Tarkan Seregül Photography, Courtesy Smyth

5 Ways Competitions Can Lead to the Career of Your Dreams

I have to admit, I've had a wonderful career. I've danced with The Royal Ballet and The Joffrey Ballet, done a stint on the West End in An American in Paris, played the Snow Cavalier in Disney's The Nutcracker and the Four Realms with Misty Copeland, and will soon be performing as Older Billy in the Australian tour of Billy Elliot: The Musical.

How did I get in this position? Through the eight international ballet competitions I've entered.

If you want to travel the world performing and doing what you love, competitions are your ticket to finding the freedom to dance wherever you want to go.

You'll get major exposure. 

At competitions, you're seen by a lot of people. The juries alone are made up of artistic directors from major companies around the world. You could easily be hired by them.

I actually was—when I won the gold medal at the Genée International Ballet Competition in 2008, Ashley Wheater of The Joffrey Ballet was the head judge; we stayed in contact and five years later he offered me a contract. I've also received guesting gigs and gala opportunities.

I consider myself more of a performer than a class taker, and find it's better to be seen onstage than in a studio. Directors can watch how you actually perform, not just how you take class.

Courtesy Smyth

You'll enhance your visa application.

If, like me, you want to work in countries other than the one you were born in, I say good luck and God bless—but competitions might help!

To get a work visa in another country, you're most likely going to need to prove that you are "an alien of extraordinary ability." I have seen many great dancers trying to perform in the U.S. in particular who have been denied since they don't have any documentation to back up their talent. Winning a medal or even becoming a finalist in an international competition can provide valid evidence that you are at the top of your profession.

You'll get to perform—and improve.

This is the fun part. Competitions give you the chance to dance on some of the world's best stages, push yourself, try new rep, fall down and get right back up. It's certainly a great way to build confidence.

When I competed at the USA International Ballet Competition in 2014, I was coached so intensely and got to focus on every detail that I improved not only my technique but my overall stamina as a dancer. There was a feeling of, Wow I really worked for something!

You'll travel the world.

Ballet competitions have taken me to some of the most amazing and some of the strangest places on earth. Some competitions actually pay for your flights and accommodation, plus a per diem. It's essentially like having a dancing holiday. These offers change yearly, but the two competitions I did in Beijing and Shanghai were fully covered.

Courtesy Smyth

You'll meet other dancers.

Not only can you make new friends, but you can see other talent out there and get a grasp on how different dancers work around the world. I've been blessed to learn many types of technique, collecting insights from teachers and competitors into a toolbox of knowledge I keep with me.

Latest Posts

Clockwise from top left: Photo by Loreto Jamlig, Courtesy Ladies of Hip-Hop; Wikimedia Commons; Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet; Natasha Razina, Courtesy State Academic Mariinsky Theatre; Photo by Will Mayer for Better Half Productions, Courtesy ABT

The 10 Biggest Dance Stories of 2019

What were the dance moments that defined 2019? The stories that kept us talking, week after week? According to our top-clicked articles of the year, they ranged from explorations of dance medicine and dance history, takedowns of Lara Spencer and companies who still charge dancers to audition, and, of course, our list of expert tips on how to succeed in dance today.

We compiled our 10 biggest hits of the year, and broke down why we think they struck a chord:

Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Nichols

I Am a Black Dancer Who Was Dressed Up in Blackface to Perform in La Bayadère

On Instagram this week, Misty Copeland reposted a picture of two Russian ballerinas covered head to toe in black, exposing the Bolshoi's practice of using blackface in the classical ballet La Bayadère. The post has already received over 60,000 likes and 2,000 comments, starting a long overdue conversation.

Comments have been pouring in from every angle imaginable: from history lessons on black face, to people outside of the ballet world expressing disbelief that this happens in 2019, to castigations of Copeland for exposing these young girls to the line of fire for what is ultimately the Bolshoi's costuming choice, to the accusations that the girls—no matter their cultural competence—should have known better.

I am a black dancer, and in 2003, when I was 11 years old, I was dressed up in blackface to perform in the Mariinsky Ballet's production of La Bayadère.


Here's the First Trailer for the "In the Heights" Movie

Lights up on Washington Heights—because the trailer for the movie adaptation of the hit Broadway musical In the Heights has arrived. It's our first look into Lin-Manuel Miranda's latest venture into film—because LMM isn't stopping at three Tony awards, a Grammy award, and an Emmy.

Enter Our Video Contest