The dance world is small. You might have noticed the same familiar faces in classes and auditions that you attend. In every environment there is an opportunity to connect with new people within your dance network: college classes, dance intensives or summer programs, post-college adult classes, performance opportunities, auditions, and even non-dance related spaces! If you’re not often an extrovert, this may take some courage. When talking to other dancers, chances are you can find something you share in common – whether that’s a mutual friend or a favorite choreographer. For dancers especially, it is essential to know how to network in any given setting. Building strong relationships with other artists will present opportunities that you may not have found otherwise.
As you are making new friends and building professional relationships, talk to others about their goals and share yours too.
It’s important to remember: great technique with a bad attitude is useless. You want to be someone that others want to be around. No one wants to work with a dancer or artist with crabby energy. A good first impression is key, but more importantly, always be kind to your peers – you never know who people are connected to, or who may be considering you for an opportunity behind closed doors. This physical artform that we love so much is challenging and can, at times, take a toll on our minds and bodies – so encourage others in class. Always support your friends in their goals and endeavors and not just your own. It will appear insincere and opportunistic if you only reach out to others when you need something from them.
Warming up while waiting for a class or audition to begin can be the start of making new friends. While it may feel a tad uncomfortable at first, especially in an audition setting, it never hurts to introduce yourself to the person nearest you. Auditions can be scary, but also a bonding moment for you and other dancers. See what classes your peers take regularly or ask what choreographers inspire them. Such simple questions could lead to deeper conversations in the future. Lean towards those whom you feel a more natural connection with, and know that genuine connections take time to build.
Always be kind to your peers – you never know who people are connected to, or who may be considering you for an opportunity behind closed doors.
As you are making new friends and building professional relationships, talk to others about their goals and share yours too. If you see a post for an audition or performance opportunity that you think may interest this person, keep them in the loop via text or email. Even if it’s not an event they want to attend, the thought will go a long way. If someone wants to take more ballet classes, and so do you – you can plan to take a class together. If your new dance friend is choreographing a piece and is in need of dancers – knowing you have been looking to perform, they may invite you to join their rehearsals. Of course, if you agree to go to a class, perform in someone’s piece, or assist them with a project in any way – it is imperative that you are reliable without a doubt. Always be on time, follow through with your plans and commitments, and be respectful of peoples’ time. In doing so, the chances of having future opportunities with this person are much higher.
Not every moment with your new friendships needs to be movement based, within a studio, or on a stage. You can catch a happy hour, or get tickets to see another dance company in the area perform, or both! Attending a show and discussing it afterwards is a great way to break the ice and turn a studio-only relationship into one of deeper trust and possible collaborations.
Aside from networking with your peers, it’s critical to show professionalism in all aspects when you attend any class, audition, or perform. A positive attitude is a given, but you must also prove that you can take a critique and improve. An instructor wants to see that you are capable of putting a correction into practice. They notice those dancers who do not apply corrections, and those who do. This is very important. It is not uncommon for a teacher, choreographer, or peer to have other projects happening or coming up, always having their eyes open for talent.
Try new things! In a college setting, this could mean participating or volunteering your time with other arts majors, such as theater and film. Offer to be a dancer or actor in a film major’s project. Audition for an ensemble dancing role in the upcoming theater show. The arts often overlap and there’s always an opportunity to support your friends. Keep in mind to not say yes to too many commitments if it causes burn out or means you will be unreliable.
In every environment, there is an opportunity to connect with new people within your dance network.
Do not rule out non-dance environments. When working a day job at a retail store, coffee shop, or restaurant – communicate with others about what you do when it feels right to do so. You never know when someone in your field is ordering a drink or is a regular at your non-dance work establishment.
Networking is not just for those seeking a 9-to-5 desk job. Artists of every kind are all connected more than you could believe. One opportunity leads to another, one gig leads to another, one friendship leads to another – it’s all about give and take. Knowing how to cultivate your dance network, putting it into practice, and getting comfortable with making connections will open doors for you that you may have never imagined.