Industry Insider: Succeeding as a Professional Dancer

On Friday, April 20th, Broadway Dance Center hosted Industry Insider: Succeeding as a Professional Dancer.  The Industry Insider offers a behind-the-scenes look at “the business.”  From Broadway Shows, to Concert Dance, to Music Videos, to Film, this ongoing series covers a wide range of events and gives dancers the chance to delve deeper into the ever-expanding entertainment industry.

In conjunction with National Dance Week, Broadway Dance Center and Bloc Talent Agency have brought together a panel of experts, including Bloc NYC agents Jim Daly and Fatima Wilson as well as professional dancers Shernita Anderson (Kanye West, Jill Scott), Autavia Bailey (J. Lo, Lady Gaga, Beyonce), Tyrone Jackson (“Memphis,” “Smash”), and Alex Wong (ABT, SYTYCD, “Newsies”).

BDC students crammed into the 8th floor annex to ask questions about how to succeed as a professional dancer – not just in New York, but in LA and around the globe! Here’s what the esteemed panel had to say:

“I was primarily a musical theater dancer.  When I wanted to branch out into the commercial side, I couldn’t decide between moving to New York or Los Angeles.  My friend helped me out.  He wrote ‘NY’ on one piece of paper and ‘LA’ on another.  Then he turned off the lights and threw the papers in the air.  I had to search for one in the dark…and it was LA!” – Tyrone Jackson

“Get your ‘look’ together.  You have to look the part in order to get the part.  You are a product – you have to market yourself.” – Autavia Bailey

“If you want to be a serious dancer, you have to take ballet.” – Alex Wong

“From my performing arts high school, I got the impression that I had to be a ballerina or I was nothing – but I’ve learned that’s anything but true.” – Shernita Anderson

“Go to ALL auditions, even if you’re not the ‘type’ they’re looking for.  Casting directors will see you and call you for other jobs that you do fit.” – Tyrone Jackson

“Your word is important.  When I made it through SYTYCD, I had already signed a year-long contract with Miami City Ballet.  I honored that contract and auditioned for SYTYCD the following year.  You have to realize that the dance world is so small, and your reputation is really important.” – Alex Wong

“Back then, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, and Debbie Allen did it all [dancing, singing, and acting]…so they did it all!  The same goes for today.  Invest in yourself [voice lessons, dance classes, acting workshops, etc.].” – Shernita Anderson

“Own who you are.  I am an African-American male.  I could go in for hip-hop calls, but I would be acting.  I’m an all-American black male – that’s my true ‘type.’  So that’s how I market myself.” – Tyrone Jackson

“Look at Backstage Magazine, Playbill.com, and Actor’s Equity.  Read the articles, watch the videos, learn as much as you can.  Be a knowledgeable dancer and do your research.” – Jim Daly

“The dance industry is 90% business and 10% talent.  Don’t just take class.  Know the business.  Educate yourself.  Be marketable.  Network.  And girls, always have your heels!” – Fatima Wilson

How to I get an agent?

  • Go to open agency calls.
  • Through recommendations from that agency’s dancers and choreographers.
  • If an agent is coming to support his/her agency’s dancer in a show, shoot the agent an e-mail so they’ll look out for you.
  • Hustle!  If you’re consistently booking jobs and networking, agents will keep hearing your name and approach you.
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