the journey to paid professional performing artist

Posts tagged ‘dancer’

fun show

Never discount how great a fun show can make you feel.

I recently performed in the Tap Pups “Encore Performance: The Show.”  It was so fun, I wish I had joined the group earlier!  It is a very special group.

Vicki’s Tap Pups is a group of adults who tap dance.  Some danced when they were younger, some took it up as adults.  But the thing they have in common is their energy.  Everyone is so welcoming, supportive and positive.  Even the instructor makes you feel like a million bucks.  She has the talent of pushing her students to their personal potential.  If you have an injury or condition that prohibits movement, she understands.  But if you don’t, you’d better be full out!  It’s wonderful!

And the production was more elaborate than I thought it would be.  A professional production crew mixing music, video, lights and stage dressing.  It was really quite a spectacle.

This show is the first time I’ve danced on stage for more than a year, and the first time doing a dance-only show in almost three years.  It was great to be on stage, surrounded by people as joyful in dance as I am!



So, the past few months have not been stellar for me.

I have been dogged by a couple of not-so-fun productions and a series of unsuccessful auditions.  This would get any performer a little down.  There is also now the probability that I will be moving, which means learning a new area and building my theater self again.

But thanks to one Ballet Hispanico master class that I (thankfully!!!) decided to go to at the last minute, I think I’m back!

To be a performer, you have to be stubborn.

You have to go to every class, every audition, practice every day, even if you don’t want to.

The past few months have been a total failure.  And I have learned some things from the stress of the not-so-good times.

I am getting paid to act in a murder mystery dinner theater now.  I guess that means I’ve reached my goal of being a paid performing artist.  Though I’d like to be paid to dance, but this is a start.  It’s very interesting and very different, and I can’t say I’m used to it yet.  Interacting with an audience can be nerve-wracking, and acting improvisation is something I’ve never done.  Dance improvising I could do all day, but make me open my mouth and it’s not so good.  But I think I’m learning.  It’s just not consistent performances so it’s difficult to get into a rhythm like I do with stage shows.

I have learned that I like a more hands-on director.  After experiencing both, I definitely like one that has a clear picture of what they want and doesn’t compromise.  Now I have to learn how to work with the other kind and not be miserable.

Most importantly, I have learned in the past few years what I have to do to get established in an arts community.

1)  Audition for community and professional theaters.

2) Keep taking classes wherever and at as many places as I need to get what I need.

3) Send my materials to all the production companies in the area.  (I know I haven’t done this so far, but I’ve been thinking about it for a while and I think it would be helpful.  They are always looking for new faces.)

I think it’s imperative to do this as quickly as possible.  The more you get out there, the more you’ll be informed about what’s going on in your new arts world and be able to take advantage of it.

The other thing I’m going to do is find a voice teacher ASAP.  I have a new place full of people who don’t know I’m not a confident singer, so if I can brush up on that aspect of my performance, I should be golden.

role repeaters

Cathy Rigby is still Peter Pan!

Let me preface this by saying that I am not whining.  I’m just making an observation.

This is something that I want to make performers aware of.  Especially if you are just starting out in the performing artist world and are out of high school.

In almost every show I have been in, at least one of the leads has done the role before.

From a performers perspective, this is unfair.  Especially in the world of community theater, one might think that opportunities would be given to those who haven’t had the chance to perform a certain role.  But this is a one-sided view (you know how I love my community theaters and all the opportunities they have given me!!!).

I think if I were a director, I might cast at least one veteran as well.  That is one person that you really don’t have to worry about.  And in community theater where you may have a number of novices, that would be one less thing to worry about.  Community theaters need to sell tickets too to keep afloat, so they need to put on good shows.

As a performer, I don’t know if I would ever want to repeat a role.  There are pros and cons.  If it’s a role you really loved, I can see wanting to do it again.  It gives you the chance to be the star again.  But it’s a different cast and director, and may not be the way you remembered it or you may not like the interpretation.  I guess if nothing else, it would be an interesting experience.

always learning

I’ve been thinking about the many auditions I’ve done now, and I think I’m finally learning something that I never thought of before. 

When you are taught about interviewing for a job, they tell you that the interview is about you finding out  if the company is right for you, as well as the company finding out if you are right for them.  It’s the same as auditions!

