At the end of the year, commercial dancers like myself are probably dancing in a myriad of holiday-themed gigs, theme park shows, or Vegas parties, but when the hustle dies down, the start of 2020 brings a perfect - if cliched - time for us to hit reset and pick a New Year’s resolution. To find some resolution ideas for myself, I’ve been reflecting on the not-so-great habits I had in 2019, to come up with these five resolutions to better reach my goals as a commercial dancer this year: 

We should utilize every resource we have to be more prepared for auditions and opportunities.

Get on top of your communication game

Ask just about any choreographer or agent what frustrates them most about commercial dancers and the answer is probably our general lack of communication skills. According to Julie Medeiros, the Director of the Dance Department at Go 2 Talent Agency, “Communication is the key to success in any agent/client relationship. Clients should never feel shy about reaching out to their agents to update them on their progress.” If you want your agent to get to know you better, don’t hold back on sending them all kinds of updates, as Julie says, “We like to hear about what classes our clients are in, choreographers they are connecting with, new photos, video content, special skills, and beyond.”

The other piece of communication is your email game. I realize it’s so much easier to stay on top of messages on Instagram or WhatsApp, but commercial dancers should really be checking and responding to emails in a timely, professional manner as well. Something that has really helped me with that lately has been creating a separate email for dance-related things only, like notices from casting websites and communication with agents or dance jobs. Separating these things from the email account where I get updates about bank statements, bills, store sales, and various newsletters has helped me stay so much more organized and on top of those submissions. Let’s make 2020 the year we stay organized, so we don’t miss out on any opportunity.

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Update your website/casting sites

Commercial dancers know that their online brand presence is important, but it’s not all about Instagram. Once a month, or at least after a professional job, make sure your credits are updated on each casting website and your professional dance profiles -- like DancePlug’s -- as well as your resume. Be sure to also send an email to your agents letting them know of any updates. This is something I easily forget about, so I’m going to try scheduling time for this on the last Sunday afternoon of every month. Keeping your resume and casting profiles as fresh as your social media accounts will help ensure you’re available for opportunities from all angles.

Practice your audition freestyle

If you’re already comfortable with your improv at an audition, props to you, but for those of us commercial dancers who aren’t, save yourself some anxiety and make your New Year’s Resolution be to practice what you’ll do beforehand. Find some signature movements or ‘tricks’ that will help you show off your style and energy, then create a couple eight counts around them that you can easily adapt to different music. Finally, practice! Taking away the tiny panic that happens every time you need to freestyle at an audition (which we all know is all the time) could help you perform with much more confidence.

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Create (and share) more of your own work

On Joseph Gordon Levitt’s podcast Creative Processing, he recently interviewed Casting Director Mary Vernieu, who talked about how important it is to keep creating your art while you’re out auditioning, updating headshots, and all the rest of it. I couldn’t help thinking about how much we all spend our time thinking about what we should wear to an audition, what our look should be, or stress about our online presence (which are all valid things to think about as a commercial dancer, of course), but we should definitely balance that with actually doing our art. If you’ve had that concept video idea in your head for awhile, challenge yourself to set a date, book rehearsal space, find your dancers, and finally get it done in 2020!

Courtni Poe, a professional dancer whose credits include Beyoncé and Quavo, has created some large scale concept videos with videographer Brandon Esparza and says the secret to getting them done has been “always being inspired by other types of art or world issues.” By staying engaged with art that isn’t dancing, she found inspiration to create original choreography, which she says, “is what got me started in the industry - people started booking me on jobs because they saw me doing my own choreography and that’s when I started working.” Posting her choreography on Instagram led her to meet and perform for Jaquel Knight and Adidas through his March Madness competition - proof that spending the time creating your own work can actually lead to working with some of the choreographers and brands on your bucket list. Creating art is always the ultimate goal - and it’s why we’re in this industry anyway, right?! So let’s all commit to spending more time sharing our creativity. 

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Do your industry research

When I first signed with my agency, I spent an entire evening looking at choreographers’ resumes on agency sites and writing down who I wanted to work with. It can sound kind of creepy, but it has really helped me get to know who I want to be taking class from and who is choreographing for the artists I want to work with. Being knowledgeable about the industry is so much easier with social media and the internet, so we should utilize every resource we have to be more prepared for auditions and opportunities.

Another great resource to familiarize ourselves with is the Dancers’ Alliance website, which lists industry-standard rates for dancers that we should all memorize, and contact info if you’re ever in need of immediate assistance or have questions about your rights on a job. Whether you’re on a job outside or through your agency, make sure you’re being treated and paid fairly, and talk to your agent if you’re unsure. Let’s make 2020 a year we stay safe, smart, and paid fairly, y’all.

Hit reset and pick a New Year’s resolution.

It can feel overwhelming to imagine tackling all five of these resolutions at one time, so my strategy will be to pick just one New Year’s resolution on this list and commit to it. Think about your biggest complaints of the past year - was it that you felt like your agent sent you to calls you didn’t feel were right for you? Pick resolution #1 and work on your relationship with them! Finding yourself frustrated between jobs? Take all the advice in resolution #4 and create your own work/opportunities. Killing it in class but struggling at auditions? Challenge yourself with resolution #3 to practice your freestyle and audition with much more confidence this year. I know I’ve complained about all of these things in the past year, so I’m determined that now that we’ve turned the corner on a New Year, 2020 will be the time I take action on all those things that frustrated me, one resolution at a time.

About the author

A native of El Paso, TX, Khayla began dancing at a young age in ballet and Folklorico classes, eventually moving to LA to earn her BA in dance and English from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She went on to earn her MA in Arts & Cultural Management from Kings College London before moving back to LA, where she currently works as a commercial dancer. When she's not dancing, you can find her teaching Pilates and freelance writing about the intersection of dance, fitness, and wellness.