Celebrate Direct Bookings
Grover Recalls A Few Of His Own.
‘With three featured Broadway roles behind me... and a couple of daytime soaps... I paused to enjoy the rewards of six years of steady employment. The pause didn't last long. An unexpected phone call from MGM Studios changed everything!'
I was offered a featured role in 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown.'
‘Getting cast as Debbie Reynold's brother 'Jam' happened in a single phone call. No audition. No screen test. No interview. No agent. No back-and-forth. Just one tidbit: Peter Gennaro's assurance that I was the right dancer to play Jam. All I did was listen to the surprisingly good terms being offered me for showing up at MGM Studios and dancing my butt off for five months. The 'yes' popped right out of my mouth.
A year later, this dance choreo’d by Peter Gennaro led directly to a co-starring role with Gene Kelly in Jacques Demy’s French Classic, ‘Les Demoiselles De Rochefort.’ Again, no audition. No screen test. No interview. Just show up and dance with George Chakiris, Catherine Deneuve, and Francoise Dorleac for six months. Another direct and unexpected booking.
Midway through the shoot, a British producer contacted my agent with a direct offer to co-star with Tommy Steele in Paramount Pictures ‘Half A Sixpence.’ Again, no screen test, audition, or interview. Just show up at Pinewood Studios, play the role of ‘Pearce,’ all based on a referral by Gillian Lynne the film's choreographer.
Where & How Did All Of This Get Started?
‘Studio life in rural Pennsylvania was fun and stimulating, as you can see in the photo. At the time, I remember wondering if all my energy, song-and-dance-man-styles, and comic instincts would work in New York City? Indeed, they did. For four years, the skinny tap dancer from McKeesport auditioned successfully for TV Variety shows, Industrials, and Broadway musicals. Hired repeatedly by choreos like Michael Kidd, Herbert Ross, James Starbuck, and Tony Charmoli, I thought all the tools I needed were in my back pocket. A ‘wake-up call’ was on the way. It came in the form of a revolutionary new musical that was about to establish itself on Broadway...
It was 1957. Word got around that Jerome Robbins was thinking of casting ‘unknown dancers’ for principal roles for ‘West Side Story’. Bingo. 100’s of dancers flocked to the auditions. Within a few months, 28 of them, hand-picked by the legendary director, were hired to portray gang members as equipped in ballet, jazz, acting, and singing skills as they were with ‘I-can-beat-the-crap-out-of-you’ combat. I was one of them.
How long does it take to be recognized as a 'Valuable Player'?
‘Valuable players don’t waste time. They bring everything to the table. Fast. They listen. They enjoy being in the room. They thrive on every aspect of the job. They never question why every choreographer’s approach to the work is unique and different. Knowing the territory, they adapt to what’s needed and deliver it.’
‘Instinctively, they know the job relies on more than effective dance steps. It leans inward, towards the whole performer, the whole professional, and the whole person. Team-playing is one of the most creative adventures that we, as dancers, will ever experience.
When you feel it’s time to knock on the door… show up well-prepared and fully informed. Become a faster, better, and more valuable version of yourself. Rise to the occasion. Don’t waste time longing for validation. If you need it, give yourself some. Tools are all around you. Invest in the ones that will move you closer to becoming the ‘valuable player’ you were meant to be.’ - GD
The community is small.
Word gets around.
So do the payoffs.
Feedback from Agents, Choreos, and A4Ders:
Contributors include Vincent Paterson, Debbie Allen, Brian Friedman, Julie McDonald, Jim Keith, Pete Engles, Gregory Osborne, Carrie Lee, Emily Dann, Nancy Dann, Suzy Miller, and Michelle West.
"Good thoughts, Grover. I agree wholeheartedly. Every director and choreographer looks for the best material to make his/her creation the best it can be. When dancers bring the best of themselves to the gig, the talent will be appreciated, valued, and returned to you one-hundred fold."
Photo at left shows Vincent at SVA Theatre in NYC celebrating his dance career.
Vincent shares a direct booking of his own:
My most incredible "Direct Booking" was in my transition from dancer to director/choreographer. I had danced in BEAT IT, as well as THRILLER (and assisted choreographer Michael Peters.) I was on friendly terms with Michael Jackson. One night I got a call to meet him in a recording studio.
MJ asked me to conceive and create SMOOTH CRIMINAL. I believe it was because as a dancer on those previous videos, I "showed up," gave my all, brought joy to the rehearsal room and the set, and was appreciative for the experiences. You just never know who is watching!!!!!!!
