Moving to New York City to pursue a professional career seems overwhelming and intimidating to many dancers.
Here’s the truth: it does not have to be.
When I made the big move, I immediately enrolled in Broadway Dance Center’s Professional Semester. This four-month program helps trained dancers transition into the NYC dance scene whether their interests lie in concert, commercial or theatre dance.
The knowledge and experience I gained from this program made stepping back from auditions and into the classroom for the first third of my freshman year in New York completely worth it.
Here are the basics I learned about starting out as a dancer in New York.
Stay in class! I have seen a lot of dancers who are so focused on constantly auditioning that they get out of the habit of working on their technique.
Whether a dancer is enrolled in a formal program or not, taking technique classes regularly is essential to continue growing as a technician and performer.
I recommend finding a few of teachers who you really like and frequently attending their classes. The search is easy since there are a ton of classes happening daily at NYC’s drop-in studios (Broadway Dance Center, STEPS on Broadway, Peridance Capezio Center and The Ailey Studios are the most popular).
If you go to a specific class often, the teacher will recognize you and give you individualized corrections and advice. I have found that it is best to go to a couple classes that are similar to your own style and then step out of your comfort zone by taking as many varied and unfamiliar genres as possible.
Taking new or challenging styles will not only make you a stronger dancer and keep you humble, but also it is good practice for auditions – you never know what will be thrown at you in audition combinations!
TAKE NOTE OF HOW YOU PRESENT YOURSELF
As a dancer you need to know what your brand, or type, is. It is easy to figure out what dance styles you are best at, but it is harder to identify how outsiders perceive or categorize you.
Ask your friends or teachers what their first impressions of you were – this could tell you how you will be typecast at auditions. People are often surprised to discover that the way they appear to strangers is completely different than how they see themselves.
Take steps to guarantee that people’s first impressions of you are accurate and positive. If this meanschanging your facial expression to seem more pleasant – do it! Or, make small changes in your appearance to better reflect your personality – get a new haircut or apply your makeup differently. It is also a fun idea to find a hairstyle, article of clothing or accessory that is uniquely “you.” Doing so will make you easier to remember from class to class or at auditions.
Dancers also have to monitor their presence on social media. Having inappropriate pictures or comments will prevent you from getting hired.
Consider creating a website that includes your resume, reel, headshots and action shots. This is a good way for choreographers or directors to get to know you and your talents – just make sure you keep it up to date!
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR RESOURCES
NYC has a lot to offer to young dancers. All types of shows are performed everyday in the city, many of which are free or offer student discounts. Seeing dance is a great way to discover and form opinions on what and who is out there. Dancers can also learn a lot by watching classes. As an added bonus, this is a cost effective way to find teachers you like.
Consider going to NYC-based company intensives. These classes and workshops are a great way for dancers on a company track to meet artistic directors and talk to current dancers about what their life as a professional is like.
There are also arts libraries around the city, namely at Lincoln Center, where you can read about dance history and its associated choreographers, watch videos of iconic pieces and shows, and listen to Broadway soundtracks. The library is also a great place for theatre dancers to find new music and photocopy scores. If you need to improve your singing, New York also has many voice and acting coaches who are willing to work with dancers.
My greatest advice for dancers starting out in New York is to consider applying for a training program that is geared towards turning trained dancers into professionals. The BDC Professional Semester was the best way for me to transition into the NYC dance world.
Enrolling in a program helps you hone your skills, learn about the dance business, and build a support system of friends and mentors. Most importantly, a program is a safe environment to experiment, make mistakes and ultimately learn who you are and what you offer as a dancer.