An audition is the interview of the performing artist.  The casting director is looking to see if you are a fit for their show.  And if they’re good they are looking to see if you’d fit with their organization as well.  But you can tell if you would like to be part of the show as well.

With a dance audition, you can feel if the movement being given feel right in your body.  You might look good and get through the audition, but if it feels like it will ruin your body you can turn down the job anyway.

With theater you can see if you like the show or not.  If you are unfamiliar with a show, Wikipedia and previous reviews only go so far.  Once you get to the audition and start reading or singing from the show, that when you’ll get the best idea of if you like the show or not.  If it ends up you find the writing or style annoying, it might not be the show for you.  Also, you might be able to tell where the director is going with how the characters are going to be portrayed, and if his ideas really bother you, this might not be the production for you.  (However, it this regard remember, he is seeing the whole where as you might be looking at a narrower vision.  The whole might end up fabulous, see this post.)

You can also test out the other people who are auditioning.  If you are in a room where you do not appreciate many of the other people’s talents, then you might not want to be part of the show.

So don’t be in a bubble.  Learn everything you can from the audition.  And you just might be able to make a few friends along the way as well!

yay community theater!

Follies Girls with our choreographer, Judy Williams Henry

This is in praise of all the community theaters out there.  Here in Harrisburg we are blessed with having a lot of them.

There are many reasons why I love community theater, and why I think anyone who wants to get into show business needs to pay attention to them.

They are great experience.  Community theaters are often willing to give people a chance to participate in a new performance art.  For example, I always considered myself a dancer.  If it hadn’t been for Theatre Harrisburg, I would never have known that I loved musical theater, too.  Or that trying new things was so exciting.

They give new performers a chance to perform.  Or directors a chance to direct for that matter.  This provides valuable experience that you can put on your resume.  My resume looks like that of a bunhead, not very Rockette worthy.  But with the help of my local community theaters, it’s starting to look more like a theater resume.  It has also shown me that if I don’t ever make the Rockettes, it’s not the end of the world.  I do love musical theater, which you can continue to participate in your whole life.  A dancer career is very short in comparison.  That has taken the pressure off of me and made my Rockette journey more fun.  And it has pushed me to audition for professional theater too, not just the Rockettes.   But in any event, I always have community theater, so I will always be able to perform if I want to.

They audition through the year.  This may not seem important on the surface.  But many companies, at least in my area, have one audition to cast their entire season.  So if you don’t get in, your off for that year.  Community theater auditions right before the show.  So you can audition as you go.  If you find yourself with some time, look into your local community theaters so you can be doing something.

They may give you the opportunity to perform a variety of shows.  Each one seems to have the genre they like to produce, so there is lots of choice.  Some like to do the classics.  They will give you an opportunity to do some of the standards that maybe aren’t done professionally much.  Some like avant-garde works, new things that are shocking.  Keep your eye out, because you never know when the show you always wanted to do will come up.

They give people with busy personal lives a chance to perform.  For whatever reason, there are very talented people out there who never worked professionally in the performing arts. They discovered their love for the stage later in life.  They didn’t want to be a part of the craziness that is the professional performing world.  They found other interests in college.  An injury kept them out of the professional spotlight.  Whatever the reason, they can still enjoy their passion on the community theater stage.  Rehearsals are in the evening so work schedules can be accommodated.  They take into account your conflicts when casting and creating a rehearsal schedule.  It’s a great way to keep performing!

They provide networking opportunities.  Often directors, music directors and choreographers are local people who work for other local theaters.  Community theater gives you a chance to meet these people and work with them.  They can see how great a performer you are and how great you are to work with.  So when you get in front of them at an audition for a paying role, they already know you, and hopefully like you.  Haven’t you ever heard; it’s all about who you know.

It’s not just about getting paid in money.  Experiences are far more valuable in the long run.

business cards

You might think these are only for businessmen, but think again.

Show business is about the connections you make and your staying power in the minds of directors.  The more they see you and hear your name, the better.

In the Rockettes, often you hear of girls auditioning over and over before getting the job.  I’ve even heard of 13 times before.  It takes perseverance.

