In Sarah’s own words, she shares how she met photographer Jonathan Givens of Entertainment Photography Specialists on her first cruise ship contract eight years ago.
For more on Dance Across the U.S.A., visit www.danceatusa.com to read about this fascinating project. And don’t forget to check out Sarah’s story on Dancers To Watch.
NaTonia: 'Gregory is a sweet and caring person. He helped with quick changes backstage and that wasn’t even his job. That says a lot about his character. I can't wait to see him in a show that will really showcase him as a true triple threat! He’s awesome!'
Gregory: 'I admire NaTonia’s energy on and off stage. ‘Powerhouse’ is what comes to mind. She puts her all into it. Beyond that, what amazes me is her drive to keep learning. Right before the curtain went up at our closing performance, I held her and said, 'I’m so happy I finally got the chance to work with you.'
NaTonia and Gregory joined Answers4dancers hoping to find dance auditions. But what they really found was a lasting friendship and a shared joy of living their dreams.
NATONIA MONET AS WRITER, PRODUCER, FILMMAKER, AND LEAD PERFORMER
'I’m writing and co-producing a mini-series entitled "The Great Black Way" with my friend Nikko Kimzin and his company Epoch Creative NYC . We've been close friends ever since we did the International Tour of West Side Story in 2012. We wanted to feel empowerment within our industry especially when auditions are slow and we don't always want to wait on receiving work so we decided to create our own.
We started the story boards and details together in February. We then devised a cast list. We wanted to include people in the industry who go through the same things we were writing about. With a lot of organization, we filmed 12 episodes in 2 days in March with a cast of 35 different ppl including myself. Each day we filmed 4 hours because renting rooms is like $39/hr & I hired a videographer so we needed to be economically efficient. Organization was key. We were on a strict schedule because I booked Sister Act and I was to leave NYC on March 23.
So now Nikko and I collaborate on editing long distance thru unlisted youtube and wetransfer files and various versions down to the one we like the most and that is most funny. I'm editing the second episode while going through tech week as we speak. Some days I don't know what day it is. LOL But I love it! I love creating on a stage or on film. This was my first time in the role of producer and it is hard work but I like the freedom of it all. At times it was stressful but it came together and I'm happy the way it is turning out.
I'm so glad we have supportive friends who volunteered their time and talents as actors in these shorts without knowing how it was going to turn out. That indeed is a blessing!' –NATONIA M.
Here is a link to the video on Epoch Creative NYC's vimeo page: The Great Black Way . When you're out riffed Final
STRETCHING THE ENVELOPE
As a dancer, KATE HARPOOTLIAN went the distance in expressing herself during the 2015 season of SYTYCD. Joy, sizzle, sass, or burn. Just name it. Kate took us there. We were mesmerized by her performances. As a blogger, she was equally at home with expressing herself. Her words, like her moves, compelled us to stick around for more. What else is she capable of expressing? Today, she posted an essay on her Facebook page about ‘pursuing dreams.’ After reading it twice, I came to a decision. Kate’s writing is just as effective as her performing is. Have a read. You’ll probably agree with me.
KATE HARPOOTLIAN AS WRITER AND CAREER COACH
'The other day a friend and I had a discussion on dreams … and I don't mean the type where my teeth fall out and I show up naked to school. We brought up the dreams and goals we have for our future. She had asked me what mine were and I had replied rather quickly that I didn't have any.
Now this off-hand answer really caused me to do some self-reflection. When did I become such a dark Debbie downer? But after quite a bit of thought and weird out loud conversations with myself in my apartment, I came to a realization that perhaps I had been too hasty in my reply. The truth is, my dreams have never come true, but it has probably been the best thing to ever happen to me.
When I was younger I would see myself living a certain life and getting certain jobs and would be absolutely heartbroken every time each dream never materialized. It seemed like over and over again I would watch myself lose the jobs and relationships I so wanted and a sense of grief for the life I would never lead began to take hold of me. But now older, (I realize that's a hard phrase to swallow from a 28-year-old) I have a good ten years of reflecting upon all those dreams that died, I always ended up exactly where I needed to be.
