Today’s dance industry is saturated with talent. The harsh reality is, there will always be someone more skilled, better looking or simply more suitable for any given project, which makes securing a job in our industry harder. The entertainment hubs such as Los Angeles, New York, and London are full of talented artists, and their dance scenes are no exception. There are many professional dance jobs available. High demand creates supply, with the best of the best moving to these cities in pursuit of their dreams. This can make many artists - including dancers - easily replaceable. Let’s talk about tips for longevity that could help a dancer work consistently. There are many professionals who work for decades, often hired over and over by the same camps, artists, producers and directors. This proves that longevity and a long-lasting dance career can be accomplished despite the high saturation of talent.
But not every dancer knows how to get rehired after their first project with a new employer. Looking at some resumes, you’ll notice a multitude of short-term projects: every time with a different camp, choreographer, or artist. This could mean that this dancer books a lot of work because of their talent or look, but for some reason they are unable to keep the job. They don’t get invited back after the initial engagement is over. If you’re a choreographer or a casting director, this could be a red flag, indicating that such a candidate may be difficult to work with in some shape or form.
There are many ways to provide value on a dance job beyond doing the dance steps.
There are many variables going into hiring a professional dancer. They can be unpredictable and hard to influence: like look, height, or even the director’s, producer’s, or artist’s personal preference. Others, however, we can very much control - like skill, work ethic, staying up-to-date with training, or providing value beyond our job description, which will all help achieve career longevity in dance. In my 13 years as a professional dancer, I’ve often been able to work with the same camps over many years, across many projects. While perhaps I’ve had some luck initially getting hired, it wasn’t fortune that kept me working. I’d love to share a few ideas for longevity in the dance industry that I personally practice. I see these as universal for almost any camp or project and I hope they can be helpful to you too. Let’s explore!
1. Work ethic
This should go without saying, yet many struggle with these few seemingly obvious, but extremely important things. Being on time, coming to rehearsal prepared, replying to messages in a timely manner, or leaving personal opinions outside of the work environment will demonstrate your professionalism beyond doing the dance steps. I encourage you to check out my previous article about the value of work ethic, talent and skill on professional dance jobs.
2. Never stop growing
I believe it’s extremely important to keep training and bettering yourself even after you’ve become an established, working dancer. As mentioned earlier, there’s always going to be new talent for casting teams to choose from. Competition doesn’t rest and there’s always going to be more candidates than job openings. Consistent training will not only help you be your best at all times, which comes handy in securing a job, it will also keep you up to date with the current dance trends, which you may be asked to execute in an audition or a show. Recording artists in pop-culture inevitably evolve their music, performance, and creative production over the years, so they too can stay relevant. Your ability to be a chameleon and staying up-to-date in training will make you consistently and universally useful to the same camps across many projects, even as they evolve. In short: stay ready so you don’t have to get ready (and don’t be a one-trick pony.)
3. Provide value beyond your job description
This has been one of my personal favorites. I think going that extra mile is extremely underrated. In the entertainment industry, we deal with a lot of self-focus and entitlement. It’s increasingly more rare for someone to provide more than what they’re asked and paid for. That’s why, when it does happen, it never goes unnoticed. It could be simple, effortless things, like bringing a portable speaker to an on-site rehearsal in case the choreographer needs it (e.g. theirs runs out of battery), being the last person to leave and picking up trash, or simply just asking what you could do to help. There are many ways to provide value on a dance job beyond doing the dance steps. With a little common sense and sensitivity, you can make yourself useful beyond your job description without people-pleasing or being pushy. This will set you apart and make you stand out in a good way. Also, this will come handy whenever you want to ask for a raise. The best strategy here is to provide additional value first (aka do more than you’re paid for), so you can eventually bring it up during a raise negotiation!
4. Develop genuine, personal relationships
Especially on longer projects, such as tours, you’ll have the opportunity to create meaningful relationships with the team. I’ve noticed that dancers tend to isolate themselves and only develop connections between each other and with the choreographers. But nobody says you can’t become friends with the members of other departments. Production, wardrobe, musicians, photographers, tech crew, management, merch or catering staff… Showing them support and appreciation for their work will go a long way. Making memories with those around you will help create deep roots within the camp. At the end of the day, we can all relate to each others’ experience and have more in common than we think. Everybody needs support and encouragement. And some of these relationships will stay with you for life, long after the job has ended. On the contrary, if you’re there only for a check and don’t really care about anything or anybody else - it will show… and it could make you the easiest person to replace in casting for the next project. I’ve witnessed brilliant, talented dancers not being invited back because they didn’t respect the stage crew and acted entitled. Amazing talent alone could be enough to book a job, but it won’t be enough to keep it.
Be a chameleon that can transform with the artist, mold yourself to best fit their current creative [...]
5. Find the essence of the project and embody it
Lastly, I strongly believe that the more moldable you are as a performer, the more in-demand you’ll be. This includes your skill, appearance, and overall essence. I encourage you to do in-depth, consistent research on the artist you’re working with. Pay attention to what excites them and how they evolve. Infuse yourself completely in the style and esthetic of the project. This doesn’t mean losing your individuality. The best performers can make their personality and signature style shine, while embodying the vibe of the project at the same time. If you booked a job, it’s probably because you already are a good fit. But if you continue to study it, you can take that “fit” to the next level by making small adjustments in your look and performance. Be a chameleon that can transform with the artist, mold yourself to best fit their current creative, tour, music catalogue, etc.
Strategies and tips for longevity in a professional dancer’s career are plentiful, perhaps infinite. You could get a completely different set of rules from each professional, based on their one-of-a-kind experience in the dance industry. It’s always a great idea to find those whose accomplishments inspire you the most and ask for their recipe for longevity. The points I’ve shared here are some of the most universal ones I myself practice consistently. I believe they helped me get re-hired by some of the same camps and artists over the years. I hope they will also help you on your way to a successful, long lasting dance career!