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Beyond A Medal: How To Get More Out Of Competitions
By itself, a competition trophy won't really prepare you for professional life. Sometimes it is not even a plus. "Some directors are afraid that a kid who wins a lot of medals will come to their company with too many expectations," says Youth America Grand Prix artistic director Larissa Saveliev. "Directors want to mold young dancers to fit their company."
More valuable than taking home a title from a competition is the exposure you can get and the connections you can make while you're there. But how can you take advantage of the opportunity?
Get Noticed in Class
Jared Grimes. Photo by NYCDA/Evolve Photo
At a competition, taking class isn't only about improving your skills—it's also about showing them off. Take it from Broadway dancer and New York City Dance Alliance faculty member Jared Grimes: "So you won? Oh, cool, congrats. But a medal, to me, doesn't matter at all if you're a sinking ship in my class. When I leave a judging table I sometimes have no clue who won. But I remember memorable dancers—usually from their work in class."
Even in crowded rooms, make sure you're seen. "If a company director is teaching class, don't be shy," says Saveliev. "If you know the combination well, be in front, go twice. They will pay attention."
Say "Thank You"
NUVO Dance Convention and Competition. Photo by Nick Serian, courtesy NUVO
Always thank the teacher after a class. "Be confident and polite," says Rhythm Dance Center co-director Becca Moore. "Making eye contact and being sincere go a long way." Plus, taking the moment to say a simple "thank you" during a break can also be an opportunity for a longer conversation if you sense the teacher has time. "You can ask a couple questions after class, or if you feel like you got good corrections and attention, you might say, 'I enjoyed your class a lot. Should I audition for you?' " says Saveliev.
Respect the Hierarchy
Class at NYCDA. Photo by Evolve/NYCDA
When there is so much star power in the room, excitement can quickly turn to offense. If you don't see a natural opening but want to connect with a faculty member or director, talk to your home teacher first. "You shouldn't come across as pushy or desperate," says Moore. "Come to us studio directors for advice on connecting rather than personally reaching out to convention teachers. This just shows respect." Plus, their recommendation might help you get the response you're looking for!
Don't only set your eyes on networking with directors—your peers are resources, too. "You never know, you might end up in the same company or gala, or need to borrow a costume or ask for some advice," says Saveliev. Moore agrees. "Building positive relationships with peers can lead to future jobs, and vital support systems—you will have an instant friend when you move to L.A. or take a gig on a cruise ship."
Follow Up With Directors
Judges at YAGP. Photo by Rachel Papo
If you make a connection, stay in touch, says Saveliev. "That shows commitment and discipline." In advance of an audition, you might send an email with a link to your reel or mail a video with a letter, reminding a director that you met previously at a competition. Don't overdo it or expect a response, but a polite, concise note can't hurt.
Let Rejections Go
USA International Ballet Competition. Photo by Jim Lafferty for Pointe
"Dance is a subjective art form," Saveliev says. "The goal should not be to please everybody, but just to find that one person, program or company that you are a good match with." If a connection doesn't go the way you want, use any constructive criticism for growth, stay positive—and move on.
Bales of hay, black umbrellas, bicycles—this Midsummer Night's Dream would be unrecognizable to the Bard. Alexander Ekman's full-length, inspired by Scandinavian solstice traditions and set to music by Mikael Karlsson, is a madcap celebration of the longest day of the year, when the veil between our world and that of the supernatural is said to be at its thinnest. The Joffrey Ballet's performances mark the seductively surreal work's North American premiere. April 25–May 6. joffrey.org.
"There's an ancient energy in Fana's movement, a deep and trusted knowing," says Jeff, director of the Chicago-based Deeply Rooted Dance Theater. "Because I witnessed the raw humanity of his dancer's souls, I wanted my dancers to have that experience."
When I wrote about my struggle with depression, and eventual departure from dance because of it, I expected criticism. I was prepared to be challenged. But much to my relief, and horror, dancers from all over the world responded with support and stories of solidarity. The most critical response I saw was this one:
"Dance isn't for everyone."
This may as well be a mantra in the dance world. We have become entrenched in the Darwinian notion that the emotionally weak will be weeded out. There is no room for them anyway.
In his final bow at New York City Ballet, during what should have been a heroic conclusion to a celebrated ballet career, Robert Fairchild slipped and fell. His reaction? To lie down flat on his back like he meant to do it. Then start cracking up at himself.
"He's such a ham," says his sister Megan Fairchild, with a laugh. "He's really good at selling whatever his body is doing that day. He'll turn a moment that I would totally go home and cry about into something where the audience is like, 'That's the most amazing thing ever!' "
Growing up in a family-owned dance studio in Missouri had its perks for tap dancer Anthony Russo. But it also earned him constant taunting, especially in high school.
"There was a junior in my sophomore year health class who was absolutely relentless," he says. "I'd get tripped on my way to the front of the classroom and he'd say, 'Watch out, twinkle toes.' If I raised my hand and answered a question incorrectly, I'd hear a patronizing 'Nice one, Bojangles.' "
Choreographer Sergio Trujillo asked the women auditioning for ensemble roles in his newest musical to arrive in guys' clothing—"men's suits, or blazers and ties," he says. He wasn't being kinky or whimsical. The entire ensemble of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical is female, playing men and women interchangeably as they unfold the history of the chart-busting, Grammy-winning, indisputable Queen of Disco.
Have a scroll through Agnes Muljadi's Instagram feed (@artsyagnes), and you'll notice that in between her ballet shots is a curated mix of lifestyle pics. So what exactly sets her apart from the other influencers you follow? Muljadi has made a conscious effort to only feature natural beauty products, sustainable fashion and vegan foods. With over 500k followers, her social strategy (and commitment to making ethical choices) is clearly a hit. Ahead, learn why Muljadi switched to a vegan lifestyle, and the surprising way it's helped her dance career.
He may not be a household name, but you probably know Brandon Stirling Baker's work. The 30-year-old has designed the lighting for most of Justin Peck's ballets—including Heatscape for Miami City Ballet, and the edgy The Times Are Racing for New York City Ballet—but also Jamar Roberts' new Members Don't Get Weary at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and a trio of Martha Graham duets for L.A. Dance Project.
He's been fascinated by lighting ever since he attended a public performing arts middle school in Sherman Oaks, California, where he had his first experiences lighting shows. He also has a background in music (he plays guitar and bass) and in drawing. Both, he says, are central to the way he approaches lighting dance.
Update: Due to an overwhelming response, the in-person audition has been moved to a larger location to accommodate more dancers. See details below.
For the first time in more than 10 years, Janet Jackson is holding an open audition for dancers.
Even better? You could land a spot in her #JTribe simply by posting a video on social media.
What does it take to become an international superstar? Carlos Acosta might have a few ideas.
At the Oxford Literary Festival earlier this month, the BBC sat down with Acosta to ask for his life lessons. His answers—which he says he will pass on to his kids one day—give incredible insight into how he's become such a beloved worldwide success.