In my improv classes, I always tell my students that often times my improvisational choices come from trying to recover from falling out of something. And the same holds true for my life. Most of my successes have come from the fall out of my failures. For example, after failing to get the jobs I wanted in NYC and slowly sinking more into a depressive state, I took action and moved to LA where I joined Shaping Sound. It was never my dream to dance with the company, but after touring the US with my best friends I don't see how it could have not been.
I have done everything I said I would never do. From moving to LA, to SYTYCD, to dancing at Bar Mitzvahs in Jersey. Actually, I never told myself I'd never do Bar Mitzvah's in jersey, but I never imagined that'd be on the table. I've made most choices not based on my heart but on fear. Usually, the most uncomfortable and scary has been the most rewarding path. And I have ended up in a place that, although not the me I dreamed of when I was younger, is still someone I am so proud of, which at times, I can often forget.
I guess the most important lesson and the one I am still working on, is not to measure myself in the accomplishment of my dreams or a future I imagined, but to be rooted in the joy of all the unimagined and unforeseen. I can choose the fork in the road, but not necessarily the destination.
Now do I still dream? Of course I do, it's inherent in us. Right now I'm dreaming that in a year from now I'll be on a European vacation with my soul mate or imagining my future should I book the audition that I attended. The only difference is that no matter if or how these things materialize, I will be okay, because I know that my self-worth is not caught up in my achievements or the milestones on a self-created timeline, but rather my willingness to pursue and take action, to put myself in situations where I must make difficult choices, and to simply be my best self, which isn't quite as simple as you would think, but I'm trying.
So yes I have dreams for my future, but from what I've learned thus far, my life is going to pan out in ways I never could have imagined and although terribly frustrating at times, it's going to be pretty exciting seeing exactly where all these twist and turns will take me on this journey I've chosen.' – KATE H.
KATE is also featured as a ‘Dancer To Watch.’ >
JESSIE DOUGLASS-SMITH STORY
One major goal of every dancer who pursues a professional career is getting an agent. It’s a dream, really, and doesn’t always happen in the way you expect. Some dancers are fortunate to gain representation early on in their career, and some fight hard to get it. But no matter how you get an agent to notice you, or when, the feeling you get when you sign on the dotted line is very much the same… excitement, nerves, passion, hunger, and a strong desire to succeed in your career.
We at A4D had the privilege of having a front row seat as member Jessie Douglass-Smith was signed for representation with Los Angeles-based agency, Go 2 Talent. Below you will find the perspectives of three very important people in this story, her new agent, her mentor, and finally from Jessie herself. We hope this story inspires you and lets you know that it’s never too late to go after your dreams.
ENTER TERRY LINDHOLM, CO-FOUNDER OF GO 2 TALENT AGENCY (GTA)...
We first met Jessie Douglass-Smith at one of our agency auditions. She came with a recommendation from Grover Dale. After watching her dance, I didn’t quite feel that she had the edge or confidence to compete in the marketplace. I emailed Grover expressing my opinion, and made these recommendations to help Jessie achieve her goals: I suggested she attend Helene Phillips' class at EDGE PAC to help bring out that internal fire and confidence as well as Tovaris Wilson’s class to help expand her movement vocabulary fusing technique and hip-hop. An added bonus was that this put her in the room with many working dancers so she could evaluate her performance. To my surprise, she took the advice and ran with it.
Over the course of the following year Jessie blossomed, winning the support of teachers, choreographers, and dancers. Upon receiving calls from Helene, Tovaris, Nanci Anderson, and Chucky Klapow, who all voiced their support for her being ready, we agreed to take a follow up meeting. When Jessie arrived at the office I didn’t recognize her! Her body had changed and her demeanor had changed so it was wonderful to see. We agreed to sign her. Jessie is currently in the process of continuing to build relationships in the industry as well as audition skills and, of course, finding the right pictures. What I love most about Jessie is that she is prepared to do whatever it takes to reach her goals. She doesn’t ever seem to be defeated, but rather uses that energy to keep growing. No one said being a dancer was going to be easy and for Jessie I feel like she has already won knowing that she has to put in the work. For me, the journey has already rewarded Jessie with success.
