Dancing, singing, and acting, also known as the skills that make one a “triple threat”, have long been the coveted combination in the performance industry. While focusing solely on one aspect of performing is beneficial in the sense that you can truly refine your craft, having the ability to do all three will certainly give you a leg up in the audition process as well as improve your skills as an overall performer. Investing the time and energy in becoming a triple threat is no easy feat. However, having as many skills as you can in your back pocket will help you stand out even more from the crowd, along with making you a better communicator overall.
Most dancers spend countless hours in a studio working on their technique and artistry. With so many nuances to hone in on, it takes years to refine the craft. Consequently, it’s not uncommon to let other art forms fall to the wayside, singing and acting being the most common, even though they all complement one another. This hole may be exposed in an audition setting. I realized this when I auditioned for a contemporary dance company, and after surviving multiple cuts, the director asked us to individually sing any song we wanted. There was shock, paralyzing fear, and loads of embarrassment. I then realized it was time to get myself some voice lessons.
There was a time when dancers found their safe havens in companies just utilizing their bodies and movement to express themselves. Now, that sphere is changing.
The choreographer made it clear that he wasn’t looking for singers, but still wanted to have us go ahead with the singing portion. He was searching for confident performers ready to tackle any challenge thrown their way. So rather than simply seeking dancers with a killer belt, the emphasis was put on being able to work seamlessly through a situation with grace. While it isn’t always a requirement to sing in order to book jobs and be successful in the concert or commercial world, as performers, having the skills to confidently execute another performance art form makes us all the more desirable and adaptable hirees.
My next professional wake up call came shortly after, when another choreographer in a dance call for ballerinas handed us sides and asked us to read with the assistant choreographer. Once again, I was in for a wave of embarrassment, followed by another realization that I needed to get myself into acting classes, not for my lack of ability, but for my lack of confidence. As dancers, we are natural actors. We tell stories, sell products, make people smile, and entertain audiences. We already have a general understanding of acting. This is something that is so incredibly valuable because it takes away some of the unease when tackling the unknown. However, there is certainly no harm in attending acting classes and workshops to sharpen that particular craft. We must be as versatile, adaptable, and prepared as possible to book that next job.
There was a time when dancers found their safe havens in companies just utilizing their bodies and movement to express themselves. Now, that sphere is changing. Although we immediately think of the musical theater world, this is no longer the only genre utilizing triple threats. Ballet companies, such as the National Ballet of Canada have performed works such as the “West Side Story Suite”. For this performance, a vocal coach was brought in to assess whether the company could perform the singing roles, or if they would have to rely on offstage vocalists. Ultimately, National Ballet of Canada cast its dancers for the singing roles and the company members were given vocal training. In turn, dancers were featured from different ranks of the company. This not only shed light on the importance of being a triple threat, but it highlighted dancers of different ranks because of their diverse skill set.
All of the dancers working in a company of that caliber are astounding to begin with and can undoubtedly shine in any role they are given. They have reached incredible heights in their careers with or without refined triple threat skills. They have succeeded regardless of the circumstance, but having additional talents elevated some to even greater heights.
Aside from company work, dancers are also seeing their skills showcased on the silver screen. Directors are no longer looking for specialists, but performers who can be a jack of all trades. The new Netflix dance series, “Tiny Pretty Things” features actors who do their own dancing. There are no body doubles. So what we really see are highly trained dancers who refined their acting. The director was only looking for artists who can act and dance on such a high level that their work can be showcased in the series. The days of “Black Swan” may be over, with an actor portraying the lines and a dancer executing the dance scenes. Why hire multiple people for one part, when you can find someone out there who can do it all or at least attempt to take on the challenge? Sometimes directors and choreographers at auditions aren’t entirely sure what they are looking for, or what they will expect of their cast. Therefore, it’s important to have anything and everything ready to present to them. Ultimately, directors may decide to not have dancers sing in the final work, but it goes a long way to show that you can do it. As demonstrated in “High School Musical,” one of the main actors wasn’t mic’d. In this instance, the job itself didn’t require you to be able to do it all, but it can still help you get the job when it’s demonstrated that you have the confidence and willingness to try.
“Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” also showcases performers who do all of their own dancing, acting, and singing. The veteran cast boasts a strong roster of triple threats with varying musical theater backgrounds. Therefore, the show doesn’t dub any of the singing voices you hear from the main cast. Their versatility elevates the caliber of the show and really impresses audiences with the skills shown on the screen.
Having the skills to confidently execute another performance art form makes us all the more desirable and adaptable hirees.
It is possible to become a dynamic performer in all three aspects. Those musical theater artists you see on Broadway in the ensemble? They are triple threats. After surviving a dance call, making it past a singing cut, and nailing the sides with other actors, it is clear that those artists can do it all. Not only does it make them stand out in an audition, but it elevates their overall performance portfolio. Maybe their singing is better than their dancing and acting, or some other combination of the three, but having touched upon all three made them standouts in the audition room.
There are also artists in the public eye that utilize their skills to round them out as artists. Tate McRae, the super versatile performer whose work is showcased internationally, started as a dancer on “So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation.” After her finalist standing, she went on to record YouTube videos of her singing. From her viral videos, she signed with a record label and her songs are now worldwide hits, leading her to become the youngest musician ever to make “Forbes’ 30 Under 30 List.” Her accolades stretch far and wide, and it circles back around to relying on her skills that she’s built. She uses her voice, acting abilities, and dancing in her music videos. Her expertise makes her all the more desirable to work with and creates countless opportunities for directors’ visions.
The path to becoming a jack or jill of all trades is quite simple in concept- consistency. Don’t get this confused with the idea that you can become a superstar overnight. On the contrary, these versatile performers work endlessly to continue refining their crafts. If dance takes up most of your time, singing and acting can take a smaller sliver, and over time, those slivers will add up. Practicing once a week for just an hour can do wonders for your artform if you find yourself unsure of where to start. You might even start to love singing and acting as much as dancing.
Ultimately, dance and movement is a form of expression, allowing people to communicate in another way. As dancers, we use our bodies to tell stories and showcase emotions and thoughts. Acting and singing can be viewed as other ways to deliver these same ideas. Why not explore new outlets of expression? It can inform you as a communicator overall, and enhance your singing, dancing, and acting simultaneously. While it is not a necessity to do it all, manifesting the skills that we already have as dancers can give you a leg up -- something that’s especially important in our current dance climate where opportunities are more limited than before. With a little refining, we can all become triple threats to help bring our performance game to the next level.