Last time I posted about the need for a thank you note post-audition.  I haven’t always done this.  The idea came to me when I forgot to mention that I can do split jumps when they asked if anyone has acrobatic tricks.  I don’t know if this counts, but it’s worth a try.  The director knows what she is looking for, I shouldn’t try to double guess.

So I wrote a thank you note, adding that information and the link to the You Tube file that shows me performing it on stage.  As I was writing I got the thought that it would be good of the me include my business card so she has all my information right there.  Then I looked at my business cards, which are at the moment kind of generic.  I decided a re-design was in order, especially since I have a great headshot to put on them now.  This is what I’m thinking of using:

I Googled dancer business cards and thank you note etiquette, and found the suggestion to add a picture with the note.  I think I’ve got two my two birds here with including pictures of me on my business card, along with my information.  Hopefully I will spring back into the directors head!

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Going the extra mile: how to follow up after an audition

Dance Magazine, Feb, 2009 by Rachel Leigh Dolan

When you’re done with an audition–whether or not you got the job–your chance to leave a good impression isn’t over There are ways to stay on auditioners” minds without appearing pushy. Experts from the Broadway, modern, ballet, and commercial dance scenes tell how it’s tactfully done.

Strengthen your connections (politely).

If you’ve had a strong audition, a director may be interested in you for future jobs, says Laura Stanczyk, casting director for Dirty Dancing. Keep in touch by sending a postcard or personal note to their office: For people with inboxes stuffed to the brim, snail-mail speaks louder than e-mail. If you’d like feedback, Stanczyk says, a phone call to a casting director (work line, not cell phone) is OK, but always be complimentary, and never ask why you weren’t cast. Instead, inquire what you might do to improve your auditioning.

“If you really want to follow up,” Stanczyk advises, “go to open calls to stay in our minds.” Face-to-face time with casting directors and choreographers is the best way to remind them of your talent.

The good old-fashioned thank-you note.

Modern choreographer David Parsons, artistic director of Parsons Dance Company in NYC, appreciates a handwritten post-audition thank-you note. Say that you enjoyed the process, or share what you thought of the work. “Giving auditions is part of who we are, so we like to hear feedback,” Parsons says. He recommends sending a note as soon as possible after the audition, and always with a picture.

Don’t overdo it.

William Whitener, artistic director of Kansas City Ballet, also welcomes a thank-you note but cautions against sending e-mails and calling too much. “If we say that we will get in touch with you, we mean it,” he says. When writing to a director, he adds, be informed about the company; you don’t want to get caught not having done your research.

Show them you’re ready.

For dancers on the commercial scene, Lisa Coppola, an agent with McDonald Selznick Associates in L.A., recommends following up after submitting your materials for representation. It shows that you’re proactive, Coppola says, and will be that way if you’re signed. “Anyone would want to hear that you had an enjoyable audition or working experience and that you’d like to work together in the future.”

What To Do After An Audition @

 I came across this just after I wrote a thank you note for my American Music Theatre audition.  I knew to do this from my education in business school, but was never 100% sure about the practice when it comes to theater.  I’m glad to see that it is recommended.

Unlike the business world, this should be a hand-written note.  I like to include a business card as well, so they don’t have to go searching for who you are.  More on business cards later…

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What To Do After Your Audition

For some of us, the audition itself can seem easy compared to that awful task of waiting to hear back afterwards. I still remember the butterflies in my stomach when, as an elementary school student, I went to check the list of our own little plays. Unfortunately, this act of “wait and see” is one of those things that doesn’t seem to get much easier with age.

  1. Send a thank you note. A brief follow-up reminds them of who you are and your interest in working with them.
  2. Record your reflections, the date the thank you note was sent, and any other important info in your audition log book.
  3. Now, forget about it. If you expect to hear back, you will almost certainly be disappointed or at the very least drive yourself crazy while you wait.

One of the most important things to remember is that auditions are never just about that particular job. They are also about getting your name out there, meeting lots of people and getting a “leg up” on future work. Show continued interest and perserverence:

  1. Go and see a production by the company you auditioned for. Speak to them afterwards (briefly) if it seems appropriate to do so.
  2. Don’t be afraid to audition for the same people again, unless they specify not to audition again if they have already seen you.
  3. Volunteer for box office, ushering, assistant to whoever.
  4. Network. Go to social events and fundraisers and talk to people.

Most importantly: never burn a bridge!