the work gets tough, staying grateful helps.
When the work comes easy, staying grateful helps even more.
Dealing with feast-or-famine employment requires patience and real maturity.
There are better ways to take care of problems than complaining openly in the workplace. To show respect for Dancers Alliance's efforts at improving workplace conditions, I support them every chance I get.
CARMIT BACHAR, RICKY MARTIN/PUSSYCAT DOLL DANCER
Freedom shows up for me when I'm willing to give all of myself.
The bond between audience and performer has enormous power. Pay attention to it. There's more to auditioning than dancing your heart out. The wardrobe, hairstyle, and makeup you walk in the door wearing are almost as important as your dance ability. Producers and directors might not know much about dance ability, but they sure can recognize a look that's right for their project.
Dance technique and auditioning skills don't always match. There are too many beautiful dancers out there who don't know how to audition. The help they need is available if they're willing to get it. Hello, Answers4dancers!
Since we're in a profession where not being chosen happens more often than being chosen, we should drop any self-defeating way of reacting to it.
It's wise to get yourself seen at auditions before you turn eighteen.
The last generation of dancers heard nothing about marketing themselves. Pay attention to the marketing advantages that are all around us.
Know what you love doing. Stay open and listen for what your path might be.
There's always a bigger plan out there than the one you have for yourself.
Stop looking for someone to nurture your career. Self-nurturing is the way to go.
T.J. ESPINOZA, BRITNEY SPEARS DANCER
Your job as a dancer is about more than dance. It's about letting an audience feel like they're a part of what we're doing. Honor that connection by showing them what you're made of.
Knowing I will always have to audition to get work, I accept the fact that I must prove my worth over and over again.
My teachers taught me to listen to the music, hear the beats, feel the passion, and tell a story with my movement. Those skills have been a great asset.
When young kids tell me I've inspired them to dance, I tell them my career happened because of all the teachers I've had who showed me how to do it.
Sometimes, in order to achieve greater things, we must be willing to let go of the comfortable surroundings we're in.
MONICA VIOLETTI, RICKY MARTIN-BRITNEY SPEARS DANCER
During the early days, juggling school responsibilities in Cottonwood CA and auditions in Los Angeles required a lot of extra work. But I was up for it. Having my family as a support system helped get me through it.
Attending competitions allowed me to see what other dancers my age were doing. When I saw the level of technique they had, I knew I needed more of it to compliment what I already had. I was determined to become a complete dancer, inside and out.
The personal impression you give often impacts the bookings you get. Pop stars, as well as choreographers and directors prefer working with pleasant and cooperative people.
Auditions are learning experiences and an important part of my education. I'm constantly discovering new things I could alter, or improve on.
Free-styling is really important. It can make the difference between booking the job or not. Your unique style or vibe can be enough to influence the casting directors.
Every dancer is a struggling dancer. The most important thing is to identify what you excel at. Be realistic about your skills. Find your niche.
Choreographers tend to work with who's familiar to them. Many of them, however, teach classes. Take their classes, work hard for them, and let them know who you are. Develop that relationship so they will know you when you show up at their auditions. Auditioning as an unknown with no credits to speak of, it's difficult to book jobs. It's not impossible, but it's unlikely. So, get into those classes.
When you walk onto the set, tune into the vibe. If you sense tension, stay cool, avoid breaching anyone's privacy.
That includes crew, director, choreographer, and star. Tuning in is a great habit to cultivate.
STACI FLOOD, MTV DANCELIFE DANCER
I tend to feel comfortable at auditions because I feel comfortable with myself. I'm happy with who I am. I don't spin out on doubting myself. If I don't get the job, it's not because I'm no good. If I don't book the gig, the law of averages tells me if I go to enough auditions, I'll book another.
MIKEY MINDEN, PUSSYCAT DOLLS CHOREO
I understand the value of journaling. I have one and keep everything in there, things I need to remember. What I wore to the audition, where it was, who it was for, how it went. I can look back on it and remember what I learned from each experience. It helps me make choices about the next opportunity. It keeps me organized. If I lost that book, I don't know what I'd do.
I envision where I want to be five years from now. Tina Landon's work inspires me. I want my work to be at her level.
I'm willing to volunteer my time in professional situations.
I think before I take action. I don't want to come off like I'm a brat, or act like I'm the bomb. I try to be very straight forward and considerate.
I have a financial plan that I follow.
I appreciate my family. They gave me the freedom to do what I wanted. They gave me the space to make my best judgments and do what I feel. They've shaped my life.
I believe in my ability to take on any job and do it great.
AUSTIN MILLER BROADWAY DANCER
I'm still fueled by the dream I had when I was twelve. Knowing that it's possible, I feel like working harder so it will happen sooner.
