For dancers, choosing where to call home may be one of the most consequential decisions they can make for their career. From the Great White Way, to the bright lights of Hollywood, to across the pond, and even exciting up-and-coming dance hubs in between - each city will offer different opportunities and lifestyles for dancers. No matter how sure you are that the city you choose will be right for you, there is always the possibility that it doesn’t feel like the right fit, either immediately or years down the line. So how do you know when it’s time to make the move? The stories of these professional dancers below may offer some insight on how to know if moving to a new city will take your dance career to the next level.
Marlie Goddard: Toronto to London
For Marlie Goddard, the dance scene in her hometown of Toronto never fully offered her the jobs she knew she wanted most, like awards shows and performances with major artists. Despite the limited opportunities in those avenues, she made a name for herself in the city by choreographing music videos for local artists and content for brands, then booking a national commercial for Knix underwear, and an international tour with Priyanka, the winner of Season 1 of Ru Paul’s Drag Race Canada. After that tour she felt like she had reached the peak of what opportunities there were in Toronto for her. “My success in my own city gave me the confidence that I could succeed elsewhere too,” she says, “and I knew that I could [either] remain comfortable but unfulfilled in Toronto, or take a risk and move to a bigger market.”
Having visited London on a family trip and while on tour with Priyanka, the city had always seemed like somewhere she could see herself living. “I started thinking about moving to London about three years before I finally moved,” she says, “I was initially inspired because I saw some Canadian dancers I knew move there and book amazing jobs like the Brit Awards, MTV European Music Awards, and more, that I wanted to do and that don't exist in Canada. At that time I thought that LA was the only place that had those opportunities, but was discouraged by the difficult and expensive visa process there. So London seemed like the next best thing!” Marlie took advantage of the simpler visa process for Canadians to move to the UK, making the big leap across the pond by herself at the end of 2021.
In order to make a big career jump like this as smooth as possible, Marlie suggests saving a few months of living expenses so you can focus on getting involved in the dance community quickly. The research she did on the city and dancing in London also helped her immeasurably in the beginning - like knowing which studios to go to, which choreographers work on the jobs she wants, and which agencies to reach out to. Immersing herself in the scene so quickly paid off: making friends from class led to her hearing about an audition for the new ‘Barbie’ feature film being filmed in London, which she crashed and booked, signing with her “dream agency” to represent her on the job. Since then, she’s danced for a major sporting event for live TV, for artists Jorja Smith and Mahalia, and teaches regularly at the largest commercial dance studio in the city, Base Dance Studios.
“[Dancing in London] was challenging when I first moved because I didn't know anyone, and definitely had moments of self-doubt,” she says, though she’s proud of her accomplishments since the move. “Know that you have to work ten times harder than the people who are from [the city you move to], because no one knows you and you have to make them get to know you, prove that you are reliable, hard-working, and talented. Be clear about your goals and intentions of moving, and don't get distracted by anything else!” she says.
Laura Aronoff: Los Angeles to Atlanta to New York City
Born and raised in Atlanta, Laura Aronoff moved to Los Angeles right after graduating from college in New Orleans, thinking Hollywood was naturally where she had to go to make her dance career take off. Despite booking jobs soon after the move, something about the city didn’t feel quite right. “When I moved to LA, I had no idea where I fit in the professional dance world,” she says, “I went to every audition possible. I did music videos, live events, industrials, and a ton of workshops, concept videos, and showcases - but truthfully I knew the entire time that it wasn’t ‘my fit’” Three years in, she found musical theatre, dipped her toes into regional theatre and eventually booked a national tour that confirmed that this genre of performing was her true love and new focus.