ENTER HELENE PHILLIPS, CHOREOGRAPHER & TEACHER AT EDGE PAC...
Jessie didn’t waste a moment getting into my class. Her eagerness to learn was apparent, and her passion for dance was (and is) incredible! Jessie took every correction I made - whether it was directed at her or not - as if it were her own. She always went the extra mile by reaching out to me any chance she could. Through Facebook, email, phone or text, Jessie made her presence known and asked a million and one questions. Whatever it took, she was willing and ready. We discussed hair, make-up, weight, outfits… the whole enchilada!! The immediacy with which Jessie responded was fantastic and any suggestion I made, she took on with such enthusiasm.
Bottom line… she never gave up.
As of now, Jessie is signed with GTA and has started on the path of booking dance gigs. She is still in my class, eager to learn, willing to grow, and loving dance. I am the lucky one for the day Jessie stepped into my class.
GET THE STORY STRAIGHT FROM THE SOURCE, JESSIE DOUGLASS-SMITH...
To share my story with others is such an honor, especially considering that two (or more!) years ago I would have never imagined that I would be so grateful for so many things in my dance life. To begin with, I grew up dancing, as all of you did, and LOVING it with all of me. I knew it was what I wanted for the rest of my life. I skipped high school dances for late night classes and teaching opportunities. Fast forward to moving to LA with a best friend, going to college and graduating with a degree in Psychology, I knew in my heart and soul that I couldn't go another day without being a dancer. Starting out, I read everything (that's when I found A4D!), I auditioned, but I was terrified. I knew I wasn't keeping up with the rest, and I so desperately needed and wanted for more. I had heard of Terry and Lisa Lindholm originally from their how-to videos on Answers4Dancers. I loved what they had to say, and I connected to every piece of advice. They cared and were so passionate about the industry... that's when I knew, I needed an agent, and I wanted them to be mine.
After Terry and Lisa started GTA, I heard that they were going to be observing Helene Phillips' class once a month at EDGE PAC. I attended their first observance day in my black jazz pants, jazz shoes, t-shirt and ponytail (and wrote all of that on my headshot for when they watched... gulp). It was during that class that two miracles happened that changed my life. I found a mentor willing to lend a hand and believe in me, and an incredible agent duo that were willing and brave enough to tell me I had potential and to give advice on how to move forward. I had found a home and direction for my passion. Now to say that that day made the rest of my journey easy and like a big ol' slide to the pot of gold, would be cheating you all of the truth. It has been the hardest few years of my life... BUT I love a challenge, so each day I picked myself up by my bootstraps, took class and got the most amazing guidance possible from Helene. She fine-tuned me (and still does!), helped me find my look, encouraged a new do, and helped me find me again in my dancing (the biggest gift of all!). I was coming back, full-fledged, confident. All the while I was checking in with Terry and Lisa, reminding them of who I was, that I took their guidance to heart, and that I was working every day towards my dreams. I kept up with the industry, knowing who was who, staying active on A4D (which was a big help in my growth), going to dance events and shows, and getting my fingers in every pie possible.
After two years, I felt I was ready to reach out to Lisa and Terry and ask for a meeting. I had all the tools ready to prove that I wanted to take the next step up the ladder; website, videos, class footage, photos, industry acknowledgment. I was absolutely thrilled when the ball got rolling. Of course I was welcomed with a warm and excited email from Lisa, and a meeting was set. As you can imagine, the ending to this tale is that I was signed to the agency of my dreams, and I was beyond elated and grateful, exasperated and proud. And the best part of it all is that they saw me for who I am, and for all the hard work I had done. Terry shared with me that he had told a college dance class about my story, my tenacity to not let anything get in my way, and I was floored. Things were coming full circle, my hard work was paying off, and this was a moment in my life that I would never forget.
With all of this, I hope to inspire any dancer who reads this, whether experiencing a similar path or not. One of my favorite quotes is "Every step of the journey, IS the journey"... find it cliché or not, it's the truth. And as humbling as it may be, there's no way around it. Carving your own path is the most difficult, but it's also the most glorious. Continue to be courageous dancers! Work hard and never give up.
