As the dance industry grapples with how to function during the pandemic, it can feel like we’re all ships lost at sea, waiting for our captains to send us a casting call. In search of direction, I’ve spent way too much time on social media, trying to figure out what other dancers have been doing with their time, keep track of online classes from my favorite choreographers, and monitor how much agencies are able to find work for clients.
So when my talent agency, Go2Talent Agency, recently participated in an insightful series of Instagram Live chats with Cassidy Noblett, another one of their clients, I wasn’t surprised to see the chat filled with dancers from every agency, looking for some comfort and guidance during this time. I spoke to Julie Medeiros, the Director of the Dance Department at Go2Talent to hear more about her advice and insight on the current climate for commercial dancers in 2020 and beyond:
KHAYLA JORDAN: What do you suggest dancers focus on learning, doing, or creating while studios are closed or work is scarce? What can they do to stay prepared for work in the future?
JULIE MEDEIROS: What I've been hearing from a lot of our clients is that this downtime has opened their eyes to a better perspective on the areas they actually want to develop. When you are in a situation where you can pretty much wipe the slate clean and come back to an entirely new industry the possibilities are endless. As challenging as this situation is, it's giving dancers a chance to slow down and think about what is really important to them, what they excel in, and where they will want to put their energy once they are fully able to. I would say take advantage of this time to slow down and listen to yourself. It's a very rare occasion we have so much time to self-reflect. When you then go to apply your efforts into classes and connections (right now, virtually) it will come with a certain self-confidence that may not have been present before.
We are hopeful that in this time we can recreate the audition/booking process and place the dancers exactly where they want to be.
How often should dancers communicate to their agents and what should they share with them during this time?
As frequently as they'd like to! It's a personal preference. Some clients reach out weekly, bi-weekly, or once a month. It's great for the agents to know what clients are up to. Keep in mind, we are realistic and don't expect our communication emails to be at the volume they were at the beginning of the year, so reaching out shouldn't come with the pressure of "I don't have much to say.” We even just enjoy a "hello" email so we know our clients are hanging in there with us!
What have you seen or think will be the future of auditions and castings from now on?
We are seeing a lot of digital castings. There is a long road ahead to rebuild the audition scene we once knew. That also comes with the question of, do we need to go back to the way it once was? There certainly won't be any huge open calls for the foreseeable future, so what do we do? The possibilities are endless in the world of technology and we are hopeful that in this time we can recreate the audition/booking process and place the dancers exactly where they want to be, along with meeting the choreographers’ needs in a more efficient way.
We also are tracking the smaller castings that have been happening recently under the COVID-19 Safety Guidelines and will continue to use the feedback and information being presented to us to advise on the audition front as we move forward.
How can dancers create an effective self-tape, as auditions and castings go virtual?
There are a lot of virtual courses right now on effective self-tapes. We have done a few Instagram Live’s with some of this info and will continue to do so. However, there are some basic guidelines that should always be met.
During this time with self-tapes being so frequent, it would be good to set up a designated spot in your home that is your "self-tape" area. Of course, we understand that some living situations may not be as easily set up, but if you have a clean wall you can set up shop, that is ideal. iPhones or phones with solid cameras are a great way to shoot. If you have something fancier, even better, but it's not required. (If it is a requirement, it would be stated by casting from the start).
When taping, always make sure to slate your name and talent agency. If additional information is required, it will be in the audition notes. Speak clearly and show off your personality.
Depending on each dancer's individual editing/technology skills some may vary in how they are edited together with or without music, graphics, etc. Again, none of that is a requirement, but the levels of intricacy can vary.
The bottom line is to remember that these tapes are equally as important as walking into an audition room. You are representing yourself and your agency. The beauty of a self tape is you can utilize your time to do as many takes as you need to get it right. This is a gift and one that is not usually given in the audition room itself!
When you are in a situation where you can pretty much wipe the slate clean and come back to an entirely new industry the possibilities are endless.
What kind of safety guidelines are you seeing on dance jobs at this time or predict will stick around in the future?
It is all very new, but if it is a Union job, all safety guidelines must be presented to the Union and approved before the job can start. Although non-union productions don't have the same approval process we absolutely require that all safety measures are in place before a client steps on set - required COVID-19 tests before, during, and upon completion of the project, social distance guidelines have to be met to the best of the production's abilities, staggered schedules, and limited hours are just a few of the main areas that need constant attention.
We believe that we need to keep the mindset of working towards a better and safer industry in general, instead of waiting around to see when things will go back to how they were. “Were” is not a word we strive to get back to. Our collective thought process and awareness are forever changed. Of course, some things will reflect how we worked in the past, but we need to remain open to what is ahead. Once we get through the meticulous safety details that need to be monitored at every moment, we are confident that the challenges we are facing are only setting us up for a better and more connected industry.
Should dancers submit for representation right now?
Dancers are always welcome to submit. We are very realistic right now about the amount of work we are being presented with and what we can and cannot do for potential new clients. Patience is key. It's great to reach out, keep in communication, but know that the timing for official representation may be better explored when things have settled a bit.
What is your advice for recent graduates or others who are just starting out in the industry during this time?
DON'T GET DISCOURAGED!!! Although we are in one of the most challenging times that many have been through, it won't be the only time in the industry and in life you will be faced with hardships. Keep your goals and dreams on the table. It all starts and ends with you. There may not be others right now that can physically help to make these goals and dreams come to fruition, but it's only temporary. Keep on keeping on!
Keep the mindset of working towards a better and safer industry in general, instead of waiting around to see when things will go back to how they were.
As we’ve weathered the storm of this pandemic, many of our commercial dance jobs and goals have been forced to be put on hold. Like any industry dealing with this unprecedented world health emergency, we have to learn how to quickly adapt our work in ways that are safe for everyone. If you’re feeling lost or frustrated, take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone, and that your dancers, teachers, and agencies are here for you during this time. And when in doubt - ask your agent!