“Once I fell in love with musicals, I wanted more,” Laura says, “Not just more experience, but more money for my time and skill set. The theatre scene on the west coast is awesome, but I felt that opportunities and budgets were limited for this art form. I started visiting NYC a couple times a year to go to auditions and dip my toes in the water. And unlike in LA, I just felt like I was home. It felt scary but so right.” She made the cross-country move to New York City in January 2020, and we all know what happened worldwide soon after. During the pandemic, Laura moved back to Atlanta to be with her family, which ironically led to some of the biggest dance jobs she’d booked to date in TV and film, including ‘Tall Girl 2’ (filmed in New Orleans) on Netflix and Season 3 of ‘Step Up Highwater’.
Be clear about your goals and intentions of moving, and don't get distracted by anything else!
Despite these newfound TV and film opportunities available in the Atlanta dance scene, Laura still decided to move back to New York City after the pandemic. This time, she didn’t move because she felt there would be more dance jobs available in the extremely competitive city, but because, “I know in my core that NYC is my home. I’m challenged here. I like the community here. I’m inspired by the work ethic here. And I have finally started - after three years- to work here,” she says.
Her success in so many cities has made her realize how important it is to “explore other markets rather than forcing yourself to live in LA or NYC because people say that’s what you have to do if you want to be a professional. Atlanta and New Orleans have provided me with the most work so far, and my living in those places was completely unplanned.” Wherever you’re looking to land, Laura suggests to, “dip your toes in the water first! Visit a friend or family if you can and try to go to an audition or two. Take class to see what it’s like. And ask your friends about their lifestyle and budgets,” to understand the reality of living there. Ultimately, as Laura discovered, the city has to offer you more than a job to truly make you feel at home.
Ryan Miller: New York City to Los Angeles
Choosing between two of the biggest hubs for dance in the US can be a big decision - but don’t count out the possibility of exploring both. Ryan Miller began his dance career in his hometown of New York City first, but he didn’t even begin dancing until college. After training at Broadway Dance Center (BDC) under the likes of Luam Keflezgy and Rhapsody James, he eventually signed with Clear Talent Group and taught his own classes at BDC. As a commercial dancer in a city full of musical theatre work, Ryan’s skills led him to work mostly in industrials, including for Adidas, Nike, Moncler, and Tory Burch, and yearly award shows like the MTV Video Music Awards, where he worked with Rihanna and Travis Scott, as a dancer, and Lizzo, as an assistant choreographer.
In recent years, Ryan realized the big apple didn’t have the same amount of opportunities for commercial dancers that he was seeing available in other cities. “I moved to LA because there was more I wanted to experience in my career and it was clear that could only happen in LA or Atlanta,” Ryan said, “I decided on LA because the people I wanted to work with were based there.”
Ultimately, the decision to finally make the move happened spontaneously, while visiting LA and seeing firsthand the opportunities he could have in the city. Though it was more challenging to make that decision so abruptly, he knows it was the right one in how quickly he was able to hit the ground running, landing teaching slots at major LA studios while booking jobs as both a dancer and a choreographer, including his favorite job to date: a Juneteenth performance with Billy Porter. His established presence in NYC actually gave him an edge when he moved out to LA, as he was able to connect with other dancers and choreographers who made the same move. Being with an agency that has offices in both cities also helped him to smoothly transition into the industry on the West Coast.
“My biggest advice would be if you’re thinking about moving and your biggest excuse is going when you’re ‘ready,’ you need to go or visit sooner, because there will never be a perfect time to go,” Ryan says, “You have to just experience it.”
The city has to offer you more than a job to truly make you feel at home.
Within all these dancers' stories is a common throughline - despite booking work in a major dance hub, they all didn’t feel fully aligned in some way with their current choice of a ‘home’. Whether it was because they wanted to challenge themselves, had a deeper connection with the lifestyle of another city, or sought out opportunities that made more sense with their goals, moving to a new city helped them all to level up their dance careers.
If you’re wondering if your current city might not be the one that you’d thrive best in, consider visiting others and exploring the many new dance hubs that have popped up across the world if you can. You never know what opportunities may be waiting for you when you take the leap to a place that is more aligned with you and your goals.