‘Thanks for including me Grover… I am actually old school and I rarely do direct bookings. I only do in the event there isn’t time or budget to hold casting sessions. Generally, I like auditioning and giving everyone the same shot at booking the job. I feel that when dancers work for something, they hold it to a higher level of excellence and are more proud of the achievement, therefore working harder whilst on the project.’
Brian Friedman is shown here at the center of his fashion work.
Brian shares a direct booking:
My most notable direct booking happened after I transitioned into choreography. Janet Jackson planned a tribute to Michael Jackson for the MTV VMA’s and the cast was comprised of choreographers. Her Creative Director and Choreo Gil Duldulao called and asked if I was interested. Obviously, the answer was yes. It was an honor to even be considered. Doing the project was an absolute dream come true.’
My most notable direct booking happened after I transitioned into choreography. Janet Jackson planned a tribute to Michael Jackson for the MTV VMA’s and the cast was comprised of choreographers. Her Creative Director and Choreo Gil Duldulao called and asked if I was interested. Obviously the answer was yes. It was an honor to even be considered. Doing the project was an absolute dream come true.’
‘Dancers at the top of my go-to list are versatile
and clearly still in class!’
- DEBBIE ALLEN celebrity dancer, actress, educator, advocate.
‘Dancers that build relationships with choreographers get direct bookings. Choreographers like working with people who know their style and are professional. No mystery there! Often, choreographers just don’t have time for auditions so they call the dancers they know, trust, and love. That’s why it takes effort and perseverance to break in. If the choreographer teaches class you can get to know them that way. Otherwise, just keep showing up at their auditions so they get used to seeing your face. If there's an opening, stick around till the end of the call and introduce yourself. You may be right for one particular job but they may think of you for the next one.’
– JULIE McDONALD, senior agent, co-founder MSA
‘Direct bookings are all about reputation. People only want to work with others that they know they can count on that that will take the job seriously. A good work ethic is apart of the fast track to direct bookings for sure. The dance community is still small believe it our not so word travels fast. Be nice! Show up on time! Don't complain! Work hard. Go the extra mile and try to anticipate what will be needed at any given moment. Offer your help. Be a team player.’
- JIM KEITH, senior agent, Movement Talent Agency
‘I love this message going out to young dancers!’
- PETE ENGLES agent, Clear Talent Group
Be the dancer people want to be around. Be the dancer that makes everybody else's life easier. Be the dancer you would like to work with if you were in their shoes!’
- SUZY MILLER choreographer, journalist, educator
GREGORY OMAR OSBORNE
‘I used to wonder how people got direct bookings. This year I directly booked 3 shows. They came from colleagues. How did I contribute? I asked myself a few questions. Are you a quick learner, versatile, and most of all…what are you like to work with? These questions come up for everybody. The affect you have on your peers shows. Choreographers have to be able to trust that when you get on the job… you deliver.’
- GREGORY OMAR OSBORNE, one of A4D’s Dancers To Watch.
"Dancers focus so much on getting the job, I wonder how many really think
about behavior on the job...it's just as important in the process, if not more!'
- EMILY DANN, A4D Staffer
‘Your behavior on the job is important. If you're repped by an agent, will they get positive feedback on you? Will they be given info that can be shared (confidently) with other employers? Will the cycle of direct bookings be able to continue?
– NANCY DANN, A4D administrator
‘Yes, this story definitely resonates with me! I think it's so important to push yourself and make yourself valuable once you get booked. Not only can it help you get direct bookings, but it can also help you keep the job you've just booked!
I've worked with choreographers who, without divulging the plan, actually use rehearsals as a sort of callback audition. They watch how the dancers interact, how prepared they are, and if they'd be a good fit for the next round of projects.
It's an important topic, Grover! Like Emily Dann said, it's easy to focus so much on getting booked, that some of us may forget we've still got to be professional and get to work once we're in that studio or on that stage!
- CARRIE LEE, A4Der and upcoming Dancer To Watch
"I like to think that my current job is my audition for the next job. Especially when I'm working with choreographers who are managing multiple projects. Sometimes the team doesn't want to go through another audition process. This idea often makes sense for them: 'Why not use dancers we've worked with? We already know their work ethic, they have great personalities, plus It saves so much time knowing they deliver a great product.'
Trust is key! And trust will get you the next job...and the next one after that. Fortunately, these thoughts are very relevant in my life right now. My fingers are crossed for the next booking!
- MICHELLE WEST, one of A4D's Dancers To Watch