EMMY FREVELE BUILDS AN OUTSTANDING REEL
Emmy freely admits that ‘innovation’ has shown up in all shapes and forms throughout her life. In creating a new demo reel, she knew she wanted to represent herself in the best way possible - something she felt her previous reel didn't do. Over the summer, Emmy was drawn to another member’s reel that Grover posted on iDANCE2. It highlighted his personality to an exceptional level in less than 2 minutes. Inspired, Emmy picked up paper and pen and decided to record her reactions.
Overnight, she arrived at what she wanted her reel to say about her. She went to work, using Logic Pro, an audio composing and editing software she is very familiar with, and began composing the musical soundtrack to her reel-in-the-making. She recorded the voiceover on her iPhone microphone and inserted it into the newly created music. It took a week to pull it together.
After the track was completed, Emmy took a break from her reel to work various jobs for a few weeks which provided her with the perfect footage to use. In one job, she danced in a friend's concept video where she felt über confident in her freestyle. It became the footage she had been waiting for! It motivated her to start editing. She developed a solid first draft. At this point, she contacted her Forum4Dancers friends for feedback. Positive reactions led to a few final touches. Within days, Emmy felt confident enough to put it out for the world to see.
Responses were amazing to the reel Emmy built from start to finish…the composition, the writing, the performance, the dancing, as well as the editing. ‘At last,’ Emmy was able to say, ‘I have a reel that represents me as a complete artist. The road to creative satisfaction is available to all of us!’
DANCERS AS DESIGNERS AND PRODUCERS?
How can that happen?
Professional dancers have to diversify to make themselves more marketable. Just ask three Answers4Dancers members who discovered a niche market inside the professional dance world. Members Cydny Pina, Stephanie Scull and Emily Dann, pictured above, respectively, each contributed to an amazing project that allowed them to showcase “other talents.”
Cydny is the owner of Venus Entertainment and her company booked an industrial event with brand Kah Tequilla who was looking for unique costume models in the look of “dios de los muertos,” Day of the Dead. That’s not really the sort of thing you can find on the shelves in a costume shop. So she did the smartest thing she knew, and that was to call on her friends.
Enter Stephanie Scull who holds a degree in fashion design and knows a thing or two about costumes for dancers. As a professional dancer who has danced for the likes of Beyoncé and Channing Tatum, she has an impressive body of work to guide her in what works and what doesn’t work for a performance and how costumes should look on the stage. Cydny gave Stephanie the task of designing a costume for the upcoming event. The results were amazing and she achieved that “Day of the Dead” look with the creative use of mixed textiles and accessories.
But having a great costume could never work without the right makeup. Emily Dann has been a working model since age 16 and had the opportunity to work with many makeup artists and learned lots of makeup application tips along the way. She worked with Cydny on several projects and had many occasions to assist in applying performance makeup on fellow dancers. Emily found she was so good at it, and was being sought to help with makeup at the events she booked, that she decided it was time to take a professional makeup course. She recently studied with the renowned owner of Kett Cosmetics, Sheila McKenna, who trained her in color theory and airbrush makeup artistry.
This prepared Emily to design the makeup to best complement the costume that Stephanie created. Collaboration between Emily and Stephanie came easily since they’re both represented by Bloc Agency in New York City and have worked on many of the same projects together including performances with recording artists Carly Rae Jepsen and Chris Brown. They also appeared as dancers for a rock star on the same episode of USA Network’s Royal Pains. The work between these friends came naturally as they designed the final look.
Visit Answers4Dancers.com for more about membership and find out your greatest potential through the collaboration that happens on the site every day! It’s amazing what dancers can accomplish when they contribute their combined talents to a project. These ladies met each other through their membership on Answers4Dancers. Collaboration between members is one of the best benefits that comes from membership!
3 BOOKERS SECURE REPRESENTATION
RACHEL PERLMAN GREGORY OSBORNE JADÉE NIKITA
Sponsored by Capezio, the article focuses on 3 bookers and their achievement of gaining agent representation. Following a five-month process involving A4D’s Referral Program, Workshops, and invites to Sing & Reads, Rachel Perlman was signed by Across The Board Agency in their new NYC office. Gregory Osborne secured representation with MSA in New York while Jadée Nikita secured a contract with another Manhattan-based agency (bloc).
