Dance Training

Become a Convention Assistant: 6 Ways to Show You're Ready

NYCDA assistant Jaclyn Tatro, Evolve Photo, Courtesy NYCDA

For a young dancer, a job as a convention assis­tant can be career-making. As you travel and demonstrate alongside your favorite teachers, you have the chance to show top choreographers you're hire-worthy, actively build professional skills, and gain access to classes and connections that are truly priceless. That's why conventions are looking for the cream of the crop to fill these coveted roles on the convention circuit.

Of course, some conventions only award assistantships as part of title wins. But there are other ways to land the job—if you have versatility, maturity, charisma and a good amount of patience.

1. Be a Quick Learner

Photo by Jim Lafferty

Some events ask standout regional dancers to attend an assistants audition at Nationals. Auditions often ask you to pick up diverse choreography quickly, and may include in-class observations to assess your demeanor and professionalism. Be prepared to show you're a quick learner.

2. Show Off Your Stamina

NUVO assistant Makenzie Dustman. Photo by Nick Serian, Courtesy NUVO

Whether you're hoping to work for one teacher or for a convention as a whole, treat the entire experience as a weekend-long audition, because faculty members are always watching. For convention-wide assistants, good technique across various styles is key, since you'll need to be able to assist multiple choreographers. Dancing full-out throughout long days—whether you're in ballet slippers or tap shoes—will show teachers that you have the stamina to lead warm-ups and demonstrate combinations when the pressure is on.

3. Connect on a Personal Level

Choreographer Kyle Hanagami, who's on faculty at Velocity Dance Convention, says personality and an ability to make choreography your own can be even more important than technique. "I choose all of my assistants from my classes—and they're all people I'd want to be friends with," he says. "I love dancers who are fearless, who want to be their best and who have charisma."

4. Demonstrate Your Maturity

NUVO assistant Jay Jay Dixonby. Photo by Nick Serian, Courtesy NUVO

Keep in mind that being an assistant means more than just dancing. Assistants also have jobs such as helping out behind the scenes and interacting with studio owners, teachers, parents and students throughout the event. Therefore, being personable, mature and professional is a must. "Our assistants must be responsible and hard-working, because they're role models for the young dancers, and they're a reflection of the convention as a company," says NUVO director Ray Leeper. "We want dancers who are consistent—who show up early to call times with a positive attitude."

5. Offer To Help

Evolve Photo, Courtesy NYCDA

If you're passionate about a specific teacher's choreography or teaching style, don't be afraid to stand at the front of the class, chat with the teacher afterward, and let them know that you're feeling a connection. "Offer your help instead of directly asking to be an assis­tant," Hanagami says. "Say something like, 'I really love your work, so if there's anything you need help with, please let me know.' "

6. Let Your Talent Speak For Itself

NUVO assistant Makenzie Dustman. Photo by Nick Serian, Courtesy NUVO

Ultimately, trusting the process and being the best version of yourself goes a long way. "There isn't anything wrong with letting a faculty member know you're interested in assist­ing, but most of these situations happen organically," Leeper says. "Try not to be pushy. Your talent, respect, positive attitude and consistency in classes will get you noticed."

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