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5 Self-Promotion Mistakes You Should Never Make
From dancers to presenters to directors, no one in dance is exempt from the task of building an audience. But keeping up with email, social media and other marketing efforts can chip away at precious time spent honing your craft. Add in the fear of coming across as vain or self-absorbed, and it can be hard to know how to begin.
Mistake: Posting Too Often
For artists used to giving 100 percent, it can take time to learn a more measured approach. "Know when to take a break and let it settle," says Maleek Washington, a performer formerly with Abraham.In.Motion and Sleep No More. "If you have a good product, you don't have to push it so much." But, he adds, there's no substitute for time spent networking offline. "If you support other artists by going to see their work, they'll support you back. Make yourself known, not just on screen, but also face-to-face."
Maleek Washington, Photo by Nomee Photography
Mistake: All Work and No Play
"People often put their work before their personalities," says Matthew Powell, creator of the instructional video Find Your Fifth. "I love to cook and go fishing. Sharing those things breaks up the 'Me! Me! Me!' aspect of what I'm doing professionally." Choreographer and marketing consultant Jamie Benson points out that the two aren't necessarily at odds: "Dancers think of branding as this ugly beast-monster, and it doesn't have to be. The more authentic you are, the more effective your outreach."
Mistake: Too Much Info
After pouring every ounce of yourself into your work, the boiled-down communication of good marketing can feel trivializing. "There is a tension between being immersed in the creative process, and then having to promote it," says Renata Sheppard, artistic director of Experimental Film Virginia. "You'll want to give so much background, and it's important to trust in peeling away and presenting what you're doing in its simplest form." Benson points out a mistake he sees all too often: taking language written for grant proposals and repurposing it for press releases, social media and marketing. "The more obtuse, vague and aspirational your copy is, the less it will matter to the people you want to reach. Engage people on an emotional level, and tell them what's in it for them."
Jamie Benson, Photo by Meghann Street
Mistake: Wasting Energy
Learn what's working. Nearly all social media platforms and communication tools offer analytics to gauge the effectiveness of your strategies. New methods aren't necessarily better than traditional ones, and even the biggest dance organizations don't have the capacity to utilize them all. "Don't think you have to have a presence on every channel," says Benson.
Mistake: Mindlessly Sharing Photos
You can never be too careful when it comes to imagery. Margaret Mullin, soloist at Pacific Northwest Ballet, admits to being "pretty neurotic" about what she shares with more than 7,200 Instagram followers. She's found that Repost for Instagram is least likely to crop photos awkwardly, or plaster unsightly banners on them—modifications likely to annoy the professional photographers who originated the posts she shares. She errs on the side of asking anyone in her photos for approval, always gives credit and is mindful of how her content and timing relates to PNB's own social media.
My dance coach wants my word that I'll keep competing under his school's name for the next year and not audition. I'm 18 years old and already doing lead roles and winning medals. I love his teaching, but shouldn't I be ready to go out and get a job?
—Gil, Las Vegas, NV
How do we make ballet, a traditionally homogeneous art form, relevant to and reflective of an increasingly diverse and globalized era? While established companies are shifting slowly, Richard Siegal/Ballet of Difference, though less than 2 years old, has something of a head start. The guiding force of the company, which is based in Germany, is bringing differences together in the same room and, ultimately, on the same stage.
Before she became the 20th century's most revered ballet pedagogue, Agrippina Vaganova was a frustrated ballerina. "I was not progressing and that was a terrible thing to realize," she wrote in a rough draft of her memoirs.
She retired from the Imperial Ballet stage in 1916, and for the next 30-plus years, devoted herself to creating a "science of ballet." Her new, dynamic teaching method produced stars like Rudolf Nureyev, Alla Osipenko, and Galina Ulanova and later Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov. And her approach continues to influence how we think about ballet training to this day.
But is the ballet class due for an update? Demands and aesthetics have changed. So should the way dancers train change too?
For many dancers, a "warmup" consists of sitting on the floor stretching their legs in various positions. But this strategy only reduces your muscles' ability to work properly—it negatively affects your strength, endurance, balance and speed for up to an hour.
Save your flexibility training for the end of the day. Instead, follow a warmup that will actually help prevent injury and improve your body's performance.
According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a smart warmup has four parts: "a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilization section, a muscle lengthening section and a strength/balance building section."
Claude Debussy's only completed opera, Pelléas et Mélisande, emphasizes clarity and subtlety over high-flung drama as a deadly love triangle unfolds. Opera Vlaanderen and Royal Ballet of Flanders are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the composer's death with a new production of the landmark opera that is sure to be anything but traditional: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet are choreographing and directing, while boundary-pushing performance artist Marina Abramović collaborates on the design. Antwerp, Feb. 2–13. Ghent, Feb. 23–March 4. operaballet.be/en.
Black History Month offers a time to reflect on the artists who have shaped the dance field as we know it today. But equally important is celebrating the black artists who represent the next generation. These seven up-and-comers are making waves across all kinds of styles and across the country:
When a new director began transforming Atlanta Ballet a couple of years ago, longtime dancer Alessa Rogers decided to finally explore her dream of dancing in Europe. "I always had this wanderlust," she says. She wasn't set on a particular city or company, but thought learning French would be fun. She began her research that September, making note of repertoire and the number of dancers as well as which companies employed foreign, non–European Union dancers. "I saw that Ballet du Rhin was looking for dancers," says Rogers. "They also had a new director coming in, so I thought it could be an opportunity." After sending a video, Rogers traveled during her layoff week to take company class. She was offered a job on the spot.
Uprooting and moving out of the country, far away from your support system, language and customs, is not something to take lightly. While it can push you as an artist and be an exciting opportunity for personal growth, working as a dancer in a foreign country comes with its challenges. Lots of research and an adventurous spirit are required.
Justin Lynch is surprisingly nonchalant about the struggles of being a full-time lawyer and a professional dancer. "All dancers in New York City are experts at juggling multiple endeavors," he says. "What I'm doing is no different from what any other dancer does—it's just that what I'm juggling is different."
While we agree that freelance dancers are pro multitaskers, we don't really buy Lynch's claim that what he does isn't extraordinary. In fact, we're pretty mind-boggled by the career he's built for himself.
At the annual Gala de Danza in Los Cabos, Mexico, the lineup of performers is usually pretty typical gala fare: You can expect celebrity performers like Lil Buck, reality stars like Ballet West's Beckanne Sisk and "So You Think You Can Dance" finalist Tate McRae, plus principals from top companies like New York City Ballet's Tiler Peck and Daniel Ulbricht.
What's absolutely not typical? The venue.
At 5'10" I felt like an ant in the studio with Alonzo King LINES Ballet. The San Francisco-based company is full of statuesque dancers whose passion is infectious. Every story was told not only through their movement, but through the expression on their faces and their connection to one another.
We talked to artistic director Alonzo King about his love of collaborations and why he thinks politicians need to dance more.