We congratulate this trio for the ‘stick-to-it-iveness’ they demonstrated throughout the 5-month process. Dancers everywhere will benefit from the winning streaks they find here.
FROM GREGORY OSBORNE: My experience with MSA is amazing! The agents and I, although we have only met about 2 times, have been great with communication via emails and sometimes phone calls. I sent them an email about my plans for 2014 and as soon as I did that they have been sending me out on many audition; target commercial, Armani, a new show called WITNESS UGANDA (which I am in callbacks for) and many more.
FROM MSA AGENT LUCILLE DICAMPLI: Gregory is a hard worker and a very good communicator; which always makes the 'agent/client relationship' better!
FROM RACHEL PERLMAN: I am thrilled to begin and build my agent/client relationship with Across the Board Talent Agency! From the moment I walked into the room to audition for them, I felt a positive energy and great vibe. They seem excited to have me as a client and to get me working. That makes ME even MORE excited and ready to work even harder to book something awesome and prove that I am a valuable client for them! Seeing them post daily about the great gigs their current clients are booking is so encouraging and hopeful! I have a wonderful feeling that together, ATB and I will make a great team and make big things happen!
FROM ATB TALENT AGENT TODD M. ESKIN: From the moment Rachel walked in the room I knew I wanted to work with her. She had talent, professionalism, and poise. I look forward to a lucrative working relationship.
FROM JADÉE NIKITA: It is an overwhelmingly awesome feeling to be recognized for my hard work, business savvy, and talents! I have worked very hard for this opportunity, and now I will be working harder than before. All the agents in the Bloc office were so welcoming, and I'm glad to be a part of this prestigious family. Thank you A4D for helping me achieve my goal of being a represented dancer!
FROM BLOC AGENT FATIMA WILSON: Jadèe is extremely talented and professional. It was these qualities that made me want to work with her and help further her career.
ANTONIO MARTINEZ & AGENT SCORE A BIG WIN!
Among 25 members who have been signed by dance agencies (via the Referral Program)... dancer Antonio Martinez is enjoying particularly rewarding results. Thanks to his agent at MSA (JC Gutierrez) he was recently booked to assist in the casting of dancers for a national TV commercial. Within days, Antonio was auditioning female dancers, partnering them on camera, selecting music, and offering staging ideas to the director. His ease with communicating led to an unexpected pay-off. When on-camera talent was selected for the spot, Antonio was at the top of everyone’s list.
THE BACK STORY
Antonio enrolled in Answers4Dancers on Oct 14, 2010 while living at home in Wagoner, OK. Six weeks later, he earned an agent referral. By Dec 15, three agencies wanted to meet him. He boarded a flight to Los Angeles on New Year’s Day, met with the agents, and launched the new life he had spent years preparing for.
48 hours after signing with MSA, the ‘unexpected’ occurred. He booked a national Dove commercial based solely on the reel he developed on A4D. No audition necessary. Since that initial slam-dunk, Antonio has registered 55 bookings, proof that magic happens when the right agent and performer agree to work together.
Jenn Proctor, JC Guiterrez, & Shelli Margueritis
WE ASKED JC A FEW QUESTIONS!
What led you to suggesting Antonio for the gig?He had the skills they needed... knowledge of the styles, a great personality that ensured he would get along with everyone, and the flexibility to “go with the flow” in case last-minute changes came up.
Did communication play a role here?Yes, it did. Antonio’s an amazing communicator... thorough and positive in his communication.
How can dancers break into the same territory?Be a team player. Provide insights when asked. And be flexible. Industry requirements are always changing... dancers need to be flexible and versatile to succeed, whether you’re in front of the camera or behind it.
A CLOSING THOUGHT?
The director, producer, and client liked Antonio’s energy so much, they created an on-camera role for him. The spot was never meant to have a male ballroom dancer. How’s that for ‘on-the-job’ inspiration?
SEE ANTONIO'S DODGE DURANGO COMMERCIAL >
ANTONIO'S PROFILE & DEMO REEL >