Dancer Do’s and Don’ts
Here is a basic list of things I thought were common sense, until I got into the competitive and professional dance world. This is by no means comprehensive, but some basic principles.
1- Be confident AND be yourself – we all know you are nervous and vulnerable, and maybe there is nothing we can do about that, but believe in yourself and be who you are, it makes everyone nervous when you pretend. SMILE, they want to see that you are happy and fun, because who doesn’t want to have fun?
2-Know your audience – research the position well, so you know what style and look they may be looking for. Educate yourself so you don’t make avoidable mistakes. If they don’t post information on what to wear, it doesn’t hurt to ask and may help you avoid standing out in a negative way.
3-Bring your resume and headshot whether it’s asked for or not. Keep it with your things if it wasn’t asked for, but you never know if they may want to review it even if it was emailed. Most directors get a great deal of emails, and don’t go through and organize and memorize all of the resumes the receive. Having one in their hand while they look at you can help them remember you.
1-Assume- don’t assume they want to see as much skin as possible shaking in as many ways as possible – again, know your audience and what they want. For example – some auditions require bare midriffs so they can see your center and how you will look in their costumes/uniforms. Others, like me, would rather see you in a leo and tights, and do not allow bare midriffs. You just never know so it’s best to educate yourself.
2-Act as if anything or anyone is beneath you. Be courteous to all of the other dancers, and if you are asked to do a style you don’t like, or feel the choreography doesn’t challenge you enough, suck it up and keep it to yourself. Even if you don’t end up getting booked, or if you are not interested in getting booked, you never know when you will run into people again in a different setting, and you may want to keep as good of impressions as possible.
3-Be late, or sloppy. Show your best side – be early, look pulled together, and show you are excited to be there. You will likely not get hired regardless of skill level if you are late.
Once you are hired:
1- Be there on time, every time come rain come shine. Unless your director has a different policy for sickness or injury, be there anyway and take notes and videos. This shows you are committed, and your director will value you for it, bring a bucket if needed, but be there on time every time!
2-Have a positive attitude. You are a dancer because you love it, so let it show. See the good in every opportunity, love learning things that are out of your comfort zone, and realize that everything you learn can be turned into value for you personally and for your career.
3-Be a problem solver and take care of your body. Condition outside if needed, treat injuries promptly and properly, and figure out how to accomplish the goals and directives of the company. Make it happen! The company’s success is your success, so you can’t lose on this!
1-Talk when your director is talking. Be respectful at all times. I have literally not extended contracts based on their level of respect when I am talking.
2-Whine about money. Ever. Your money problems are your money problems. They are not your director’s problems. Sharing your money problems with your director implies they are either the reason or the solution to the problem. They are not. You agreed to work for them at whatever price, and it is your responsibility to figure out the rest of your life. Don’t bring this into the rehearsal scene EVER. Again, I have let people go as well as not re-hired them based on them whining to me about money.
3-Argue, gossip, or criticize those in your company. This is never a good thing unless you are on a reality TV show. It brings everyone down, and believe it or not, it shows up on stage. Your goal should be unity, kindness and support of everyone around you. ESPECIALLY your director. Unity and support creats a synergy on stage that is not only appealing and noticeable by the audience, but it also makes performing SO much more fun. Everyone goes home happy and accomplished, instead of complaining and rolling their eyes. This seemingly small thing can create wedges or bind people together, and in the end it is a night and day difference on the experience for all involved.
If you want a raise:
1-Be a hard worker. Ask your director what you can do to help beyond what is already asked. It may mean doing free work for a short period of time, but I assure you, it will be short. Those willing to go the extra mile are so few and far between in any industry, your director will want to do what they can to keep you around.
2-Be grateful. How many employees or contractors are grateful for the opportunity and the employment? How many express it? Often? Recognize that not many are made of money, so in order to pay you, they had to make sacrifices, and in the dance world, often personal sacrifices, so show them that you recognize and respect that in them.
3- Put on a business hat and look at it from your director’s perspective. They hire people either to make or save money or time so figure out how you can do that and you will be of more financial value to them.
1-(again) Tell them about your money problems. One step farther – don’t make an implication that if you don’t get a raise, you can’t stick around. You will either get let go, or kept, but if you are kept they will resent you for it for the remainder of your contract.
2-Say anything that follows the pattern of: “I have done….so I thought I deserve…” So many things go into your pay than just you gracing them with your presence. Instead find out what you can do to increase your value to the company, and then DO IT.
3- Treat them like you are doing them a favor. You are not. Even if you are working for free you are gaining experience, training, and hopefully having a good time so you are not doing them a favor if you are both gaining something from this. Remember, if you are working for free that they too are likely working for free so you are not extra special for that. (The exception to this would be if you are apprenticing for a well-established company, in which case you are DEFINITELY not doing them a favor, you are being given an opportunity).
So there you go, dancer folks, you are welcome. I am sure this will turn out to only be part 1 of many of my thoughts on basic do’s and dont’s.