Diversity Equals More Dollars For Your Career

Mo' money, mo' money, mo' money!  There's not a single person among us who doesn't want more dough, right?!

And as an aspiring or early career dancer, at times there can be a shortage of it.  Trust me...I know that life all too well.

What I also know is that your chances of making more dough increases when you're trained in more than one dance style.

When you're able to move in and out of styles with ease and skill, you have the potential to be hired for more projects.

In fact, I share a few suggestions on how to become a very hirable and diverse performer in the recent issue of Dance! North Texas, and I have a special snippet just for you!

It’s a new season dancers, and I’m not talking dance season this time.  Summer has come and gone, Fall is here, and Winter is around the corner.  You know what that means, right? It means temperatures are getting lower, and clothes are getting longer and warmer.

Want to know one of the best ways to stay warm?  While you might be thinking my response is going to be “to dance”, that’s not where I’m headed with this one.   One of the best ways to stay warm is to keep the heat on!  Stay with me for a moment.  I know it sounds like a joke gone wrong, but I’m trying to make a point here.  Staying warm requires heat.  Heat requires money, and dance careers provide you with opportunities to earn money. 

What I’m talking about is learning how to build a dance career that keeps money in the bank and the heat on in the Winter.  I’ve taught and advised a countless number of dancers throughout my career, and I always come back to this tip:  Train in a variety of styles because well rounded dancers are working dancers.

It’s not rocket science people.  Seems pretty logical that the more styles in which you’re proficient, then the more opportunities you’ll have to work, right?  However, as logical as it may seem, you’d be surprised by how many dancers are still keeping themselves in a very tiny one-style box.  You don’t know how many times I’ve heard a dancer taking one of my hip-hop classes for the first time say “Well, I’m actually a (insert style here) dancer.”

When I hear limiting talk like that, I always stop the student before they can go any further.  The first reason I pause the conversation is to prevent the student from talking themselves into actually believing they can’t or won’t succeed in a street style.  The second reason I stop the limiting talk is to dispel the myth that they can only by one type of dancer.  I mean, who made that a rule anyways? Who says you can only be a ballet dancer? Only a modern dancer? Or only a hip-hop dancer?  Here’s a thought.  Why not kick the label and just be kick-butt dancers?

Before I share a few suggestions on how to go about becoming a more diverse dancer, let’s talk a bit about why it’s so important to be more than just a one-trick-pony.  First, choreography is increasingly becoming a fusion of dance styles that the choreographer knows and loves.  I can’t speak for all choreographers, but I can speak for myself and others like me who want to work with dancers who can move in and out of several styles with ease.  While urban and rhythmic styles are my first love, I also want to work with dancers who are great technicians as well.  By concentrating on only one style, you’re cutting yourself out of working with a rising number of choreographers.

Secondly, you should consider becoming a more diverse dancer because talent agents are also looking for dancers who are well rounded.  I recently spoke with an agent who said well rounded dancers are more marketable.  That means, the agents can submit these dancers for more projects, which means more opportunities to earn income, and the more likely you’ll be able to stay warm during the Winter months.

Now, I am fully aware that there are exceptions to every rule.  Being a well rounded dancer generally applies to those of us who have commercial dance careers.  Dancers who are immersed in the concert dance world (meaning you perform for a company that specializes in one specific style) may not need to spend too much time training in other styles.  For example, while Misty Copeland may have a desire to take a new class style every now and again, her job with American Ballet Theatre calls for an expertise in ballet, which she obviously has.

However, even if you’ve set your sights on becoming a company member, I’d like to argue that it’s still a good idea to at least be familiar with other dance styles.  If you’re most comfortable with ballet, can you also become well versed in modern?  If you’re most comfortable with modern, can you also pick up jazz or hip-hop?

Back to our talk about commercial dance careers.  Commercial dancers are those performers who aren’t salaried by a specific dance company.  They work on a project-by-project basis.  They could be performing in an industrial for a major corporation one week, dancing back up for a recording artist another, or filming a commercial, television show, or feature film yet another.  True, this all sounds incredibly exciting, but it takes plenty of hard work and training to make that happen.  The more you train in a variety of dance styles, the closer you are to building a career like the one I just described.

So, we’ve discussed why you should become a diverse dancer.  Now let’s talk about how to make that happen.

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