Early on, I recognized how desperate I was to get booking. I also recognized that it added pressure to casting situations and caused me to behave in ways that weren't true to my nature.
I learned to use my energy better. Instead of walking into auditions and chatting every one up and try to put on a show to get attention, I saw that it wasn't serving me well.
Today, I walk into auditions focused on what I need to do to perform at my best.
If I walk into an audition worried about booking the job, I'm a goner. I remind myself over and over that there's something to be gained from every audition, whether I feel like I'm going to book it or not. Auditions are opportunities. I can use them to beat myself up or use them to grow.
Afterward, letting go of the audition is very hard for me. Instead of telling myself I did the best I could today, the inner critic inside gives me a hard time with why did you do it that way? You should've done it this way! So on and so forth. Perfectionism can be a pain in the butt.
SOLANGE SANDY-GROVES, CONCERT DANCER
Going pro takes conviction and love. You have to love it and you have to want it more than anything, because, let's face it, there's such a huge number of talented people out there and if the person next to you wants it more than you do, trust me, they're going to get it. You know what I mean?
When I started out, I was in a dance class every chance I got. I had to do it. It was never like, Oh my God, I'm taking five classes today! It was like, Oh my God, I can't wait to get to my next class because I'm going to learn how to tendu today. It wasn't about I'm going to do whatever it takes, because at twelve, I didn't know any of that. All I knew is I loved something and I couldn't stop doing it. I had to do it. It's like breathing to stay alive. You have to do it.
BROOKE LIPTON, BRITNEY SPEARS DANCER, CHOREO
Memory retention is one of my best assets. I paid attention to it when I was very young. I wasn't the most flexible, I wasn't the cutest, I wasn't the girl who could put her leg up behind her head, so my goal was to do it right. I always tried to be the fastest at getting the moves.
When you're in L.A. as a dancer and find yourself standing in line next to girls who are in these little half tops, you've got to take a good look at yourself. Every time I walked into an audition, I was self-conscious about my appearance. I knew my dance ability was strong enough to compete with anybody but there were other things that got in my way. With help from some wonderful friends, I got the weight off. I never knew what a difference cutting my hair would make. Everything that had been locked inside me just came right out.
Working for Wade Robson has taught me a lot about choreographers. You have to pick up everything that they do. Your eye must take in every single detail, from the way their finger moves to the extra pop in their shoulder.
STEPHANI KAMMER, JANET JACKSON DANCER, EDUCATOR
Advice to newcomers? First, be on time, create a good reputation for yourself, be humble, downplay your expectations, especially in the beginning when you’re trying to establish yourself. A lot of dancers start to think they’re owed something and when things don’t go according to their plan, they begin to slack off. Be respectful, don’t think you know everything. Take nothing for granted. Pick up quickly, stay on top of your gig, and don’t concern yourelf with other people’s baggage. Just because someone cool is slacking off around you, doesn’t mean you should. You could be an amazing dancer, but if you’re always 45 minutes late, no one will use you. I guarantee you there are plenty of dancers behind you waiting to prove how easy it is to show up on time.
Be comfortable with your appearance. If you’re worried about what you look like, you’ll never be able to focus. Learn what you gotta learn FAST, and focus. Don’t be distracted by what’s going on around you. Delivering your best is more important than anything that’s going on at that time.
I feel what I do works for me, and I’m proud of who and what I am. I’ve never sacrificed my integrity to get what I’ve gotten. Every job on my resume I’ve earned through hard work, no other way.
A lot of superficial things seem important in Hollywood. People can get too caught up in how they look and appear to others. We can easily get seduced into meaningless cosmetics instead of working at becoming the best person or performer we can be.
I like the pressure of auditions. The process pulls powerful things out of me. It’s nice to see what I’m made of when I’m put to the test.
MELANIE BENZ, JANET JACKSON / JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE DANCER
If you want it bad enough, it will happen. Eat, breathe, and sleep whatever it is you love to do. You’re going to need that extra love, because L.A. can eat you alive and spit you out.
You can hold your own by becoming the best you can be in your craft. Keep going, no matter what obstacles come your way.
I’m always working on myself. As I get older, choreography becomes more strenuous on my body, which could, if I’m not paying attention, lead to laziness. When that happens, I remind myself, “Melanie, it’s time to tune up your instrument, get yourself in class!”
MARCEL WILSON, JANET JACKSON DANCER, CHOREO
You need goals. For some dancers, things do just fall into place, but I found I needed goals so there was no doubt in my mind that I knew what I was reaching for.
It’s taken me time to learn that I’m not going to get everything I think I deserve. The good news is, it’s made me work harder.
RHAPSODY, RICKY MARTIN-BRITNEY SPEAR DANCER
Learn to become a self-initiator. Nobody is going to turn your body for you in a pirouette. Nobody is going to lift you in the air for a grande jete. You do it yourself. The act of dancing teaches you to take control of your body. That’s what dancers do. You are all the equipment and you run the factory. You know when to shut it down and you know how to start it up. Your mistakes are part of the process and so are the improvements you make along the way.
JESSE SANTOS, PRODUCER 'AMERICA'S BEST DANCE CREW'
You can’t buy preparation “off the rack.” It has to be customized to the individual. No two dancers have the same technical or emotional skills.
GROVER DALE, BWAY DIR/CHOREO
Pros know that dance technique accounts for half of what's needed on the job. They work fast. They adapt to last-minute changes, and understand the value of making themselves valuable.
Today’s pros are subject to an industry-wide effort to reduce production costs. Rehearsal hours, shooting schedules, and casting procedures are being trimmed to the bone. Dancers, like everyone else, are expected to work faster and smarter than ever. The message is clear. If you want to work, be ready to deliver more in less time.
LYNNE TAYLOR CORBETT, BWAY DIR/CHOREO
A few words about competitions: I’m concerned about dancers becoming “flash-and-burn” oriented. Like, “go in there and smile right away!” “Catch the judge’s eye and show how high you can kick.” It breeds a false sense of professionalism that doesn’t work in the industry.
BRIAN FRIEDMAN, BRITNEY SPEARS’ CHOREO
If you’re aiming yourself towards pop tours, prepare to deal with high-risk-injury-prone environments. With hydraulics happening all around you, backstage traffic is just as treacherous as onstage traffic.
Headshots get you in the door. Sometimes, newcomers don’t understand how important that is. Too many dancers say they can’t afford headshots. It’s like shooting yourself in the foot. If you can’t afford the tools, stay home. If you want Hollywood, make sure you’ve got $500 for a decent photo shoot. And another $200 to get yourself set up with a cell phone. Your agent needs to be able to reach you at all times.
WADE ROBSON, SYTYCD CHOREO, FILM DIRECTOR, COMPOSER
If you want to be a working dancer and land bookings, you need training. I like well-trained dancers but I also like rawness. That’s something I notice in my choices. I like dancers to have training, but I can’t stand it when they look trained.
PEGGY HICKEY, THEATRE / OPERA CHOREO
If you’re auditioning for a chorus job, make sure you feel good about being in the chorus. I don’t want to see resentment on your face when I say, “Okay, all the dancing cigar boxes can now move upstage into the darkness.” How can I avoid situations like that? I bring it up at the audition. I say, “This is a glamour-free job. You’ll be backing up performers that may, or may not be as talented as you are. But, they’re hired as the stars and you’re hired as the chorus. That’s the job. Before you accept the gig, be sure you’re clean about how you feel.” We have to know what we’re getting into and why we’re doing it. If we’re mentally prepared with the sensitive stuff comes up, we’ll be able to say to ourselves, “I’m still special, even though I’m being directed back into the darkness.
KAT LOWELL, CHOREO / PRODUCER
Learn to write thank you notes. It’s such a simple, effective way to get in front of an employer and let them know you enjoyed the work. It’s always appreciated.
JOE MALONE, CHOREO / EDUCATOR
What kind of dancer do I like to work with? An old saying comes to mind: there’s only two times in a dancer’s life when they’re unhappy...when they’re working and when they’re not working. Everyone wants a job. “Can I, oh please, please, will you hire me?” They get the job and within ten minutes of rehearsal are saying, “do we really have to do this shit?” Having been a dancer, I understand how that happens. But, my feeling is, if you’re going to take the money, you have to come to work with a great attitude.
TIM O’BRIEN, AGENT CLEAR TALENT GROUP
When you audition, you’re not auditioning for just one job. You’re also auditioning for the job the choreographer is doing six months or a year from now.
MARK MEISMER, CHOREO
To succeed, you must be willing to make mistakes and fall on your butt. If you’re afraid to, how are you ever going to grow?
MARGUERITE DERRICKS, CHOREO
Dancers who don’t take class usually don’t work for me.
ALAN JOHNSON EMMY-AWARD WINNING CHOREO
Too many dancers are sacrificing ballet training. You don’t have to make a life of it, but ballet is the foundation to all dance. it teaches your body to turn, to jump, to isolate, to land, to take off, to make smooth connections between highlights. Every dancer needs those skills.
ROBIN ANTIN, FOUNDER OF THE PUSSYCAT DOLLS
It’s really important to have an agent and it’s really important to study. I take class all the time and I expect my dancers to do the same.